Integrity from the Islamic perspective

By Assoc. Prof. Dr. Fatimah Abdullah

What is the modern definition of integrity?

Linguistically, the word “integrity” is derived from the Latin term integer that connotes wholeness and completeness. Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. Barbara Killinger attempts to define integrity as a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honour moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles.’ (http://m.dictionary.com/definition/integrity).

As used today, it retained these two concepts i.e., wholeness and completeness in describing praiseworthy and principled human behavior. A person with high integrity is one whose consistency of character exemplifies honesty and unwavering commitment to truthfulness and ethical values. He is a person who practices these values out of personal choice and self respect without the fear of punishment or expectation of reward.

Integrity and happiness

From the psychological point of view, integrity can be viewed as a personality trait. Thus a person with high integrity is a happy person whose coherent observed behavior does not conflict with his beliefs and internal thought. This positive happy state is opposed to those whose external behavior is in conflict with their internal thought and feelings. Hypocritical conflict often results in unhappiness and psychological disorders.

As generally acknowledged people of integrity are guided by a set of core principles that empowers them to behave consistently to high standards. The core principles of integrity are virtues, such as: compassion, dependability, generosity, honesty, kindness, loyalty, maturity, objectivity, respect, trust and wisdom. Virtues are the valuable personal and professional assets employees develop and bring to work each day.

An organization’s success depends on the integrity of its employees. As witnessed by many when an organization’s reputation is damaged, there ensues a tragic loss of both customers and good employees. Organizations of all types are now taking a proactive approach to preventing problems by offering trainings about ethics and integrity.

Integrity from the Islamic point of view

In Arabic, integrity is often translated as إستقامة and النزاهة . which combines consistency and ethical behavior. From the Islamic point of view, Consistent and ethical behavior is a natural product of belief in Allah. The noble Qur’an speaks for this consistency based on faith in many Verses. For example the Verse No.15 in Surat Ashurah فاستقم كما أمرت . “So remain (consistently) firm on the right path”. And the Verse number 30 in Surat Fussilat, إن الذين قالوا ربنا الله ثم استقاموا تتنزل عيهم الملائكة . In this Verse Allah praises those who declare their faith in Allah and then they consistently keep to this belief in what they say or do. In the Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH), we also find many sayings supporting this spiritual belief that leads to the unswerving moral deeds.

A number of the Companions were praised for what we call integrity in modern language. Sayyidatina Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) never drink alcohol neither before nor after he became a Muslim. (www.study qeraat.com)

As another example, it was reported that Uthman ibn Madz’un, (may Allah be pleased with him), refused to drink alcoholic beverages even before they were prohibited by Islam. He said, “I do not drink what drinks my mind”. So out of his natural ethical standard and self respect he abstained from drunkenness. (www.study qeraat.com)

Thus in Islam integrity can only be erected on other than belief in Allah. Those who exhibit the positive aspect of integrity before being Muslim will become better Muslim if they believe in Allah. This is clearly exemplified in the famous authenticated hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) stating that people are like metals in their ethical nature. Those who possess precious metals like gold and silver will continue to be better Muslim if they revered to Islam. So in this hadith the Prophet (PBUH)speaks about potential traits of truthfulness and integrity that can be spiritually elevated if the concerned person becomes a Muslim (Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah).

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shawal Ras

A lecturer by day and a music blogger by night. Formerly: Managing editor at IIUMToday, and lifestyle writer for Esquire Malaysia and The Score Magazine.

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