Morals in Islam
Mohamed Helal 392

Morals in Islam

Morals in Islam[1]

     The call for Islam is not limited to creed, the hidden matters of the heart, Shari’ah, acts of worship, or human interactions such as transactions, marriages, or the Islamic penal law. Rather, it also includes the aesthetic aspect of sayings and deeds. Moreover, the creed encourages moral discipline and Shari’ah aims to achieve moral sublimity in the one practicing it.

Allah the Most High says,

“Indeed, prayer restrains from shameful and evil deeds.”

He also says,

“You who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Qur’ān, 2:183)

In another verse, He says,

“Take [Prophet Muḩammad], from their wealth a charity amount by which you purify them and cause them to increase, and invoke [Allah's blessings] upon them.” (Qur’ān, 9:103)

Again, He says,

“So, whoever has intended to start pilgrimage therein, there is to be for him no sexual relations, no disobedience and no disputing during pilgrimage.” (Qur’ān, 2:197)

     In addition, morals in Islam enjoy a special focus in sacred Islamic texts where what is good is approved and called for, and what is evil is dispraised and forbidden.

     Among what is praised by Islam are all the positive morals called for by the previous heavenly legislative systems as well as positive morals common among the Arabs and others. Any immoral conduct reported to be forbidden in the previous heavenly religions or disapproved by their people is likewise disapproved by Islam. Thus, the Prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have said,

“Indeed I have been sent to perfect good manners.” (Hadith by Al-Bukhāri)

     The command of good manners and higher values is not restricted to relationships amongst the Muslims only, but it includes the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims as well. Consequently, all the commands in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah are general, such as the following hadiths of the Prophet, peace be upon him:

“He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy;” (Hadith by Al-Bukhāri)

“Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you;” (Hadith by Al-Termidhi and Abu Dawoud)

“All creatures are the dependents of Allah for sustenance, so the dearest to Him are the most beneficial for the dependents of Allah;” (Hadith by Al-Bazzar, and Al-Baihaqi)

“The worst people in Allah’s sight are those whom the people leave (undisturbed) to shun away from their evil deeds.” (Hadith by Al-Bukhāri)

     Actually, the commands of rendering trust, making just judgments among people, and speaking well to others come in a general context:

"Allah commands justice, doing goodness, and generosity towards relatives and He forbids what is shameful, blameworthy, and oppressive." (Qur’ān, 16:90)

He also, says,

"And speak good words to people and establish prayer and pay the prescribed alms".(Qur’ān, 2:83)

     Consequently, good manners take precedence over acts of worship and stem therefrom. Furthermore, the commands of telling the truth, fulfilling covenants, rendering trust, keeping promises, courage, chivalry, generosity, charity, gracious forgiveness, defending the oppressed, helping those in desperate need, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping the disabled, guiding the blind – all of these are good manners Islam recommends Muslims to abide by in their daily life. Can anyone denounce such things?

     At the same time, Islam prohibits telling lies, abuse of trust, cheating, deceiving, leading others astray, violating prohibitions, adopting extravagance, and libertinism. Further, it forbids immorality, bad conduct, oppression, and hypocrisy. It criminalizes horrifying safe people, assaulting the weak, and looting the properties of others, secretly or openly, and prescribes certain deterrent legal punishments for whoever dares to commit such crimes.

     In fact, good manners in Islam are the aesthetic aspect of the Islamic code of conduct, and it is regarded as the best feature of this religion. Thus, Islam recommends Muslims to abide by high morals and it forbids casual and cheap talks and deeds. In this way, the principles of the call for Islam (creed, Shari’ah and morals) are perfectly and harmoniously integrated.


The Meaning of Khuluq[2]

     The Arabic word khuluq (manner) literally means an inborn nature or innate disposition. Muslim philosophers who wrote on ethics in Islam define the word khuluq as a well-established entity within the self. It is the hidden image of man, when contrasted with one’s apparent image, known as khalq (physical creation) in Arabic. According to Imam Al-Ghazali's statements on this topic, we can define the word khuluq as follows:

A. A well-established, stable entity within the self;

B. A driving force that directs the self towards choosing its actions in a simple and smooth way without thinking or careful consideration.

     However, every human being has several faculties and different functions within herself/himself such as realization, thinking, imagination, emotions, and natural instincts. Each of these faculties has its own respective actions that very smoothly reflect it. Given that, should we classify these faculties then as characteristics of human beings? Of course, we cannot call them values. However, we can divide the hidden faculties within the self into three distinctive categories:

1. Reason and knowledge.

2. Feelings and emotions.

3. Intention and will.

     Obviously, khuluq is related to the third category which represents aspects of intention and will in the human being, rather than thinking, feelings, or emotions. Likewise, not all human voluntary actions are controlled by ethics and values. Only actions which can be classified as good or evil are related to values. Now, the Arabic word khuluq can be accurately defined as “a well-established entity within the self from which actions are carried out smoothly without thinking or careful consideration. If such entity enables a person to carry out actions which are reasonably and religiously praiseworthy, that entity is then called a good value. However, if the actions a person carries out are rude and impolite, the entity which is the source of that action is thus called a bad value.”[3]

     In other words, values are considered a well-established entity of the self. They have to do with voluntary actions which can be described as evil or good. Such a narrowed definition of values excludes, from an ethical perspective, all the human mental and normal voluntary acts that can rightly be carried out or abandoned. Thus, such acts cannot be judged as evil or good, and the same thing applies to their doer, i.e. s/he cannot be judged either right or wrong for the mere doing or abandoning of such acts.


Difference between Values and Behaviors

     A value is an internal force that drives human beings to carry out certain actions. By contrast, behavior is the person’s attitude towards his actions and his way of life. Accordingly, behavior is the external reflection or the mirror of values. It is through a person's behavior that we can judge values and say that a person is of good or bad ones.

[1] Shaikh ‛Aṭiya Ṣaqr, Former Chairman of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, “Understanding Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 69.

[2] Prof. Aḥmad Muḥammad Aṭ-Ṭayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, “Essential Features of Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 163.

[3] Imam al-Ghazali, Ihyaa'u‘Uloum id-Deen (Revival of Religious Sciences), Halabi Publishing House: 1939, 3:52.




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