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ISLAMIC ETHICS

Introduction

A good starting point for our understanding of ethics is to raise a few fundamental questions about ethics and morality. Are the ethics and morality same? Is there any difference between ethics and morality? Are the students of ethics the students of morality? Do we need to study in Islamic ethics the Islamic morals and morality as the students of Islamic ethics? What is the term which is used in Arabic for morality and ethics? Is this term same or different? Can we translate morality as Akhlaq in Arabic? Is the use of this term Akhlaq for morality is appropriate? How do we translate ethics in Arabic? Do ethics mean morality or Akhlaq? If yes, then, can we translate ethics as Akhlaq? The answers of all these questions would facilitate our efforts to understand the true meaning of ethics and morality as well as the difference between ethics and morality. Ethics is neither morality nor we study under Islamic ethics Islamic morals and manners. There is a great difference between ethics and morality. Under Islamic ethics we are not supposed to study Islamic morals or morality or human behaviour or conduct because we are not the students of morality. Many people do not understand the difference between ethic and morality. Consequently, they are unable to understand what is ethics? Therefore, they discuss more and more on Akhlaq and morality instead of discussing ethics. They mix ethics with Akhlaq or morality. Instead of elaborating ethics they focus on morality. The same attitude is also of those who teach or write on Islamic ethics. They think that they are concerned in Islamic ethics with Islamic Akhlaq or morality. Hence, they explain wrongly morality or Akhlaq under Islamic ethics. The current books and articles dealing with Islamic ethics are the best example of this gross root misunderstanding. Hence, at the very outset, as a prerequisite, we, as the students of Islamic ethics, need to understand what is ethics? and what is Islamic ethics? What is Ethics?

What do ethics mean to you? If you ask this question to people in different walks of life they will give you different answers. You may expect the following replies. "Ethics has to do with what my feelings tell me is right or wrong." "Ethics has to do with my religious beliefs."

"Being ethical is doing what the law requires."
"Ethics consists of the standards of behavior our society accepts." "I don't know what the word means."
These replies reflect different perception about ethics. Hence, scholars argue that to determine one single meaning of "ethics" is difficult. We cannot pin down a single meaning, and the views many people have about ethics may be questionable. Many people tend to equate ethics with their feelings. But being ethical is clearly not a matter of following one's feelings. A person following his or her feelings may recoil from doing what is right. In fact, feelings frequently deviate from what is ethical. Some other people contend that we should identify ethics with religion. No doubt, most religions, of course, advocate high ethical standards. Yet if ethics were confined to religion, they argue, ethics then would apply only to religious people. But ethics applies as much to the behavior of the atheist as to that of the saint. Religion can set high ethical standards and can provide intense motivations for ethical behavior. Ethics, however, cannot be confined to religion nor is it the same as religion. Another group of people argue that following the law does not mean that we are ethical. The law often incorporates ethical standards to which most citizens subscribe. But laws, like feelings, can deviate from what is ethical. In recent years we have observed that the United States of America violated its own laws when American government opened prisons in Guantanamo and tortured people against its own laws. In this case we understand that the United States of America and its Allies governments did not work ethically. These are obvious examples of laws that deviate from what is ethical. Finally, being ethical is not the same as doing "whatever society accepts." In any society, most people accept standards that are, in fact, ethical. But standards of behavior in society can deviate from what is ethical. An entire society can become ethically corrupt. Israeli society is a good example of ethically corrupt society as they have occupied the land of Palestinians and Palestinians are staying in other countries as refugees, where as, they had in the past their own lawful land. Moreover, if being ethical were doing "whatever society accepts," then to find out what is ethical, one would have to find out what society accepts. To decide what we should think about abortion, for example, we would have to take a survey of any given society and then authenticate our beliefs to whatever society accepts. But no one ever tries to decide an ethical issue by doing a survey. Further, the lack of social consensus on many issues makes it impossible to equate ethics with whatever society accepts. Some people accept abortion but many others do not. If being ethical were doing whatever society accepts, one would have to find an agreement on issues which does not, in fact, exist. What, then, is ethics? Ethics is two things, some people would say. First, ethics refers to well based standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics for them, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. And, ethical standards include standards relating to rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by consistent and well founded reasons. This may be a good example of ethics. But this explanation of ethics also falls short of ethical elaboration. In other words this definition of ethics is neither comprehensive nor universal. In this explanation of ethics we are more concerned with right, wrong, virtues, obligation etc. Confining ethics to these areas defeats the purpose of ethics. The scope of ethics is as wide as life. Based on above explanation it is generally concluded that ethics refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards [that is moral standards]. They also assert that feelings, laws, and social norms cannot be considered as the source of ethical understanding. In spite of this argument still these people confine ethics to moral standards. Hence, they emphasize for constant examination of moral standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well-founded. Ethics also means, then, the continuous effort of studying our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct, and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are reasonable and solidly-based. What is ethics all about?

It is a fact that most people only have a partial understanding of the basic questions that are addressed in the field of ethics. The most commonly held views include a mixture of the following: Ethics is the same as morality

Ethics is about rules for behavior
Ethics is to do with theory
Ethics is not the morality
While each view is severely limited, it is easy to see how it can be held as most people tend to see only part of the overall picture. Those wanting to capture the broader perspective may be best assisted by returning to what is regarded to be the founding question in ethics. There is a tendency to search origin of any thing in Greek civilization. Hence, in the case of ethics most people relate the origin of ethical discourse to Greek philosophers. The basic assumption is that the basic question of ethics has an ancient pedigree. Indeed, they try to trace back to a Greek philosopher who lived and taught in Athens during the fifth century BC. Socrates who asked: "What ought one to do?" But this is not true. Ethics is not only the matter of “what ought one to do”. Ethics is more than that. The basic questions of ethics are different from moral questions. Due to lack of proper understanding of meaning and scope of ethics some people assert that: Ethics is a matter of practical concern. For them this is an immensely practical question which confronts all of us whenever we have a choice or decision to make. It is also a question that is extremely difficult to avoid. Indeed, the only sure way to escape this question is to be a creature of unthinking habit that goes about life doing things “because everyone does it” or because “that's just the way we do things around here” or because “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. This sort of unthinking custom and practice can be seen as being the enemy of an 'examined life'. What is Morality?

“There are difficult questions to answer because philosophers disagree about the methods, goals, and subject matter of ethics and morality. It is probably safe to say that morality is a code of conduct or system of values providing guidance about right and wrong actions as well as the passions, desires, beliefs, words, character traits and other such things related to these actions. Morality tells us which options to choose in a wide range of different situations and why these choices are right and others are wrong. Ethics is more complicated. A] Sometimes ethics simply means morality. The terms “ethical” and “moral” can be used interchangeably. B] Sometimes ethics is taken to be a theory providing guidance not just about right and wrong but about all aspects of life. In this sense, ethics includes morality and much more. C] Finally, ethics is sometimes thought of as the study of morality, a theoretical investigation of morality.” [Howard J. Curzer, Ethical Theory and Moral Problems, Wadsworth Publishing Company, London, 1999, p.6] Ethics is not the same as morality

If ethics is about practical rather than purely theoretical matters, it should also be understood that it encompasses a general conversation about how people should live a ‘good’ life. This helps to explain the difference between ethics and morality. The distinction can be demonstrated by using the analogy of a conversation. If one imagines that the field of ethics is a conversation which has arisen in order to answer the question, “What ought one to do?”, then moralities (and they are various) are the different voices in that conversation. Each voice belongs to a tradition or theory that offers a framework within which the question might be contemplated and answered. So in the conversation there can be a Christian voice, a Jewish voice, an Islamic voice, Buddhist voice, Hindu voice, Confucian voice and so on. Each voice has something distinctive to say - although they may all share certain things in common. There are, in addition to the moralities that flow from the worlds’ religions, the voices that represent the various attempts to found moral systems on the thinking of secular philosophers and others - for example utilitarianism, humanism, feminism and many others. Definitions of ethics

Ethics deals with the ideas of right and wrong
the philosophical study of moral values and rules

According to the Church of Scientology, "Ethics may be defined as the actions an individual takes on himself to ensure his continued survival across the dynamics. It is a personal thing. When one is ethical, it is something he does himself by his own choice."

Ethics is a branch of philosophy which seeks to address questions about morality, such as what the fundamental semantic, ontological, and epistemic nature of ethics or morality is (meta-ethics), how moral values should be determined (normative ethics), how a moral outcome can be achieved

The study of principles relating to right and wrong conduct; Morality; The standards that govern the conduct of a person, especially a member of a profession
ethical - of or relating to the philosophical study of ethics; "ethical codes"; "ethical theories" ethical - conforming to accepted standards of social or professional behavior; "an ethical lawyer"; "ethical medical practice"; "an ethical problem"; "had no ethical objection to drinking"; "Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants” adhering to ethical and moral principles; "it seems ethical and right"; "followed the only honorable course of action"

ethicism - a doctrine that ethics and ethical ideas are valid and important; "his ethicism often led him to moralize"
ethicism - The application of ethics; The use of ethics to create competitive advantage in business
a set of moral principles. The study of morality.

The moral code which guides the members of the profession in proper conduct of their duties and obligations. Academic Definitions
At a higher level ethics is also defined in various ways. “The term ethics has several meanings. It is often used to refer to a set of standards of right and wrong established by a particular group and imposed on members of that group as a means of regulating and setting limits on their behavior”. [Judith A. Boss, Ethics for Life, Mayfield Publishing Company, California, 2001, p.5] In another definition it is said that: “The study of ethics is about what we should do and what we should be. It is about right, wrong, good, bad, evil, and the relationship of humans to each other and to other living things.”[Joanne B. Ciulla, The Ethics of Leadership, Thomson, USA 2003, p. xi] Some other scholars take ethics “as the systematic inquiry into human conduct with the purpose of discovering both the rules that ought to govern our action and the goods we should seek in life… Ethics is concerned with attempting to answer two different questions: What is right [or wrong]? And What is good [or bad]?...The history of ethics presents us with two traditions: one concerned primarily with action and its rightness or wrongness and the other with the ends or goals of action and their goodness or badness.”[ [Oliver A. Johnson, Ethics: Selections from Classical and Contemporary Writers, fifth edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1984, pp.6-7] However, the modern philosophers with their diverse emphasis devote considerable attention to both dimensions. We should know what do we mean by the rightness of an idea or action? “All of us,…believe that some types of action are right and others wrong and that we have a duty to do the former and avoid the latter.” [ibid, p. 7] Generally, rightness means as our reason confirms it as right. But this does not qualify to be right because there are so many things that are considered as right and good but in reality they are not right. They are not confirmed to the criteria of truth. In truth they are not right. For example, according to humanism humans are at the centre of universe. Is this really true and in line with reality? Can human alter the day and night? In what sense humans are at the centre of universe? Humans are not the owners of universe. They are not sustaining and maintaining universe. In many ways humans are at the mercy of nature. The natural disasters and calamities are beyond the control of humans. Then how come we can conclude that humans are at the centre of universe. However, “Ethics may be defined as the philosophical study of morality—that is, of right conduct, moral character, obligation and responsibility, social justice, and the nature of the good life”. [Victor Grassian, Moral Reading: Ethical Theory and Some Contemporary Moral Problems, second edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1992, p3] “A study of ethics can help us better understand and classify our own moral principles; most of all, it can help refine, develop, and sometimes change these principles…The study of ethics can lead one from blind and irrational acceptance of the moral dogma one has assimilated without logical scrutiny into the development of a critical reflective morality of one’s own.” [ibid. p4] “The central question of ethics is on, ‘what basis, if any, do people have to approve or disapprove the correctness of any idea, behavior or action. In the domain of ethics, philosophers considered, for example, such questions as what sort of life is worthwhile or fulfilling for a human being? What acquired characteristics make people especially worthy of admiration? What is pleasure and what role should it have in human life.”[J.E. Tiles, Moral Measures: An introduction to ethics west and east, Rutledge, London, 2000, p2] As Aristotle puts it, ‘the whole concern both of [ethical] excellence and political science is with pleasures and pains; for the man who uses these well will be good and he who uses them badly [will be] bad’ [1105a 10-13]. [ibid, p, 3] “ It is also a function of reason as a human capacity to evaluate reasons, to appreciate that some are more satisfactory than others. [ibid, p.67] It is contended that philosophers are seekers after certain sorts of truth. But philosophers want their beliefs not only to be true but also to be somehow justified or supported or explained. Why is mere truth not enough? Because claim for truth or beliefs alone cannot persuade others. One must have good reasons for one’s true beliefs, and these reasons are fundamental to claims of truth. This is the reason that the Quran did not ask anybody to accept its belief system. Rather it presented along with its belief systems arguments and provided valid and sound reasons for its acceptance. More than this the Quran asked its readers to utilize all their faculties to understand both belief systems and arguments. In spite of this ethical approach of the Quran, some ignorant and arrogant people blame Islam that it presents dogmatic beliefs and demands blind submission. Ethics is also defined as “the science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science; a particular system of principles and rules concerning duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; as, political or social ethics; medical ethics. For some ethics is “a philosophical discipline,” that “includes the study of the values and guidelines by which we live and the justification for these values and guidelines. Rather than simply accepting the customs or guidelines used by one particular group or culture, philosophical ethics analyzes and evaluates these guidelines in light of accepted universal principles and concerns.” [Judith A. Boss, Ethics for Life, Mayfield Publishing Company, California, 2001, pp.5-6] In our view ethics cannot be confined to the evaluation of customs, values and guidelines alone. More importantly, “ethics is a way of life. In this sense, ethics involves active engagement in the pursuit of the good life—a life consistent with a coherent set of moral values”.[ ibid. p. 6] But before one discusses good life he must elaborate what is life at all. Without this elaboration the elaboration of good life is meaningless. At the very outset one must know what is life all about? Moreover, for these scholars, “Moral guidelines are not simply a list of dos and don’ts that others impose upon us, however, as adults, it is not enough just to do as we are told. We expect to be given reasons for acting certain ways or taking certain positions on moral issues”. [ibid. p. 8] Hence, they argue that: “Ethical theories do not stand on their own but are grounded in other philosophical presuppositions about such matters as the role of humans in the universe, the existence of free will, and the nature of knowledge”. [p12] Here philosophers need to answer this question: What is the basis of this philosophical presupposition? This shows that, “Our concept of human nature has a profound influence on our concept of how we ought to live…Metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality are not simply abstract theories; they can have a profound effect on both ethical theory and normative ethics. Metaphysical assumptions play a pivotal role, for better or for worse, in structuring relations among humans and between humans and the rest of the world.” [ibid., p. 12] This is the reason that we argue “Only through reason can we understand moral truth and achieve the good life.”[ibid, p. 13] In modern times a different position is adopted. It is asserted that: “The creation of the social sciences as a discipline separate form philosophy, Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the growing emphasis on the scientific method as the source of truth all contributed to the growing trend in the West to describe human behavior in purely scientific terms.” [ibid. p.16] This is the reason that human behavior is examined in the light of modern ethical theories. For example, “The theory of determinism states that all events are governed by causal laws: There is no free will. Humans are governed by causal laws just as all other physical objects and beings are. According to strict determinism, if we had complete knowledge, we could predict future events with one hundred percent certainty…Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud [1856-1939] claimed that humans are governed by powerful unconscious forces and that even our most noble accomplishments are the result of prior events and instincts. Behaviorists such as John Watson [1878-1958] and .B F. Skinner [1904-1990] also believed that human behavior is determined by past events in our lives. However, they argued that, rather than the unconscious controlling our actions, so-called mental states, are really just a function of the physical body. Rather than being free, autonomous agents, we are simply the products of past conditioning, elaborately programmed computers—according to Watson, an assembled organic machine ready to run.” [ibid. p16] These philosophers believe that there are no objective or universal moral standards or truth; instead, there are only opinions. They are bound to form this opinion because they do not have any divine universal sacred source. They have neglected the need of a universal sacred source. But those who believe in religion state differently. For them the study of sacred scriptures is important, in part, because it teaches right from wrong. However, those who oppose it argue that, “…this by itself does not imply that religion or scripture is the only source of moral guidance or that morality is relative to religion. In the Jewish religion, Roman Catholicism, and mainstream Protestant religions, the basic moral principles are also held to be universal and discoverable through other means such as the use of reason or intuition.” [ibid, p.152] So far as Islam is concerned, they argue that “Islam maintains that ethics is inseparable from religion and is built entirely upon. An action is right simply because God commands it. Religion informs not only the Muslim’s personal life but also the basis of public policy. The sovereignty of Allah is the starting point of Islamic political philosophy and law….Humans are not expected to discern right from wrong but simply to submit unquestioningly to God’s will”. [ibid, 152] This issue of unquestioning may be relevant to religions but so for Islam is concerned it is not correct. We will demonstrate later on that Islam does not demand submission without understanding. Rather rational understanding is a prerequisite for submission. Hence, it is also wrong to say that: “There are no independent, universal moral standards by which to judge God’s commands. No other justification is necessary for an action to be right other than that God commanded it.” [ibid] This understanding of commands of God is baseless and unfounded. The question here is: What are those universal moral standards? Who sets those universal moral standards? The developments of universal moral standards are not more important rather the development of ethical criteria is more important than the examination of those universal moral standards. To conclude they say that: “God’s reasons are ultimately unknowable to humans, and therefore, we must accept God’s commands—whatever they are, on faith.” [ibid, 154] This claim is also not correct. Humans are free to make rational search to understand the reasons behind the God’s commands. They are not dogmatic and there is no question of blind acceptance of belief. Belief means deeper understanding of ultimate truth and realities. The difference here is that Islam suggests a different methodology for rational understanding. Its process of examination is not based on metaphysical ignorance rather it presents before hu...

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aib aim akhirah akhlaq akhlaqi al al-andalus al-faruqi al-hasan al-khattab al-nah al-shaybani alert ali all-awar all-embrac all-hear all-know all-mighti all-pow all-wis allah allegi alli allow alm alon along alreadi also alter altern although altogeth alway alyasa america american amir among amount analog analys analyz ancient andalus angel anim anoth ansari answer anticip anybodi anyon anyth anywher apart appar appli applic appoint apprais appreci approach appropri approv aquina arab arabia area argu argument aris arisen aristotl aros around arous arrang arrest arriv arrog art articl articul asad ascertain ascrib ask aspect assault assembl assert assign assimil assist associ assum assumpt assur atheism atheist athen attain attempt attent attitud attribut authent author autonom autonomi avail avoid awar away awr ayyub azim b back bad bahirah bane baptist bargain barter base baseless bashir basi basic battl bc be bear becom bedeck befit began begin behav behavior behaviorist behaviour 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pure purifi puriti purpos pursu pursuit purview put qualifi qualiti quantiti queri question quit quran qutb racial rahman rain rainfal rais rang rape rather ration re re-arrang reach reaction read reader readi real realist realiti realiz realli realm rear reason rebellion rebirth recal reced receiv recent reckon recognit recoil record recount reduc refer refin reflect reform refrain refuge regard regul rehash reinterpret reject rejuven relat relationship relev reli religi religion reluct remain rememb remembr remind remov reopen repeat repetit repli reprehens repres repugn requir resid resist respect respond respons rest result resurrect retain return reveal revel review reviv revivalist ridden rife right righteous rightly-direct rinehart risalai rise rite river rmind role role/task roman room root royal rule rumour rumour-mong run rutledg sacr sacrific safe said saint sake salih sanitari satisfactori satisfactorili satisfi save say sayyid scatter sceptic scheme scholar school scienc scientif scientism scientist scientolog scope scourg scriptur scrutini sea search second secular secur see seed seek seeker seem seen seiz select self self-exist self-interest self-subsist selv semant send sens sensit sensual sent sentenc separ serious serv servant servic set settl sever seyi shall shame shape share shave shaybani shed sheer sheila shorn short shortcom show shu shun sick side sight sigmund sign signifi signpost silent silver similar simpl simpli sin sinc singer singl situat skeptic skill skinner sky slander slave sleep slumber smash smooth so-cal social societi socrat soil solid solidly-bas solitari solomon solut solv somehow someon someth sometim son sort sought sound sourc sovereign sovereignti space speak speci special specif specifi specul speech spend sphere spirit spiritu spite split spoken sport spous spread stage stainless stand standard start state statement station status stay steadfast steal step still stimuli stop straight stress strict strive struck structur student studi sub sub-consci subdivis subject submiss submit subscrib subsist substanc succeed success succumb sudden suggest suitabl sulayman sunnah superfici superstit superstiti supplic support suppos suppress surah sure surfac surrend survey surviv suspicion sustain sy symbol system systemat tadhkir tadhkirah take taken tantamount task taught tawhid tawhid41 teach teacher technic tehrik tell tem temporari tempt ten tend tendenc term test testifi testimoni thank theatr theme theolog theoret theori thereaft therefor therein thi thing think third thomson though thought thousand three throughout thus tide tile till time titl today togeth told tomorrow tongu took torment tortur total toward trace tradit train trait transform transgress transgressor translat transmit travel treasur treatment trend tri trial tribe trivial true trust truth truth-lov ts turn twenti twenty-f two type u ubayi ultim umar un un-cleanli unabl unbelief uncertainti unchang unconcern unconsci under understand understood unearth unequivoc uneth unfortun unfound unimagin unimaginable-no uniqu unit univers unknow unknown unlaw unless unlett unlimit unquest unreason unsanitari unscientif unseen unshak unsound unsubstanti unten unthink unto untruth unworthi upon urdu urg us usa usag use usual util utilitarian utmost utter v vagu valid valu valuabl varieti various vast vaunt veneer verif verili verit veriti vers version via viabl viceger victim victor view viewpoint vigor viii violat virtu virtual visibl vision vital voic vol vol.7 volit vouchsaf wadsworth walk wall want war warm warn water watson way wayfar weaken wealth weapon weav weigh weight well well-found west western what/who whatev whenev wherea wherebi wherein whereupon whether whoever whole whomsoev whose wide widespread wield wife wil will window winston wisdom wise wish wit within without woeful wolf woman womb women wonder wood word work world worldview worm worm-eaten wors worship worthi worthwhil would write writer written wrong wrong-doer xi yahya yaqeen yaqub yasein yasien year yes yet york youngest yoy yunus yusuf zachariah zakah zakariya zaroug zero