The Islamic Ethics and Education

Friday, May 16, 2014

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

As the human body needs food, clothing and a shelter, so does his soul need ethics and education. A person who is ignorant of the creation facts, who is not nurtured with moral conducts, and is not void of obnoxious traits is only this, Sa’di from Shiraz (the famous poet) says: what makes a human body honourable is his soul; beautiful garment does not make a man; if eyes, tongues, ears and noses made a man; then what would the difference be between a man and a painting on the wall; be truly a man, or else you would be a bird talking human language; if you could eliminate your fierce nature you would live a human life all lifelong. For this very reason the significant portions of the agenda of the prophets and God-Sent messengers include education and the enhancement of ethical considerations and well-adjusted conducts. These dignitaries, in accordance with the prevailing situations, have made use of either practical means and suitable behaviours, or sermons and maxims, or treatises.  Among these treasures is the Treaties of Amir Al-Momenin (s), which is the topic for the present translation. It is appropriate here to attract your attention to the following points:

WHAT IS ETHICS?

According to the Islamic scholars, ethics includes all human traits which are brought about either by heredity or environment and which make up his personality influencing his deeds, conducts thoughts and speech. Raqeb in his Mofradat Al-Quran says that the two terms “Khalq” (creation) and “Kholq” (human traits) are, in fact, identical; but the former refers to superficial configurations which are observable with naked eyes, whereas the latter refers to the internal powers and innate goodness which are only observable with the hearts. Regarding this, Imam Ali has said: “Kholq refers to the soul, whereas Khalq refers to the body”.

As the bodies are different among people; some are beautiful, and some are ugly, the souls are different as well; some are nice, other are inhuman. In the final analysis, the structure of human body relies on the rules of creation, which are beyond humans to tamper with; whereas sour behaviours and traits are for the most part learned and are formed through hardships.

Ibn Moskuye in the book Teharat Al-E’raq writes “Kholq is one of the traits of human self which entices man to carry out his daily affairs without thinking. It is of two types: Some part of it is natural and rests on the human nature. An example is when a man becomes furious over minor things or fears insignificant events or becomes happy or depressed.

The other part of it relies on our customs and practices. This part at first rested, no doubt, on thought but later, due to practice and repetition takes on a habitual status; then it works will no thought at all.”

Thus, our physical traits are not considered as our ethical traits unless they have become constant. For instance, a person is not given the trait of generosity by just randomly involving in generous affairs; neither is he termed brave by just randomly engaging in brave actions.

Thus traits take on Kholq status only when they manifest themselves as constant occurring with no thought considerations. But this does not contradict the optional nature of these traits since man is capable of either carrying them out or avoiding them as a whole, although it is hard to stop doing habitual things. Furthermore, as it is proven elsewhere, since from the beginning he could either make the habit or abandon it, thus he has been free from the beginning to make the options he likes.

THE NEED FOR ETHICS IN LIFE

In order for a man to enjoy all his instincts and wishes to a logical degree, to live at peace with others and to attain prosperity both here and in the hereafter, he has to observe either standard.

The advancements and degeneration of human societies do not depend solely on sciences and material progress. Rather, it is the observation of these ethical standards which bring about either prosperity or fall of such societies. The poet says: Ethics keeps the human race alive, a tribe of humanity which lacks ethics doomed to die.

At times, the lack of observation of one of the ethical standards might create a human disaster such as the world wars or affects the well-wishes of a well-doing person. On the contrary, observing such standards saves a man who is going to fall, or covers his faults

Thus, ethics is a requirement for both statesmen and the Messengers of Allah. That is why, the magnificent Qur’an, after eleven swearing, emphasizes that: A delivered is one who purifies his soul of ethical corruptions and a wretched is one who corrupts his soul.

“He will indeed be successful who purifies it (the soul) and he will indeed fail who corrupts it”.

The Prophet (s) was appreciated by God for holding the highest degree of ethical codes:

“And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.”

And the secret for his appointment to the prophetic mission was his attainment of highest degree of sublime morality. But unfortunately, the present world, especially the West, has turned into robots lacking souls and morality codes. Alexis Carls, the renowned French scholar, writes in this regard, “We have lost all of our religious commands. The present generations are ignorant of commands, such as, living in moderate, honesty, responsibility, cleanliness, self-control, love towards others, and courage. Such things are doomed as senseless and are made fun of by younger generations. “The modern man recognizes no lie principle except enjoying worldly pleasure. Everybody is a slave to his pride and as a crab is ready to annihilate his fellow-human beings. “The very first social conducts have change; chaos is the rule of the day; marriages are no longer considered as bonds between husbands and wives.”At the same time, the material and mental conditions have produced such environments in which children are considered just as nuisances. “Thus, all those principles on which our grand fathers laid their ways of personal and social lives, are now just gone”.

THE ADVANTAGES AND FAVORS OF ETHICS

In the ethical guide-line of Islam, the praiseworthy temperaments are of two types: the advantages of ethics and the favours of ethics.  Among the advantages of ethics are the following:

The cleanliness of body and dress, good humour and smile, respect for others, politeness of speech, visiting the sick, avoidance of haughtiness, and suspicion. But those human traits, such as magnanimity, justice, keeping promises, trustworthiness, and manhood, which are considered as true human traits, are among favors of ethics. The important points is that attaining the advantages of ethics is more or less possible for nearly everybody: everybody could do so by exercising doing the right things such as treating people justly and politely and visiting the sick and avoiding haughtiness. But the attainment of the favors of ethic and superb human traits is extremely difficult. Not everybody could reach them. Only those individuals could reach such a status, those, who possess high souls and are in control of their selves and who are in the habit of respecting human principles and obeying God. The great messengers of God, by using the sublime Islamic education, have attempted to encourage people to engage in ethical affairs. The Great Messenger of Islamic has said

“From the viewpoint of religion, the best people are those who are well behaved”. On the other hand, the Great Messenger of Allah has mentioned that the reason of his prophetic mission was to perfect the ethical training.

 Imam Ali’s has said: By engaging in good traits, tame your character and then move it toward the sublime human traits. The narrator says: I asked Imam Sadiq what the limit of good humor was. He answered:

“You should treat people kindly; you should speak politely and meet your brethren well naturedly”. A man came to Imam Sadiq and said: O son of God’s Messengers, let me know what favours of ethics are. Imam as-Sadiq replied to him.

“Forgive anybody who has done you unjustly; connect with anybody who has cut his relations. Give to anybody who has deprived you of what you deserve, and tell the truth even if it is not to your benefit.

In his Sahife Sajjadieh, better known as Makarem Al-Akhlagh “the favours of ethics, “Imam Ali al-Hossein invokes God by saying:

“O God, send your Blessing to Muhammad and his offspring and help me do favour to anybody who played me wrong; please help me treat kindly anybody who has ignored me and let me be generous to those who have denied me my rights. Let me remember those who have betrayed me; let me appreciate those who do me favours; and let me forgive the wrong-doings”. >>>>> To be continued