By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
24 September 2016
This article builds on my article: Science and Religion and is in continuation of it. The cited article quoted the verses containing Allah’s challenge to those who doubt that the Quran is from Allah to produce a Sura which can match a Sura from the Quran. The challenge does not specify in what way the product of the human mind should be compared with a Sura from the Quran and scholars of the Quran have only talked about the Quran’s linguistic excellence. The cited article reduced the challenge to mean the moral principles common to every Book of scripture and showed that not only the Quran but every book of scriptures meets this challenge. This article looks at the verses from the Quran that define the moral way of living which contain the moral principles and shows that the excellence and inimitability is at three levels if not more.
Deen or the way of life in Islam is also described as the straight path which we may call the moral path. The Islamic way of life is the “moral way of life” and is based on moral principles which may be explicitly stated or may be implicit.
The unparalleled excellence with which the Quran teaches us the moral way of living is at several levels. The first level is the principle itself which is illuminating in itself. The second level is the use of imagery created with words and using the most effective devices of the psychology of influence such as priming and through reinforcement by repeating the message but in different ways and in different contexts to make the point clear and beyond doubt. The third level is the linguistic excellence and all of these within the framework of a complete and self-sufficient system of belief in a God who is the Creator, Sustainer, Helper, Law Giver, the source of all power, the Wise, the Aware, the Knower, the Just, the Merciful, the one who Rewards, the Forgiver, the Lord of the Day of Judgment and with many more attributes. The Quran sheds light on many truths but specially on the complete way of living a moral life and the source of this knowledge/light is Allah Himself. The excellence is best described by the Quran itself:
(24:35) Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light: Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things.
This ayat or verse occurs in Surah Nur or The Light which has 14 sections, and each section deals with some aspect of the law. The connection of the ayat with the moral way of living is unmistakable. The rich imagery however lends itself to many interpretations and this is one verse most commented upon and with the longest commentaries. The mystics like imam Ghazali have written extensively on it. I take a very simple and direct meaning which I think is closest to what it means.
Commandments for the Moral Way of Living
Complete submission: Whoever submits his whole self to Allah, and is a doer of good, has grasped indeed the most trustworthy hand-hold: and with Allah rests the End and Decision of (all) affairs. (31:22)
Accountability: Behold! they fold up their hearts, that they may lie hid from Him! Ah even when they cover themselves with their garments, He knoweth what they conceal, and what they reveal: for He knoweth well the (inmost secrets) of the hearts. (11:5)
Salat and Charity:
There Are Over Twenty Or More Verses That Stress Two Things Mostly:
Establishing/Performing Regular Prayer
(7:170) As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular prayer,- never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish.(35:19) Thou canst but admonish such as fear their Lord unseen and establish regular Prayer.
(3:92) By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth Allah knoweth it well.
The above two are necessary conditions for attaining righteousness and piety.
Worship of only one God sets up a relationship of accountability for all our actions.God is our Creator, the Law Giver, our Guide and Helper, our Sustainer, and the one who will judge us on the Day of Judgment based on how we have lived our life – whether in accordance with the moral way shown us by God or the immoral way. The framework for observance of the commandments is of the utmost importance without which all the moral commandments mean very little. The commandment to worship God if followed in the manner prescribed orients a person towards God and creates "God consciousness". This ensures compliance with every command out of reverence and love of God. Belief in God and His worship therefore stand at the top because God is the giver of the moral code, the guide, helper, and the judge. Man is asked to submit fully to God or His commandments for a moral life which is likened to getting a firm hand-hold from God with whom rests the End and decision of all affairs.
Be Kind, Honourable And Humble To One's Parents:
Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. (Quran 17:23) And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." (Quran 17:24)
The commandments for the Islamic way of life are not just simple do’s and don’ts. These describe vividly the best way to follow the principles. The command describes the body language that is appropriate (lower the wings of humility) – once such a posture is assumed, can a person misbehave? The command says that even the expression of impatience such as saying uf (just a sound emitted which means the equivalent of “Oh No!”)is to be avoided at the mistakes the elderly often make. It says that only words of honour are to be used with parents such as “beloved father/mother”. And how beautiful is the prayer that is taught! "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood". The prayer reminds us of how our parents cherished us in our childhood which primes us or puts us in the frame of mind to behave towards them in the same kindly manner overlooking their infirmities, follies, forgetfulness, repetitiveness, sensitivity and many other afflictions of old age that require our constant attention, love, care and patience.
Care For Orphaned Children:
To orphans restore their property (When they reach their age), nor substitute (your) worthless things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by mixing it up) with your own. For this is indeed a great sin. (4:2)
Notice how detailed the instructions are leaving nothing out and giving no scope for injustice as far as the rights of the orphans are concerned.
Repel Evil with Good and Forgiveness:
41:34 Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate! (35) And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint,- none but persons of the greatest good fortune. (36) And if (at any time) an incitement to discord is made to you by Satan, seek refuge in Allah. He is the One Who hears and knows all things.( (41:34 -36)
Repel evil with good to make enemy become an intimate friend. The verse also teaches that to act in such a manner requires a person to exercise patience and practice self-restraint. Such a person is described as the most fortunate person. The verse shows a way to resist the temptation to return evil with evil by invoking God’s protection. Not only is the instruction to repel evil with good but how this may be achieved is also shown.
(3:133) Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous,-
(134) Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men;- for Allah loves those who do good;-
(135) And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins,- and who can forgive sins except Allah?- and are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the wrong) they have done.
Those who expect forgiveness from Allah must forgive (all) others, spend in charity and restrain their anger. Who does not need forgiveness of Allah and who would not like to be forgiven by Allah? Forgiveness of all is made both mandatory and easy for man because he is then entitled to forgiveness by Allah for all his sins.
Sanctity Of Human Life
if anyone slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people (5:32)
Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law). (Quran 17:33)
Be neither Miserly nor Wasteful in One's Expenditure:
And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. (Quran 17:26) Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful. (Quran 17:27) And even if thou hast to turn away from them in pursuit of the Mercy from thy Lord which thou dost expect, yet speak to them a word of easy kindness. (Quran 17:28) Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard's) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute. (Quran 17:29)
Charity with kindness and without waste - three virtues that go together and if separated can become a vice. Imagine charity with harshness or insulting behavior. Imagine giving less than what is needed. It doesn’t serve the purpose. Imagine boastful waste!
Tenderness with Wife In Sexual Relations: Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe.(2:223)
The verse asks the husband to do some good act for his soul before the sexual act. This primes the man for showing, kindness, gentleness and consideration. He is also reminded to fear Allah and know that he has to meet Him. This excludes any scope for cruelty, harshness or coercion. Notice that there is no command to be kind or avoid being harsh. The verse simply asks a person to do that which will automatically put him in the right frame of mind in which he will necessarily behave with tenderness and avoid cruelty in any form.
Freeing of Slaves:
(9:60) Zakat money collected by the state can be used to free slaves
(2:177) It is righteousness to spend of your substance, out of love for Him for the ransom of slaves;
(24:33) ....And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you
Free a slave for the expiration of sins such as: 1. Wrongful divorce (58:3) 2 Violating of oath 5:89 3) Killing by mistake (4:92)
Free men and women are encouraged to marry a slave 4:3, 4:25
The consequences of breaking promises are in this world as well as on the Day of Judgment. While one may cheat in this world, there is no escape in the hereafter from the all-knowing God is what is driven home.
Be Honest and Fair In One's Interactions: Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight: that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination. (Quran 17:35)
The accountability is in this world as well as with God who records everything and misses nothing.
The verse reminds man of his limitations. Also consider the following Sura of only three verses
Surah 110 An-Nasr or Divine help
(1) When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory,
(2) And you see the people enter Allah´s Religion in crowds,
(3) Celebrate the praises of your Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: For He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy).
The Surah was revealed at the moment of the greatest achievement of the Muslims who prevailed over the Meccans in battle after a long struggle of twenty years in which they suffered persecution and exile. Following the victory, Meccans entered the fold of Islam in large numbers. This was a moment when the Muslims may have exulted, but the Surah teaches them that this is a time for celebrating the praises of Allah without whose help the victory was not possible and it is a time for seeking Allah’s forgiveness. It teaches humility and grace at the moment their greatest success. Keep in mind that Islam started with one person and these were a people who had no idea that it would succeed thus one day and yet they sacrificed everything for it and suffered for two decades. The Quran describes them as the best of Creatures or Creation which is an expression exclusively used for these people for all time. Nobody can surpass them.
Now let us compare with what human effort produces. This is from Allama Iqbal who was an eminent poet and also highly acclaimed philosophical thinker of modern times and the most quoted by the Maulanas.
“Khudi Ko Kar
Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle
Khuda Bande Se Khud Pooche Bata Teri Raza Kyahai”
Exalt yourself to such an extent that before writing your destiny, God himself asks “what may please you?”
This takes you to the height of immorality where the object of your striving itself is questionable! God did not ask this question to the most exalted of the Muslims but taught them how to remain humble at all times and seek forgiveness at the moment of their greatest achievement.
Modesty: Say to the believing men and women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. (24:30)
O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition! (7:26)
Raiment of righteousness! What a beautiful way of putting across that righteousness will protect us from shame and also be our adornment on the Day of Judgment! The context of wearing modest clothes has been used to drive home a much higher truth!
Celebration Of Diversity, Pluralism And Tolerance
Righteousness: It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing. (2:177)
This verse is addressed to all the communities – Christian who turn towards the east, Jew who turn towards the West and Muslim who turn towards the Sacred Mosque. Turning in different directions for prayer are ritualistic differences which matter very little to God. What is important is then elucidated.
5:48 “…..To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;”
The verse above is an affirmation that the diversity is by design so that different communities may compete with each other in all virtues.
49:13 “O mankind! We created you from male and 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. And Allah has full knowledge and is fully informed.”
Living the moral way of life or righteousness is what makes a person superior and the one who is the most righteous is closest and most honored in the sight of God. This verse again affirms pluralism.
(22:40) “Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will)”.
Any place of worship where the name of Allah (by whatever name since Allah has many names) is celebrated is to protected. Another verse which affirms pluralism.
Freedom of Conscience
(2:256) Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
2:272. It is not required of thee (O Messenger), to set them on the right path, but Allah sets on the right path whom He pleaseth.
Resist/Fight Oppression: Fighting is both permissible and ordained only in the way of Allah which is to end oppression of any kind irrespective of the faith professed by the oppressor and the oppressed. Fighting is not permissible for any other reason. Fighting and punishing is for the state/ruler and not a duty for an individual or group of individuals. For details, read:
Peace with non-aggressors, kindness towards them, and just dealing
(60:8) Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly (Taburruhum) and justly (Tuqsitu) with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. (9) Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.
(3:18) there is no god but He: That is the witness of Allah (Shahedullah), His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Power, the Wise.
The above verse can also be read as: Those endued with knowledge about God, His Oneness, His Exalted Power and Wisdom, provide proof or evidence of such knowledge (witness) by standing firm on justice.
(4:135) O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah (Shuhada Lillah), even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
What is stressed in the verse above is perfect secular justice disregarding every other consideration as witnesses to Allah from whom nothing is hidden – not even the innermost thoughts, desires, prejudices, rancour, love or hatred for those being judged.
There is a slight variation in 5:8 where the term could easily have been Shuhada Lillah but the term Shuhada Bilquist has been used and the context is again rendering exemplary justice standing out firmly for Allah.
(5:8) O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing (Shuhada Bilquist), and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
It is made amply clear that justice cannot be compromised for any extraneous consideration and must be rendered in a manner that can be justified to Allah from whom nothing is hidden regarding your motives or the facts of the case and in turn providing evidence (witness) of your submission to Allah and His divine attributes of Oneness, Exalted Power and Wisdom.
The attribute of Oneness make all equal in the sight of Allah which must be reflected while rendering justice. The reminder of Allah’s attribute of Absolute Power helps to resist the pull of every other extraneous consideration. ‘Justice’ rendered by allowing extraneous consideration to influence is oppression. The opposite of justice is oppression and an oppressor witnesses or provides evidence of evil or Iblis/Satan. Rendering perfect justice provides evidence of Allah and His attributes as well as of the judge’s submission to such a deity.
The attribute of Wisdom requires rendering justice tempered with compassion since Allah has inscribed for Himself the rule of mercy. The rule of mercy makes the objective of justice promoting the greater good of the society while protecting the rights of the individual.
(5:2)…. let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part). Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancour: fear Allah: for Allah is strict in punishment.
(31:17) Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong: and bear with patient constancy whatever betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs.
(39:32) who, then, doth more wrong than one who utters a lie concerning Allah, and rejects the Truth (Bil-ṣid'qi) when it comes to him; is there not in Hell an abode for blasphemers?
(33) And he who brings the Truth (Bil-ṣid'qi) and he who confirms (wa Saddaqa) (and supports) it - such are the men who do right.
(34) They shall have all that they wish for, in the presence of their Lord: such is the reward of those who do good:
(35) So that Allah will turn off from them (even) the worst in their deeds and give them their reward according to the best of what they have done.
The verses apply to every kind of truth. How much more effective than simply saying “Thou shalt not lie”. Here the one who speaks the truth, one who supports it, the one who lies and the one who rejects the truth are all covered.
Method For Communicating With People Of Other Faiths
16:125. Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.
29: 46. And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)."
"And Allah doth advance in guidance those who seek guidance: and the
things that endure, Good Deeds, are best in the sight of thy Lord, as rewards,
and best in respect of (their) eventual return."
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com
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