Common Values and Virtues

“So strive as in a race in all virtues” 5 The Table Spread, 48

The limits of the law are not sufficient to produce a society that is happy and thriving in a friendly environment. The Hebrew Bible, New Testament and Qur’an are full of ethical advice. This chapter is an attempt to compress some of the central values held in common into a single table. They concern what people throughout the world long for, though often fail to attain. These values, the Books argue, cannot be realized without the utmost effort.

They offer essentials for moral education. They contain the notion that men and women must actively strive towards them, even if total realization is not possible in earthly life. Both acting in contradiction to them, and sheer negligence can make life a hell. The books demonstrate a sense of urgency.

The values presented here do not contradict human rights; rather, they complement them. Whereas human rights provide the legal framework of the good life, ethics provide their contents. In some cases, the values run parallel to or even support the enactment of human rights. For instance, the Qur’an contains the notion that there can be compulsion in religion.

In this chapter, I have, out of necessity, been even more selective than in the previous ones. I omit guidelines that are outdated and concentrate on what is relevant today.

In presenting these common values, I begin where I left off in the last chapter, with Peace-Shalom in Hebrew, Salaam in Arabic. Lasting peace is unattainable without reconciliation and forgiveness. It must be based on tolerance, especially in religious affairs.

The Qur’an is explicit about religious tolerance. The dialogue must be performed with beautiful words. Both books urge that those with whom discussion is useless must be passed by in peace. In the Hebrew Bible, much wisdom is found on how to conduct a dialogue.

Peace must also be accompanied by justice. Justice, in its turn, must be tempered by mercy and charity. Strangers and wayfarers are explicitly included in this realm of charity.

Bible and Qur’an stress the importance of using one’s wealth and talents to achieve these values. Burying one’s talents or wealth is rejected. Of course the relevance of values changes with the socio-cultural context. Some values such as hygiene are so obvious today, shared by believers and non believers alike, that its religious origin is forgotten.

Thus Allah ‘loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.’ 3 Al-‘Imran,76

Washing has to do with honoring. Thus Jesus “began washing his disciples’ feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing.” CEV John 13:5

Other contemporary values, of great importance in the crowded, technologically advanced societies of today, were hardly relevant in the cultures in which the Books were written. Environmental concern is an obvious example. Although the vulnerability of nature was not an issue at the time, today’s environmentalists can find unexpected inspiration in certain Bible and Qur’an passages. The stories of the creation and the great flood, told in both Books, can be seen as reminders of the wonder of nature and of its vulnerability. Other passages relevant to environmental concerns are quoted below.

Certain values pertain to the character of individuals. In the Qur’an and the Bible being successful or wealthy is of less importance than being truthful, just, steadfast and kind. As Proverbs argues, kindness should be shown to people and to animals. Tradition has it that Muhammad criticized his wife Aisha for being cruel to her camel.

And, last but certainly not least, the Books value a family life in which parents are honored and children are a source of wealth and joy.

If one dwells excessively on the warlike passages found in the earlier parts of the Hebrew Bible, the end of the New Testament and Qur’an , one gets the wrong impression. For in each book, the promise of peace appears repeatedly. This chapter begins with famous and much-loved passages on peace, celebrated in three languages:

Hebrew: Shalom שָׁלוֹ

Greek: Irene ειρήνη

Arabic: Salaam السلام عليكم


Peace, Shalom

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. St.Matthew 5:9

…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:4

Love and forgiveness

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge… but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:..Leviticus 19:17-18

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. St. Matthew 6:12

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. St.Matthew 5:39
Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. St.Luke 6: 27

Don’t blame the other

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother,

“Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye,”

when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. St. Luke 6: 37,41-42

Pluriformity and dialogue

For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. Micah 4:5

A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeases strife. Proverbs 15:18

He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbor, but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

Proverbs 11:12

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.Matthew 10:14


Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment:..but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor. Leviticus 19:15

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice:

Proverbs 29:2

Merciful and caring

He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again. Proverbs 19: 17

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. St.Luke 6:36

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Galatians 5:13-14

For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.

St..Matthew, 25:35-36

Love of strangers

Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23: 9

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; Leviticus 19:33-34

I was a stranger, and ye took me in. St.Matthew, 25:35

Use your talents

And so he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, “Lord, you deliveredst unto me five talents; behold, I have gained beside them five talents more”.

His lord said to him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant:”

He also that had received two talents came and said, “Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him,

“Well done, good and faithful servant;” Matthew 25:20-23

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Mark 10:25

Be truthful, steadfast, righteous

Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; Exodus 23:1-2

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed (steadfast ed.): Psalm 57:7

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…1 Corinthians 15:58

And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…… Ephesians 4:32

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: Proverbs 12:10

God is Master of the earth

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: The earth is full of thy riches. Psalm 104:24

…the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant redemption of the land. Leviticus 25:23-24

And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat its fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land and made mine inheritance an abomination. Jeremiah 2:7

The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth…The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants therefof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

Isaiah 24: 4-6

But ask the beasts, and they shall teach thee: and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Job 12:7-8

Parents and children

Honour thy father and thy mother…Exodus 20:12, St. Matthew 19: 19

…Jesus…said unto them: “Let the little children come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”. St. Mark 10:14

A woman, when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man (human baby ed.) is born into the world. St.John 16:21

Correct thy son, and… he shall give delight unto thy soul. Proverbs 29:17

A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: Proverbs, 13:1

Children’s children are the crown of old men…Proverbs 17:6


Peace, Salaam

But Allah calls to the Home of Peace: 10 Yunus, 25

…Allah guides all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety. 5 The Table Spread,16

But if the enemy incline toward peace, you (also) incline towards peace… 8 The Spoils of War, 61

Forgiveness and reconciliation

And He is the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Beginning of very sura except 9

The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. 42 The Consultation, 40

Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate! 41 Fussilat, 34

Tolerance and self-criticism

… let every soul look to what he has sent forth for the morrow

59 The Gathering, 18

…those who repent and make amends and openly declare (the Truth): to them I turn; for I am Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

2 The Heifer, 160

And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: “To us our deeds, and to you yours; Peace be on you. ” 28 The Narration, 55

And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say: ‘Peace!’ 25 The Criterion, 63

No compulsion in religion

Let there be no compulsion in religion. 2 The Heifer, 256

Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! No soul can believe, except by the Will of Allah… 10 Yunus, 99-100

And you do not dispute with the People of the Book, except with means better… say: “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God (Allah) and your God (Allah) is One. 29 The Spider, 46

Say: O you that reject Faith! I do not worship that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine.109 Those Who Reject Faith, 1-3, 6


…Allah loves the righteous.

…Allah loves those who judge in equity. 9 Repentance, 45 ; 5 The Table Spread, 42

Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor:4 The Women,135


Be…regular in charity. 2 The Heifer, 110

And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive – (Saying), “We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.”

76 Time, 8-9

Alms are for the poor and the needy… for those in bondage and in debt…and for the wayfarer.

9 Repentance, 60

And strive in His cause as you ought to strive…give regular Charity and hold fast to Allah! 22 The Pilgrimage, 78

Respect others, help wayfarers

O mankind! We…made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other…

49 The Inner Apartments, 13

And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer. 17 The Israelites, 26

…To spend of your substance…for the wayfarer… 2 The Heifer, 177

So give what is due to…the wayfarer. 30 The Roman Empire, 38

Trade and spend in God’s way

…strive (your utmost) in the Cause of Allah, with your property…

61 Battle Array,11

…gold and silver…spend it in the way of Allah…9 Repentance, 34

…do not eat up your property among yourselves in vanities, but let there be…trade by mutual good-will…4 The Women, 29

Restore the property of the orphans to them (when they reach their age)… 4 The Women, 2

To those who reject Our Signs and treat them with arrogance, no opening will there be of the gates of heaven…

until the camel can pass through the eye of the needle. 7 The Heights, 40

Be truthful firm and kind

And cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when you know (what it is).

2 The Heifer, 42

But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in Allah’s way, nor did they weaken (in will) nor give in. And Allah loves those who are firm and steadfast. 3 Al-‘Imran, 146

…for Allah loves those who are kind. 5 The Table Spread, 13

It behooves you to treat the animals gently. Sahih Muslim 4;2536

Man merely vice-regent

Behold, your Lord said to the angels: “I will create a viceregent on earth.” 2 The Heifer,30

And remember how He made you inheritors…and gave you habitations in the land:..so bring to remembrance the benefits from Allah, and refrain from evil and mischief on the earth. 7 The Heights 74

O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel…eat and drink, but do not waste by excess, for Allah does not love the wasters.

7 The Heights, 31

…in order that you may not transgress (due) balance.

5 The Most Gracious, 8

Do not do mischief on the earth, after it has been set in order…

7 The Heights, 56

Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of the meed (reward ed.) that the hands of men have earned, that Allah may give them a taste of…their deeds.30 The Roman Empire, 41

Family life

It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, (saying): ”If You give us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.”

7 The Heights, 189

Kill not your children on a plea of want- We provide sustenance for you and for them. 6 The Cattle, 151

Allah instructed you…concerning the children who are weak and oppressed: that you stand firm for justice to orphans. 4 The Women, 127

…Be good to your parents;

6 The Cattle, 151

…Be kind to parents. 17,The Israelites, 23