It seems this next section is a bit of an ethical code and there are lots of salient texts here for understanding Islam, so I will be discussing this section both today and tomorrow. 

What makes a person “good?”  As limited as it is, this section says it is one who treats all of the following correctly:

  1. Food — what to eat and when to eat it; more on this tomorrow
  2. Money — The “truly good” are those who are generous with their money even though they can think of many other things to do with their money.  They give to others — family, friends, but especially the poor and needy.  Good people are steadfast in their giving even when the economy takes a downturn.  Good = generous, even to the point of self-denial.
  3. Justice — Good people only seek retribution that is fair.  This is the same “eye for an eye” principle in Exodus 21:24 and elsewhere.  It was given in Islam for the same reason it was in the Old Testament.  Powerful groups of people were demanding greater retribution for wrong-doing because they had the power to collect.  In essence, justice was not being done.  Good people realize there is nothing wrong with receiving justice but only to the level that justly recompenses the person for their loss.  It is easy to pay back one step greater an offense, but where does that stop?  Allah says “fair retribution saves life for you (2:179),” which can be so true when talking about truly heinous acts done against you or one you love.  Good = fair, though not necessarily forgiving.
  4. Time — specifically times of fasting; more on this tomorrow
  5. Sexuality — A good person knows that sexuality is also good, when expressed between spouses who “are as close as garments” to each other (great wording!).  Sexuality does not “counteract” the spiritual act of fasting, not even during the fasting month of Ramadan.  At the same time, there are times to show mastery over one’s desires and abstain from sex, such as during special times devoted to prayer at the mosques.  Good = disciplined, though not necessarily ascetic.

 Before you read any further, ask yourself the same question: what makes a person “good?”

Lest one think of the ethics of Islam as legalistic ritualism, this section also reminds the reader that goodness does not come from religious observances like eating halal, the qiblah, or fasting (2:177).  Goodness comes from how one lives in relation to God and others.  You are good if you do good

We who are not Muslims must see two things:

  1. Islam, though it is one of the religions most known for emphasizing actions, is not a robotic religion of heart-less rituals done to fulfill a checklist handed down from on high.  We do an injustice to Islam by depicting it this way. 
  2. The Islamic perception of good is very much like what we are used to in our culture — good people do good things, bad people do bad things — but it is very different from traditional Christianity.  Remember that Paul says “there is no one who does good” (Romans 3:12).  No Christian, if they understand the gospel correctly, would claim a goodness that arises from their own deeds.  However, God is good and Jesus was the “good” sacrifice and now we who are not good can be seen as good through the blood of Christ.  Now our deeds are done from gratitude not goodness.  This is a significant difference between the two religions. 

What do you think?