By Abul A`la Mawdudi
Islam stands for human welfare and its avowed objective is to establish balance in life. That is why the Shari`ah clearly declares that your own self also has certain rights upon you. A fundamental principle of it is: “there are rights upon you of your own person.”
The Shari`ah forbids the use of all those things which are injurious to man’s physical, mental or moral existence. It forbids the consumption of blood, intoxicating drugs, flesh of the pig, beasts of prey, poisonous and unclean animals and carcasses; for all these have undesirable effects on the physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual life of man.
While forbidding these things, Islam enjoins man to use all clean, healthy and useful things and asks him not to deprive his body of clean food, for man’s body, too, has a right on him. The law of Islam forbids nudity and orders man to wear decent and dignified dress. It exhorts him to work for a living and strongly disapproves of him remaining idle and jobless. The spirit of the Shari`ah is that man should use for his comfort and welfare the powers God has bestowed on him and the resources that He has spread on the earth and in the heavens.
Islam does not believe in the suppression of sexual desire; it enjoins man to control and regulate it and seek its fulfillment in marriage. It forbids him to resort to self-persecution and total self-denial and permits him, indeed, bids him, to enjoy the rightful comforts and pleasures of life and remain pious and steadfast in the midst of life and its problems.
To seek spiritual elevation, moral purity, nearness to God and salvation in the life to come, it is not necessary to abandon this world. Instead, the trial of man lies in this world and he should remain in its midst and follow the way of Allah in it. The road to success lies in following the Divine Law in the midst of life’s complexities, not outside it. Islam forbids suicide and impresses on man that life belongs to God. It is a trust which God has bestowed for a certain period of time so that you may make the best use of it — it is not meant to be harmed or destroyed in a frivolous way.
This is how Islam instills in the mind of man that his own person, his own self, possesses certain rights and it is his obligation to discharge them as best he can, in the ways that have been suggested by the Shari`ah. This is how he can be true to his own self.
On the one hand, the Shari`ah has enjoined man to fulfill his personal rights and be just to his own self, and on the other, it has asked him to seek their fulfillment in such a way that the rights of other people are not violated. The Shari`ah has tried to strike a balance between the rights of man and the rights of society so that no conflict arises and there is co-operation in establishing the law of God.
Islam has strictly forbidden the telling of a lie in any shape or form, for lies sully the liar, harm other people and become a source of menace to society. It has totally forbidden theft, bribery, forgery, cheating, the levying of interest and usury, for whatever man gains by these means is obtained by causing loss and injury to others. Back-biting, tale-telling and slander have been forbidden. Gambling, lottery, speculation and all games of chance have been prohibited, for in all of them one person gains at the expense of thousands of losers.
All these forms of exploitative commerce have been prohibited in which one party alone is to be the loser. Monopoly, hoarding, black-marketing, holding of land from cultivation and all other forms of individual and social aggrandizement have been prohibited. Murder, blood spilling and spreading of mischief, disorder and destruction have been made crimes, for no-one has a right to take away the life or property of other people merely for his personal gain or gratification.
Adultery, fornication and unnatural sexual indulgence have been strictly prohibited for they not only vitiate the morality and impair the health of the perpetrator but also spread corruption and immorality in society, cause venereal disease, damage both public health and the morals of the coming generations, upset relations between man and man and split the very fabric of the cultural and social structure of the community. Islam seeks to eliminate, root and branch, such crimes.
All these limitations and restrictions have been imposed by the law of Islam to prevent a man encroaching on the rights of others. Islam does not want a man to become so selfish and self-centered that for the attainment of a few desires of the mind and body he unashamedly assails the rights of others and violates morality. Thus, the law of Islam regulates life that the welfare of one and all may be achieved. But for the attainment of human welfare and cultural advancement, negative restrictions alone are not sufficient. In a peaceful and prosperous society people should not only not violate the rights of others and injure their interests but should positively co-operate with each other and establish mutual relations and social institutions that contribute towards the welfare of all and the establishment of an ideal human society.
Source: Excerpted from the author’s Towards Understanding Islam, translated and edited by Khurshid Ahmad and published by Islamic Foundation, 2004.