"Islam is the best and Muslims are the worst”. Although this infamous quotation is an exaggeration, it carries some truth in view of the current moral situation of Muslims all around the globe. People who interact with Muslims complain of their immorality and misbehaviour. Anecdotes like the following abound: Once a Christian owed some money to a Muslim and the Christian was not prepared to pay him back. Ultimately, the Muslim went to a priest and beseeched him for help. The priest wrote a note to the Christian who paid immediately. Surprised the Muslim asked the Christian about the content of the note. The priest had written: “Since when have you become a Muslim?”
However, if we cast a cursory glance at Islamic history we will come across the best role models of morality and good manners. Not to speak of the high morals and noble character of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). Even common Muslims were civilized and well mannered in the days of Muslim glory. Many chronicles bear witness that wherever Muslims went they impressed the local people with their transparent dealings, their disciplined and fair way of living. In Indian subcontinent, home nearly to 500 million Muslims, Islam was propagated by Muslim traders and saints who won the heart of people with their behaviour. In many regions good manners and powerful teachings were the factors that attracted people to come closer to Islam.
So why did Muslims deviate from the path they were guided on by their forefathers. There was nothing remarkably wrong with Muslims morals throughout history when they were politically stable and strong. The turning point came when Europe experienced the industrial revolution and gradually most of the Islamic world was captured by the colonial powers. A wave of inferiority complexes swept all across the Muslim regions that gradually resulted in Muslims’ distancing themselves from their religious history and cultural assets. Being dominated, they started adopting the rulers’ culture, but could not detach themselves completely from their religion. This, consequently, formed a strange type of mixture that neither had the good qualities of the western culture nor the spirit of Islamic teachings.
Muslims believe the Glorious Qur’an, which is both constitutional and divine literature, to be the perfect and eternal guide for the whole of humanity. Likewise the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAWS) is a key figure whose actions and sayings are treated as living example of the Glorious Qur’an that is necessary to follow. The Glorious Qur’an itself has emphasized the need to follow the Prophet as a role model saying:
“Certainly you have in the Apostle of Allah an excellent exemplar for he who hopes in God and the latter day, and remembers God much”.
In some other verses it asserts that whatever the Prophet says is to be followed by Muslims:
“And whatsoever the messenger gives you, take it. And whatsoever he forbids, abstain (from it).”
“And it becomes not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided and affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, verily goes astray in error manifest.”
The Glorious Qur’aan invites Muslims to be earnest, truthful, trustworthy and useful for others while it asks them to shun from hurting people, backbiting, mocking, and cheating. The Glorious Qur’an has demanded Muslims to be humble and respectful for others. They should be clean-hearted and fair in their transactions and dealings. They should not hurt any one, should not use impolite language and should neither defame one another, nor insult one another by bad names. The Prophet (SAWS) has given glad tidings that the nearer to him in paradise will be those who are the best among you in manners and the farther to me in paradise will be those who are worse among you in morals. One Holy Hadith states that one cannot be a true Muslim until one likes for his brother what one likes for himself. An other tradition of the Prophet (SAWS) says that the best amongst you are those who are useful for others. Muslims have been asked to show mercy to all because all creatures are part of the family of Allah and Allah will not have mercy on those who do not have mercy on His creatures.
The Holy Prophet of Islam (SAWS) possessed the magnificent status of prophecy and divine leadership, but his manners in dealing with the people and his way of life were so simple and gentle that when he was among the people and a newcomer wanted to know about him, he had to ask, `Which one of you is the Prophet'? He never spoke with a morose face, nor did he ever apply rough, awkward words. The Holy Prophet of Islam did not care to sit down in the seat of honour in gatherings, and on entering any place would sit down in the first empty seat available. He did not let anybody stand up before him and treated others most respectfully. When travelling, the Prophet would work like the others and would never let any of his persons do his work. Once one of his companions requested him to be allowed to help him with his chores. The Holy Prophet of Islam answered: ‘I do not like to be treated as if I were privileged because Allah does not like any of His creatures to consider themselves privileged or to be treated as if they were privileged over others'. And he got up and collected firewood.
He invariably stood by his words and pledges. He paid affectionate visits to his relatives and friends but would never take their side unduly. The Holy Prophet of Islam would never permit anybody to backbite others and said: ‘I want to meet people with a loving heart'. The Prophet treated everyone with great respect and considered nobility and honour to be owing to faith, piety, and good behaviour. He was not interested in wealth or status, nor did he revere anybody for his riches or position. The Holy Prophet of Islam never attempted to retaliate against the insults and disrespect of anybody, and forgave people's mistakes or their misconduct. His reaction to the torment and disregard of ignorant people was forgiveness and tolerance. In spite of all the tortures and torments that the Quraish had inflicted upon the Holy Prophet of Islam, on conquering Makkah, he forgave them and set them free.
You will come across people who are considered to be religious minded but they insist on tiny matters more than on morals and good behaviour. Some people are inwardly pious but when they chance to deal with others they forget the beautiful and wise lessons that were taught to them by the Messenger (SAWS). It is regrettable that those who were taught lofty manners have forgotten them completely. However, one should keep in mind that the public and social matters are much more important than individual and private ones. As far as the matter of religious practices (Huqooq al Allah) is concerned they are more private and therefore less public than moral teachings (Huqooq al Ibaad), which are related to human beings and even to every creature.
Every one knows that adultery has been sternly prohibited in Islam and those who are found guilty of it are sentenced to punishments like whipping or even death. But in Islam, backbiting, though it is not a crime of capital punishment, has been regarded as worse than adultery. The reason is clear; backbiting is taken lightly and it causes conflict and disturbance in the society while, generally, people take adultery as a grave sin and it happens less. Many people are seen to perform their religious duties enthusiastically, but in the meantime they carry out such immoral behaviour that purges away the spirit of their good deeds. For instance, during the Hajj we see people while circling the Ka’bah, stoning the Satan and in other activities where the crowds are huge, not caring for the weak, the ill and the women, lacking all social consideration and only concerned with their own well being. Islam emphatically warns against violating the moral requirements and regards them as first and foremost. But the problem is that most of us consider the word of the teachings and not the spirit and inner meaning that lay beneath. It is reported on the authority of Hazrat Sahl bin Ma’az that his father said, “we set out on a journey of Jihad with the Prophet (SAWS) and while staying at a place some people filled houses and blocked the road. So, the Prophet (SAWS) sent a person to call that one who fills a house or blocks a road there is no Jihad for him (his Jihad is useless).
The moral teachings of Islam cover all the areas of life. We have been guided how to lead our personal and social life. Islam has left no stone unturned to provide its followers with the best set of morals and manners. Cleanliness has been regarded as half of the Iman (faith). It is narrated, “Allah is clean and He likes cleanliness”. Qualities such as truth, trustworthiness, and keeping promise have been given due importance in Islam. The Prophet (SAWS) has said: “Beware of lies, they lead you to debauchery and they will take you to hell. Hold fast to truth, it leads you to righteousness and takes you to Paradise”. Likewise, there are some other traditions such as “One who deceives is not one of us”. “One who can not keep his promise can never be a true Muslim, one who can not guard a trust can never be a true Muslim”.
The Prophet of Islam (SAWS), due to his fair and transparent dealings, was called “Al-Sadiq” and “Al-Ameen” (the truthful and the trustworthy) even by his bitter enemies. Before prophethood, he used to be a successful trader and every one liked him to handle his/her business. People used to give their deposits to the Prophet for safety and he always fulfilled their expectations. Once a trader asked the Prophet in a market to wait for him till he came back and the Prophet (SAWS) promised to do so. The Prophet (SAWS) waited for three days. When the trader remembered the Prophet (SAWS) he rushed back to the market and found the Prophet (SAWS) waiting at the place of promise. The Prophet said nothing except, “You made me wait for so long”.
One of the most virtuous deed is to bid Salaam (saying ‘may peace be upon you’) while meeting each other. It has been regarded as an expression of love and great reward has been promised for the same. Paying visits to the sick, attending funeral and sharing one’s grief and joy have also been profusely emphasized in Islam. The Prophet (SAWS) used to take the lead to bid Salaam. He always instructed people to show kindness to the weak, sick and needy. His behaviour towards the needy was amazingly affectionate, and he would do his best to remove the troubles and sufferings of the poor. He loved the children very much, bid them Salaam (peace) whenever he met them and put his hand on their heads showing mercy. Hazrat Anas bin Maalik, a companion, narrates that he lived with the Prophet for ten years but the Prophet never scolded him nor asked about a reason for his action.
Today we see that youths do not pay respect to their parents. The men, instead of being a shield to the women, commit violence against them. The younger are deprived of the love of the elders, so they also grow rude and ill mannered. Whereas Muslims are asked to pay exclusive attention to their parents and to stay obedient to them, even their happiness has been regarded as the happiness of Allah.
“Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him, and (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them to attain old age with you, say not "Fie" unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little.”
Likewise, Muslim men were repeatedly warned not to violate the rights of women. The will and testimony, which The Prophet (SAWS) dictated on his deathbed, included repeated warnings concerning the right of the women. He is reported to have said: “The best amongst you are those who are good to their family and I, among you, am the best to my family”.
The Prophet (SAWS), in spite of being occupied with other people’s work, had fixed a time during which he used to pay visits to his wives and talk to them of love and pleasure. Hazrat Aa’ishah narrates that he never minded doing chores with them and used to stitch his shoes, milk the goats and sweep the house. Similarly, the parents have been made aware of the rights of children. The Prophet (SAWS) has been reported saying that it is the right of a child that he/she is given good name and taught in the best of manner while an other Hadith states that the best gift that parents give to their child is the teaching of ‘Adab’ (courtesy, etiquettes, and education). The elders have been ordered to behave tenderly with the young while the young have been called upon to respect the elders. In Islam it is an act of great reward to maintain ties of kinship with relatives even with those who snap them, while those who severe the ties of kinship have been strongly deplored.
The neighbours have been given much importance in Islam. Various Hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) emphasize to behave well with neighbours. The Prophet (SAWS) says: “No one who harms his neighbours can enter in to paradise.”. Once the Prophet (SAWS) swore by Allah thrice and said: “One can never be a believer whose neighbour is not secured by his mischief” and “One who is killed defending his neighbour one will die as a martyr”.
It is to be noticed that neighbour is not only one who lives besides one’s house. In its broader Islamic meaning a neighbour is everyone who shares a part of one’s life. Helping the poor and fulfilling one’s need is an act of great reward in the eye of Islam. Muslims have been immensely encouraged to feed a hungry, give drink to a thirsty, dress a naked and guide someone gone astray. The Prophet (SAWS) said to his wife Aa’ishah: “Do not send a poor away empty handed, give him even if you have only a piece of date. O Aa’ishah! Love the poor, Allah will love you.” In other Hadith he says that one who adopts an orphan will be with him in Jannah (paradise). It is worth mentioning that these acts of kindness are not confined to Muslims only. Every needy should be looked after without any distinction of caste, creed and colour.
This is a bird’s eye view on the moral system of Islam. I hope that this much will suffice to create an interest in the reader to explore the ocean of Islamic moral teachings and to adopt them as his/her way of life. For a Muslim, the only thing that can lead him/her to success in this world and the hereafter are the teachings of Islam. But, those who ignore these bright teachings will go astray and waste their life. The Glorious Qur’an mentions both the parties in its inimitable style:
“Lo! Those who believe and do good works, theirs will be Gardens underneath which rivers flow. That is the Great Success.”
“The likeness of those who disbelieve is the likeness of one who calls unto that which hears naught except a shout and cry. Deaf, dumb, blind, therefore they have no sense.”
 Short cut of ‘Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam’, meaning ‘peace be upon him’. It is a blessing sent to the Prophet by Muslims.
 Surah 33, Al-Ahzab, Aayah: 21
 Surah 59, Al-Hashr, Aayah: 7
 Surah 33, Al-Ahzab, Aayah: 36
 Musnad-I-Ahmad, Musnad-us-Shamiyin, narrated by Abu Salabah Khashini
 Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Iman, Hadith No. 13
 Al-Jami-us-Saghir, Hadith No. 4044; Kanzul Ummal, Hadith No.43065
 Kanzul Ummal, Hadith No. 16171; Majma-uz-Zawaid, Hadith No. 13706
 Kohlul Basar, pp. 67, 68.
 Mishkat, p. 340
 Sunan-i-Tirmizi, Hadith No. 2951
 Musnad-I-Ahmad, Musnad-I-Hazrat Anas bin Malik
 Kanzul Ummal, Hadith No. 18653
 Surah 17 Al-Israa or Bani Israel, Aayah: 23, 24
 Ibn-I-Majah, Kitab-un-Nikah, Hadith No. 1977
 Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Iman, Hadith No. 73
 Sahih-ul-Bukhari, Kitabul Adab, Hadith No. 5670
 Kanzul Ummal, Hadith No. 11172
 Sunan-I-Tirmizi, Abwab-uz-Zuhd, Hadith No. 2457
 Surah 85. Al-Buruj. Aayah: 11
 Surah 2. Al-Baqara, Aayah: 17
Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi can be reached at: email@example.com