Incentives for virtuous deeds

Islam’s concept of man and his place in the universe provides those motivating forces which can inspire a person to act in conformity with the moral law. The fact that a man voluntarily and willingly accepts God as his own Creator and the obedience of God as the mode of his life and strives to seek His pleasure in his every action, provides sufficient incentive to enable him to obey the commands which he believes to be from God.

By Khwaja Mohammad Zubair

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Published: Fri 19 Aug 2011, 9:18 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:45 AM

Along with this the belief in the Day of Judgment and the belief that whosoever obeys divine commands is sure to have good life in the hereafter, the eternal life, whatever difficulties and handicaps he may have to face in this transitory phase of life, provides a strong incentive for virtuous life. On the other hand, the belief that whoever violates the commandments of God in this word, shall have to bear eternal punishment, however superficially nice a life he may have led in this temporary abode, is an effective deterrent against violation of moral laws.

If this hope and fear are firmly ingrained and deeply rooted in one’s heart they will provide a strong motive force to inspire one to virtuous deeds even on occasions when worldly consequences may appear to be very damaging and harmful, and it will keep one away from evil on occasions when it looks extremely attractive and profitable.

This clearly indicates that Islam possesses a distinctive criterion of good and evil, its own source of moral law, and its own sanction and motive force, and by them it enforces the well-known and generally recognised moral virtues in all spheres of life after knitting them into a balanced and comprehensive scheme. Thus, it can be justifiably claimed that Islam possesses a perfect moral system of its own. This system has many distinguishing features and I shall refer to the three most significant ones which, in my opinion, can be termed its special contribution to ethics.

1.By setting Divine pleasure as the objective of man’s life, it has furnished the highest possible standard of morality. This is bound to provide limitless avenues for the moral evolution of humanity. By making Divine revelations the primary source of knowledge it gives permanence and stability to the moral standards which afford reasonable scope for genuine adjustments, adaptations and innovations, though not for perversions, wild variations, relativism or moral fluidity. It provides a sanction to morality in the love and fear of God which will impel man to obey the moral law even without any external pressure. Through belief in God and the Day of Judgment, it furnishes a motive force which enables a person to adopt the moral conduct with earnestness and sincerity, with all the devotion of heart and soul.

2. It does not, through a false sense of originality and innovation, provide any novel moral virtues nor does it seek to minimise the importance of the well known moral norms nor give exaggerated importance to some and neglect others without cause. It takes up all the commonly known moral virtues and with a sense of balance and proportion it assigns a suitable place and function to each one of them in the total scheme of life.

It widens the scope of their application to cover every aspect of man’s individual and collective life — his domestic associations, his civic conduct, and his activities in the political, economic, legal, educational and social realms. It covers his life from home to society, from the dining table to the battlefields and peace conferences, literally from the cradle to the grave. In short no sphere of life is exempt from the universal and comprehensive application of the moral principles of Islam. It makes morality reign supreme and ensures that the affairs of life, instead of being dominated by selfish desires and petty interests , should be regulated by the norms of morality.

3. It stipulates for man a system of life which is based on all good and is free from all evil. It invokes the people, not only to practise virtue, but also to establish virtue and eradicate vice, to bid good and to forbid wrong. It wants that the verdict of conscience should prevail and virtue must not be subdued to play second fiddle to evil. Those who respond to this call and gathered together into a community (Ummah) are given the name “Muslim.” And the singular object underlying the formation of this community (Ummah) is that it should make an organised effort to establish and enforce goodness and suppress and eradicate evil. It will be a day of mourning for this community and a bad day for the entire world if the effort of this very community were at any time directed towards establishing evil and suppressing good.

Source: from ‘The Islamic Way of Life’ by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi

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