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Ethics and Morality in Islam {Part 2}

(Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, delivered this Friday speech on March 6, 1987)

Last week we talked about the ethical system in Islam. We found that Allah (S.W.T.) is the originator of this ethical system, and therefore, we learned that He knows what is best for His servants. We also learned that Allah (S.W.T.) did not leave anything out of this system—it is complete and comprehensive.

Today we will talk about other concepts of this ethical system, and how balanced and moderate it is. This system is neither extreme nor deficient; it is in the middle between two extreme groups:

The first extreme group of people is the idealists. They look at the human being as if he is very angelic. These people's ethical system is unrealistic, and humans could not put this system into practice. They place humans in a very high position.

The second extreme group of people is characterized by their pragmatic system of ethics. They look at human beings as if they are animals, or animal-like. They believe that humans have a nature similar to beasts. They view humans as being very low. To them, humans follow only their own desires and instincts, just as animals do.

In view of the ethical system in Islam, man is a combination of many things:

He has a physical, real life body . He has instincts and certain physiological needs . He also has a mind with psychological desires and needs. He has a need for spiritually. And he has the tendencies to do both good and evil

One of the duties that Allah (S.W.T.) orders us to do is to struggle to do good and to always purify our souls. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Ash-Shams, what can be translated as, “And by Nafs (soul) and Him who proportioned him in proportion; then He showed him what is wrong for him and what is right for him; truly he succeeds who purifies himself, and truly he fails who corrupts himself.” (Verse 7 to 10 )

In Islam, the human is composed of both a spiritual and a physical body. Physically, the first human, Adam, was created from soil. He was then made spiritual, when Allah (S.W.T.) put in him a secret formula that would make him honorable and His most special creation. In surat Al-Hijer, Allah talks to His angels, in what can be translated as, “ When I have fashioned him ( Adam ) and breathed into him of my spirit, then fall (you) down prostrating your selves unto him.” (Verse 29)

Therefore, it is necessary to have a balance between desires and spiritual needs. In addition, we should have a good balance between the requirements of Deen and the requirements to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The following are a few examples from history, when humans went to an extreme, not balancing their materialistic desires, and forgetting about their other needs:

Allah (S.W.T.) described them in the Noble Qur'an when He says in surat Al-An'am, what can be translated as, “And they say: there is nothing except our life on this earth, and never shall we be raised up again.” (Verse 29)

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Also, in surat Al-Kahf, Allah (S.W.T.) tells us a story about a man who cared only about his materialistic desires. This man owned two bountiful gardens; in the following discussion between him and his friend, he says, what can be translated as, “More wealth have I than you, and more honor, power and men. He went in to his garden in a state unjust to himself. He said: I deem not that this will ever perish. Nor do I deem that the hour of judgment will ever come.” (Verse 34) This man believed that his gardens would last eternally, but Allah (S.W.T.) sent a thunderbolt, that destroyed his garden, cutting off his supply of water. This is the story of one man who cared only about his materialistic life more than anything else.

The Noble Qur'an also gives us another example in the story of Qaaroon. In surat Al-Qasas, (verse 67 to 82), Allah (S.W.T.) gives Qaroon a very bountiful treasure, however, the keys that would unlock this treasure were so heavy, that even the strong men couldn't carry it. However, he behaved arrogantly towards his people. Therefore, Allah (S.W.T.) caused the earth to swallow him and his home. Qaroon had no friends to protect him from Allah's wrath.

These are only two examples of people who focus on the materialistic aspects of this life, and nothing else. Now we will talk about those who are on the other extreme. Unlike the others, these people hate the material life, and they forbid themselves from all the pleasant things. These people isolate themselves from the public, and did not put forth any effort to build up society. Some of them even deprive themselves from the basic needs of humans.

Some of these examples from human history are: People like the Brahman Indians, the Manichean Persians and those of the monastery. People of the book invented these monks, and their system isolates them from enjoying life and all productive activities.

Alhemdulilah, Islam calls for humans to build their lives in a balanced and moderate way. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) showed that he was willing to enjoy all permissible things, yet he did not make them his goals of life. He used to do its requirements, and he used to work for the hereafter in a very beautiful and balanced way. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) indulged in all good things of this life, and he did not prohibit these things on himself (S.W.T.) and he used to supplicate: “O Allah, don't make the worldly life the greatest of our interests. O Allah, don't make the worldly life the extent of our knowledge.” In other supplications the prophet (S.A.W.) used to say: "O Allah improve my Deen, which is my safeguard, and improve my life, which I live in, and improve my Hereafter which I will return to.”

The prophet (S.A.W.) requested from his companions that they balance their lives between the requirements of Deen and the requirements of life. In other words, they should make a balance between the rights of Allah (S.W.T.) and the rights of themselves, and others.

One of the companion {Salmam (R.A.)} once noticed that one of his friend {Abu Adrda'(R.A.)} went beyond the limits of worship, by fasting all days and praying whole nights, therefore, ignoring and neglecting his body and family needs. He corrected him.

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Imam Bukhari reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) made a bond of brotherhood between Salman and Abu Ad-Darda'. Salman went to visit Abu Ad-Darda' and found Umm Ad-Darda' (his wife) dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied: “Your brother Abu Ad-Darda' is not interested in the luxuries of this world. In the mean time Abu Ad-Darda' came in and prepared a meal for Salman. Salman requested Abu Ad-Darda' to eat with him but Abu Ad-Darda' said: “I am fasting.” Salman said: “I am not going to eat unless you eat.” SO, Abu Ad-Darda' ate with Salman. When it was night and a part of the night passed, Abu Ad-Darda' get up to offer the night prayer but Salman asked him to sleep and Abu Ad-Darda' slept. When it was the last hours of the night, Salman asked him to get up and both of them prayed Tahajjud . Then Salman told Abu Adarda': “Your Lord has a right upon you, your body has a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, your guest has a right upon you, so you should give to everyone his right.” Abu Ad-Darda' came to the prophet (S.A.W.) and narrated the whole story. The prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Salman is right.”

A group of the prophet's companions also went beyond the limits of worship. One of them said: I will fast all days. The other said: I will pray all nights without sleeping. And the third said: I will stay away from the woman, so I will never get married. In response to this group who went to an extreme, Imam Bukhari reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, “By Allah, I fear Allah more then you do, and I am most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I fast (some days) and I don't fast (other days), I pray at night and I also sleep (meaning he does not pray all night), and I married, and whoever does not follow my Sunnah (way of life ) does not belong to me.”

And Imam Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) warn us by saying, “Ruined are those who insist on hardship in matters of Deen.” He repeated this three times.

Thus, the companions of the prophet (S.A.W.) learned to make a balance between the needs of life and the need of Deen without being too extreme or conservative. They did not feel that there was any conflict or contradiction between their work for this life and their work for fulfilling their religious duties.

Imam Buhkari reported that Omar (R.A.) had said: “I used to live in Awaaly Al Madinah (an area far away from the prophet's mosque) I could not be present in the Masjid daily. I had an arrangement with one of my neighbors from Ansar to rotate with me, to go to the prophet's mosque. So one day, my neighbor would go to the prophet to learn the revelation and other things. And when he returned he would teach me. The next day I would do the same for him.”

How many of us today are achieving this balance in life? In reality, many of us have fallen deeply into the worldly attractions. We work so hard to have these materialistic attractions, and end up forgetting about the requirements of the Hereafter, except on special occasions.

So let us ask ourselves today, how much time have we spent to please ourselves, and how much time have we spent to please Allah (S.W.T.)?

If you truly look at our situation today, some of us are in a very dangerous position. We have no choice but to follow the right path, the Qur'an , and the Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). But remember, the secret is to always maintain balance and moderation.

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