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The Ten Commandments in Islam

April 25, 2016

Common word Quran

By Abu Amina Elias

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

The Ten Commandments are the well-known instructions, the essence of the Torah, which Allah revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, peace and blessings be upon him. The commandments prohibit the major sins of idolatry, impiety, disrespect for parents, murder, theft, adultery, false witness, and envy.

These commandments are among the core teachings of Judaism and Christianity that are taught to children at an early age, and all of them are included within the teachings of Islam. Some believe these commands go back as far as the seven laws of Noah, peace and blessings be upon him.

As such, these commandments can be the basis of interfaith dialogue and mutually-beneficial cooperation between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. They are the “common word” for which we can all come together in agreement.

Allah said:

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَىٰ كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلَّا نَعْبُدَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَلَا نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقُولُوا اشْهَدُوا بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ

Say: O people of the Book, let us come to a common word between us, that we will not worship anything but Allah, we will not associate anything with Him, and we will not take one another as lords instead of Allah. But if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we submit to Allah.

Surat Ali Imran 3:64

These common teachings can be distilled into two main principles: love for Allah and love for our neighbors. In other words, we should respect the rights of Allah by holding sound beliefs and performing acts of worship in the best manner, and we should respect the rights of people by treating them in the way we would love to be treated. All of the divine revelations throughout history are founded upon these two principles.

Abdullah Al-Hashimi reported: I came to Tawus, may Allah have mercy on him, and he said to me, “Would you like me to summarize in this sitting all of the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms, and the Quran?” I said yes. Tawus said:

خَفِ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى مَخَافَةً لا يَكُونُ عِنْدَكَ شَيْءٌ أَخْوَفَ مِنْهُ وَارْجُهْ رَجَاءً هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْ خَوْفِكَ إِيَّاهُ وَأَحِبَّ لِلنَّاسِ مَا تُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِكَ

Fear Allah the Exalted more than anything else, hope in Allah more intensely than you fear him, and love for people what you love for yourself.

Source: Hilyat al-Awliyā 4693

The closest single passage in similarity to the Ten Commandments occurs in the chapter of the cattle (surat al-an’am). In this passage, many of these biblical commandments are restated, with a heavy emphasis on fulfilling the rights of Allah and the rights of people.

Allah said:

قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ ۖ أَلَّا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۖ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُم مِّنْ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ ۖ وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ ۖ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا مَالَ الْيَتِيمِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ حَتَّىٰ يَبْلُغَ أَشُدَّهُ ۖ وَأَوْفُوا الْكَيْلَ وَالْمِيزَانَ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ لَا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۖ وَإِذَا قُلْتُمْ فَاعْدِلُوا وَلَوْ كَانَ ذَا قُرْبَىٰ ۖ وَبِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ أَوْفُوا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ وَأَنَّ هَٰذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

Say: Come and I will recite what your Lord has forbidden for you, that you not associate anything with Him, and be good to parents. Do not kill your children out of poverty, for We will provide for you and them. Do not approach lewdness, whether it is public or private. Do not kill the soul which Allah has made sacred except by right of justice. This He has instructed you that you may reason. Do not approach the property of the orphans, except in a way that is best, until he reaches maturity. Give full measure and weight in justice. We do not charge any soul except within its capability. When you testify, be just even if it concerns a relative, and fulfill the covenant of Allah. This He has instructed you that you may remember. And this is My straight path, so follow it and do not follow other ways, lest you be separated from His way. This He has instructed you that you will be righteous.

Surat al-An’am 6:151-153

This passage explicitly and implicitly expresses the moral foundations of the Muslim community. In fact, some of the Prophet’s companions considered this passage to be the will and testament of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

مَنْ سَرَّهُ أَنْ يَنْظُرَ إِلَى الصَّحِيفَةِ الَّتِي عَلَيْهَا خَاتَمُ مُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَلْيَقْرَأْ هَذِهِ الْآيَاتِ قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ الْآيَةَ إِلَى قَوْلِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

Whoever is pleased to look at the will which has upon it the seal of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, then let him recite these verses, “Say: Come and I will recite to you what your Lord has forbidden…” (6:151) until he reaches the verse, “…that you will be righteous.” (6:153)

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3070, Grade: Hasan

With this in mind, we find that the parallel sayings to the Ten Commandments are conveyed all throughout the Quran and Sunnah. The following are some prominent instances in which Muslims are instructed to uphold these teachings:

First commandment: You shall have no other gods before Me.

Allah said:

وَإِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ لَّا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ

Your God is one God. There is no God but him, the Gracious, the Merciful

Surat al-Baqarah 2:163

And Allah said:

قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ فَاسْتَقِيمُوا إِلَيْهِ وَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ ۗ وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ

Say: I am only a man like you to whom it has been revealed that your God is one God, so take a straight path to him and seek his forgiveness.

Surat Fussilat 41:6

Second commandment: You shall not make idols.

Allah said:

وَلَا تَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ ۘ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ ۚ لَهُ الْحُكْمُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

Do not call upon another god alongside Allah. There is no God but him. Everything will perish but his countenance. Judgment belongs to him, and to him you will return.

Surat al-Qasas 28:88

And Allah said:

إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءٌ سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ ۚ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَمَا تَهْوَى الْأَنفُسُ ۖ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَهُم مِّن رَّبِّهِمُ الْهُدَىٰ

They are nothing but names you have named, you and your forefathers, for which Allah has not revealed any authority. They follow nothing but assumption and what their souls desire, yet there has already come to them guidance from their Lord.

Surat al-Najm 53:23

Abdullah reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, what is the greatest sin?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

أَنْ تَجْعَلَ لِلَّهِ نِدًّا وَهُوَ خَلَقَكَ

To make a partner with Allah although he alone created you.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5655, Grade: Sahih

Third commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Allah said:

وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ

Unto Allah belong the best names, so call upon him by them and leave those who violate the sanctity of his names.

Surat al-A’raf 7:180

And Allah said:

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِ

When you see those who engage in offensive discourse concerning Our verses, then turn away from them until they engage in another conversion.

Surat al-An’am 6:68

Fourth commandment: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

Allah said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِيَ لِلصَّلَاةِ مِن يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَذَرُوا الْبَيْعَ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

O you who believe, when the prayer is announced on Friday, then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.

Surat al-Jumu’ah 62:9

Salman Al-Farisi reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا يَغْتَسِلُ رَجُلٌ يَوْمَ الْجُمُعَةِ وَيَتَطَهَّرُ مَا اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْ طُهْرٍ وَيَدَّهِنُ مِنْ دُهْنِهِ أَوْ يَمَسُّ مِنْ طِيبِ بَيْتِهِ ثُمَّ يَخْرُجُ فَلَا يُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ اثْنَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُصَلِّي مَا كُتِبَ لَهُ ثُمَّ يُنْصِتُ إِذَا تَكَلَّمَ الْإِمَامُ إِلَّا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ الْجُمُعَةِ الْأُخْرَى

No one takes a bath on Friday, purifies himself as much as he can, uses oil or perfume in his house, then proceeds for prayer and does not separate two persons sitting together, then prays as much as is written for him and remains silent while the prayer leader is delivering the sermon, except that his minor sins between this Friday and the previous would be forgiven.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 843, Grade: Sahih

Fifth commandment: Honor your father and your mother.

Allah said:

وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ

Worship Allah and associate nothing with him, and be good to parents and relatives.

Surat al-Nisa 4:36

Abu Huraira reported: A man asked the Prophet, “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

أُمُّكَ

Your mother.

The man asked, “Then who?” The Prophet said:

أُمُّكَ

Your mother.

The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet said:

أُمُّكَ

Your mother.

The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet said:

أَبُوكَ

Your father.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5626, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Sixth commandment: You shall not murder.

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ وَلَا يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ

The believers are those who do not call upon another god alongside Allah or kill the soul which Allah has made sacred except by right of justice.

Surat al-Furqan 25:68

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

وَلاَ يَقْتُلُ وَهْوَ مُؤْمِنٌ

The killer is not a believer while he is killing.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6809, Grade: Sahih

Seventh commandment: You shall not commit adultery.

Allah said:

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا

Do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is immoral and an evil way.

Surah al-Isra 17:32

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا يَزْنِي الزَّانِي حِينَ يَزْنِي وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ

The adulterer is not a believer while he is committing adultery.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 2343, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi 

Eighth commandment: You shall not steal.

Allah said:

وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ

Do not consume the wealth of each other in falsehood.

Surat al-Baqarah 2:188

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

وَلَا يَسْرِقُ حِينَ يَسْرِقُ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ وَلَا يَنْتَهِبُ نُهْبَةً يَرْفَعُ النَّاسُ إِلَيْهِ فِيهَا أَبْصَارَهُمْ حِينَ يَنْتَهِبُهَا وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ

The thief is not a believer while he is stealing. The plunderer is not a believer while he is plundering and the people are watching him.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī2343, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi 

Ninth commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Allah said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا

O you who believe, fear Allah and always speak the truth.

Surat al-Ahzab 33:70

And Allah said:

فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا

Follow not your whims, let you be unjust. If you distort your testimony or withhold it, then Allah is aware of what you are doing.

Surat al-Nisa 4:135

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ الصِّدْقَ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْبِرِّ وَإِنَّ الْبِرَّ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَصْدُقُ حَتَّى يُكْتَبَ صِدِّيقًا وَإِنَّ الْكَذِبَ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْفُجُورِ وَإِنَّ الْفُجُورَ يَهْدِي إِلَى النَّارِ وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَكْذِبُ حَتَّى يُكْتَبَ كَذَّابًا

Verily, truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man may speak the truth until he is recorded with Allah as truthful. Verily, falsehood leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to the Hellfire. A man may tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2607, Grade: Sahih

Tenth commandment: You shall not covet.

Allah said:

أَمْ يَحْسُدُونَ النَّاسَ عَلَىٰ مَا آتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ

Do they envy people for what Allah has given them of his bounty?

Surat an-Nisa 4:54

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا تَبَاغَضُوا وَلَا تَحَاسَدُوا وَلَا تَدَابَرُوا وَكُونُوا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ إِخْوَانًا

Do not hate each other, do not envy each other, do not turn away from each other, but rather be servants of Allah as brothers.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2559, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِيَّاكُمْ وَالْحَسَدَ فَإِنَّ الْحَسَدَ يَأْكُلُ الْحَسَنَاتِ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ النَّارُ الْحَطَبَ أَوْ قَالَ الْعُشْبَ

Beware of envy, for it consumes good deeds just as fire consumes wood or grass.

Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4903, Grade: Hasan

As we can see, the Ten Commandments are entirely compatible with Islam and they are, in reality, the essence of all divine revelations. They can be the best point of departure for sharing Islam with Jews and Christians, and working together in fulfillment of our ethical obligations.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.