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Ethical Teachings of the Qur’an (Part 1)

Surah Al-Hamd


The real goal of man, according to the Qur'an, is the assimilation of divine attributes. These attri­butes, as also shown in the same chapter, can be summarized as life, eternity, unity, power, truth, beauty, justice, love, and goodness.


 God is the living one Himself

[ii, 255; xl, 65] and gives life to others. [ii, 260; iii, 156; vii, 1158; ix, 116; x, 56; xl, 68] The moral laws enunciated in the Qur"an are life‑giving and life‑enriching [viii, 24; xvi, 97] and, therefore, by living in this world in accordance with these laws man is able to realize one of God"s attributes. If anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. [V, 35] On the social plane, the importance of life on this earth is duly emphasized. The ideal of the Qur"an is to develop a healthy social organization which traverses the middle path of rectitude avoiding all forms of extreme. [ii, 143] People are to partake of the good things of the world [vii, 32] and wear beautiful apparel, to eat and drink without going to excess, [vii, 31] and for this reason monasticism which implies denial of life on this earth is condemned as being incompatible with human nature. [lvii, 27] Man is advised not to forget his portion in the life of this world. [xxviii, 77] Wealth and property are good things to be enjoyed and appreciated and are blessings of God [xvii, 6] which make life smooth and comfortable. [lxxiv, 14] 


The life of the present world is no doubt significant and purposive,

[iii, 191; x, 5; xv. 85; xxi, 16] but it’s purposes are directed towards the good of future life, for the real abode of life is in the hereafter. [xxis, 64] God created life and death to test which of the people are best in point of deed. [lxvii, 2] The present world is a place of sojourn and a place of departure; [vi, 98] its enjoyments are short [iv, 77] and comforts are few, [ix, 38] while as compared with these the life in the hereafter is better and more enduring. [lxxxvii, 17] It is best for the righteous [iv, 77] and will last for ever. [, 122; xviii, 31; xix, 61‑63; xxxv, 33‑35; xxxviii, 49‑52; xliii, 68‑73] The present life and the future life, however, are to be viewed as a unity, for man"s creation here and his resurrection later on are events related to an individual soul. [xxxi, 28] In fact, life on this earth is a preparation for the life hereafter. [xvii The good works that we do here in this life will run before us to illumine our path in the here­after [xvii] where we shall have full opportunity to develop our spiritual light to ever greater perfection. [lxvi, 8]




This attribute in its fullness is exclusively God"s and man is created within time for a stated term; [vi, 2] yet he has within himself a deep craving for eternity and for a kingdom that never fails or ends. [xx, 120] Though finite and temporal, man does not and cannot rest content with that. The way is open for the finite and temporal man to attain life everlasting. [xxii, 23; xxxix, 73‑75; lvii, 12; xcviii, 8]


The greatest emphasis in the Qur"an is on the unity of God which implies belief in the divine causality and the presence of moral order in the universe where people are judged according to the merit of their deeds

[xcix, 7‑8] and not arbitrarily. [viii, 53] This moral order works without any favour not only in the case of individuals but also in the case of societies and peoples. [v, 20] God has entered into covenant with men within the limits of this moral order with men as such and not with particular nations or races. [iii, 81, 187; v, 8, 13, 15; vii, 172]

Unity, as one of the ideals of man, implies unity in the internal life of man, a co‑ordination of reason, will, and action. It requires complete control of one"s passions and lust. It also stands for the unity of profession and practice. Faith in God is the necessary prerequisite of moral life, but it should not be mere verbal acceptance;

[v, 44] it must be accompanied by good deeds, [vii, 42; x, 4; xiii, 29] implying an attitude of mind which is motivated by a complete submission to God"s will. [ii, 131; ix, 112] Poets generally say what they do not practise, [ii, 131; ix, 112] and hypocrites say with their tongues what is not in their hearts, [iii, 167; iv, 81; xlvii, 11] but all believing men and women are truthful in their words and deeds. [ix, 19] Externally, the ideal of unity demands that men should develop a healthy social organization which traverses the middle path of rectitude avoiding all forms of extreme. [ii, 143] The righteous are advised to get together and strive, so that tumult, oppression, and mischief are removed from the face of the earth.  [viii, 73] This ideal of unity also implies peace and harmony among members of a family. A woman is a mate for man so that both may dwell in tranquillity with an attitude of mutual love and kindness; [xxx, 21] each is like a garment for the other [ii, 187] for mutual support, mutual comfort, and mutual protection. It is the duty of man to live with woman on a footing of kindness and equity. [iv, 19] Unity also implies that members of a national or ideological group should develop ties of intimate relationship among themselves so that the ideal of an organic whole may be realized in a broader context. The Qur"an says that all Muslims are brothers [xlix, 10] and have great love and affection among themselves. [xlviii, 29] No excuse should be allowed to stand in the way of doing good or making peace between different persons. [ii, 224] Every effort should be made to bring about con­ciliation between men, [iv, 114] yet we should co‑operate in righteousness and piety, not in sin and rancour. [v, 3] We should be kind to those in need, to neighbours, and to the wayfarers. [ii, 83, 177, 215; iv, 36; xvii, 26]

This attitude, of kindness and fairness is to be maintained and upheld even in the case of enemies and opponents.

[v, 3, 9, 45] We should try to forgive those who plot against us and overlook their deeds, [v, 14] cover evil with pardon, [iv, 149] and turn off evil with good. [xiii, 22; xxviii, 54]

This attitude of toleration is to be cultivated in our relation to people of other faiths. The Qur"an aims at establishing a peaceful social atmosphere where people belonging to other faiths can enjoy freedom of conscience and worship

[ii, 256] for which purpose the believers are urged to rise and fight against the oppressors so that monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure may not be pulled down. [xxii, 40] It unreservedly praises some of the people of the Book for their faith. [iii, 110] It is as a consequence of this attitude of tolerance that according to the Qur"an all those who believe in God and the Last Day and practise right­eousness, whether they are Muslims, Jews, Christians, or Sabaeans, shall get their reward from their Lord. [ii, 62; v, 72] The Qur"an gives an open invitation to the people of the Book to come together and work conjointly for the establishment of peace and social harmony based on the idea of the unity of God. [iii, 64]

Above all, this ideal of unity leads to the conception of unity of the whole of humanity. Mankind was created from a single pair of a male and a female

[ii; 213; iv, 1; vi, 98; x, 19; xxxix, 6; xlix, 13] and from a single breath of life. [iv, 1; xxxix, 6] All people are equal members of the human community; [iii, 195] the only distinction recognized by the Qur"an is based on the degree of righteousness possessed by people. [1]

Power ‑ Power as a human ideal implies that man has the potentiality of assuming responsibility undertaken by him of his own accord.

[xxxiii, 72] God breathed His Spirit into him [xv, 29; xxxviii, 72] and, therefore, made him His vicegerent on the earth. [ii, 30] Everything in the universe was created subservient to him [xiv, 32‑33; xxxi, 20] ‑ even the angels were ordered to bow down to him. [ii, 34] He was given a position of great honour in the universe and was elevated far above most of God"s creations. [xvii, 70] He has all the faculties that are necessary for his physical and spiritual development and can pass beyond the limits of the heavens and the earth with the power given to him by God. [xvi, 78; xxxii, 9; iv, 33; lxvii, 23; lxxvi, 2‑3; xc, 8‑9] He is given the power to distinguish between good and evi1 [xv, 10; lxxvi, 3] and, therefore, he alone is responsible for what he does. [vi, 164] He is endowed with freedom of action, but his freedom is limited by the free causality of God. [lxxiv, 55‑56; lxxxi, 28‑29] His responsibility is proportionate to his powers; [ii, 286] he has been shown the path of righteousness and it is up to him to accept its lead or reject it. [lxxvi, 3]

Being created after the pattern of God"s nature

[xxx, 30] man is capable of develop­ing from one stage to the next higher stage. [lxxxiv, 19] But this development involves struggle against the immoral forces of the external world which he is able to meet successfully with the co‑operation and help of God. [xl, 51; x1vii, 7] This effort of man is, however, viewed not in any exclusive spirit of otherworldliness. [lvii, 24] It is the primary duty of the believers to participate actively in the struggle for the establishment of asocial order based on peace, harmony, and justice [ii, 193; iii, 104, 110; xiii, 21; xxii, 41] in which everybody is equal before the law, and people in authority work out their policies after ascertaining the views of the people. [xlii, 38]

In this endeavour to realize the moral law in his individual and social life, man has often to contend against evil forces represented in the person of Satan.

[xv, 36‑40] But it is within his power to resist and overcome them. [xvi, 99] Though man is always prone to weakness and susceptible to seduction by the forces of evil, yet his weakness is rectifiable under the guidance of revelation, [ii, 36] and such men as follow the law of righteousness shall be immune from these lapses. [xvi, 99] They shall never be afraid of anything [iii, 1.75] or be cowardly in their behaviour. [iii, 122]

The ideal of power demands that in order to establish a State on the basis of peace, freedom of thought, worship, belief, and expression, the morally ­orientated individuals will have to strive hard.Jihador utmost striving

[viii, 74‑75] with might and main [v, 38] with wealth and their person, [ix, 20, 31, 88] as they ought to strive, [xxii, 78] becomes their foremost duty so that tumult, oppression, and mischief should be totally eliminated from the world [viii, 73] and there should be left no possibility for the aggressors to kindle the fire of war, [v, 67] to hinder men from the path of God, [xvi, 88] and to oppress people for professing a faith different from their own. [ii, 190‑93]

This struggle against the forces of evil and oppression demands that its participants must be characterized by perseverance, courage, fearlessness, and trust in God‑the moral qualities which are described by the Qur"an as characteristic of the righteous in the social context. [xi, 115; xvi, 127; x1,.55; x1vi. 35; 1, 39; lxxiii, 10] Those who patiently per­severe in the path of righteousness will be in possession of a determining factor in all the affairs of this life [iii, 186] and will be above trivial weaknesses. [xi, 10‑11] Those who are firm and steadfast will never lose heart, nor weaken in will, nor give in before the enemy [iii, 146]. A small band of steadfastly persevering people often vanquishes a big force. [ii, 249] Similarly, trust in God is the moral quality of all believers. [viii, 2; ix, 51; xiv, 11] This quality does not involve any negation of planning in advance as is evident from the attitude of Jacob while advising his sons who were going to Egypt [viii, 2; ix, 51; xiv, 11]. After you have taken all possibilities into consideration and taken a decision, put your trust in God. [iii, 159]

Truth or Wisdom

 Wisdom as a human ideal stands for man"s search for knowledge or truth. It is something which is distinguished from conjecture or imperfect knowledge

[iv, 157; vi, 116, 148; x, 36; liii, 28] and mere fancy. [x, 36, 66] Different stories are related in the Qur"an, [vii, 176] several similitudes [lix, 21] and signs pointing to reality are detailed [vi, 98] and explained, [x, 24] so that people may reflect and ponder over things. It is the characteristic of the righteous that they not only celebrate the praises of God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, but also contemplate and ponder over the different phenomena of nature. [iii, 191] The people are, therefore, advised repeatedly to look at and observe the phenomena of nature, pondering over everything in creation to arrive at the truth. [xii, 185]

None can grasp the message of revelation except men of understanding and those firmly grounded in knowledge.

[iii, 7, 18; vi, 105; xxii, 54, xxxiv, 6] Lack of true knowledge leads people to revile the true God, [vi, 108] invent lies against Him, and worship other gods besides Him [xxii, 71].The only safety lies in following the revelation which is replete with the knowledge of God. [xi, 14] Whosoever has been given knowledge has indeed been given abundant good. [ii; 269] Those who dispute wrongly about God are the ones who are without knowledge, without guidance, and without a book of enlightenment. [xxii, 8; xxxi, 20] Only those people will be promoted to suitable ranks and degrees who have faith and are possessed of knowledge, [lviii, 11] and only those who have knowledge really fear God and tread the path of righteousness. [xxxv, 28]

When Solomon asked the people of his Court who would be able to bring the throne of the Queen of Sheba, it was only the one possessed of knowledge who offered himself to bring it and later actually did baring it.

[xxvii, 40]

The Qur"an advises the Holy Prophet to pray for advance in knowledge. [xx, 114] The mysterious teacher of Moses who tried to help him have a glimpse of the working of the unseen had knowledge proceeding from God, i.e.,`ilm al­ladunni. [xviii, 6.5] Saul (Jalut) was appointed king of the Israelities because he was gifted by God abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess. [ii, 247] Noah, David, and Solomon possessed knowledge [xxviii, 14] and judgment. [xxi, 711] Jacob had a lot of knowledge and experience; [xii, 68] Joseph possessed abundant power and know­ledge, [xii, 22] and so also was Moses given wisdom and knowledge. [xxviii, 14] It was through knowledge and reflection on the phenomena of nature, the heaven and the earth, that Abraham was able to arrive at the ultimate truth. [vi, 75‑79] It was through his personal experience and knowledge that Joseph refused to follow the path of the unbelievers and adopted the path of Abraham. [xii, 37‑39]


Justice is a divine attribute and the Qur"an emphasizes that we should adopt it as a moral ideal. God commands people to be just towards one another

[vii, 29; xvi, 90; xlii, 1:1] and, in judging between man and man, to judge justly, [iv, 58] for He loves those who judge equitably. [v, 45] All believers stand firmly for justice even if it goes against themselves, their parents, their kith and kin, without any distinction of rich and poor. [iv, 13 .5] God"s Revelation itself is an embodiment of truth and justice; [v1, 115] it is revealed with the Balance (of right and wrong) so that people may stand forth for justice. [lvii, 25] The value of justice is absolute and morally binding and the believers are, therefore, warned that they should not let the hatred of some people lead them to transgress the limits of justice [v; 3] or make them depart from the ideal of justice, for justice is very near to piety and righteousness. [v, 9]

Justice demands that people should be true in word and deed, [iii, 17] faithfully observe the contracts which they have made [ii, 177; xxiii, 8; lxv, 32] and fulfil all obligations. [v, 1] When Muslims enter into treaties with people of other faiths, they must fulfil their engagements to the end and be true to them, for that is the demand of righteousness. [ix, 4, 7] They are also advised to establish the system of weights with justice and not to skimp in the balance [vi, 152; Iv, 9] and cause thereby a loss to others by fraud, and unjustly withhold from others what is due to them, [xxvi, 181‑83] for that would lead to the spread of evil and mischief on the earth. [xi, 85]


 Love as a human ideal demands that man should love God as the complete embodiment of all moral values above everything else.

[ii, 165] It demands that man should be kind and loving to parents, [vi, 151; xxix, 8] especially to the mother who bore him in pain and gave birth to him in travail. [xxi, 14; xlvi, 15] This obligation of loving kindness is further broadened to include kindred, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near and neighbours who are strangers, and the wayfarers. [ii, 83, 215; iv, 36; xvii, 26]

Righteousness is to spend a part of our substance out of love for God, for kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, [ii, 177] and for the indigent. [xc, 16] The Holy Prophet who is a mercy to believers [ix, 61] and mercy to all creatures [xxi, 107] always dealt gently with people. [iii, 159] Moses was advised by God to speak to Pharaoh mildly and gently. [xx, 44] It is one of the characteristics of the believers that they are compassionate and loving to one another; [xlviii, 29] they walk on the earth in humility, and hold to forgiveness; [vii, 199] they are friendly to others, [ii, 28; iv, 144; v, 60] and forgive and overlook their faults, [ii, 109] even though they are in anger. [xlii, 37]


 Goodness is an attribute of God [xvi, 53; lix, 23] and, therefore, it becomes the duty of every person to obey his own impulse to good. [ii, 158] He should do good as God has been good to all [xxviii, 77] and love those who do good. [ii, 195] Believers hasten in every good work. [iii, 114; xxiii, 61] As all prophets were quick in emulating good works, [xxi, 90] so all people are advised to strive together (as in a race) towards all that is good [ii, 148] and virtuous. [v, 51] Truly did Solomon love the love of good with a view to glorifying the Lord. [xxxviii, 32] All good things are for the believers; [ix, 88] goodly reward in the hereafter [xv111, 2] and highest grace of God awaits those who are foremost in good deeds. [xxxv, 32] Believers are advised to repel evil with what is better, for thereby enmity will change into warm friendship. [xli, 34]


 God possesses most beautiful names

[vii, 180; xvii, 110] and highest excellence, [xxxvii, 125] and creates everything of great beauty. [xxxii, 7] Man is created in the best of moulds [xcv, 4] and is given a most beautiful shape. [lxiv, 3]

God has revealed the most beautiful message in the form of a book [xxxix, 23] and given the best of explanations in the revealed books. [xxv, 33] We are, therefore, advised to follow the best of revelations from God. [xxxlx, 55] The Qur"an relates most beautiful stories. [xii, 3] The association of believers, prophets, sincere lovers of truth, witnesses (to the truths of religion in word and deed), and the righteous is a beautiful fellowship. [iv, 69]

Who is better in speech than those who invite people to the ways of the good with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious [xvi, 125] and say only those things that are of supreme excellence? [xii, 33; xvii, 53] The Qur"an exhorts people to adopt ways of the highest value, for God loves those who perform deeds of excellence, [ii, 195; v, 96] good‑will, and con­ciliation. [iv, 62] It advises people to return greetings with greetings of greater excellence [iv, 86] and repel evil with that which is best, [xxiii, 96; xli, 34] for thereby they will be adding to the beauty of their own souls. [xvii, 7] Patience is gracefu1 [xii, 18, 83] and so are forgiveness and overlooking others faults [xv, 85]. Those who perform beautiful deeds shall have the highest rewards in this world [iii, 172;. ix, 121; x, 26; xvi, 96, 97; xxiv, 38; xxix, 7; xxxix, 35, 70;xlvi, 16; liii, 31] and their reward in the hereafter shall be still better [xvi, 30] when they shall enjoy the fairest of places for­ repose [xxv, 24] and be provided with excellent provisions [Ibid., lxv,3].



1-Ibid., xvi, 132; xlix, 13. In this respect the Oration delivered by the Holy­Prophet during his Farewell Pilgrimage is illuminating. He said: O People! your Lord is One and your father (i. e., Adam) is one; you are all as sons of Adam brothers. There are no superiority for an Arab over a non‑Arab and for a non‑Arab over an Arab, nor for a red‑coloured over a black‑coloured and for a black‑skinned over a red‑skinned except in piety. The noblest is he who is the most pious.

AuthorBy B.A Dar

(M.A, Fellow Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore)

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