- Global Cultivation is a Religious Duty
- Islam Encourages Settlement and Construction
- Qualitative Work Leads Nations to Prosper
- Islam Denounces All Aspects of Idleness
- Warning Against Global Corruption and Destruction
Allah has created humankind in the best form; He honored and graced them over all creation subjecting all things in the world to them. He (may He be Exalted) says, “We have honored the Children of Adam and carried them in the land and the sea, and We have provided for them of the good things, and We have preferred them over many of those We created” (the Quran, 17: 70). He also says, “He is the One who has created for you all that is on the earth, then He attended to the heaven and has made it seven heavens, and He is aware of all things” (the Quran, 2: 29). As such, man was entrusted with stewardship over the earth: “And your Lord said to the angels: “I am placing a vicegerent on the earth.” They said: “Will You place in it he who would make corruption in it, and spill blood; while we praise by Your glory, and exalt to You?” He said: “I know what you do not know” (the Quran, 2: 30).
Indeed, the Lord assigned a great mission to humankind; that is to worship Him, cultivate and develop the world and discover its treasures and resources. Allah (may He be Exalted) says, “He [Allah] has established you from the earth and has made you settle in it [reform the earth and discover its resources and graces]” (the Quran, 11: 61). Allah encourages man to work in dependence on the physical means placed in the universe without inclination to idleness and s. Allah (may He be Exalted) says, “He is the One who made the earth subservient for you. So roam its paths, and eat from His provisions; and to Him is the final summoning” (the Quran, 67: 15).
Hard work is not restricted to a specific time. A human being has to pursue the course of reform to his/her last breath as indicated in the narration of Anas Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “If the Last Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it” (al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad).
Islam sanctifies and encourages building and construction, even at the hardest moments, since they are the backbone of life and the means to the progress of nations and communities.
As such, Islam encourages all areas of learning and education, which lead to the settlement and construction of the universe. All Muslims are deeply animated to explore the world and discover resources in land and sea. Persistent work has a very special in Islam as cited in the narration of al-Miqdam (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than that which one has earned by working with one’s own hands. The Prophet of Allah, David, used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor” (al-Bukhari).
Evidently, Islam is an open call for work, settlement and human welfare. For Islam, hard work yields great esteem and veneration, as a means to progress and development. Like acts of worship, it is divinely rewarded. The Quranic verses encourage lawful means and work for seeking one’s livelihood. In fact, encouragement of good work for lawful provision comes next only to the command of prayers. Allah (may He be Exalted) says, “When the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed” (the Quran, 62: 10). After praying the Friday prayer, ‘Irak Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) used to leave the mosque saying at the threshold of the mosque: “O Allah, I have responded to your call, have done your obligatory salah and left as You commanded, so provide for me out of Your Graces and You are the best of providers. Many Quranic and prophetic texts speak of the higher objectives of construction and reform and encourage hard working and building. They also discourage from idleness and laziness. Hard work is the way to save face, earn respect and human dignity. Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Surely, you had better gather a bundle of wood and carry it on your back (to earn your living) rather than ask somebody who may give you or not” (al-Bukhari).
When Sufyan al-Thawri passed by some people while they were sitting in the Sacred Mosque, he asked why they sat there. In reply, they questioned: “What shall we do? He said, “Seek the grace of Allah and do not depend on [other] Muslims [in your provision].” In Islam, the one who seeks the livelihood of his family through the lawful means has a rank equal to that of martyrs and guards of far borders. Ka‘b Ibn ‘Ujrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that a man once passed by the Prophet. Observing his power and vigorous activity, the Prophet’s Companions said, “O Messenger of Allah, if only he had made use of his power and activity in the cause of Allah!” In reply, the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “If he is seeking the provision of his children, he is in the Cause of Allah. Likewise, if he is seeking the provision of his old parents, he is in the Cause of Allah. Also, if he seeks to meet his own needs, he is in the Cause of Allah and if he seeks to meet the needs of his family, he is in the cause of Allah but if he seeks the means to vain glories and riches, he is in the cause of falsehood” (Narrated by al-Tabarani).
Not only does Islam call Muslims for work as a means to construction and civilization, but also encourages qualitative and accurate work as a way to earn the Divine Love and Mercy. ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Surely, Allah loves anyone doing a work to do it in the best qualitative manner” (Narrated by al-Tabarani).
Qualitative and careful work is one of the most significant values and principles that Islam encourages. It is also one of the key Islamic objectives, whereby a Muslim earns the Divine satisfaction and achieves the right devotion. Actually, Allah only accepts the deeds sincerely devoted to Him and a sincere work must fulfill the quality standards. Allah creates inimitable things everywhere as speaks of this miraculous power saying: “[It is] the work of Allah, who perfects all things. Indeed, He is Acquainted with that which you do” (the Quran, 27: 88). Allah also encourages man to do what is good and do it in the most qualitative manner and to refrain from all aspects of corruption: Allah (may He be Exalted) says, “And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good”, (the Quran, 2: 195) and He also says, “And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” (77) He (may He be Exalted) said, “I was only given it because of knowledge I have” (the Quran, 28: 77).
The Quranic verses frequently preach good and qualitative work that shall be sincerely done in pursuit of the Divine satisfaction and public welfare. It is a devotional way to serve the members of the community. Promises of great rewards and good repute in this life and in the afterlife are always at the ready for hard workers who serve their communities while being conscious of God’s Control and Awareness of all hidden notions in the depths of hearts and chests. He is always aware people’s deeds as He told: “And, [O Muhammad], you are not [occupied by] any matter or recite any of the Quran and you [people] do not do any deed except that we are witness over you when you are involved in it. And not absent from your Lord is any [part] of an atom’s weight within the earth or within the heaven or [anything] smaller than that or greater but that it is in a clear record” (the Quran, 10: 61).
Allah sees humans in all of their affairs; in plants, farms, bookshops and all other areas. Allah (may He be Exalted) says, “And say, “Do [as you will], for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers. And you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do” (the Quran, 9: 105). Allah is well-aware of all affairs and deeds, so expedite to do the good wholeheartedly devoted to Allah and keep away from all evils as He is witness over you. Zuhayr, an Arab poet, said:
No trait a person may have as hidden from people, but will be disclosed
The pure tradition of the Prophet also encourages hard work and building to achieve the best outcome, a rule generally applied to all ritual and worldly activities. For example, in the prayer, which is a communication between a servant and His Lord; the best reader should lead prayers. Good readers are promised the company of the honorable angels. Likewise, the shroud should be properly chosen, as the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “If anyone of you is charged with taking care of his brother (after death), let him shroud him well” (Muslim). ‘Asim Ibn Kulayb al-Jarmi said, “My father Kulayb attended funerals with his father in the company of the Prophet when he was mindfully a boy of good perception. The Prophet approached the grave when the burial was in process. He kept saying, “Level the inside of the grave” until people thought it is an act of sunnah. Then, he turned to them saying, “Indeed, this act (of leveling) carries no benefit or harm to the deceased but Allah loves anyone doing any work to do it in the best” (al-Bayhaqi).
It is necessary for any work a man does to perform it in the best manner and devote it to Allah. Allah alone is the Omniscient of the secrets of human hearts and He counts their deeds, small or big. Inept workers do not regard the divine observation over their work and their sin is equal to the loss and damages in property and energy they cause. A clumsy employee, who carelessly neglects his work while getting his wages, will have the whole community against him on the Last Day. Those malicious persons carry the onus of nations’ backwardness. ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Only to Allah, I complain of the weakness of honest people and the dauntless betrayal of powerful ones.”
Islam is against all aspects of despair and indolence that hinder construction and cultivation. As far as Islam is concerned, laziness is a disgusted vice whose bearers are worthy of divine dispraise and are similar to hypocrites who “come not to prayer except while they are lazy” (the Quran, 9: 54). Laziness is a destructive fault that spoils nations and causes them to lag behind other developed civilizations. It is a fatal disease that could lead man to lose the essence of his humanity. To use the expression of Imam al-Raghib, “He who intentionally neglects his work and falls to inactivity removes himself from humankind and even from animals as s/he is closer to the dead.” [al-Dharee‘ah ila Makarem al-Sharee’ah].
That is why the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) sought refuge in Allah from incapacity and laziness saying, “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from incapacity, laziness, old age, miserliness and cowardice, and I seek refuge in You from the torment of the grave, and from the trials of life and death” (Muslim in his Authentic Collection from Anas Ibn Malik). Note how he (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) gathered incapacity and laziness together, as they equally lead people to neglect their duties.
Laziness is a mental and psychological defect that deadens mettle and weakens will. Like a lethal germ and fatal disease, it leads to inactivity and impedes nations’ endeavors to progress. It also hinders individuals from serious work and useful activity. Islam blames laziness, as it causes man to overlook duties and begets feelings of boredom and hate, may Allah save us. As such, a person may dislike the good only because of lack of power and determination. It disregards duties, opposes success and kills it victims. A victim of laziness is a parasitic and independent being, who fails to carry out his human responsibility and constitutes an impending danger to individuals in the community. Imam ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Idleness is the key to despondence. Indeed, inability and inactivity beget poverty and breed ruins. Anyone who fails to pursue [an active course of life] gets no useful outcome and, hence, leads a corrupt course.”
Laziness is against the ethics and guidance of Islam. Islam invites people to do good and reform the universe; the lazy people never build civilization; rather, they may cause the destruction of civilizations. Islam also fights against corruption. Indeed, corruption is the vice of evildoers and hypocrites whom Allah describes saying, “They strive throughout the land [causing] corruption and Allah does not like corrupters” (the Quran, 5: 64). Allah also says, “Do not walk on the earth spreading corruption” (the Quran, 2: 60).
Corruption has many forms; the most dangerous thereof is the corruption in religion. Muslims have been afflicted with corrupt people who spread mischief on the earth in the name of religion. They kill the innocent and violate the honors and properties of people. Allah dispraised them in the Quran as follows: “And from among the people are whose words you admire in this worldly life, but Allah is witness as to what is in his heart, for he is the worst in opposition. And if he gains power, he seeks to corrupt the earth and destroy its crops, and the lineage. Allah does not love corruption. And if he is told: “Be aware of Allah,” his pride leads him to more sin. Hell shall be sufficient for him; what a miserable abode” (the Quran, 2: 204-206).
All forms of corruption destabilize the values of construction and development. It promotes negativism and irresponsibility. We shall all resist corruption and corrupt makers to relieve the whole community; otherwise, the community may come to ruins.
Al-Nu‘man Ibn Basheer (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “The likeness of the man who observes the limits prescribed by Allah and that of the man who transgresses them is like the people who get on board a ship after casting lots. Some of them are in its lower deck and some of them in its upper (deck). Those who are in its lower (deck), when they require water, go to the occupants of the upper deck, and say to them, ‘If we make a hole in the bottom of the ship, we shall not harm you.’ If they (the occupants of the upper deck) leave them to carry out their design they all will be drowned. But if they do not let them go ahead (with their plan), all of them will remain safe” (al-Bukhari). Mutual cooperation, support and solidarity are essential to achieve the essence of faith and fraternity.
Saving the earth from the corrupt people and safeguarding the roads and institutions are some of the best good deeds. Actually, Allah removes the corruption at the hand of the defenders of reformation. Allah (may He be Exalted) says, “If only there was from the previous generations a people with wisdom who prohibited corruption on the earth, except the few that We saved of them. And those who were wicked followed the enjoyment they were in, and they were criminal” (the Quran, 11: 116). A corrupt person is a destructive means that undermines community and harm people. Only elimination of corruption can save people from evils.
The Muslims have many resources, vast lands, seas, lakes and rivers. Their lands are rich with most of the contemporary world’s needs of minerals and oil reserves, let alone their precious treasures of experts and manpower. It is the duty of all Muslims to invest their possessions and rich resources in the best manner for the welfare of humankind as a whole in order to build a progressive civilization and achieve scientific advancement. The Muslim community forms an active nation of work and construction, not of idleness and destruction. They are the people of civilization, not of backwardness. A Muslim shall love his/her faith and proudly work hard for his religious and national progress.
- Islam is a faith of lofty ethics
- Fall of ethics signifies the fall of nations
- Ethics is the fruit of right worship
- The way to improve your ethics
Undoubtedly, the Islamic greatness has several sides; Islam is a law and ethics, lofty human values and ideal life patterns, inclusive of all virtues and merits and exclusive of all vices and evils. Islam highly encourages the high morals of patience, forbearing, lenience, truthfulness, honesty, mercy, fulfillment of one’s promises, generosity, shyness, modesty, courage, justice, benevolence and relieving people’s needs. It also calls for lowering one’s eyes, harm prevention, cheerful face, nice talks, good thoughts of others, respect of the elder, making peace between people, altruism and good consideration of others’ feelings as well as other ethical values.
Evidently, the texts of the Quran and Sunnah are very rich with indications to these ethical values. ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “Surely, this Quran guides to that which is most upright and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tiding that theirs will be a great reward” (the Quran, 17: 9).
ALLAH also commands His Prophet to “Take to pardoning, and order what is good, and turn away from the ignorant ones” (the Quran, 7: 199). He also recommends all to “say kind things to the people” (the Quran, 2: 83).
ALLAH also says, “There is no good in most of what they privately confer, except whoever orders a charity or kindness or making-peace between people. Yet, whoever does this seeking the grace of ALLAH, We will give him a great recompense” (the Quran, 4: 114).
Careful contemplation of the Quranic verses reveals that many verses call for lofty ethics as a social duty. Actually, ethics is the legal mechanism for human refined morality and the way to human perfections.
Texts of the Prophet’s Tradition also stress the paramount significance of ethics in human life and promise great rewards for those endowed with high morals. Declaring the essence of virtue, the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Virtue is the nobility of behavior” (Muslim in his Hadith Authentic Collection). The Prophet also said, “The heaviest thing in the believer’s scale will be good morals.” According to another narration, “Nothing is heavier on the believer’s Scale, on the Day of Judgment, than the noble character; indeed ALLAH dislikes the shameless obscene person” (At-Tirmidhi in his Sunan from Abu al-Darda).
The Prophet frequently invited people to adhere to high morals as in his statement: “The most perfect of the believers in faith is the one whose behavior is most excellent; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives” (Ahmad in his Musnad).
When the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) was asked about the best of believers, he said: “the best in conduct” (Ibn Majah in his Sunan). When the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) was asked about the deed which will be foremost to lead people to Paradise. He said, “God-fearing and good conduct”, (Al-Tirmidhi in his Hadith Collection). Furthermore, the lofty ethics is the way to earn the Prophet’s love: “The dearest and the closest of you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be those who have the noblest morals” (At-Tirmidhi in his Sunan).
For Islam, ethics holds a lofty rank and special position; it is the essence of and kernel of faith. When the Prophet was asked about the essence of faith, he said: “the nobility of conduct.”
He even epitomized the ultimate end of Islamic Message, the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “I have been sent to perfect the noblest of morals” (al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad).
Even before his mission, the Prophet had the epithet: the Truthful and the Honest. Ethics and faith are inseparably associated; He (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) was the best model for noble character, so His Lord described him saying, “And indeed, you are of a great moral character” (the Quran, 68: 4). It is a great testimony from the Sublime Majestic Lord to His prophet’s ethics and noble conduct.
The Prophet was the best of creation in his personification of the Quranic morals, obedience of Quranic commands and abandonment of Quranic proscriptions. Thus, he was the living Quranic ethics as stressed by ʿAishah—the Mother of the Believer— when she was asked about the Prophet’s morality, she answered, “His morality was that of the Quran.”
He was a practical example of the Quranic ethics. Occupying the peak of ethics as being the kindest, most beloved and merciful of humankind—he was deeply forbearing and inclined to forgive others. His speech ranked most truthful; he frequently kept his promises and honored his friends. He was the master of humankind, yet proved most modest.
Anyone who knew him closely would love him. Khadijah, the Mother of the Believer, (may ALLAH be pleased with her) described him saying, “By ALLAH, ALLAH will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your Kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.”
Describing Prophet Muhammad (may ALLAH’s Peace and Blessings be upon him), He (may He be Exalted) says, “And it was by God’s grace that you [O Prophet] dealt gently with your followers: for if you had been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from you. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him” (the Quran, 3:159).
He (may ALLAH’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) educated his companions to follow the best of morals in his advice to Abu Dharr (may ALLAH be pleased with him): “Fear ALLAH wherever you may be, after each sin do a good deed to efface it and deal with people gently.”
All the companions kept to kindness and benevolence and kept apart from extremism and anger; they proved most forbearing and forgiving and were the best examples in high morality, good treatment and generosity. When the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina, he concluded the bond of fraternity between the Muhajirun (immigrant) and the Anṣār (the Helpers) whereby they shared wealth. The human ethics shall entrench the grace of giving. The Quran stresses the lofty examples of benevolence to strengthen the merit of giving in the Muslim community.
ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “They [i.e., the Helpers] love those who migrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what they [i.e., the emigrants] were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation” (the Quran, 59: 9).
In their adoption of these ethics, they became the leaders of nations, the focus of eyes and the optimal models to follow. People accepted Islam in multitudes for the lofty treatment and high morality they experienced when dealing with Muslims. However, when Muslims deviated from the right way, morals faded, ideals ended, values lost and concepts changed. Imam Malik proved wise when saying, “The late generations of this nation can only prosper when they follow the same approach of the early Muslim generation.” Lofty morals protect communities from disintegration, chaos and loss. Actually, Muslim safety, power, prosperity and greatness are all conditional upon the adoption of noble ethics. Conversely, immorality and vices are the natural outcome of forsaking ethics and good deeds.
Setting your affairs right lies with good ethics
So, educate yourself with ethics to get it under control
For one’s self when set right is in the best grace
Yet, one’s self when given to evil is in the worst place
The Prophet thus warned against the fall and deterioration of morals. Sahl Ibn Sahl al-Saʿidi (may ALLAH be pleased with him) said, “I heard the Prophet (may ALLAH’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) saying: “ALLAH is generous and love generosity; He likes lofty matters and dislikes low concerns” (al-Ḥakim in his al-Mustadrak). The ethics are not a luxurious part but a bulwark against the collapse of nations and communities. Ethics awards nations life and eternal achievements while the loss of ethics marks the destruction and fall of nations. Many powerful nations of mighty economy and military fell to ruin only when their ethics deteriorated.
The Emir of Arab poets Ahmad Shawqi (may ALLAH rest his soul in peace) said,
Nations are nothing but their ethics
Once their ethics lost, nations are no longer
Indeed, all acts of worship aim to guide the behavior of individual and inculcate the lofty mores in the society. Islam is not a combination of empty rites done in mosques apart from the social life. Actually, acts of worship in all religions aim to educate human beings and improve their conduct. For example, indicating the wisdom of prayers, ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of ALLAH is greater. And ALLAH knows that which you do” (the Quran, 29: 44).
Keeping away from vices, misdeeds and malpractices is the kernel of prayers. Ibn ʿAbbas (may ALLAH be pleased with him and his father) narrated that the Prophet (may ALLAH’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “ALLAH (may He be Exalted and Glorified) said:
I only accept the prayers from the one who humbly does it for My Majesty without feeling the least pride therewith over my creation or persistently committing sins at night. Meanwhile, his/her day is busy with my remembrance and s/he is extending mercy to the needy, the wayfarer, the widowed and afflicted ones” (al-Bazzar).
Ibn Masʿūd said, “The one whose prayers fail to make him do good deeds and keep him from evildoing will have nothing but driven further from Allah” (al-Tabarāni with authentic chain of transmission).
When the prayers fail to keep a servant away from verbal and practical vices, then it failed to achieve its ultimate objective. The same goes true for obligatory charity, fasting, pilgrimage and all other acts of worship. They all aim to educate high morals and purify human souls. ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “[O Muhammad] Take from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase, and invoke [Allah’s blessings] upon them. Indeed, your invocations are reassurance for them. And ALLAH is Hearing and Knowing,” (the Quran, 9: 103).
The Prophet intentionally broadens the sense of sadaqa i.e. charity, to include several areas as narrated by Abu Dharr that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said:
- Your smiling in the face of your brother is sadaqa,
- Your putting some of the water from your bucket in your brother’s bucket is sadaqa,
- Your enjoinment of right and forbidding of wrong is sadaqa,
- Your removing stones, thorns and bones from people’s path is sadaqa
- Your guiding a man in a place where no guide exists is sadaqa” (al-Bazzar).
The duty of fasting is divinely ordained for servants to achieve the righteousness as the ultimate end and fruit of fating. ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (the Quran, 2: 183).
Fasting teaches Muslims to strengthen their will and control their ethics and desires. Abu Hurayrah (may ALLAH be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Fasting is a protection for you, so when you are fasting, do not behave obscenely or foolishly. Yet, if anyone argues with you or abuses you, say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting” (al-Bukhari). Fasting thus is a protection from immoral behavior and vices; it must positively affect the Muslim behavior and ethics.
In respect of Hajj, ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihrām], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during hajj. And whatever good you do – ALLAH knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding” (the Quran, 2: 197).
Abu Hurayrah (may ALLAH be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever visits this House [for hajj] and neither speak indecently nor does s/he act wickedly will return free from sin as on the very first day his/her mother bore him” (Muslim).
The worship must leave a positive effect on the morals and behavior of individuals and the whole society; otherwise, it is fruitless in the Afterlife. Immoral behavior consumes the good deeds just as the fire consumes the firewood. Abu Hurayrah (may ALLAH be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said:
“Do you know who is poor? The Companions of the Prophet said: For us, a poor man is one who has neither dirham with him nor wealth.
The Prophet said: The poor of my Ummah is the one who would come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasting and charity but he also comes as bankrupt, since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others. His virtues would be credited to the account of one (who suffered at his hand). If his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then his sins would be entered in (his account) and he would be thrown in the Fire.” (al-Tirmidhi)
Once a question was raised before the Prophet, there is a woman who persistently does night prayers, fasts many days and gives much charity, but injures her neighbors with her tongue.’ The Messenger of ALLAH said, “She is in the Fire.”
They said, ‘Another woman only prays the prescribed fasting, charity and prayers but she gives bits of curd in charity and never harms anyone.’ The Messenger of ALLAH said, ‘She is in Paradise” (Ahmad).
ALLAH (may He be Exalted) has dignified all human beings without discrimination. Ethics are for all people, Muslims and non-Muslims, and human beings are all brothers in humanity. He (may He be Exalted) says, “We have honored the Children of Adam and carried them in the land and the sea, and We have provided for them of the good things, and We have preferred them over many of those We created” (the Quran, 17: 70). When the Prophet stood up for the funeral of a Jew that passed by him, it was said, ‘It is the funeral of a Jew.’ In reply, he said, “Was he not a human being!” (al-Bukhari).
ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him” (the Quran, 29: 46).
Mujahed narrated that Abdullah Ibn ʿAmr had a sheep slaughtered for his family. When he came, he said, ‘Have you given some to our neighbor, the Jew? Have you given some to our neighbor, the Jew? I heard the Messenger of ALLAH saying: ‘Jibreel (Gabriel) continued to advise me about (treating) the neighbors so (kindly and politely), that I thought he would order me (from Allah) to make them heirs” (al-Tirmidhi).
The high ethics is not only for treatment with humankind but also for animals. ALLAH forgave a man because of watering a dog. Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “A man saw a dog eating mud from the severity of thirst. So, that man took a shoe and filled it with water and kept on pouring the water for the dog until it quenched its thirst. ALLAH then approved of his deed and made him to enter Paradise” (al-Bukhari).
Conversely, ALLAH caused a woman to enter Hell due to a cat that she persecuted. ʿAbdullah Ibn ʿUmar narrated that the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.” Allah’s Messenger further said, (ALLAH knows better): “ALLAH said (to the woman), ‘You neither fed it nor watered when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the insects of the earth” (al-Bukhari).
If we are seriously resolute to refine and improve the ethics in our society, it is necessary to have the optimal model. The model is essential for good ethics. ALLAH (may He be Exalted) says, “The messenger of ALLAH has set up a good example for those among you who seek ALLAH and the Last Day, and remembers ALLAH unceasingly” (the Quran, 33: 21).
Parents are good examples for their children. The Prophet stressed the educational role of good examples in human life and warned against deviant examples. For instance, deviant parents can mislead their children as narrated by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said, “No child is born but has the pure faith (Islam); however, his/her parents turn him/her into a Jew, a Christian, or a Magian.” Abu Hurayrah added, “The nature of Allah in which He has created humankind; there is no alteration in Allah’s creation; that is the right religion” (the Quran, 30: 30), (al-Bukhari).
Likewise, the teacher is a model for his students in integrity and ethics. Al-Shafiʿi once entered into the court of Harūn al-Rasheed in the company of his servant Sraj. Al-Shafiʿi left his servant with Abu ʿAbd al-Samad, the private tutor of al-Rasheed’s children. Sraj said to al-Shafiʿi, O Abu ʿAbdullah, those are the children of the Commander of the Believers. Here is the one in charge of educating them, so advise him in this regard. Al-Shafiʿi addressed Abu ʿAbd al-Samad saying,
“Let your first step to educate the children of the Commander of the Believers be the reform of yourself. For their eyes actually observe yours; the good in their sight follows the good in your sight and the evil in your vision follows the evil in your vision” (Abu Nauʿaym, Ḥilyat al-Awliyā.).
It is worth mentioning that ethics is not restricted to the individual; some ethics are individualistic but others are social, such as family ethics between spouses, parents and children, Kith and kin, as well as other social ethics of sales, purchases, neighborhood, friendship and work. Some are international such as the ethics of international relationships between the states and the ethics of war and peace.
Sincerity to ALLAH and supplicating Him for noble character are seriously significant for a servant to have a good character. S/he should also strive against one’s desires and frequently examine his personal deeds with consideration of the ultimate evils of immoral conduct and its bad consequences on the individual and the society.