Ash-Shaikh H. Abdul Nazar

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BEHAVIOUR SHAPING STRATEGIES IN ISLAM

Ash-Shaikh H. Abdul Nazar

Islam is a code of life based on creator-creation relationship, and it ushers mankind into the infallible path and motivates man to lead a life of virtue and keep himself aloof from wrongdoing. Allah Ta’ala says:


"إن هذا القرآن يهدي للتي هي أقوم"

“Verily this Qur’an doth guide to that which is most right.” (17 : 09)

This complete and all-embracing divine code of life is not confined to certain rites or rituals performed in places of worship alone. On the contrary, it touches every aspect of man’s life – personal, family and social. The Holy Qur’an very clearly confirms this fact in the following verse:

"ليس البر أن تولوا وجوهكم قبل المشرق والمغرب ولكن البر من آمن بالله واليوم الآخر والملائكة والكتاب والنبيين وآتى المال على حبه ذوي القربى واليتامى والمساكين وابن السبيل والسائلين وفي الرقاب وأقام الصلاة وآتى الزكاة والموفون بعهدهم إذا عاهدوا والصابرين في البأساء والضراء وحين البأس أولئك الذين صدقوا وأولئك هم المتقون"

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the last day and the angels and the book and the messengers; to give wealth in spite of love for it to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, to the needy, to the wayfarer and to those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity, to fulfill their contract when they make; and to be patient in severe poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of truth, and they are the pious ones.” (02 : 177)

Man is a combination of three key components; body, mind and soul. The body is nourished by food and drink, the mind by the quest for knowledge and the soul by faith and morality. Man possesses feelings, impulses, drives, desires, passions, whims and fancies all of which influence his characters and way of life. Almighty Allah has bestowed on him the ability to think, reason and distinguish in order to control his wills and emotions and direct himself towards the cause of action which is, in his belief, most suitable for him.

Islam wants to see every Muslim well-behaved, and for this reason its teachings are connected to all aspects of life. It, in fact, tries through its teachings and various forms of worship to mould all Muslims as good persons, as loving members of family and as dutiful citizens of the country. Islam gives a top priority to morality to such an extent that one’s Eiman (faith) is incomplete and imperfect without it. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:

"أكمل المؤمنين إيمانا أحسنهم خلقا"

“The most perfect of believers in faith is the most beautiful of them in character”.
(Related by Aboo Huraira (Radhiyallahu anh) and quoted by Tirmithi)


Islam, the moral kingdom of Allah, not only emphasizes the importance of good behaviour but also introduces ways and means of shaping one’s behaviour. The strategies Islam has devised and adopted in this respect are, in deed, quite unique. First it couples morality with faith and then trains the believers to lead a moral life. Various kinds of worship of Islam produce well-mannered individuals in the society.

Salaah (Prayer)

Salaah, an Ibaadat very next to Eiman (faith), is one of the strategies Islam has developed to shape one’s behaviour. Al-Qur’an says:

"إن الصلاة تنهى عن الفحشاء والمنكر"

“Verily prayer forbids indecency and dishonour.” (29 : 45)

While performing Salaah, the performer submits himself to his Creator and pledges to Him that he would do only the good and would not indulge in wrongdoing. In addition, he resolves that he will protect every organ of his body from wrongdoing and bad behaviour as he protects all the parts of his body from same during Salaah.

Zakaat (Alms)

Next to Salaah is Zakaat. This worship also has its own impact on man’s behaviour. The following verse of the Holy Qur’an confirms this:

"خذ من أموالهم صدقة تطهرهم وتزكيهم بها وصل عليهم إن صلاتك سكن لهم والله سميع عليم"

“Of their wealth take alms thereby thou wilt cleanse them and purify them; and pray thou for them. Verily thy prayer is a solace for them, and Allah is hearing, knowing.” (09 : 103)

The institution of Zakaat purifies one spiritually, ethically and monetarily. The performer of Zakaat spontaneously feels sympathy for others, shows mercy to the needy, finds solace in wiping the silent tears of the destitute and does good things out of his wealth for the betterment of the community. It also makes him realize that the riches he enjoys are bestowed upon him by Almighty Allah and that he could not in any way utilize them in perpetrating wrong things.



Sawm (Fasting)


Sawm, the forth pillar of Islam plays a significant role in moulding a Muslim. While fasting, he is thoroughly trained to shape his behaviour well by controlling his emotions and fancies. The complete and perfect fasting means abstaining from enjoying any food or drink and indulging in wrongdoing. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:

"من لم يدع قول الزور والعمل به فليس لله حاجة في أن يدع طعامه وشرابه"

“Whoever does not refrain from lying and working with it, then Allah has no need in his keeping away from his food and drink.”
(Narrated by Aboo Huraira (Radhiyallahu anh) and quoted by Bukhari)


On another occasion he said:

"فإذاكان يوم صوم أحدكم فلا يرفث ولا يصخب. فإن سابه أحد أو قاتله فليقل إني صائم"

“Therefore, when anyone of you is fasting, he should not have sexual intercourse and should not shout noisily. If somebody scolds him or quarrels with him, he should say: “I am fasting”.
(Narrated by Aboo Huraira (Radhiyallahu anh) and quoted by Bukhari and Muslim)


It is crystal clear that while observing fast, one becomes extremely rich in behaviour; honest, quiet, patient and peace-loving.

Hajj

Hajj is another momentous worship in Islam. This worship too, like other Ibaadats, presents to the society persons of tremendous moral values. The Holy Qur’an says:

"فمن فرض فيهن الحج فلا رفث ولا فسوق ولا جدال في الحج"

“So, whosoever undertakes the Hajj therein, there is to be no obscenity nor wickedness nor wrangling in the Hajj.” (02 : 197)

To put it in a nutshell, a Muslim becomes well-behaved physically as well as monetarily by exercising these Ibaadats. By and large, all Ibaadats have something in common; that is to produce a highly civilized person. By observing such Ibaadats, one is trained to have self-control so as to overcome all evil drives and depraved desires and self-discipline so that he will do only the good and will not commit any wrong or bad things, thereby becoming a fantastically elegant member of the society.

The fervent wish of Islam is to build a well-mannered society, and to achieve this target it has introduced so many other things.

Environment

Islam sees the environment as one of the major contributing factors to one’s behaviour. The good environment creates good people, and the bad environment creates bad people. Thus the milieu, of course, has the lion’s share of contributing to one’s morality. An ethical person can turn immoral by living in a bad environment, and an ill-mannered person can turn moral by residing in a good environment. Islam, therefore, does not permit a Muslim to live in a place or area where he cannot practice Islam duly. In such a case, he has to migrate to a place where he can practice the teachings of Islam. Migration (Hijrat) is, in deed, of many categories. One of them is to leave a place where it is difficult to practice Islam.

"إن الذين توفاهم الملائكة ظالمي أنفسهم قالوا فيم كنتم قالوا كنا مستضعفين في الأرض قالوا ألم تكن أرض الله واسعة فتهاجروا فيها فأولئك مأواهم جهنم وساءت مصيرا"



“Verily when the angels take their souls while they are wronging their souls, they will say: what were you in? They will say: weakened were we in the land. They (angels) will say: was Allah’s land wide so that you could migrate thereto? These! their resort is hell; an evil refuge.” (04 : 97)


Islam is very seriously concerned about the environment. It emphasizes purifying the environment since a person residing in an environment free from sins never tries to taste sins. Islam, before imposing punishments for wrongdoing, emphasizes the importance of cleaning the environment from antisocial elements. So that no bad behaviour is there to attract anyone, and the temptation is unlikely. Declaring fornication as a heinous, grave sin, Allah Ta’ala did not say: “do not commit fornication”. Instead, He said:

"ولا تقربوا الزنا"

“And do not approach fornication”. (17 : 32)

That means to avoid all situations that lead to fornication. Marriageable man and woman meeting together, mingling, exchanging of words and letters, dating, etc. drive to illegal sex.

When a man’s house, household, neighbours, dealers, etc. are morally rich, he is also undoubtedly morally rich.

Parents

In the perspective of Islam, parents also contribute to shaping the behaviour of a person. It is a bounden duty of parents to teach their children principles of Islam, inculcate them with moral values and mould them well. Failure of parents to impart good education to the children and shape them adorned with first-rate attributes results in children becoming depraved. Islam, therefore, urges the parents very imperatively to be extremely particular about the children’s discipline. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:

"كل مولود يولد على الفطرة. فأبواه يهودانه أو ينصرانه أو يمجسانه"

“Every child is born on the instinct. The parents make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian.” (Related by Aboo Huraira (Radhiyallahu anh) and quoted by Bukhari)

From the very time of the birth of a child, begins the grave responsibility of the parents. Even choosing a good name for the kid is one of the important duties the parents shoulder. If a bad name is picked out, the characteristics pertaining to the meaning of the name may reflect in the conduct of the child. Rasool (Sallalahu alaihi wasallam) changed bad names of some people for this reason. He proclaimed that:

"من حق الوالد على الولد أن يحسن أدبه ويحسن اسمه"

“It is the duty of the father towards the child to beautify his manners and to beautify his name.”
(Narrated by Abdullah Ibnu Abbas (Radhiyallahu anhuma) and quoted by Baihaqee)


When children are very small, they should be taught moral values so that when they become adults, the childhood learning will come into practice without their knowledge. Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:

"ما نحل والد ولدا من نحل أفضل من أدب حسن"

“No father gave a child a gift more excellent than beautiful decorum.”
(Narrated by Saeed Ibn Al-Aas (Radhiyallahu anh) and quoted by Tirmithi)


How to behave with others, how to respect elders, how to obey the parents and teachers, how to show mercy to others, how to help others, how to be kind to Allah’s creatures and so forth must be taught to them practically. One can notice in the following Hadees how beautifully the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) guides the parents in relation to disciplining the children:

"مروا أولادكم بالصلاة وهم أبناء سبع سنين واضربوهم عليها وهم أبناء عشر. وفرقوا بينهم في المضاجع"

“Order your children to perform Salaah when they are seven years old and chastise them for any fault with regard to it when they are ten years old, and separate them in the beds.”
(Narrated by Abdullah Ibnu Amr (Radhiyallahu anhuma) and quoted by Aboo Dawood)


Above all, kids learn by looking at others. So, the parents should behave well, thereby setting a good example to them. One important thing that everybody has to bear in mind is that the kid observes all the acts of its parents without distinguishing between the right and the wrong, the good and the evil, the beautiful and the ugly and the moral and the immoral. Once it is engraved in its mind, it is very difficult to rub it off later. Considering all these facts, Islam views the participation of the parents in moulding the children as paramount, and the parents will be questioned by Allah Ta’ala regarding this prime duty. The following saying of the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) confirms this:

"كلكم راع وكلكم مسؤول عن رعيته"

“Everyone of you is a guardian. All of you are accountable for those who are placed under their care.”
(Narrated by Abdullah Ibnu Umar (Radhiyallahu anhuma) and quoted by Bukhari and Muslim)


Parents, being guardians of children, will have to face the relevant questions from Allah Ta’ala on the Day of Judgment.

So, the parents’ contribution to disciplining the children is one of the strategies in Islam in terms of shaping one’s behaviour.

Friendship

Since man is influenced by his companions, Islam sees the friendship as another contributing factor to shaping man’s behaviour. Rasool (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:

"الرجل على دين خليله. فلينظر أحدكم من يخالل"

“Man is on his friend’s religion. Therefore, one of you must see whom he keeps the company with.”
(Related by Aboo Huraira (Radhiyallahu anh) and quoted by Tirmithi)


Comradeship has a lot of impact on one’s life. The attitude, thinking, motive, mentality, mindset, view, talking, acting, lifestyle, etc. of a man change depending on those of his comrade. Therefore, Islam is very particular about the friendship. Moral dispositions are contagious, and the characteristics of one rapidly rub off on his companion. The following saying of Allah’s Apostle (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) exemplifies this fact:

"إنما مثل الجليس الصالح والجليس السوء كحامل المسك ونافخ الكير. فحامل المسك إما أن يحذيك وإما أن تبتاع منه وإما أن تجد منه ريحا طيبة. ونافخ الكير إما أن يحرق ثيابك أو تجد منه ريحا خبيثة"

“The example of the good friend and the bad friend is only like the musk carrier and the bellows blower. The musk carrier either he will give you or you will buy from him or you will get from him a pleasant smell, and the bellows blower either he will burn your clothes or you will get from him a unpleasant smell.” (Related by Aboo Moosa (Radhiyallahu anh) and quoted by Muslim)

If a person chooses a good friend, he will become well-mannered emulating him in his manners, and if he keeps intimacy with a bad person, he will become badly-mannered imitating him in his behaviour. There is a saying that “you are judged by the company you keep”. Everyone is required by Islam to take only the good ethical people as bosom friends. Whoever keeps friendship with bad people, he will no doubt regret on the Day of Judgment, and this regret will be futile. The Holy Qur’an says:

"ياويلتى ليتني لم أتخذ فلانا خليلا. لقد أضلني عن الذكر بعد إذ جاءني وكان الشيطان للإنسان خذولا"

“Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken such a one a friend! Assuredly he led me astray from the admonition after it had come to me.” Satan is a traitor to man.” (25 : 28-29)

Good Education

One’s behaviour is shaped by good education too. The education one receives makes him behave well. So that he could move in the society with very fine decorum. To behave well one has to know how to behave well and what the proprieties are. This is, indeed, impossible without good education. That is why Al-Qur’an, the last divine revelation that was sent down to shape the behaviour of the people, began its role by emphasizing the importance and the urgency of education in the very first five verses:

"اقرأ بسم ربك الذي خلق. خلق الإنسان من علق. اقرأ وربك الأكرم. الذي علم بالقلم. علم الإنسان ما لم يعلم"

“Recite thou in the name of thy Lord who has created – has created man from a clot. Recite thou, and thy Lord is the most bountiful who has taught by the pen – has taught man what he knew not.” (96 : 01-05)

It is only by good education that everyone is able to draw a distinction between the good and the evil. An illiterate mostly behaves rudely, and his conduct sometimes brings harmful consequences to his fellow members of the society. People always have the tendency to call such a man ‘uncivilized barbarian’ for the simple reason that he is not possessed of good manners. As long as a person keeps on receiving good education, his conduct keeps on receiving appreciation of the people. For this reason, education is given an extremely vital place in Islam. Almighty Allah did not encourage his Apostle (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to ask him for extra in anything, but he encouraged him in an imperative manner to ask him for extra in knowledge:

"وقل رب زدني علما"

“And say thou: “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge!” (20 : 114)

Rasool (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) made it compulsory on every Muslim to seek knowledge. He said:

"طلب العلم فريضة على كل مسلم"

“Seeking of knowledge is compulsory on every Muslim”. (Related by Anas (Radhiyallahu anhu) and quoted by Ibnu Maajah)

One needs to behave in different manners with different people on different occasions. Manners change from situation to situation and from person to person. One cannot behave in front of his parents as he does in front of his fiends and so on. Only good education makes him aware of this fact and grooms him to behave well accordingly. Taking the above facts into consideration, Islam calls upon all the Muslims to educate them with a view to being people of good characters and excellent behaviour.

Guidance and Advice of Pious Scholars

Taking guidance and advice from god-fearing scholars is another strategy that could mould one’s behaviour and make him acquire refined manners and high moral values. No one is perfect. That is why Almighty Allah orders the people to seek guidance and advice from scholars.

"فاسألوا أهل الذكر إن كنتم لا تعلمون"

“So, ask the people of the admonition if you do not know.” (21 : 07)

Pious scholars always render advices with a view to correcting the misbehaviour of the advice seeker and shaping his behaviour. Their guidance and advice are based on Qur’an and Sunnah; two divine beacons of the mankind. One who gets guidance and advice from god-fearing scholars and sticks to them will never deviate from the right path and will be loved by all and sundry because of his excellent conduct. He organizes himself according to the advices he receives from pious scholars whose characteristics fascinate him so much so that he also tries to imitate them. Such god-fearing scholars are guiding stars, and their guidance really plays a central role in refining the advice seeker and making him shine with high moral standards as a star in the sky. Due to this fact, the celebrated scholars of Islam like Imam Ghazzaly (Rahmatullahi alaihi) insist on sticking to a Murabbi (Guide) since he is one’s mirror in beautifying his soul and realizing his moral shortcomings.

In short, the ethical guidance rendered by god-fearing scholars makes one a person of decorous behaviour.

Marriage

The contribution made by the marriage institution to the process of bringing out rich qualities in the society is immeasurable. By introducing marriage as a major component of the religion which fills the half of the religion, Islam strives to keep the society always fortified with high ethical standards. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:

"إذا تزوج العبد فقد كمل نصف الدين. فليتق الله في النصف الباقي"

“When man got married, then he certainly completed half of the religion. So, he should fear Allah in the remaining half.”
(Narrated by Anas (Radhiyallahu anhu) and quoted by Baihaqee)


In order to shape the behaviour of the people especially the youths, Islam calls upon them to get married once they attain the marriageable age. This fact is well established by the following saying of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam):

"يا معشر الشباب من استطاع منكم الباءة فليتزوج فإنه أغض للبصر وأحصن للفرج. ومن لم يستطع فعليه بالصوم فإنه له وجاء"

“Oh youths! Whoever of you has the potency, he should marry as it lowers the sight and guards the private part, and whoever is unable, he should observe fasting since it is protection”.
(Related by Abdullah Ibnu Mas’ood (Radhiyallahu anhu) and quoted by Bukhari and Muslim)


In the light of the above Hadees, one can apprehend how far Islam is very concerned about protecting the social ethical values. It never tolerates dropping of moral standards, and therefore it encourages marriage in an imperative way.

Through marriage one’s lust is fulfilled in a lawful way, and there is no need for such a married man to approach women unlawfully and unethically. In case one needs more than one woman, he is entitled to marry two, three or four at a time according to his need provided he treats all the wives equally. The primary goal of marriage in Islam is to maintain the set social morals and to prevent all kinds of unethical, unlawful sex.

All in all, marriage is another strategy introduced by Islam to shape one’s behaviour.

In brief, all the teachings of Islam aim at improving the qualities of the people as morality is important to the soul as life is important to the body. Islam is very concerned about the behaviour, conduct and characters of individuals. So that the world can see a well-behaved society, members of which always think of each other’s well-being and welfare, help, respect and tolerate each other and share in each other’s happiness and discomfort and do not know atrocity, harming, disrespect, injustice, crime, manipulation, theft, robbery, jobbery, burglary, fornication, fraud, gambling, child abuse, women abuse, drug abuse, drug trafficking, rigging, malpractice, hijacking, carjacking, kidnapping, swindling, corruption, bribery, misappropriation, murder, assassination, torture, massacre, violence, economic embargo, invading, trespassing, encroaching, aiding and abetting, etc.

Let us all abide by the teachings of Islam which could produce well-mannered individuals and drive the world to the eternal happiness, peace and prosperity! Otherwise, the law of the jungle will prevail everywhere, and the entire world might turn a wild west.

 

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