Explaining Religious Morality
1. The Qur’an is true and under Allah’s protection
Everyone knows that the Qur’an is Islam’s holy book. However, it is, in reality, far more than that. The Qur’an is not just for Muslims, for Allah sent it to humanity and will hold all people responsible on the Day of Judgment for what they did with it. But most people remain generally ignorant about the Qur’an. Therefore all people need to know why the Qur’an was sent and every detail about the religion’s principles and adopt them in their lives. The Qur’an is the only source from which one can learn his responsibilities towards his Creator, Allah. On the Day of Judgment, Allah will hold all people responsible of the Qur’an. This is related in the Qur’an thus:
So hold fast to what has been revealed to you. You are on a straight path. It is certainly a reminder to you and to your people, and you will be questioned. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 43-44)
The Qur’an is the word of Allah that confirms His earlier revealed books and separates what is true from what is false. It is a unique guide for all believers, for no human can ever produce anything even remotely resembling it.
There have always been those who deny that the Qur’an is Allah’s word. One of their most familiar charges is that the Prophet (saas) wrote it and that they could write a similar book. Such attempts of people who make such perverted claims only to deny the supremacy of Allah and the Qur’an have always ended in frustration. Here are some verses that describe the truth and the incomparable nature of the Qur’an sent down from (the Presence of) Allah:
Say: “If both humanity and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could never produce anything like it, even if they backed each other up.” (Surat al-Isra’: 88)
This Qur’an could never have been devised by anyone besides Allah. Rather, it is a confirmation of what came before it and an elucidation of the Book that contains no doubt from the Lord of all the worlds. Do they say: “He has invented it”? Say: “Then produce a surah like it and call on anyone you can besides Allah, if you are telling the truth.” No, the fact is that they have denied something that their knowledge does not embrace and the meaning of which has not yet reached them. In the same way, those before them also denied the truth. See the final fate of those who do wrong! (Surah Yunus: 37-39)
The basic purpose of communication is to ensure that the other party accepts the Qur’an as his guide. Otherwise, there can be no faith or salvation. Abandoning all the principles and rules of the ignorant society, a person must take only the Qur’an as his guide and become a believer who pays meticulous attention in every command of Allah He states in the Qur’an.
To do this, a person must first have a good knowledge of the Qur’an and believe that it is Allah’s word. Thus, those who want to spread Islam must show clear proofs that the Qur’an is Allah’s revelation and that not even one syllable of it has been altered since it was first revealed. As the Qur’an states: “The Words of your Lord are perfect in truthfulness and justice. No one can change His Words. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing” (Surat al-An‘am: 115) and “It is We Who have sent down the Reminder and We Who will preserve it” (Surat al-Hijr: 9).
One of the most important proofs of the Qur’an’s protection is that it contains no inconsistencies or contradictions. For twenty-three years, none of the verses that were sent down on different occasions and under different conditions were inconsistent with another, either in the facts it related or the commands it contained:
Will they not ponder the Qur’an? If it had been from other than Allah, they would have found many inconsistencies in it. (Surat an-Nisa’: 82)
“Praise belongs to Allah, Who has sent down the Book to His servant and has put no crookedness in it.” (Surat al-Kahf: 1)
The response to those who believe something different is clear:
Do they say: “He has invented it”? Say: “Then produce a surah like it and call on anyone you can besides Allah, if you are telling the truth.” (Surah Yunus: 38)
The Qur’an is the book in which Allah revealed the true religion: Say: “If both humanity and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could never produce anything like it, even if they backed each other up.” (Surat al-Isra’: 88)
2. Living the Qur’an’s moral teachings at Every Moment
Do they then seek the judgment of the Time of Ignorance? Who could be better at giving judgment than Allah for people with certainty? (Surat al-Ma’ida: 50)
People will not please Allah or attain Paradise just by proclaiming their faith in the Qur’an; they must live their faith by making the Qur’an their guide and measure in all circumstances. In other words, if they know but do not practice, they fall into the following group: “The metaphor of those who were charged with the Torah but then have not upheld it, is that of a donkey loaded with weighty tomes…” (Surat al-Jumu‘a: 5). What matters is to think every subject in the light of the Qur’an, and to reject every measure and criterion of the ignorant society that are incompatible with the Qur’an.
If something is to be criticized or commended, it must be done only insofar as it violates or agrees with the Qur’an. Believers must decide and act according to the Qur’an’s guidance. Such a change in behavior does not happen overnight, for it takes time to learn what is required in the Qur’an and to live by them. Yet, what is important is to have the intention and be determined. What befalls to the person who communicate the Qur’an is to urge those who listen to him to embark upon this process of change and then try to help him by correcting him gently as he proceeds in his study of the Qur’an.
3. This world is a place of testing
When a person declares his or her intention to embrace Islam, he may consider himself becoming as members of the “People of Paradise.” But to proclaim one’s faith is only the first step in long period of training in the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, Allah describes believers as those who say, “Our Lord is Allah” and then go straight…” (Surah Fussilat: 30)
This true integrity will remain steady throughout all of the trials and frustrations that Allah will send to test their faith and bring them to maturity:
Do people imagine that they will be left to say: “We believe” and will not be tested? We tested those before them so that Allah would know the truthful and would know the liars. (Surat al-‘Ankabut: 2-3)
The basic purpose for creating this transient and imperfect world and the life we live in it is to test us. In fact, this world is no more than a temporary “waiting room”:
… He Who created death and life to test which of you is best in action. He is the Almighty, the Ever-Forgiving. (Surat al-Mulk: 2)
The body a person has is also granted for the very same purpose:
We created humanity from a mingled drop to test him, and We made him hearing and seeing. (Surat al-Insan: 2)
People are tested by different means, one of the most important of which is the difficulties that Allah creates and sends to people. This is related in the Qur’an as follows:
We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger, loss of wealth, life, and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast. (Surat al-Baqara: 155)
The Qur’an contains many examples of how the prophets and messengers, or their followers, were tested. The reactions they received from their families or those around them, the threats and pressures they met, as well as the mockery and slander to which they were exposed, and their errors are all tests. The attitude expected of believers when confronted with such difficulties is to say, “…beauty lies in showing steadfastness” (Surah Yusuf: 18) and to persevere, never suspecting Allah’s mercy and closeness for a moment and in the knowledge that all difficulties can be overcome with His help.
As well as difficulties, blessings are also sent to test man. With the blessings He grants, Allah tests a person’s maturity and his devotion to Him.
The goal here is to prove that the believer is unfettered by facile arrogance on arriving at a level of well-being (this is a core feature of an unbelieving society). When such people acquire fame or fortune, they often become spoiled and feel pride, treating other people arrogantly and cruelly. Their hearts harden, and they turn their backs on Allah.
However, blessings are given not to be spoiled by them but to give thanks for them. Aware of this, a believer only uses, in the words of the Qur’an, “the attractions of this world” to earn Allah’s approval. He does not make an effort to consume them. Nothing in his life has arisen by chance, and he is absolutely face to face with a situation by which he is tested. Someone aware of this fact is in possession of an important secret in the world. Due to this understanding, they will display the finest, the most honest, and the most rational behavior possible, all of which Allah will approve.
A person who comprehends that our Lord tests him in this short life also understands Islam’s one of main foundations. For this reason, a person who receives the message should, in the first place, be made aware of this. That is because if he has sincerely believed, he would in a short while meet various difficulties and be tested in whether he is sincere in his faith.
4. Religious morality is easy and accords with human nature
In ignorant societies, traditions, customs, false beliefs, and many other non-religious elements have been incorporated into Islam. As a result a crooked model that is difficult to practice has emerged. When the deliberate propaganda carried out by those who oppose the religion are added to this picture, a vast majority of people start to consider Islam as a religion that will put people into trouble. Yet this is a sheer deception, for Allah created humanity and as He states in the verse, “Does He Who created not then know? He is the All-Pervading, the All-Aware” (Surat al-Mulk: 14), He is the One Who knows best a person and his most intimate desires and needs. He created the religious morality in a most appropriate form. His purpose is not to make His servants miserable, but to enable them to know Him in the way most befitting their spirits, to serve Him, and to give them the joy of true salvation:
Strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has selected you and has not placed any constraint upon you in religion—the religion of your forefather Ibrahim. He named you Muslims before and also in this, so that the Messenger could be a witness against you and you could be witnesses against all humanity. So pray, give alms, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector—the Best Protector, the Best Helper. (Surat al-Hajj: 78)
In another verse, Allah says: “We did not send down the Qur’an to you to make you miserable, but only as a reminder for those who have fear [of and respect for Allah]” (Surah Ta Ha: 2-3). The purpose of Islam is to invite people to what is easy, give comfort, and bestow a life of well-being upon humanity. This comes from Allah’s mercy:
Allah desires to make things lighter for you. Man was created weak. (Surat an-Nisa’: 28)
This fact must absolutely be made very clear to the person who receives the message. This way, one of the pretexts one’s lower self employs to stay away from the morality of religion will be eliminated. When explaining how easy it is to live by the religious morality, the errors of the religious morality learned while one was ignorant of it must be exposed, and any myths thought to be part of Islam must be removed from the listener’s mind.
5. Religion liberates
The ignorant society thinks that religion is difficult, oppressive, and restrictive. According to this erroneous rationale, religion imposes certain restrictions upon people and thus limits their freedom. Those who consider themselves as liberals in this society distance themselves from religious morality as much as possible. They even engage in a fight against the religion.
But the truth is otherwise. Religion brings freedom, whereas the absence of religion brings oppression and slavery.
In order to understand this truth, one must understand human nature in its true sense. Allah makes the essence of this matter in the Qur’an and explains in the Surat ash-Shams that the spirit of human is of two sides:
By the Sun and its morning brightness, and the Moon when it follows it, and the day when it displays it, and the night when it conceals it, and the sky and what erected it, and Earth and what extended it, and the soul and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity or belief, he who purifies it has succeeded, [whereas] he who covers it up has failed. (Surat ash-Shams: 1-10)
These verses reveal that when Allah created human beings, He inspired each soul evil as well as how to avoid from it, that is good. Salvation from evil depends upon one’s choice to avoid evil. Otherwise he faces destruction. If a person does not accept the existence of evil in his lower self, he lacks the conscience to avoid from evil. In the words of the Qur’an, he “covers” that evil and nurtures it. Eventually that evil consumes him.
Acknowledgement of the existence of evil in the lower self and avoidance from it brings a person salvation. Freedom is precisely this salvation.
The main power that puts a person under pressure is the evil in his lower self. This pressure predominates any other known power. It smothers people in selfishness, makes them jealous, insecure, and worried about the future. But worst of all, this power overwhelms them with endless desires and passions and drives them to amass more possessions, more money and greater social status. However these desires are insatiable. The passion to become rich is strong; but, when it is satisfied, other passions follow, entrapping that person in a vicious cycle.
Salvation lies in being released from this cycle. Allah relates in the Qur’an:
...It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own souls who are successful. (Surat al-Hashr: 9)
People who are no longer enslaved to these passions become free. At this point, their purpose in life is no longer to satisfy these endless passions; rather, it is to please only Allah, the true purpose for humanity’s creation in the first place.
True freedom is being Allah’s servant and liberating from everything other than Allah. For this reason, Imran’s (as) wife prayed:
“…O my Lord, I have pledged to You what is in my womb, devoting it to Your service. Please accept my prayer. You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” (Surah Al ‘Imran: 35)
For the very same reason, Ibrahim (as) asked his father:
"… O father, why do you worship what can neither hear nor see and is not of any use to you at all?” (Surah Maryam: 42)
The prophets and messengers urged people to abandon their lower selves’ passions, to cease being slaves to other people, and to serve Allah alone. By saving themselves from these unnatural (in the sense of being against their inherent human nature) goals, they become free. Thus the Messenger is described in the Qur’an as the person “relieving them [the believers] of their heavy loads and the chains that were around them” (Surat al-A‘raf : 157).
That is why contrary to common belief of the ignorant society, Islam does not oppress people but actually liberates them. People who are not familiar with Islam must understand this Islamic definition of “freedom” so that their minds can be cleared of the myths and later accretions found in their society’s religion, all of which make them think that religion is oppressive.
Since Islam is liberating, the methods used to communicate it can by no means be oppressive:
There is no compulsion in religion. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false deities and believes in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara: 256)
So remind them [O Muhammad]. You are only a reminder. You are not in control of them. (Surat al-Ghashiyya: 21-22)
It should be made clear to the person in question that neither Islam nor the Muslims communicating the message will exert any pressure upon them, that this is contrary to the morality of the Qur’an and that this is a morality that does not please Allah. In this way, any concerns arising from ignorance and an obstacle in communicating the message are removed.