The moral system in Islam is vast, but it is well detailed in the texts of the Glorious Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Good manners in Islam occupy a prominent place and major importance. Good manners in Islam represent the essence and spirit of the message of Islam.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says:
“I was sent to perfect the noble qualities of character.” (Ahmad)
Allah (Glory be to Him) says about the manner of the Prophet (peace be upon him):
And indeed, you are of a great moral character. (Al-Qalam 68:4)
What are Good Ethics?
Ethics in Islam cover many aspects; keeping the promise is an original Islamic value, honesty in speech and telling the truth are also Islamic values. Returning a deposit to its owner is also a beautiful behavior. Good advice for everyone also has been regarded as a good behavior. Preferring others over yourself is also a good behavior. All those ethical values were exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions in their true sense.
Dealing with Good Manners: A Sort of worship
We find a lot of Muslims who did not learn Islam and its moral system differentiate between worship and ethical acts and good behavior. When people see a person attending or praying the five daily prayers, they think he is a good person and a devoted servant of Allah the Almighty. When you see a person absorbed in reciting the Glorious Qur’an or remembrance of Allah in a lonely place, you think he is a good person and a devoted servant of Allah the Almighty. And this is true, but the matter is the same when you see a person who deals with people with truth and kindness according to the ethical standard of Allah and His Messenger. When a person decorates himself with the manners and morals of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and follows the footsteps of the esteemed companions is also a true worshipper of Allah the Almighty and a perfect devotee of Him.
Therefore, you are required to worship Allah the Almighty with both types of worship, with the prayer, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimage, alongside the moral actions, good behavior, honesty in speech, avoidance of backbiting and gossip, keeping away from the theft, deception and lying, etc.
A Muslim as a Mirror of Good Manners
It is noteworthy, dear brother, when you behave badly with your non-Muslim friends or cheat any of them, you represent Islam to them in a bad way and people think that Islam tells you to do so and they become haters of Islam because of your behavior. Thus, you deserve two punishments; one for your bad manner, and another for alienating people from Islam and its excellent message, as you kept them away from studying Islam by your bad representation of the Islamic message.
Likewise, when you treat people with a good manner you deserve two rewards; one for your good ethic and another for your good representation of Islam. Thus, you have represented the Islamic message in a positive way, and encouraged people to study Islam, a great religion that has such beautiful and sublime principles. So, respected brother and sister, be always careful about your manner, and be eager to implement the Islamic ethical manners in a perfect way, especially, when you deal with non-Muslims.
Good Manners: An Important Factor and Key Element in the Spread of Islam
Islam spread across the most parts of the world since the first moment of its advent through the good morals and fine behaviors of its preachers and lovers. This is because the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught his companions fine ethics, good morals, honesty and sincerity in every case. When those companions traveled to the different parts of the world carried with them the ligth of faith and guidance to every part of the world.
Therefore, dear brothers, every one of you is an ambassador of the Islamic message in your surrounding area, or any country a Muslim travels to.
In fact, the Indian sub-continent was invaded by the morals of the Muslim traders to India. The people of India were attracted to Islam by the sublime and tolerant Islamic beliefs before anything else. The Islamic ethics system is not a purely theoretical system; rather, it is a practical and applied system. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the first generation of Muslim nation were mirrors and practical examples of the Islamic moral values.
Manner of the Prophet with a Bedouin: A Role Mode
Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) showed kindness and mercy even to those who made some serious mistakes. When he dealt with them with wisdom and good manner, they embraced Islam for being influenced by his sublime manner.
Anas Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Whilst we were in the Mosque with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the Mosque. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ and were about to attack him. But the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘Do not interrupt him; leave him alone.’ So they left him until he had finished urinating, then the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) called him and said to him, ‘In these Mosques it is not right to do anything like urinating or defecating; they are only for remembering Allah, praying and reading the Qur’an,’ or words to that effect. Then he commanded a man who was there to bring a bucket of water and throw it over the (urine), and he did so.” (Al-Bukhari)
How sublime was his manner! How lofty was his behavior! How merciful was his nature!
The Essence of Basic Worships in Islam
The basic acts of worship in Islam, such as praying, fasting, Hajj, Zakah are in their essences a practical training on good manners and good ethics. Allah the Almighty says about the prayer:
And establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing. (Al-`Ankabut 26:45)
This blessed verse says that the prayer is intended to keep you away from vice and evil acts.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) says about fasting:
“Whosoever does not leave bad words and bad actions, Allah does not care if he leaves his food and drink.” (Ahmad)
Fasting is not just about avoiding food and drink. Fasting is to learn how to avoid bad words and bad deeds. In fact, the fasting improves your moral consciousness and ethical awareness.
As for the Hajj (pilgrimage), Allah the Almighty says:
So whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj… (Al-Baqarah 2:197)
It is clear from the verse that a pilgrim should avoid harsh language, quarreling with the people and disobedience of Allah the Almighty and other immoral acts.
Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
Take, [O, Muhammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase. (At-Tawbah 9:103)
This verse indicates that charity and almsgiving purify you from avarice, greed and cruelty to the poor and the helpless and many other vices and psychological diseases and defects. Thus, charity raises the moral and ethical awareness in a practical way and the giver enjoys blessings and happiness in this world and the Hereafter.
Good Manners: Part of Faith
It has become clear that the manifestations of the basic acts of worship in Islam have educational aspect and ethical dimension. And this reveals the importance of ethics in Islam, and not only that, but good manners are a part of the faith itself; if you are perfect in morality, you are perfect in the faith but if you are imperfect in ethics you are imperfect in your faith.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) says: “The most perfect of the believers in faith is the one who is best in attitude.” (At-Tirmidhi).
Difference between the System of Ethics in Islam and Hinduism
Here the question is: what is unique in the system of ethics in Islam? The question is objective, this is true, but we say every religion in the world has moral dimensions, however, if we want to know the details of ethics and its practical application in a preserved method without any addition or subtraction, we cannot find that in any religion. For example, if we want to take Krishna, the holy figure to Hindus, we lose the way to the truth. The myths make him a sort of fiction and novel instead of a real person. Also the chain of narration is broken and dark, and the biographies of those religious leaders are unknown, and the details are unavailable, and the system of morals is incomplete and distorted.
On the contrary, we find the system of ethics in Islam well-preserved, sound and complete; nothing of it is missing. Every aspect of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is written and detailed. Even if you want to know about his manner with his wives, the mothers of the believers, you can read them as fresh as they were written freshly and recently. If you want to verify you can refer to the Encyclopedia of Hadiths; such as Sahih Al-Bukhar and Muslim, etc. and take a quick look at the chapters and sub-chapters of them, you will verify what I said.
The system of ethics in Hinduism intends to maintain the greatness of Brahmins over other classes of people, and preserve their interests all the time. Any injustice by a Brahmin to outcasts is justified, if a Brahmin rapes untouchable woman there is nothing immoral in this act. You can read the evidences and proofs in our article “Hindu Caste System and Islam”
In Hinduism, what is appropriate is determined by the context in which the action is to be performed and who is performing it. Different people have different dharmas; one’s caste, one’s position in life (ashrama), one’s gender, all determine what is dharmic in a particular instance. The ethical and moral guidelines for a Kshatriya are different from those for a Brahmin, which are in turn different from those for a Shudra. This is sometimes called “svadharma,” or one’s own, personal dharma. The specifics of these guidelines are discussed in great detail in the Dharmashastras and their commentaries.(1)
The above-mentioned quotes clearly show that the moral value in Hinduism is not absolute but is relative, and not permanent or unchanging, but changeable depending on castes, circumstances and conditions. On the contrary, the moral value in Islam, is an absolute not relative, a constant not changeable or temporary. And this is a serious philosophical defect in the Hindu value system, how can you regard the act of theft as an immoral act for a specific individual and a moral act for another individual? This is an intellectual contradiction rejected by the mind, logic and wisdom.
Moreover, the system of moral values in Islam is a revelation from God who created mankind and others, and He knows His creation better than anyone else. However, the system of moral values in Hindu is a creation and innovation of some ancient Hindu ascetics and spiritual leaders. And it is a verified reality that human may make mistakes and may make the right decision.
One of the Hindu writers says:
“You must obey the laws or rules of conduct. The rules are given for you by the law-givers for your own betterment and spiritual uplift. The law-givers are great sages who had direct God-realisation.”
The moral life in Hinduism is seen as the union of the Atman with the Brahman. Hence, the virtuous man in Hinduism is a man who has recognized his true self (Atman) by breaking the barriers of what is illusionary (Maya).(2)
However, the system of ethics in Islam is not limited to the divine side or just fulfilling the ritual obligation, but Islamic morality includes all aspects of life such as man, universe and life. In Islam, a person cannot be perfect in his faith, unless he loves for his brother what he loves for himself, and every animal or bird that eats from your grain is a charity for you.
One of the critics of Hinduism says about the Hindu philosophy of ethics: “One of the things that trouble me about Hinduism is the lack of ethical discussion. Even the Bhagavad Gītā says little more than “do your duty”. Defining duty then seems to be left to custom.”(3)
“Hindu ethics is mainly subjective or personal and the objective ethics are based upon duty, related to a man’s position in the society.”(4)
Also the Hindu ethics system neglected the untouchables though they were originally the aborigines, with a very low mental development, who ate unclean food, lived by hunting, and were uncouth in appearance, manner, and conduct.” This was and is a result of defect in the ethical system.
Moreover, ahimsa or non-violence is a famous Hindu principle of ethical value, which has an international reputation, but when we try to examine this principle through a practical way we find a lot of contradiction. Is it logical to prevent the slaughter of animals? But at the same time, it allows the worst kinds of oppression on human beings, as the following report says.
“In 2007 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination quoted Indian government statistics to show there had been over 100,000 cases of violence, murder, or rape of untouchables in 2005.”(5)
(1)(http://www.patheos.com/Library/Hinduism/Ethics-Morality-Community/Principles-of-Moral-Thought-and-Action) (Last accessed on September 7, 2015)
(2) Eddie R. Babor, Ph.D., LL.B. REX Book Store, Inc. Ethics’ 2006 Ed. (the Philosophical Discipline of Action) p.118.
(3) (http://www.interfaith.org/community/threads/16999/) (Last accessed on September 2, 2015)