Since the dawn of time, mankind has forged and tried to advance in all manners for all matters; be it through capital gains or through technology, to become more civilised.
Allah SWT through time, by His Infinite Mercy has sent many a person to help mankind become civilised and become more in harmony with the spiritual self. The greatest of such personages was our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW.
The Prophet SAW was sent to help mankind to tread upon the spiritual path, to teach and purify the inner qualities of the people reflected by their moral attitude. After being entrusted with the mission of calling the masses to bring faith upon Allah and to non-other but Allah, an additional task was given to the Prophet SAW, this was the task was to establish moral conduct.
It is a shame that we, out of our ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding, we have condensed Islam and cornered its dimensions to just faith and worship. The fact is, in reality Islam is a complete way of life. Moral conduct thus is an integral part of being a Muslim.
All religions are undoubtedly based on good moral conduct. The teachings of all Prophets AS and reformers have maintained, for example - that speaking the truth is good, whereas lying is bad, that justice is right and oppression is wrong, that charity is virtue and theft is evil. As with other aspects of Islam, the teachings of the Prophet SAW in this regard are complete and comprehensive.
The Prophet SAW himself has been narrated to have said:
"I have been sent to perfect virtues of courtesy and good behavior."
Another narration has the Prophet SAW saying:
"I have been sent only for the purpose to complete good behavior."
The question here is thus, what is moral conduct?
Moral conduct in its perfect sense, as aimed in Islam - relates to those mutual rights and obligations that fall upon human beings, the observance of which is not only proper but also essential.
When a person comes into the world, he/she forms a relationship, to a greater or lesser degree, with everything that is present in the world. He/she forms a relationship with family, friends, infact with every person and everything connected to him in terms of e.g. the opposite gender, neighbourhood, homeland, nationality etc. He/she even has a literal relationship with the environment inclusive of other beings i.e. animals. As a result, certain obligations are incumbent upon that person, whether male or female - a Muslim.
It is the elegant and beautiful discharge of these that constitutes - moral conduct. It is thus that when entrusted with this task, the Prophet Muhammad SAW diligently carried out this task.
It has been narrated that once, when the Prophet Muhammad SAW was still in Makkah, the eminent Companion Abu Dhar Ghifari RA sent his brother there to investigate the circumstances and teachings of the new Prophet SAW.
Upon returning, Abu Dhar RA's brother told him:
"I saw him exhorting people to develop good manners."
When Abu Sufyan gave the description of the Prophet SAW in the court of the Roman Emperor, whilst still a non-Muslim, about the reformatory message of the Prophet SAW, he said (mafhum):
"That in addition to preaching the Unity of Allah and his worship, he (the Prophet SAW) also taught people to be chaste, to speak the truth and to keep good relations with kith and kin."
The Prophet SAW has further said regarding this:
"The believer whose faith is more perfect are those who have the best character."
In another narration, Rasulullah SAW is reported to have said:
"A person can attain through moral conduct the same status which is gained by fasting during the day and worshipping all through the night."
We can thus observe from the above Ahadith, that achieving perfection of Faith in Islam depends upon good conduct - for this is the fruit by which the tree of Faith is identified. We can also see that moral conduct is that yardstick by which a person's status and honour can be measured.
There are numerous Ahadith on this topic, but from the few depicted above - we can see the very high status that moral conduct holds in Islam.
Also there are many verses in the Qur'an attributing to moral conduct, one of these is as follows:
"O ye who Believe - bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good that ye may prosper." (Surah 22: Ayat 77)
The meaning of the above verse implies that after Faith in Allah and the mission of the Prophet SAW, there are two essentials: one is worship, and the other is good conduct. The former is the "Rights due to the Creator", and the other is the "Rights due to the Creator's Creation".
The sum total of the two is Islam.