Let me now turn to the important question: What is the definition of the good man? The Christian view is that a man has to possess all the virtues and to be free from all the vices, all defects, to be called a good man. Other religions have more or less followed the same line. But the Holy Quran says explicitly:
Then, as for him whose scales are heavy, he will have a pleasant life. But as for him whose scales are light, hell will be his resort. (101:7-10)
For instance, if an examinee answers nine questions correctly but his answer to the tenth is not correct he will not be penalised for it. Similarly doctors too commit occasional mistakes but if by and large their patients get well, they are considered good doctors.
This means that a moral person is one the quantum of whose virtues is overwhelming by greater than that of his vices, or alternatively an immoral person would be one whose vices outweigh his virtues. This is unlike what other religions say. From their point of view, a person may live a clean, full and virtuous life; but let him commit one mistake and this would be enough to condemn him as immoral. The Islamic approach is different. In Islam a moral person is one who honestly and sincerely exerts himself to do the right, so much so that his virtues cover and score out his faults.
The truth is that other religious teachings regard the Shariah as arbitrary. To them it is nothing more than commands which must be obeyed to please the law-giver’s fancy. The slightest breach brings down a penalty. There is no forgiveness, no exception, no leniency. The Shariah, according to them, is nothing more than a manual of penalties. The Islamic view of Shariah is quite different. The Shariah rituals are not ends in themselves. They are exercises to help promote the really good life, the life of the heart. Therefore, if you fail to perform a prescribed ritual, you do not at once attract punishment, unless the omission or the error violates the purpose of the exercise itself. This does not mean, however, that occasional wrong-doing is permitted in Islam. No. That is not so. Deliberate wrong-doing is a kind of holiday from moral life. It is rebellion; and certainly rebellion is not permitted. If in a school examination a scholar refuses to answer one question and says he will not answer, because he has so willed, his act will be treated as a kind of indiscipline. He is just asking for punishment. It amounts to insulting the institution. But if he is unable to answer one or two questions, that is quite another matter. That would not entail any punishment. But deliberate refusal would be quite a different story.