I would like to know, what is the Islamic response to those people (atheist, agnostics, etc.) who say that you can be moral without religion?
They say this because since they don’t believe in God or any religion for that matter that that you can be a good moral person without God or religion. In a way I kind of understand where they are coming from but then I kind of feel like something is wrong with their statements.
What is the Islamic response to people who say things like this?
Morality cannot be forced on people but it can be enforced by law. That is, a society can arrange itself such that certain values it considers paramount are upheld and others it considers harmful are stopped by force of law. But that is a different question altogether from people committing themselves willingly to certain moral values. We see all parents raising their children to certain moral values they believe in, but the children may not observe them when they grow up. And we also see the flip side: parents neglecting moral teaching of their children, yet the children acquire moral attitudes when they grow up!
Islam teaches us that non-Muslims can be moral and furthermore can do good. The Quran says, “And verily, among the people of the Book are those whom if you entrust with a Qintaar (a heap of money), he would deliver it to you” (3:75). God also tells us in the Quran that “whatever good they (non-Muslims) do, they will not be denied it” (3:115).
That is why, when non-Muslims do good to us, we are required to reciprocate with good. Asmaa’ bint Abi-Bakr had migrated to Medina, but her mother, Qateela bint `Abdil-`Uzza, remained in Mecca and remained polytheist. Then one day, Qateela traveled to Medina to see her daughter and brought her a gift. Asmaa’, however, wary that she must sever her relationships with polytheists, refused to let her in the house and would not accept her gift! The Prophet (PBUH) heard of this and told Asmaa’, “Accept her gift and be good to your mother.” Narrated by Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr (Asmaa’s son) and reported by Al-Haythami and has been rated well by Ibn Hubbaan.
So, if religion is not a pre-requisite to morality, then why is religion necessary? Religion’s purpose is not only to establish a moral code, but also to establish a bond between man and God, a bond man feels very strongly. A bond that atheists cannot explain away. That affinity is ingrained in all of us since before we were born. God says in the holy Quran, “And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their backbones – their offspring and had them testify of themselves, [saying to them], ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘But yes. We have testified.’ [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, ‘We were of this unaware.'” (3:172)
Besides, moral values vary with people. What is immoral to some may not be to others. And what is moral to some may not be to others. God has given us in the Quran the true moral code to live by. And He had His Prophet (PBUH) teach it to us in the authentic Sunna.