The root ethic in Islam is maintaining a healthy heart. I'm not referring to the pulsating organ in your left chest, but rather I'm referring to the qalb. The heart is the metaphysical mind and conscience that the Quran ties to our thoughts and feelings. It is the locus of our faith, the home of our innermost secrets, the intuitive criterion for good and evil, and the organ through which our Creator is known. In the hadith literature, the heart is connected to all of the senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling; and the information that these senses receive are directed to the heart. The heart then identifies and interprets this information. The heart is the Imam of the body that answers the questions of the body and clarifies its doubts. ( قلت أ فلك قلب قال نعم قال قلت فما تصنع به قال أميز به كلما ورد على هذه الجوارح قال قلت أ فليس في هذه الجوارح غنى عن القلب قال لا قلت وكيف ذلك وهي صحيحة قال يا بني إن الجوارح إذا شكت في شيء شمته أو رأته أو ذاقته ردته إلى القلب فليقر به اليقين ويبطل الشك قال قلت فإنما أقام الله عز وجل القلب لشك الجوارح قال نعم قال قلت ولا بد من القلب وإلا لم يستيقن الجوارح قال نعم قال قلت يا أبا مروان إن الله لم يترك جوارحك حتى جعل لها إماما يصحح لها الصحيح وينفي ما شكت فيه ويترك هذا الخلق كلهم في حيرتهم وشكهم واختلافهم لا يقيم لهم إماما يردون إليه شكهم وحيرتهم ويقيم لك إماما لجوارحك يرد إليك شكك وحيرتك )
The root verb (قلب) means to turn, to flip, and to change. A healthy heart is soft: it fluidly changes from state to state, depending on its surroundings. If it perceives oppression, it expresses hatred for the oppressor and sympathy for the oppressed. If it perceives God's signs, it basks in wonder and amazement. If it perceives love, it loves. It is constantly reflecting and "turning", hence the root word. An unhealthy heart is a hard heart: it is numb, heavy, heedless, stagnant, and does not react to its surroundings. It is desensitized to good and evil, and it does not recognize God's signs. Its hardness impedes its ability to flux, which is what a heart is made to do.
The goal of Islamic ethics is to remain soft-hearted by practicing humility, by crying over injustice, to curb our arrogance and heedlessness, to be selfless, and to return to our natural order. Yes, having a soft-heart can be painful, but those who turn their heart into a hard shell become bitter, distant, selfish, and absent-minded. Rather than genuinely turning their pain into a lesson, they mentally run away from their problems by locking their heart and letting nothing in. But only through heartfelt contemplation can true progress take place, both within yourself and within your society.
For some, the family is the basic unit of society. Family is seen as the building block of civilization, and the most basic natural association for the physical and emotional fulfillment of a people. For others, the individual is the basic unit of society, because individuals enjoy their own agency, even if they work towards a common end.
The basic unit of society in Islam, however, appears to be the heart. Being in a family is an ideal state, but it is not the reality for many people, nor is it wajib, nor does a family have complete agency. But similarly, to say that the individual is the basis is to assume that society is an amalgamation of separate, competing, selfish, and divergent people. The reality is that people are very connected - by blood, by tribe, by religion, by party, and by common interest. The heart in Islam does not deny the agency of the individual, but it is much more than individualism. It connects a person to his surroundings, and a cultivated heart is connected to that universal intellect (العقل الكلي) that is mindful of God and His divine authority.
And so the goal of a society should not just be productivity, because a productivity that ignores goodness is destructive. Rather, the goal of a society should be to maintain its humanity. A hard heart is vain, greedy, and heedless, while a soft heart is selfless, compassionate, and seeking constant betterment. If the basic unit is cultivated, our societal and political affairs will change overnight (13:11). Everything else in society - our families, our workplaces, our entertainment, our religion, and our social lives - should all be geared towards maintaining and improving the basic unit of our society.