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Islam and Ethics
12/10/2017
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Unlike other world religions, Islam is in an unprecedented focus equally by its apologists and islamophobists. The apologists argue that Islam is a religion of peace (salām) and moderation (wasat), whereas islamophobeists say that Islam is a religion of terror (irhāb) and extremism (tetarruf). The former quote from the Qur’an and the Sunnah to prove their point, while the latter take violent acts carried by some Muslims to prove their case. It seems that no one is winning this quite controversial debate about a religion, which has brought about so much good to the world culture and civilization, but some people seem to be confused about its real message.

The great Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abdullah Draz (1894–1958) has spared us time and effort proving that there is an Islamic ethics independent from Greek ethical thought. In his master theses “La Morale Koran”, which was prepared in France during World War II, Shaikh Draz has remarkably proven the fact that the Holy Qur’an contains the teachings of ethics and morality in its own right. Indeed, he was awarded for it the degree of Ph.D. in 1947 at Paris-Sorbonne University. This doctoral theses was published in a form of book in French language by Al-Azhar in 1950 and then translated into Arabic in 1973 by Dr. Abd Al-Saboor Shaheen under the title: “دستور الاخلاق في القرآن”. Taking into account theoretical and practical aspects of an Qur’anic authentic ethics and morality, Sheikh Draz dealt with key ethical and moral issues such as the issue of moral obligation (الالزام), moral responsibility (المسؤولية), moral consequence (الجزاء), moral intention and motivations ((النيّة والدوافع, and hard work (الجهد).

Obviously, our task here is not to dwell on Sheikh Druz’s theses in its entirety but to point out that Sheikh Druz demonstrated that the often cited complaint that there is no an independent Islamic ethical and moral thought except what some Muslim scholars have inherited from the Greek ethical thought has no ground whatsoever. This complaint often starts with the great Muslim ethical scholar Abū ʿAlī Aḥmad ibn Muhammad Miskawayh (d. 1030), a Persian of the Buyid era. Indeed, Miskawayyh was a Neoplatonist, whose book ” تهذيب الاخلاق وتطهير الاعراق“ (“Refinement of Character”) is a reflection of the Greek ethical thought with an Islamic cultural touch. However, the first significant step of departure from the Greek ethical and moral stigma which has been sticked to the Muslim ethical and moral thought had been made by the great Muslim scholar Abu al-Qasim Al-Raghib Al-Isfahani (d. 1108). His book ”كتابالذزيعة إلي مكارم الشريعة“ (“A Path Toward the Ethics of al-Shari’ah”) is unique for the very fact that the great Imam al-Ghazali (d.1111) used to hold it in his packet for consulting it wherever he was going. This book though is not unique only because it had made a significant break through from the mere Greek moral thought, but also because it has introduced a new approach toward ethics and morality in Islam in terms of making the science of ethics and morality the core principle of Shari’ah, the God’s Law as such. The Al-Raghib Al-Isfahani’s statement that all moral actions are worship, but all worships are not necessarily moral action is really fascinating: – Be aware, Al-Isfahani said, the worship is more general than moral action. Hence, all moral actions are worship, but all worships are not necessarily moral action… It is not fitting for man to be God’s vicegerent on Earth, nor to perform his worship properly, nor to build his place on Earth if he is not of a pure soul that is cleaned of its filth and its dirt. For, the soul has its dirt as the body has its dirt. However, the body’s dirt is seen with the naked eye whereas the soul’s dirt is seen only by the eye of insightful mind or intelligence. And the reason why man without pure soul does not fit to be the God’s vicegerent is because vicegerency is an imitation of it as much as humanly possible in terms of acquiring a sort of divine actions… Because the one whose soul is not clean means that his word and his action are not clean either because each man is behaving in accordance with his inner being…

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