Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Life Based on Ethics and Wisdom *

Life Based on Ethics and Wisdom *

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[In whatever matter you [Muhammad] may be involved, whatever portion of the Qur'an you may be reciting, and whatever work you [humankind] may be doing, We witness you when you are engaged in it. Not even the weight of a speck of dust in the earth or sky escapes your Lord, nor anything lesser or greater: It is all written in a clear record. But for those who are on Allah's side there is no fear, nor shall they grieve. For those who believe and are conscious of Allah, for them there is good news in this life and in the Hereafter — there is no changing the promises of Allah — that is truly the supreme triumph.] (Yunus 10:61-64)
Every day we are involved in different decisions related to our life affairs: our food, clothes, business, sports, entertainment, relations with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, Muslims, non-Muslims, and so on. Sometimes the issues are simple and easy, and sometimes they are complex and difficult. Sometimes they are of social and financial nature, and sometimes they are of economic and political nature. Sometimes they are national and sometimes international. Depending on who we are, our age, profession, and position in life, the place we live in, the circumstances and conditions surrounding us, we are all involved more or less, one way or another, in decision making.
Islam has a very strong ethical perspective. It teaches us that in whatever we say and whatever we do, we must think very carefully and our decisions must be ethical. We must keep in mind certain principles of our faith and certain rules of our life. Basically, each one of us is urged to consider the following:
1. Allah knows everything that I say and do, and everything is recorded in a permanent register of deeds.
2. On the Day of Judgment, I may be asked by Allah to give the account of every thing that I said and did in my life.
3. Is my action lawful or unlawful in the viewpoint of Islam, right or wrong, fair or unfair, good or bad?
4. What will be the consequences of my words and actions?
5. What are my other duties and responsibilities? Am I keeping a balance between all my duties and responsibilities?
6. What are the rights of others with whom I have relations and among whom I live?
7. What does my conscience say about the decision or action that I am going to take?
8. What is the goal of my life? What is my vision and mission?
In each and every situation, we should consult the Qur'an and the Sunnah, consensus of Muslim scholars, and mind and reason. We should also take into account customs, traditions, different cultures, and rules and regulations. Islam emphasizes all these things and puts them into consideration.
In Islamic terminology, this is also called al-hikmah (wisdom and sagacity). A wise person is he or she who knows what to do, when to do it, and in which situation.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) came to teach the Book of Allah — the Qur'an — and wisdom. This is mentioned many times in the Qur'an. (See Al-Baqarah 2:129, 151, and 231; Aal `Imran 3:164; An-Nisaa' 4:113; Al-Ahzab 33:34; Al-Jumu`ah 62:2). The Qur'an does not contain the rules only, but also the wisdom. The Sunnah is full of wisdom too. It gives us practical rules and guidelines for making ethical decisions. No one can make proper ethical decisions without being wise.
Let's take Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) (peace and blessings be upon him) as an example for ethical and wise handling of issues. The story of Prophet Yusuf is the most beautiful story in the Qur'an. It is the most rich, dramatic, and compelling story. It is full of ethical judgments. Prophet Yusuf was a very talented, intelligent, and handsome person. He had to deal with all kinds of situations: jealousy, deceit, slavery, seduction, and imprisonment, and also power, prestige, and authority.
In every situation, Prophet Yusuf acted in the most ethical manner. He survived hardships, had self-control in the face of seduction, and was compassionate and forgiving when he became powerful. He had no grudge against those who mistreated him nor against those who put him in prison. He forgave his brothers who threw him in a ditch. With all welcome, he received and fulfilled the request to interpret the vision of the King of Egypt, though Prophet Yusuf was still inEgypt's prison, and though the request came through a person who once was asked by Prophet Yusuf to remind the king of his case but forgot, causing Yusuf to remain in prison for extra years.
Prophet Yusuf did not hesitate to help the people of Egypt when they needed his help. He saved them from a disastrous famine, and in the process he was able to save his own family and his people as well. He was able to have them all migrate to Egypt.
In brief, Prophet Yusuf was smart, but he was not cunning. He knew how to take advantage of situations, but he was not an opportunist. He was a man of character, truth, and sincerity.
We have to learn how to live in every situation with great vision and understanding. We must not lose sight of our moral values under any situation. Whatever we say and do, we should be based on wisdom and ethics. Not all rules are written in the Qur'an and Hadith; a lot of rules and decisions depend upon our own conscience, the inner voice of our heart.
It is reported in a hadith thatWabisah ibn Ma`bad said,
I came to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) wishing to ask him everything concerning virtue and sin, but I found a gathering of people around him. I went towards him, crossing the people. They said to me, "Away, O Wabisah, get away from the Prophet." I said, "I am Wabisah; allow me to go near him. I really love to be close to him." The Prophet said, "Come near, O Wabisah, Come near." So I went very close to him (and sat so close to him) until my knees touched his knees. The Prophet said, "O Wabisah, should I tell you what you want to know or do you want to ask?" I said, "O Messenger of Allah, You tell me." He said, "You came to ask me about virtue and sin." I said, "Yes." The Prophet put his three fingers together and then kept sticking them to my chest and said, "O Wabisah, seek answer from your own self. Virtue is that in which the heart finds rest and soul finds peace, and sin is that which makes you uneasy and hesitant, even if people say it is all right." (Ahmad)

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