Morality in Islam
Morality in Islam encompasses the concept of righteousness, good character, and the body of moral qualities and virtues prescribed in Islamic religious texts. The principle and fundamental purpose of Islamic morality is love: love for God and love for God’s creatures. The religious conception is that mankind will behave morally and treat each other in the best possible manner to please God.
Teachings on morality and moral conduct constitute a major part Islamic literature. The Quran and the Hadith – the central religious texts of Islam – serve as the primary source for these teachings. Both the Quran and the hadith often instruct Muslims to adopt a morally upright character. Showing kindness to people and charity to the poor and the helpless are the most emphasized moral virtues in the Quran. In particular, helping people in their time of need, forgiving others’ offenses, respecting parents and elders, fulfilling promises, being kind to people and to animals, being patient in adversity, maintaining justice, being honest, and controlling one’s anger appear as major virtues in the Islamic concept of morality.
The Quran, which Muslims believe to be the verbatim word of God, serves as the primary source of moral teachings in Islam.The Sunnah, which is the teachings, deeds and sayings, silent permissions (or disapprovals) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, as well as various reports about Muhammad’s companions, also serves as an important source for Islamic moral teachings.Besides these, the works of Islamic scholars and philosophers, and the moral examples set by important Islamic personalities (such as the four rightly guided caliphs) are other sources for Islamic ethical and moral guidance.
Islamic secondary sources and later Islamic scholarly works have made detailed discussions and laid down detailed instructions on moral issues. However, some general principles can be found in case of following morality. One typical Islamic teaching on morality is that imposing a penalty on an offender in proportion to their offense is permissible and just; but forgiving the offender is better. To go one step further by offering a favor to the offender is regarded the highest excellence. Another principle is that whatever is good and beneficial for mankind is morally good, and vice versa. According to Islamic sharia, a Muslim is expected to act only in good manners as bad manners earn vices. Muhammad is reported as saying “It is not possible that you indulge in rebuking and reviling and remain righteous at the same time”.
Much emphasis has been attached in Islamic tradition on developing strong moral values. Faith is considered incomplete without having sense of morality. In Islamic sharia, a worshiper devoid of morality is seen as someone who has failed to realize the true significance of worshiping. In other words, the prayers which can not keep a person away from wrongdoings are seen worthless. Muhammad is reported as saying that a real poor person is he who will appear on the Day of Judgment with a lot of rewards earned by his prayers, fasting, zakat; but in his life he had also abused someone, had falsely accused someone, had illegally taken another’s property, had murdered somebody; so all his virtues will be distributed to the victims, and he will be thrown to hell (Sahih Muslim, 32:6251). Islamic tradition holds that moral qualities and good actions elevate the status of a man. Since the pursuance of moral qualities are more of a voluntary nature, their observance falls into the category of supererogatory worshipping, and is seen as the key to attaining the nearness of God. Islamic prophet Muhammad said,
“The best among you are those who have the best manners and character” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:56).
Emphasis on good character
Character primarily refers to the assemblage of qualities that distinguish one individual from another. Character can be good or bad. A good character is the one that has good moral qualities. There was a debate among the early Islamic moralists as to whether character could be changed. They recognized the dual aspect of character – innate and acquired – and thus noted that with conscious practice it could be changed to a certain degree.
As a religion, Islam promotes the idea of good character as is evident from its canonical texts. The Quran describes Muhammad as being ‘on exalted quality of character’ (68:4) and refers to him as ‘an excellent example’ (33:21) which ultimately means that the religious and moral examples, set by Muhammad, are to be followed and cultivated by the Muslims in order to construct a morally good character. Muslim moralists have discussed the ethico-religious importance of having a good character as well as the ways of acquiring it. Imam Birgivi, a 16th-century Muslim scholar and moralist, says that ‘To cure yourself of a bad feature of character is an obligation’. Continuous practice of moral virtues and a conscious effort to internalize those qualities can lead to the formation of a morally good character.Al-Isfahani says that purification of soul means the control, not the elimination, of desires. According to Birgivi, changing of character depends on such things as ‘a person’s wish’ and ‘the strength of one’s understanding’, and the preservation of a good character requires the avoidance of the company of evil-charactered people who indulge into indecent activities, drunkenness, and meaningless gossip. There are numerous sayings of Muhammad that highlight the importance of good character. Some of them are:
- Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet said:
The one with good morals and character already owns the best of this world and the Hereafter (Tabarani and Abu Dawud).
- Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said:
I have been sent for the perfection of character (Imam Ahmad and Bayhaqi).
- Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah said:
A person reaches the best and most honored levels in the Hereafter as a result of good character…. And bad character condemns a person to the lowest depths of Hell (Tabarani).
One can repent for any sin but bad character – because with bad character, before a person can attempt to ask forgiveness for one sin, he commits a worse (Tabarani, Isfahani).
Charity and philanthropy
Numerous verses of the Quran and the sayings of Muhammad tell the Muslims to be generous with their wealth and to respond to the calls of the mankind’s needs. Muslims believe that spending wealth for others, especially for the needy, and helping people are a fundamental duty for them, and these things earn God’s mercy and reward in the afterlife. Similarly, caring for one’s kinsmen and neighbors has also been emphasized. The Quran says that the righteous are those people who fulfill their promises, and feed the needy, the orphans and the captive for the love of God (76:5-8). At another place, it says “Those who (in charity) spend their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:274). In a long hadith collected in Sahih Muslim, Jarir narrates that once they were with Muhammad when some poor people came. They were ill-clad with torn dresses and were starving. When Muhammad saw them, the color of his face changed. He asked Bilal to assemble the people and then delivered a speech, and said “Everyone should give in charity dinar, dirham, cloth, dates, wheat, etc.” He went on till he urged: “Give, even if it is a stone of a date.” After this, a man from Ansar brought a bag so full of materials that it was slipping from his hand. Other people also brought things to be given in charity till there were two big heaps of eatable goods and clothes. At that, the face of Muhammad glowed with joy.
Miserliness is discouraged in Islam, and the hoarding of wealth which is not used to redress the miseries of the needy and the poor is seen to be a cause of punishment in the afterlife. Helping people in time of their needs is seen more important than praying in the mosque.
See also: Repentance in Islam
As a virtue, forgiveness is much celebrated in Islam, and is regarded as an important Muslim practice, inspired by both the Quran and the Sunnah. The issue of forgiveness can take on two different forms: God’s forgiveness for human beings for their sins, and forgiveness among fellow human beings for each other. In the first instance, human beings have been asked to seek God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they have been promised God’s mercy and forgiveness. In the second instance, human beings have been encouraged to practice the act of forgiveness among themselves. To forgive a person who has done moral offense, and not to be cruel to him is seen as a noble virtue. In Islamic theology, the act of forgiveness is not meant to deny or underplay the moral injury suffered by the victim; rather it involves a positive change in mentality toward the offender. Thus, an act of forgiveness means rising above one’s self-interest or narrow-mindedness, and achieving nobler quality of heart. Those who practice the act of forgiveness have been promised reward by God. In a frequently quoted hadith, Muhammad is reported as saying: ‘the best deeds before God are to pardon a person who has wronged you, to show affection for relatives who have broken ties with you, and to act generously towards a person who has deprived you.’
Main article: What is Tolerance?
In Islamic context, to be tolerant of one another comes both as a teaching and an injunction which is to be cultivated at personal, social, and religious levels. After its introduction in 610 CE, Islam sought to moderate the violent attitudes, prevalent among the people of pre-Islamic Arabia, with the practice of tolerance and other virtues. Islam expects people to practice tolerance in their family and social life. It is the teaching of Islam that when faced with ill-treatment by any unwise person, a sensible person should be less reactive and more tolerant. The misbehavior of others should not provoke him to do the same. During the initial years of Islam, Muslims faced persecutions by the Meccan pagans. During this period, Muhammad was once asked by his companions to invoke God’s wrath on the persecutors. Muhammad became displeased with such a request and advised them to be more tolerant. Once a Bedouin became discontented and expressed his dissatisfaction even after receiving gifts from Muhammad. Muhammad understood his nature, showed tolerance to him, and satisfied him with more gifts, thus paving the way for the Bedouin to take lesson from this. In the History of Islam, Abdullah ibn Ubayy was known as the “leader of the hypocrites”. The activities of the hypocrites were condemned by several verses in the Quran. After Ubayy’s death, at his son’s request, Muhammad offered his own shirt as Ubayy’s shroud. At his son’s second request, Muhammad even led his funeral prayer. When Umar objected about this, Muhammad said: “If I knew that Allah will pardon Ubayy if I pray for his forgiveness more than seventy times, I would even do that.”
On social and state levels, the importance of tolerance comes from the fact that it is related to such greater issues as peace and justice which are said to be the desired goal of Islam. Given that diversity is a natural phenomenon in this world, the Quran puts much emphasis on the observance of tolerance in order to maintain peace and security. In 49:13, the Quran recognizes the diversity among people: ‘O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.’ By mentioning the common origin of mankind, the Quran reminds them of their relating to each other, and urges them to ‘rise above’ the racial and national divisions. In a nutshell, it is the teaching of Islam that the diversity or difference in social, cultural, political,financial or religious spheres are to be accepted by members of communities to secure a peaceful co-existence. About religious tolerance, the Quran says: ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ (2:256). No forceful conversion is recognized in Islam. According to Islamic jurists, forced conversion is not possible in Islam because faith basically relates to heart, and not so much to external affairs.
Main article: Ikhlas (Sincerity or Purity of Intention)
In Islam, honesty implies maintaining sincerity and truthfulness in all actions, interactions, and transactions, and the issue of honesty touches almost all aspects of human life. Here, honesty serves as an umbrella term having some basic components like speaking truth; fulfilling commitments, whether written or verbal; remaining truthful to one’s word; rendering the assigned duty sincerely and as meticulously as possible; imparting everyone’s due rights without the person’s asking for it; being objective in evaluating any case and giving judgments; avoiding falsehood, deception, and favoritism. Selection and promotion of personnel in an organization based on merit and not on favoritism is also a part of honesty. As Islam is a God-centered religion, honesty demands that it be maintained not only in public but also in private, not only when supervised but also when not supervised. Honesty has particularly been emphasized in business transactions, not only in selling and buying but in issues like pricing and advertising policies. Correct measurement is to be maintained. Again, Muhammad has instructed that the sellers should put the commodities of poorer quality in clear display so that the customers are not deceived. Hiking the price to gain more profit or lowering the price to put the competitors at trouble are considered unethical. Similarly, exaggerated claims and suppression of unfavorable information in advertising are discouraged. Honesty is regarded by Muslim scholars as one of the five essential qualities for any Muslim accountants.
Kindness and leniency
The Quran and the hadith describe God as being kind and merciful to His creatures, and tell people to be kind likewise. Among the 99 Names of God in Islam, the most common and famous are “the Compassionate” (al-raḥmān) and “the Merciful” (al-raḥīm). The Quran says, “Verily, Allah is kind and merciful to the people” (2:143). Numerous sayings of Muhammad tell the Muslims to be kind and merciful to the creatures of God. In Sahih Bukhari, it is said “He who is not merciful to others, will not be treated mercifully (by God)” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:42). Narrated in Sahih Muslim, Muhammad said, “Verily, Allah is mild and is fond of mildness, and He gives to the mild what He does not give to the harsh” (Sahih Muslim, 32:6273). He also said, “He who is deprived of kindness is in fact deprived of goodness (Sahih Muslim, 32:6272).
Muhammad has been described as being kind and compassionate to people and animals. Biographies of Muhammad record incidences showing his kindness and leniency to others. Once, a man came to him and said that he had committed a certain sin. As reparation for his sin, Muhammad asked the man if he could free a slave upon which the man expressed his inability. Muhammad asked him if he could fast for two months upon which the man replied in the negative. Muhammad asked him again if he could feed sixty poor men upon which the man replied that he was even unable to do that. In the meantime, a bag of dates was brought there as gift for Muhammad. Muhammad gave the bag of dates to the man and told him to distribute the dates among the poor as reparation. The man passionately said “who is poorer than me in Medina?” Hearing this, Muhammad smiled and told the man to distribute the dates among his own family members.
Kind treatment to animals
Islam has prescribed kind treatment not only to humans but also to animals. Prophet Muhammad was probably the first in history to talk about the rights and proper treatment of animals.Kind and humane treatment earn virtue, and can even be a means of salvation. Similarly, cruelty towards animals can lead to punishment by God. Islamic tradition narrates the story of a man who got salvation for showing mercy to a thirsty dog. On one occasion, the man saw a dog which was about to die because of extreme thirst. He realized its plight, went down into a well, brought some water for the dog, and saved its life. God became pleased with him and pardoned all his previous sins (Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:38). It also narrates the story of a woman who locked up a cat. She neither fed the cat nor set it free to feed for itself. For her cruelty, she was punished by God. The early rulers in Islamic world used to instruct people in behaving properly to the animals.
For proper treatment of animals, Islam has specified some guidelines:
- All pet and farm animals have the rights of proper food and shelter. The owner has the obligation to arrange for food and shelter for his animals.
- Animals which are used to carry goods should not be over-loaded.
- Animals must not be tortured, beaten, or hurt unnecessarily. They are not to be killed for recreation. Also, the body parts of any live animal must not be mutilated.
- Islam has prohibited the old custom of setting live animals or birds as targets for shooting practices.
- Prophet Muhammad has forbidden separating the birds from their off-springs.
- Animal slaughtering process should be such which is the least painful to the animal. Slaughtering of one animal in front of another is prohibited in Islam.
The Quran uses the words adl, qist, qast, wasat, and mizan in referring to justice, with the word adl being mostly used and literally meaning to straighten, to balance, to depart from wrong, or to be equal. Its meaning is thus “a combination of moral and social values denoting fairness, balance, temperance and straightforwardness.” In Islam, justice is not only a moral virtue but also an obligation to be fulfilled under all circumstances. The Quran at its two hundred places warns people against injustice, and at its one hundred places directs people to establishing justice. The Quran served for the early Muslims, as it serves for the present Muslims, as the primary source for the notion of justice. As his capacity as a prophet, the Quranic notion of justice was explained and translated into practice by Muhammad in dealing with various social issues, thus setting moral and legal examples and standards of justice in society and paving ways for the later Muslim theologians and scholars to “formulate theories of justice”. The obligation to establish justice comes as a fundamental principle in the Quran, second in importance only to the oneness of God. The Quranic injunction of fairness and fair dealing is equally applicable to all people, irrespective of caste, creed, and color. According to the scholars of the Quran, rendering justice to people is a trust from God entrusted on mankind, and this should be fulfilled with a sense of responsibility, not just as a formality.
Fulfillment of promise
In Islamic sharia, fulfilling a contract is regarded as compulsory, and is one of the three qualities necessary for becoming a true Muslim, as the famous hadith says “Three are the signs of a hypocrite, even if he observed fast and prayed and asserted that he was a Muslim: when he spoke he told a lie, when he made promise he acted treacherously, and when he was trusted he betrayed” (Sahih Muslim, 1:113). Both the Quran and the hadith have attached importance to respect a contract once it has been made, and whether the other party is a Muslim or non-Muslim. Apart from the ordinary verbal promises, fulfillment of business contracts and repayment of loans come as a special instruction for the Muslims. Business contracts and words are not to be breached in pursuance of more profits. Similarly, admonition has been issued against the non-payment of loans as it is said to ruin the afterlife of a believer.
In Islamic tradition, fulfillment of promises has some other dimensions. Islamic belief holds that before creating humans in this world, God assembled their souls and asked them if He was not their Lord upon which they replied in the affirmative. Thus, accepting Allah as true God and following His commands in all sphere of life is regarded as the greatest fulfillment of that covenant. Again, in case of Muslim marriage, full payment of Mahr – the amount of money which a bridegroom needs to pay to the bride at the time of their marriage – has been emphasized. Non-payment, partial payment, or manipulation of mahr (jointure) is seen as the disruption of marriage contract. A hadith in Tibrani says “If a man has married a woman and in his heart he has the intention of not paying that mahr, then he has deceived her. If he dies and he has not paid her right, then on the Day of Judgment he will be presented before Allah as a rapist. And a man who has borrowed money from another man while he did not have the intention of re-paying the debt, then he has deceived him, and consequently he defrauded him. If he dies in this condition, without paying back his debt, then he will meet Allah as a thief.”
Modesty and humility
“Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty (Haya).” This saying of Muhammad, collected in al-Muwatta, shows the unique position modesty holds in Islam. Islam has strongly emphasized the concept of decency and modesty. Here, modesty is seen no less important in speech and behavior than in dressing. Again, modesty has a dual aspect in Islam: modesty is to be maintained in public which is generally related to people, as well as in private which is related to God. Islam expects that a Muslim who believes in God will feel shy in front of God, and this shyness will prevent him from disobeying God, from committing any sinful or immodest act, whether in public or private, because he has awareness of God. Muhammad has said, “Modesty is part of faith” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:139). Thus Islam has linked modesty with faith. Islam also expects that a Muslim will be polite in his behavior with others. Display of anger, indecent behavior, or indecent exposure of body parts are highly discouraged. Modesty is seen as a human trait that distinguishes human beings from other animals. Muhammad has been described as being more bashful than a maiden.
Modesty in dressing has particularly been emphasized. According to Islamic Law, known as sharia, Muslims are required to cover their body parts with proper dressing. Sharia has also laid down specific guidelines for men and women regarding their dressing. Covering everything from ‘navel to knee’ is mandatory for men. In some Muslim societies, women wear the niqab, a veil that covers the whole face except the eyes, or the full burqa, a full-body covering garment that occasionally does cover the eyes. Following is the most frequently cited verse of the Quran regarding modesty: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. God is Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their chests, and not to reveal their adornment” (24:30-1).
Humility is defined as being modest and respectful. The prophetic narrations and Muhammad’s own examples of simplicity and humbleness inspire the Muslims to practice humility in their life. According to tradition, Muhammad was rare to engage in argument with others. He was rare to laugh in a loud voice; rather, he preferred soft smiling. During the conquest of Mecca, when Muhammad was entering into the city riding on a camel, his head lowered, in gratitude to God, to the extent that it almost touched the back of the camel.
Islam has instructed its followers to maintain decency in speech, and misuse of tongue has been admonished. Excessive or absurd talking, or useless gossiping are generally discouraged. The person who talks too much is seen as having greater chances of making mistakes. Speech that hurts others’ feelings or insults people are prohibited. Similarly, calling someone by any name that harms the honor of the person is prohibited. Decent and gentle speech has been encouraged as it is seen both as a virtue and as a means of cultivating goodness among people. Muhammad has preferred maintaining silence than engaging in meaningless talks. Polemics in speech or heated arguments with ignorant people are disapproved of in Islam. In The Quran and the hadith, there are many instructions regarding the decent use of tongue. Some of them are:
- “The faith of a man cannot be straight unless his heart is straight, and his heart cannot be straight unless his tongue becomes straight.” (Musnad Ahmad)
- “The faltering of the feet cause much less harm than the faltering of the tongue.” (Baihaqui)
- Muhammad Ali once advised Abu Zar in this way: “Adopt silence. This is a way of causing Satan to run away, it is a support to you in the matter of your religion.” (Musnad Ahmad)
- “Before Allah the most hated are the quarrelsome person” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:43:637).
- “Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers, and who shun vain conversation, and who are active in deeds of charity.” (Quran 23:1-4)
- “Say to My servants that they should say those things that are best. Verily, Satan sows discord among them. Verily, the Satan is for man an open enemy.” (Quran 17:53)
- “A kind word with forgiveness is better than charity followed by injury. Allah is Free of All Wants and Most Forbearing.” (Quran 2:263)
- “And argue not with the People of the Book unless it be in a better manner than that.” (Quran 29:46)
Trustworthiness, which is connected to fulfilling assigned responsibilities properly, has a wide field of application in Islam and conveys a wide range of meaning. Islam has made every person responsible for returning the trust to their due recipients; and this command applies to both the common people and the ruling men. Misappropriation or breach of trust has been condemned severely. Anas ibn Malik narrates that there was hardly any occasion where Muhammad had delivered a speech but he had not said this “The person who lacks trustworthiness also lacks faith. And the person who does not keep promises has no religion.” Muhammad has said, “Every one of you is a guardian and everyone will be asked about his subjects. Imam is a guardian. He will be asked about his subjects. A man is the guardian of the persons in his household. He is answerable about them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s house. She will be asked about her responsibility. The servant is the guardian of the articles of his master. He is answerable about this responsibility of his” (Sahih Muslim, 20:4496).
Performing one’s duty sincerely and honestly is a trust. It means that a person will have the intention to properly carry out the duties entrusted to him, and will do it in the best possible manner without indulging in corruption. Receiving undue advantages from office is seen as corruption. The rulers of the state or the government officials who do not care for the welfare of their citizens and thus cause sufferings to them are seen as the worst deceiver and have been warned with the direst consequences in afterlife. Adi bin Umaira narrates that he has heard the Prophet as saying: “Whomsoever we have given some post and he has concealed a needle or a thing smaller than that, then it will be a misappropriated thing with which he will have to appear on the Day of Judgment” (Sahih Muslim, 20:4514). Similarly, trust demands that posts be offered to able and deserving persons: persons who will be able to keep the trust of organizations. To deny the public posts to those whose deserve them most, or to make appointments at public posts through nepotism is seen as misappropriation against God, His messenger, and the people. Those who make such unfair appointments have been warned that their prayers would not be accepted, and hell would be their destination. Sahih Bukhari narrates that a man asked Muhammad when the Doomsday would occur. Muhammad replied “When deposits in trust would start being lost, then wait for the Doomsday.” He was asked again, “What is the meaning of loss of trusts?” He replied: “When responsibilities are entrusted to unfit persons, then wait for the Doomsday” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:76:503).
According to Islamic theology, the wealth and abilities given to a man is a trust from God which means that they should be used in ways recommended by God, and these should not be abused for illegal activities.
Protecting the confidential information of the meetings and the secret information of others is also a trust provided that these are not related to illegal activities. Disclosing family secrets, especially that of the wife, is seen as the worst type of misappropriation. It is narrated in Sahih Muslim that “On the Day of Judgment before Allah, the greatest act of misappropriation will be that a man may love his wife and the wife may also be inclined towards her husband and then he may disclose his wife’s secrets to others.”
After Muhammad started his preaching in 610 CE, his relationship with his own tribesmen, the Quraysh people, deteriorated gradually. Despite this, the Quraysh people of Mecca used to deposit their valuable things at Muhammad because of his honesty and trustworthiness. When Muhammad was compelled to leave Mecca because of Quraysh opposition, he directed his cousin Ali to return those deposits at their due recipients after his leave.
See also: Sabr (Patience)
The issue of patience is of special interest in Islam. Islamic tradition holds that God has made this world a testing ground for mankind, especially for the believers, and that the sincerity and strength of their faith will be judged through various trials. Patience is one of the moral qualities which Islamic sharia considers necessary for a Muslim in order to keep away from evildoings, and in a broader sense, to protect his faith. This is because Islamic holy scriptures say that believers will be tested with various adversaries in their life, and only those who can prove their faith and can remain grateful to God despite those adversaries will earn His blessings. In Islamic theology, the solution to any crisis in a Muslim’s life lies in two things: prayer and patience (Quran 2:153), and Muslims have been asked to seek God’s help through these two things.
Truthfulness has been much emphasized in Islam, not only as a virtue, but also as a religious obligation; and falsehood has been admonished severely. Islam demands that its followers lead their life on the basis of truthfulness and fair dealing. Falsehood and dishonesty must be avoided because they mark departure from religion. Telling lie is one of the major sins in Islam. Muhammad was asked whether a Muslim could be a coward. He answered: ‘Yes.’ He was asked whether a Muslim could be a miser. He answered: ‘Yes.’ He was again asked: ‘Can a Muslim be a liar?’ He replied: ‘No.’ Falsehood is seen as something which is against the general characteristics of human nature: it corrupts the human soul and paves the way for many other evil activities. According to the Quran, truthfulness was a characteristic virtue of the prophets (Quran 12:46; 19:41; 19:54; 19:56; 5:75).
Islam has some other considerations regarding truthfulness:
- The virtue of truthfulness is to be maintained even in matters which are not serious in nature. Telling lies in jokes, or inventing false stories to amuse people are highly discouraged.
- Telling lies to even children is prohibited. Prophetic tradition narrates that “Anybody who called a child saying that he would give him a certain thing, and did not give it, then it is a lie” (Ahmed). Children should be accustomed to truthfulness from their childhood so that they can grow up with this virtue.
- Inventing falsehood and false story about God and His messengers, or inventing any false element in religion is seen as a grave sin.
- Exaggeration in praising someone is prohibited. Exaggerated praising of any powerful of rich person in order to get illegal advantage falls into this category. Praise should be made to the extent a person knows about someone. Abu Hurairah narrates that “the Prophet has commanded us that we should throw dust in the face of those who indulge in exaggeration in their praises” (Tirmizi).
- Giving false evidence against someone is seen as the worst type of falsehood, and is considered a major sin in Islam. A person is required to maintain truth in giving evidence even if that goes against their own interest.
- Bringing false charge of adultery against any woman is a punishable act in Islamic law which orders to flog the accuser eighty lashes.
Anger management comes as an important issue in Islamic tradition as anger is seen to destroy human conscience and to become the cause of many evil and violent activities. Anger is considered one of the characteristic features of pre-Islamic period – a period known as age of ignorance. A hadith in Tirmizi says, “Adam’s sons have been created of different types. … the best people among these are those who get angry late and immediately repent.” In a famous hadith Narrated Abu Huraira, Muhammad said “The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:135). Controlling anger is seen as a virtue and a sign of righteous person. Muhammad is reported as suggesting several methods to assuage anger for a man when he gets angry: to sit down if he is standing, and/or to lie down if he is sitting; to perform ablution (Islamic way of washing hands and face); to seek refuge from God against the influence of Satan.
In Islam, sincerity of intention determines the significance of any act, that is to say, the value of any act depends on the motivation behind the act, not on the act itself. Good intention is said to earn reward and God’s pleasure while bad intention God’s displeasure. In Islamic theology, this applies not only to general act but also to prayers and worshiping. Thus, any act of worshiping which is done to attain worldly fame, or any act of charity which is given to impress people, is considered invalid and is regarded as a sinful act by Islamic jurisprudence. Only those acts of prayer or charity which are done to seek God’s pleasure or to benefit people are granted by God. In Islam, sincerity of intention has some other significances: a) if a person sincerely intends to do any good deed and then becomes unable to materialize it into action due to any reason, he is still said to get reward for it; b) an act of worshiping done to gain worldly fame and not to seek God’s pleasure is regarded as lesser shirk; c) the reward for a righteous act increases from ten to thousand times depending on the sincerity of the doer’s intention.
Respecting the elders
The family and the social tradition in Islamic world has long fostered the idea of respecting the elders of family and society. Elders are generally honored by the young members as part of both Islamic culture and religious duty. It is one of the important Islamic good manners found in Islamic world. Examples of respecting elders include, among others, not walking ahead of the elders, allowing them to talk first in meetings, avoiding argument with them, and not raising voice before them. Prophetic tradition narrates that ‘he who does not love the younger and does not respect the elders is not one of us’ (Sunan al-Tirmidhi). Anas ibn Malik narrates that Muhammad said, ‘If a young man honors an elderly on account of his age, Allah appoints someone to honor him in his old age’ (Sunan al-Tirmidhi).
Islamic traditions generally do not separate the older into old homes, rather accommodate them into their own houses. They are also respected as the guardian of the house. Among the elderly members of a family, the parents occupy a special position in case of receiving veneration by their children. With regard to the rights of parents, the Quranic injunction is to behave well with them, to take care of them especially in their old age, not to be rude to them, and to show highest respect to them.
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Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia