The Islamic Ethics and Education

Friday, July 04, 2014

Some time ago Regan, the previous president of the United States, in a conference, talked about the horrible increase in murders in the United States: he said the number of victims of murder is beyond 23,000 a year. Regan added crimes hurt one third of the families in the United States and the loss in money is about eight billion and eight million dollars. Regan confessed that in the United States one person is killed every 30 minutes and nine women are sexually assaulted. In the same amount of time 67 persons fall prey to theft, 97 persons are subjected to assault and 389 houses are prone to the armed robbery. He said: syndicate crimes done by corrupt statesmen are scandalous for the United States. Most recently, the newspaper France ce soir in Paris has reported the number of crimes in France during the year 1989 as four million, 297 thousand and 123, which shows an increase of 7 percent over the previous year (1988). The same newspaper reports the number of crimes during the first quarter of 1989 has been more than 580,000. Now more than one billion of the world populations suffer from poverty and malnutrition and shortage of medicines. There are, however, billions of dollars spent for military purposes. These are just small samples of disorders which are inflicted upon those layers of the world population who are exposed to corrupt schools of thought either in ethics, or in education, or in politics, or in economics or in other social affairs. For a complete picture of the disasters we should refer to relevant books and sources.


Against the different schools which have dealt with the philosophy of ethics and education, Islam, too, has offered specific principles and bases. To study these principles one is referred to the Qur’an, tradition, and books on ethics and Hadith,. However, a summary of these principles will suffice here:

Man possesses a specific ability for material and spiritual growth. The flourishing of this growth in all phases is possible only in the worshiping God and asking for His help. However, the Islamic ethics and education are based on monotheism, resurrection, the existence of spirit and its ever-lasting status after death and a preference for spiritual pleasures over material ones. The Islamic ethics and education will emphasize on any action which will help man attain his exultance (which is to have sacred beliefs and proper behaviors) and manifest all his spiritual and material abilities and all his personal and social capabilities. In contrast, any act which hinders his growth is prohibited by the Islamic ethical education. One of the characteristics of the Islamic ethics and education is that they have root in human innate nature. Islam invites people to monotheism, to resurrection, to justice, to piety and to worship. This is because all of these traits stem from his nature. And Ibn Athir in Annahaya defines “fetrat” or nature as:

“Man is created with such state of nature that he is prone to accept religion. If he is let free, he will go the right way. Any disruption is because of faulty education and blind imitation, or else the natural tendency is toward religion”. The famous Hadith which ibn al-Athir delves on is the following:

“Every child is born with monotheistic nature except that later his parents turn him a Jew or a Christian.” The following sacred verse, too, emphasizes the same thing:

“Then set your face upright for religion in the right state-the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah’s creation; that is the right religion” One of the characteristics of the Islamic ethics and education is that they are based on science, wisdom and logic and not on ignorance, superstition and following by imitation. The objective of the Islamic ethics and education is to purify man’s soul and spirit so that he can make good use of all the means that he has at his disposal and in this way could reach the title “God’s substitute on the earth” and “To meet God”. And since the justification of these principles, traits and aims is only possible in the light or Qur’an, Tradition and all-pervasive researches in the life-giving school of Islam, therefore the details could be reached only by referring to the above-mentioned sources. I have selected the treatise of Imam Ali (s) which is written for his son as a good sample.


Although many individuals have written historic letters to their children at specific times and for the education of their beloved ones, so far as I can tell no letter ever has been so inclusive and so erudite as that written by Imam Ali (s) to his son Hassan (s) at a location called Hazerin and after giving up Seffein. At this trip Hassan (s) was with Imam Ali (s). This historic letter, which is reported by both Shia and sunni scholars, among whom is Sharif Razi who has reported it in letter 31 of NahjolAalagha with a little change in details, is accepted with such a level of admiration that the sunni famous scholar Abu ahmad Hassan Ibn Aabdollah Ibn Asgari, sheikh Seddugh’s teacher, has reported it in its entirety in his book called Al Zawajer we Al-Mawaez and says about it, “If you can find a piece of practical philosophy which should by written in gold, it is this erudite treatise written by Imam Ali (s) in which all chapters of this science and the ways to attain this science, and the ways to arrive at the advantages of ethics and the methods to attain prosperity and the ways to escape pitfalls and how to arrive at the highest degree of exultance are expressed by employing the best kinds of phrases and words.” The interesting point is that Allama Seyyid Hassan Sadr in his erudite book called Ta’sis Al-shieh writes, “The first person who has written on Islamic ethics and education is Imam Ali (s), who wrote this treatise upon the arrival from Seffein. He wrote it for his son Imam Hassan (s). Our scholars have narrated it through different media. Among these scholars are Koleini, who has reported it in his book called Al-Rasael and Sharif Razi, who has reported it in his book Nahjol Balagha”. For this reason we have called the present book “the first treatise on Islamic Ethics and Education” and have selected it as the best Islamic principle on education and the best source for Islamic ethics. As it is understood from the text and will be clear in the subsequent chapters, Imam Ali (s) does not only have his son in view, but he considers the parents duties as a whole and a man’s duties at different walks of life. Therefore, this treatise could be the best guide for ethical issues and a good guideline for life. For this reason, I have chosen it as axis of my discussions. I will report the Islamic ethics and education as Imam Ali (s) has in mind.


Since this treatise includes the factors of man’s progress and development, either from the moral aspect or from the viewpoints of politico-social phase, it could not be studied only from one angle. The principles included in this treatise are:

1)Only man has got the ability of getting complete education education; beasts have this ability to a limited degree.

2)The best time for education is the childhood.

3)The father’s responsibility in educating the children is more than any body else.

4)There are clear reasons which prove the monotheism and God’s power.

5)Life does not depend on this world alone; the hereafter exists and we should prepare provisions for that day.

6)Islam is based on the interests and losses of the society and is the most inclusive religion.

7)The best capital is piety and carrying on the ways of the pious ancestors, i.e., the prophets and Imams.

8)The best shelter in the ups and downs of life is Allah.

9)Saying prayers and involving in penitence are significant.

10)Man is created free; he is not allowed to make a slave out of himself; he should keep on his magnanimity at all times.

11)        Not every wish could be granted; thus, we should engage ourselves with the noblest ones.

12)One of the factors which build up a man’s personality is the study of good and bad fates of nations of the past.

13)A man should make his soul (self) a criterion between he himself and others; what he considers improper he should not consider proper for others.

14)The relation of man with his family, government, and his responsibilities and tasks bestowed upon him.

15)The ways of self-construction.

16)The principles of friendship and its limits.

17)In order to guide the society and to stop deviations, a man should make use of giving advice.

18)Women’s rights and status, without going to extremes.

19)Accepting responsibilities and observing the principle of management.

20)This world is the home of pains and tortures.

21)Thinking in religion and making use of useful knowledge.

22)Experiencing and making use of the good experiences.

23)Being kind with friends and tolerating the foes.

24)More than one hundred other useful pieces of advice.

To be continued