The Islamic ethics and education

Friday, May 23, 2014
The Great Messenger, who had been badly hurt by the Qureish, forgave them when he conquered Mecca. He let Abu Sofyan’s house as a shelter for people. In the Saffein war, when Imam Ali observed that Mo’awiya had so inhumanly denied Imam Ali’s (s) army the water of the Euphrates, asked Imam Ali to do the same to Mo’awiya army. But he answered, “we will not retaliate for a wrong; we will not deny them the use of water.” When an impolite shopkeeper poured trash over the head of malik al-Ashtar, an important officer in Imam Ali’s army, Malik went to mosque and prayed for him and forgave him. When Imam Zain Al-Abedin (s) was insulted by a relative, he went to his house telling him:

“If what you say is true, I ask God to forgive me. But if what you say is not true, then I ask God to forgive you.”

The above-mentioned cases and similar events which are recorded from the Prophet and the Imams of Islam in their diaries are among the favors of ethics. Thus, there are difference between the advantages and favors of ethics. The advantages of ethics are usually a means for material welfare, but the favors of ethics are a way to the attainment of spiritual advancement. The former provides our lives with discipline; whereas the latter satisfies human sublime tendencies. The former are harmony with personal desires and legitimate self interest, but the latter deal with interest in others. All messengers and Imams of Islam completely enjoyed the favors of ethics. But among their students there are few who are in possession of these assets. Any body who possesses these assets should be thankful to God. Those who lack them should try to have them. In this regard Imam Sadiq (s) has said.”

“God has provided His Messengers with favors of ethics. Thus, examine yourselves, if you have them, be thankful to God for these precious assets; if you lack them ask God to let you have them.” A person who enjoys the ethical favors possesses a high soul and therefore performs good deeds not out of his material interest but rather for God. Imam Ali (s) says: “I am amazed when a Moslem goes to another Moslem for some help but he is turned down.

Even if he did not expect reward and did not fear the Hereafter, he would be better off if he turned to the ethical favors, for they will lead a man toward goodness”

A man from desert came up to the Messenger of God asking him, “O Messenger of God, sometimes a man fights for booty, sometimes for fame and sometimes for the recognition of his bravery; which one of these ways is right?” The Prophet (s) answered:

“That is the one who fights so that God’s name would be in focus. This type of prayers is called “the prayers of free men” by Imam Ali (s).

Some people pray God out of their desire to go to the paradise; this is businessman’s prayer. Some people pray God out of their fear of punishment; this is the prayer for the slaves. But some others pray God out of their love for God; this is freeman’s prayer. In some Islamic traditions the cases of ethical favors are enumerated. For instance, in Ibn Bekir’s tradition from Imam as-Sadiq (s) it is said:

I asked Imam as-Sadiq (s) what the ethical favors were. He answered, “They include self-control contentment, patience, thanking God, forbearance, modesty, generosity, bravery, emulation, good deeds, truthfulness, being a good trustee.”


The term ( Ta’leem), which is derived from ilm (knowledge) means to teach, and the term “tarbiat” is derived from “rebv” meaning nurture. Animals when born, know their duties and plans of life through their instincts. They would need no instructors. The young fish, after being hatched, knows how to swim, breathe, feed, protect itself against enemies, and how to reproduce. It would not need being taught. The insect Anopheles is vegetarian but because the new-born insects should feed on worms, the mother hunts a special worm, stings it so that it is paralyses. In this way, the mother provides its new- born with fresh meat. The mother does it through her instinct; not through training. The bee sucks the sweet nectar, turns it into honey, makes symmetrical shelters and divides the affairs of the hive among individual bees all because of divine inspiration and natural instincts.

“And your lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build.” This is the fact which is brought about by Prophet Moses (s) and his brother when they introduced their God to Firon:

“Firon said: And who is your lord, O Musa? He said: Our Lord is He who gave to everything its creation, the guided it (to its goal). The Giver who provided the flower with nectar and the clay with soul; Gave anybody anything which He deemed necessary. But man, in carrying out his daily duties and arriving at perfection needs more than instincts and innate inspiration: besides being equipped with wisdom, he needs instructors. He would perhaps walk like animals if he were not helped. He would most probably be dumb if words were not put in his mouth. Moulavi says:

A deaf turns out to be dumb; the speaker is the one who has heard from the mother. Thus, in order to recognize facts of the world and to appreciate the secrets of creation, man needs a teacher. Without an instructor, man is unable to grasp such secrets. Man needs an instructor to nourish his physical and spiritual capabilities and to arrive at his ideals and to prune the wicket parts of his character, If God’s Messengers had not risen to correct man, he would, no doubt, have had a much worse life than the Middle Ages. In this regard the Holy Qur’an says:

“Certainly Allah conferred a benefit upon the believers when He raised among them an Apostle from among themselves, reciting to them His communications and purifying them, and teaching the Book and the wisdom, although before that they were surely in manifest error.” As you will observe the appointment of a messenger among the corrupted people to guide them was one of God’s assets.

Still in another verse, God considers the educating of the messengers as true life, those not receiving it are considered as dead:

“O you who believe! Answer the call of Allah and His Apostle when he calls you to that which gives you life”.


Sometimes we make a thing out of something without any internal attraction inside that “something”. For instance we make furniture out of a piece of wood by working on it.

Thus, a character or feature is created. But some other time, a thing has got internal impetus for change and becomes something else. In This case guidance is necessary and in many others lack of guidance may mislead the object.

An example is the child who has the innate capacity for sucking its mother’s breast and acquiring knowledge.

However, if it is not directed to the right way, it may either die from hunger or stay ignorant or might suck some dangerous objects in place of its mother’s breast of might learn some pernicious knowledge which might harm it.

This change of the innate capacity into practical acts is called education. Thus, education is not industry; rather the subject of education should be an organism which has innate capacity for development.

Since man has some innate capacities such as truth-finding, ethical conscience, love for beauty, love for freedom, self-interest, and love for life he needs an instructor who will bring out these capacities and lead them in the right direction.

To be Continued