Understanding how moral values and a sense of obligation can come from beliefs and experience;
Evaluating their own and others’ values in order to make informed, rational and imaginative choices.
The core precepts of Muslim morality and behaviour are found in the Qur’an and are also guided by the Ahadith.
Islam is a religion of peace (this is implied in the name itself). Salam which means peace is one of the 99 names of God. Islam promotes peace and harmony but it also promotes justice. For example, The Prophet taught Muslims never to initiate a war but also that you have the right to defend yourself.
Any form of injustice is a hindrance to peace hence fighting against it is essential in Islam to preserve the harmony between all of creation. It is important to note that the injustices seen in Islamic societies are nothing to do with Islam but are generally based on culture and traditions. As a matter of fact, such actions are condemned by Islam and will be punishable. The fourth Imam of the Shi’ah, ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (b. 658-9), wrote a treatise of rights (Risalah al-Huquq) in which he outlines different categories of rights of the human being towards God, himself and others. Islam views itself as the champion of the downtrodden. It promotes a just social system in which the weak and the needy are protected. Imam ‘Ali said: ‘He who makes no effort to alleviate the suffering of an oppressed person is an oppressor.’
Women were given rights never accorded to them by past religions and some of which were only adopted by the West in the 20th century. The most important is a woman’s equality to man. The Prophet taught righteousness towards the orphans; in a tradition (hadith), he says that the Prophet himself and the sponsor of the orphan will be neighbours in Heaven.
According to the Qur’an, the poor and the needy have a right in the wealth of the rich which is established through zakah and khums (both of which are to purify one’s earnings by giving a share of it to the poor):
And those in whose wealth is a recognised right. For the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking) (Surah 70:24-25).
Giving is one of the most important attributes of a believer. Hence in addition to the ordained zakah and khums, Muslims are encouraged to give charity (sadaqah) out of their own free will. Traditions tell us that when we give in charity God returns it to us tenfold. But when one gives, he should give to others what he likes for himself, the Qur’an says:
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. (Surah 3:92).
Today in the UK, charity organizations have been set up to help and protect the poor and the weak such as Islamic Relief, Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) as well as Islamic charity shops. Many countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and others have set up orphanages (adoption is forbidden in Islam). As the human being is God’s vicegerent (khalifah), God put everything in existence at his disposal so that he can achieve perfection and to be in harmony with all that surrounds him. As a result, he is accountable for the way he treats his environment. Muslims have great respect for the other creation as everything in existence is a sign of God (Ayah Allah). The Qur’an gives examples of animals and nature so that we learn lessons from them. One such example is how a colony of bees is organised and governed. In addition, there are Islamic rulings (which if not followed, a person is committing a sin) derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah regarding environmental issues for example, it is forbidden to litter. Waste of any kind is forbidden in Islam; the Qur’an condemns those who waste:
[…] eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters. (Surah 7:31).
As with everything else in Islam, the Qur’an and the traditions from the Prophet (and from the Imams for the Shi’ah) form the basis of any discussion. Friendly and respectful dialogue is essential as the Qur’an advises:
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 (Surah 16:125).
Furthermore, since ‘enjoining the good and forbidding the evil’ are items of faith, these issues are the responsibility of every Muslim and to be passive to oppression for instance is a sin. Islam expects us to endeavour to stop every form of evil and to encourage all that is good. Muslim have taken part in peaceful protests (e.g. protests against the Iraq invasion and during the uprising prior to the Islamic revolution in Iran, thousands took to the streets in a peaceful protest when opposition forces began shooting line after line of protesters). They also boycott companies, organizations or countries that carry out, fund or support violations of human rights.
It was the greed and selfishness of the merchants in Makkah which prompted Muhammad to emphasise Muslim concern for the poor. He implemented these teachings when he moved to al-Madinah.
All wealth and riches come from Allah and are for the benefit of all humanity. Zakah (purification of wealth by payment of welfare due) one of the Five Pillars, is central to this view.
And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: and whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah: for Allah sees well all that ye do (Surah 2:110)
Zakah is a central aspect of the ummah (the worldwide brotherhood of Muslims) and is also an act of ‘ibadah, duty and worship.
Zakah is 2.5% of the income and savings of all Muslims after they have taken care family concerns. It is not charity but an obligation on all Muslims. However, the rich pay more than others and the very poor people pay nothing at all.
The calculations for zakah are complex:
– Money and savings 2%
– Produce from naturally 10% irrigated land
– Produce from artificially 5% irrigated land
– Cattle one per 30 animals
– Goats and sheep one per 40 animals
– Five camels: one sheep or goat
– Precious metals: 7%
– Mining produce 20%
– Rent 2%
In Islamic countries zakah is a form of social security.
Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to the Truth); for those in bondage (slavery) and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer (traveller). (Surah 9:60)
Extra zakah is given at Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Adha. Additional voluntary charity called sadaqah can also be given when someone is in need.
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 practise regular charity, to fulfil their contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity (trouble), and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. (Surah 2:177)
Charity must always be given privately:
There is a man who gives charity and he conceals it so much that his left hand does not know what his right hand spends (Hadith).
The only exception to this rule of privacy is when the giver needs to provide an example which will encourage other people to give.
Every day, each person has two angels near him who have descended from heaven. One says, ‘O Allah!, compensate the person who gives to charity,’ the other says, ‘O Allah! Inflict a loss on the person who withholds his money.’ Zakah helps the poor but it can also been seen as helping them to help the rich. When people accept zakah they are worshipping Allah and accepting the wisdom of the will of Allah.
It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (Surah 6:165).
God tells people in the Qur’an (Surah 2:30) that He made the human being His vicegerent (khalifah). As the representative of God on earth, this brings in the question of responsibility and consequently accountability followed by reward or punishment in the Hereafter. Hence, this makes every person aware of their individual as well as collective role regarding these issues.
Muslims are opposed to euthanasia:
O ye who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere. And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: “They are dead.” Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not. Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return”— (Surah 2:153-156).
O ye who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities: But let there be amongst you Traffic and trade by mutual good-will: Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah hath been to you Most Merciful! (Surah 4:29).
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that anyone who killed themselves would go to hell:
Anyone who throws themselves down from a rock and commits suicide will be throwing themselves into Hell. A person who drinks poison and kills themselves will drink it for ever in Hell. A person who stabs themselves will stab themselves for ever in Hell. (Hadith)
Muslims say that the time when someone will die can only be decided by Allah:
If Allah were to punish men for their wrong-doing, He would not leave, on the (earth), a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated Term: When their Term expires, they would not be able to delay (the punishment) for a single hour, just as they would not be able to anticipate it (for a single hour) (Surah 16:61).
Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s leave, the term being fixed as by writing. If any do desire a reward in this life, We shall give it to him; and if any do desire a reward in the Hereafter, We shall give it to him. And swiftly shall We reward those that (serve us with) gratitude (Surah 3:145).
Suffering is a test of iman (faith) and euthanasia is seen as zalim, wrongdoing against Allah.
Marriage and the family form the basis of Islamic society:
It is He Who has created man from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power (over all things) (Surah 25:54).
No institution in Islam finds more favour with God than marriage (Hadith):
The father or any other guardian cannot give in marriage a virgin or one who has been married before without her consent. (Hadith)
… and men are warned to be careful in whom they choose to marry: A woman is taken in marriage for three reasons; for her beauty, for family connections or the lure of wealth. Choose the one with faith and you will have success. (Hadith)
Islam teaches that sexual intercourse is an act of worship which also fulfils human emotional and physical needs as well as being the means of procreation. Children are then the means by which humans contribute towards Allah’s creation. The pleasure of sexual intercourse is a gift from Allah and must only take place within a married relationship:
It is He Who has created man from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power (over all things) (Surah 25:54).
Marriage includes the responsibility of both parties to meet each other’s sexual needs. Men are forbidden from being alone with women except for their wives in case they are tempted by them:
Let no man be in privacy with a woman who he is not married to, or Satan will be the third (Hadith).
Sex outside of marriage is forbidden and a serious crime.
Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils) (Surah 17:32).
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication-flog each of them with a hundred stripes: let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment (Surah 24:2).
In general Islam is opposed to abortion. The foetus is considered to be a human being and therefore abortion is a crime. It is allowed, however, if a doctor is convinced that continuation of the pregnancy will cause the mother’s death. Some Muslims believe that for the first four months of pregnancy the mother’s rights are greater than those of the child. After this time their rights are equal.
In Arabia, before Muhammad (pbuh), unwanted female baby were often buried alive. The teaching of the Qur’an in respect of this practice is now often applied to the issue of abortion:
Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin (Surah 17:31).
… the child’s innocence is stressed:
When the female (infant) buried alive, is questioned – For what crime she was killed? (Surah 81:8-9).
There are different beliefs amongst Muslim about when a foetus becomes a person. Muslims believe that the soul is breathed in by the first 42 days of pregnancy. What has led them to this opinion is the hard fact of embryology, that all stages – seed, clot of blood and morsel of flesh occur in the first 40 days of life.
Before 120 days from conception, the foetus lacks a human soul. Only at the end of 120 days is the foetus ensouled. To consider in the same light abortions that are performed before the 120-day period and after, as the Anti-Abortion lobby does, is therefore both ridiculous and un-Islamic. Muslim jurists prohibit, absolutely, any abortion taking place after ensoulment when the soul enters the body, but many of them permit it before 120 days under certain conditions, for example the poor health of the mother, in the case of rape, etc.
Judgment and the treatment of criminals is based on Islamic law, shari’ah -the ‘way to water’, or the source of life.
Islam considers there to be three types of sin:
– Shirk: associating someone or something with Allah;
– Zalim: crimes such as murder, theft, suicide and illegal sexual relations;
– the third type covers lying, cursing and envy.
Muslim punishment is not about the removal of sin, as only Allah can forgive. Punishment is to protect and strengthen society.
Penalties are known as hudu – ‘boundaries’ as they enforce the boundaries between right and wrong that have been crossed by the crime. Hudu applies to crimes which are dealt with in the Qur’an or Hadith.
…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 (Surah 5:32).
However, it is not permitted to kill anyone except through legal means.
Adultery or fornication:
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication – flog each of them with a hundred stripes: let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment (Surah 24:2
And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations) – flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors (Surah 24:4).
As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime (Surah 5:38).
Jihad is often wrongly translated as ‘Holy War’. Jihad means ‘to struggle in the way of Allah’ and as Greater Jihad is the personal struggle made by every Muslim to devote his or her life to carrying out Allah’s will.
The most excellent jihad is the uttering of truth in the presence of an unjust ruler. (Hadith).
Lesser Jihad: many Muslims believe that the fight against evil and the preservation of Islam may sometimes justify going to war. This is described as Harb al-Muqadis: a Holy War.
The Prophet was asked about people fighting because they are brave, or in honour of a certain loyalty, or to show off: which of them fights for the cause of Allah? He replied, ‘The person who struggles so that Allah’s word is supreme is the one serving Allah’s cause’ (Hadith).
Islam teaches that self-defence is a just cause for war, but Muslims are forbidden from being the first to attack.
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors (Surah 2:190).
A war cannot be described as jihad if:
– the war is started by a political leader rather than a religious leader;
– an individual person declares war without the backing of the Muslim community;
– the war is aggressive not defensive;
– peaceful ways of solving the problem have not been tried first;
– the purpose of the war is to force people to convert to Islam;
– the purpose of the war is to gain land or power;
– innocent women and children are put at physical risk;
– trees, crops and animals have not been protected;
– the war involves the destruction of homes or places of worship.
Jihad is a way to peace and the purpose is to create a society where Muslims can worship Allah in peace. If the enemy offers peace, then Muslims too must put down their weapons. Muslims are highly critical of any struggle or fighting between Muslim countries as this is completely goes against the concept of jihad.
Islam teaches that Allah is the creator of the world. Humans have the role of ‘vice-regents’ or ‘trustees’ – they are to look after the world and rule it as Allah wished. However, they do not own it.
So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the Faith: (establish) Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not (Surah 30:30).
Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; is firmly established on the throne (of authority); He has subjected the sun and the moon (to his Law)! Each one runs (its course) for a term appointed. He doth regulate all affairs, explaining the signs in detail, that ye may believe with certainty in the meeting with your Lord. And it is He who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and (flowing) rivers: and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two: He draweth the night as a veil o’er the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who consider! And in the earth are tracts (diverse though) neighbouring, and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees-growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who understand! (Surah 13:2-4).
Say: “Shall I seek for (my) Cherisher other than Allah, when He is the Cherisher of all things (that exist)? Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards Allah: He will tell you the truth of the things wherein ye disputed.” It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (Surah 6:164-165).
Many traditional Muslim countries are dry and arid with large areas of desert. It is only to be expected then that Islam should be particularly concerned with plant life and the environment.
Islamic medicine has always concentrated on the use of drugs and herbs from the environment rather than on surgery. Al-Razi (d. 925 CE) was the first scientist to distinguish between smallpox and measles and Ibn Sina (d.1037 CE) described how epidemics spread.
The teachings of the Qur’an stress the responsibility of humanity.
It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth (Surah 6:165).
The Muslim representative at the World Wide Fund for Nature at Assisi in 1986, Dr Abdullah Omar Nasseef, stressed the human responsibility to look after the earth:
‘The central concept of Islam is tawheed or the Unity of God. Allah is Unity; and His Unity is also reflected in the unity of mankind, and the unity of man and nature. His trustees are responsible for maintaining the unity of His creation, the integrity of the Earth, its flora and fauna, its wildlife and natural environment. Unity cannot be had by discord, by setting one need against another or letting one end predominate over another; it is maintained by balance and harmony. There Muslims say that Islam is the middle path and we will be answerable for how we have walked this path, how we have maintained balance and harmony in the whole of creation around us.’
So unity, trusteeship and accountability, that is tawheed, khalifa and akhrah, the three central concepts of Islam, are also the pillars of the environmental ethics of Islam. They constitute the basic values taught by the Qur’an. It is these values which led Muhammad (pbuh) the Prophet of Islam, to say: ‘Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded’.
Islam sees the benefit and well-being of all humanity as being a human responsibility in looking after the world which God has created for us to live in and believes that every effort must be made to be ‘green’ and to slow down and halt destructive trends.
There are Muslim organisations such as the Islamic Foundation for Ecology & Environmental Sciences which work closely with governments and other faith groups.
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