Morals and Faith in Islam: How Interlinked Are They?

Imperfect Faith 

Faith is such a power that it keeps men away from low attributes and mean acts, and encourages him to achieve high attributes and clean morals. That is why whenever Allah called his slaves towards virtue or whenever He wanted them to hate evil, He declared it as an essential requirement of the faith in their hearts. For example when He commands men to adopt righteousness and to speak truth, He addresses them as

O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with the truthful. (At-Tawbah 9:119)

Allah’s Messenger has nicely explained it that when faith is firm and belief is strong, then strong and lasting moral will be developed, and if the moral character is low then faith will accordingly be weak.

Weakness of Morals & Lack of Faith

A man, who is immodest and ill-mannered and who adopts bad habits without caring for others, is like the person about whom the Prophet has said:

“Modesty and faith are twins. One who gives up one has to lose the other too.”

Once the Prophet passed by an Ansari who was scolding his brother about his immodesty. The Prophet advised him to let him go as modesty was a branch of faith.

A man who harasses his neighbor and makes him suffer any kind of damage is called cruel and stonehearted by the religion. In this connection the decision of the Prophet is:

“By God, he cannot be a believer; by God, he cannot be a believer; by God, he cannot be a believer. He was asked: ‘who’, He answered: ‘He from whose misdeeds his neighbor is not safe’.“ (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet advises his companions to keep away from the talk that is trash, the acts that are wicked, and the deeds that are senseless. He says:

“A person who believes in Allah and the Hereafter should speak about good things or else should keep quiet.” (Al-Bukhari)

In this way through the truth of faith and by means of its perfection noble qualities are nurtured and developed and they are guarded and kept secure till they bear fruits.

Rows disrupted, hearts sad, prayers tasteless

However, you will also find such people, who will be calling themselves Muslims, yet they will be lazy in offering compulsory prayers, and will be posing in the public as if they are very keen on establishing these prayers. But they will not lag behind at the same time in acting in such a way that will be contrary to the demands of the noble character and perfect faith.

Such people have been warned by the Prophet and the Ummah has been asked to be careful of them.

A man who commits the mistake of performing the various forms of worship without understanding their significance can only be a man who had not understood the spirit of the worship or has been unable to rise to that standard.

Many times even a child can copy the movements of salah and is able to repeat what is recited during the prayer.

Sometimes an actor also offers prayer with all humility and concentration and performs all the necessary rites.

But these kinds of movements do not benefit belief or meet the purpose. There is only one way of offering prayers in the best manner or performing other forms of worship that will never bring out wrong results, and that is: high moral character.

Any person who has this attribute in him, his prayer is useful. But one who is deprived of this attribute, his worshipping is useless.

It is narrated by Imam Ahmad:

“One person asked the Prophet: ‘0 Messenger of Allah a certain woman is very famous for her prayers, fasting and many charities, but she talks rudely with her neighbours. Tell me, what will be her fate ?’ He replied that

she would go to Hell. Then that person asked: ‘0 Messenger of Allah ! Another woman does not do much by way of prayers and fasting; gives pieces of cheese in charity and does not harm her neighbors.’ He replied: ‘She is of the Paradise.”

This reply gives an idea of the high value attached to good character. It also shows that charity is a collective prayer whose benefit reaches the society. For this reason there is no room for any reduction in them.

As salah and fasting are apparently individual forms of worship, a little relaxation-to a very little extent-is allowed in not making very elaborate arrangements about them.

The Prophet did not merely answer a casual question that explains the relationship between morality and the religion, shows its connection with the correct forms of worship, and forms the basis of reform and improvement in the world and salvation in the next world.

The problem of morality was much more important. It was necessary that he should have continually provided guidance to his followers. He should have persisted in giving good advice to them so that its importance takes root in the mind and heart and it becomes quite clear that faith, goodness and morality are all dependent on each other. They are connected with each other and none can separate them.

The Poor

One day the Prophet asked his dear companions whether they knew who was poor. They answered that ‘poor was one who had no dirham or dinar (money)’ He said: “In my Ummah, the poor is that man who would appear on the Day of the Judgment before Allah; he had offered prayer; he had paid Zakat ; he had observed fast; but he would have abused somebody, he would have falsely accused someone; he would have unauthorizedly taken someone else’s property; he would have murdered someone; would have hit some body. All his virtues would be given to his victims. If his virtues are finished before his wicked deeds are finished, then the errors and sins of the victims would be given to him and he would be thrown into the Hell.” (Muslim)

Such a man is really poor. His condition is like that trader who has goods worth one thousand rupees but he is a debtor for two thousand rupees. How can such a man be called rich?

A religious man who offers certain prayers or performs certain forms of worship, but even after that performs certain evil deeds, behaves rudely with the people. treats poor and helpless people cruelly, how then such a man will be called righteous?

The Prophet has explained by quoting an example. He said that the best moral character melts errors like water and bad morals spoil man’s record as vinegar spoils honey.

The Hypocrite

When wickedness is nourished in the self, and the loss caused by it has become manifest and the danger has increased, then that man has come out of his religion like a nude who has come out of his garments. At that time his claim of righteousness or faith would be false.

What will be the value of religiousness without good morality ! How is it possible that a man should belong to Allah and at the same he should be a victim of corruption ?

This relationship between faith and morality is clearly shown in the hadith of the holy Prophet :

“The man who has these three habits is a hypocrite even if be observes fast, offers prayers. performs `Umrah, and calls himself a Muslim: when he talks he speaks untruth, when he makes a promise he does not keep it, and when he is given something in trust, he commits dishonesty.” (Muslim)

In another hadith, he has said:

“There are three signs of a hypocrite: when he talks he speaks untruth, when he makes a promise he does not keep it, and when he makes a contract he deceives, although he may be offering prayers, observing fast and calling himself a Mus1im.”

He has also said:

“There are four habits, in whosoever they are sound, he will be a complete hypocrite. If anyone of these habits is found in a man, he will have one habit of disruption till he gives it up. when something is given to him in trust he commits dishonesty, when he talks he tells lies, when he makes a contract be deceives, and when be quarrels he starts abusing. (Al-Bukhari)


The article is excerpted from the book  “Muslim Character” , an American-English translation of Muhammad Al-Ghazali’s Khuluq Al-Muslim

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