The Ethical Worldview of the Qur’an
Piety is not to turn your faces towards the East and the West; piety is he who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets; who gives of his money, in spite of loving it, to the near of kin, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarers and the beggars, and for the freeing of slaves. [And truly pious] are those who keep their word whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in times of peril; it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they who are conscious of God.4
Man was created for three purposes. Man’s first purpose is in the cultivation of the earth, as is implied in the verse: He brought you out from the earth and made you inhabit it (Q. 11:61). So man must earn his livelihood, for his own sake and for the benefit of others. Man’s second purpose is to worship God. As He says: I have not created jinn and mankind except to worship Me (Q. 51.56). This means that man should obey God’s commandments and prohibitions. Man’s third purpose is his vicegerency, referred to in: He will make you successors in the land and then observe what you will do (Q. 7:129), and in other verses. Vicegerency is the imitation of God in accordance with one’s ability to rule by applying the noble virtues of the Law: wisdom, justice, forbearance, beneficence, and graciousness. These virtues draw Man to Paradise and close to God Most High.6
Morality in the Qur’ān
When the unbelievers instilled in their hearts fierceness, the fierceness of paganism (ḥamiyyat al-jāhiliyyah), Allah then sent down His serenity upon His apostle and upon the believers, and imposed on them the word of piety, they being more deserving and worthier. Allah has knowledge of everything.11
O my son, perform the prayer, command the honorable and forbid the dishonorable and bear patiently what has befallen you. …Do not turn your face away from people and do not walk in the land haughtily. Allah does not love any arrogant or boastful person. Be modest in your stride and lower your voice; for the most hideous voice is that of asses.15
The truth is from your Lord. Whoever wishes, let him believe; and whoever wishes, let him disbelieve.21
O Children of Adam, when apostles from your own people come to you reciting to you My revelations, then those who fear God and mend their ways have nothing to fear and they will not grieve. But those who deny Our revelations and reject them arrogantly—those are the people of the Fire; therein they shall abide forever.22
It means that ‘Allah Ta’alla does not change the state of peace and security enjoyed by people into a state of distress and instability until such time that those people themselves change their deeds into evil and disorder.30
When we act, we have no intentions of acting as instruments of God’s Holy will, since we know nothing of this divine will in advance. Leaving all other considerations aside, we accept it pure and simply as our own and thereby sign our agreement. So man becomes responsible in doing so, as if he becomes a debtor as soon as he surrenders his surety. We can now see why the Qur’ān insists on proclaiming our responsibility before God. The human will seems entirely [subject] to divine will, [as the Qur’an states: ‘And you shall surely be questioned about that which you used to do.’ (Qur’an 16:93)31
Sin and repentance
And give his other hand to the seeking of forgiveness so that it may be short for evil deeds and will not reach the Zakkum tree of Hell, which is one fruit of that accursed tree. That is, just as supplication and reliance on God greatly strengthen the inclination to good, so too repentance and the seeking of forgiveness cut the inclination to evil and break its transgressions.47
Intention and sincerity
Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended. He who migrates for God and His messenger does so for God and His Messenger. But he who migrates for a worldly gain or a woman to wed migrates to whatever he migrates to.52
Volition is the orientation of the ideal towards the real; and it is along this trajectory, from the inside to the outside, from conscience to experience, that the moral deed is found. It is not a static state, a solitary act of worship enclosed within the sanctuary of the heart; it is a living force, a movement of expansion which has its point of departure at the center, and its point of arrival at the outside. Thus, not only does intention call for action and wait to be followed by it, but it contains it in the form of a seed, if not in a nascent state.53
So give their due to the near relative, the needy, and the wayfarer—that is best for those whose goal is God’s Face: these are the ones who will prosper. Whatever you lend out in usury to gain value through people’s wealth will not increase in God’s eyes, but whatever you give in charity, in your desire for God’s Face, will earn multiple rewards.64
[God’s servants] give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, [saying] ‘We feed you for the sake of God’s Face alone. We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you.’65
All this enables one to draw close to God, since any means that preserve the body and free the heart of the body’s requirements are an aid to religion. He who intends by eating to protect his acts of worship and by physical union to fortify his religion to gratify his family’s hearts, and to beget a righteous child who worships God after him, and through him increases the community of Muhammad, is obedient in both food and marriage.66
He may perform ablution to cool himself off; wash to give himself an agreeable scent; …live secluded in a mosque to avoid renting a dwelling, fast to spare himself from frequent cooking of food, …give alms to a beggar to end his wearisome begging; visit an ailing person, that he, in turn, be visited should he fall ill; attend a funeral that the funerals of his own family be attended. He may do any of these just to be known by his good works, remembered and regarded for his probity and dignity.68
Although it is of an inferior degree in relation to the former [higher level of intention], it is acceptable all the same. Those people resemble bad merchants but their level is that of those who have simple understanding.70
Justice and benevolence
He is God, other than Whom there is no god. He knows the unseen and the seen. He is the Merciful, The Compassionate. …To Him belong the most beautiful names. Whatever is in the heavens and on Earth glorifies Him and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.77
1 Hodges, H. A. (1952) The Philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, p. 92. Also see Dilthey, W. (1960) Gesammelte Schriften, Band VIII (Weltaushauunslehre), Stuttgart: Abhandlung zur Philosophie der Philosophie.
2 Fakhry, M. (1991) Ethical Theories in Islam, Leiden: E. J. Brill, pp. 6-7.
3 Qur’an 2:231.
4 Qur’an 2:177.
5 Qur’an 33:73.
6 Iṣfahānī, R. (1987) al-Dharī‘ah ilā Makārim al-Sharī‘ah, Cairo: Dār al-Wafā’, pp. 91-92.
7 Mohamed, Y. (2006) The Path to Virtue, Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, p. 214.
8 Iṣfahānī, R. (1987) al-Dharī‘ah ilā Makārim al-Sharī‘ah, p. 59.
9 Mohamed, The Path to Virtue, p. 215.
10 Goldziher, I. (1967) Muslim Studies, vol. 1, London: George Allen and Unwin, p. 202f.
11 Qur’an 48:26.
12 Izutsu, T. (1959) The structure of the ethical terms in the Koran, 23f.
13 Qur’an 13:89, 31:32.
14 Qur’an 18:105.
15 Qur’an 31:17-19.
16 Qur’an 2:211.
17 Qur’an 2:104.
18 Draz, M. A. (2011) Introduction to the Qur’an, London: I. B. Taurus, p. 63.
19 Qur’an 2:30.
20 Qur’an 2:31.
21 Qur’an 18:29.
22 Qur’an 7:35.
23 Qur’an 16:104.
24 Qur’an 2:24.
25 Qur’an 40:37.
26 Qur’an 53:39.
27 Qur’an 13:11.
28 Asad, M. (1980) The Message of the Qur’ān, Gibraltar: Darul Andalus, p. 360.
29 Idris, G. S. (1983) The Process of Islamization, USA: Muslim Students Association of America and Canada, pp. 3-5.
30 Shafi, M. Ma’arif al-Qur’an, trans Muhammad Shamim, Maktaba e Darul-Uloom, vol. 5, p. 200.
31 Draz, M. A. (2008) The Moral World of the Qur’an, trans. D. Robinson and R. Masterton, London: I. B. Tauris, p. 108.
32 Qur’an 45:22.
33 Qur’an 11:7.
34 Qur’an 17:14.
35 Qur’an 81:14.
36 Qur’an 31:32.
37 Qur’an 16:106.
38 Qur’an 24:33.
39 Draz, The Moral World of the Qur’an, p. 100.
40 Qur’an 16:93; 35:8.
41 Qur’an 2:36-37.
42 Qur’an 20:84.
43 Qur’an 95: 4-7.
44 Qur’an 17:62.
45 Qur’an 30:41.
46 Haleem, M. A. (2011) Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Styles, London: I. B. Tauris, pp. 139-140.
47 Nursi, S. (1997) The Words, vol. 2, Izmir: Kaynak, p. 483.
48 Qur’an 75:1-4.
49 Qur’an 5:33-34.
50 Draz, The Moral World of the Qur’an, p. 112.
51 Ibid., p. 176.
52 Sahih Bukhari (1). Also see, Ibrahim, E. and D. J. Davies, trans. (1979) Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, Lahore: S. H. Ashraf, p. 26.
53 Draz, The Moral World of the Qur’an, p. 187.
54 Shaker, Anthony F (2016) Al-Ghazālī: On Intention, Sincerity, and Truthfulness, Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, Translated with an introduction and notes by A. F. Shaker, Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, pp. 14-16.
55 Draz, The Moral World of the Qur’an, p. 20.
56 Ibid., p. 21.
57 Rahman, F. (1983) “Some key ethical concepts of the Qur’ān,” Journal of Religious Ethics, 11(2): 170-185.
58 Qur’an 22:31.
59 Draz, The Moral World of the Qur’an, p. 200.
60 Qur’an 92:17-20.
61 Qur’an 6:52.
62 Nasr, S. H. (1981) Islamic Life and Thought, London: Allen and Unwin, p. 358.
63 Haleem, M. A. (2011) Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Styles, pp. 115-116.
64 Qur’an 30:38-39.
65 Qur’an 76:8-9.
66 Draz, The Moral World of the Qur’an, p. 33.
67 Ibid., p. 60.
68 Ibid., p. 59.
69 Qur’an 2:272.
70 Draz, The Moral World of the Qur’an, p. 224.
71 Wild, Stefan (2006) ‘Hell’ in The Qur’an: an Encyclopedia, ed. Oliver Leaman, London and New York: Routledge, p. 262.
72 Qur’an 5:8.
73 Qur’an 5:42.
74 Qur’an 4:58.
75 Qur’an 2:237.
76 Qur’an 10:26; Isfahani, 1987, p. 356.
77 Qur’an 59:23-24.
78 Qur’an 14:48.
79 Iṣfahānī, R. (1987) al-Dharī‘ah ilā Makārim al-Sharī‘ah, p. 355.
80 Knysh, A. (2007) “Multiple areas of influence,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an, ed. Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 211-212.