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A’udhu billaahi minash shaytanir rajeem Bismil lahir Rahmanir Raheem. Al hamdu lillaahi Rabbil aalameen was salaatu was salaamu ‘alaa rasulil laahil kareem.

April 5, 2020 will mark the first International Day of Conscience, which is a United Nations day. This day serves to remind people to self-reflect, follow their conscience, and do the right things. Everyone is encouraged to observe the day. As the COVID-19 pandemic feeds global anxiety, we need the power of conscience now more than ever to transform the world.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes conscience as the part of you that judges how moral your own actions are and makes you feel guilty about bad things that you have done or things you feel responsible for.

The human conscience (ad-ḍamīr) has an important role to play in the daily life of a believer. It is a natural intuition that resides in the heart by which people can recognize good and evil. It acts as a source of guidance and moral authority for the individual, to be complemented and refined by the wisdom of divine revelation.

The definition of righteousness in Islam is to have good character, a sincere inward disposition and pure heart that motivates one to do good deeds. Through this moral faculty one can recognize sin by how it affects the heart. If a believer is uncomfortable or hesitant to perform a deed and would be ashamed for people to see him doing it, then that is a strong indication that the deed is sinful.

An-Nawwas ibn Sam’an reported: The Messenger of Allah(SAW) said: Righteousness is good character and sin is what waivers in your heart and you hate for people to find out about it. Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2553, Grade: Sahih

Abu Umamah reported: A man asked the Prophet (SAW),“What is faith?” The Messenger of Allah(SAW) said: If you are happy with your good deeds and saddened by your evil deeds, then you are a believer.

The man said, “O Messenger of Allah, what is sin?” The Prophet said:

If something waivers in your soul, then you should abandon it.

Source: Musnad Aḥmad 21695, Grade: Sahih

Ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him, said: Sin is what disturbs the hearts.

Source: al-Zuhd li-Hannād 935

Believers do not reach the heights of faith until they abandon deeds that are doubtful and dubious. If our hearts and minds are in doubt about a certain deed, then we should not do it.

Hasan ibn Ali reported: The Messenger of Allah(SAW) said:Leave what makes you doubt for what does not make you doubt. Verily, truth brings peace of mind and falsehood sows doubt.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2518, Grade: Sahih

Ibn Umar, (RTA) said: The servant will not reach the reality of piety (taqwā) until he abandons what wavers in his heart.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 8

The moral conscience is part of the natural instinct (al-fiṭrah) that Allah embedded within the human soul. The divine revelation only activates the moral awareness inherent within people. The religion builds upon this natural moral awareness and refines it with wisdom and instruction.

Allah said:Direct your face toward the religion inclining to truth. Adhere to the nature of Allah upon which He has created all people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most people do not know. Surat al-Rūm 30:30

This is why Allah constantly refers to goodness as ma’rūf, which literally means the good that is well-known and recognized. In contrast, evil is referred to as munkar, which literally means evil that is unknown and rejected.

Moreover, part of the natural instinct in people is to feel a sense of guilt, shame, and regret when they do something wrong. Allah created this part of the human soul and swears an oath by it to draw our attention to it.

Allah said:

وَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ

And I swear by the self-reproaching soul… (Q75:2)

The human heart naturally blames itself when it commits an evil deed, or blames itself for failing to perform a good deed.

Ikramah explained the meaning of the self-reproaching soul, saying:

تَلُومُ عَلَى الْخَيْرِ وَالشَّرِّ It blames itself for good and evil.

And Mujahid said:

تَنْدَمُ عَلَى مَا فَاتَ وَتَلُومُ عَلَيْهِ It regrets what it missed and blames itself.

Source: Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī 75:2

Hence, the human conscience is a natural sense of justice and righteousness, an inner voice that people should listen to when making judgments in their daily lives. Feelings of guilt, regret, shame, or doubt are strong indicators that a particular deed is sinful. Likewise, feelings of tranquility, satisfaction, and peace of mind are the results of doing good deeds.

Ibn Al-Qayyim writes:

وَفِي الصَّفْحِ وَالْعَفْوِ وَالْحِلْمِ مِنَ الْحَلَاوَةِ وَالطُّمَأْنِينَةِ وَالسَّكِينَةِ وَشَرَفِ النَّفْسِ وَعِزِّهَا وَرِفْعَتِهَا عَنْ تَشَفِّيهَا بِالِانْتِقَامِ

In clemency, forgiveness, and forbearance are the sweetness of faith, peace of mind, and tranquility, as well as the nobility of the soul, its honour, and its ascent over satisfaction with revenge.

Source: Madārij al-Sālikīn 2/303

Believers ought to follow their conscience even if it conflicts with the religious verdict (fatwā) of a learned scholar (muftī). Islam does not encourage people to blindly follow religious leaders when their hearts tell them otherwise.

Abu Tha’laba reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, tell me what is lawful and unlawful for me.” The Prophet(SAW) said:

الْبِرُّ مَا سَكَنَتْ إِلَيْهِ النَّفْسُ وَاطْمَأَنَّ إِلَيْهِ الْقَلْبُ وَالْإِثْمُ مَا لَمْ تَسْكُنْ إِلَيْهِ النَّفْسُ وَلَمْ يَطْمَئِنَّ إِلَيْهِ الْقَلْبُ وَإِنْ أَفْتَاكَ الْمُفْتُونَ

Righteousness is serenity in the soul and peace of mind in the heart. Sin is not comfortable in the soul and not satisfying to the heart, even if the judge (muftī) gives you approval.

Source: Musnad Aḥmad 17396, Grade: Sahih

Wabisa ibn Ma’bad reported: The Messenger of Allah(SAW) said to me:

جِئْتَ تَسْأَلُ عَنْ الْبِرِّ وَالْإِثْمِ

Have you come to ask about righteousness and sin? I said yes. The Prophet clenched his fist and struck his chest, saying:

اسْتَفْتِ نَفْسَكَ اسْتَفْتِ قَلْبَكَ يَا وَابِصَةُ ثَلَاثًا الْبِرُّ مَا اطْمَأَنَّتْ إِلَيْهِ النَّفْسُ وَاطْمَأَنَّ إِلَيْهِ الْقَلْبُ وَالْإِثْمُ مَا حَاكَ فِي النَّفْسِ وَتَرَدَّدَ فِي الصَّدْرِ وَإِنْ أَفْتَاكَ النَّاسُ وَأَفْتَوْكَ

Consult your soul, consult your heart, O Wabisa. Righteousness is what reassures your soul and your heart, and sin is what wavers in your soul and puts tension in your chest, even if the people approve it in their judgments again and again.

Source: Sunan al-Dārimī 2533, Grade: Sahih

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Islam also teaches brotherhood, good neighbourliness,etc but more importantly sees conscience as a very important tool to achieve all these good teachings that will lead to the much desired peaceful society.

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