Detailed Commandments for Human Life
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Say: Come, let me tell you what your Lord has forbidden to you:
Do not associate partner with Him; (Do not offend against but, rather,) be kind to your parents; Do not kill your children because of your poverty — We provide for you and for them;
Do not commit any shameful deed, whether open or secret;
Do not take any human being’s life — which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice; This He has enjoined upon you so that you may use your reason.
(The Cattle: “Al-Ana’m” 6: 151)
“Say: Come, let me tell you what your Lord has forbidden to you.” The Prophet, (peace be upon him), is here instructed to speak to people and tell them what their Lord has forbidden to them, not what they allege to have been forbidden. It is their Lord who has made the following items forbidden, because His alone is the position of Lordship, which includes the aspects of fostering and directing, as well as issuing legislation. Hence, He is only exercising His authority, because He is the Lord. God alone is the one who enjoys all rights of Lordship.
“Do not associate partners with Him.” This is the foundation upon which the structure of faith is built. It is to this rule that all duties and obligations should refer and from which all rights and privileges are derived. It must be properly established, before any discussion of commandments, prohibitions, obligations, systems and laws can take place. The first and most important requirement is that people should acknowledge that God is their Lord who governs their lives in the same way, as they believe in His oneness. No partner can be associated with Him either as a deity or as a Lord. People must acknowledge that God alone controls the universe and conducts its affairs, as He indeed holds them accountable on the Day of Judgment for what they have done in this life and rewards them accordingly. They must also acknowledge at the same time and in the same measure that He alone has the authority to provide the law, which human beings must administer and enforce.
The guiding principle, then, purges human conscience of all traces of associating partners with God, purges the human mind from all traces of superstition, human society from the traditions of ignorance and purifies human life from people’s submission to one another. All forms of associating partners with God are included under the first and most important thing to be forbidden, because they lead to every objectionable thing. It is the practice, which should be most forcefully denied so that people can acknowledge that God is their only God, Lord, King and Sovereign. Hence, they address all their acts of worship to Him alone. Believing in God’s oneness is, thus, the most important rule, which cannot be replaced by any type of worship, moral value, human quality or action. Hence, the list of commandments begins with it: “Do not associate partners with Him.”
“Be kind to your parents; do not kill your children because of your poverty- We provide for you and for them.” This highlights the family tie between human generations. God knows that He is more kind and compassionate to human beings than their parents or children. Hence, He enjoins upon children to be kind to their parents and on parents to be kind to their children. He links this commandment to the recognition of His absolute Godhead and the acknowledgement of His unique Lordship. He tells them that He alone provides for their sustenance. Hence, they must not impose any severe conditions on parents in their old age or on children in their tender years. They must not fear poverty, because God provides sustenance for parents and children alike.
“Do not commit any shameful deed, whether open or secret.”
Since God has urged His servants to take good care of their families, He has also impressed upon them the need to maintain the family foundation, which is also the basis of society. This equates with purity, decency and chastity. Hence, they are forbidden to commit all types of indecency, whether openly or secretly. This prohibition is then closely related to the commandment immediately preceding it and to the first commandment. No family can survive and no community can prosper if they sink into shameful indecency, whether open or secret. Purity, cleanliness and chastity are the basic essentials for the healthy living of both the family and the community. Those who like to see the spreading of indecency throughout the community are the ones who try to weaken the structure of the family and to bring about society’s collapse.
The Arabic term translated here as ‘shameful indecency’ refers, from the linguistic point of view, to everything that goes beyond its proper limits. The term is also frequently used to denote a particular type of indecency, namely adultery and fornication. It is most probably in this sense that the term is used here. If we were to take the general meaning of the word, we should remember that murder, and the squandering of an orphan’s property are both indecencies, but associating partners with God is the greatest of all. Hence, giving the term ‘indecency’ the narrower sense of adultery in this context is perhaps more fitting to the general drift of the passage.
Actions and circumstances that are also indecent precede the crime of adultery. Clothing which is too revealing, wanton behavior, un-inhibited flirtation with the opposite sex, shameless behavior, speech and laughter, deliberate temptation and inviting adornment are all indecencies, leading to the ultimate one of adultery.
“Do not take any human being’s life, which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice.” These three offences, associating partners with God, adultery and murder are frequently mentioned in the Qur’an in quick succession as things to avoid. This is because they are, in a sense, crimes of murder. The first, associating partners with God, murders human nature, while the second, adultery, is a murder of the community and the third is a murder of individuals. When human nature is not nurtured by belief in God’s oneness, it becomes dead. A society in which killing and vengeance are tolerated is one, which is threatened with destruction. Hence, Islam prescribes very severe punishments for all these crimes, because it wants to protect its community from destruction.
Killing children by reason of poverty has already been forbidden. This is now followed by a prohibition of killing any human being. The way this prohibition is phrased suggests that every individual crime or murder seeks to kill the human soul in general.
The verse concludes by highlighting God’s directives and commandments: “This He has enjoined upon you so that you may use your reason.”
This comment is given in accordance with the Qur’anic method, which makes it clear that every instruction and every prohibition is given by God. This serves to enhance the impression that the authority, which bids and forbids in human life, belongs to God alone. This adds much weight to the effectiveness of these instructions and prohibitions. There is also a reference here to using our reason. Indeed, it is only logical that this authority is the only one to whom people submit. This authority belongs to God, the Creator, who provides sustenance and who controls every aspect in human life and in the life of the universe.