Basic Ethics in Islam

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Truthfulness

Truthfulness is basis of all ethics and virtues. There is a truth of words, a truth of action and a truth of attitude. It is not enough for any individual what he says is true; he should also act in accordance with what he believes to be true, and his attitude ought to be in conformity with what he considers to be true. How truthfulness can be the foundation of virtues and a sure and effective means of keeping a person away from evil is illustrated in a well-known hadith. It is reported that a man came to the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and confessed that he was addicted to so many vices like theft, telling lies, drunkenness, and fornication. So he has arrived with an earnest desire to be reformed and longs for his advice how to get rid of his moral depravity. But at the same time he asked for only one sinful habit what the Prophet chose as the most heinous and promised to give it up. The Prophet said: Give up telling a lie. The man promised to abide by it scrupulously. During the following night he was tempted to drink but it crossed to his mind if the Prophet asks me about my doings, I will have to tell the truth but could I dare to tell him about my drinking and face him without shame? The very thought made him refrain from drinking. Similarly when he was tempted to commit theft in the darkness of the night, the idea of confessing it before the Prophet made him to desist from committing theft. Likewise he did away with all his sinful doings. The next morning he went to the Prophet and told him that he was lucky enough to be relieved of all his sins merely by evading untruthfulness.

Before the Prophet invited his people towards Islam, it was his truthfulness and trustworthiness which had earned for Muhammad (S.A.W.) the glorious titles of Sadiq (truthful) and al-Amin (trustworthy). So before he told them what was revealed to him, he straightforwardly asked the people of his clan if they had ever found him telling a lie. They unanimously affirmed his truthfulness. Though he failed to induce the Koreish to listen to the warnings of God but by and by he proved the truthfulness of his prophecy without the power and pelf on a global scale. This was because he was true to himself and to others. By virtue of his sincerity, veracity and commitment he was able to blow up mountains of opposition. Thus the most truthful of all the human beings are the divinely commissioned Apostles of God whose chief virtue is sincerity and truthfulness. Had they been imposters or self-deluded men, their efforts would have ended in smoke. But being truth incarnate they were truly the Messengers of God. They were true to themselves, to others and to the eternal verities of life. The Holy Quran has repeatedly referred to this salient characteristic of the Prophets:

When the Believers saw the Confederate forces, they said: “This is what God and his Apostle had promised us, and God and His Apostle told us what was true.” And it only added to their faith and their zeal in obedience. (33:22)

They will say: “Ah! Woe unto us! Who hath raised us up from our beds of repose?”… (A voice will say:) “This is what (God) Most Gracious had promised. And true was the word of the apostles!” (36:52) Verily We have revealed the Book to thee in Truth, for (instructing) mankind. He, then, that receives guidance benefits his own soul: but he that strays injures his own soul. Nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs. (39:41)

Joseph ! O truthful one ! (12:46)

It is the truthfulness of people that leads them to Gods forgiveness and favors and a great reward in the world hereafter; only their truthfulness shall benefit them on the Day of Reckoning.

For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward. (33:35)

O ye who believe! Fear God and be with those who are true in word and deed. (9:119)

The Prophet considered truthfulness to be the essential attribute of a man believing in Allah, the Almighty. When he was asked if it was possible for a Muslim to lack courage or be a miser, he replied that it was possible even for a Muslim to suffer from these undesirable traits but it was impossible to be a Muslim and a liar at the same time. In the modern age, it is deplorable that hypocrisy is hallmark of diplomacy and propaganda is also quite contradictory to truthfulness. In the Holy Quran the hypocrite has been reckoned worse than the infidel because an infidel may be excused for his wrong beliefs and sinful deeds being a victim of his bad social inheritance but hypocrisy is an individually acquired trait. The Holy Quran says that the hypocrites shall be in the lowest abyss of the Hell (4:145).

There are numerous sayings of the Prophet inculcating truthfulness as part and parcel of the faith and condemning hypocrisy as worse than infidelity. For instance, he said:

No mans faith is complete if he doesn’t discard falsehood even in a joke and refrain from it even in a dispute, though his cause may be just. A hypocrite is one who is disposed to untruths, violates trust, does not fulfill promises and fabricates falsehoods in a dispute; a report in Sahih Bukhari adds, even though he prays and fasts with regularity and professes to be a Muslim. There is another hadith about the untruthfulness of motives. A man spends his life acquiring religious knowledge and imparting it without intrinsic love for knowledge, being urged only by vanity and love for praise; another donates large sums even for good purposes without being charitable at heart, only to procure fame and prestige in the society; another exhibits his bravery in a holy war, not motivated by the sanctity of the cause but by the desire to be known as brave. None of them is truthful for they are deceiving others and their own selves. For spiritual development the essential thing is righteousness and sincerity of motives. Philosophically, truth means correspondence with reality. When a person is convinced about truth, his actions will naturally and necessarily correspond with it. Faith, if genuine and unpretentious, reflects itself in actions that emanate from it as necessary corollaries otherwise it remains a mere fancy or speculation, or plausible proposition, or a superficial and oral admission. Therefore, the Holy Quran categorically rejects those people who follow fancy: But most of them follow nothing but fancy: truly fancy can be of no avail against truth. Verily God is well aware of all that they do (10:36). It is faith and conviction that become ruling passions and generate outstanding and remarkable deeds. It is doubt and disbelief that paralyze actions and make a person unable to arrive at a decision and find any way to integration. A devoted person who believes whole-heartedly in the truth of a cause does not hesitate to make a supreme sacrifice because for him the objective is more valuable than everything that is sacrificed. This characteristic is mentioned in a number of verses in the Holy Quran:

Only those are Believers who have believed in God and His Apostle, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the Cause of God: Such are the truthful ones (49:15)

In the following verse is defined in detail the test of truthfulness and sincere faith:

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or west; but the righteousness is to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. (2:177)

The truthful man is one whose words correspond with his deeds. A person who is endowed with the unwavering faith and his cognition, feeling and volition are thoroughly integrated accordingly, consequent upon all-embracing harmony of thought, word and deed, is called Siddiq. Such a person is the ideal man in Islam. The Prophets companion, Abu Bakr was the paragon of truthfulness, so he is truly known as Siddiq.

Charity

The concept of charity is so comprehensive that it encompasses almost the whole domain of morality. It instills spirit of goodwill toward humanity and promotes human welfare. Greek ethics inculcated four cardinal virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance and Justice. The Christian Trinity of virtues is Faith, Hope and Justice. In Islam virtue branches off in various and multifarious directions but a good many of them can be covered by a wide meaning of Charity. In the words of Quran, it is spending out of what God has bestowed upon us. Whatever a person possesses in abundance is intrinsically a gift of God. If he is born with a sound physique and enjoys good health, it is not his personal achievement because health is maintained by good food and climate it goes without saying that food and climate are not his creation. If he is more intelligent than others with a greater capacity of acquiring knowledge, he didn’t create his own intelligent quotient (IQ). Wealth comes out of natural resources or out of the cumulative labor of workers organized or exploited for the accumulation and advancement of capital. A miser or uncharitable person thinks that it is his right to hold or withhold whatever he accumulates, as he is the sole originator of the wealth. But it is a fallacious claim because in the ultimate analysis all the wealth he earns is a gift of God and His nature. Certainly there would have been no richness if Nature had not provided all the means and resources. To a person who possesses a plenty of prosperity and affluence, God is demanding only a part of it back to help the poor and the destitute to relieve them of their deprivation, calamity or unfavorable circumstances. All our doings without charity are nothing worth. We are, therefore, asked by our God to give away a portion of which is not wholly our own. Thus miserly withholding can be tantamount to usurpation or embezzlement. A shadow of this conception is found in the exaggerated slogan of Prodhoun, the revolutionary socialist, that Property is theft. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad is reported by his successor Abu Bakr to have said that the Prophets have only the use of things and they do not own anything: We Prophets neither inherit anything nor do we leave anything to others as inheritance.

Humanity is conceived spiritually as one organic whole; the organ that hoards selfishly and withholds the life-blood that is meant to circulate to feed to other organs and the remotest cells in the body, gets diseased itself besides injuring the rest of the organism. The conception of unhampered circulation of the means of life through the entire social organism is given in the Quran in the succinct but significant and meaningful injunctions that you should arrange for economic distribution of means in such a manner that wealth is not reserved only in the hands of a rich minority:

What God has bestowed on His Apostle (and taken away) from the people of the townships, belongs to God, to His Apostle and to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; In order that it may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. So take what the Apostle assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you. And fear God; for God is strict in Punishment. (59:7)

Man is not the master of whatever is given to him as a trust; that is to be spent for the welfare of the whole, which includes himself to the extent that he really needs it for his physical, mental and moral well being. The Quran expresses astonishment at the foolish and unjust attitude of man who does not give something back in the way of the Lord, the Creator and real owner of all that is contained in the earth and the heavens:

And what reason you have that you should not spend in the cause of God? For to God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth (57:10)

Superfluous wealth gives no real benefit and acts as only a halter round the neck of the miser who is burdened with its care and constantly apprehensive about its loss. Such a mans spirit is cramped.

And let not those who covetously withhold of the gifts which God Hath given them of His Grace, think that it is good for them: Nay, it will be the worse for them: soon shall the things which they covetously withheld be tied to their necks Like a twisted collar, on the Day of Judgment. To God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth; and God is well acquainted with all that ye do. (3:180)

The natural and socially produced wealth should be legitimately shared by all members, is evident from another injunction of the Holy Quran: those deprived of some benefits of which you have an abundance have a right to share them (2:19). The rich man who is giving to a poor must not put him under any obligation. The needy man who has received something has a right to it as a constituent member of the social organism.

The Holy Quran points to a common human weakness if a man suffers loss or is afflicted with some calamity, he attributes it to causes external to himself. So if he believes in God, he cries aloud and supplicates to God. But if he receives benefits or earns a lot of wealth, he himself takes the entire credit for it, as if neither God nor any other man had any hand in making him rich and prosperous. The callous capitalist and affluent landlords always put forth this plea when they are told that the have-nots have also a right to some share in their property. They insist whatever they possess is owing to their skill and acumen. Throughout history the hoarders of capital have always felt and thought like that:

So when trouble touches man, he cries to Us: But when We bestow a favor upon him from Ourselves, he says, “This has been given to me because of the know-how (I have)!” Nay, but this is but a trial, however most of them understand not! Thus did the (generations) before them say! But all that they did was of no profit to them (39:49-50)

The Muslim community is the nation that observes the golden mean between the two extremes. When the Prophet was asked as to how much one should give away in charity, the answer was recorded in the Holy Quran:

They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs.” Thus God makes clear to you His Signs so that ye may reflect (2:219)

Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute (17:29)

Thus a Muslim is enjoined to the generous and charitable but not to the extent so as to make himself a pauper. He has a duty towards himself and his family, and then to the general society. Islam requires healthy units of honest wage earners who not only keep themselves and their families from want and penury but also are thoughtful about other deserving people for whom a portion of their earning should be reserved. Voluntary simple living, healthy for both mind and body, is recommended while deprivation of the essentials of life is to be shunned, as it makes extremely difficult for an indigent person to maintain his self-respect, morality and faith. The Prophet urges people to be charitable and not to drive away the needy who ask for assistance. At the same time he instructs people to avoid begging, and make an effort to earn by their labor. A society of charitable people is bound to prosper, and where wealth is concentrated in the hands of close-fisted, niggardly hoarders and black-marketers, the rest of the society members shall suffer or starve; the hoarded wealth shall do no good to the owners themselves warping their mental and moral outlook. How life seeks to preserve goodness and multiply it is given with analogical reasoning in the following verses:

The parable of those who spend their substance in the way of God is that of a grain of corn: it groweth seven ears, and each ear Hath a hundred grains. God give manifold increase to whom He please: And God care for all and He know all things (2:261)

And the likeness of those who spend their substance, seeking to please God and to strengthen their souls, is as a garden, high and fertile: heavy rain falls on it but makes it yield a double increase of harvest, and if it receives not Heavy rain, light moisture suffice it. God see well whatever ye do (2:265)

As love of money is the root of many evils, it is charitableness that weakens it and makes so many other virtues easy to be practiced. The root of all moral evils is self-centeredness that cannot go together with generosity and altruism.

So he who gives (in charity) and fears (God), and (in all sincerity) testifies to the best, We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. (92:5-7)

There are many things that vitiate charity. If we give away the things that we consider of no use, these may do some good to a needy person but this kind of giving shall not morally benefit the giver:

By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give away of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth God knowe it well (3:92)

God doesn’t like a person to part with a bad portion of his produce in charity what he would not accept himself if it is given to him:

O ye who believe! Give of the good things which ye have (honorably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you, and do not even aim at getting anything which is bad, in order that out of it ye may give away something, when ye yourselves would not receive it except with closed eyes. And know that God is Free of all wants, and worthy of all praise. The Evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. God promise you His forgiveness and bounties. And God care for all and He knowe all things (2:267-68)

If ye disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if ye conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil. And God is well acquainted with what ye do. It is not required of thee (O Apostle), to set them on the right path, but God sets on the right path whom He please. Whatever of good ye give benefits your own souls, and ye shall only do so seeking the “Face” of God. Whatever good ye give, shall be rendered back to you, and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly (2:271-72)

Nor is that charity of any spiritual value in which the receiver is made to feel under any obligation or is insulted by being reminded of what kindness has been rendered to him.

A persons attitude towards money determines his entire moral outlook. There is a touchstone for gold, but gold itself is a touchstone for the moral worth of man. Our beloved Prophet (S.A.W.) owned nothing and could not allow any money to remain with him for more than a day or two; he felt disturbed until it was given away. Even on his deathbed he asked his wife, Aisha if there was any money in his chamber. When he came to know that there were a few gold coins left to be dispensed, he said, Give them away, I don’t want to meet my Lord as a hoarder. In Bukhari, it is reported about him as he said to his saintly friend, Abu Dharr: If a mountain of gold happens to come into my possession, I would not like one coins worth to be left with me for more than three days except discharge a debt; I will scatter the whole of it with both hands, right and left, to give it to the creatures of my Lord. There is another hadith: Envy only two persons: one who is granted wealth and he spends it in the right manner, and the other who is granted knowledge and he imparts it to his fellow men. So charity does not die in giving away money or goods. Spending out of whatever you have been gifted with (2:3) covers all the departments and disciplines of life.

Moderation

This trait is so significant in Islam that the Muslims who follow this creed are called Community of the Middle. Temperance, one of the cardinal virtues in the Socratic-Platonic ethics, is covered by the Islamic conception of Itidaal. Islamic theism stands between the two extremes of atheism and pantheism. The former denies the existence of God and the latter equates all existence with God. Islam says that all existence is Gods creation. He is immanent in it by virtue of His creativeness, power, sovereignty, wisdom and will, but He also transcends it, which may be understood by analogy of the artist and his art products. The artist is more than all that he has produced, though he is immanent in every one of his products. In the words of the Quran: God is the Light of the heavens and the earth, but the Light is more than the heavens and the earth. Man is one of Gods supreme creations, and on this planet he stands supreme as a ruler of the earth with powers delegated by God. He is neither purely a spirit nor is he a mere product of matter, Physically he is a son of the soil, but spiritually he is a participant in the Divine Spirit. He has the best of the constitution and is endowed with the risky gift of free will, not found in the creation below him. His birth is not a curse but a splendid gift. He is capable of improving his life by wisdom and rightly-directed will, but he is also prone to go astray and sink lower than the lowest. Man is a body and a spirit at the same time and is bound to satisfy his physical as well as spiritual needs, keeping them in equilibrium. He is a social being and can develop and fulfill his destiny only as a member of a society. Hence asceticism and flight from individual and social responsibilities hamper the development of his physical and spiritual nature. According to Islam, religious life is not over and above, and separate from, his mundane life. The purpose of human life is to attune ones will with the will of the Infinite Creative reality; it is a kind of surrender that is not passive but dynamic and creative, making possible the progressive assimilation of the infinite attributes of God, which enables a finite being to be participant in the infinite. Since much of the corruption and falsehood in creeds is the result of exaggeration, the Muslims are urged to avoid exaggeration and extremes. According to Islam, man is meant and destined to benefit from all that creation contains and his knowledge can oblige all the powers of Nature and even the angels to obey him. But he must not equate him with God or think that he can dispense with Him. In a sphere of moderation, Islam teaches its followers to create balance and synthesis between Law and Love:

God commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition (16:90)

Justice is to be observed in the sphere of law, but attempt to soften rigor wherever practicable by love and forgiveness are highly appreciable. The teachings of Islam and the practice of the Prophet and his immediate Successors clearly envisaged a Welfare State. The State in Islam is no supra-personal mystical entity as it was conceived from Hegel to Hitler, but an institution to guard the legitimate freedom of the individuals.

With respect to other creeds also Islam followed the middle path; it would neither accept any other creed with all its dogmas and beliefs and practices as wholly true, nor it rejects them wholly. It enunciated the doctrine that all spiritual religions were originally divinely revealed but have suffered more or less from accretions and false dogmas and burdened with irrational and inhuman laws, practices and ritualism. Their truths have been overlaid with superstitions but their nucleus can be recovered again. When the Quran invited the Jews and the Christians and followers of other Scriptures to create a commonwealth of believers on what could be common between them, it was referring to this eternal foundation:

Say: “O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than God.” If then they turn back, s ay ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims bowing to God’s Will (3:64)

In relation to sex too Islam inculcated a natural and rational middle course. All the great religions previous to Islam seem to have agreed on the belief that sex urge is devilish and a hindrance to spiritual life. This belief is essentially wrong and leads to perpetuation of evil. Islam broadened the outlook and considered a family man superior to the ascetic who shuns family responsibility and thereby sabotages society even at the most primitive level. Islam sanctified marriage and emancipated it from all irrational and unnatural restrictions. Marriage was made a civil and social contract between two consenting parties in the presence of witnesses and a meeting of people.

In the matter of war and peace also Islam adopted a rational, humane and practicable course. It neither eulogizes war like the jingoists nor inculcates pacifism or non-resistance to aggressors. In the Holy Quran for several times it has been repeated that God does not love the aggressors. War is imperative only for the protection of essential human liberties. The Holy Quran says if God had not raised some groups for the defense of religious liberties, the places of worship of all creeds would have been destroyed by infidels and fanatical aggressors. The moment an aggressor is subdued and promises to keep peace, war is to be forthwith stopped. So Islam neither likes unnecessary fighting nor lying low in the presence of tyranny. In Islam no war is holy which is waged for territorial expansion, economic opportunity, exploitation or depriving others of their religious and cultural freedom.

Justice

Along with love, goodwill and forgiveness Islam has laid great emphasis on Justice. In a verse quoted previously justice and generosity are bracketed together and people are advised to be just as well as generous (16:90). The right of every person to get his due and the duty to give others what is due to them is the basis of justice. Even the most unjust systems in the past and present human history have claimed to be based on justice. So if the concept of justice itself is distorted at the outset and laws made according to that perverted conception, the strict enforcement of such laws would be the violation of justice. If a code of laws like the Hindu code of Manu is based on caste and class privilege, then differential and invidious treatment begins to be falsely stamped with justice. Many a persecuted victim of perverted notions of justice has uttered the cry: O Justice! What injustice is perpetrated in thy name! All such cruelties happen during the time of peace; war distorts the conception of justice still further, making every immoral and cruel as just.

In Islam justice has a religious metaphysical foundation. The Creator of the universe is just, and the entire creation is based on Truth and Justice. There are no regions of darkness in the entire universe where chaos or tyranny has its sway; the universe is not partitioned between God and the Devil in eternal strife. The entire Cosmos is governed by law and harmony; harmony and justice hold together the various parts of the Cosmos. The Creative World is created with Truth and Justice, and entire creation is supported by justice.

The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfillment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who hear and know all. (6:115)

Moral injustice entered the world with the creation of man because he was endowed with liberty to violate the law of his being, should he choose to transgress it. The allegory about the creation of a being with free will is given in the Quran to describe this revolutionary act. The entire creation governed by inviolable laws refused to accept this trust with a precarious gift of free will, but man stepped in where angels feared to tread, not realizing that the misuse of this gift may involve him in stupidity and tyranny – wrong use of reason making a fool of him and misdirected will showing him tyrant over himself and others.

We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it; He was indeed unjust and foolish (33:72).

Islam presented a just God Who is merciful at the same time. He has made man responsible and accountable before God. Man is born with potentialities both for good and for evil because he is a free being. With the risky gift of freedom which cuts both ways and with reason that may be clouded by passion, he may err and do wrong things. But guiding himself rightly he may also do virtuous deeds. Repentance after a wrongdoing may not only wipe away the black spots of his sin but may lift him to greater heights because of his experience that brings him closer to God. According to the Quran, Adam after his repentance was made the ruler of the earth. The description of Adam in the Quran is meant to point to the potentialities guided by a just and merciful Providence Who guides man towards Divine purposes when he sincerely strives for truth and righteousness:

And those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily God is with those who do right (29:69)

Everyone has to strive so as to improve himself. The moral consequences of an act are to be borne by the doer himself; there is no vicariousness in the realm of the spirit. No one bears the spiritual burden of an other soul and everyone is pledged to the consequences of his own actions:

Say: “Shall I seek for (my) Cherisher other than God, when He is the Cherisher of all things (that exist)? Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards God: He will tell you the truth of the things wherein ye disputed.” (6:164)

As Wisdom, Justice, and Creative Love are the essential attributes of God, the devoted and simple-hearted worship of God will tend to generate and develop these attributes in the worshiper, the object of worship and the worshiper being mirrors of each other. An exalted idea of Divine Justice would work as an informing and edifying ideal for human sentiment and conduct. Associating any other power or being in this worship would be injustice and ingratitude, which would not only offend God but also make man, divided in his loyalty to the ideal. The worship of nature-gods or gods of base human desires and fantasies is also unjust to man himself in another way. God made man in His own image, the paragon of creation, in the words of the Quran, Gods vicegerent on earth, capable of subduing all Nature in the process of actualization of purposes that are human and Divine at the same time. Even the spiritual agencies in Gods creation, symbolized as angels, are made to pay homage to the Ideal Man. It is highly stupid that man should reverse the process and degrade himself by fearing, propitiating and worshiping the powers over which he is destined to rule through knowledge and identification with the Source of all power. Being untrue to himself he cannot be true to anyone else; therefore, a man who is not a believer in God with Whom he seeks identification of will is basically an unjust man; by any lower and narrower identification the human self punishes itself by inevitable degradation, pursuing transient and corrupting ends. Single-minded devotion to God means fixing ones mind on the Highest Ideal for God whom he worships represents the highest intrinsic values of existence.

In Muslim civilization one will not find the horrible instillation of Inquisition, torturing, mutilating, branding and burning of the heretics, and massacre of the nonconformists in thousands. Islam has very few sects and tension and occasionally there may be a sectarian riot, but all this fades into insignificance when compared with long sectarian violence and bloodshed in the West. Islam has always lived in peace with other faiths. Even when crusading Europe was hurling its fanatic might on the Muslim world, the Christian subjects of Muslim states who did not join or abet the fanatical invading hordes were living peacefully with their Muslim neighbors. Islam firmly established inter-faith justice.

Besides inter-faith justice Islam inculcated inter-racial, inter-tribal and international justice. It is acknowledged by all eminent historians and sociologists that no other culture, religious or secular, has succeeded in overcoming racial or color prejudice to the extent that Islam has succeeded. Tribal pride, which is magnified in modern times in national pride and prejudice, was successfully curbed by Islam and eternally hostile tribes of Arabia were welded into a fraternity by common belief and common way of life. The Negro Bilal became a peer of the aristocratic Quraish. Professor Toynbee says that the Islamic world community shall continue to be an exemplar for the rest of humanity because it freed humanity from one of the greatest curses. He says that the Anglo-Saxon race is the worst criminal in this respect. To symbolize global feeling of brotherhood, Islam made the pilgrimage to Mecca a pillar of the faith and a duty for every Muslim who could afford the journey. It is an international and inter-racial gathering of about half a billion individuals, the white, the black, the yellow, and the brown, men and women, having discarded their distinctive robes, the princes and the peasants stand together, garbed in a simple and similar simple sheet, prostrating in obeisance to One God, the Creator of one and the whole humanity.

Man is endowed with various instincts and urges, which have to be, used as creative, dynamic and ameliorative forces under the guidance of reason. None of these instincts is meant to be crushed and curbed; they are to be used, regulated and sublimated. Therefore a self-mortifying ascetic is unjust to himself because he is not giving its due to every live force within him. Islam prohibited monasticism and asceticism which had led spirituality astray in Hinduism, Buddhism and ascetic Christianity. Mere meditations and prayers divorced from mans life in society cramp the human spirit instead of raising it to supernatural heights. Let not a man be unjust to himself and to others even in his prayers and devotions, as he cannot be spared from his commitment to his family responsibilities and social duties.

Man must be just to woman. She has the same right as man: she is not to be shunned as a snare of the Devil. She is to be honored as a mother who bore the man in pain and brought him up with ineffable sacrifice of personal comfort. The Prophet joined her with prayer and perfume as sources of edifying experience and said that Paradise lies at the feet of the mother; Love and respect for motherhood earn for a man the highest spiritual reward. In order to be just to woman Islam made marriage a civil contract so that while giving herself to a man she may be able to propose conditions for her convenience and security that shall be legally binding. Islam considered it unjust that she should be forced to live on with a husband who has ceased to be loving and dutiful or has in any way become an undesirable companion. Islam gave her a prescribed share in inheritance and also made it binding on the husband that he should part with some of his assets according to his means and transfer them to his bride. Whatever she has inherited or received from her father and husband is legally her own property. And if she is able to earn something by labor or investment is her own to be spent or disposed of, as she likes without seeking the consent of her husband. It is a right that even highly civilized nations did not confer to women till they struggled hard for it in the modern age.

Islam ordains: Be just to your enemies for justice is a legal demand that ought to be fulfilled. The Quranic injunction is: Beware lest the enmity of a group tends to make you unjust towards it. Forgiving an enemy is also possible and desirable under certain circumstances. The Prophet forgave a whole city that had been replete with his enemies who had tortured him and his associates for more than a decade and killed so many of his followers. He forgave them because he felt that retaliation would not reform them and returning good for evil would convert their enmity into friendship.

Islam inculcates justice towards all, rich or poor, strong or weak, friend or foe:

God commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition (16:90)

And come not nigh to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he attain the age of full strength; give measure and weight with (full) justice; no burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear;- whenever ye speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned; and fulfill the covenant of God: thus doth He command you, that ye may remember (6:152)

They ask thy instruction concerning the women say: God doth instruct you about them: And (remember) what hath been rehearsed unto you in the Book, concerning the orphans of women to whom ye give not the portions prescribed, and yet whom ye des ire to marry, as also concerning the children who are weak and oppressed: that ye stand firm for justice to orphans. There is not a good deed that ye do, but God is well acquainted therewith. (4:127)

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear God. For God is well acquainted with al l that ye do. (5:9)

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that ye do. (4:135) And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as bait for the judges, with intent that ye may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of (other) people’s property. (2:188)

The Prophet said: On the Day of Judgment the only asylum shall be in the shadow of God and seven kinds of persons shall enjoy that protection; the just ruler shall be there among the seven(Bukhari:Kitab-ul-Muharabin)

The Prophet set an example of justice in all dealings and his well-guided Successors followed his example. Umar the Great is known for his uncompromising justice; he did not spare his own son from a severe punishment. In the short inaugural address the Prophets immediate Successor Abu Bakr summed up the duties of the head of the State in one simple declaration: I will weaken the strong man if he is in the wrong, and strengthen the weak if the right is on his side.