Social Values in Islam
by Dr. Ishaq Y. Qutub
Every aspect of human relationship is governed by social values. In Islam all values affecting man are based upon the Qur'anic concept that each human being is endowed by the Almighty God with the highest potential for doing good to himself and to his society, and so he is capable of achieving the highest level of moral and spiritual development and that his personality must be respected. The Qur'an takes note of diversities of race, color, language, wealth etc., which serve their own useful purposes in the social scheme, and describes them as signs of Allah for those who hear and possess knowledge. The Qur'an states that Allah has divided mankind into tribes and nations for greater facility of intercourse. Neither membership in a tribe nor citizenship in a state confers any privilege nor are they source of honor. The true source of honor in the sight of Allah (God) is a righteous life. In his Farewell Address, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, "You are all brothers, and are all equal. None of you can claim any privilege or any superiority over any other." Islam has established a universal brotherhood. It is stressed that a true brotherhood can be established only by virtue of mankind s relationship with one another through Allah. Other factors e.g. common interests, common pursuits, common occupations may help to foster friendship and brotherhood. Islam considers the family as the basic unit of human society. The foundation of a family is laid through marriage. The relationship between husband, wife is children should be strong and ever- lasting. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) noted once, "The best among you is he who treats the members of his family best." In order to maintain harmony within the family, Islam looked down upon divorce and considered it as the most obnoxious in the sight of Allah but if the relationship between the husband and wife is no longer endurable, it can be resorted to divorce with the object to provide the opportunity for a better and decent life. Great stress is laid on the proper upbringing and training of children. Infanticide, which was a common practice during certain periods of human history, is prohibited. Special concern was given to proper upbringing of girls. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, "A person who is blessed with a daughter or daughters and makes no discrimination between them and his sons and brings them up with kindness and affection will be as close to paradise as my forefinger and middle ringer are to each other." While stressing kindness and affection toward children and uniformly treating all children tenderly, he did not approve of undue indulgence. The Qur'an lays great stress on kindness toward neighbors, and in the same way the treatment of the needy and the wayfarer. Orphans have been made the objects of particular care. Their proper upbringing and the due administration of their property must be ensured. Detailed directions are laid down with regard to the guardianship of minors. Another feature of Islam is that it aims at merging all sections of society into a single community so that all persons may feel them selves to be members of the same family. Islam encourages simple ways of life and to dispense with artificial ceremonial and superficial standards of living. Islam recognized that there must be diversity of all kinds in a healthy society, and that it is not only futile but also harmful to covet that in which others excel. Each must exercise his or her owns capacities and talents and strives to promote both individual and common good. Begging is prohibited except in me of extreme need. Various aspects of good manners are insisted upon. In Surah 3 1, Vs. 18 Allah says "Turn not thy face away from people in pride, nor walk in the earth haughtily; surely Allah loves not any arrogant boaster. Moderate thy pace when walking and soften thy voice when speaking". As for group activities Islam recognizes three types of public associations; first, those formed for the purpose of promoting the general welfare, in other words, charitable associations and the like. Second, the object of which is to promote the spread and propagation of knowledge and investigation and research into the sciences, arts, philosophies etc., third, those established for the purpose of peaceful settlement of disputes and for removing causes of friction, whether in domestic, national, political or international spheres, and thereby promoting peace among man- kind. When people are gathered together for a common purpose, they should behave in an orderly manner, and should not leave or disperse without permission. AU people should behave with dignity and particular attention must be paid to maintenance of order in public places. Persons using public places must take care that no undue inconvenience is occasioned to others using the same, nor should any person be exposed to risk or injury. The obligation is laid upon everyone to urge others toward good ness and to seek to restrain them from evil, but with kindness and affection. Spying, backbiting and undue suspicion must be avoided. It is a duty of every Muslim constantly to seek increase of knowledge. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) went so far as to add, "A word of wisdom is the lost property of a Muslim. He should seize it wherever he finds it." The Prophet (PBUH) was very insistent upon kindness towards animals. On one occasion he noticed a dove in anguish flying around agitatedly and discovered that somebody had caught its offspring. He was very annoyed and asked the person to restore the offspring to the mother immediately. Perhaps the most comprehensive directive within the domain of social values is: "Help one another in righteousness and virtue but help not one another in transgression." When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said on one occasion, "Help your brother whether oppressor or oppressed", he was asked "We understand what you mean by going to the help of a brother who is oppressed, but how shall we help a brother who is an oppressor?" The Prophet (PBUH) replied, "By restraining him from oppressing others." Regarding the moral and spiritual values, an essential element in the effort toward achievement of moral and spiritual excellence is the certainty that however low a person may have fallen, it is always possible for him to rise. Islam teaches that Allah has created mankind in accord with the nature designed by him. It is true that each person is subject to influences of heredity, upbringing, and environment, but these can, where necessary, be corrected or eliminated. Evil comes from outside and can be kept out or having entered, can be discarded. As for vice and virtue, Islam considers the lowest grade of vice that conduct which causes injury to others; for instance, all aggression against the person, property, interests or honor of fellow being. Most of these are crimes; the rest are civil wrongs and are punishable. All of them are moral offenses. As for virtue, there are three grades of virtues prescribed by Islam: The first (lowest) is described as equity or equitable dealing. This means to do good equal to the good one receives from others. Furthermore, it means that when one suffers a wrong, one should not impose or insist upon the imposition of a penalty in excess of the wrong suffered. The second is that of conscious beneficence, the doing of greater good in return for good and the doing of good without expectation of any return, and forgiveness of wrong if in the circumstances, may reasonably be expected that forgiveness would help the wrongdoer reform himself. The third is the instinctive beneficence that flows out from one as love and affection flow out toward one's kindred. Cultivation to having been acquired deliberately, -it would be the highest moral quality; it would manifest itself toward a wrongdoer not only in forgiveness, but also in benevolence. Social customs may constitute a hindrance in the way of moral development. In the scale of values, moral progress must be placed higher than conformity to social customs and habits, which have no value beyond the fact that they have been observed over a long period of time. Such customs become burdensome impositions and should be discarded. All avenues from which evil might should be watched and guarded. Islam inspires faith in vivid realization of the existence of a Beneficent Creator, without partners, associates or equals. Islam teaches that each human being can and should establish direct communion with Allah through faith, through acceptance of Divine Guidance and through righteous conduct. On the basis of man's relationship to his fellow beings through God, the Creator of all, it lays the foundations of a true universal brotherhood, excluding the privilege and discrimination based on color, race, nationality or an office, status or wealth. In short, Islam sets forth and places at man's disposal a most effective means of achieving the purpose of life. Of all Allah's numberless bounties bestowed upon mankind it is one of the greatest and most precious, and it is indispensable for the beneficent growth of man in the epoch now unfolding before him. The social values in the Islamic community ensure strong and lasting relationship and interaction of people based on equality, doing what is right, and give consideration to the rights and privileges of others. We can see that the social, moral and spiritual values propagated by Islam, the essence of which was observed during the rise and expansion in the early history of Islam is applicable to the present and future for all mankind.