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Our Spiritual Journey with Ethics

One of the greatest recorded conversations available to man is the discourse that occurred thousands of years ago between our Creator and the angels. The angels inquired about the placement of man on earth when their Creator said to them: {Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.} (Quran 2:30)

The angels wondered, ‘would such a placement create an environment of chaos and turmoil?’ They asked Allah:

{Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood…} (Quran 2:30)

The angels demonstrated the reason for their concern, {while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?}.

In their estimation, a lack of tasbih (declaration of Allah being free of any defect) and tahmeed (declaration of perfection and praise for Allah) would cause chaos on earth. It was clear to the angels that guidance or religion would not be the source of wars and oppression, but instead it would be the humans themselves. Religions don’t kill, people kill.

Man and the Code of Ethics

But, Allah was not going to send man on earth without a set of ethics, guidance, and morals. He said: {Indeed, I know that which you do not know} (Quran 2:30) and said: {And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve} (Quran 2:38).

It is the disregard of these ethics that brings about bloodshed and corruption on earth. Ensuring that man has a code of ethics that is just and fair can be accomplished if the code of ethics come from a source that is All-Knowing, Perfect, and All-Merciful- our Creator.

Even the great secular minds concede that ethics and rights come from our Creator. Thomas Jefferson writes in the Declaration of Independence that people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.

One of the greatest goals of man while sent on this earth is to develop their spirituality in an ethical manner. Pursuing this goal secures life, liberty, and happiness. Allah coupled iman with taqwa, the former incorporating spirituality while the latter incorporating a set of ethics, as the premise to bring about prosperity. Allah says:

{And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth} (Quran 7:96).

Developing Spirituality through Ethical Manners

Claiming to develop spirituality of the self or of others in an unethical manner is one of the biggest crimes that comes with serious consequences.

Building a relationship with the Quran, reciting it, and teaching it to others are amongst the greatest forms of spiritual development.

Despite this lofty position in spiritual development, among the first persons to enter the hellfire will be the one who engaged in spiritual development through the Quran, but did so in an unethical and disingenuous manner.

The Prophet Muhammad mentioned such a person:

“… A man who had acquired and imparted knowledge and read the Quran will be brought forward, Allah will remind him of the favors He had bestowed upon him and the man will acknowledge them. Then He will ask him:

`What did you do to express gratitude for it?’ The man will reply:

`I acquired knowledge and taught it, and read the Quran for Your sake.’ Allah will say to him: `You have lied. You acquired knowledge so that people might call you a learned (man), and you read the Quran so that they might call you a reciter, and they have done so.’ Command will then be issued about him, and he will be dragged on his face and thrown into Hell” (Sahih Muslim).

The message is clear and profound- spiritual development is destructive if done in an unethical manner.

Living in the age of entertainment and celebrity, the danger to teachers and speakers in violating the ethics of imparting knowledge may exist on a level higher than ever before. Is knowledge being imparted today based upon the strategy and method practiced by the Prophet Muhammad or does it resemble the method of traveling celebrities, gurus, and motivational speakers?

Since no one besides Allah knows what is in the heart of a person, and if they are being disingenuous or not, Allah has made the person himself pay special attention to these ethics:

{Rather, man, against himself, will be a witness, even if he presents his excuses} (Quran 75:14-5).

The genuine, authentic, and sincere actions even if they are small can reap the greatest of rewards- simply due to ethics. The Prophet Muhammad gave us an example when he told us about this woman:

“Allah had once forgiven a prostitute. She passed by a dog panting near a well. Seeing that thirst had nearly killed it, she took off her shoe, tied it to her scarf, and drew up some water for it. Allah forgave her for that.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Here is a sinful woman who gets her sins forgiven by performing a small action. She is not a celebrity, not a scholar, but simply authentic.

The spiritual journey with ethics begins by being authentic to oneself and their Creator. This behavior then serves as the premise to interact with the rest of society. It is for this reason that the Prophet Muhammad mentioned that lying leads to the hellfire because it is unforeseeable that a Muslim be unauthentic to himself, his Creator, and society.

“…And beware of telling lies, for lies lead to wickedness and wickedness leads to the hellfire” (Sahih Muslim).