Islam, the religion of peace, has a diverse approach to ethical and moral values and duties, which are most directly or indirectly associated with the individual’s relationship with each other within the community as well as with other communities. It is eternally divine and forms the foundation of an Islamic society. According to the Qur’an, the real goal of man is the assimilation of divine attributes, which can be summarized as life, eternity, unity, power, truth, beauty, justice, love, and goodness. In addition, whatever leads to the welfare of the individual or society is morally good and whatever is injurious is morally bad.
The ethical system prescribed in Islam is eternally divine and forms the foundation of an Islamic society. Islamic ethics prescribe its followers to zealously guard their behaviour, words, thoughts, and intentions and observe certain norms and moral codes in their family affairs; in dealings with relatives, neighbours, and friends; in their business transactions; in their social affairs; and in private and public life. The unique feature of the Islamic ethical system is that it permeates all spheres and fields of human life. In business dealings, it has its own distinctive value-based ethical system dictated by the notion of legal (Halal) and illegal (Haram).
The study of ethics is concerned with the logical analysis of the principles and norms that determine proper moral behaviour. The Arabic term for morality is Akhlaq (good character), which is etymologically connected to the Creator and the created, implying a good relationship between humans and God, as well as a good relationship amongst humans. The Qur’an is a source of instruction that appeals to both the mind and the heart and establishes a cohesive ethical framework based on eternally true and life-enriching moral precepts. The integration of law and morality is a characteristic of the Qur’an. Thus, moral behaviour is not just a personal issue, but also a societal one, and it is constantly linked to trust in Almighty Allah (SWT).
The Islamic ethical worldview is a philosophical perspective of the universe that is based on the Islamic understanding of life and reality. It presents an Islamic framework of thoughts and viewpoints on the Oneness of God and His relationship with the world, man as a vicegerent on earth, human free will, morality, responsibility, accountability; justice and compassion; sin and repentance; and intention and sincerity divine destiny, and the ultimate habitation in the hereafter. (Al-Qur’an, 02:177). These are not separate ideas, but are associated together and fit into the Qur’anic metaphysical worldview which establishes the fundamental vision and goal for humanity. These features are the means to pleasure in this world and the next, and they must be conceptualized within the ethical framework of the Qur’an, which places God at the centre of everything. All things are permitted, empowered, and guided by God’s attributes such as Justice, Mercy, and Generosity. It should be noted that the virtues of the soul, temperance, courage, wisdom, and justice are supererogatory practices that are only acceptable after the believer has performed the obligatory acts of worship. Such virtues enable man to serve as God’s vicegerent.
The Qur’an’s ethical worldview is an Islamic worldview emphasizing ethical dimensions.The Qur’an is a book of guidance (Huda) for humanity as well as a criterion (Furqan) for distinguishing between good and evil behaviour. Only with correct direction is it possible to yield to God’s will rather than man’s desires.Although there is still much work to be done in this area, most of the groundwork in the field of Islamic ethics has already been laid by classical Islamic philosophers of the eleventh century, such as Ibn Miskawayh (d. 1030), author of Tahdhib al-Akhlaq(Refinement of Character), al-Raghib al-Ifahani (d. 1060), author of al-Dhari’ah ila Makarim al-Shari’ah(The Means to the Noble Qualities of the Revealed Law), and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111), author of Mizan al-Amal (The Scale of Action) and the I?ya-i-Ulum al-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences). These Islamic thinkers demonstrated how to reconcile revelation and reason. They were open-minded representatives of Islam who were not afraid to incorporate foreign intellectual sources of knowledge into the Qur’an’s ethical worldview. Because it is already founded on the Qur’anic revelation.
Just as God is benevolent and compassionate to His servants, His servants must be gracious and sympathetic to one another. Just as God is just, so should His servants be just to others. Justice is a basic need of the law and is essential for maintaining social order. Giving a person his due is what justice entails. When harm is done to a person, justice also entails punishing the perpetrator. Morality is the degree to which society adheres to moral ideals. Islamic education fosters a feeling of Haya (Shame). It advocated for a universal brotherhood in which compassion and fairness were valued more than custom and law.
The Qur’an emphasizes benevolence to the poor, the needy, the stranger, the slave, and the prisoner most frequently. A person with piety (Taqwa) bears moral responsibility because he dreads divine displeasure and divine justice.He is accountable for the protection of human life and the preservation of the earth’s natural resources. However, to control the world and the human race, it is necessary to first alter oneself. That is, one should cultivate all of the attributes emphasized by the Qur’an: righteousness, justice, truthfulness, piety, patience, and compassion.This is why the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) highlighted that the greatest Jihad is the war against oneself (Jihad al-Nafs). (Al-Tirmidhi)
The assets of Western secular ethics are opposed to Islamic ethics, which is why the ethical worldview of the Qur’an must be articulated in such a way that it can be distinguished from secular ethics. As a result, Islam is equally concerned with social welfare, and it is ready to respond to the contemporary challenges that the Ummah faces.
The ethical weltanschauung of the Qur’an is not static but can expand, premised upon the two main sources of knowledge in Islam: revelation and reason. The Qur’an should be the point of departure for the integration of new knowledge and for reinterpreting the Qur’an in the light of contemporary challenges. There has been some effort by Muslim theologians and jurists to address the challenges of modern biotechnology, artificial intelligence, environmentalism, and human rights, but for an adequate response to these challenges, we need to go beyond a mere philological and legalistic interpretation of the revealed text.
The crisis of the Muslim world is fundamentally a moral crisis. The ethical worldview of the Qur’an will provide us with moral direction towards becoming a middle community, characterized by justice to the self and justice to society. We need to maintain a healthy balance between these two levels of justice so that the pursuit of individual justice is supportive of social justice, and the pursuit of social justice is supportive of individual justice. It is hoped that in the ethical worldview of the Qur’an we shall find a basis for cultivating virtue in our individual lives and for rearticulating the Qur’anic principles of human dignity and human justice for our contemporary social context. Western secular ethics is one-sided; it places too much emphasis on human rights and social welfare, neglecting individual morality and spirituality.
We need the ethical worldview of the Qur’an so that we have a criterion to judge whether we are moving too far in the one direction of social justice at the expense of the direction of individual justice. To be sure, Muslims ought to follow Islamic legal prescriptions, but the spirit of the Qur’anic worldview requires us to internalize these prescriptions and make them part of our own choices and inner convictions and not merely to conform to external rules. Purity of intention is important for making an action pleasing in the sight of God.
(Author is a Doctoral Fellow of Islamic Studies at the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University in Rajouri, Jammu & Kashmir. He can be reached at email@example.com)