#Article (Archive)

The Islamic Ethics and Education

Jun 20, 2014, 12:01 PM

Kant, the German philosopher, who died in 1804, accounts for this in the following ways:

Speculative intelligence, i.e., the agent inside the mechanism is not of high value; but the practical intelligence, i.e., the agent for carrying out the practical affairs, which is also referred to as “ethical conscience” has a definite practicality and its commands are binding. Kant believes that man, in accordance with ethical conscience, recognizes the nature of good and evil deeds and finds himself responsible to carry out the commands issued by it. An act is considered to be ethical when it has the following characteristics:

a)         Be optional. An act which is carried out compulsorily can not be ethical.

b)         The carrying out of the act should only be for the sake of duty and nothing else. For instance, a person’s act is not considered ethical if he carries it out for friend, for social acceptance, for material benefits, or for the world hereafter. He has to carry it out only for its own sake. An act may be good but unethical;

c)         It should be all-inclusive so that it may include the acts of all of those who want to carry out such acts;

d)         The ultimate goal for that act should be man himself, not other minor objectives;

e)         It should include man’s prosperity although not for his delight. Of course, this hypothesis has the following positive aspects:

a)         There exists in man an agent which, with the help of heavenly inspiration, can distinguish good deeds;

“Then He inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it”. And when man opposes it, he is tortured by the scourge of rebuke, driving him crazy:

“Nay! I swear by the day of resurrection, nay! I swear by the self-accusing soul”.

b)         Man knows, through his conscience, that he is not forced to do an act.

Molawi says: When you say should I do this or that; My friend, this shows you are free.

c)         The best sort of prayers is to carry out a task as thanks to God.

d)         Man’s status and his magnanimity are higher than for him to fall pray to other desires. Every thing is created for his use. No thing equals him.

“The world is nothing in front of a magnanimous man”.

e)All human beings are equal and are therefore, equal in front of human rights. “Let man consider appropriate for others what he considers appropriate for himself and other way around”.

Kant’s hypothesis suffers from the following defects, however:

a)         Our conscience is not strong enough for its recognition to be flawless. As the speculative intelligence needs guidance and protection, practical intelligence too should be guided and protected. The latter, too, might be unable to distinguish facts, or due to practice and repetition of wrong deeds, might lose its sensitivity. As we know, the nomadic Arabs used to put their daughters in the graves alive and the people of Fiji Island had a ceremony of putting their parents in the graves alive and this gave them a lot of delight. Sometimes the professional murderers enjoy carrying out murders; For instance, Nero made a song when he put fire on to Rome and Karbala murderers, upon the martyrdom of Imam Hossein (s) and his followers, at the presence of Obeydollah bin Ziyad, boasted with honor:  They even shamelessly asked for prize for their wicked deeds.

b)         It is true that in some cases, the conscience orders us to do good and commands us to stop doing evil, but its commands are not always absolute, nor are they common. Rather, conscience orders differ in accordance with the degree of the perfection status of people. Some do good things in order to do their duties. Some others do this to enjoy benefits and to avoid losses. An example will make the point clear: suppose a shrewd person, having a knife in his hand, asks a person for another person’s location. If the former tells the truth, then the latter’s life will be in definite danger, Is the command of conscience absolute here as Kant puts it, or is it better to tell an expedient lie?

c)         If the carrying out of one’s duties equals man’s perfection in spirit, then this will lead to his prosperity as well. Separating these two is not right unless we translate prosperity as sensual pleasure.

d)         Kant considers goodness subordinate to duty. But the reverse is true when we see that Allah orders the doing of justice and the doing of good and forbids evil:

Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion. In other cases Allah commands people to do good things:

“We revealed to them the doing of good and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of the alms.” As Allama in his Tafsirolmizan and Motahari have said the prior to duty” Justice, sacrifice and evil and the nasty nature of being evil and the good aspect of doing good have been revealed by God.

For further defects of Kant’s view we refer you to other works in the literature.


Most materialists such as Russell are of the view that man has cunningly discovered that if he behaves kindly towards others, he will be treated in the same way by others. If he steals the neighbor’s cow, for instance, his cows might get stolen later; and if he tells lies, he will hear lies ten times over. Thus, in order to protect himself, man decided to do good to others and to avoid doing harmful deeds. That is why man learned to obey rules. Thus, the criterion for ethical acts, according to this view, is the keeping of one’s interests besides the keeping of others interests. In other words, it means to bring man’s selfish desires under the control of education.

The notion, however, entails many defects among which are the following:

a)         It takes away the ethics from its innate sacredness and surrounds it with individual’s interests. But as we have seen before, the spiritual characteristics are beyond this kind of considerations.

b)         According to this view, if a person had such power as to be safe from the ethical harms of wrong-doers, there would not exists any agent to control his bad-tempers and his far-reaching wisdom would not create any impediment on his bad-temper. Only when the two sides have equal power can the wisdom entice them to do good. Regarding this, Motahari writes, “if Nixon is sitting in front of Brejenev, both of whom have equal powers, they could be considered ethical individuals. One thinks why he should throw bomb on the other when the latter has got the same power. But if Nixon is confronted with Viet Kongs, who are weak and vulnerable, there will be no force to stop Nixon from attacking them.

c)         In the present hypothesis, the eternal nature of self (soul) and the life hereafter is not included.

d)         What is the criterion for the ethical act which satisfies the interests of both individual and the community? Neither is wisdom to recognize the ethical act, nor conscience can do this job.

In this view, then, the ethical act does not have any reliable criterion.


Contrary to the belief of the Islamic and non-Islamic scholars who content that man is born with innate capacity to evaluate good from bad and in this process the innate inspiration helps him out of hardships, Freud rejects these innate capacities believing that social environment alone is responsible for the establishments of these sensations, perceptions and human character. He writes, “The child imitates the parents’ ethical criteria. Such as the dichotomy of bad /good and piety/wrong-doing. The superego “I” is the result of this absorption. It represents values, tribal beliefs and social ideas which the child has received from its parents. Other social factors which influence the superego “I” include teachers, priests, police or whoever stands above the child in the society. These factors, however, influence the child much less then the parents. In many people, ethics might manifest itself in the form of “the superego “I”. That is to say, it might severely control the individual. But this is not the result of innate-ethical conscience.Rather, it is the result of educational –ethical conscience, which reflects the prohibitive reactions of our great –grand fathers. This “I” is greatly under the influence of one factor, which is the child’s need for parental love. The child assumes that if it disobeys the parents, it will be deprived of this badly-needed affection.” In this regard, Freud firmly states: “The ethical conscience is nothing else than a social spur. Ethical conscience does not represent an innate act of man’s inner-being; rather, it is a simple introspection of social prohibition.”

In Freud’s view, neither in man’s history nor in the individual’s history has the been the primitive concept of good or bad. These concepts stem soly from outside of man, i.e., in his social context.” The important criticism, which can be leveled at Freud’s ideas, is that the advantages and favors of ethics are not based on a reliable and scared principle. How is a child expected to do right when it is offered unfounded and improper education? If the good and bad acts did not stem from man’s spirit, how could we persuade people in the right direction and inhibit them from doing wrong? Freud believes that this is done by man’s wisdom. Since the Divine Sharia, in Freud’s ideas, does not protect man’s wisdom and since education is different in individuals and since “the superego I” results from this differing education, how can man attain the supreme moral conducts and shun nasty behaviors?


In the eyes of communist, ethics as well as science, philosophy, arts and law and other influential social factors depends heavily on economics and production means.  The slavery, feudalism and capitalism each had its specific characteristics which were doomed as failure in subsequent periods. At the rule of communists, there is a special ethics dominating the society. For instance, extortion, hegemony, theft, confiscation and hurting people all belong to the era of agriculture, feudalism and capitalism. All these are gone away with at the time of proletariat and communism, then it is claimed that these are substituted for by justice, equality and freedom. However, in the communistic system, an act is considered ethical if it can boost the development of the society and can advance the society from the agricultural, feudalistic and capitalistic stage towards the communist state. Thus, if providing the hungry people with food and supplying the naked men with clothing and the curing of the sick all cause the communistic revolution to halt, then these acts are unethical. On the other hand, if not stopping tyranny and not bridging the gaps between people make the revolution to be successful, then these acts are considered ethical and appropriate!

The communists believe that

“The objective justifies the means”

Since the communism relies on principles such as the following:

a)         The principles of dialectic materialism.

b)         Historical materialism.

c)         Historical determinism.

d)         Economics as the underlying structure.

e)         The notion that all revolutions are heading towards socialism.

f)          The idea that the society is the base and everything should be sacrificed.

g)         The notion that everything is dependant upon the production means even beliefs and moral affairs.

And since each one of the above principles has been found wrong, there is no room left for an act to be ethical, especially if it is of compulsory nature. The disintegration of the communistic society and the misery that such a system has forced on millions of people are clear clues to the unfounded nature of the communism system. Thus, the claim that the criterion for an ethical act should be its impetus to make the process of communism smooth and easy is completely unfounded and ridiculous. This is clearly shown by the disintegration of the communistic states at our time.


Hegel, like communists, is of the opinion that society is always in progress and evolving. He assigns some features to each epoch and believes these features are revealed through the spirit of time. However, some features and temperaments, such as chastity and restricted relations of men and women could be considered good at a specific era of time, such as at the agricultural age, but may be considered improper at another age, such as the age of automation. Of course, this notion suffers from other drawbacks as well:

a)         Is every society heading towards perfection? Societies, like vegetation, sometimes progress and at times deteriorate.

b)         What is meant by “the spirit of time”? Who has discovered it? How do we know that these changing features are caused by the spirit of time?

c)         Who has said that chastity was good at one time but bad now?

d)         Who can consider some human traits such as justice, sacrifice and generosity good at one time but bad at other time?

Thus, how is it feasible that, on the basis of an imaginary item called “the spirit of time”, we should consider ethics a relative thing when we are aware that it has a deep root in man’s innate-being?


Sartre, who evaluates everything on the basis of personal option, says: there is no criterion for the ethical nature of an act outside man’s existence. He, as well, believe in the relativity of ethics. He states: anybody who chooses an act assumes that his choice is good. And if another person chooses another act as good, then he has the right choice, Thus, an ethical act differs in the opinion of different people. Therefore, in this view, the criterion for an ethical act is the chooser and nothing else. This view is wrong, however, since the chooser has selected an act because he has preferred it over other acts But do other people also believe that his choice was the best? A murderer, a thief and a tormenter have, in fact, some rationale for their actions. But having these preferences will not justify their wrong-doings.


Each one of the views on the philosophy of ethics mentioned above, dealt with some facts, but ignored others. A survey of these views shows that if ethics were not based on the guidance of prophets and Imams, it would definitely lead to people’s misery instead of their prosperity. How could schools whose criteria for ethical acts are “instant pleasure”, “personal interests”, “the spirit of time”, “personal selection” and “economics and social evolution” lead man towards prosperity, sacrifice, honesty, philosophy and chastity? Nowadays we witness an increase in wrong-doings, homicides, suicides and corruption in the world, especially in the west; sexual assault to children by close relatives is increasing and 95 percent of people are suffering from tensions.

The statesmen in these communities complain about the situation. Man has been placed in this plight because of the lack of right criteria of ethics.         

To be continued