By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
- “Thus We have made you a justly balanced community, that you may be witnesses to humanity…” (2:143).
- A Reminder to the Ulema for incorporation in the madrasa curriculum.
In today’s performance and income oriented and entertainment and shopping driven world, human behavior is set aside as values of the past. But the truth is, behavioral attitudes can make or break a courtship, a marriage or a long friendship in a person’s inner circle. Besides, in one’s outer circle, every human being interacts with other human beings: bosses, colleagues, subordinates and all categories of people every day and it is always good to behave in a pleasant manner than otherwise. The Qur’an sets out behavioral paradigms, which can help people to win friends, earn the love and affection of spouses, respect of colleagues, and avoid pinpricks and petty worries in day to day professional and conjugal lives. Not a part of populist Islamic discourses, they are tabled below with self explanatory captions for a quick reader-friendly reminder and deeper reflection.
1. Not be vindictive and forgive past animosities
“Take to forgiveness, enjoin what is good and avoid the ignorant” (7:199).
“The retribution for an injury is a similar injury - yet whoever forgives and reconciles has his reward with God for He does not like the wrongdoers” (42:40).
“Tell those who believe to forgive those who do not look forward to the eventual return to God when He will repay people for what they earned” (45:14).
“...And let not the hatred of a people who (also) obstructed you from (entering the) Sacred House, lead you to be hostile. Therefore, help each other to virtue (birr) and piety (taqwa), and do not collaborate with each other in sin and enmity. Heed God, and (remember,) God is severe in punishment” (5:2)*.
*This verse is from the concluding phase of the revelation, when the Muslims had prevailed over their Meccan enemies, and were in a position to avenge their unremitting hostilities for more than two decades and had stopped their unarmed caravan from entering Mecca for pilgrimage.
2. To Restrain anger and not to persist in wrongdoing
“(The heedful) spend (for the needy) in good times as well as bad, and suppress anger and forgive other people, for God likes those who do good (3:134); and who remember God and seek forgiveness for their sins if they did something abominable or wronged their own souls, for who can forgive sins except God? - and who do not knowingly persist in whatever (wrong) they have been doing” (3:135).
(God’s reward is for those) who avoid grave sins and abominations and forgive (even) when they are angered” (42:37).
3. To show courtesy, avoid conflicts, and exercise self-reproach
“When you are greeted with a greeting, return it with a more courteous greeting or (at least) it’s like. Indeed God takes account of everything” (4:86).
“God does not love of evil talk in public except by one who has been wronged. (Remember,) God is All-Knowing and Aware” (4:148).
“Tell My servants to say what is best - for verily Satan sows dissension among them, for Satan is an open enemy to man” (17:53).
4. To eschew arrogance and harsh manner of speech
“And do not walk arrogantly on earth - for you can neither cleave the earth apart, nor reach the mountains in height” (17:37).
“Do not turn your cheek away from people (in scorn), nor walk arrogantly on earth. Surely, God does not love any arrogant boaster (31:18). Therefore, be modest in your bearing, and keep your voice low; (and remember) the harshest of sounds is the braying of an ass’” (31:19).
5. Not to believe in whispers without verification and shun false accusation
“You, who believe, if a wicked person comes to you with a (slanderous) news, verify it, otherwise you may ignorantly harm (other) people, and become regretful for what you have done” (49:6).
“Those who (falsely) accuse carefree, believing, chaste women are cursed in this life and (in) the hereafter, and there is a severe punishment for them” (24:23).*
*The easiest thing a man with a vicious mind can do is to accuse a descent woman of misconduct. This happens more often than the other way around as constitutionally men tend to be more assertive than and demanding of women and when they (the women) resist, the men bring false accusations against them.
6. Not to be miserly
“(God does not love) those who are miserly and encourage people (to be) miserly, or hide what God has given them of His bounty. (Remember,) We have prepared a humiliating punishment for the disbelievers” (4:37).
“Behold, (O you people!) You are invited to spend in God's way, but some of you are miserly; though whoever is miserly, is being miserly to his own soul. (Remember,) God is Self-Sufficient, whereas you stand in need. If you turn away (from His path), He will replace you with other people, and they would not be like you” (47:38).
“And as for him who is miserly and (feels) self-sufficient, and belies goodness, We shall facilitate for him the (path to) hardship. His wealth will be of no avail as he goes down (to his grave)” (92:8-11).
7. Not to mock or find fault in each other
“You, who believe, let not any people (qawm) among you mock other people (qawm) who may be better than they are; nor should some women (ridicule) other women who may be better than they are; and do not find fault in each other, nor insult others with (insulting) nicknames. (Giving) an insulting name after embracing the faith is most wicked, and those who do not repent (after giving such nicknames to others) – it is they who are unjust” (49:11).
8. To avoid excessive suspicion and backbiting.
“You, who believe, avoid excessive suspicion, for suspicion in some cases is a sin; and do not spy (over others), nor backbite each other. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it! So heed God and (remember,) God is Most Relenting and Merciful” (49:12).
“Woe to every backbiting critic, who amasses wealth, and keeps counting it (and does not share it with the needy)” (104:1-2).
9. To exercise moderation, and behave graciously at places of worship
“Children of Adam, conduct yourself graciously at every place of worship. Eat and drink - but do not be lavish, for He does not approve of those who are given to excesses” (7:31).
“The servant of the Benevolent are those who walk humbly on earth and when the ignorant address them, they say ‘Peace!’ (25:63),…. and those, when they spend, are not wasteful, nor miserly but take a position in between” (25:67).
10. To vie with each other in good deeds and all lawful pursuits
“Everyone has a goal to which he turns: so vie (with each other) in goodness, (and remember,) wherever you may be, God will bring you all together. Indeed God is Capable of everything” (2:148).
“…. For each of you We have made a (different) code (shir‘ah), and an open way (of action) (minhaj). If God so pleased, He would have made you (all) into one community. Therefore vie (with each other) in goodness (so that) He may test you by what He has given you. (Remember, you) all will (eventually) return to God, and He will tell you in what you differed” (5:48).
“O People! We have created you as male and female, and made you into races and communities* for you to get to know each other. The noblest among you near God are those of you who are the most heedful (atqakum*). Indeed God is All-Knowing and Informed” (49:13)
* In a broad sense, the term taqwa and its other roots denote heedfulness of one’s universal social, moral and ethical responsibilities, with faith in God and the Last Day.
Conclusion: Traditionally, Muslims restrict their religiosity to the five pillars of faith, and are known globally for their symbolic devotional gestures, like the height or shape of mosque minaret, external grooming in terms of style of beard, turban, veiling of a woman; exactness in the articulation of Qur’anic words, or in body movement during salah etc. but the forgoing paradigms of conduct hardly appear in Islamic discourses or even in the religious grooming of youngsters at family level. The Qur’an expects the Muslims to act as a witness to humanity as the Prophet was a witness to his immediate audience. They can hardly represent the noble Prophet if they, among other things, remain ignorant of the basic behavioral norms expected of them as listed above. The Qur’an, however, is a reminder to all humanity (6:90, 12:104, 38:87, 68:52, 81:27) (zikrul lil ‘alamin) and as such its behavioral paradigms are for all people, and if the Muslims look around with open eyes, they will find countless people of other faiths, who never read the Qur’an or even loath it, excelling in compliance with the Qur’anic paradigms. As the poet laureate Muhammad Iqbal put it: “The posterity of Trinity have carried off the heritage of Abraham – The foundation of the Church rests on the soil of hijaz." (bange dara, dunyae Islam, Verse -2, translated from Urdu).
It is therefore high time that the Muslim children are taught the behavioral paradigms of the Qur’an as part of their childhood grooming / madrassa education rather than its mere recitation without understanding a word as is traditionally the case.
December 2, 2011
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.