The external nature of humanity is addressed in detail within the Holy Qur'an. The Prophet Salla Allahu 'Alaihi Wassalaam also gives a Muslim plenty of guidance by myriad sayings and demonstrations throughout his life. Faith is work, so therefore every aspect of a Muslim's life is intertwined with his or her faith. Key concepts such as piety, justice, and generosity are common threads throughout.
There are many elements that go into the makeup of an individual. For simplicity, we can divide these elements into two areas: the internal and the external. Many psychologists and sociologists have determined that our actions, thoughts, desires, and feelings are developed through internal and external stimuli. The Holy Qur'an has laid a solid foundation for each individual:
He said: "Our Lord is He Who gave to each (created) thing its form and nature, and further, gave (it) guidance." [Ta-Ha, 20:50]
Our nature has been predetermined by ALLAH (swt) and we have been given guidance throughout history.
There are two main internal factors. These are the spirit and the intellect. One cannot thrive without the other, therefore both the spirit and intellect should be nourished. The spirit (which also consists of the soul, heart, and conscience) is what guides unconscious behavior. Islam has several mechanisms built in to guide the spirit. These include:
- Salaah (prayer)
- Zakaah (charity)
- Sawm (fasting)
- Hajj (the pilgrimage)
- Love for ALLAH (swt), his Messengers, and humanity
- Hope and trust in ALLAH (swt)
- Sacrifice and discipline
In addition to the mechanisms in place for nourishing the spirit, several vehicles are available to the Muslim for providing sustenance to the intellect. The Qur'an in and of itself is an intellectual challenge and Muslims must not accept their faith through blind imitation. Within its pages, we find specific challenges:
- Search for knowledge
- Acquire experience
- Practice patience
- Learn about one another
- Practice equality
- Identify injustices
- Be proactive
The Qur'an is specific about external factors that can influence a Muslim in negative ways. They range from clothing to diet and leave no room for interpretation. ALLAH (swt) does not accept faith through blind imitation, so these external factors must be confronted. Here is a sampling:
- clothing (24:30-31, 2:32-33)
- cleanliness (4:43, 5:7)
- purity (24:26, 24:30)
- amusements (2:219, 5:90-91)
- suspicions and rumors (49:12, 104:1)
- diet (7:157, 2:173, 5:4, 5:93-94, 7:31, 2:168, 2:172, 5:90-91)
The family structure is the single most important ingredient in civilized life. The family provides a secure, healthy, and encouraging environment for children and parents who extend out to neighbors, the neighborhood and the rest of society. In the Qur’an, we read that "We made of you a community justly balanced" (Al-Baqara, 2:143). Maintaining a family is part of this balance that Muslims strive for. Islam is a way of life – not just a religion. It is not a set of rules, dogma, or code. ALLAH (swt) has given meaning to all things and in all things is ALLAH (swt).
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect. Qur'an Ar-Rum [Ar-Rum, 30:21]
They [your wives] are your garments and ye are their garments (Al-Baqara, 2:187). The sentiment here is another beautiful example of the Wisdom within the Qur’an. Husband and wife are like garments – to protect and cover each other. The need for marriage in Islam is great. The Prophet (saw) once said,
when a man marries, he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half (narrated by Anas). Marriage is a religious duty and is the foundation of the family. There is no concept of celibacy in Islam in regards to piety; all who are able to marry should do so. This, according to scholars Hanifah, Hanbal and Malik. Imam Shaafi'i considers marriage to be preferable.
- A husband is responible for sheltering his wife
- A husband must provide clothing, food, and general care to his wife
- A mahr (dower or marriage gift) of some value must be provided
- Equity in all aspects
- Respect on all fronts and with all issues
- Always show kindness and consideration
- A wife must contribute to the success of the marriage
- A wife must be faithful, trustworthy, and honest
- All of her husband's possessions are in her trust
- A wife should be responsive
- Children, are a trust given to the parents. "Every one of you (people) is a shepherd. And every one is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them" (reported by both Bukhari and Muslim)
- Children are to be well-fed, well-groomed, properly dressed, and well-taken care of
- A child is to be given an education, religious training, and spiritual guidance.
- Parents must spend their welfare moderately
- Children also have the right to be treated equally in terms of gifts and inheritance as guided in the Holy Qur'an
- Children must respect and obey their parents
- Parents have the right to scold and rebuke
- Children must care for aging or sick parents
- Children must speak with kind words and with good behaviour to their parents
Key conceps within the Qur'an regarding Muslim social life include:
- Unity of manking
- Equality of mankind
- Differences of mankind
- Proactive contributions
- Providing for the family, the neighbor, and those that are poor
- Be especially kind to the orphan
- Uphold justice
- Fight for the common good
Remember that ALLAH (swt) tells us to stand together -- all together -- and not to be divided among each other (see Al-Imran, 3:103). He has brought together enemies and made them whole. He has given us law, order, and responsibilities so that by His grace, we can stay brethren and remain rightly guided. There is no place in Islam for racial, national, gender, or other forms of separation or prejudice. The diversity of human life is one ALLAH's (swt) many gifts to us
And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know. (Ar-Rum, 30:22). Righteousness, therefore is the only factor that divides people:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). [Al-Hujurat, 49:13]
Muslims, as good citizens and contributing members of society, are responsible for the growth and prosperity of the state. The state, in turn will provide protections, security, and in some cases infrastructure. This relationship is essential as one cannot survive without the other -- society will have no room to grow and flourish.
Business ethics are essential. Fair and equitable trade is not only a courtesy, but a mandate from ALLAH (swt) (see Ar-Rahman, 55:9). A person only owns what he or she works for. Concepts such as usury and interest are not allowed in an Islamic economic system (see Al-Baqara, 2:275). Those who deal in fraudulent ways are especially singled out in the Holy Qur'an:
Woe to those that deal in fraud,- Those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, But when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account? [Al-Mutaffifin, 82:1-6]
One must remember that wealth is not a symbol, but a test.
Islam is a complete way of life, a perfect system of checks and balances. One of the greatest things a Muslim can do to bolster political activity is to maintain a strong relationship with ALLAH (swt). Society, and its conduct, are the primary forces that drive domestic policy. Strong families, an educated youth, and equality throughout society will remove unneeded stresses from the political arena.
Muslims must remember that law has been given to each of us by God and God's law is perfect (see Al-Maidah, 47-50). To create new laws in contrast to those provided within the Holy Qur'an is punishable.
Verily this Qur'an doth guide to that which is most right (or stable), and giveth the Glad Tidings to the Believers who work deeds of righteousness, that they shall have a magnificent reward. [Al-Israa, 17: 9]
Sovereignty belongs to ALLAH and ALLAH (swt) alone. This is an important concept, especially in regards to absolute monarchs and dictators who rule with a claim greater than theirs as man. ALLAH (swt) has command of all things and nothing is greater (see Al-Mulk, 67:30). In addition to this, we are to judge our fellow man by appointing leaders (political, spiritual, societal) among the best while handing justice to those who break the law. But be warned,
...when ye judge between man and man, that ye judge with justice (Al-Ma'idah - 5:120).
O ye who believe! Obey God, and obey the Apostle, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Apostle, if ye do believe in God and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination. [An-Nisaa, 4:59]
An Islamic state must be ruled by an Islamic party, at the center of which should the the Holy Qur'an -- regarded as the only necessary constitution. This is to ensure that each Muslim is protected under the law handed down from ALLAH (swt) (see An-Noor, 24:55 for an example). It is the responsibility of the state to administer justice and provide security. It is the responsibility of each Muslim to also administer justice and provide security within the bounds of the state (see the Ayat below). Furthermore, the ummah must actively supervise and hold the government responsible for its actions.
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well- acquainted with all that ye do. [An-Nisaa, 4:135]
Muslims should deal gently with their family and neighbors in all matters regarding common affairs (Al-Imran, 3:159). These matters are to be handled through consultations with regard to the common good (Ash-Shu'ara, 26:38).