Muslim's Manners and Duties *
By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi **
Surat Al-Israa' was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in Makkah after his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem. In verses 23–39 of this surah, Allah mentions some basic commitments of Muslims. Without fulfilling these commitments, no individual or group can succeed. Muslims have to live by these values and should invite humanity to these principles. These principles are not limited to one race, tribe, or group; they are universal in their scope and application. These are also called the hikmah or the teachings of wisdom. It is wise for everyone to follow them. If followed properly, they are capable of increasing the goodness and wisdom of all people. These principles are as follows:
1. To worship Allah alone
(Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him.) (Al-Israa' 17:23)
This means to recognize Allah as the ultimate reality and to recognize Allah as the Lord, to worship Him with all sincerity and to submit to Him in every aspect of life. A Muslim's life is nothing but total commitment to Allah. We are not only monotheists (people of tawheed) but we are also theocentric people. Allah is the center of our life and He is our total and ultimate concern.
2. To be respectful and kind to parents
(And (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not "Fie" unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little.) (Al-Israa' 17:23-24)
This is to acknowledge the compassion and kindness of parents, to be grateful to them, and to do one's utmost to reciprocate that love and compassion. Filial piety and devotion is the second most important commitment of Muslims. Respect and kindness to parents is not just a social duty for us; it is our religious duty and obligation.
3. To be good to relatives, to the poor, and to the travelers
(Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and the wayfarer.) (Al-Israa' 17:26)
This is to remember that we are interconnected in this world. Our responsibilities are not only towards ourselves and our immediate families, but also to other relatives and to the society at large. We are all in need of each other and we are all fellow travelers in this path of life. We must see what we can do for others. Muslims must live a socially responsible life. Social responsibility begins with the family and other relatives and it includes all those who are in need.
4. To be careful with money and not waste resources
(And squander not (thy wealth) in wantonness. Lo! the squanderers were ever brothers of the devils, and the devil was ever an ingrate to his Lord … And let not thy hand be chained (like a niggard's) to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou become blameworthy and destitute. Lo! thy Lord enlargeth the provision for whom He will, and straiteneth (it for whom He will). Lo, He was ever Knower, Seer of His slaves.) (Al-Israa' 17:26-27, 29-30)
One should be neither too tight with one's money nor too loose with it. Extravagance is not right, but also one should not become stingy and miserly. A Muslim is committed to the balanced life style. Money should be earned in halal (lawful) ways and it should be spent in the right manner. This principle can be applied to all resources that Allah has given us. Wise and conscientious use of resources is a very important commitment of Muslims.
5. To take good care of children
(Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is great sin.) (Al-Israa' 17:31)
As we recognize the rights of the parents, we should also recognize the rights of children. Our children are our future. We must see that we raise healthy, intelligent and morally responsible children. Our commitment should be to raise them in safe and healthy environment. We must protect their life as well as their sprit and mind, their morals and manners.
6. To steer clear of adultery and illicit relations
(And come not near unto fornication. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way.) (Al-Israa' 17:32)
Sexual perversions bring the greatest harm to individuals and societies. Observing the proper rules in this matter lead to health, happiness, and a good, moral society. Muslims are committed to pure, clean, and socially responsible lifestyle. Islam teaches that one should not come even close to adultery or fornication. This means proper dress codes for males and females, proper behavior in mixed societies, and proper control on social relations and entertainment.
7. To respect every life and not to kill anyone unless in the pursuit of justice
(And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden except for a just cause.) (Al-Israa' 17:33)
This means that one should recognize the sanctity of all life and should not do anything that may jeopardize life. One should avoid aggression and violence, because these things lead to murder. Every Muslim must be committed to peaceful ways. Conflicts should be resolved by dialogue and negotiations, not by killings and murders. However, justice must be maintained, because just punishment brings safety and protects life.
8. To take care of the orphans
(Come not nigh to the orphan's property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength;) (Al-Israa' 17:34)
Orphans and all those who are vulnerable must be taken care of. Their rights must be recognized and they should be protected from all harm. A Muslim must be deeply committed to the care of the young, poor, infirm, and handicapped. Kindness and compassion is the basic commitment of a Muslim. It includes everyone and includes the animals.
9. To fulfill promises and commitments
(And keep the covenant. Lo! of the covenant it will be asked.) (Al-Israa' 17:34)
Promises and contracts are an important part of human life and human civilization. When promises are not kept, people lose trust in each other and the whole society becomes weak. Muslims must be true to their words. Our commitment must be to speak the truth and to be honest and when we make a pledge we must do our best to fulfill our pledges.
10. To be honest in business dealings and not cheat in weight or measurement
(Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight: that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the end.) (Al-Israa' 17:35)
Honest business brings progress, success, and blessings. All business, whether commercial, social, or political must be done with a sense of justice and fairness. A Muslim is committed to fair dealing in every thing and with every one. Dealing with a Muslim means dealing with full confidence. A Muslim businessman should be the most truthful businessman. A Muslim worker should be the most honest worker. A Muslim in any profession should bring honor to that profession.
11. To do things with knowledge and not follow hearsay or act on half knowledge
(follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge. Lo! the hearing and the sight and the heart—of each of these it will be asked.) (Al-Israa' 17:36)
The information agencies, the media, have a great responsibility. A lot of injustice is done when misinformation is given or information is misused. Muslims should be committed to truth in information. They should promote truthful and honest reporting about everyone, including their enemies. A report coming from a Muslim source should be the most trustworthy report. In a similar way, Muslims should be extremely careful with their actions and reactions. They should not react against everyone without proper evidence.
12. To be humble and have no arrogance
(And walk not on the earth exultant. Lo! thou canst not rend the earth, nor canst thou stretch to the height of the mountains.) (Al-Israa' 17:37)
Moderation and balance is the best thing in one's behavior as well as in one's attitude toward others. A Muslim is a dignified person, but he or she is humble. A Muslim is not boastful, arrogant, or vainglorious. A Muslim thanks Allah for all His gifts. For everything, the ultimate praise is for Allah and the real glory belongs to Allah.
These are the basic commitments of Muslims as individuals and as people. These are the principles of wisdom and the universal values of Islam. When they are followed, they bring justice, peace, and happiness in this world and they will indeed bring success and salvation in the Hereafter. Let us all try to make these our real commitments.
* Excerpted, with some modifications, from: http://pakistanlink.com/religion.html
** Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi is President of the Fiqh Council of North America.
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