IN a world where the quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms, there is risk that the essential value system of Islam is ignored, eroded, or even threatened with disappearance.
Therefore, while respecting people’s individual identities, various sections of the Muslim community should collaborate to articulate common social and moral principles that form the foundation of the Islamic value system.
Certainly, Islam has a great role in defining and determining the norms and values of a Muslim society. Interestingly, some other major world religious traditions appear to have lost relevance in modern times. Practices that were regarded as ‘sinful’ 50 years ago in the Western world have become acceptable.
Islam provides Muslims with essential principles to live by.
For a Muslim, whether living in the East or West, Islam provides him/her with an essential value system to live by. Life becomes meaningful only if one lives by it. It is aimed at man’s physical, aesthetic, economic, social, intellectual and spiritual growth, aligned with natural principles. Allah says: “We showed him the way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful” (76:3).
The understanding of a value system is the need of the hour. What is a value? It is a quality that renders something desirable. In other words, it is an ideal liked and wanted by all of us. At a higher plane, values are ordained by Allah and are also considered to be the prime objectives of life, attainable and achievable at the individual and collective levels through best practices, with the blessing of the Almighty. The Quran says: “... For all things has Allah appointed a due proportion” (65:3).
Values are numerous, covering the entire spectrum of life. They cover the economic, social, moral and spiritual aspects of life. The science of economics, for example, not only deals with wealth it also deals with human needs. It stresses the value of hard work, legitimate earning, saving, careful use of resources and avoiding wastage etc.
In social aspects, all activities need to be in the larger interest of society. Everybody should live and act for the benefit of others. Islam emphasises the values of helping others, respecting neighbours and seniors etc. Similarly, at the aesthetic plane, one needs to adorn life with beauty and on a moral level, one has to display good conduct. Spiritual values enable one to get closer to Allah.
At the personal level, there are some permanent and eternal values, while others are transitory, impermanent and time-bound. These transitory things include physical health and beauty, material wealth, power, status and other such time-bound characteristics which one enjoys during one’s life but that ultimately depart as time goes by. Their presence depends on scrupulous abidance by natural principles. They can be prolonged to some extent but eventually leave.
For instance, human health is transitory, which a person enjoys in his/her prime years of life but ultimately, in the end, many of us lose our health. This is the case with almost all transitory values. People can have physical power, beauty, position and status at some point in life but in the end, upon retirement, these are gone.
Along with transitory values, there are permanent values which become the guiding principles of life. For example, if a person lives with the principle of adjustment, being flexible and adaptable, he would be more soft, elastic to different situations, less worried in hard circumstances and survive because of fluidity. Rigidity is contrary to the natural way of life. There are no cut-and-dried rules; even holy laws are directions guiding us about how to proceed and are not detailed orders about the results to be obtained.
The Holy Book warns that one must be conscious of evil planning, especially as satanic propensities try to divert us from the truth. In our country, for instance, we think nothing of paying a bribe to a person to set things right or bribing others to have work done. This has become the normal way of operating to such a great extent that we do not even think twice about it.
Yet, if we are to strictly follow the Islamic value system, all of these acts would be clubbed under corruption.
Besides, there are eternal values which we must desire to embrace. They are time-tested and time-resistant. There is a long list of such values which the Holy Book often refers to while narrating events and incidents of past prophets. They consist of a number of latent values that need to be manifested in life. One has to mould his/her life in accordance with values provided by Islam to attain eternal success.