- Islam is a Faith to Reform Man and the World
- Quranic Reform Examples from the Lives of Prophets
- Needs to Individual Reform
- Reforms Positively Affects Individuals and Society
- Dangers of Neglecting Reform
Islam highly encourages and appreciates the value of private (personal) and general (universal) reform. It is a great human value for the achievement of human happiness, civilization and universal reform. Reform, in principle, implies the elimination of all means to corruption and discrepancy and activating all means to rapprochement among people for a prosperous right life.
Undoubtedly, refining one’s behavior and promoting reform are the ultimate ends of all human words and deeds. Without reform, deeds are inacceptable. It is necessary for a good man in soul, statement and deed to promote reform and goodness and to relieve people from worries. Reflecting on the Quranic verses proves that they pay due concern for the great value of reform. The Quran mentions the term “iṣlāḥ” (reform) and its derivatives one hundred and seventy times in an indication of the Quranic due care and high appreciation of reform. The various meanings of iṣlāh generally prove that Islam aims to reform humankind in creeds, behaviors, worships, transactions and all other activities of life.
Faith and reform are frequently associated in several Quranic contexts: “So whoever believes and reforms – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve” (the Quran, 6: 48); “They ask you about the bounties [of war]. Say, “The [decision concerning] bounties is for Allah and the Messenger.” So fear Allah and aṣliḥu (reform/amend) that which is between you and obey Allah and His Messenger, if you should be believers” (the Quran, 8: 1).
Likewise, righteousness [God-fearing] and reform come in the same Quranic contexts, “Whoever fears Allah and reforms – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve” (the Quran, 7: 35). By the same token, repentance and reform are mentioned together (the Quran, 2: 160; 4: 16; 24:5). Reform is the fruit of belief in Allah, keeping to righteous conduct and frequent repentance to the Lord of all worlds.
The Quran encourages reform for the great rewards it renders: “No good is there in much of their private conversation, except for those who enjoin charity or that which is right or making peace between people. And whoever does that seeking means to the approval of Allah – then We are going to give him a great reward” (the Quran, 4: 114). The stories of prophets with their peoples prove that they all came to reform the corruption that people committed on the earth; their mission was one and the same: reforming the universe by eliminating evils, sins and social diseases. Each prophet came to reform the corruption of his time. Allah sent them with glad tidings and warnings; they introduced the divine creed, laws and ethics that can purify human souls from the dirt of polytheism. Allah, Almighty, says, “And We sent not before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that, “There is no deity except Me, so worship Me” (the Quran, 21: 25). Their ministry aimed to reform human deeds in this world and qualify them for divine satisfaction in the afterlife.
Noah, for example, invited his people to reform themselves by the pure monotheistic creed and worship of Allah alone with no partner in abandonment of the useless idols that can neither benefit or harm. Allah, Almighty, says, “And said, ‘Never leave your gods and never leave Wadd or Suwā‘ or Yaghūth and Ya‘ūq and Nasr. And already they have misled many. And, [my Lord], do not increase the wrongdoers except in error” (the Quran, 71: 23-24). He also encouraged them to seek Allah’s forgiveness to have more provision, wealth and children: “And said, ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. (10) He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers (11) And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers. (12) What is [the matter] with you that you do not attribute to Allah [due] grandeur” (the Quran, 71: 10-13).
Shu‘ayb , the Prophet’s Orator, (may Allah’s Peace be upon him) also addressed the doctrinal corruption that led to economic corruption. His people used to give less than due in measure and scale. This vice was widespread among them. He thus invited his people to reform in preservation of the rights of both buyers and sellers. Shu‘ayb said to his people, as Allah says, “O my people, worship Allah; you have no deity other than Him. And do not decrease from the measure and the scale. Indeed, I see you in prosperity, but indeed, I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing Day. (84) And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption. (85) What remains [lawful] from Allah is best for you, if you would be believers. But I am not a guardian over you” (the Quran, 11: 84-86). He then explained that reform is the essence of his mission: “And I do not intend to differ from you in that which I have forbidden you; I only intend reform as much as I am able. And my success is not but through Allah. Upon him I have relied, and to Him I return” ((the Quran, 11: 88).
Another context indicates his determination to reform the economic corruption that his people did: “Give full measure and do not be of those who cause loss. (181) And weigh with an even [i.e., honest] balance. (182) And do not deprive people of their due and do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption” (the Quran, 26: 181-183). Shu‘ay’s sincerity in materializing reform is very clear in conditioning his success upon Allah’s help, a virtue that all reformers should have. Reform shall be free from personal desires and interests as well as from psychological stimuli and personal conflicts. It is a pure reform for public welfare that benefit all individuals of the community.
Prophet Ṣalīḥ (may Allah’s Peace be upon him) called upon his people: “So fear Allah and obey me. (150) And do not obey the order of the transgressors, (151) Who cause corruption in the land and do not amend” (the Quran, 26: 150-152).
When Moses (may Allah’s Peace be upon him) entrusted his brother Aaron with leading his people after him; he advised him to work on achieving reform and avoiding the ways of corrupters: “And We made an appointment with Moses for thirty nights and perfected them by [the addition of] ten; so the term of his Lord was completed as forty nights. And Moses said to his brother Aaron, “Take my place among my people, do right [by them], and do not follow the way of the corrupters” (the Quran, 7: 142).
Prophet Muhammad only came to complement the call to reform in all religious, social, economic and political areas of life initiated by past prophets and apostles. An in-depth evaluation of the life and biography of the Prophet reveals that he built an Islamic civilization associated with values and ethics in a contaminated corrupt society tainted with many vices. Vices of illegal sexual relations, theft, killing, usury, unjust holding of people’s property, and consuming the wealth of orphans were widely practiced among many other evils. In face of all these vices, the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) adopted a reformative approach. His call was that for life and social reform of individuals and communities: “O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered” (the Quran, 8: 24).
In the religious reform, he called humankind to reform souls by faith and belief in Allah as the only Lord that has no partner. Proofs for monotheism are many and they testify to the truth that the Prophet brought. In the area of reforming behaviors, the Prophet encouraged good conduct and lofty morals as the essence of his call. Al-Bayhaqi narrated that the Prophet said, “I have been sent to perfect the loftiest of morals.” He also urged them to observe high ethics and values whereby social reform comes true and social unity, power, solidarity and association materialize. As such, humankind can live in peace away from dispute, difference, violence and terror against the scenes of violence, killing and destruction we frequently see.
All human virtues that have universal approval in their support from the heavenly messages aim to achieve reform, such as justice, tolerance, keeping one’s word, honest conduct, right statements and deeds, gratitude to parents, honoring the sanctity of orphan’s wealth, good neighboring and good talks. Indeed, the source of divine laws is one and the same. That is why the Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one” (al-Bukhari in his authentic collection of Hadith).
The laws may vary in forms of worship that accorded the nature of times and places but the human ethics and values, as the basis for coexistence, remain the same in all laws: “One of the statements of early Prophets that people have got is: If you feel no shame (shyness from committing irreligious acts) do whatever you like.” No Sharī‘ah (Divine law) allowed killing without justice, as Allah prohibits to kill the soul unless it be for a just cause. No Sharī‘ah allowed ingratitude to parents, or ill-gotten gains, or violating the financial rights of orphans, workers or wage-earners. No Sharī‘ah allowed telling lies, dishonesty, betrayal, breaking one’s promises or meeting good deeds with bad ones.
Conversely, the divine laws unanimously approve all lofty human virtues that anyone who breaks them violates the limits of religion and goes beyond the limits of humanity in an open violation of the affiliation to humankind and good nature. In his commentary on the following verses: “Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them. And do not approach immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason. (151) And do not approach the orphan’s property except in a way that is best [i.e., intending improvement] until he reaches maturity. And give full measure and weight in justice. We do not charge any soul except [with that within] its capacity. And when you speak [i.e., testify], be just, even if [it concerns] a near relative. And the covenant of Allah fulfill. This has He instructed you that you may remember. (152) And, [moreover], this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow [other] ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous (the Quran, 7: 151-153),” Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) said, “These are decisive verses that no other verses abrogated them in all books. They are divine limits for all humankind. They are the mother of the Book; whoever acts upon them enters paradise and whoever neglects them enters hellfire.” Any call opposing the call of prophets and violating the Divine laws is indeed a call to corruption on the earth.
The Prophet gave the perfect example in personal and social reform in word and deed; he used to supplicate for reform of all affairs saying, “O Allah, reform for me my religion, which is the safeguard of my affairs. And reform for me the affairs of the world wherein is my living. Decree the Hereafter to be good for me. And make this life, for me, (a source) of abundance for every good and make my death (a source) of comfort to me and protection against every evil” (Muslim in his authentic collection of Hadith).
He used to resolve disputes and make peace between people in encouragement of reform and discouragement from disintegration and dispute. Sahl Ibn Sa‘d (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Once the people of Qubā’ fought with each other till they threw stones on each other. When Allah’s Apostle was informed about it, he said, “Let us go to bring about a reconciliation between them” (al-Bukhari in his authentic collection of Hadith).
Personal and social reforms are the strong safeguard for the survival and progress of society. We first need personal reform and then social reform to refine all political, social, economic and scientific areas of life. However, personal reform is a legal prerequisite and religious duty, especially in the present times corrupted with weakness of faith and spoiled morality. Rights and duties are so badly lost that many people admit no right to senior notables, scholars, relatives, parents or nations.
It is an aspect of reform to know about rights and duties; a person thus never violates others’ rights. A person realizes one’s duties to do them in the best manner. Individual integrity and spiritual progress on the way of lofty ethics and noble morals apart from perversion, corruption, wrongdoing, rancor and hate― form the essence of reform. As such, man is straightforward in his relation with his self, lord, humankind and the universe. When a human being is self-reformed, he can promote reform to others. In other words, personal progress by means of lofty ethics is a means to self-reform that prevents wrongdoing, sins and violation of things forbidden by Allah. It also a means to universal reform on the earth; it extract resources and discovers secrets for the sake of public welfare.
Reform is the way to friendship and unity against disunity in personification of the teachings of the Glorious Quran. Reform reflects the values of universal mercy, tolerance and forgiveness. It also a means to dismiss violence, hate, rancor and grudge. Reform is not confined to a specific time. It is a life-duty to one’s last breath. Anas Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated 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).
However, reform can only come true and its fruits can appear when a person gradually achieves self-reform, the family-reform and finally community-reform until the whole society is reformed, which is necessary for good life and prosperous nations in which security, work and advancement are guaranteed. The virtue of love and friendship thus dominate. A self-reformed and reform-making person sacrifices efforts and wealth for making peace to be included in the prophetic prayers for reform-makers: “Indeed the religion began as something strange and it will return to being strange. So Tuba is for the strangers who reform what the people have corrupted from my Sunnah after me” (al-Tirmidhi in his collection of Hadith).
Reform has many positive impacts on individuals and society:
- It guarantees honorable life: Allah, the Almighty, says, “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do” (the Quran, 16: 97).
- Salvation from destruction: Allah, the Almighty, says, “And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly while their people were reformers” (the Quran, 11: 117).
- Inheriting the world leadership: Reform is a condition for inheriting the leadership of the world: Allah, the Almighty, says, “And We have already written in the book [of Psalms] after the [previous] mention that the land [of Paradise] is inherited by My righteous servants” (the Quran, 21: 105)..
- Qualifying human beings to receive divine support and providence: Allah, the Almighty, says, “Indeed, my protector is Allah, who has sent down the Book; and He is an ally to the righteous” (the Quran, 7: 196).
- Preservation of progeny: “And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure for them, and their father had been righteous. So your Lord intended that they reach maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience” (the Quran, 20: 82). The story of building the wall of the two orphans, as related in the account of Moses with the godly man is well known. It was not an accidental process but a consequence of the good deeds of their father. Ibn ‘Abbas said, “They were preserved because of the good deeds of their fathers even if no good deed was attributed to them.”
- Reform guarantees security from horrible fears of this world and the hereafter: Allah, the Almighty, says, “And We send not the messengers except as bringers of good tidings and warnings; so whoever believes and reforms – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve” (the Quran, 6: 48).
- Reform is a means to forgiveness and mercy: Allah, the Almighty, says, “And if you reform [your affairs] and fear Allah – then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful” (the Quran, 4: 129).
- Reform is the beauty and decoration of things as well as a merit deeply beloved by Allah and His Messenger. It is a requisite for straight life and coherent nation becomes in which the infirm are honored and Muslims are united in word and essence by the power of love and kindness. It is also a proof for the fraternity of the faithful, as Allah says, “The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy” (the Quran, 49: 10).
Loss of the value of reform leads society and families to destruction and, as such, chaos dominates, corruption exacerbates, divine laws are broken and false desires are committed. Loss of reform foreshadows the fall of society, state and civilization and worse indeed are the general punishment and social poverty, dishonor and disregard divinely decreed for neglect of reform.