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Morality and Moral Values

Publishing Date : 07 April, 2015

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM


The basic moral teachings of every religion, culture and traditional values are based on a system of morality. In religion, these teachings touch on various aspects of a Believer’s life and cover the broad spectrum of personal moral conduct as well as his social responsibilities. Where there is a lack of morality the community suffers many different types of ills.


This topic may sound ‘stale’ to some people because over the past few weeks the slant of this column has been to focus in on this area of human behaviour. The behaviour of those kids who posted their deviant escapades on social media especially has brought into sharp focus what can and happens as a result of a lack of morality.  


“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).


An integral part of morality is the control of our vices, passions and desires. There is a noticeable decline in the standard moral behaviour and conduct the world over. As a barometer 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 and domestic violence. What has happened to our moral fibre, are we no longer God-fearing?


Islam and indeed most faiths have laid down some basic universal moral standards for humanity as a whole, 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.


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.” (Qur’an 2:  177)


The combination of these moral, together with social responsibilities are based on compassion and consideration of others.  The emphasis lays on specific acts of kindness and defines the responsibilities and rights of 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 and animals.


Islam attaches much importance to the love of God and to the love of 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 Quran declares “Indeed, the most honourable among you in the sight of God Almighty, is the one who is most God-conscious.”  (Quran 49: 13)


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.


Thus, by setting God’s pleasure as the objective of man’s life, Islam has furnished the believer with the tools to achieve the highest possible standards of morality and character. Through this belief in God and the Day of Judgement it enables a person to adopt moral conduct with sincerity of the heart and soul.


The key to virtue and good conduct is a strong relationship with the Almighty, who sees all, who sees and knows all our doings at all times. 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, we cannot deceive Him.

We can flee from anyone, but not from Him. The continuous awareness of Allah and the Day of Judgement enables man to be moral in conduct and sincere in intentions: “Indeed, the most honourable among you in the sight of God is the most God-conscious.” (Quran 49: 13).’ Does he not know that Allah sees all that he does?’ (Quran 96: 14).


In the matter of morality Islam addresses every aspect of life, from greetings to our social obligations and relations; it is broad based in application.  Morality helps reign in our selfish desires, vanity, bad habits and vices.  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.


‘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)


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)

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