A preliminary note on Islamic moral teaching

A preliminary note on Islamic moral teaching January 6, 2018

 

Wiki CC Samoa
One view of Paradise (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Continuing with my manuscript on Islam for Mormons:

 

It is on the basis of his or her faith and good works, the Qur’an explains, that the fate of the individual soul is determined.[1] We are assured that life and death were created in order to test us: “We try you with evil and good for a testing, then unto Us you shall be returned.”[2] This test is fairly and carefully constructed, and every man and woman has the capacity to pass it. No soul is asked to do more than it is able to do, none is burdened with more than it can bear.[3]

Then he whose deeds weigh heavy in the Balance
shall inherit a pleasing life,
but he whose deeds weigh light in the Balance
shall plunge in the womb of the Pit.[4]

But this is all generality. What specific kinds of behavior are required in order to reside in paradise rather than hell? Many in the West think that the religion of Islam praises as virtuous behav­ior a wide range of acts which we would consider bizarre and, at worst, positively evil. Some who really should know better have declared, for instance, that Islam praises the murder of Christians or advocates the mistreatment of women. This is simply not the case.

Elder George A. Smith said of Muhammad that “there was nothing in his religion to license iniquity or corruption; he preached the moral doctrines which the Savior taught; viz., to do as they would be done by; and not to do violence to any man, nor to render evil for evil; and to worship one God.”[5] Elder Parley P. Pratt agreed:

Though Mahometan institutions are corrupt enough, and need reforming by the gospel, I am inclined to think, upon the whole, leaving out the corruptions of men in high places among them, that they have better morals and better institutions than many Christian nations; and in many localities there have been high standards of morals.[6]

True, the sacred book of Islam does sanction cutting off the hands of thieves and teaches that those who die while fighting for God are saved in paradise.[7] But the behavior commended by the Qur’an is the basic morality also taught by the Bible. For example: Men and women should show kindness to their parents.[8] They should be modest in dress, humble, pious, sincere, and steadfast in prayer.[9] They should keep any promises they make and should never bear false witness. “Speak for justice,” the Qur’an advises, “even if it affects your own kinsmen.”[10] Hypocrisy and hypocrites are criticized throughout the Qur’an.[11] Drinking and gambling are prohibited.[12] The Qur’an’s proscription of usury, the lending of money at interest, has given rise to an entire Islamic banking indus­try which attempts to function profitably on the basis of principles quite different from those underlying financial institutions in the West.[13]

 

[1] 2:82, 277; 5:9; 7:42; 11:23; 14:23, 22:23; 29:7, 9; 30:15; 31:8; 40:40; 41:8; 47:2; 103:3.

[2] 21:35 (Arberry); compare 18:7; 67:2.

[3] 2:286; 7:42; 23:62. Compare the assurances given at 1 Corinthians 10:13; Phillipians4:13; 1 Nephi 3:7.

[4] 101:6-9 (Arberry); compare 7:8-9; 21:47; 23:102-3

[5] Journal of Discourses 3:31.

[6] Journal of Discourses 3:41.

[7] 5:38; 47:4-6.

[8] 6:151; 17:23-24; 29:8; 31:14; 46:15. Representative general texts on Qur’anic morality and ethics include 2:1-5; 3:133-136; 6:151; 9:112; 13:19-24; 16:90-91; 17:32-33; 23:1-11, 57-61; 25:63-76; 27:62; 31:18-19; 33:35; 52:15-19; 70:22-35.

[9] 24:30-31.

[10] 6:152.

[11] 61:2-3.

[12] 2:219; 5:90-91.

[13] See 2:275-76; 3:130.

 

 

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