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Social ethics in Islam

EVERY human being is connected with Allah spiritually. However, in this material world, we also get ourselves connected with other entities, such as parents, family, community, society, country, etc. As time goes by, new connections are added at every new stage in life.

The ethics of connectivity with others has deep spiritual roots in religion. Its understanding makes our lives happy and more comfortable. We live, move and have our being among these relationships and sometimes our existence depends partially or fully on them. Our day-to-day condition — happy or otherwise — is also subjected to the interaction with these relationships.

Every entity with which we are connected, entails certain rights and responsibilities. We are to fulfil these to maintain a kind of cordiality in relationships. The teaching of Islam encompasses the whole life; it guides us first to fortify our spiritual bond with Allah. This is fundamental and the core of Islam’s overall message. Every individual is supposed to strengthen the spiritual link with Him by continuous remembrance of His existence. One has to keep one’s mind and thoughts towards Allah to earn His blessings.

Similarly, Islam encourages us to maintain happy relationships with other fellow beings. It urges civility, humility, tolerance and straight dealing with our fellow beings. These values subordinate the self and emphasise the others and are essential for cordial and peaceful coexistence in society. Islam is a religion of peace which can only be realised when an individual has happy relations with others.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) likens Muslim brotherhood to a building composed of bricks. Every brick is joined and connected with other bricks, thereby fortifying the building. The Prophet started his mission of preaching Islam by inviting his relatives to it first. Though his relatives did not all respond positively, his invitation indicates the weight he gave to relatives.

When he established himself in Madina, he tried to conclude peace agreements with many tribes, such as those of the Jews of Madina, the Christians of Najran, and the Makkans at Hudaibiya. He dispatched emissaries to rulers of far-off lands such as Rome, Iran and Abyssinia inviting them to peace and good relations with them.

We come across a number of verses in the Quran, directing us to fulfil the obligations to those we are connected with. The Quran says: “And do not forget liberality between yourselves. Truly Allah is all-Seer of what you do” (2:237). Verse 4:36 also enjoins us to “worship Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful.”

There are numerous factors that can imbalance relations in society and Islam forestalls them. Greed for material wealth is one such impediment that causes fissures among close relatives. A greedy person usurps the other’s property unjustly; therefore, Islam directs us: “And eat up not one another’s property unjustly” (2:188).

Another factor that is likely to affect good relations is differences in opinion. Sometimes we have differences with people around us, but these should not be made a matter of ego and waiting for the other party to take the initiative to normalise a relationship. We must understand that coming to terms quickly after differences brings us peace and serenity.

Islam allows a diversity of opinion; this existed among the Prophet’s companions. Friction among close relatives is part of human nature but one needs to be watchful that these do not reach a point of no-return. Islam does not give importance to difference of ethnicity, caste, status and language, etc., as all such factors cause cracks in happy relations in society.

A balanced approach in maintaining worldly relations is the right course. Unnecessary intrusion in the affairs of others also affects relations. Nobody likes meddlesome behaviour, therefore, one must be careful to not overreach. Over-engagement and unnecessary intrusion in the affairs of others are portents of a darker scenario.

Presently, we face a situation that can best be described as being stuck between the devil and the deep sea. We give importance to material wealth and social status. Our modern culture has promoted isolated living. We live behind closed doors with little interaction with neighbours, relatives and other members of society. Everyone has become individualistic, focused on self-interest alone most of the time.

It is generally observed that residents of, say, an apartment block do not care for others when they park their vehicles and block common passages. Some throw trash from their balconies and others do not pay their monthly maintenance charges regularly. Similarly, a teacher who is supposed to build the future can be found involved in self-service. A student who will manage a future society is unaware of his responsibility. A doctor who is to assure his patient’s health can be found making money alone. Thus few think of their social responsibility. This negligence can lead to fissures and unbalanced situations in society.

For a human being as a social animal it is important to feel a close connection and mutual empathy; however, this seems to be on the decline due to excessive materialism and the self-centred approach of modern urban living. In order to achieve a worthy lifestyle, we have to follow the teachings of Islam, i.e. treating well those with whom we are connected. Everyone should feel responsive to and respect the rights of others.

By Amin Valliani, an educationist:


Islamic Society: Ethics, Human Rights, Adornments & Recreation

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