“Salih”: One Of The Least Understood Attributes Of A Muslim

You open up a traditional translation of the Quran, and you will find that it would usually translate characteristics of believers such as “Saliheen” (For ex. 2:62) and “Muttaqeen” (For ex. 2:2) as “Righteous people”. My problem with “righteous” is that it is too bland – too generic. Righteousness is a broad term. What aspect of righteousness, I would ask?

Just as God has several attributes, each attribute revealing a specific characteristic; similarly there are also numerous attributes of a Muslim. These diverse attributes are provided in the Quran to act as a checklist for those who seek to live by the Quran as a moral code on life. For ex: Muttaqeen, Mohsineen, Musalleen, Mufliheen, Musliheen etc.

For this post, I’d like to focus on the attribute of being a “Salih”.

A concordance of the word Salih reveals that it means to reform/amend. This attribute is of such vital importance, that it is used 100+ times in the Quran! “Those who believed (aamanu) and do acts of reformation (amallan Salihan)” is a very repetitive phrase in the Quran. As I said, brushing it off as “righteous” robs itself off the defining characteristic that God wants us to develop and fails to do justice to these words, linguistically.

As an exercise, try substituting righteousness in place of Sa-la-ha in the following verses. It just doesn’t fit:

So We responded to him, and We gave to him Yahya, and amended (Aslahna) for him his wife. Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive. Quran 21:90

If one sees gross injustice or bias on the part of a testator, and takes corrective action (Aslaha) to restore justice to the will, he commits no sin. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. Quran 2:182


Therefore, Saliheen are the reformers who set things right.  Reformation is a vital part of faith as faith should never be static. This is because anything that doesn’t grow is dead. If I have the same outlook on the world 10 years from now, I have failed to utilize the time to help me grow as a person. Muslims are encouraged to continually make reforms in their beliefs, whenever better information presents itself. That alone should make us more humble and compassionate towards each other, as the “I know it all” mindset gets suppressed.

In a broader sense, Saliheen also strive for reform in their community. Musa and Ibrahim (Salutes and respect to them) are prime examples of this. We have come to the point where we believe Islam to be a set of rituals only. All the while, the core message of the Quran which is all about activism and reformation gets ignored and sidetracked.


God likes reformers, not zealots.

I leave you with one of my favorite verses:

Surely, those who believe and do acts of reformation, the Almighty will shower them with love and affection. Quran 19:96

*Concordance of Salih as used in the Quran: http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=SlH#(2:62:14)


7 thoughts on ““Salih”: One Of The Least Understood Attributes Of A Muslim

  1. I prefer correction or correct over reformation, but I take your point and agree with it in general. I just think some people take reformation too far. They take reformation more as liberalization, renovation, modernization, trying to make everything in the Quran fit in contemporary and popular ethical models. Take the Unitarian Universalists for instance who reformed to the point that they took God out of their praise songs to be inclusive and because many of their members stopped believing in the Bible and even God but still wanted to be apart of a good, moral organization. Or look at reform Jews who even consume pork! I am against this sort of abuse in the name of “keeping with the times” or resisting “backwardness,” or “outdated” morality.


  2. I love your idea that we must continue to grow spiritually, not just follow established rituals. I believe that all we experience in life is meant to be a lesson. Once we adopt the attitude, “what can I learn from this?” we immediately leave the victim role and become the observer, the student, the seeker. There is but one Creator but there are many ways for us to develop and to grow. Thank you for sharing your world with me, When all is said and done, the ultimate lesson is how to give and to receive unconditional love to all. Light and Love coming your way from inside the floresta of Brazil. hugs, pat


      • Loved the post. Thanks for sharing it with me. I do not get to read other blogs as much as I like because I post so often on my blog. Always happy to have you flag something to me though. I can see that I must read the Quran (but with an open mind.) This might be easier for me as I know so little about it and Muslim beliefs. All great spiritual leaders have taught the same thing: Love our Creator, love each other, love ourselves, and take care of Mother Earth. Seems like the right “religion” to me. I live inside the floresta…a perfect place to find the Divine. hugs, pat


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