15 Nov Building Good Character.Part2
THE NATURE AND TYPES OF DUTY
Duty is the moral responsibility of a person who has reached puberty when they have been asked to do something good or helpful. Accordingly, Islamically there are two types of duty. One is the obligatory (fard) group of duties, that is, those the performance of which is binding and the abandonment of which is forbidden. For example, performing daily prayers, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, and offering prescribed purifying alms fall into this category. The other type of duty is that which, although not obligatory, is encouraged or desirable; it is these duties that religion presents as being inherent parts of a good moral character. To observe these duties on top of the obligatory ones shows greater spiritual maturity and is worthy of Divine reward; the observation of them pleases God. To neglect such duties would be a shortcoming. An example of this type of duty would be the giving of money or goods to those in need (sadaqa), over and above the prescribed purifying alms (zakat), and generally being kind and polite to everyone.
Duties can further be classified as those fulfilled in the cause of God, or for the benefit of the individual, family, or even society. From this perspective, duties can be divided into different sorts divine, familial, and social duties. Let us more closely examine these categories.
It is incumbent upon every person who has come of age and who is in possession of all their mental faculties that they recognize and worship God.
For a human there can be no greater blessing or honor than this servitude to God. One worships God by willingly and gratefully performing acts of worship, such as daily prayers, fasting, charity, and such other commitments that require both physical and financial abilities, like the pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition to these duties that pertain to the personal practice of Islam, safeguarding and defending one’s homeland is also a sacred duty.
Another very important divine duty is to struggle against one’s own evil-commanding soul.
Those who cannot discipline their ego or self through moral education will not be able to help themselves, let alone society. Believers, both as individuals and members of society, need to exert themselves to strive in the way of God in all their actions at all moments of life. This is what Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, meant when he said,
“We are returning from the lesser jihad (struggle) to the greater,”
while he was returning to Medina from the Campaign of Tabuk. Emphasizing that they were returning from “the lesser struggle to the greater,” the Prophet directed his Community to this “greater struggle” that is waged against one’s carnal self at all moments of life.
Being this comprehensive in nature, jihad includes every action, from the simplest act of speaking to remaining silent or performing supererogatory acts of worship, such as extra prayers, worship and fasting to attain the good pleasure of God. Likewise, to enlighten our hearts we can read the Qur’an, or to increase the light of our faith we can continually remember and reflect on the Divine Attributes of our Almighty Creator that are manifest all around us.