More of the principles that we should be cultivating and implanting into our daily lives:
To steer clear of adultery and illicit relations: These illicit relations and perversions bring the greatest harm to individuals, families and societies. Refraining from and observing proper behaviour in such matters, leads to a healthy, happy upright and moral society. Regrettably nowadays these illicit relations have become a bane to society and this have led to many family breakups and the added heartache and misery to all those concerned.
We should all be committed to a lifestyle that is pure, clean and socially responsible. Islam and indeed all major religions teach that one should not come even close to adultery or fornication. â€¨â€˜Nor come near to adultery for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road to other evilsâ€™. (17:32)
In the Bible: â€œYou shall not commit adulteryâ€ (Exodus 20: 14); And Matthew 5; 28
To respect the sanctity of life and not to kill anyone: Some people may read this and ask â€˜but what about the reports of many people being killed by Islamic militantsâ€™? Let us be clear about this, Islam does not allow the killing of innocent people. Some of these terrorist groups use the name of Islam for their own selfish and nefarious agenda. In some sections of the media there is an agenda, politics plays a major role too, to tarnish the name of Islam by adding the title â€˜Islamistâ€™ to any misdeed carried out anywhere in which a Muslim is involved.
Never will we read any report that says a gunman has killed people: for example the Danish student who killed over 70 school kids, being labelled with his religion.Â Hitler killed millions but never has his religion ever been mentioned. Islam recognizes the sanctity of life and we should not do anything that may jeopardize it. One should avoid aggression and violence, because these things lead to murder. Every Muslim must be committed to peaceful ways. However, justice must be maintained, because just punishment brings safety and protects life.â€¨Qurâ€™an: â€˜And kill not one another..â€™(4:29).In the Bible: â€œYou shall not killâ€ (Exodus 20:13
To be humble and have no arrogance: Moderation and balance is the best thing in oneâ€™s behaviour as well as in oneâ€™s attitudes toward others. A Muslim should be a dignified and humble person. A Muslim should not not boastful, arrogant or pompous. Muslim thanks Allah for all His gifts and the ultimate praise and glory belongs to Allah.â€¨â€˜Do not swell thy cheek with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah does not love an arrogant boaster. And be moderate and your pace, lower your voiceâ€¦.(Quran 31:18-19)
â€œBefore destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour [is] humilityâ€ (Proverbs 18:12). â€œFor whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exaltedâ€. (Luke 14:11) To be careful with your money and not to be extravagant: A Muslim should live a balanced life style. Extravagance is frowned upon and not recommended, but also one should not become stingy and miserly. Importantly, money should be earned in Halal (lawful) ways and be spent in the correct manner. This must also be applied to all resources that Allah has given us. Careful, wise and responsible use of resources is a very important commitment of Muslims.
â€˜Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not miserly, but hold a just balance between those extremesâ€¦ (Quran 25:67). And â€˜â€¦wear your beautiful apparelâ€¦ eat and drink, but do not waste by excess, for Allah does not love the wastersâ€™ (Quran 7:31). Further: â€˜â€¦but squander not your wealth in a manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the evil onesâ€¦â€¦ (Quran 17: 27).
The Bible says: â€˜For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some covet after, they have erred from faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrowsâ€™.Â (1Timothy 6: 10) I have created the waster to destroy (Isaiah 54:16) To fulfil the promises and your commitments: Promises and contracts are an important part of our daily lives. When promises are not kept, people lose trust in each other and the whole society becomes weak. Our commitment must be to speak the truth, to be honest and when we make a pledge we do our best to fulfil our pledges. However this commitment does not end with those around us but must include the commitment that we make to our Lord and Creator.
â€˜Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants â€¦.these will be the heirs, who will inherit Paradise; they will dwell therein foreverâ€™ Quran (23: 8-11). â€˜O, you who believe, fulfil your undertakingsâ€¦â€™ (Quran 5: 1) â€œWhen you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not payâ€. Ecclesiastes 5: 4-5. â€œMy covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lipsâ€. (Psalm 89:34)
Refrain from Gossip and backbiting. Many of us are prone to gossiping about others; to some it has become an important past time in their daily lives, they hunger for it. This includes back biting, carrying of tales, ridiculing and even making fun of others. This can be hurtful to the person being spoken about because when we do so, we do not realize the difference nor make the distinction between truth and falsehood of our assertions and accusations.
â€˜Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.â€™ (Qurâ€™an 104: 1). â€˜O you who believe avoid suspicion as much as possible; for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. (Qurâ€™an 49:12). And, â€˜those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafterâ€™.Â (Qurâ€™an 24:19). Bible â€œAÂ gossipÂ betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much. (Proverbs 20:19)
Enjoining good and forbidding wrong
We have been directed to enjoin good and guide people to what is right. Many of us see so many wrongs being committed yet we keep quiet and look the other way. We fail to differentiate between good and bad and as a result there is so much evil in this world. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to remind one another of our obligations to our Lord and Creator.
â€˜Evil and good are not alike, even though the plenty of evil attract thee. So be mindful of your duty to Allahâ€™ (Quran 5: 100). And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends, one of another; they enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency..â€™ (Quran 3: 100) These are but a few, among the many of the universal principles that we should attempt to live by â€“ but the greatest is that we should live a life that is in congruence with the ways of our Lord and Creator.
Continuing with the topic of ‘Change’: this refers to changes within our hearts, minds and soul; this will lead to changes in our daily conduct and in our lifestyle; this week the column focuses on honesty and truthfulness.
Honesty and truthfulness are the basis of all religious beliefs and also those universal principles which all societies, communities and people agree with but seldom do we practice it sincerely. Without honesty individuals and the society at large live in suspicion of one another resulting in mistrust and suspicion.
When friends, family, work colleagues and couples are not honest with each other, then we cannot create and develop a society that is in balance to that which Allah desires from us, then the life of those and others in the wider society will be somewhat in jeopardy.
This is why Islam and every other religious faith prohibit lying. Allah, Almighty says in the Qur’an, “Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies.” (Quran 40:28), the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) warned people about lying and its consequence in his statement, ‘Stick to truthfulness, for it leads one to righteousness, and it leads to Paradise.
Thus, when one sticks to truthfulness and practices it, Allah considers him as a truthful man. And avoid telling lies, for it leads to excessiveness, and this leads to Hell-Fire. Thus, when one persists in telling lies, Allah considers him as a liar’.
Unfortunately in the world of today there is so much misunderstanding that has led to chaos because of the untruths and false or misinformation that is being spread in our societies. This is spread via our international or local political leaders and even us as individuals at a local level.
Among the other major characteristics that make up the nature and conduct in the life of each and every one of us are truthfulness and honesty. They are the foundation stone that dictate our actions, interactions, behaviour and our daily conduct with and within society.
For honesty to be complete, it must exist in three things. It must exist in the heart as one’s faith, it must exist in the intentions behind one’s deeds, and it must be present in the words that one speaks. We become what we are by our thoughts, actions, deeds and the manner in which we conduct our lives.
Honesty goes even deeper because it should start in our Honesty with our Creator: it goes without saying that if we are not genuine and sincere in our relationship with Allah, it is unlikely that we will achieve any measure of sincerity in our worldly relationships. Sincerity in our relationship with the Almighty in our belief – where we recognise and accept that He is The Supreme Sovereign and the One and Only deserving to be worshipped also being mindful of the fact that Allah is ever watchful of what we say or do.
If we truly want to be honest in our relationship with Allah, we must become so sincere to Him that there remains in our hearts no other motive for what we do except to seek His pleasure. Sincerity in our relationship with Allah inculcates in us not only inner peace but further leads us towards wholeheartedness in worship, honesty in our motives and intentions. ‘O ye who believe, fear Allah and be among those who are true (in words and deeds) Quran 9:119.
Honesty in word and in our deeds: Let’s face it, all of us one time or the other lies about something, but not always with malicious intent – we tell what we think are harmless little lies. For example we were supposed to or promised to do something and we didn’t, we then cover up by making excuses like ‘we had a power failure’ or ‘the computer crashed’. We do so, knowing full well that the lies are just a cover for us when the reason was simply that we did not at the time feel like nor getting around to doing it.
Too often some of us use these small and trivial lies regularly and conveniently, but they can over time people may begin to take our words with a pinch of salt and consequently begin to lose their trust in us because of our petty lies. A person’s deeds are honest only when we practice what we believe in. Dishonesty in actions and in deed is more loathsome than dishonesty in word, for it is a phoney display of sincerity.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘There are three characteristics of a hypocrite: when he speaks he is false, whenever he makes a promise he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted (with something) he betrays that trust (proves to be dishonest).’
In the Holy Quran, Allah informs us that our honesty will bring us good even in this world: “And when a matter is resolved upon, it would be best for them if they were true to Allah.” (Quran 47:21) And of course, honesty will be of doubtless benefit to us in the Hereafter. Allah says: “This is the day that the honest people will benefit from their honesty.” (Quran 5: 119)
Honesty with fellow humans
Honesty with other people is important and we must be honest in our dealings and interaction with others. We should not behave deceptively and present a ‘false face’ to people. Instead, we must be genuine and straightforward with people as much as possible.
We must also be honest in what we say. This requires from us to be careful to establish the truth of the news or even conversation that we hear before we go ahead and pass it on to others. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “It is enough to make a person a liar that he tells others everything that he hears.”
We must be honest in giving advice to people and that there should be no hidden motive. We should be sincere in our advice and truly do our best to help people avoid misfortune and attain what is good for them.
We need to be even more honest with our spouses. We must be able to confide in them and speak freely to them about our concerns, our secrets, and our ambitions. A husband or wife is a life partner, a friend, a confidant. It goes without saying that the more openly a husband and wife are able to communicate with each other in an atmosphere of trust and confidence, the stronger their relationship will be.
A Final Thought: Think about it a mirror always shows you your actual image, it doesn’t hide your imperfections or ahem, ugliness. The mirror isn’t there to make us happy or sad by hiding or showing us otherwise. It simply reflects how we really look – now that is honesty and truthfulness.
As with all major religious teachings Islam has a code of behaviour and conduct for its followers based on values and qualities that can be classified under the broad term of a ‘human’ personality. For any believer the most important thing is faith – faith to believe in Allah, God, Modimo, Jehovah, Lord; or whatever you call Him.
We also believe in His Prophets and in the Divine Laws and Injunctions. To abide by them, one needs a certain degree of discipline and self-control; therefore the most important characteristic of a believer is that of having the inner discipline to follow the injunctions.
Islam is not only a mere set of beliefs nor a religion in the commonly understood sense, but a complete system and a way of life that does not separate religious duties (prayer, fasting and other such acts of worship) from the ‘secular’ life – in other words it does not split or compartmentalise one’s life by applying different criteria and rules to different parts in the conduct of our daily lives.
The guide for my life’s conduct or for that matter any other Muslim is, first, the Holy Quran, second, the Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) teachings and practices) and the Hadith which relates to what he said. I intend (Allah Willing) to devote the next few columns to explain and elaborate further on the manner of how a Muslim is expected to live, behave and interact with others in the conduct of his everyday life.
Now that the month of fasting (Ramadan) is over, going forward, we need to reflect on what we have learnt from this Blessed month and how are we going to infuse into our lives what we gained from this Holy month. This should be a stepping stone to lead a life of piety and free from sins. Over the next few weeks this column will ‘highlight’ those changes that we should be instilling and implanting into our daily lives.
Fasting is a practice common to many religions – Islam has prescribed obligatory fasting in the form of a month-long period of abstinence accompanied by intensive devotional activity. The fasting involves the total abstinence from all food, drink and marital relations throughout the daylight hours; not even water may be taken, and no don’t even think about smoking either! The fast is broken at sunset each day and resumed the next day before the sun rises.
‘O ye who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may learn self-restraint’ Quran 2:183. It goes without saying that the fasting is test of discipline and one that trains a Muslim in self-control.
Fasting makes a Muslim disciplined, steadfast and resilient and this also trains him to be flexible and adaptable in his habits, thus capable of enduring hardship. Fasting does not necessarily mean abstinence from food and drink alone, but from all the major vices and sins. For example he must refrain from quarrelling, speaking lies, slandering and other such deeds.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘Allah has no need for him to go without food or drink who cannot shun evil and falsehood even during a fast’ and also ‘Many are there among you who fast and yet gain nothing from it except thirst and hunger’.
This discipline is the distinguishing feature and is the defining line between belief and unbelief. Whereas a true believer will try his utmost to obey and follow those Commands, the unbeliever will live by his own dictates and desires.
Discipline / self-control are what the month of Ramadan has taught us. Discipline is the ability to exercise restraint and control of one’s emotions, actions or thoughts, and at times the will to follow what is right rather than follow what may be considered to be the ‘fashionable’ thing to do. Discipline is not something we are born with but it is the one personality trait that needs to be nurtured and developed within ourselves.
It comes from our own inner belief and conviction that says to us that there are certain standards of behaviour and action that we abide by and conform to. To abide by our religious beliefs, one needs a certain degree of discipline and self-control to suppress our humanly urges and to follow the straight path, but importantly it must be a lesson that teaches us not to take the bounties of Allah for granted and to be ever thankful for them.
Discipline plays a major role in the life of a Muslim. For example, Muslims have to offer compulsory five times daily prayers (Namaaz) that are interspaced at specified times throughout the day – starting with the pre-dawn prayer and ending with the evening prayer at about 8 pm. Prior to offering these prayers we have to be in a state of purity by undergoing the necessary ablutions (wudhu) without which we will not be able to offer prayers.
‘Be steadfast in prayer and regular charity’ Quran 2:110. ‘Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong…..’ Quran 31: 17
This is a form of discipline which teaches us that even in the conduct of our daily lives there is a time for our normal daily activities but there is also a time for our Creator, Allah. Believers will where possible drop everything they are doing to answer the call to prayer. If they are able to they will join the congregation at the Mosque, otherwise they will offer their prayers individually at a suitable location. These five times daily prayers are where the true test of discipline comes in because, we have to place our obligations to Allah before the routine of our own daily lives.
If I recall the Bible also echoes the same message when it says ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God’. It is in the same religious spirit that Muslims will interrupt their daily routines to give to Allah the worship that belongs to Him.
Whilst fasting may appear difficult to some, in practice it is generally tolerable and is relatively easy for many people, the benefits are that it brings about a feeling of intense spirituality. Some of my non-Muslim friends are at times taken aback at what they see as ‘impossible and very difficult’ obligations of Islam, but to a practicing Muslim these come as second nature.
The daily prayers and the month long fasting are part and parcel of some of the building blocks that nurture and build that discipline within the character of a Muslim. The world has many temptations and these desires come in different guises on a daily basis; yet despite us claiming to be God fearing, how many of us easily fall into the trap of lying, cheating, stealing, being unfaithful – in word deed, action and even to our partners, adultery, envy, and all the daily temptations/ challenges that come our way? ‘….true but you led yourself into temptation….your false desires deceived you’ Quran 57:14
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.