Basic Concepts

In this chapter we will explain some of the basic concepts which play key-role in founding the social and moral edifice of Islam. Without comprehending these concepts such as – good and evil, right and wrong, Halal (permitted) and Haram (forbidden), reward for good deeds and punishments for evil deeds – we can hardly be motivated to do pious acts, to adopt virtues and to shun vices, to observe good manners, and to discharge our obligations to others. A comprehensive discussion of these basic concepts would be made in the light of the Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, and the traditions of Muhammad (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam.

Good and Evil

Islam enjoins upon its followers to do good and refrain from evil. Things or actions which are good and which are bad have been clearly demarcated by the Qur’’an and Hadith. The doers of good actions have been promised rewards whereas doers of evil actions have been threatened with awful punishment.

According to Holy Qur’an, the man may have many justifications for his actions but he knows what he is. This knowledge “he knows what he is” is in fact human conscience which Almighty God has bestowed upon everyone. Conscience is a lamp which is enkindled in every human mind and which guides the man about what is right and what is wrong and what is good and what is evil. If this lamp switches off due to continuous and prolonged wicked acts, then the voice or opinion of the people around one would help him to know what is right and what is wrong. It is said: you are good if the people say that you are good; and you are bad if the people say that you are bad.

Righteousness and sin have been explained by the Prophet of Islam in a very precise but vivid way. When asked by a companion about righteousness and sin, the Prophet replied: Righteousness is good character, and sin is that which revolves in your heart about which you do no want people to know.

Some of the verses of the Qur’an and traditions of Muhammad (PBUH) which highlight the concept of good and evil are:

1)     Whoso interveneth in a good cause will have the reward thereof, and whoso interveneth in an evil cause will bear the consequence thereof. Allah overseeth all things.   (Al-Qur’an 4:85)    

2)     Whoso bringeth a good deed will receive tenfold the like thereof, while whoso bringeth an ill deed will be awarded but the like thereof; and they will not be wronged.   (Al-Qur’an 6:160)

3)     The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! He, between whom and thee there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.   (Al-Qur’an 41:34)

4)     Al-Nawwas b. Sam’an told that he asked God’s Messenger about righteousness and sin and he replied: “Righteousness is good character, and sin is that which revolves in your heart about which you do not want people to know.”   (Muslim)

5)     Huzaifah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Don’t be silly by saying: If people do good, we will do good; and if they do wrong, we will do wrong; but accustom yourselves to do good if the people do good and not to do wrong if they do wrong.   (Tirmizi)

6)     Ali Said that the following was inscribed on the sword of the Holy Prophet: Pardon one who does harm to you, join him who cuts you off; do good to one who does evil to you, and speak the truth although it be against yourself.   (Ihya)

Truth and Falsehood or Right and Wrong

            Truth and falsehood are being taken as English equlvalents of Arabic words ‘Haq’ and ‘Batil’.

            Truth and falsehood, like good and evil, are basic human values which cannot be defined so easily. Islam, therefore, elaborates the concepts of truth and falsehood without defining the same in words. Truth is light while falsehood is darkness, and as darkness vanishes when the light comes, the falsehood disappears when the truth comes. Falsehood, according to Islam, is a great sin while truthfulness is a great virtue. Hence Islam enjoins upon its followers to shun falsehood and be truthful. Truth is to be rewarded while falsehood is to be punished. Truth is found in six things i.e. in words, in motives, in intentions, in determination, in obedience, in action, and in religious duties. Truthful is he who is true in all these things.


Halal and Haram (legal and illegal)

Islamic conception of Halal and Haram governs all the economic activities of man especially in the field of production of wealth and consumption of wealth as well as consumption of food items. Certain means of earning livelihood and wealth have been declared unlawful such as interest, bribery, gambling and games of chance, speculation, short weighing and short measuring, business malpractices, etc. Unlawful means of earning are strictly forbidden and a follower of Islam is permitted to earn only through lawful and fair means. Similarly in the field of consumption certain items of food are unlawful such as dead animals, blood, swine flesh and animals slaughtered in the name of other than that of Allah. Even expenses on certain items such as drinks, narcotics, debauchery, prostitution, pornogaraphy, things that promote obscenity and vulgarity, lotteries and gambling are strictly disallowed.

Virtue and Sin

Man is best of God’s creation and he has been endowed with soul, faculty of reason and power of thinking. He has been shown two ways-one is right which leads to success and reward, the others is bad which leads to failure and punishment. Therefore, man has been given conscience, freedom of choice and freedom of action. The right or straight way is the virtue and the bad way is the sin. In religious sense, to follow guidance of God revealed through His messengers and books is virtue and to disregard it and follow some other crooked way is sin. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have explained the meaning of virtue and sin in remarkably precise but vivid manner. When he was asked what is virtue and what is vice, the Prophet said: Virtue is good conduct and vice is what raises doubt in your mind and what you do not like that people may know it. According  to another Tradition, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), while explaining ‘virtue’ and ‘sin’ on some occasion, joined his fingers and then held them over his chest and said thrice: Ask decision to your soul, ask decision to your heart. Virtue is what the soul is pleased with, virtue is what the heart is pleased with, and sin is what kindles doubt in your soul and indecision in chest though people give you decision.

The concept of virtue and sin can be defined in another way also. Man owes two-fold duties: The duties towards God and duties toward God’s creation particularly towards other human beings. These duties have been clearly laid down in the Qur’an and Hadith. Observance of these duties is virtue whereas negligence or rejection of these duties is sin. The Jurists have generally enlisted the following deeds as virtuous and good and eligible for reward:

(1)- To believed in God, God’s Messengers (From Adam to Muhammad), the Holy Scriptures revealed by God for man’s guidance, God’s angels, and the Hereafter. (2)- To worship God alone without assigning any partner unto Him. (3)- To observe daily prayers, to pay Zakat, to fast for the month of Ramadan, to Perform Hajj-the acts which have been prescribed by Islam as fundamental articles of faith. (4)- To participate in Jihad against the aggressors physically or financially. (5)- To migrate in the path of God in case of persecution and oppression. (6)- Charity; alms-giving; providing food, clothes or shelter to the poor and the destitute in the way of God. (7)- To obey the parents, to treat the relatives, neighbours and friends kindly and to fulfil the duties prescribed by Islam toward them. (8)- To guard oneself against sins like adultery, murder, theft, drinking, gambling, leveling false allegation, blasphemy, hypocrisy, apostasy, etc. (9)- To restrain one self from the food items and things which have been declared Haram (unlawful). (10)- To earn livelihood through Halal (lawful) means and to avoid those means of earning which are Haram like usury, bribery, games of chance, embezzlement, theft, fraud, usurpation of the wealth of orphans, business malpractice, prostitution or other immoral and illegal means. (11)- To hold Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as role model of conduct and follow his Sunnah in every act or deed or situation. (12)- To follow the conduct and behaviour of other prophets of God, rightly guided caliphs of Islam, companions of the Prophet of Islam and other righteous persons. (13)- To adopt good qualities of character and good manners recommended by Islam such as speaking truth, contentment, tolerance, austerity, humility, forgiveness, patience, steadfastness, generosity, kindness, mercy, hospitality, gratefulness, modesty, keeping promise, trustworthiness, God-fearingness, etc. (14)- To avoid traits of bad character like backbiting, hypocrisy, show, telling lie, pride, oppression, greed, miserliness, extravagance, envy, deception and fraud, anger, fornication, drinking, intolerance, etc.

The following deeds have been generally regarded sinful deeds, most of which are major sins:

(1)- To disbelieve in God, His Messengers, His Books, His Angels and the Hereafter; (2) To associate partners to Allah; (3)- To reject or ridicule or give up the observance of fundamental articles of Islam such as prayer, fasting, Zakat and Hajj; (4) To ridicule or refuse to participate in Jihad in defence of religion and country or in defence of lives of Muslim men and women and children. (5)- To disobey parents especially when they are old and poor and they need help; (6)- To commit adultery; (7) To kill a human being without any lawful cause; (8)- To drink wine or take narcotics; (9)- To indulge in gambling; (10)- To commit theft or robbery; (11)- Rebellion against God or God’s Messenger; (12)- Blasphemy; (13)- To level false charge of adultery against honourable women; (14) Apostasy; (15)- Usury or interest; (16)- Usurpation of property of orphans; (17)- Bribery and corruption or earning of wealth through other unfair, illegal and immoral means; (18)- False oath or false evidence; (19)- To play deceit in weighing and in measuring or indulging in other business malpractice to earn wealth unlawfully; (20)- To speak falsehood; (21) To oppress or persecute the weak; (22)- To play or learn sorcery or practice sooth-saying; (23)- To marry a relative within prohibited degrees; (24)- To have friendship with the unbelievers to the detriment of Islam; (25)- To eat meat of dead animals, swine, blood or animals not slaughtered in the name of Allah; (26)- To eat or take other things or foods prohibited by the Qur’an and the Sunnah; (27)- To fight against fellow Muslims; (28)- To break up promise, agreement, pact or treaty; (29)- To create dissension or disunity among the Muslims or to create mischief in the land or to disturb the peace; (31)- To make innovations in religious affairs.

Reward and Punishment

            To keep its followers on the right track and to make them do good deeds and abstain from evil, Islam, like other religions and systems follows policy of reward and punishment. Those who believe, perform righteous actions, worship Allah only, act upon religious injunctions and do good to others as enjoined by Islam are promised high rewards and Paradise. But those who do not believe, do evil deeds, ridicule religious injunctions and violate rights of their fellow-beings are threatened with painful doom and Hell.

            About Islam’s philosophy of reward and punishment, the Holy Qur’an says:

·        Nay, but whosoever hath done evil and his sin surroundeth him, such are rightful owners of the fire; they will abide therein. And those who believe and do good works: such are rightful owners of the Garden. They will abide therein.   (Al-Baqarah 2:81-82)

·        It will not be in accordance with your desires, nor the desires of the People of the Scripture. He who doth wrong will have the recompense thereof, and will not find against Allah any protecting friend or helper. And whoso doth good works, whether of male or female, and he (or she) is a believer such will enter Paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date-stone.   (An-Nisa 4:123-124)

Fear of God (Taqwa)

            The root of the word ‘Taqwa’ is ‘Waqa’ which stands for saving or guarding i.e., the guarding of a thing from that which harms it. The verb is ‘Ittaqa’ which means “he saved or guarded himself properly”. ‘Muttaqi’ is the nominative for this verb and it means one who guards himself against evil or one who is careful and keeps his duty well. Taqwa, and the verb and nouns connected with the root, according to Abdullah Yusuf Ali, signify: (1) fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom; (2) restraint, or guarding one’s tongue, hand and heart from evil; hence righteousness, piety, good conduct. Muttaqi, according to Muhammad Asad, is God-conscious who has awareness of Allah’s all-presence and has the desire to mould his existence in the light of this awareness.

            In brief, taqwa means fear of God, restraint from evil, piety, righteousness, right conduct, warding off evil, keeping duty to God. Muttaqi is the person who is fearful of God, who guards his tongue, his hand and his heart from evil; who is pious, righteous and possesses good conduct.

            Once Caliph Umar asked Abi-bin-Kaab: What is Taqwa? The latter questioned him as to what he would do if he had a chance to pass through a forest full of thorns. Umar replied that he would keep his clothes closer to him and would pass through the forest with utmost care to escape from the thorns. Abi aptly replied that this utmost care if exercised in avoidance of sins is taqwa.

            ‘Taqwa’ or fear of God is the foundation of Islamic society. The merits of ‘Taqwa’ and the qualifications of those (Muttaqin or righteous persons) who possess it have been highlighted by the Qur’an and the Prophet of Islam along with the rewards which are due to such persons. Some of the verses of the Qur’an and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are:

1)     This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil): Who believe in the unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful.   (Al-Qur’an 2:2-5)

2)     Say: Shall I inform you of something better than that? For those who keep from evil, with their Lord are Gardens underneath which rivers flow, and pure companions, and contentment from Allah. Allah is Seer of His bondmen.   (Al-Qur’an 3:15)

3)     Abu Dharr said: I asked God’s Messenger to give me some instructions and he replied: I enjoin you to fear God, for that will be the best adornment for everything that concerns you ……. (Mishkat-ul-Masabih)

4)     Abu Hurairah (Allah be pleased with him) has reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked: What is that pursuit which will stand foremost to lead a man to Paradise? He replied: Fear of Allah and good conduct. Then he was asked: What is that indulgence which will admit a man to Hell (Fire)? He answered: The mouth and sexual organ.   (Tirmizi)

5)     In his famous sermon delivered on the occasion of farewell pilgrimage, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) addressed the people as under: “O people! Be ware: your God is one. No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, and no non-Arab any superiority over an Arab, and no white one has any superiority over a black one, and no black one any superiority over a white one, except on the basis of Taqva (piety). The most honourable among you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most pious and righteous of you,”

6)     Abu Zarr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Surely I know a verse. If people would have followed it, it would have sufficed them: “And whoso fear Allah, He will find out a way for him and He will give him provision from where he will not know. 65: (Ahmad, Ibn Majah)

Trust in God (Tawakkal)

            ‘Tawakkal’ comes from ‘wakl’ which means to resign or to rely or to trust. Another derivative of this word is ‘Wakil’ which means a pleader to whom a legal suit is entrusted as an agent for pursuing in a court of law. So Tawakkal-al-Allah means to rely on Allah and entrust Him all the worldly affairs. A true Muslim absolutely submits himself to Allah and entrusts all his affairs to the Will of Allah believing that “my prayer, my sacrifice, and my life, and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (Al-Qur’an 6:162).

            But reliance on Allah does not mean that one should not take any action and do any work and sit idle entrusting all affairs to Allah believing that Allah would provide him every thing without any effort or action on his part. This is rather sluggishness and not trust in Allah. At least Islam does not support this passive attitude to life. True reliance on Allah means that a person works hard and makes his best efforts to achieve a goal and then he entrusts the results thereof to Allah with the belief that Allah would accept his efforts and would bless him with success. The Qur’an says: “There is nothing for man but what he strives for” (53:39). Therefore a Muslim is expected to set himself wholeheartedly to action and then rely on Allah for good results.

            According to a well known tradition, some companion asked the Prophet: “Should I not leave my camel free and rely on God for its safety?” The Prophet replied: “You must tie the camel and then trust in Allah.” An absolute belief in the Will of God, His Omnipotence and His Ability to do everything is essential but a true believer is not supposed to resign himself to idle life and expect from God that He would do every thing for him.

            The Qur’an enjoins the believer to put their trust in Allah in every situation. It says:

1)     And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah. Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him).   (Al-Imran 3:159)

2)     If Allah is your helper none can overcome you, and if He withdraw His help from you, who is there who can help you? In Allah let believers put their trust.   (Al-Imran 3:160)

3)     They only are the (true) believers whose hearts feel fear when Allah is mentioned, and when the revelations of Allah are recited unto them they increase their faith, and who trust in their Lord;   (Al-Anfal 8:2)

4)     And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He is the Hearer, the Knower.   (Al-Anfal 8:61)

5)     Say: Naught befalleth us save that which Allah hath decreed for us: He is our Protecting Friend. In Allah let believers put their trust!   (At-Taubah 9:51)

Purification of self (Tazkia)

            ‘Tazkia’ is actually ‘Tazkia Nafs’ which means purification of self. It is internal purity as well as external purity. In other words it is purification of body as well as of mind and soul. But in religious and spiritual sense we generally understand from Tazkia Nafs the purification of one’s self i.e. one’s mind and soul of evils and vices. Since mind and soul cannot be purified or cleansed without cleanliness of body, so internal and external purity becomes interconnected as body and mind are connected inseparably. If both body and mind are clean, then the man is healthy. But if any of them is unclean, then the man is unhealthy and impure. Since cleanliness of body and mind is not possible without cleanliness of house, place of worship, place of work and physical environment around the people, so cleanliness of these things is also essential.

            Islam emphasizes cleanliness of its followers and of everything around them so that they should be physically and mentally healthy with healthy soul.

            Therefore, the followers of Islam have been enjoined to keep their bodies, minds and souls clean and also to keep their houses, places of worship and work, roads, and streets, and even their wealth and goods clean. For cleanliness of their bodies, ablution and bath have been prescribed; for cleanliness of their minds and souls, prayer, fasting and Hajj have been prescribed; for cleanliness of their goods and wealth, Zakat, Sadaqat and charity have been recommended.

            The purification of self, particularly of mind and soul, from evils and vices is very difficult as it is not possible without fight and struggle against oneself, therefore this struggle has been called by the Prophet of Islam as Jihad-e-Akbar   (the greatest war).

            Some of the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which emphasise cleanliness of body, soul and environment are:

1)     Abu Malik al-Ash’ari reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Cleanliness is half of faith.   (Mishkat-ul-Masabih)

2)     Jabar reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The key of Paradise is prayer, and the key to prayer is cleanliness.   (Ahmad)

3)     Jaber reported: The Prophet came to see us and found a man of disheveled hairs whose hairs were not arranged. Then he said: This man is not finding with what he should comb his head! And he saw a man with dirty clothes on. So he said: This man is not finding with what thing he should wash his clothes!   (Ahmad, Nisai)

4)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Verily Allah is pure. He does not accept but what is pure. And verily Allah ordered the believers with which He ordered the Prophets. He said: O Prophets! Eat of the pure things and do good deeds. And he said: Eat of the pure things with which We provided you. Then he mentioned about a man disheveled in hair and laden with dust, making his journey long and extending his hand towards heaven: O Lord! O Lord! While his food was unlawful, his drink unlawful, his dress unlawful and he was nourished with unlawful things. How can he be responded to for that?   (Muslim)

5)     Jaber reported that the Messenger of Allah said to a people who returned from holy war: Welcome to you all, you have come from little fight to the greatest fight. It was questioned: O Messenger of Allah! What is the greatest fight? He said fighting against passion.   (Baihaqi)


            Taubah is repentance which signifies retreating or turning back from sin. It is accompanied with Istighfar which means to seek forgiveness from Allah for sins, wrongs, irregularities, commissions and omissions, whether specific or general. Taubah has generally three elements, namely: to have knowledge that the act done is wrong and sinful; to repent sincerely and ask for forgiveness, and to make sincere commitment that such act would not be repeated in future. Repentance, if made with all these conditions, earns God’s pleasure who forgives past sins and bestows immense rewards on His slave. However, repentance of those is not acceptable who turn back to sins again and again after repentance. Nor the repentance of those is accepted who continue doing evil deeds up till their death and offer repentance only at the time of death. The verses of Holy Qur’an and Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) say:

1)     Lo! Those who disbelieve after their (profession of) belief, and afterward grow violent in disbelief: their repentance will not be accepted. And such are those who are astray.   (Al-Imran 3:90)

2)     Forgiveness is only incumbent on Allah toward those who do evil in ignorance (and) then turn quickly (in repentance) to Allah. These are they toward whom Allah relenteth. Allah is ever Knower, Wise. The forgiveness is not for those who do ill deeds until, when death attendeth upon one of them, he saith: Lo! I repent now; nor yet for those who die while they are disbelievers. For such We have prepared a painful doom.   (An-Nisa 4:17-18)

3)     Ayesha reported that the Apostle of Allah said: When a servant recognizes his sin and then repents, Allah will accept his repentance.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

4)     Anas reported that the Apostle of Allah said: The Almighty Allah said: O son of Adam! I will forgive you as long as you implore Me and hope in Me in spite of what you have done, and I don’t care. O son of Adam! If your sins are so numerous as to reach the clouds of heaven and thereafter if you seek forgiveness from Me. I would forgive you and I don’t care. O son of Adam! If you were to meet Me with an earth-full of sins and then if you were to meet Me without setting up anything with Me, I would certainly come to you with an earth-full of forgiveness.   (Ahmad, Darimi, Tirmizi (Approve, Rare))


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