Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Alejandra Diaz. The Quranic Moral Code as a system of compassion

The Quranic Moral order is primarily a virtue and Consequence system. Its values are reflective of both God’s qualities and humanity’s relationship with God. It acknowledges humanity’s position of privilege as a creature of free will and immense potentials. It evaluates our intention and the consequences of our actions, or the fulfillment of the potential we have, to evaluate humanity’s thoughts, beliefs and actions. Although this moral system puts pressure on people, both as individuals and as part of a group, this system above all, considers God’s compassion. Therefore, the system is flexible, able to adapt to an individual’s circumstances and needs.

Izutsu points to qualitied such as Charity, Courage, Patience and as virtues outlined in the Quran can be narrowed down to Charity, Patience, Veracity and Courage. These virtues speak of not only one’s relationship to others, but also one’s relationship to God. They encompass the intention and effect of actions, helping to distinguish acts that appear to be good from those that truly are. One such example of this process can be seen in the consideration given to acts of generosity. One should not give charity to show of your wealth or power, but because one desires to help others. Acts of generosity for show are not valid in Quranic moral order.[i] Therefore, when doing any “good” action, whether required for Muslims, (such as alms giving) or not, the intention must be considered. An act of piety will not be valid, if one does not truly have piety for God in their hearts.[ii]

This is important because humanity is a powerful force. One must remember that God breathed a portion of his soul into humanity.[iii] And as a result, we can emulate God’s virtues. Just as god is a creator, we too have the potential to create. Furthermore, unlike the rest of God’s creation, we have a free will.[iv] It is because of this potential for greatness and the ability to choose, that allows our actions to have an enormous effect. Thus, unlike the moral order of the other Abrahamic faiths’, the moral order presented by the Qur’an holds one responsible for all our actions, both individually and as a group or nation. Sura 48 (Victory) states, “The wicked shall have no imitate friend and no intercessor whose word is obeyed.”[v] Meaning one carries the full weight of effects of their actions. If we do wrong, we get the punishment we deserve. Of course, we are not all expected to do the same thing, because we are all very different. God wants us to do good but only within the parameters of our own abilities.

This leads us to the question of what does the qur’anic moral order condemn? Looking at the ideas presented in the Qur’an, I believe that the qur’anic moral order ultimately condemns our refusal to accept the truths presented in God’s messages and our refusal to fulfill our highest potential to do good in this world. This is because God did not create evil. Evil is and absence.[vi] One can say this absence is that of good, of the virtues presented by God. Meaning one only fails when our heart becomes contaminated with greed and laziness. Thus, preventing us from doing what we should have done or as stated before do something with a bad intention. And while our negative actions may hurt others, in the end it we who suffer the most. Sura 2 (The Cow) states, “They [think to] deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive [it] not.”[vii] One can perhaps better understand this in terms of human relations. When we lie and hurt our friends or family, we think we are causing them the most harm. But we are hurting ourselves, because we lose the friendship, company and support these individuals offer us. Thus, our negative thoughts and intentions have both an effect on our immediate present and future.

Although the system presented by the qur’anic moral order requires a conscience and willing commitment of an individual, it is a very just and rather flexible system. One can consider the overarching theme or character the Quranic Moral order to be compassion. Compassion stemming from a better understanding of our own capacity, and that of our actions but also the compassion and gifts God has given us. God has given us everything, has created for us a humancentric cosmos without any preconditions.[viii]  We had done nothing to require a gift as great as His. The Suras remind us of this by beginning with the phrase “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful.” And so, does the moral order presented by the Quran.

[i] Toshihiko Izutsu, Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur’an, 77.

[ii] Rahman, Fazlur. “Some Key Ethical Concepts of the Qur’ān.” The Journal of Religious Ethics 11, no. 2 (1983): 170-85., 177.

[iii] Qur’an 15:29.

[iv] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 13, 2018)

[v]  Qur’an 48:16.

[vi] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 15, 2018)

[vii] Qur’an 2:9.

[viii] M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, March 13, 2018)

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