Morality or ethics is generally a code or set of principles following which is considered indispensable to leading a good and pleasant life. The theoretical study of morality and ethics is concerned with questions like “what is good life and how men should behave” and others. The term ethics has been derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’ which means customs and usages. Today, it is used to describe the character or disposition of a person or a society. Being a perfect and dynamic religion, Islam prescribes everlasting ethics and moral values that are pivotal to building a strong and clean body, a sound mind, a satisfied heart and a content soul. All religions promote human-friendly, noble ethics and moral values. For example, the Christianity gives Golden Principle which implies that if someone slaps you on your one cheek, turn the other. Buddhism is based on the doctrine of Ahimsa which means no injury to living creatures. However, the distinction of Islam is that it gives superlative importance to moral values and includes in it all aspects of life like dealings, eating and drinking, dressing, business, cleanliness, behaviour, and so on.
Different Aspects of Ethics or Morality in Islam
1. Sanctity of human life, honour and property: In moral values, the most important aspect is dignity of human life. Islam ordains that a Muslim must be kind towards and helpful to other human beings, and no one is allowed to cause harm to life of another person. Homicide is considered the grisliest of crimes and a severe sin. It may be judged from the fact that in verse 32 of Surah Al-Maidah (The Table Spread), Allah Almighty declares killing of one person as killing whole humanity and saving the life of one person as saving the whole humanity. Moreover, murder is the only sin for which Allah Almighty has prescribed four kinds of punishments; as mentioned in verse 93 of Surah An-Nisa (The Women): “But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.” Islam also declares that a Muslim is not allowed to cause harm to the prestige and honour of any person. In the same way, a Muslim is not allowed to cause financial loss to others. On the occasion of his last sermon, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “Your lives, properties and honour are as sacred as this day, this month and this place”.
2. Rights of close relatives like parents, children and spouses: After providing safeguards for human life, honour and property, Islam focuses on man’s character in entirety, by regulating human relations. Islam lays emphasis on maintaining good relations with our near and dear ones as well as the ordinary people. Bringing up children in a graceful manner, imparting to them good education and building their character are among the prime responsibilities of parents. The grown-ups are required to look after their aged parents and to treat them with deference. In this regard, Allah Almighty ordains in verse 14 of Surah Luqman, “Be grateful to Me and to your parents”. For better familial relations, Islam also accentuates cordial relations between spouses by declaring them garments of each other in verse 187 of Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow). Both are required to be faithful, sincere, dutiful and caring towards each other. Muslims are also directed not to sever relations with other relatives.
3. Speaking truth, honouring promises and caring for trust properties: All individual and collective actions that are detrimental to society are strictly forbidden in Islam. Telling lies has been despised so much that Allah Almighty curses the liars frequently in the Holy Quran. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “A Muslim may commit other sins but a Muslim cannot be a liar”. Honouring promises and commitments is obligatory as Allah Almighty says in verse 34 of Surah Bani Israel (Children of Israel), “And fulfil [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.” Islam also directs Muslims to take special care of trust properties.
4. Prohibition of illegitimate and unnatural sexual relations: Islam ordains only decent and legitimate relationship between members of opposite sexes. For that purpose, Islam accentuates the institution of marriage for fulfilling our physical needs, and strictly prohibits unpleasant and immoral tendencies like adultery/fornication, sodomy, child abuse, sexual harassment, homosexuality, etc. Islam strongly condemns adultery and declares it a major sin as it pollutes the matter of establishing paternity, promotes indecent tendencies in a society and spoils the honour of families. In this regard, Allah Almighty says in verse 32 of Surah Bani Israel (Children of Israel), “And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.” In verses 30 and 31 of Surah an-Noor (The Light), Muslim men and women both are directed to cast down their gazes and to protect their modesty. Islam declares sodomy and homosexuality more serious sins than adultery. In the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty has mentioned the incident of the people of Hazrat Lut who were destroyed for indulging in sodomy. Sodomy and homosexuality was proscribed in other religions also. In the Bible, the incident of two towns has been mentioned which were destroyed for involving in unnatural and illegitimate sexual acts.
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