Reading the title, some
people might think of the ‘The Ten Commandments,’
one of the most financially successful movies
and rated as one of the best ten ever. Or the
title might stir the memories of the national debate of putting ‘The Ten Commandments’
on public property and use in public schools that ended in the Supreme Court in
Leaving aside the movies and the media, basic facts on
Ten Commandments are little known. That is why in the following three articles we
will explore what the Ten Commandments are? Who follows them? What is their
relevance to (modern) American life? What solutions, if any, do they provide
for today’s challenges?
Let us start with the basics. The Ten Commandments have
their origin in the Jewish religion, but they are also found in the Christian
Bibles. It is said to be inscribed on two tablets that were given by God to
Moses. In the Bible, they are recorded in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy
5:6-21. The Exodus list is more commonly accepted by Christians. Encyclopedia
Britannica describes them to be a "list of religious precepts that…were
divinely revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and were engraved on two tablets of
"Judaism teaches that the first tablet, containing the
first five declarations, identifies duties regarding our relationship with God,
while the second tablet, containing the last five declarations, identifies
duties regarding our relationship with other people."
Catholics believe, "The Ten Commandments are precepts bearing on the
fundamental obligations of religion and morality and embodying the revealed
expression of the Creator's will in relation to man's whole duty to God and to
The Hebrew, Protestant, and Catholic versions differ. This is not a well-known
What place does the Biblical version hold in modern
society? Jews are careful not to publicly over emphasize them so as not to
create the impression that Judaism has only these ten commandments and no
others. Christian theologians, on the other hand, consider them to be the moral
law of God to guide society, a standard of sorts to measure the health of the
society. As a result, what place, if any, should these commandments hold in
modern Western, secular societies is a hotly debated subject. Should they be
part of public schooling? Can they be displayed in public? The issues have been
debated even by the Supreme Court of the US. Despite the attention, most
commandments are simply ignored by the society. Secularists even consider the
Biblical version to be intolerant.
Great emphasis is placed on these commandments in the
Islamic faith: three verses in the Quran, the sacred book of Islam, speak of
them. Prophet Muhammad’s companions emphasized their centrality.
The Quran speaks of them in Surah Anaam, 6:151-153 and Surah Isra’, 17:23-39. Surah Isra’, 17:23-39 is like a commentary
on the commandments listed in Surah Anaam. Some scholars call them the "verses
of the ten commandments" simply because they speak of ten significant
commandments to be observed by a Muslim. The Quran does not directly state that
these are the same commandments that were given to Moses.
Ibn Mas’ud, a famous companion of Prophet Muhammad said:
"Whoever wishes to ascertain the will of Prophet
Muhammad on which the Prophet has put his seal, let him read the Statement of
God, and then he recited the three verses."
The Prophet of Islam himself said,
"Who among you will give me his pledge to do three
things," he then recited the verse 6:151 and continued, "Whoever fulfills (this
pledge), then his reward will be with God, but whoever fell into shortcomings
and God punishes him for it in this life, then that will be his recompense.
Whoever God delays (his reckoning) until the Hereafter, then his matter is with
God. If He wills, He will punish him, and if He wills, He will forgive him.''
In summary, in the Islamic view, these commandments
contain what God wills for the life of all people. It has five orders and a
similar number of prohibitions that define the relationship of man and his
Creator, man’s obligations to his family, and commandments that order his social
life. What follows are the ten commandments of Quran and their relevance to
It must be clarified that Islamic teachings do
not look favorably at portraying prophets of God in images or the screen.
First Commandment: Join not anything in worship with God (Shirk)
The first commandment is the most important and easiest
one. It is meant for the whole human race, the most severe in punishment, yet
it is a commandment from which people have strayed far away. Ignoring the
first prohibition is what leads to all other evils. It ruins all worship and
works which depend on it. Idolatry, known as Shirk in Arabic, is more
than serving idols. It is believing in a god besides the One True God who
alone deserves worship and service. Prohibiting idolatry is to affirm its
opposite: proper belief in and worship of God. Proper belief in God is the
cornerstone of Islamic faith and all other commands and prohibitions rely on it.
Second Commandment: Be good and dutiful to parents
Given the often tense relation between the generations,
this commandment is particularly relevant to our times. Most kids these days
are angry. They are very angry at their parents and their childhood. Maybe
they were hurt when they were vulnerable. Parents are imperfect. Many people
think their parents do not deserve any respect, yet God commands us to be kind
to them. They are not to be spoken harshly to or mistreated. Instead, they
are to be taken care of and shown the best manners.
Parents are so important that that they are
placed right after duty to God!
At the same time, we are supposed to honor, not worship,
the parents. God comes before parents. God, the Creator, is to be thanked for
what we have, His matchless gifts to everyone of us. After God, we owe our
existence to our parents who brought us in this life. They are not only to be treated
fairly, but favor must be shown to them. They are to be treated kindly by the
way we speak to them, the way we act towards them, and to financially support
them, if need be.
Third Commandment: Kill not your children because of poverty
The ancient Arabs would kill their children out of fear
of poverty. But, who would kill their own children who are so susceptible
and vulnerable in an age of civilization? Yearly around 750,000 children are
reported missing in the United States, around 2,000 every day.
Around 100 children are abducted and murdered in the U.S. each year.
About 100-200 children are killed in Britain per year.
The killers are mostly parents. According to the Society for the Prevention
of Infanticide, "Today, infanticide is still most commonly seen in areas of
Forth Commandment: Come not near to "shameful" sins whether
committed openly or secretly
This commandment deals with sexual conduct to protect
the family structure.
What are "shameful" sins? Islam teaches that they are
adultery, fornication, incest, and homosexuality. Violation of the family unit
is a crime against God and humanity. Unfortunately, these sins have become so commonplace
that it has altered society’s perception of it.
In modern times, society has developed new expressions
that soften the sin of adultery. Many are too coarse to repeat, but ones that
are not include: fooling around, sleeping around, flings, and affairs.
These phrases create a notion that adultery is guilt-free and hurts no one. Some
people even suggest that it’s just a recreational activity like playing ball or
going to the movies! Furthermore, some assert they have a beneficial aspect to
them! The truth is that these acts bring God’s extreme displeasure. Such sins
undermine human society and laws regulating sexual behavior are part of every
viable civilized community.
How prevalent is adultery? "More than one-third of men
and one-quarter of women admit having had at least one extramarital sexual
An article in a 1997 issue of Newsweek magazine noted
that various surveys suggest that as many as 30 percent of male Protestant
ministers have had sexual relationships with women other than their wives.
The Quran lays down several steps to curb moral
decadence spread by "shameful" sins:
1.Institution of marriage.
2.Emphasis on dress code for women.
3.Avoiding temptations by lowering the gaze (for both men and
4.Prohibition to enter others people’s houses uninvited.
Fifth Commandment: Kill not anyone whom God has forbidden
Islam views the human body as a structure built by God
that no one has the right to destroy. Human life is respected and protected as
one’s body belongs to God. Allah, the Exalted, states:
"On account of (his deed), We decreed to the Children of
Israel that if anyone kills a person - unless in retribution for murder or
spreading corruption in the land - it is as if he kills all mankind, while if
any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind." (5:32)
Islamic law protects the lives of:
2.a non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim country
3.non-Muslims who have peace treaties with Muslim countries
4.any non-Muslim who has taken temporary residence in a Muslim
At the same time, taking life is not always an evil deed.
Shedding of human blood by another is strictly prohibited unless it is
legislated by God such as the killing of a murderer, (capital punishment) etc.
Sixth Commandment: Come not near to the orphan’s property,
except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full strength.
Divine wisdom dictated that the
religion of Islam be delivered to humanity at the hands of an orphan, someone
who God raised to convey His final message to humanity. Quite naturally,
orphans are more than mere shadows in Islam.
Islamic Law defines an orphan to be a child that who is
deprived of the benefits of parenting by death of the father.
Much like the Arab society before Islam, orphans do not
fare much better in the US today.
Today there are estimated over 132 million orphans in
the world. Over 25 million American children (more than one in three) are
being raised in a family without a father.
Over 50% of youth in shelters and on the streets reported that their parents
either told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care. As many
as 2.8 million children live on the streets, a third of whom are lured into
prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. 1 in 8 youth under the age of 18
will leave home and become homeless in need of services. In 2007, 513,000
orphaned children lived outside of the home in substitutive/foster care. The
Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 cited the
Congressional finding that 100,000-300,000 children in the United States are at
risk for commercial sexual exploitation at any time.
A University of Pennsylvania study estimates nearly 300,000 children in the
United States are at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses.
In the US, the word ‘orphan’ is rarely used. According
to Dr. Francine Cournos, author of City of One: A Memoir, "today’s orphans
in the United States are foster care children." The term foster children is
often used for children in foster homes, group homes, and institutions.
Twenty two verses of the Muslim scripture emphasize
taking care of the orphans. Islam protected the orphans from being neglected
and legislated rights for them. One of those rights, formulated as a
commandment, is to spend money for their benefit. Today, in the US, that would
mean, for example, that the foster parents should spend the $420/month (that is
the national average) they receive per child for the welfare of the child in
the best possible manner.
Seventh Commandment: Give full measure and full weight with
The commandment has to do with fairness and justice in
all matters, financial and otherwise. Fair dealing with fellow human beings is
God’s command. The big question is how you can stand by the principle of fair
dealing, especially in business, when it seems so advantageous not to. Why
should you be fair in an unfair world? The simple answer: it’s God’s command. God
wants us to be ethical and play fairly. You must first accept the basic
commandment and moral principle of fair and honest practices. Widespread
economic and racial inequalities, unfair lending practices, and lack of
affordable housing makes one wonder, what justice and whose justice? The answer
is justice according to God’s rules. The only way to solve them is to fulfill
God’s command and give others their dues.
Eight Commandment: Whenever you speak, say the truth even if
a near relative is concerned
The commandment is not limited to fairness in speech, it
includes behavior. God requires us to treat others fairly, including the relatives.
If a parent or a friend makes a mistake, should we say that he is in error?
Yes, knowing full well that it is not a license to be rude and insulting, but a
matter of fairness. In a similar vein, favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism are
unethical. Islam commands its followers to be ethical and just in the face of
conflicting emotions like love and hatred for the other. A Muslim is required
to speak the truth and be honest without getting influenced by the relatives.
Ninth Commandment: Fulfill the Covenant of God
In general, fulfilling covenants and keeping pledges is
one of the foundations of Islam. It ensures trust, maintains justice, and
brings equality in society.
In specific, a Muslim is required to keep his covenant
with God. The basic principle of Islam is that God commands and forbids, hence
God is to be obeyed. The ‘Covenant of God’ is the promise made to God that acknowledges
this basic principle. As a consequence, God rewards and punishes.
A Muslim is supposed to fulfill pledges and keep promises;
it is an indication of loyalty to his word and to God. Negligence in this
matter indicates hypocrisy. Aptly, God ends with an emphasis:
"This is what He commands you to do, so that you may
bear in mind."
So, if you have not already made a promise to God to
obey Him, then now is the time to do so!
Tenth Commandment: And, indeed, this is My Straight Path, so
follow it, and do not follow other paths, for they will separate you away from
His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious."
The last commandment is the most comprehensive,
combining in itself the entire religion. God basically tells us that this is
My ‘Straight Path’, you must follow it. The ‘Straight Path’ of God is His
religion that he sent us through His prophets, completing it with His final
message which He sent through Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of
God be upon him. Every human being is required to follow this final message of
Islam and leave all other ‘paths.’ All other paths, without exception, lead a
person away from God and that amounts to destruction. The other "paths" are
ancient religions that have been corrupted or cancelled as well as misleading
ideologies and philosophies. Sticking closely to God’s "Straight Path" keeps
one protected from slipping or losing their way.
Thus we conclude the ten commandments from God that are
relevant and applicable to our times, and provide the best framework to develop
the spiritual side of human beings.