Eman and Particular Ethics
The Straight Path
The Book contains several moral injunctions and ethical guidelines that, even though dispersed in many different suras, outline a consistent model of ethical behavior, called the straight path of God (al-sirat al-mustaqeem). The most important injunctions are, in terms of their social impact, the call to spread peace (al-salam) and to speak in a mild-mannered.
We learn from the Book that the meaning of al-salam is peace, that is, the avoidance of war and conflict. It is not as the scholars have it just a form of greeting (as in ‘peace be with you’). But let us provide some more examples of such moral injunctions as stated in the Book. For the good-hearted and well-mannered followers these rules may look trivial and rather obvious, but given that in the recent past we have seen scandalous degrees of immorality committed by traditional Muslim-Believers who have abandoned morality in favor of fanaticism and mindless ritualism we believe it is worth spelling them out here:
- O you who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former). Nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former). Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames… (Al-hujurat 49:11).
– This verse prohibits us from pouring scorn on fellow human beings (friends, neighbors and colleagues).
- And do not speak ill of people behind their backs… ( Al-hujurat 49:12,)
– This is a clear prohibition of calumny.
- And do not spy on one another… ( Al-hujurat 49:12,)
– This injunction includes all forms of spying and espionage, including the clandestine tapping of telephone calls, the opening of letters, and the bugging of flats and cars by state security services without just cause.
- Do not follow blindly what you do not know to be true: ears, eyes, and heart, you will be questioned about all these. (Al-Isra” 17:36,)
– This verse prohibits us from accusing other people (of a crime or sin) without clear evidence and hard (empirical) facts.
- O you who believe! Enter into [al-salm] whole-heartedly… (A l-Baqara 2:208) Say not to any one who offers you [al-salam]: “You are none of a believer!” … ( Al-Nisa” 4:94) But if the enemy incline towards peace, do you (also) towards peace, and trust in Allah… ( Al-Anfal 8:61) Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of ) peace [al-salam], then God has opened no way for you (to war against them). ( Al-Nisa” 4:90) – These verses, urge believers to spread peace and avoid war by pursuing a policy of peace and of resolving conflicts rationally and effectively by addressing adequately the needs of all involved parties.
- Believers, do not enter other people’s houses until you have asked permission to do so and greeted those inside… ( Al-Nur 24:27,)
– This injunction refers to the duty to respect the property and privacy of houseowners.
- If you find no one in, do not enter unless you have been given permission to do so. If you are told, ‘Go away’, then do so—that is more proper for you… (Al-Nur 24:28,)
– To enter and stay in a house requires the permission of its owner. If permission is not given one has to leave immediately.
- You will not be blamed for entering houses where no one lives (public places) , and which could provide you with some useful service… ( Al-Nur 24:29,)
- Those who have been graced with bounty and plenty should not swear that they will [no longer] give to kinsmen, the poor, those who emigrated in God’s way: let them pardon an forgive … ( Al-Når 24:22,) When death approaches one of you who leaves wealth, it is prescribed that he should make a proper bequest to parents and close relatives—a duty incumbent on those who are mindful of God. ( Al-Baqara 2:180,) – This refers to the act of ‘doing what is fair and just’ (ihsan) to our closest relatives.
- Alms [sadaqat] are for the poor [ al-fuqara”] and the handicapped [ al-masakeen]… ( Al-Tawba 9:60)
– This refers to the act of ‘doing what is fair and just’ (ihsan) to the poor and the handicapped people.
- …and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet)… ( Al-Nisa” 4:36)
– This refers to the act of ‘doing what is fair and just’ (ihsan) to our next-door neighbors and to neighbors and acquaintances who live farther away. It also urges us to be kind to the traveler and wayfarer, that is, people ‘on the move’ who stay with us as guests.
- [It is righteous] to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for friends and acquaintances who are not blood-related, for orphans, for the handicapped people, the ‘men of the road’ who, while on travel, stranded because of mishaps such as robbery or car accidents [ibn al-sabeel] … ( Al-Baqara 2:177)
Alms [sadaqat] are for the poor and the handicapped, and those who administer the zakah tax people whose work has a positive impact on public life the financially enslaved and people in debt and imprisoned because of their insolvency; those who sponsor the foundation of universities, schools, hospitals ;and travelers in need of help … ( Al-Tawba 9:60)40
– This refers to the act of ‘doing what is fair and just’ (ihsan) to people in need.
- Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not miser, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes). ( Al-Furqan25:67)
– This verse urges us to be prudent in what we spend, in private or public.
- The duty of spending (zakah) refers to the realm of al-Islam, but it is an amount on top of what has already been spent within the realm of Eman. Zakat al-Islam may be given to anybody, not just to the followers of Muhammad (s). In contrast, zakat al-Eman is given only to the followers of Muhammad (s)—the minimum amount is 2.5 percent of
accumulated profit. O you who believe! Fulfil (all) obligations! ( Al-Ma”ida 5:1)
– This is a moral obligation to fulfil all our contracts and written agreements.
- You who believe, when you contract a debt for a stated term, put it down in writing: have a scribe write it down justly between you… (Al-Baqara 2:282,)
– This is, finally, an obligation to write down ‘in black and white’ what money or property we owe, as well as what we have lent to other people.
These are only a few examples of the many injunctions and ethical guidelines for al-Eman that can be found in the Book. Every moral guideline or ethical teaching that existed before Muhammad’s messenger hood and which contradicts the above list of injunctions must be seen as repealed or abrogated. This is because the ethical rules of islam were subject to abrogation, a process that started—as we know—with Noah and ended with Muhammad. As for Muhammad’s messenger hood, it was not subject to abrogation, therefore there is nothing in it that can be classified as abrogating or abrogated. His message has, instead, confirmed certain rules that were sent before, and has added rules or abolished others in order to complete islam. In doing so, it abrogated other previous messages that were revealed to prophets before him (i.e., before Eman). Muhammad sealed (or put an end to) this successive, continuous abrogation whereby each new message abrogated the previous, older ones.
Universal Ethical Laws is next.