Islamic Concepts and Beliefs

The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam – Part 4

Translated from Urdu by Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan

Natural States of Man

We shall now proceed to set forth the first of the three reforms inculcated by the Holy Qur’an and which are related to the natural state of man. This reform relates to what are known as good manners, that is to say, the code that regulates the natural conditions of barbarians; like eating, drinking, marriage, etc., and elevates them to an acceptable standard of social values, and rescues them from an animal existence. In this context the Holy Qur’an ordains:

That is, forbidden to you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your fathers’ sisters, and your mothers’ sisters, and the  daughters of your brothers, and the daughters of your sisters, and your foster-mothers and your foster-sisters, and the mothers of your wives and your step-daughters by your wives with whom you have consorted, but if you have consorted not with them, it shall be no sin upon you, and the wives of your sons, from your loins. You are also forbidden to join two sisters together in marriage; but what has passed has passed. [Ch.4:V.24]

It is not lawful for you to inherit from women against their will.  [Ch.4:V.20]

It is not lawful for you to marry women whom your fathers had married, except that which happened in the past. [Ch.4:V.23]

Lawful for you are chaste believing women and chaste women from among those who were given the Book before you, when you give them their dowers, contracting valid marriages, not committing fornication, nor taking secret paramours. [Ch.5:V.6]

In the time of ignorance some of the Arabs who were childless permitted their wives to consort with someone else for the purpose of having a child. The Holy Qur’an forbade this practice. The expression taking secret paramours has reference to this practice. Then it is said:

Destroy not yourselves [Ch.4:V.30]; and slay not your progeny. [Ch.6:V.152]

Do not enter houses, other than your own, freely like barbarians, until you have obtained leave, and when you have obtained leave and enter, greet the inmates with the salutation of peace. [Ch.24:V.28] If you find no one therein, then enter not until leave is given to you. If you are told by the inmates to go back then go back. [Ch.24:V.29]

Do not enter houses by scaling over their walls; enter them through the doors. [Ch.2:V.190]

When you are greeted with a salutation greet with a better salutation. [Ch.4:V.87]

Liquor, gambling, idols and divining arrows are but abominations and Satanic devices. So turn wholly away from each one of them. [Ch.5:V.91]

Forbidden to you is the flesh of a dead animal, and blood, and the flesh of swine; and that on which the name of someone other than Allah is invoked and the flesh of an animal that has been strangled or is beaten to death or is killed by a fall, or is gored to death, and of which a wild animal has eaten and that which has been slaughtered at an altar, for they are all carrion. [Ch.5:V.4] If they ask thee what is lawful for them, tell them: All good things are lawful for you. Refrain from that which is carrion or resembles carrion or is unclean. [Ch.5:V.5]

When you are asked to make room for others in your assemblies then hasten to make room so that others might be seated; and when you are asked to rise up, then rise up without delay. [Ch.58:V.12] Eat of all that is lawful and wholesome like meat, vegetables and pulses etc. but do not be immoderate in any respect. [Ch.7:V.32] Do not talk at random and talk to the point. [Ch.33:V.71]

Keep your raiment clean and your bodies and your streets and the places where you sit. Take frequent baths and cultivate the habit of keeping your homes neat and tidy. [Ch.74:Vs.5-6]

Moderate your voice and speak not with a loud voice nor whisper and, except when needed otherwise, walk at a moderate pace, neither too fast nor too slow. [Ch.31:V.20]

When you go on a journey, make all preparation and take necessary provisions so as to avoid having to beg. [Ch.2:V.198] When you consort with your spouses, purify yourselves by bathing. [Ch. 5:V.7]

When you eat give out of your food to him who asks and also to dogs and other animals and birds.

There is no harm in your marrying orphan girls who are under your care, but if you apprehend that you may not be fair in dealing with them because they are orphans, then marry women who have parents and relations to be watchful of them, who would respect you and concerning whom you would be careful. You may marry two or three or four of them provided you can deal equitably with all of them. But if you feel that you may not deal justly between them then marry only one, even if you should feel the need of more than one. The limit of four is imposed lest you should be inclined towards marrying a larger number amounting to hundreds according to your old custom and so that you should not incline towards illicit indulgence. [Ch.4:V.4] Hand over to your wives their dowers freely. [Ch.4:V.5]

This is the first reform of the Holy Qur’an whereby man is raised from his natural state and barbaric ways to the status of a civilised social being. In these teachings there is no mention of the higher moral qualities. They are concerned only with elementary human behaviour. This teaching was needed because the people for whose reform the Holy Prophet(saw), was sent, were in an extreme state of barbarity and it was necessary that they should be taught the elementary rules of social behaviour.

Why is the Flesh of Swine Prohibited?

One matter to be kept in mind in this context is that in the very name of this animal, God has indicated the reason for the prohibition of its flesh. The Arabic word for swine is Khinzir, which is a compound of Khanz and Ara, meaning: I see it very foul. Thus, the very name that God Almighty initially gave to this animal, points to its uncleanness. It is a curious coincidence that in Hindi this animal is called Su’ar, which is a compound of Su’ and Ara. This also means: I see it very foul. It should not be a matter of surprise that the Arabic word Su’ should have found its way into Hindi. We have established in our book Minanur-Rahman, that Arabic is the mother of all languages and that many Arabic words are to be found in all languages. Thus Su’ is an Arabic word, and its equivalent in Hindi is bad. This animal is also called bad/foul in Hindi. There is no doubt that at the time when Arabic was the universal language, this animal was known in this country [India] by an Arabic name which was synonymous with Khinzir, and so it has continued to this day. It is possible that in Sanskrit this word might have undergone some transformation, but the true word is Khinzir, which proclaims its own meaning. It is not necessary to enter into a detailed exposition of the foulness of this animal. Everyone knows that it eats filth and is utterly shameless. Thus, the reason for the prohibition of its flesh is obvious, as by the laws of nature its flesh would have a foul effect on the body and the soul of one who eats it. As we have already demonstrated, food affects a person’s soul, and there can be no doubt that the flesh of such a foul animal would also be foul. Even in pre-Islamic times, Greek physicians had opined that the flesh of this animal particularly damaged the faculty of modesty and fostered shamelessness. The eating of carrion is also prohibited in Islamic law for the same reason; that is to say, it affects the moral qualities adversely, and is also harmful to physical health. The blood of an animal that is strangled or is beaten to death, remains inside the body of the dead animal, and hence they are all carrion. It is obvious that the blood of such an animal is soon corrupted and corrupts the whole flesh. It is verified by recent research that the germs in such blood spread a poisonous corruption in the flesh of the dead animal.

Moral Condition of Man

The second part of Qur’anic reform is that it regulates the natural conditions in such a manner, as to convert them into high moral qualities. This is a vast subject. If we were to set it forth in detail, this paper would become so lengthy that not one tenth of it could be read out in the allotted time! We must, therefore, confine ourselves to the exposition of a few moral qualities by way of illustration.

Moral qualities fall under two heads/categories. First, those moral qualities that enable a person to discard evil; and, secondly, those moral qualities that enable him to do good. Discarding evil comprehends those qualities through which a person tries that he should do no harm to the property, honour or life of a fellow being, by his tongue, hands, eyes or by any other organ, nor should he design to do such harm. The doing of good comprehends all those moral qualities whereby a person tries to benefit a fellow being in respect of his property or honour, by his tongue or his hand or his knowledge, or by any other means, or determines to make manifest his glory or honour, or overlooks a wrong that had been done to himself, and thus benefits the perpetrator of the wrong by sparing him physical pain or financial imposition, or inflicts such chastisement upon him in respect of the wrong, which is in reality a mercy for the wrongdoer.

Moral Qualities Related to the Discarding of Evil

The moral qualities that the true Creator has appointed for the discarding of evil are known by four names in Arabic, which has a specific name for all human concepts, behaviours and morals. The first of these moral qualities is called Ihsan, that is to say, chastity. This expression connotes the virtue that is related to the faculty of procreation of men and women. Those men and women would be called chaste who refrain altogether from illicit sex and all approaches to it, the consequence of which is disgrace and humiliation for both parties in this world, and chastisement in the hereafter, and dishonour and grave harm for those related to them. For instance, if a person is guilty of an approach towards the wife of another which, though it does not proceed as far as adultery, yet amounts to its preliminaries, it would become incumbent upon the self-respecting husband of the woman to divorce her, on account of her willingness to tolerate such an approach. Her children would also be sadly afflicted. The husband would have to endure all this injury on account of the misconduct of a villain.

It should be remembered that the moral quality of chastity would come into play when a person who possesses the capacity for the compassing of this particular vice, restrains himself from indulging in it. If he does not possess that capacity, because he is a minor or is impotent or is a eunuch or has arrived at extreme old age, we cannot give him credit for the moral quality of chastity. He has a natural condition of chastity but, as we have repeatedly pointed out, natural conditions cannot be described as moral qualities. They become moral qualities when they are exercised or become capable of being exercised on their proper occasions, under the control of reason.

Therefore, minors and the impotent and those who deprive themselves in some way of sexual capacity, cannot be given credit for this moral quality, though apparently they may be leading chaste lives. In all such cases their chastity is only a natural condition. As this vice and its preliminaries can be practised by both men and women, the Holy Book of God sets forth directions for both men and women in this context. It says:

That is, direct the believing men to restrain their eyes from looking at women outside the prohibited degrees so openly as to be sexually excited by them, and to cultivate the habit of guarding their looks. And they should safeguard their private parts at all cost. Likewise, they should restrain their ears outside the prohibited degrees, that is they should not listen to the singing or beguiling voices of women outside the prohibited degrees, nor should they listen to descriptions of their beauty. This is a good way of preserving the purity of their looks and hearts. In the same way, direct believing women that they should restrain their eyes from looking at men outside the prohibited degrees and should safeguard their ears against listening to the voices of such men. That is they should not listen to the voices which sexually excite them. They should cover up their beauty and should not disclose it to anyone outside the prohibited degrees. They should draw their head-coverings across their bosoms and should thus cover up their heads and ears and temples. They should not strike their feet on the ground like dancers. These are directions following which one can safeguard against moral decline.

The second method is to turn to God Almighty and to supplicate Him to be safeguarded against stumbling and slipping. Another direction is: Approach not adultery. This means that one should avoid all occasions that might incite one’s mind in that direction, and should eschew all the paths that might lead to this vice. He who indulges in this vice carries his viciousness to the extreme. The way of adultery is an evil way, as it obstructs one’s progress towards the goal, and is extremely harmful to the achievement of the purpose of life. Those who find no means of marriage should keep themselves chaste through the adoption of other means; for instance, through fasting or dieting or exercise. [Ch.17:V.33]

People sometimes adopt celibacy or submit to castration and take up monasticism. God has not prescribed monasticism and that is why those who adopt it, prove unable to conform to its discipline. This is an indication that if celibacy and monasticism had been imposed by the Divine, everyone would have had to adopt this discipline, in which case the human race would have come to an end long ago. Also, if chastity had to be preserved through castration or any other such device, it would amount to criticism of the Divine, Who has bestowed this capacity upon man. Besides, merit depends upon restraining the exercise of a capacity on an improper occasion, through fear of God, and thus acquiring double benefit through its proper exercise. By destroying the capacity a person would deprive himself of both benefits. Merit depends upon the possession of the capacity and its proper regulation.  What merit would a person acquire who has lost that capacity and has become like a child? Does a child deserve merit because of his chastity? [Ch.24:V.34], [Ch.24:Vs.31-32]

Continues in the next edition…