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Morality: Does it still exist?

Publishing Date : 09 April, 2019

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM


The basic teachings of every religion, culture and traditional values are based on a system of morality. In religion, these teachings touch on every area of a Believer’s life and they cover a broad spectrum of personal moral conduct as well as our social responsibilities.



Where there is a lack of morality the community suffers many different types of ills. When we look around; there appears to be more evil than there is good in society and in the world at large. Without doubt there is a noticeable decline in moral conduct throughout the world.
“Evil and good are not equal, even though the abundance of evil may be pleasing to you. Have fear of Allah, you who are endowed with understanding, so that you may triumph”. (Quran 5: 100).


Islam and indeed almost all faiths have laid down some basic universal moral standards for humanity to follow, which are to be observed and respected under all circumstances. Thus whatever leads to the welfare of the individual or the society is morally good in Islam and whatever is injurious is morally bad.  In other words the rights of society take precedence over the rights of an individual. I read a quote recently that said, ‘Morality is one of the fundamental sources of a nation’s strength, just as immorality is one of the main causes of a nation’s decline’


Morality in Islam addresses every aspect of life, from greetings to international relations.  It is universal and broad in its application.  Morality reigns in selfish desires, vanity, bad habits and vices.  Believers must not only be virtuous, but they must also encourage virtue.  They must not only refrain from evil and vice, but they must also forbid them.  In other words, they must not only be morally healthy, but they must also contribute to the moral health of society as a whole.


An essential part of morality is the control of our vices, passions and desires. Look around there is a noticeable decline in the standard moral behaviour and conduct the world over. For example read any newspaper of the daily on goings on in our society; frighteningly the increase in the number of rape and other crimes related to sexual offences, spouse abuse, family, domestic and public violence. What has happened to our moral fibre, are we no longer God-fearing?


One of the many verses of the Quran that deals with our daily conduct in our affairs is a stepping stone to building our moral values: “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces (in prayer) to the East or the West, but righteous is the one who believes in God and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets; and gives his wealth for love of Him (God) to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set free those in bondage; and observes proper worship (daily prayer) and pays the charity due;  And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress; such are those who are sincere. Such are the God fearing.” (Quran 2:  177)


Islam attaches great importance to the love of God and to the love of our fellow humans and this verse sets some of the standards for the righteous and God-fearing believer. These standards should help us build the foundation around which our moral conduct should revolve. However we should not forget the highest quality of a Believer: God-consciousness.


The key to virtue and good conduct is to create a strong relationship with the Almighty, who sees all what we do, at all times and everywhere. The Almighty knows the secrets of our hearts and the intentions behind all our actions. Therefore, a Believer must be moral in all circumstances; we can deceive everyone around us but we cannot deceive the Almighty.  We can flee and hide from anyone, but not from Him. This continuous awareness of Allah and the Day of Judgement creates within us a system of moral conduct and sincere intentions: ‘Does he not know that Allah sees all that he does?’ (Quran 96: 14). ‘Indeed, the most honourable among you in the sight of God is the most God-conscious.’ (Quran 49: 13)


The combination of moral conduct together with social responsibilities, are based on compassion and consideration of others.  Part of our behavioural conduct lays emphasis on specific acts like, kindness and it defines the responsibilities and rights of our various relationships. After we have established our relationship with our Creator, in the ever widening circle of relationships, our first obligation thereafter is to our immediate family – parents, husband or wife and children, then to other relatives, neighbours friends and acquaintances, orphans and widows, the needy of the community, our fellow Believers, all our fellow human beings the world over.


“And turn not your face away from people (with pride), nor walk in insolence through the earth.  Verily, God does not like any arrogant boaster.  And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice.  Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the donkey (Quran 31:18-19)


Islam has set for us some universal standards of human behaviour which are to be observed and practiced in all circumstances. It has made morality as one of its cornerstones and to uphold these, it has provided not only safeguards, but also an effective moral system.
However, these standards by themselves are not sufficient without being accompanied by among other things, by the following: Our faith should be true and sincere; but in addition the other important moral characteristics of humility, modesty, control of passions and desires, truthfulness, integrity, honesty, patience, steadfastness, and fulfilling one’s promises, are all moral values which are emphasised over and over again in the Quran. 


Sometimes our love for the ‘temporary’ material pleasures of this world makes us forget our morality as we become attached to worldly gains instead of our yearn for a better world in the Hereafter. Instead of being attached to the car, the job, the diploma and the bank account, all these things should become tools to make us better people. The Holy Qur’an reminds us that: “The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, but only he (will prosper) that brings to God a sound heart (firm in faith).” (Quran 26: 88-89)


Regrettably in this day and age we have people shouting for the rights of the individual – the demand is that an individual can do whatever he wants to because it is his ‘right’ to do so. They forget that in exercising their rights they should be aware that those rights end when they start infringing upon the rights of others. Islam takes the view that the rights of the individual do not take precedence over the rights of society as a whole. In Islam whatever leads to the welfare of the individual or the society and does not oppose any principles of the religion is morally good, and whatever is harmful is morally bad.


Believers must not only be virtuous, but they must also enjoin virtue.  They must not only refrain from evil and vice, but they must also forbid them.  In other words, they must not only be morally healthy, but they must also contribute to the moral health of society as a whole.
Remember: ‘If anyone does a righteous deed, it is to the benefit of his own soul; if he does evil, it works against his own soul. In the end you will all be brought back to your Lord’ (Quran 45: 15)

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