By Muhammad Yunus & Ashfaque Ullah
10 July, 2015
(Published Exclusively On New Age
Islam with Permission of the Authors and Publishers)
19. Moral Ethics
19.1. General Moral Precepts
An early passage, beginning with a
statement on the innate instability of human mind, interweaves a set of moral
precepts, including wealth sharing (as discussed in the preceding section) and
sexual and ethical morality.
“Man (Insan) has been created restless
(70:19). He is panicky when evil befalls him (20) and ungrateful when something
good happens to him (21), except the prayerful (22): those who are regular in
prayer (23), and in whose wealth, there is a definite right for (24) the beggar
and the destitute (25); and who affirm the (truth of) the Day of Judgment (26);
and who fear the punishment of their Lord (27) - for indeed none should feel
secure from their Lord’s punishment (28); and who preserve their private parts
(Furujah)* (29) - except from their spouses
(Azwaj), that is (awe) those under their lawful trust (Ma Malakat
Ayman), and then (they are) not blame worthy (30), and those who seek
beyond that exceed limits (31); and who preserve their trusts and commitments
(32), and who stand by their testimony (33), and who watch over their prayer
(34). Such (people) shall be in gardens, highly honoured” (70:35) *[Sexual
Note: The traditional gender biased rendering
of the underlined transliterated words (masculine for Insan and feminine
for the others) with normative translation of the particle awe (70:30) as ‘or’,
instead of ‘that is' allows the verses 70:29/30 to be interpreted as a sanction
for men to keep mistresses. This, however, contradicts Qur’anic family laws
(which explicitly prohibit extra-marital relations), as well as Qur’anic
inheritance laws (which do not mention any mistress or unwedded spouse, though
claiming to cover all family relationships (4:33/Ch. 38.4). Our rendition
maintains the gender integrity of the passage, is based on the Qur’anic usage
of its particle awe in the verse 25:62,1 is supported by Muhammad Asad2 and
conforms to the broader message of the Qur’an.
With time, the Qur’an admonishes against
various mundane as well as grave vices such as foul talk, miserliness, bearing
a false witness, adultery (Zina) 3 killing of innocent people, and all manners
of abominable acts (Fawahishah), 4 and reiterates its exhortation
against unwedded relationships. [The verses 70:29/30 above and 23:5/6 below
have identical text.]
“Believers will indeed succeed (23:1):
those who are humble in their prayer (2), who avoid foul talk (3), who are
active in charity (Zakah)5 (4), and who preserve their private parts (Furujah)*
(5) - except from their spouses, that is, those under their lawful trust - and
then (they are) not blame worthy (6); and those who seek beyond that – it is
they who exceed limits (7); and those who are faithful to their trust and their
commitment (8), and who watch over their prayers (9) - it is they who are the
heirs (10) who will inherit Paradise; and they will remain there” (23:11).
“Those who are alert in fear of their Lord
(23:57), and those who believe in the message of their Lord (58), and those who
do not associate (others) with their Lord (59), and those who give whatever
they give with their hearts trembling (at the thought that) they must return to
their Lord (60) - – it is they who hasten to all good things, and they will
outpace (others) in this” (23:61).
“The servants of the Benevolent are those
who walk humbly on earth and when the ignorant address them, they say ‘Peace.’
(25:63), and those who meditate on their Lord by night standing and prostrating
(64), and those who say: ‘God, avert from us the torment of hell - whose
torment undoubtedly is terrible (65), and surely it is an evil place for abode
(66); and those, when they spend, are not wasteful, nor miserly but take a
position in between (67); and those who do not invoke any deity with God, nor
kill any person as God has forbidden this - except when lawful; nor commit
adultery (la Yaznuna)3 - for whoever does that will meet punishment (68), (and
such) punishment will be doubled on the Day of Judgment and he will live there
in disgrace (69) - except those who repent, have faith, and do good deeds - for
God will substitute the evil in them for good, as God is Most Forgiving and
Merciful (70), and anyone who repents and does good deeds has truly turned to
God in repentance (71); and those who bear no false witness, and if they pass
by folly - pass by with dignity (72); and those who, when reminded of the
messages of their Lord, do not fall at them deaf and blind (oblivious of their
message) (73); and those who say: ‘Our Lord, give us joy* in our spouses and
our offspring and make us models for the heedful (Muttaqin)’ (74) – it is they
(who) will be rewarded with lofty abodes for their endurance, and they will be
received there with salutations and peace” (25:75). * [Lit., ‘delights of the
In a late Meccan passage, the Qur’an
declares some of its moral precepts as binding or Haram for all believers:
“Say, ‘Come, I will tell what your Lord has
made binding (Haram) on you: do not associate anything with Him, be kind to
(your) parents, do not kill your children on account of poverty - We provide
for you as well as for them, keep away from abomination (Fawahishah) -
whether open or secret, do not kill any person as God has forbidden this -
except when lawful.’ Thus does He command you, that you may use your reason
(6:151). ‘And do not approach the property of an orphan before his full
maturity - except for its betterment, give full measure and (use) true scale:
We do not task a soul beyond its capacity; and when you speak, uphold justice (Fa‘Dilu)
even if it concerns a relative, and fulfil the covenant of God.’ Thus does He
instruct you that you may be mindful (152). This is My straight path: so follow
it, and do not follow (other) paths - lest you should be parted from His path.
Thus He instructs you for you to heed” (6:153)
19.2. Qur’anic Broader Notion of Halal And
The Qur’anic moral precepts of the Haram
category (6:151-6:153 above) are binding for all believers at all times. Most
Muslims today are very particular about what they eat; and take only Halal
food. This is fine. But they hardly take the broader Qur’anic message on what
all are declared Haram with a similar zeal. The fact remains, one can have the
most sumptuous meal even by keeping away from the Haram category of food, but
to abide by the precepts of the Qur’an on the whole range of hurmah deeds, is a
totally different matter. Moreover, a food of the Halal category (properly
slaughtered and cooked with Halal recipe) is liable to become Haram if it is
acquired by unlawful means (Ch. 25.2). So, an exaggerated emphasis on the
method of slaughtering may not be all that meaningful, if the lawfulness of
earning is ignored.
In the western world, various Islamic
agencies advise Muslims on what food items are Halal or otherwise. Like-wise,
some commercial houses claim the ‘lawfulness’ of their products (consumer
goods, cosmetics etc.) by not using ingredients from a source, declared
unlawful (Haram) for food (such as animal slaughtered without Islamic rites).
However, the Qur’anic notion of Halal and Haram as clearly spelled out in the
above verses is far wider.
19.3. Qur’anic Broader Notion of Heedfulness
A Medinite verse (2:177) declares that
piety or heedfulness (Taqwa, Ch. 8) is not attained merely by expression of
faith, and outward gesture of prayer:
“Virtue (birr)* does not mean that you turn
your faces towards the East or West; but (imbued with) virtue (birr) is one who
believes in God, the Last Day, the angels, the revelation (Kitab)** and the
prophets; and gives away his wealth - out of love for Him - to relatives,
orphans, the needy (Masakin),6 the traveller (Ibn Al-Sabil),7 and the
beggar, and for (the freeing of) slaves; and (virtuous are those who) keep up
prayer and give charity; and (virtuous are also those) who fulfil their
commitments, once they have pledged (to them), and show endurance in suffering
and adversity, and during times of peril – it is these people who confirm (the
truth), and it is they who are heedful (Muttaqun)” (2:177). *[Lit., ‘moral
excellence’] **[Lit., the Book, the divine edict.]
“And He it is Who has appointed night and day in succession, for anyone
who desires to remember, that is (awe), desires thankfulness” (25:62).
Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an, Gibraltar 1980, Chap. 23, Note
3; Chap.70, Note 13.
In the context of the revelation, the word zina (verb yaznun) connoted
wilful sexual relation of a married woman with a man.
Commentators agree that fahishah denotes an act or a behavior that is
grossly immodest, indecent and abominable, and includes sexual lewdness,
adultery and pandering to such deeds by speech, suggestion or action -Muhammad
Asad, Message of the Qur’an, Gibraltar, 1980, Chap. 4, Note 14.
See Glossary for broader notion of Zakah.
See Explanation 2 under the rendering of 9:60/Ch. 18.8 for the generic
meaning of Masakin.
See Note 2/Ch. 17 for the broader meaning of ibn al-sabil.
20. General Behavioural Norms
Restraining anger, forgiveness, courtesy, avoiding conflict, and
The Qur'an asks people to restrain anger,
forgive others (3:134), return a greeting with a nicer greeting (4:86), speak
nicely avoiding conflict (17:53), and refrain from talking evil in public
without being wronged (4:148).
“Hasten to forgiveness from your Lord, and
to a garden - as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the heedful
(muttaqin) (3:133): those who spend (in charity) in (times of) plenty as well
as hardship, restrain anger and forgive people for God loves the
“When you are greeted with a greeting,
return it with a more courteous greeting or (at least) its like. Indeed God
takes account of everything” (4:86).
“God does not love of evil talk in public
except by one who has been wronged. (Remember,) God is All-Knowing and Aware”
“Tell My servants to say what is best - for
verily Satan sows dissension among them, for Satan is an open enemy to man”
20.2. Arrogance, Loud Talk, and Listening To
Whispers Are Condemned
The Qur’an asks people to maintain a modest
bearing and not to behave arrogantly or talk loudly (17:37, 31:18/19), and
reminds them that the harshest of sound is the braying of an ass (31:19). It
cautions people against believing any wicked person without verifying facts
“And do not walk arrogantly on earth - for
you can neither cleave the earth apart, nor reach the mountains in height”
“(Said Luqman to his son): ‘Do not turn
your cheek away from people (in scorn), nor walk arrogantly on earth. Surely
God does not love any arrogant boaster (31:18). Therefore, be modest in your
bearing, and keep your voice low; (and remember) the harshest of sounds is the
braying of an ass’” (31:19).
“You who believe, if a wicked person comes
to you with a (slanderous) news, verify it, otherwise you may ignorantly harm
(other) people, and become regretful for what you have done” (49:6).
20.3. Slandering, Fault-Finding, Contempt and
Excessive Suspicion Are Condemned
The Qur’an condemns slandering (24:23),
backbiting, scandal-mongering, excessive suspicion (49:12, 104:1) and
miserliness (47:38, 104:2) and does not approve of showing contempt or giving
derogatory nicknames to other people (49:11).
“Those who (falsely) accuse carefree,
believing, chaste women are cursed in this life and (in) the hereafter, and
there is a severe punishment for them” (24:23).
“Behold, (O you people!) You are invited to
spend in God's way, but some of you are miserly; though whoever is miserly, is
being miserly to his own soul. (Remember,) God is Self-Sufficient, whereas you
stand in need. If you turn away (from His path), He will replace you with other
people, and they would not be like you” (47:38).
“You who believe, let not any people (Qaum)
among you mock other people (Qaum) who may be better than they are; nor should
some women (ridicule) other women who may be better than they are; and do not
find fault in each other, nor insult others with (insulting) nicknames.
(Giving) an insulting name after embracing the faith is most wicked, and those
who do not repent (after giving such nicknames to others) – it is they who are
“You who believe, avoid excessive suspicion,
for suspicion in some cases is a sin; and do not spy (over others), nor
backbite each other. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead
brother? You would hate it! So heed God and (remember,) God is Most Relenting
and Merciful” (49:12)
to every backbiting critic (104:1), who amasses wealth, and keeps counting it
(and does not spend in charity)” (104:2).
20.4. Good Conduct at Places of Worship
“Children of Adam, conduct yourselves
graciously (Khuzu Zinatakum) at every place of worship. Eat and drink -
but do not be lavish*, for He does not approve of those who are given to
excesses” (7:31). *[Lit. ‘to be given to excesses’.]
Note: Based on the generic Qur’anic notion
of the word Zinat as God’s endowments, the most accurate rendering of the
transliterated words will be ‘hold on to your God given endowments (Zinat).’ We
have tried to capture the essence of this literal rendering in the underlined
words. In a very restrictive sense fine clothes are also God’s endowments, and
accordingly the words have been traditionally rendered to imply the wearing of
one’s best dress at every place and occasion of prayer.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of
Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth
study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has
co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar
al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was
endorsed and authenticated by Dr. KhaledAbou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by
Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
“Believers will indeed succeed (23:1):
those who are humble in their prayer (2), who avoid foul talk (3), who are
active in charity (Zakah) (4), and who preserve their private parts (Furujah)* (5) - except from their spouses, that is, those under their lawful trust -
and then (they are) not blame worthy….
This is how Muhammad Unus Saheb has translated
the above verse (wrongly).
Let us see what is the correct translation.
Maududi like other mufassireen has done it correctly, and without any twist.
guard their private parts scrupulously (23:5) “except with regard to their
wives and (or) those women who are
legally in their possession, for in that case they shall not be blame-worthy.”
In his footnote Maulana Maududi writes,
“Two categories of women have been excluded from the
general command of guarding the private parts: (a) wives, (b) women who are
legally in one's possession, i.e. slave-girls. Thus the verse clearly lays down
the law that one is allowed to have sexual relations with one's slave-girl as
with one's wife. The basis being possession and not marriage. If marriage had
been the condition, the slave-girl also would have been included among the
wives, and there was no need to mention them separately. Some modern
commentators, who dispute the permissibility of having sexual relations with
the slave-girl, argue from An-Nisa' (IV) : 25 to prove that one can have sexual
relations with a slave-girl only after entering wedlock with her, because that
verse enjoins that if a person cannot afford to marry a free Muslim woman, he
may marry a Muslim slave-girl. But these commentators have a strange
characteristic: they accept a part of a verse if it suits them, but
conveniently ignore another part of the same verse if it goes against their
wish and whim. The law about marrying the slave-girls as enunciated in IV :25
reads: "....you may marry them with the permission of their guardians and
give them their fair dowries." Obviously the person under reference here
is not the master of the slave girl himself but the person who cannot afford to
marry a free Muslim woman and, therefore , wants to marry a slave-girl, who is
in the possession of another person. For if the question had been of marrying
one's own slave-girl, who would then be the "guardian" whose
permission would have to be sought? Then, the interpretation they give of this
verse contradicts other verses dealing with the same subject in the Qur'an. A
sincere person who wants to understand the Qur'anic law in this regard should
study An-Nisa' (IV); 3, 25; AI-Ahzab (XXXIII): 52, and Al-Ma`arij (LXX): 30
together with this verse of Al-Mu'minun. (For further explanation, see E.N. 44
Here Muhammad Unus Sb has twisted and changed the whole
meaning of the verse by putting , ‘THAT IS’ instead of ‘AND’ or ‘OR’ between the two categories of women allowed.
Excellent summary of moral and behavioral norms! How many madrasas teach this?