The Holy Quran: A code of conduct and a source of morality, etiquette and manners

Reem Shraiky, International Translation and Research Office, UK

The Holy Prophetsa stated:

“This Quran is the Banquet from Allah, so take as much as you can from His banquet. Indeed, this Quran is the Rope of Allah, and it is the clear Light and effective Healing. It is Protection for the one who clings to it and Rescue for the one who follows it. It is not crooked and it puts things straight. Its wonders do not cease. It does not wear out with repetition. So, recite it, for Allah will reward you for the recitation of every letter with a tenfold reward, I do not say that Alif-Laam-Meem is one letter, but alif is a letter, laam is a letter and meem is a letter.” (Al-Mustadrak)

The Holy Quran is a constitution for all areas of life, but I will focus especially on how the Holy Quran laid the foundation for ethics, etiquette, and good behaviour. 

It regulates mankind’s natural needs, such as marriage, eating, drinking, and socialising in a way that makes them civilised and moral. The Quranic laws are in perfect harmony with human nature, as they prohibit all that human nature rejects. 

Regarding marriage, the Holy Quran in chapter 4, verses 23-25, lists those women a man is forbidden to marry. Furthermore, Islam forbids adultery, but unlike the Biblical commandment, which says: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), the Quran says, “Come not near unto adultery” (Surah Bani Israel, Ch.17: V.33). By doing so, the Holy Quran not only prohibits the actual act of adultery but also seeks to close all avenues leading to it. In addition, as it is the eyes through which most evil thoughts enter the mind, the Holy Quran commands believing men and women to lower their gazes when they meet each other:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them […] And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts[…]” (Surah an-Nur, Ch.31: V.31)

It is true that the word فُروج (furuj) in this verse, which has been translated as “private parts”, means the part or parts of the body that are indecent for a person to expose, but it also means the avenues through which evil thoughts find access to the human heart and mind. It covers all parts and organs of the body, such as the eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, etc. Thus, believers should carefully guard all the avenues through which sin can find access to their minds.

What is particularly amazing is that the Holy Quran does not simply mention these avenues under the umbrella of this word (i.e., furuj) alone, but also gives other wonderful injunctions on how we should best carry ourselves: “walk not in the earth haughtily” (Surah Luqman, Ch.31: V.20) and, “walk thou at a moderate pace”. (Surah Luqman, Ch.31: V.20) It teaches us how to converse: “lower thy voice” (Surah Luqman, Ch.31: V.20 ), “say the right word” (Surah an-Nisa, Ch.4: V.10), and “speak to them words of kindness” (Surah an-Nisa, Ch.4: V.9) It further instructs, “speak to men kindly” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.84), “O ye who believe! let not one people deride [another people] […] nor call [one another] by nicknames’ (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch.49: V.12) Moreover, while exhorting Muslims about how they should treat their parents, Allah the Almighty states, “‘never say unto them any word expressive of disgust nor reproach them, but [always] address them with excellent speech.’” (Surah Bani Israel, Ch.17: V.24)

The Quran teaches us how to direct our gaze: “Stretch not thine eyes towards what We have bestowed on others” (Surah Taha, Ch.20: V.132)

It teaches us how our gatherings should be: “O ye who believe! avoid most of suspicions; for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And spy not, nor back-bite one another. […]” (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch.49: V.13) There is no doubt this means spying on people’s affairs and flaws, but the more pious a person becomes, the more he deepens his understanding of avoiding everything that could be snooping. Here, a story came to my mind mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi in his book al-Adhkia, he narrates:

“Yahya al-Marwazi said: One day, I was having food with Haroon al-Rashid, he then raised his head towards a servant and spoke to him in Persian, so I said to him: ‘O Commander of the Faithful! If you want to tell him something private, beware that I understand Persian.’ He became pleased with me and said: ‘I do not conceal any secret.’”

Allah the Almighty states:

“And follow not that of which thou hast no knowledge. Verily, the ear and the eye and the heart—all these shall be called to account” (Surah Bani Israel, Ch.17: V.37) 

The Holy Quran cut at the root all sources of suspicion, which are in sequence: “the ear”, “the eye” and “the heart”. The “ear” is the first avenue through which most suspicions enter one’s mind. Suspicions are mainly caused by baseless hearsay that one hears about another person. The second source is sight; a person sees another doing something, and he or she interprets it wrongly. The last source of suspicion is the fabrication of a diseased mind. 

This verse makes it clear we will be held accountable for having listened to anything we had no right to listen to, for having seen something we should not have seen, and for harbouring evil thoughts about others. Mere evidence from the ear, the eye or the heart is not sufficient to judge a person or form an unfavourable opinion about them. 

The Quran taught us how to spend: “And spend for the cause of Allah, and cast not yourselves into ruin with your own hands, and do good” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.196) And, “Keep not thy hand chained to thy neck, nor stretch it out an entire stretching, lest thou sit down blamed [or] exhausted” (Surah Bani Israel, Ch.17: V.30)

These verses teach us the right way to spend our money. One should not be so miserly as if their hands were tied to their neck, nor should one stretch forth their hands so openly that one wastes their wealth in such a way that when money is required for a genuine national need, they find themselves unable to contribute to it. 

Therefore, Muslims’ hands should be used only for good; it was also among the conditions of swearing allegiance to the Holy Prophetsa that the believers “will not steal”. (Surah al-Mumtahana, Ch.60: V.13)

The Holy Quran instructs that one should not enter others’ houses without first notifying the residents of one’s arrival by saluting them and seeking their permission, and without first determining whether they want to receive them or not: “O ye who believe! enter not houses other than your own until you have asked leave and saluted the inmates thereof. That is better for you, that you may be heedful.” (Surah an-Nur, Ch.24: V.28)

This injunction not only puts a stop to possible scandals but also serves to save people from being seen in conditions likely to give rise to suspicion. It also teaches us to respect the privacy of other people’s houses and offices.

In addition, the Quran sets forth the attributes that we have to attain to be among the righteous. It describes the God-fearing people as follows: “Those who spend in prosperity and adversity, and those who suppress anger and pardon men; and Allah loves those who do good;” (Sura Aal-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.135)

Thus, they are charitable and philanthropic. When they are offended, they not only restrain their anger and grant the offender a complete pardon, but they also do a suitable act of kindness to him and bestow some favour on him.

Hazrat Alira, the fourth caliph in Islam, delivered a sermon about the characteristics of the righteous known as ‘khutbah al-muttaqeen’ where he mentioned many qualities of a righteous person. For example, he said: 

“He (i.e. the righteous) has strength in religion, determination along with leniency, faith with conviction, eagerness in seeking knowledge in forbearance, moderation in riches, devotion in worship, gracefulness in starvation, endurance in hardship, desire for the lawful, pleasure in guidance and hatred of greed. 

“He performs virtuous deeds but still feels afraid. In the evening, he is anxious to offer thanks (to Allah). In the morning, his anxiety is to remember (Allah). His hopes are simple, his shortcomings are few, his heart fears (Allah), his spirit is content, his meal is small and simple, his religion is safe, his desires are dead and his anger is suppressed. Indecent speech is far from him, his words are lenient, his evils are non-existent, his virtues are always present, his good is ahead; and mischief has turned its face (from him). He is dignified during calamities, patient in distresses and thankful during ease.”

There is no doubt these qualities are found only in those who follow the Holy Quran wholeheartedly and the best example is the Holy Prophetsa whose character was the Quran, as his wife, Hazrat Aishara stated. In addition, she said, “Hewas a walking Quran”.

As we believe the Quran is valid for every time and era, this means the one who was a walking Quran, Muhammad al-Mustafasa, will remain a role model for us forever.

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