ID:Sadat, Mohammad Ali
Title/ Author:An account of Islamic ethics: Principles/ Written by Mohammad Ali Sadat; translated in to English by Mojgan Jalali; edited by Majid Mehrabi
Publisher:Zekr, 1370 = 1991.
Note:About Islamic ethics
یادداشت:Title in Persian:.
Added ID:Jalali, Mojgan tr
National bibliography number :M70-4482
AN ACCOUNT OF
WRITTEN BY: MOHAMMAD ALI SADAT
IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE BENEFICENT, THE MERCIFUL
Without a tinge of doubt, human edification, reformation, and cultivation play a salient role in man’s individual and social, as well as worldly and heavenly, prosperity. This is such that if man acquires all branches of knowledge and gains control over all natural phenomenon but falls short of keeping aloof evil temptations and carnal soul, he will fail to reach prosperity and perfection.
If not coupled with man’s edification, all the scientific and industrial advancements will resemble the towering palaces erected atop a volcano. Therefore, moral and ethical training of man - and in a word the program of edifying mankind - is a seriously crucial issue for every society. Nevertheless, a glance at the situation of human societies indicates that, before anything else, mankind’s ethical and moral education has fallen into oblivion. All current shortcomings in the world, as well as all difficulties new besetting mankind, stem from his neglect on moral and ethical education and edification.
That which is bitterly undeniable in the modern world is the lack of true training or edification of man in the seemingly advanced cultures of today. It is rather due to debility and failure in this regard that no one even thinks of
such matters!!, as if all goals and expectations of the Utopian writers have been materialized in our age or that man has reached his species-desired perfection!
The seemingly “civilized” man of today well knows that he has not gained the slightest success in wielding control over himself: his desires, or his incongruent inclinations. Never, however, does lie concede this major and fundamental failure. He pretends in a manner as if nothing serious has occurred or anything been lost. Meanwhile, however, it is known to all and sundry that in these alluring civilizations, truly “man”, before anything else, has fallen into oblivion: otherwise, what just and reasonable person could take all this slovenliness, injustice, barbarism, corruption, perversion, deviation, egocentrism, aggression… as humanity regard the issue as being resolved?!.
No matter which part of the world you presently look at, you will not see but injustice, aggression, and decline, what horrendous crimes that are committed against oppressed and defenseless people and yet no measure is being taken or any protest staged. Many governments whose people regard themselves in the peak of humanity, perfection, and civilization unreservedly embark on pillaging, looting, and massacring the oppressed nations but quite amazingly the “civilization” and “humanity” of these nations are not marred! (This is) as though people who live outside their borders do not maintain even the right to live. What kind of humanity is this that finds meaning only within the borders of one country and loses that meaning aside their borders?
The unhappy reflection of moral deterioration is not, limited only to the expansion of injustice and crime imposed on the weak nations by the arrogant powers Within the
borders of these seemingly advanced countries, the death of moral values has led to the emergence of grave ethical crisis and has put a burden on modern man’s shoulders. The crisis prevailing in the so called advanced societies has gone so far that even in some cases it has deprived the modern man of the will to live and has created for him great spiritual, mental, and intellectual deadlocks. The human being who felt that by disregarding ethical norms and supposedly freeing himself from all moral or ethical limitations could reach the promised prosperity is now so much at a loss with regard to the most fundamental issues of his life that sometimes he does not know how to come out of the dilemma by choosing “to be” or “not be” and why?
Aversion from genuine humane values and the predominance of slovenliness and wantonness in advanced countries has led to the increase of the obfuscation of the heart and to the total elimination of that moral efflorescence which leads to the glow of the hearts and tranquility of the minds. Furthermore, the principles or regulations, which are necessary for a sound human life, will fall into oblivion and the hearts will be plunged in a profound darkness. I mean the glow, which has caused all these intolerable problems in social and international relations. This is such that presently few informed and enlightened thinkers, even in the wasteland of humanity and human values, can be found not to complain of this decline prevailing over the seemingly civilized world. Numerous us instances of such lamentations, protests, and confessions can be read in between the lines of the statements made by the Eastern or Western thinkers. All these point out to the bitter fact that in these communities, before anything
else, humanity and sublime human ethics have been massacred in the slaughterhouse of the modern civilization.
With due respect to what went before as to the present situation in different human communities and you dear readers can bear witness to this, one can see the Importance necessity and urgency of spreading and deepening ethical teachings among different strata of human society.
Revival of genuine ethical values and recourse to the forgotten principles expressed by the divine religions including Islam is the requisite for reaching an ideal and sound society. Governmental systems and social orders continue their sovereignty through the law while Islamic government being a divine rulership rely on each and every individual in the society with hearts overflowing with the light of belief and wisdom in God. Islam, as a divine religion, provides an incomplete and comprehensive model for human life in every respect. Islam is not comprised only of a handful of lifeless rules. It is rather a practical method for man’s individual and social, as well as for his material and moral, life Inattention to ethical and moral enlightment has created fundamental problems in societies and has, to a great extent, made the efforts of the officials of the society ineffective. This pamphlet has been prepared with the aim of providing a guideline for the moral and ethical edification of the societies.
I will attempt to limit my discussion to the fundamental issues in the field of sublime Islamic teachings and to introduce the firm grounds of ethical modes in Islam.
With respect to the close relationship, which exists among training, education, and ethics, we will primarily mention some preliminaries about the meaning of each and the relationship among them.
WHAT IS TRAINING?
Preparing the ground for the growth of the faculties of every being and the promotion of his potential powers is called training. Consider the core of an apple. This core has the potential to become an apple. Provided that the conditions are fit this potential is turned into actuality and the said core is transformed into an apple tree and then to numerous apples. Although presently it is only an apple core (a core that can be actualized into an apple), it has the potentiality to turn into an apple. Raising this core is to prepare the necessary conditions to enhance this inner power and to actualize its potentials.
The same holds true for animals. Breeding a chicken is to prepare the necessary conditions and factors for the growth of its potentials, so that ultimately it could turn into a hen.
By definition, ethics means all spiritual habits(1) and, moral characteristics(2). In this sense, ethics is one of the fruits… rather the most, important fruit… of training. On this basis, training is an action whose outcome, though not completely, is ethics. Nourishing intellectual, mental, artistic
and other faculties, which are all in the sphere of training and its branches, is not regarded as ethics because it is not directly related to spiritual habits and ethical characteristics. For instance, cultivation of memory, power of reasoning, or artistic and creative powers, though within the sphere of training, are not regarded as parts of ethics because they are not directly related to ethical traits. As a result, the outcome and result of training embraces a wide range of ethical traits and characteristics. But as the cultivation of other faculties is indirectly influential in ethical edification, these discussions are dealt with in Ethics as a branch of knowledge, even though such discussions do not directly comprise ethical discussions and are rather considered as a necessary introduction to ethical training.
As an instance, if one embarks on cultivation and purification as for as spiritual and ethical habits are concerned but remains weak and powerless in mental growth, understanding, or power of distinction, he will naturally fail to tell right from wrong, truth from falsehood, and the limits and boundaries of his duties, especially of the distinction between virtues and vices. For example, imagine a person whose soul is ingrained with the habit of seeking the truth. Due to this spiritual and ethical virtue, this person, as a result, follows the truths. But since the comprehension of the sense of reality and what is right or wrong, and what is more important or less important, and the realization of the true value of things or issues, and finally the possession of a sound insight in various matters entails the power of wisdom and distinction, this person might fail in achieving this end if his mental powers or understanding abilities are untrained or low. As a consequence, he will not succeed in achieving the
ultimate goal, which is the realization of the truth and abiding by them.
Therefore it is determined that although growth and cultivation of menial or intellectual faculties is not directly related to ethics and regarded as spiritual and ethical habits, its vital role as a necessary preliminary at the service of the science of ethics cannot be ignored.
Education means preparation of the ground for the growth and flourishment of man’s mental faculties. In any learning, one mental faculty is actualized to such an extent that if no such faculty existed, no such learning would be appropriated. Therefore, it is the duty of the teacher to provide the conditions necessary for the actualization of the mental faculties of the learners.
In this sense, education is deemed a part of training. In other words, education is nothing but the training of man’s mental dimension. Moreover, it is determined that any training, in any field, required education; for in teaching the learner, the teacher informs the trainee of the facts and realities, learner could embark on cultivating his various spiritual and moral dimensions by being aware of those issues and by acting according to the learned principles. Education, therefore, is a necessary requisite for training.
It must be pointed out that often in common usage of the terms, some of their secondary meanings are referred to. The meaning of “education” commonly defined embraces a part of learning related to mental issues and has no direct relationship with practice, such as mathematics, philosophy,
experimental sciences, and the like. The common meaning of “training” too in such a usage is an implication of the cultivation of spiritual and ethical faculties (Ethical Training) For instance, when there is talk of the preference of training over education or of its superiority, this usage is implied. That is to say, in this expression. it is meant that as for importance, spiritual and ethical training which includes inner reform and edification has precedence to intellectual teachings. This is such that these teachings should be coupled with this type of moral and ethical cultivation and should follow this line, because if we restrict ourselves with some intellectual teachings or mental development and if cultivation of the spiritual and ethical dimensions of man he neglected, the same teachings might, used improperly, yield negative outcomes. If, however, the teachings go parallel with instructions on edification, reformation, and purification of the heart from all spiritual and ethical pollutions, they will work to the effect of man's mental development, his elevation of insight, and his spiritual sublimation. As a result, in using these terms, one must pay heed to their different usage so as to reach a correct understanding of the purpose intimated.(1)
Upon birth, man is an actualized animal and a potential human being. That is to say. Man’s animalistic dimension which: warrants his protection and control of life exists in a realized Status in him. This is such that should he lose this ability, he will be unable to continue living. So long as man is alive, his, animalistic instincts or drives are in force. All instincts, which exist in man with the purpose of protecting
and maintaining his survival (such as eating, sleeping, sexual desires, respiration…) start from his animalistic dimension.
Contrary to the animalistic dimension which is actualized upon birth, man’s human dimension is hut a potential feature, meaning that it resembles seeds sawn within him, which, if nurtured, will turn into what is termed sublime human values or human nature(1). In like manner, if these seeds are left dormant as a result of neglect or oblivion of destroyed by the individual himself, he will not cross the border of bestiality and is bound to descend into stages far below that of animals:
“…They are as cattle, nay, they are in worse errors…”
HOLY QUR’AN (7:179)
As a consequence even though man is horn with the form of a human being as far as physical and external build-up are concerned, he is not as yet a human being in the spiritual and moral aspect. As far as man’s personality goes. he will attain a human status when he cultivates the seeds of human values within himself and actualizes his potential humanity. In other words, when borned, human nature. that is the source of man's humanity, is in a potential state. Its actualization bears on training. Therefore, it can be claimed that in terms of his spiritual and moral build up man is a step behind his physical and animalistic buildup. Man’s physical and animalistic buildup is formed in the embryonic stage while the spiritual dimensions of man are cultivated after birth.
In a sense, it can be said that man could assume different roles, as he possesses will power. Yet other beings, such as animals or vegetables, do not possess this feature. In the process of growing, an apple core faces only one task. A chicken has only one choice and that is to turn into a hen while man is endowed with numerous choices, one of which he can choose with his own determination and will power.
Therefore, it can be argued that in the human entity, we witness beings with totally different and sometimes contradictory natures and personalities, each of whom has chosen a specific path and possesses a certain characteristic in the process of training. Yet undoubtedly, among the various roles which man can take, there is one which, due to his being a human creature is the human essence. That is to say, man’s humanity depends on acquiring this essence, a feat which cannot be accomplished save in the light of balanced cultivation and harmonious blossoming of inner faculties, as well as spiritual and temperamental systems(1).
Now one can realize the necessity and importance of Ethics which man’s spiritual and ethical cultivation rests on that. It is Ethics which, by recognizing man’s various potentials and faculties, as well as vices and virtues of his soul, makes possible the establishment of balance among different desires and the way the soul ought to be trained in order to reach the termed perfection which He has delineated for man. He could then eliminate the hurdles in the way of his development. Without Ethics, man cannot know his self and therefore unable to develop himself.
With this, one can realize the necessity of Ethics and the important and valuable part it plays, as a science needed by man. If the objective of a subject, such as empirical sciences, is the knowledge of material phenomena and nature, the subject of Ethics is Man and his spiritual and moral cultivation and edification. For this reason, second to the divine science whose subject is the recognition of Allah Almighty is Ethics which no other science can outpace in terms of value or importance because all branches of science have placed their accomplishments at the disposal of Man
and are all at "man's" service. Now if Man does not reap benefit from the necessary spiritual and moral training, he cannot use the accomplishments of any science for his true prosperity and real perfection. Imam Musa Kazim (A.S.) said:
“The most necessary knowledge is that which guides you to the purification of the heart (and inner edification) and makes clear to you the destruction and corruption of the heart.” (1)
On the significance of ethical training, it suffices to regard that in this subject, one deals with the soul about which the Prophet of Allah, the Holy Mohammed, said, while praying with tearful eyes in the middle of night.
“O Lord! Do not leave me to myself even for a blink of an eye.”
Hadrat Sajjad, the fourth Imam and successor to the Prophet of Islam Hadrat Muhammad (S.A.W.), also said (the following) lamenting of it to Allah Almighty:
“O Allah, I bring complain to You of the soul which directs toward evil; -which advances toward vices; and which has avarice for sins.”(2)
Hadrat Yusuf said the following on the same subject:
“And I do not declare my soul free of sin, for most surely the carnal soul bids man to do evil, except as much as God has mercy on…”
HOLY QUR’AN (12:53)(3)
Now the question arises as to what should be done to the soul from whose vice the Prophet of Allah is not for a moment relieved, from which the Imam and leader of Islam
complains to Allah, which Hadrat Yusuf does not exonerate, and which finally urges to a desire each minute?
Those who have embarked on self-developing themselves well know that the depth and breadth of man’s inner urges and drives are such that he does not always passes control of himself. Especially in delicate conditions, he is controlled by urges and desires, complexes and prejudices, and finally numerous incongruent and unknown drives which have surrounded man on all sides, so much so that by creating constant changes and fluctuations inside him, they mar any form of stability in the way of the truth and reality.
No doubt, to counter such a recalcitrant soul, a firm foundation of understanding, knowledge, awareness, insight. wisdom. and belief is a requisite. Else with a determination void of a sound backing of wisdom and faith, one can never remain steadfast in the course of life and can never attain the desired success in this endeavor.
Another salient point which indicates the necessity of acquiring knowledge and wisdom and of the existence of serious teaching and learning in the field of ethics is the greatness of the objective behind ethical cultivation in Islamic teachings, for the goal of ethical training in Islam is not that the individual should only learn some superficial mores or establishes some external and superficial virtues in himself. Rather, the ultimate goal of ethical and moral cultivation in divine religions in general and in Islam in particular is so grand, significant, and sublime that never and under no conditions can one reach it with different attitudes of
ignorance, simple-mindedness, and superficial evaluation without possessing the needed intellectual and moral depth. For this reason, there is a great difference between Islam's ethical and moral models on the one hand and what is known to all and sundry in terms of customs and society on the other hand.
The ethical model of Islam is an upright and developed human being who, in addition to his appearance has reached full purification of his inner self and whose heart is illuminated with the light of wisdom. The aim of ethical training in Islam is to create heartfelt degrees and stations in the light of Divine Wisdom. so that the individual could gain the necessary merit for proximity to Allah. To this end, ethical teachings should serve the purpose of meeting this sublime objective.
Despite the inattention of human cultures and schools of thought toward the fundamental issue of “human edification” and despite the fact that in the realm of education and training, education alone is stressed upon and only in a completely limited sphere, in the domain of religion the issue of ethics and cultivation of man’s moral personality has not been overlooked. It is rather the first and foremost issue.
One of the principal features of a system based on divine Revelation (Wahy)is that in such a system cultivation of the individual is the fundamental factor. Never is the individual left to his own devices on the pretext of achieving certain social reforms or expecting the materialization of an assumed
ideal society. And never is man's training and cultivation given to forgetfulness; because:
Firstly - In this school of thought, the identity of the individual is never sacrificed for anything. Emphasis is placed on man himself and on his degree of attaining perfection. Basically, any other matter which plays a role in building up man’s personality and guides him toward the ultimate goal is granted due emphasis and consideration.
Secondly - Supposing that reformation of the social system is an end in itself -- which surely is not -- again the foundations of any success in this regard are extremely tenuous and constantly subject to threat and destruction if cultivation of the individual and moral virtues is not inclusive of all.
In other words, any social reform will have firm foundations and fruitful results only when it is rooted in the development of the individuals. and when the members of the society follow a sound intellectual and ethical system in the light of sound and essential education and training, and when they reach to heights of human perfection and ethical virtues.
As a result, in religion, cultivation of the individual is the initial step. On the basis of Quranic teachings, on the Day of Reckoning, every individual alone will go to the presence of Allah Almighty and will be called to account for his acts and deeds in the physical world.
On the significance which Islam places upon ethical training, it suffices (to say) that the Prophet of Islam regarded the completion of moral virtues as one of the objectives of his prophetic mission and in this way stressed the value and vital importance of this issue in the fate of Man and the Islamic society:
“I was appointed as prophet to complete moral virtues.”
A glance at Islamic sciences, Quranic verses, and narrations clearly indicates Islam’s particular emphasis on acquiring ethical virtues and perfection, so much so that regarding the avoidance of ethical vices and acquisition of spiritual perfection as a requisite for safeguarding and cultivating (Man’s) faith and reaching eternal prosperity.
Before discussing the bases of man’s spiritual and ethical training, it is primarily necessary to answer the question whether or not' man is able to truly train himself and acquire morality only by using his own wisdom, reflection, and knowledge without recourse to the help of Divine Teachings? In other words, is man able to truly train himself without (using) teachings which are placed at his disposal through Divine Revelation or is he definitely in need of unseen succor to be able to accomplish this feat and to embark on training and cultivating his personality as is his due?
According to reasons, which will briefly be pointed out below, never can man alone perform this feat and man's training is something which he cannot accomplish on his own:
It is obvious that development of man, as well as leading him toward perfection, in the first place depends upon his precise recognition and full awareness of all his innate faculties, abilities and potentials. So long as man is not
properly known and different dimensions of his beings not fully known and his weaknesses and strengths not realized. he cannot engage in cultivating his faculties nor assisted to reach the desirable perfection. All efforts to educate man depend on a precise and thorough understanding of him. Nevertheless, full recognition of man and of his existential perfections is not feasible merely through human wisdom or knowledge.
Another proof that Human knowledge and capability fall short of training him especially in terms of his spiritual and moral training is as below:
FIRSTLY - Man’s soul is of utmost sensitivity and under the effect of impressions, so much so that it is influenced by any slight factor. Man’s soul is like a transparent mirror, which takes impressions from whatever stands before it. These impressions are at times perceptible and at other times imperceptible. This power of being influenced increases in proportion to the cultivation of spiritual faculties and increase of spiritual delicacy.
SECONDLY - Factors influential in man’s spiritual facet are not limited and few. Rather they are numerous. These factors can be divided into two classes: internal and external. External factors include scenes which we face; our encounters with others; food that we eat: atmospheric conditions: mental influence we are affected to, even their simple glances, hardships, afflictions, and difficulties, successes and prosperity, and… in general all environmental factors with which we are somehow related.
Inner factors include instinctive, emotional, and sentimental drives; heartfelt reflections and thoughts; ideas
and conceptions; feelings: which emerge as a result of spiritual sublimation, and finally at the top of list, carnal tempests (the imperious desiring self) which might at any moment emerge in man due to the interference of various factors, which might capture his heart and soul, and which might transform man's condition toward bestiality.
Some factors influencing man’s intellectual and spiritual aspects are known while others remain unknown. It is obvious that man’s knowledge and capability fall short of encompassing all these influential factors, which have a very wide range.
THIRDLY - Evaluating the quality and quantity of the effect of each of the factors cited in man’s spiritual and moral training, as well as how to counter every one of them is outside his sphere of ability. That is to say, if man can supposingly recognize all factors effective in his intellectual and moral development, obviously with his limited (power of) thinking he cannot evaluate the quality and quantity of these influences, as well as how to face and counter them, especially because spiritual issues create specific problems as they transcend man’s realm of experience - problems which make complete investigation and precise deduction virtually impossible.
As a consequence, it can be pointed out that hurdles in the way of man’s training are numerous and countless.
A survey of Islamic teachings evinces that this divine religion has very precise directions for each and every issue of life, even for the slightest one. This is such that no issue concerning Man's life falls outside the sphere of divine teachings and that extensive anti precise directions are presented for the slightest intellectual, doctrinal, practical,
individual, social, material, moral and other issues. This matter reflects the care of the Legislator of Religion toward the outcomes and consequences of all deeds, thoughts, and even reflections of man to such an extent that in His all-embracing training system. He has brought all of them under precise control and supervision, has precluded their slightest evil effects (in the shape of prohibited and unlawful regulations and verdicts), and has attracted and strengthened their slightest positive effects (in the shape of obligatory and recommended verdicts). Compilation of such a comprehensive program which encompasses man’s mode of life in all regards and which controls and supervises all factors effective in training man is, by witness of wisdom and experience, only in the domain of divine religion which is linked to the source of Infinite Divine Knowledge.
But it is obvious that if a person suffices only nominally with religion and abiding by it or that he practices only a past of its requirements and neglects the rest or if he suffices with practicing the obligatory matters while averting from and neglecting the observance of unlawful matters, he will surely be deprived of reaching the sublime goal which religious and divine training aims to achieve. This is because each of the divine directions and orders is like a master key for the liberation, guidance, deliverance, and finally true training of man.
In addition to the points cited, even if man had the capability to fully recognize himself and to encompass factors influential in his heart and soul and if he was aware of all the secrets behind his development, he could not become
successful in his own training without reliance on a powerful support which could conquer his unbridled desires and assist him in gaining victory over the self.
Carnal drives are so powerful and strong in man that it is virtually impossible to overcome them. These inner desires constantly drive man’s will toward the self and geocentricism and presently influence his thoughts and intentions. To overcome such powerful drives, there must be a more powerful force established within man, so that by reliance on it, he could make possible the balance of these urges. This grand inward power is nothing hut belief in Allah Almighty, for it is only belief in Allah that can penetrate in the warps and woofs of man’s being and can dominate his entire being. Such a backing exists only in the divine religion.
Ethical virtues and perfections are accorded a reliable backing when there is reliance on belief in Allah and on “Tawhid”(monotheism). That is to say, man should have belief that the world - and man is also a part of it - has One, Perpetual, and eternal Creator to whom nothing, be it ever so slight and insignificant, is hidden and Whose power is not surpassed by that of anyone else. He is the God Who has created everything with the most perfect order without being in need of any one of them and Who finally recalls the creations to Himself, calls them all to account, and gives punishment or reward to everyone in the eternal world in proportion to his deeds. When ethics relies on such a view, man is left with no endeavor but to strive in the way of Allah’s pleasure. Man’s entire effort will then be to please Allah with every one of his deeds. Such a person whose heart is captivated by belief in Allah possesses a deterrent factor in
himself called “Taqwa”(fearing Allah) which precludes him from committing unbecoming deeds.
For this reason, belief resembles a tree, which if planted in man’s soul, will produce numerous branches of ethical virtues and will constantly yield good deeds, which are the fruits of these features and habits:
“…Good word (being) like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven, yielding in fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord?…”
As a result, there is a mutual relationship between belief and good ethics in man. Good ethics is guaranteed by belief and belief is safeguarded by it.
Practical experiences existing in non-religious cultures also reflects the fact that man and the schools of thought created by his knowledge and thought may create technology but have nonetheless failed to cultivate man. If man could alone create true ethics by his knowledge and science, the condition of the world would have been different now and the world would not have faced such ethical perversion and immorality. If non-religious schools have been able to lead man to develop in one or several limited aspects, they have never been -- and never will be -- able to train developed personalities which have obtained degrees of growth and sublimation in all dimensions. This is while these are numerous instances of those raised by the divine religion in different eras. These have reached perfection not in one respect only but in all respects and have been placed among those affiliated to the truth. Even today, despite the separation
of Moslem nations from their true religious teachings and the existence of confusion due to neglect of the sublime teachings of Islam in all respects, their spiritual, emotional, and moral conditions far exceeds from that which is seen in the East or the west and this matter is confirmed by the unbiased home researchers who bear no ill will.
In the name of Allah
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