Active Pages >> Response to Criticism  >> The Qur'an And The Code Of Righteousness


How can the code of right conduct prescribed by the Qur'an stand as the proof for it’s Divinity ?
 
Does the Qur'an itself claim that the order of righteousness prescribed by it is absolutely faultless ?
 
In what respect is it said that the order of righteousness introduced by the Qur'an is a faultless one ?
 
Do not the other religious scriptures also prescribe an exemplary code of righteous conduct ?
It is seen that Muslim traditions, too, attest the correctness of the descriptions of many of the sins that have been attributed to the prophets by the Bible. Is it not to be understood from this that Muslims also consider that they did, indeed, commit sins ?
 
Does the Qur'an then teach that the prophet could never be faulted in any way ?
 
It is given to understand from numerous references in the Qur'an that Muhammad (pbuh) had himself committed a number of sins. How can this be so ?
 
 
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"O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (ie, the Qur’an), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc) in your breasts,-a guidance and a mercy for the believers."

Holy Qur’an 3:83



How can the code of right conduct prescribed by the Qur'an stand as the proof for it’s Divinity ?

Man is the only creature who has been facilitated with the ability to act independently in his relation with both nature and society. His actions can prove to be useful and harmful as well. In contrast with the other creatures - who compulsorily follow the laws described by their own genetic code and thereby attain to the object of their life - he is to conform to certain laws and commandments for his very existence and survival. It is certain, therefore, that conformation to these laws leads to his own well being while non-conformance to his own destruction.

Which are these laws and recommendations ? Which are the commandments that would serve to brighten up human life and existence? It was to instruct people in these that the messengers were appointed. They presented before the people the example of their own lives which had been cleansed owing to their conformance with the divine commandments. In addition to this, the scripture that contained the divine commandments were also revealed through them. It was these scriptures and the messengers, who confronted the people with them, who provided a faultless knowledge of good and evil. Messengers from God have come into all places of human habitation in the world. It is, therefore, that the foundations of the moral code prevalent in different nations of the world are one and the same.

Arrogance is the most despicable of satanic traits. It is from arrogance that selfishness, too, finds its origins. Man is eminently capable of so transforming everything that surrounds him in such fashion that it suits his own interests. Indeed, nothing - not even the things material and spiritual - is free from this influence. In the case of the religious scriptures, too, this has been the end result. The prophets interpreted the scripture according to divine relation. Their successors were to have followed them loyally. However, those high priests and other men of religion, who appeared in the guise of loyalists in later years injected into the religious texts, as well as the practices of the messengers, accretions which were of their own making and which also helped to serve their own vested interests. They, thus, rewrote the religious laws. They perverted the tradition of the prophets to serve their own interests. It, thus, became difficult to follow the dictates of the religious texts. The messengers were shown not as role models who were to be emulated. For this reason, today, we feel the laws and commandments described in the books that come with a religious covering, to be impracticable.

It is possible only for divine guidance to provide for a set of laws that will serve to declare mere and to be wholly practicable as well. It is here that all materialistic ideologies fail. They appear on the scene with solutions seemingly for all the travails of mankind. Furthermore, their recommendation will appear, more often that not, to be perfect on paper. However, when tested at a practical level they end up being mere idiosyncrasies. The fact that is thus highlighted here is that it is only the Creator of man himself who is able to provide for a legislation that will serve to cleanse him and be practicable as well.

It is because of this limitation that communism, which was seen as the hope of the twentieth century, was forced to retire into the waste basket of ideologies by the last decade of this century. Those who seek to learn the lesson that emanates from this fall will do well to appreciate the fact that no matter how strong the theoretical foundations on which they are based, no philosophy of materialism can ever hope to provide for the lasting provision of guidance that may effectively cleanse mankind.

Besides this, there is another reality that may also come in for appreciation. This is the fact that the book which does provide for a wholly practicable legislation and also cleanses humanity as well will be divine in itself. This is why it is said that the provision of guidance of the Holy Qur'an constitute the very proof of its divine nature. There is no difference of opinion over the fact that the legislations put forward by the Qur'an does, indeed, serve to make of men morally conscious and righteous individuals. This is a reality that has been admitted even by die-hard materialists as well. It has been recognized by impartial observers who have studied the subject that if the obligation of a religious scripture is the guidance of humanity then there can be no book that deserves to be called a religious scripture like the Qur'an.

 


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Does the Qur'an itself claim that the order of righteousness prescribed by it is absolutely faultless ?

Yes. It itself claims that it is the book which guides people onto the path of the most correct conduct.

"Verily this Qur'an doth guide to that which is most right (or stable)." (H.Q. 17:9)

The Qur'an is the last religious scripture that has been revealed to mankind. Indeed, the Qur'an constitutes the criterion to judge between truth and falsehood for all up to the very last man.

"Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong)." (H.Q. 2:185)

The Qur'an sternly reprimands those who strive to amass worldly comforts animal longing. A reprimand that commands against the purchase of the affliction of the eternal life hereafter in exchange for the comforts of the world; a reprimand that reminds one of the perishable nature of the life of this world; that all the joys and sorrows herein are but temporary in their existence. The Qur'an further claims that it itself is the book of guidance for those who hasten to give ear to this divine warning and to accept the divine commandments.

To those who fail to understand that the progress of human society has in the ordering of life within the framework of morality, the commandments of the Qur'an will not, in any way, appear to be relevant. But for those who profess that the true realization of life lies actually in the ennobling of it, each one of the legal prescriptions of the Qur'an are invaluable; they realize that not one of these prescriptions can ever be the subject, or cause, of ridicule and mockery. To them the Qur'an constitutes the highest guide-book in all respects. Indeed, this has also been the contention of the Qur'an itself: "This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God." (H.Q. 2:2)

 


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In what respect is it said that the order of righteousness introduced by the Qur'an is a faultless one ?

The Qur'an is a religious scripture. Indeed, it is the very source of the divine religion. It explains the foundations of faith as envisioned by Islam. In addition it contains the regulations that are associated with the rites involved. However, it is not a book that merely incorporates hymns and prayer ballads alone. It chalks out the way in which one can become a complete man by living in accordance with the divine guidance. It informs of the commandments that are to be observed in all walks of life. It exhorts to the pursuance of the example of the prophets who, by living according to these commandments, had accomplished the scaling of the heights of human greatness.

The Qur'an and the practice of the messenger - which was its most telling commentary - together combines to inform of all the qualities and virtues that must necessarily exist in a person in his, or her, capacity as a human being. All people are to be shown mercy; those who are undergoing privations must be helped; the poor and orphan are to be offered protection and love; others must be spoken of only in the best terms; one’s conduct must bespeak of humility; parents are to be treated with love and respect; children are to be shown kindness and care; the husband and wife are to show mutual love and respect and must allow for each other the free exercise of their individual rights; the sacred ties of marital life must be preserved; man and woman are to dress decently; there must be justice and fair play in official circles; purity must prevail in all economic dealings; there must be honesty in trade and commerce - and the instructions of such nature, Can any point out even a single of these commandments which is against the standards of human greatness?

It is evident that the case is the same when we consider the prohibitions in the Qur'an also. Do not drink intoxicants; do not commit adultery; do not rob; do not lie; do not cheat; do not gamble; do not give, or take, in interest; do not indulge in extravagance; do not spill a drop of blood unjustly; do not malign chaste women; do not consume the wealth of orphan injustly; do not abuse; do not violate the rights of any; do not adulterate; do not cheat in the matter of weight and measures; do not entertain envy and hatred; do not back-bite or slander; do not entertain a partial attitude towards one’s own - such is the nature of the prohibitions. Will any one dare to state that any single one of these is an obstacle in the path of human progress?

One of the specialities of the Qur'an which makes it unique is that in addition to providing a righteous code of conduct, it puts forward a very practicable scheme as well. Along with a reminder of the punishments that are to be meted out for sins in the life after death - thereby creating a mindset so necessary for the elimination of crime - the Qur'an also describes the punishments that are to be inflicted upon the criminals by the state. In accompaniment to the moral commandments that are required for the trouble-free progress of the marital relationship in its position as a secure institution, the Qur'an also puts forward procedures for the pragmatic resolution of the problems that may arise in the family. In addition to providing for regulations that serve to make economic dealings honest and fair, the Qur'an also contains practical instructions that are to be followed in the event that there should arise some disputation thereof.

The Qur'an never withdraws from the scene with a few advices and recommendations; on the contrary, in the creation of a pure society, it conclusively proved that the code of righteousness which it prescribed was wholly practicable as well. This would then mean that the Qur'an is a book which not only prescribes a faultless order of righteousness but also proves it to be so.

 


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Do not the other religious scriptures also prescribe an exemplary code of righteous conduct ?

It is true that all religious scriptures do, indeed, provide for certain moral injunctions. It is also true that some of the remnants of the ideals taught by the messengers, located as they are in the moral prescriptions of various religious scriptures, do conform to the teachings of the Qur'an itself. However, the moral injunctions in the Qur'an have certain basic differences with those of the other religious scriptures. These can be summarized as follows:

One : There are only divine commandments in the Qur'an. In the other religious books, on the other hand, along with the description of divine commandments there also exists the laws that were the fabrication of the priests themselves. Indeed, they have become so intertwined, one with the other, that it is now impossible to understand the exact position of each.

Two : The prohibitions and recommendations of the Qur'an are out-and-out humane. Other religious texts, however, contain certain legal prescriptions that are inhuman. For instance, in the first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: " ..... it is good of a man not to marry." (1 Cor 7:1) and " ... he who does not marry.... does even better." (1 Cor. 7:38). If all men were to follow this ‘better’ prescription, the human race itself would become non-existent in a few decades time. It is, however, not possible to locate such prescriptions in the Qur'an.

Three : None of the injunctions of the Qur'an command violence or injustice. Other religious scriptures, however, do give out the call to violence and injustice. For instance, in the Kaushithaki Brahmanopanishad, Indran is quoted as saying, "Na’Mathravadena na Pithravadena nasthayena na broona hathys nasya paapam chana chakrasho mukaneelam vetheethi" (3:1) (Even if my people were to kill their mother and father; even if they were to steal and to practice infanticide; even if they were to commit such sins, they are to feel no remorse. Their faces should never be down-cast)

Four : There is nothing that is despicable in the legal prescription of the Qur'an. However, in some of the other religious scriptures there is a clear distinction between a person of a higher caste and another of a lower caste. For example, consider the punishment prescribed by the Manu Smrithi for insult and abuse: "The punishment for the Kshatriya who insults the Brahman is one hundred coins; for the Vaishya it will be two hundred coins and for the Shudra it will be the whip. If the Brahman were to insult the Kshatriya his punishment would be fifty coins, if he insults the vaishya it would be twenty five coins and if the Shudra, twelve coins." (Manu Smrithi 8:267, 268)

Five : There are no legal prescriptions of an impracticable nature in the Qur'an. Other religious texts prescribes certain laws which are impracticable. Look at the ruling concerning divorce in the Bible: "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery ...." (Luke 16:18)

In fact, Christians today admit that this law of the Bible which prohibits divorce is, indeed, not practicable. This is evident in the efforts of the Christian assemblies, to bring forth a new legislation that does allow for divorce.

Six : The Qur'an describes the history of the prophets who, by way of being the protagonists of the code of righteousness prescribed by the Qur'an, were made pure and blessed. Although the other religious scriptures do state that the prophets were pure and blessed, their lives have, nevertheless, been depicted in the most vulgar fashion. Noah who is rendered a drunkard and one who exposes his nakedness (Genesis 9:20-23), Lot who gets drunk and cohabits with his daughters (Genesis 19:31-36), Jacob who deceives (Genesis 27:1-36), David who lures women into his bed-chamber (2 Samuel 11:2-5) : are these people to be the role models? Great personalities have also been mentioned in the Hindu Puranas in a similar fashion. Form Shri Ram himself who is depicted as the one who kills the Shudra Shambukan (Valmiki Ramayan Yudha Kandam) and as the one who abandons his pregnant wife in the forest (UttaraKandam) to Shri Krishna who is depicted as the one who steals the clothes of the bathing gopikas..... and as the one who commits violence and treachery in war, the descriptions which we see in the vedas are, indeed, unfaithful ones. In this light, can it be said that they were the ones who had established the moral law? As for the Qur'an, it teaches that all prophets were pure, and exemplary, in the conduct of their lives. The history which the Qur'an does put forward bears ample testimony to the facts of this matter.

 


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It is seen that Muslim traditions, too, attest the correctness of the descriptions of many of the sins that have been attributed to the prophets by the Bible. Is it not to be understood from this that Muslims also consider that they did, indeed, commit sins ?

The most important of all the sources of Islam is, undoubtedly, the Holy Qur'an; which is immediately followed by the practices of the prophet. After prophet Muhammad (pbuh), if any one - no matter who that person may be - were to speak out on an essentially religious topic, it could be accepted as binding if, and only if, it is seen to be in consonance with the ruling of the Qur'an and the prophetic traditions. The Qur'an has clearly stated that all the prophets had been exemplary personalities. Furthermore, there are extant numerous sayings of the prophet which speak of the great purity of their lives. It is, however, true that biblical tales and the other legends of Israel have, indeed found a place of their own in the books authored by Muslim writers in later ages. True Muslims do not accept any of these as sources that are either relevant or authentic. In fact, Muslims believe that the messengers of God were all men of the most exemplary nature.
 


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Does the Qur'an then teach that the prophet could never be faulted in any way ?

No. All the prophets were as human as every one else. As such it is highly probable that they did commit mistakes. However, to commit a mistake and then to stand by that mistake : that would not be becoming of any prophet. Indeed, it is such mistakes which come to be called as sin.

To plan the execution of a criminal act and then to execute it constitutes the greatest of sins. The Bible has attributed to the pure character of the prophet David this most heinous of sins. David is attracted by the beauty of the wife of his soldier, Uriah; he brings Bathsheba to his bed-chamber; David then sleeps with her; she becomes pregnant; he then tries to put the cause of her pregnancy upon Uriah; fails in the effort; he deceives Uriah in the battle field; Uriah is thus executed; David then marries Bathsheba (2 Samuels, chapter 11). Similar is the case of all the other stories of the prophets that find mention in the Bible.

The Qur'an, however, makes it clear that there was every possibility that the prophets did, indeed, make mistakes and that when they actually did err, the Lord Creator corrected them corrected them and, thus, they turned repentant and begged forgiveness of God.

The Qur'an, which presents Ibrahim as one of the most exemplary personalities in history, nevertheless, does cite an incident from his life which, however, was not to be taken as an example. His mistake was that he had prayed to God for the forgiveness of the sins of his father who was an idol worshipper and a denier of Truth. (H.Q. 60:4). In view of the fact that in the conformance to divine statuette nothing, not even the love for one’s parents, should be an impediment, the Qur'an had pointed out that the act of Ibrahim was, indeed, an improper one and that there was to be in it no example, whatsoever, for the believers to emulate. Similarly, the Qur'an makes it clear that some of the other prophets, too, had made mistakes in their lives; it also clarifies the lessons the believers are to learn from these errors of conduct.

The mistakes in Muhammad’s own approach were also not allowed by the Lord God to go uncriticized. The Qur'an reproaches the prophet for having cast a glance of impatience at a blind man who had, in approaching the prophet for guidance, interrupted his conversation with some of the most prominent men of Quraysh (H.Q. 80:1-10). In the Battle of Uhud, wherein the prophet received injuries on his own person and many of his followers themselves were killed, the Qur'an again corrected him when, so impassioned, he muttered to the effect that the disbelievers would never progress. (H.Q. 3:128)

In the Qur'anic vision not even these slightest of errors, which to our mind would appear insignificant, were to be seen in the lives of the prophets. It was for this reason, therefore, that the Lord God had Himself criticized and corrected these errors of conduct as, and when, they occurred. As such, it can be asserted with confidence that the Qur'an does not tolerate, to the least degree, the claim that major sins like adultery were committed in the course of the lives of the prophets.
 


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It is given to understand from numerous references in the Qur'an that Muhammad (pbuh) had himself committed a number of sins. How can this be so ?

This has been the claim of the missionaries who have laboured to assert the Christian contention that all men are sinners. By way of quoting certain verses of the Qur'an completely out of context, they claim that Muhammad (pbuh) had, indeed, been a sinner and it was Jesus Christ alone who never sinned and that it is possible only for Jesus Christ, who had himself never sinned, to save mankind from their sins.

The Qur'an’s stand has been that all prophets, including Jesus Christ, were exemplary and were men who never sinned. But for the person who goes through the stories of the Bible, it become apparent that Jesus Christ himself, like all the other prophets who had preceded him, was a sinner and not a person to be taken as an exemplar. If the making of wine - the cause of all strife, sorrow, anarchy and poverty as Solomon had described it (Proverbs 23:21-32) - and the providing of it to people constitute a sin it must be conceded that Jesus was a sinner. For Christ had himself done such a thing at the marriage feast in Cana. (John 2:1-10). If abusing and deriding one’s mother, who had given birth to him and raised him to maturity, is a sin, then it must be admitted that Jesus was a sinner. Can it be said that Jesus, who is reported to have said to his mother, "Woman, why do you involve me ?" was one who respected and revered ‘his mother? (John 2:4). If addressing a community with usages like "Ye generation of vipers!" is a sin, Jesus will again end up a sinner. If the destruction of a harmless plant in a fit of uncontrolled personal anger, for a fault that was not its own, is a sin then Christ becomes a sinner yet again. For after all Christ is reported to have caused a fig tree to wither away for no fault of its own. (Mathew 21:19). In reality, however, even though Christ was never a sinner, the Bible actually tends to make a sinner out of that great prophet.

In the life of prophet Muhammad (pbuh), on the other hand, we see nothing of this sort. History is witness to the fact that nobody, not even his greatest antagonists, believed that he committed sins of any kind. Indeed, the number of incidents which serve to show that even the hardest opponents of Islam, like Abu Jahl, had recognized the truthfulness and purity of Muhammad (pbuh), are legion. The statement of Abu Sufyan, one of the chief antagonists of Islam, which he made before Heraclius, the emperor of Rome, is but one amongst them.

Muhammad (pbuh) is the one person who is to stand as the perfect exemplar for all those who are to come up to the Last Day. The truth of the matter, therefore, is that nobody can attribute a single sin to his life. Nevertheless, the Holy Qur'an does correct him on more than one occasion. The incidents wherein he disregarded the blind man and in which he had demanded the disbelievers who had inflicted losses upon him and his followers form a few of these occasions. These are but lapses which, in an ordinary retrospection, would hardly appear to be grievious sins. In the vision of the Qur'an, however, it is not befitting a prophet who is to enlighten humanity, to have even such minor flaws in his character. The Qur'an teaches that such flaws in the conduct of a messenger who is to be the role model for all those who are to come up to the Last Day are, indeed, a grave matter and needs to be corrected as well. In fact, if the Qur'an was to leave such lapses to go uncorrected, it would necessarily mean that doing and saying likewise would then be not incorrect at all. It has been, therefore, that the Qur'an reprimanded the prophet on every such occasion in the strongest possible terms.

It has mainly been three verses of the Qur'an which are misconstrued to show that Muhammad (pbuh) had, indeed, been a sinner. However, an impartial enquiry into the nature of these verses will reveal the personality of the prophet in an even more magnificent light.

1. "Verily We have granted thee a manifest victory: that God may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfil His favour to thee; and guide thee on the straight way; and that God may help thee with powerful help." (H.Q. 48:1-3)

Here, it is the Arabic term Danb that has been translated to mean ‘fault’. This term does have the meanings of fault, crime, sin and the like. The claim has gone to the effect that since the statement " ..... forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow ..." has been used with reference to prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself, even the Qur'an has affirmed that he did, indeed, commit sins.

Here, the faults which are said to have befallen the prophet are clear from the context of the revelation itself. These are the first verses of a chapter that was revealed when the prophet was halfway back home after the treaty of Hudaibiya. There were certain conditions of the treaty that gave the first-impression of defeat and surrender. It is this treaty, however, which was referred to as a "manifest victory" here. Moreover, within the span of a few years it became clear to the companions of the prophet that the treaty was, as the Qur'an had foreseen it, a great and manifest victory, indeed. The treaty of Hudaibiya was solemnized in the sixth year of the Hijra. It was the mistakes in the propagation of the message which the prophet had carried out for the past nineteen years that were reffered to here by the terms ‘faults’. The errors mentioned in the foregoing section are a few among such lapses.

By the term ‘faults’ which appears in this verse is not meant any sin or crime that is of a punishable nature; it has only been errors or failings that have proceeded from the natural limitations of a very human kind. It has only been the errors due to the violations of an etiquette so lofty of standards, as befitting the code of conduct of the messengers of God, that has been intended here.

Here, there is an issue of particular significance. Going by the claims of the critics it has been contructed that the Qur'an is the composition of Muhammad (pbuh). In that case, will it not then give the impression that he has, of himself, openly admitted, albeit through the Qur'an, that he did, indeed, commit mistakes? How can this be explained away? An individual is accepted by all, including his opponents, in society as truthful and honest. Then he proceeds to admit that he has committed mistakes in a book that he has apparently written himself for the attainment of his own interests. How can this ever be sensible? It is simply the fact that the Qur'an is not the composition of the prophet which is once again brought to the fore.

In reality, it is the Lord Creator Himself who declares that Muahmmad (pbuh) was at fault and that he was forgiven. The prophet had, moreover hastened towards being as even more grateful person to the Merciful One who had so graciously forgiven him his faults. Indeed, it was asked of the prophet who had so engaged himself in his nightly prayers as to get his feet all swollen up: "Has not Allah forgiven thee all thy sins of the past as well as the future?" Forthwith came the prophets response: "Should I not be a grateful servant then?"

2. "So be thou (O Muhammad) patient. Verily, the promise of Allah is true. And be thou engaged in seeking forgiveness for thy sins and in glorifying your Lord in the evenings and at dawn" (H.Q. )

3. "Know, therefore, that there is no god but God, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and woman who believe: for God knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes." (H.Q. 47:19)

It is the duty of every believer to strive to the best of his, or her capacity for the cause of the divine religion. In this aspect, too, his role model is the prophet. Indeed, a Muslim cannot be the one who says, "I have tried to the best of my ability" and then withdraws. For it will always be the anxiety that ‘I have not yet accomplished the task that the Creator has entrusted to me’ which will be foremost in his mind. While recognizing the very real possibility of his committing mistakes he should ever go forward with the prayer, "Lord, forgive me the failings to which I have succumbed while moving ahead in Thy cause" always on his lips. This will be a demonstration of his deep sense of humility. In this way any pride in his accomplishments can also be done away with.

This is the implication of the statement "ask forgiveness for thy fault" made to the prophet. Even the prophet himself, who had laboured in the cause of God much more than anyone else, had no right, whatsoever, to take pride in his own achievements. In the midst of all his labour and toil in the cause of God; it was, nevertheless, his lot to repent unto his Lord and to earnestly beseech His forgiveness. Then what would be the condition of the others? These verses have sought to teach humility. They do not at all mean that Muhammad (pbuh) sinned. After all, this was why the prophet said, "I seek forgiveness from Allah one hundred times each day." Nobody ever said that this meant he committed one hundred sins every day.

 

 

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