Moral behaviour is the bottom line or essential message of Islam. It has been narrated in a hadith of the Prophet (s):
Verily, I have been sent to perfect morals.
Allah also emphasized this in linking belief or Aqidah with action:
It is not piety that you turn your faces towards East or West - But truly pious is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, and the angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; and spend of his substance, out of love for Him, upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and those who ask, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is steadfast in prayer, and gives regular charity; and (truly pious are) they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and in times of peril. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. [Qur’an 2:177]
In another verse:
[Allah is well aware of] those who, when We establish them in the land, remain constant in prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, with Allah rests the end (decision) of (all) affairs . [Qur’an 22:41]
Morality is the sign and fruit of true belief. Belief without the resulting moral behaviour is worthless. The Prophet (s) portrayed this in his various sayings. He was asked: "What is the religion?" He replied: "The religion is morality." When asked, "What is woe (or affliction)?" he replied, "Real affliction is lack of morality."
On the Day of judgement, morality will be weighed more heavily than anything else. Those whose morals are weak and deeds are slight, will be judged accordingly. The Prophet (s), said:
Nothing that will be weighed on the Day of Judgement will weigh heavier than moral action. [Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi]
In Islamic teaching, morality is the core of worship. Without morality, worship is meaningless and is considered to be no more than worthless custom and self-serving habit. Allah, the Almighty, said concerning prayers (salah): "Verily, prayers restrain from shameful and unjust deeds." [Qur’an 29:45] The Prophet (s) said: A person who does not desist from bad and unjust deeds after offering prayers (salah), strays away from Allah. [Narrated by Tabrani]
Concerning fasting, the Prophet (s) said: None of you should utter foul words or go to his wife or argue on a day of fasting, and when somebody reproaches or attacks you, say to him: "I am fasting." [Bukhari and Muslim]
About Hajj, Allah, the Almighty, has said:
For Hajj are the months well-known. And whoever undertakes the pilgrimage in those [months] shall while on the pilgrimage, abstain from lewd speech, from all wicked conduct, and from wrangling; and whatever good you do, (be sure) Allah is aware of it. [Qur’an 2:197]
The Prophet (s) said:
Whoever performs hajj and abstains from evil words and unlawful acts will return like the day he was born. [Bukhari and Muslim]
The Moral behaviour of a Muslim should be guarded by the following characteristics:
Scrupulous Conscience (wara)
A Muslim not only must avoid prohibited deeds but must be careful to avoid even any doubtful matter. This characteristic is expressed by the Qur’anic word, wara’, which means both piety and caution. The Prophet (s) said: What is lawful is plain and what is unlawful is plain, and between the two are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus whoever avoids doubtful matters maintains clarity and assurance in practicing the religion and protecting his or her honor; but whoever falls into doubtful matters falls into the unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures his flock around a sanctuary, letting it graze almost but not quite inside. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased, and truly it is the heart. [Bukhari and Muslim]
The highest degree of wara’ is indicated in the saying of the Prophet (s): "One will never achieve the level of mutaqqin (Godfearing virtuous persons) until he avoids even what is not considered sinful because he is afraid of failing into the prohibited." [Tirmidhi]
Modesty, By Guarding One’s Eyes Against Lust
A Muslim should avoid looking at occasions of sin, such as at an improperly dressed woman, because such a sight tends to arise one’s desire and might lead to committing a sin. Allah, the Almighty, has said:
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze. [Qur’an 24:30]
The Prophet (s) said:
You should guard your sight and protect your dignity, or Allah will cover your face with humiliation. [Tabrani]
Wisdom By Guarding one’s Tongue Against Abuse
One should avoid unkind words, useless talk, slander, and detraction. Imam Nawawi said: "You should know that one should not talk except to say something beneficial. When one is undecided whether to speak or keep quiet, according to the sunnah it is better to keep quiet, since the allowable saying will probably lead to the unlawful or doubtful." Many ahadith of the Prophet (s) state that the tongue could lead to disaster and calamity. Some of these are given below.
The abuse of their tongues causes them to be thrown into the fire on their faces; the believer does not like to accuse, curse, and use foul language. [Tirmidhi]
Anybody who speaks a lot will have a lot of mistakes, and those who commit a lot of mistakes will have a lot of sins, and those who have a lot of sins will be in the Hellfire. [Baihaiqi]
A Muslim must always be modest, but this should not prevent a Muslim from telling the truth. Modesty prevents one from meddling in other people’s affairs and from raising one’s voice. Modesty produces infaq (the tendency to give rather than take in life) and contentment with what one has achieved after putting forth one’s best effort. The Prophet (s) said:
Faith (iman) consists of more than sixty or seventy branches, the greatest of these is the kalimah, "there is no god but Allah- and the lowest is removing an obstacle from the way; modesty is one of the branches. [Bukhari and Muslim]
A truly modest person would always avoid evil and be careful regarding the rights of other people.
A most important characteristic of a Muslim is fortitude, which is the strength to persevere in the good with kindness and patience. Good deeds are hated by most people, and teaching the truth is full of hardship, torture, oppression, blame, humiliation, and degradation. The dai’ or caller to Islam faces all of these obstacles, and because of them, some of these people retreat from their commitment of daw’ah and abandon their mission to preach the good news of Islam.
It is clear that the duty and responsibility of a dai’ are very challenging. They are responsible for bringing the message of Islam throughout the world so that all human beings can receive this message. In doing so, the caller has to encounter people of different backgrounds, the arrogant and knowledgeable, as well as the educated and the sensitive, the hard-hearted and the responsive. Therefore, the callers to Islam must communicate its message in a manner most fitting to win their hearts. They need a high degree of fortitude. Many verses of the Qur’an and ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) encourage Muslims to persevere in kindness and fortitude. Allah, the Almighty, has said:
But, indeed, if anyone shows patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs. [Qur’an 42:43]
So overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness. [Qur’an 15:85]
Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure. [Qur’an 39:10]
... forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? [Qur’an 24:22]
And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who...... when the ignorant address them, they say, "peace!" [Qur’an 25:63]
The Messenger of Allah (s) said:
Verily, whoever has a character of kindness will achieve the same level (of righteousness) as those who fast and engage in constant prayer.
Do you want me to tell you what will cause Allah to secure your future and advance your cause in heaven? They replied: "Truly, yes, O Messenger of Allah!" He said, "Behave politely to those who do not know you; forgive those who have oppressed you; give to those who have never given anything to you; and make brothers of those who have denied their brotherhood with you."
When all creatures are gathered on Day of judgement, a caller will announce: "Where are the privileged people?" The Prophet (s) said: "Then a group of people, consisting of a small number, will rise and go to Heaven." Then the angels will say to them: "What are your privileges?" They will answer, "During the past, when we were oppressed, we were patient; when something bad was done to us, we behaved kindly." Then the angels will say: "Enter Heaven and get the reward you deserve."
The following illustrate the Prophet’s demonstration of fortitude:
1) After the Battle of Hunain, a man said, "By Allah this division of war booty is unjust and not for the sake of Allah." When the Prophet heard this, he said, "May Allah be merciful to Prophet Moses. Indeed, he was tortured more than I am now, but he kept patience."
2) Anas narrated: "One day the Prophet (s) entered the mosque with clothes containing a piece of course cloth made in Najran. Then an Arab (bedouin) came from the back and yanked the cloth until a scratch was visible on the neck of the Prophet. Then the bedouin said: "O Muhammad, give me all the wealth of Allah that you have." The Prophet turned to him, smiled, and said: "Give him what he wants."
3) Abu Hurairah narrated: "A Bedouin came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Muhammad give me two camels loaded with goods. Verily such a gift won’t make a dent on either your or your father’s wealth." Then he approached the Prophet and yanked his cloth until a scratch was visible on his neck. The Prophet told his companions to give the bedouin a sack of flour and dates.
4) At-Tabarani narrated: "There was a woman who used to talk nonsense to men. one day, she passed by the Prophet while he was sitting on the ground eating bread and said, ‘Look, the Prophet is sitting and eating like a slave’."
5) Abu Hurairah narrated: "Aman said, ‘O Muhammad, I have relatives with whom I always try to keep good relations, but they break relations with me. I behave politely to them, but they behave badly to me. I behave kindly to them but they behave harshly to me,’ Then the Prophet said, ‘If this is true, it seems that you are too much for them, so Allah will help you with them if you continue such behaviour.’"
6) A Jew came to the Prophet asking for his debt and said: "You are from the tribe of Abd Manaf whose tribe likes to delay paying debts." When Umar heard this, he swore that he would cut off the Jew’s head. The Prophet said to him, "O, Umar, you should have told him to ask for his debt politely, and you should have asked me to pay him immediately."
7) It has been narrated that the Prophet Isa (s) always travelled from one place to another to spread his message with his disciples. He was constantly speaking good to his people but they replied with insults, jesting, and shouts. His companions were surprised to see this and asked him what was the cause. The Prophet Isa (s) replied, "Every person acts in accordance with what is in him."
All of these incidents prove the importance for the callers to Islam to behave kindly, patiently, and open-heartedly, especially in response to aggravation from relatives, friends, and loved ones. Such behaviour will generate love and can avoid divisions and argument. The caller to Islam need only act as Allah wants.
Honesty And Sincerity
A Muslim should be truthful, not dishonest, and speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Telling a lie is the worst kind of degraded behaviour and provides an opening to the devil. Such dishonesty and insincerity weaken the soul, depress the spirit and undermine the morality generally. Avoiding this behaviour will produce the characteristics of fortitude and endurance and will guard against self-doubt and the influence of the devil. The Prophet (s) said:
Verily truth will lead to goodness and goodness will lead to heaven. A person who develops a habit of honesty will be accepted by Allah as an honest person. But lying leads to evil, and evil leads to the Hellfire. A person who lies until dishonesty becomes habitual will be written off by Allah as a liar.
The Muslim should be humble, especially toward other Muslims. There is no difference between rich and poor. The Prophet (s) always prayed for protection from pride. Once he said: "No one will enter Paradise who has even a little bit of pride." [Muslim] In a qudsi hadith, Allah
says, "Pride is My attire, greatness is My robe, whoever competes with me in either of these will be cast into Hellfire."
Trust And Kindness
Every Muslim should avoid undue suspicion, slander, detraction, teasing, and fault-finding. Allah, the Almighty. has said:
O you who believe, avoid suspicion as much as possible, for suspicion in some cases is a sin, and spy not on each other nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay you would abhor it. But fear Allah, for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful. [Qur’an 49:12]
And those who undeservedly annoy believing men and women are guilty of calumny and a glaring sin. [Qur’an 33:51]
The Prophet (s) said:
O you who believe with your tongue only, your belief does not yet enter your heart. Do not slander a Muslim or tell his faults nor even look for your brother’s faults, because whoever uncovers his brother’s fault, will have his own faults revealed by Allah even in his own house.
A Muslim should behave graciously, sacrificing self and wealth for the sake of Allah. We see many examples of status and high ambition demolished by the desire for wealth. Allah, the Almighty, has said:
(Believers are those) who spend (freely) out of the gifts We have given them for sustenince. [Qur’an 8:4]
Whatever good you give benefits your own souls, provided that you only do so seeking the pleasure of Allah, for whatever good you give will be repaid in full, and you shall not be dealt with unjustly. [Qur’an 2:272]
The Prophet (s) said..
Not a day passes but Allah sends two angels to every servant of His, and the angel says, "O, Allah, reward those who spend their wealth for Your sake;" and the other says, ""O Allah, punish those who are stingy." [Bukhari and Muslim]
A Muslim must set a good example. Every action should portray Islamic principles in everyday life, in eating, drinking, dressing, speaking, in peace, during a journey, at home, in action, and in silence.