Early Islamic ethical trends modified the old Arabian ideal of muru’a (manliness) into a new ideal of virtuous happiness in this world and the Hereafter. Morality refers to the degree of conformity to the moral principles acquired by a society.
Good manners and morality provide are building bricks of a noble character.
Sins that are committed under the impulse of man’s lust consist with Islamic morality and human nature, especially the element of shame (haya), which prevents people from doing wrong. Through a process of Islamic education, this shame can be nurtured in such a way that it acts as a deterrent.
Early Arab virtues
A good starting point for understanding the morality of the Qur’an is to learn about the morality of pre-Islamic Arabia. Many of the moral qualities of the pagan Arabs were transformed with their conversion to Islam, with the period before the Qur’anic revelation known in Arabia as the age of ignorance (jahiliyya).
However, Goldziher argues that the term should be translated as barbarism, because Muhammad (Peace be upon him) intended to contrast Islam with barbarism rather than ignorance. The word ignorance also connotes the reckless temper of the pagan Arabs, which is the antithesis of Islamic hilm (forbearance, self-mastery). The pagan Arabs were torn between ignorance and forbearance: they lost their temper easily and were prone to violence, yet they admired the quality of forbearance and self-control (Goldziher, 1967: 202ﬀ.)
Concerning impetuousness, the Qur’an states:
“When the unbelievers instilled in their hearts ﬁerceness, the ﬁerceness of paganism, Allah then sent down His serenity upon His apostle and upon the believers, and imposed on them the word of piety, they being more deserving and worthier. Allah has knowledge of everything.” (Surah Al-Fath, 48.26)
The expression erceness of paganism (hamiyyat al-jahiliyya) in the Qur’an refers to the haughty spirit of the tribal Arab, which inspired many blood feuds in pre-Islamic Arabia. The Qur’anic verse above contrasts this to the calm, tranquil and forbearing way of religion. Connected to this, blind anger is the pagan manliness, which also subsumes under it the qualities of generosity (jud) and honour (karam) (Izutsu, 1959: 23ﬀ.)
The meaning of muru’a changed with Muhammad (Peace be upon him), who taught the pagan Arabs that forgiveness is not a vice, but the highest virtue of muru’a (Levy, 1969: 193ﬀ.)
Thus, the term covers both the physical and spiritual qualities of man: the physical aspect started with the pagans and the spiritual aspect with Islam.
Pre-Islamic morality was tied up with tribal loyalty, but the Qur’an transformed it into a personal morality. “No burdened soul shall bear the burden of another, and every person will be accountable on the Day of Judgement for himself.” (Surah Al-Ankabut, 29:13 and Surah An-Nahl, 16:25). Islam favoured a universal brotherhood in which kindness and equity should count for more than custom and law. The morality of the Qur’an may be summed up as: “Believe and do right.” (Surah Al- Maidah, 5:93). Belief in One God is fundamental to Muslim ethics. It is the foundation of man’s accountability to God and of his happiness in this world and the next.)
Of all the human virtues, the Qur’an insists most frequently and most urgently on benevolence to the poor, the needy, the stranger, the slave and the prisoner. This is expressed in the form of compulsory alms-giving (zakat) and, more importantly, in the form of voluntary charity (sadaqa).
 Goldziher, I. (1967) Muslim Studies, London: George Allen & Unwin, Vol. 1.
 Izutsu, T. (1959) The Structure of the Ethical Terms in the Qur’an, Tokyo: Keio Institute of Philological Studies.
 Levy, R. (1969) The Social Structure of Islam, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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