Islamic ethics Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_ethics

Islamic ethics (أخلاق إسلامية), is defined as "good character"; its "basic aim" is "to achieve" Raza-e Ilahi (the Pleasure of God)"[1] or to make God's pleasure "the objective of man’s life".[2] It has been distinguished from "Islamic morality" in the being "philosophical reflection upon moral conduct", while morality pertains to "specific norms or codes of behavior".[3]

It took shape as a field of study or an "Islamic science" (ʿIlm al-Akhlaq), gradually from the 7th century and was finally established by the 11th century.[4] Although it was considered less important than sharia and fiqh "in the eyes of the ulama" (Islamic scholars) "moral philosophy" was an important subject for Muslim intellectuals.[5] Many scholars consider it shaped as a successful amalgamation of the Qur'anic teachings, the teachings of Muhammad, the precedents of Islamic jurists (see Sharia and Fiqh), the pre-Islamic Arabian tradition, and non-Arabic elements (including Persian and Greek ideas) embedded in or integrated with a generally Islamic structure.[4] Although Muhammad's preaching produced a "radical change in moral values based on the sanctions of the new religion ... and fear of God and of the Last Judgment"; the tribal practice of Arabs did not completely die out. Later Muslim scholars expanded the religious ethic of the Qur'an and Hadith in immense detail.[4]


A number of related terms refer to the right way to behave in Islam: Akhlaq, Adab, Ihsan.


Akhlaq (Arabic: أخلاق, /æxˈlɑːk/, plural of (Arabic: خلق khulq which means disposition), is the practice of virtue, morality and manners in Islamic theology and falsafah (philosophy). Akhlaq is the most commonly used Islamic term for morality.[6]

The science of ethics (`Ilm al-Akhlaq) teaches that through practice and conscious effort man can surpass their natural dispositions and natural uncorrupted state (Fitrah) to become more ethical and well mannered. Akhlaq is a kind of normative ethical system known as "virtue ethics", which is based on "virtues, or moral character", rather than "conceptions of the right (as in Kantian ethics) or the good (as in utilitarianism)".[7][8]

Akhlaq is not found in the Quran, but its root -- kh-l-q -- is shared by khaliq (Creator) and makhluq (creature), which are found throughout the Quran. It is most commonly translated in English-Arabic dictionaries as: disposition, nature, temper, ethics, morals or manners or in general a person who has good manners, and behaves well.[9][10]: 470 

According to Hakan Ҫoruh and Abdul Hadi Shah Idil, "In the Islamic ethical tradition, ethics (akhlaq) means that one performs good behaviour spontaneously, without hesitation, and with minimal deliberation."[7]


Adab (Arabic: أدب) in the context of behavior, refers to prescribed Islamic etiquette: "refinement, good manners, morals, decorum, decency, humaneness" (according to the book Religion and Law).[11] While interpretation of the scope and particulars of Adab may vary among different cultures, common among these interpretations is regard for personal standing through the observation of certain codes of behavior.[12] To exhibit Adab would be to show "proper discrimination of correct order, behavior, and taste."[12]

A description of the difference between Akhlaq and Adab is

  • Aklaq is ethics, the 'moral philosophy'; Ethics/ morality. Islamic behaviour, disposition, good conduct, nature, temper, ethics, morals or character of a person.
  • Adab is "the actual practices of moral philosophy"; Manner, attitude, behaviour and the etiquette of putting things in their proper place[13] "a culture of refined behavior [that] shaped the ethical outlook of urban Muslims" There were writings setting forth "the virtues for different classes and groups to honor, including the ulama, rulers, bureaucrats, merchants and craftsmen".[5]

Furthermore, according to one source (Abdulmajeed Hassan Bello), sharia (usually defined as Islamic law) is not just concerned with concerned "with legal rules and regulations indicating "what man is entitled or bound to do, ... but also what he ought, in conscience, to do or refrain from doing. Thus, shari’ah ... embraces both private and public activities."[citation needed]


Iḥsān (also Ihsaan, Arabic: إحسان), is an Arabic term meaning "beautification", "perfection" or "excellence", but is also defined in Islam (by Malcolm Clark) as ethics/morality "literally virtue, including right living," and (according to Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood) is a matter of taking one's inner faith and showing it in both deed and action.[14]

Other terms[edit]

Other terms found in the Quran that "denote the concept of moral or religious goodness"[15] are:

  • al-khayr (goodness),[15]
  • al-birr (righteousness),[15]
  • al-qisr,[15]
  • al-iqsat (equity),[15]
  • al-adl (justice),[15]
  • al-haqq (truth and right),[15]
  • al-ma’ruf (known and approved),[15] and
  • al-taqwa (piety).[15]
  • "Pious actions" are "normally referred to" as salihat; "impious or sinful actions" as sayyi’at.[16]

Ethics v. morality[edit]

Juan E. Campo describes the difference between Akhlaq/ethics and morality in Islam as :

Ethics means philosophical reflection upon moral conduct, while morality pertains to specific norms or codes of behavior. Questions of ethics, therefore, involve such subjects as human nature and the capacity to do good, the nature of good and evil, motivations for moral action, the underlying principles governing moral and immoral acts, deciding who is obliged to adhere to the moral code and who is exempted from it, and the implications of either adhering to the moral code or violating it. Morality encompasses the values and rules that govern human conduct ...[3]

Scriptural sources[edit]

According to Nikhat Sattar, "Islamic ethics differ from the Western concept as these are derived from God ..."[17]


The Quran, which Muslims believe to be the verbatim word of God, serves as the primary source of moral teachings in Islam.[18] Verse 2:177 declares:

  • “Righteousness is not in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Rather, the righteous are those who believe in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Books, and the prophets; who give charity out of their cherished wealth to relatives, orphans, the poor, ˹needy˺ travellers, beggars, and for freeing captives; who establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and keep the pledges they make; and who are patient in times of suffering, adversity, and in ˹the heat of˺ battle. It is they who are true ˹in faith˺, and it is they who are mindful ˹of Allah˺.”[2]

Another verse states:

  • "Believers are those … who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex except with their wives, or whom their right hands possess. Thus they’re free from blame, but those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors. Believers faithfully observe their trusts and covenants and keep their prayers. They will be the heirs, who will inherit Paradise, where they will dwell.” (Q. 23:3-11)[19]

However, the Quran offers "more in the way of general principles"—justice, goodness, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, and piety -- "than specific rules".[6]


Hadith, which are based on reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings, silent permissions (or disapprovals) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, as well as various reports about Muhammad's companions, also serves as an important source for Islamic moral teachings.[18] Some hadith cited expressing good conduct, deeds, morals in Islam, and the importance of these include:

  • Narrated 'Aishah: the Messenger of Allah said: “Indeed among the believers with the most complete faith is the one who is the best in conduct, and the most kind to his family" (Jamiʽ al-Tirmidhi 2612)[20]
  • “The best of the believers in faith are those who are the best in morals” (Narrated by Al-Tabarani)[21]
  • "Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that the Messenger of Allah, ... 'I was sent to perfect the ethical conduct'." (Muwatta Malik)[22][23]
  • Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger as saying:

Do you know who is poor? They (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) said: A poor man amongst us is one who has neither dirham with him nor wealth. He (the Holy Prophet) said: The poor of my Umma would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers and fasts and Zakat but (he would find himself bankrupt on that day as he would have exhausted his funds of virtues) since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others, and his virtues would be credited to the account of one (who suffered at his hand). And if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then his sins would be entered in (his account) and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire.(Sahih Muslim 2581).[21]

A "famous" hadith[24] "Hadith of jibril" describes the angel Jibril (Gabriel) questioning Muhammad about "what is faith?" "what is Islam?" and "What is Ihsan (perfection or virtue)?", where in reply Muhammad lists the "Five Pillars of Islam", the "Six Articles of Faith", and describes Ihsan (which Clark defines as ethics, or "virtue and including right living") thusly:

  • "To worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that He is looking at you."[25][26]
Other sources

Besides the Quran and hadith, there are a number of other sources, (not all universally followed in Islam):

  • the works of Islamic scholars and philosophers;[18]
  • Arabic virtues that predate Islam, (such as "honor, courage, loyalty, hospitality, self-control", etc.;[18]
  • the moral examples set by important Islamic personalities (such as the four rightly guided caliphs for Sunni Muslims);[18]
  • works on Adab (i.e. etiquette, manners);[18]
  • "philosophical reflection" by the school of Islam known as the Mu`tazilites and others;
  • "works of Greek ethicists", (which were translated into Arabic);[18]
  • the 99 names of God, which among other qualities/attributes include names based on virtues -- "the gentle, the grateful, the just, the giver, the equitable, the loving", etc.;[18]
  • Ethical values from Sufism "including humility and poverty".[18]

Comparing with other systems[edit]

Difference between Western and Islamic morality[edit]

Nikhat Sattar, (writing in the website Islamicity), states that while in Christianity every person is born with "Original Sin", in Islam "man is born with a morally good nature", though he is subject to corruption "due to temptations and man’s inability to exercise control over his desires".[17]

Sattar also writes that since secular morality has replaced Christian morality in the West, Islamic ethics is now different from "the Western concept" of morality in that it comes "from divine revelation", and so transcends "the limitations of time, place and tradition."[17] He also maintains that there are three "very important" differences between western ethical principles and Islamic ones. According to Islamic "principles:

  • society also has moral rights",
  • the family is the basic "unit of society, not the individual", and
  • since Islamic ethical principles are divine they cannot be changed just because society/public opinion changes.[17]

Roderick Hindery notes that while Christian ethics (with its original sin), and to a lesser extent Judiaism, focus on the "universal presence of sin and related needs of salvation", and on holy nature of asceticism (at least in Catholicism). Fear of God has a more central place in Islam—the Quran making "over a hundred Qur'anic references to hell and judgment". Islam highlights the awesome power of God and limits of human beings but does not portray humans as "inherently sinful or corrupt".[27] Social action and social consciousness also have a higher importance with the doctrine of man's vicegerency on earth[28] and the alms-tax of zakat elevated to a "pillar" of the religion.[27]

Islamic revivalist Abul A'la Maududi maintains that while "there is more or less a universal consensus" regarding what is right and wrong among human beings, ("bravery and truthfulness have always elicited praise ... dishonesty and breach of trust" disparaged, etc.); but humans need a standard by which to judge conduct as either good or bad, lest they be left "like a ship without moorings to be tossed hither and thither at the mercy of the winds and the tides". Using "intellect, desire, intuition or experience" is untenable since these are subject to "constant change", but the Islamic standard -- "seeking the pleasure of Allah" -- "is both permanent and universal" and opens "windows of unlimited possibilities" for "moral evolution".[29][circular reference]

Traditional Akhlaq ethical system[edit]

Hakan Ҫoruh and Abdul Hadi Shah Idil, describe Akhlaq as a system of "Virtue ethics", which emphasize the virtues, or moral character of the human actor involved. Virtue ethics are one of "three major approaches in normative ethics" in human societies — the other two being "deontology", which emphasizes duties or rules, and "consequentialism", which emphasizes the consequences of actions of the human actor.[7][Note 1] Another source, (Technical University Darmstadt), describes "virtue theory" ethics as emphasizing moral education to "develop good habits of character based" on "rules like 'do not steal'," etc.[30]

Virtue and good character[edit]

Moral Character primarily refers to the assemblage of moral qualities (virtues and vices) in an individual. Promotion of good/virtuous character is found in the canonical texts of Islam. The Quran describes Muhammad as being 'on exalted quality of character' (Q 68:4), and refers to him as 'an excellent example' ( Q33:21) which ultimately means that the religious and moral examples, set by Muhammad, are to be followed and cultivated by the Muslims in order to construct a morally good character.[31] In addition, numerous sayings of Muhammad highlighted the importance of good character:

  • Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet said: The one with good morals and character already owns the best of this world and the Hereafter (Tabarani and Abu Dawud).[32]
  • Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said: I have been sent for the perfection of character (Imam Ahmad and Bayhaqi).[32]
  • Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah said: A person reaches the best and most honored levels in the Hereafter as a result of good character.... And bad character condemns a person to the lowest depths of Hell (Tabarani).[32]
  • One can repent for any sin but bad character – because with bad character, before a person can attempt to ask forgiveness for one sin, he commits a worse (Tabarani, Isfahani).[32]

There was a debate among the early Islamic moralists as to whether character could be changed to promote virtue and diminish vices.[31] They recognized the dual aspect of character – innate and acquired – and thus noted that with conscious practice it could be changed to a certain degree. "Just as a muscle grows stronger with exercise, character grows strong with practice ... the good act becomes easier to us each time we do it."[31]

Muslim moralists have discussed the importance of having a good character as well as the ways of acquiring it. Imam Birgivi, a 16th-century Muslim scholar and moralist, says that 'To cure yourself of a bad feature of character is an obligation'.[33] Continuous practice of moral virtues and a conscious effort to internalize those qualities can lead to the formation of a morally good character.[31][34] Al-Isfahani says that purification of soul means the control, not the elimination, of desires. He taught that character meant not only obeying the laws of Islam but internalizing them in your soul.[31] According to Birgivi, changing of character depends on such things as 'a person's wish' and 'the strength of one's understanding', and the preservation of a good character requires the avoidance of the company of evil-charactered people who indulge into indecent activities, drunkenness, and meaningless gossip.[32]


Ethics or "Disposition" is a "faculty" (malakah),[35] "a property of the soul" (nafs), "which comes into existence through exercise and repetitive practice" is not easily destroyed.[7] A particular malakah may appear because of one of the following reasons:

  1. Fitrah (natural state): The original state in which humans are created by Allah. Muslims believe Allah determined certain aspects of their lives for which they are not accountable (e.g., their place of birth and physical appearance)[36]
  2. 'Āda (habit): Formed by continual repetition of certain acts and creates a certain disposition.
  3. Practice and conscious effort: Which if persistent will eventually produce a disposition.

Although fitra produces certain dispositions, (it is thought) man can surpass nature through free will and effort. While dispositions caused by mental faculties (i.e., intelligence, memory, mental agility etc.) are not alterable, others dispositions can change. man's capacity to change his dispositions need not mean destroying instincts of reproduction or self-preservation, but avoiding extremes so they (the dispositions) perform their functions properly.

  • "Indeed I have been sent to complete the best of character (akhlaq)." (Hadith of Muhammad narrated by Abu Hurairah)[37]
  • "The most complete of believers in iman (faith) are those who are best in character."(Hadith narrated by Anas, the brother of Abu Dharr)[38]

'Ilm al-Akhlaq[edit]

ʿIlm al-Akhlaq is translated in English as "ethics, moral science, morals" (ʿIlm being science or study).[39] Al-Ghazali defined Ilm al-Akhlaq as "the way to acquire the well being of the soul and to guard it against the vices".[40][7] According to Hakan Ҫoruh and Abdul Hadi Shah Idil, "following the Aristotelian tradition, medieval Muslim ethicists discussed the purpose of human beings and the achievement of virtue and virtue being pleasurable."[7] The science/study of Akhlaq:

  • Analysed the three faculties of the soul:[7]
    • intellectual (ʿaql),[7]
    • irascible (ghadab),[7]
    • appetitive (shahwah)[7]
  • the purpose of each faculty,[7]
  • the virtue underlying each faculty,[7]
  • its sub-virtues and how to acquire them,
  • how virtue was a balance of each faculty[7]
  • how vice was an imbalance,[7]
  • the excess and deficiency of each faculty and vices and how to treat them.[7]
  • They conclude that there are four pillars of good character:[7]

The fourteenth-century Muslim theologian ʿAdududdin al-Ijī "best illustrated" all this in his treatise on ethics (Risalat al-Akhlaq), which was the subject of a number of commentaries and was taught in "traditional Islamic seminaries for centuries".[7]

The science also dwells on how the level of human virtue is determined by discipline and effort;[41] the movement between the extremes of human behavior, "the lowest is below beasts and the highest surpasses even the angels;"[42] how 'knowledge is the thickest of veils', preventing man from seeing reality (haqiqah when ethics and purification (tazkiyah) have not been mastered; and how by improving their akhlaq, the Muslims improve their Ibadah (worship).[citation needed]

Tazkiyah al-Nafs[edit]

Tazkiyah al-nafs, "is the purification of the soul from inclination towards evils and sins, and the development of its fitrah (natural unsocialized state) towards goodness, which leads to its uprightness and its reaching ihsaan [perfection or at least excellence]", according to Anas Karzoon.[43] Scholars (such as Mulla Muhammad Mahdi Naraqi) teach that "moral virtues bring eternal happiness, while moral corruption leads to everlasting wretchedness", so that blameworthy traits (akhlāq madhmūma) must be purged.[42] God will help those seeking purification: "And those who strive for Us - We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good." (Q. 29:69)

Malakah of the Soul: effects & characteristics[edit]

The soul is created devoid of traits. As one progresses through life, he develops malakat related to his lifestyle. The soul becomes accustomed to repeated behavior, which then determines actions. Noble faculties manifest moral and wise behaviour, while evil faculties manifest immorality. These faculties determine the fate in the Akhira.

The Quran says:

  • We have bound every human’s destiny to their neck. And on the Day of Judgment We will bring forth to each ˹person˺ a record which they will find laid open. ˹And it will be said,˺ “Read your record. You ˹alone˺ are sufficient this Day to take account of yourself.”[44]
  • And the record ˹of deeds˺ will be laid ˹open˺, and you will see the wicked in fear of what is ˹written˺ in it. They will cry, “Woe to us! What kind of record is this that does not leave any sin, small or large, unlisted?” They will find whatever they did present ˹before them˺. And your Lord will never wrong anyone.[45]
  • ˹Watch for˺ the Day when every soul will be presented with whatever good it has done. And it will wish that its misdeeds were far off. And Allah warns you about Himself. And Allah is Ever Gracious to ˹His˺ servants.[46]

The soul and its powers[edit]

The soul (nafs) employs the body to attain its goals. The soul has also other names, including spirit (ruh), intelligence ('Aql), and heart (qalb) although these terms have other usages. The primary faculties of the soul are:

  1. Intelligence (al-quwwah al-aqliyyah)- angelic.
  2. Anger (al-quwwah al-ghadabiyyah)- ferocious.
  3. Desire (al-quwwah al-shahwiyyah)- animalistic.
  4. Imagination (al-quwwah al-wahmiyyah)- demoniac.

The value of these forces is obvious. Reason distinguishes good and evil: ghadab (anger)[47] helps defend against aggression: sexual attraction maintains the survival of the human species; and imagination allows visualization of universals or particulars. Reason is man's guiding angel. Anger brings violence; passions (hawā) encourage immorality; and imagination provides material to formulate demoniac plots and machinations. If reason controls the other faculties, it moderates excesses and ensures useful performance. Allah says in surat Ash-Shams: And by the soul and ˹the One˺ Who fashioned it, then with ˹the knowledge of˺ right and wrong inspired it! Successful indeed is the one who purifies their soul, and doomed is the one who corrupts it![48] The soul is in a continuous jihad (struggle) between these four powers for domination. The victorious trait determines the soul's inclination.

In a hadith from Imam Ali, he is related as saying: Surely God has characterized the angels by intellect without sexual desire and anger, and the animals with anger and desire without reason. He exalted man by bestowing upon him all of these qualities. Accordingly, if man's reason dominates his desire and ferocity, he rises to a station above that of the angels; because this station is attained by man in spite of the existence of hurdles which do not vex the angels.[49]

Pleasures and pains[edit]

The soul experiences pleasure when perceiving something harmonious with its nature. Pain occurs when it contacts things in disharmony. The soul's pleasures and pains are also divided into four categories, each corresponding to one of the four faculties.

  1. Pleasure of the reasoning faculty lies in gaining knowledge and its pain lies in ignorance.
  2. Pleasure of the faculty of anger lies in feelings of overcoming an enemy and revenge. Its pain lies in the feeling of being overpowered and defeated.
  3. Delight of the faculty of desire is enjoyment of foods and drinks while its pain lies in denial of such experiences.
  4. Pleasure of the imaginative faculty lies in the visualization of particulars which lead to the appearance of carnal desires, while its pain lies in the insufficiency and inadequacy of these visions.

The strongest of pleasures is experienced by reason. This pleasure is inherent and constant. It is unlike the other pleasures, which are transitory and often embarrassing. Rational pleasures have many degrees, the highest of which is nearness to God. This sublime pleasure is attained through love and knowledge of God, acquired through effort to be closer to Him. When efforts are directed to this goal, sensual pleasures are overshadowed; taking their proper place in moderation.

Goodness and happiness[edit]

The aim of tazkiyah and moral development is to attain felicity and happiness. Tazkiyah causes self-knowledge and knowledge of God.[50] Man's most consummate felicity is reflecting divine attributes. According to Qatada ibn al-Nu'man, the content soul (an-nafs al-mutma'inna) is, "the soul of the believer, made calm by what Allah has promised. Its owner is at complete rest and content with his knowledge of Allah's Names and Attributes..."[51]


Some of the most important scholars who contributed to the area of moral philosophy during the Middle Ages were

  • Miskawayh (d.1040),the Persian author of Refinement of Morality;[5]
  • Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (d.1111), author of Revival of the Religious Sciences,[5]
  • Ali ibn Hazm (d.1064) "the Andalusian man of letters".[5]

Also influential were

  • Abu Yusul Yaacub al-Kindi (d.870),[5]
  • Abu Bakr Muhammad al-Razi (d. ca 925),[5]
  • Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d.950), Abu Ali Al-Husayn Ibn Sina (aka Avicenna, d.1037),[5]
  • Muhammad Ibn Rushd (aka Averroes, d. 1198),[5]
  • Nasir al-Din Tusi (d.1198).[5]

Moral philosophy as a topic of Muslim scholarly discussion "declined after the 12th century", but underwent a revival in the 19th and 20th centuries.[5]

Codification of Islamic ethics[edit]

Islamic ethics was codified, based on the Qur'an and practices of Muhammad, over a period of time and in context of the practices of the Muslim community (ummah). The Quran commands every human being, in all spheres of life, to "command the good and forbid evil", as spelled out by Muhammad. Another key factor in the field of Islamic ethics is the belief (as described in the Qur'an) that all mankind has been granted the faculty to discern God's will (fitrah), and thus the moral responsibility to submit to His will by following Islam, regardless of their environment.[52][53]

This natural inclination to obey God, is, according to the Qur'an, in conflict with another human inclination, the desire for material possessions and comforts; first for basic survival or security, then for status in society. Ultimately, this desire results in a state of jahiliyya, "heedlessness," or ignorance of mankind's responsibility to obey God.[53]

The establishment of Islam brought a great transformation in the society, moral order of life, world view, and the hierarchy of values in the Arabian Peninsula.

  1. The division of Arabs into varying tribes (based upon blood and kinship), was confronted by the ideal of a unified community, an "ummah", based upon Islamic piety.
  2. The acceptance of the worship of a multitude of deities besides Allah - a view challenged by strict Islamic monotheism, which dictates that Allah has no partner in worship nor any equal;
  3. The trait of muruwwa (manliness), which Islam discouraged, instead emphasizing on the traits of humility and piety;
  4. The focus on achieving fame or establishing a legacy, which was replaced by the concept that mankind would be called to account before God on the day of resurrection;
  5. The reverence of and compliance with ancestral traditions, was challenged by Islam's assignment of primacy to submitting to God and following revelation.

But although pre-Islamic Arabia exemplified "heedlessness," it was not entirely without merit, and certain aspects—such as the care for one's near kin, for widows, orphans, and others in need and for the establishment of justice—would be retained in Islam, re-ordered in importance and placed in the context of strict monotheism.[53]

Politics and public policy[edit]

According to Lenn Goodman, many medieval Muslim thinkers pursued humanistic and rational approaches in discourses regarding values.[54] On the other hand, Roderick Hindery finds it difficult to find "humanistic values that have not been later affirmed" by Muslim (and Christian) "theologians and religious ethicians", as they "reexamine and rewrite" their religion's "history to make it coincide with a humanistic history".[55]

Human rights[edit]

Some scholars and activists have esteemed "the Islamic tradition as the highest manifestation of human right", while others have criticized the concept of “human rights” as a "western colonial invention used to oppress Muslims by making them conform to certain western norms".[56] In 1990, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), issued the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights (CDHR), in reply to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The CDHR is based on traditional sharia law ("shari‘a is mentioned throughout the entire document as the most authoritative source of law"), and guarantees some human rights, while denying some articles from the UDHR "dealing with gender, the family, religious freedom, and importantly, self-determination".[56]

Religious pluralism[edit]

While religious minorities were not granted equality with Islam, classical Sharia, allowed the functioning of the religious laws and courts of Christians, Jews and Hindus in lands ruled by Islam. These were usually accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early Caliphate, Al-Andalus, the Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Millet system.[57][58] Non-Muslims were allowed to engage in religious practices that were forbidden to Muslims by Islamic law. In a notable example, Zoroastrian practice of incestuous "self-marriage" where a man could marry his mother, sister or daughter, was to be tolerated according to Ibn Qayyim (1292–1350). He based his opinion on the precedent that Muhammad had knowledge of their practices, coming in contact with them, but did not forbid such self-marriages.[59] Religious minorities were also free to do whatever they wished in their own homes, provided they did not publicly engage in illicit sexual activity in ways that could threaten public morals.[60]

Freedom of expression[edit]

Freedom of expression in Islamic history has not included the freedom to blaspheme (by denying any of the fundamental beliefs of Islam) or apostatize (abandoning Islam in word or through deed). According to Juan Campo, the charge of apostasy has often been used by religious authorities to condemn and punish skeptics, dissidents, and minorities in their communities.[61] Expression of poetry and other literature was controlled in a number of ways in the medieval Arab Muslim world -- "from mild self-censorship to the actual execution of authors by state authorities", according to scholar Zoltan Szombathy.[62] Large numbers of freethinkers (Zindiq) were persecuted and executed by Al-Mahdi (d. 169/785) from 779 to 786 CE.[63]

On the other hand, Amira Nowaira writes that

Islamic thinkers of the early medieval period expressed ideas and engaged in debates that would appear strangely enlightened in comparison with the attitudes and views adopted by modern Islamic scholarship.[64]

An example being the toleration of medieval physician, philosopher and alchemist Abu Bakr al-Razi (865-925 CE), who argued that the Quran was "illogical and self-contradictory".[64]

Islamic literature also includes charming anecdotes of tolerance towards non-Muslims and others lacking in power. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad quotes a letter by a cousin of Caliph al-Ma'mun, in which he gives permission to a Christian he was attempting to convert to speak his mind freely, as evidence that in Islam even religious controversies were not exempt from open discussion.[65] In a letter written by the fourth Rashidun Caliph and first cousin of Muhammad, Ali ibn Abi Talib to his governor of Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar. The Caliph advises his governor on dealings with the poor masses thusly:

Out of your hours of work, fix a time for the complainants and for those who want to approach you with their grievances. During this time you should do no other work but hear them and pay attention to their complaints and grievances. For this purpose you must arrange public audience for them during this audience, for the sake of Allah, treat them with kindness, courtesy and respect. Do not let your army and police be in the audience hall at such times so that those who have grievances against your regime may speak to you freely, unreservedly and without fear. Nahjul Balaagha letter 53

Health and medical peer review[edit]

Because Islam views itself as a total system governing all areas, Islamic medical ethics view the patient as a whole. Classical texts speak more about "health", than "illness", showing an emphasis on prevention rather than cure.[66]

The first documented description of a peer review process is found in the Ethics of the Physician by Ishaq ibn 'Ali al-Ruhawi (854–931) of al-Raha, Syria, where the notes of a practising Islamic physician were reviewed by peers and the physician could face a lawsuit from a maltreated patient if the reviews were negative.[67][68]

Animal welfare[edit]

Concern for the treatment of animals can be found in the Qur'an and in the teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, which inspired debates over animal rights by later medieval Muslim scholars. The 10th-century work, "Disputes Between Animals and Man", part of the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity, has been considered a classic in this regard. Inspired by the Qur'anic verse: "All living beings roaming the earth and winged birds soaring in the sky are communities like yourselves." ( 6:38), the Shafi'i jurist 'Izz al-Din Ibn 'Abd al-Salam al-Sulami (d. 1262) formulated the first full-fledged charter of the rights of livestock and animals in his legal treatise Rules for Judgement in the Cases of Living Beings (Qawa'id al-ahkam fi masalih al-anam) which was based on the stories and sayings of Muhammad.[69][70][71]


A number of sources assert the benevolent attitude of Muhammad and Islam towards natural resources, conservation and wildlife. Tom Verde writes in Aramco World that in early Islam, after Muslims established themselves in Medina, Muhammad surveyed the natural resources in the region—the wadis (riverbeds); the rich, black volcanic soil; the high rangelands—and decreed that they be preserved and set aside as a hima (“protected place”).[72] Ibrahim Ozdemir writes that[Note 2] "approximately 200 verses" in the Quran are concerned with the environment—such as one stating “greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the heavens and the earth”.[73][Note 3]


"Practical guidelines"[76] or "specific norms or codes of behavior" for good doing[3][77] based primarily on the Quran and the Hadith[18] are primarily "commonly known moral virtues"[2] whose major points "most religions largely agree on".[76] They include kindness (to people and animals), charity,[78] forgiveness, honesty, patience, justice, respecting parents and elders, keeping promises, and controlling one's anger.[79]

Ethical education and behavior[edit]

Drawing on a cross-sectional study of Muslim youths in southern Thailand and other sources, academic Kasetchai Laeheem found that the "common behavioral problem" of a lack of Islamic ethics within Muslim societies, often leads to Muslim youths committing "sin openly" and "as a habit without shame". However, high levels of Islamic ethical behavior among Muslim youth, are often correlated with "the Islamic way of upbringing, knowledge of the religion, participation in Islamic activities, and practicing Islamic principles".[80]

See also[edit]

Notes, references, bibliography[edit]


  1. ^ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives an example: "Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximize well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as “Do unto others as you would be done by”, and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent."[8]
  2. ^ "of 'Islamic environmentalism' based on Islamic tradition – rather than imported 'white saviour' environmentalism",
  3. ^ Among the 28 hadiths on agriculture compiled in the "Book of Agriculture" of the Sahih Bukhari on the proper way to determine ownership, rents, cultivation of crops and sharing of harvest, are hadith on sowing seeds and planting trees.[74][75]


  1. ^ Syed Shahid Ali (2015). "The Quranic Morality: An Introduction to the Moral-System of Quran" (PDF). Islam and Muslim Societies: A Social Science Journal. 8 (1): 98. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Moral System of Islam: The Standard of Morality. (2006). IslamReligion.com Retrieved 19 Aug 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Campo, Encyclopedia of Islam, "Ethics and morality", 2009: p.214
  4. ^ a b c Bearman et al. 2009, Akhlaq
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Campo, Encyclopedia of Islam, "Ethics and morality" 2009: p.217
  6. ^ a b Campo, Encyclopedia of Islam, "Ethics and morality" 2009: p.216
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Ҫoruh, Hakan; Abdul Hadi Shah Idil (5 Jan 2021). "Islam's adaptation of virtue ethics: Bringing light to the challenges of a post-pandemic world". ABC’s Religion and Ethics. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  8. ^ a b Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Revised December 8, 2016 ed.). July 18, 2003. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  9. ^ J. Cowan p. 299
  10. ^ Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi (26 March 2016). The Laws of Islam (PDF). Enlight Press. ISBN 978-0994240989. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  11. ^ Firmage, Edwin Brown and Weiss, Bernard G. and Welch, John W. Religion and Law. 1990, page 202-3
  12. ^ a b Ensel, Remco. Saints and Servants in Southern Morocco. 1999, page 180
  13. ^ "CHAPTER 4 AKHLAQ".
  14. ^ Maqsood, Ruqaiyyah Waris (September 15, 1994). Teach Yourself Islam. Teach Yourself World Faiths. Teach Yourself. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-340-60901-9.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Fakhry, Ethical Theories in Islam, 1994: p.12
  16. ^ Fakhry, Ethical Theories in Islam, 1994: p.11
  17. ^ a b c d SATTAR, NIKHAT (2 September 2017). "Ethics in Islam, the West and Muslim World". Islamicity. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Clark (2011), p. 283
  19. ^ Clark, Islam For Dummies, 2011: p.248
  20. ^ Hassan, Monique (10 December 2018). "Islamic Perspective on Morality". Islam Faith. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  21. ^ a b Badawi, Jamal. "Characteristics of the Islamic Moral Code". aboutislam.net. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  22. ^ Syed, Jawad; Metcalfe, Beverly Dawn (2015). "In Pursuit of Islamic akhlaq of Business and Development". Journal of Business Ethics. 129: 763–767. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2130-y. S2CID 144607131. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  23. ^ Muwatta Malik. "Muwatta Malik » 47. Good Character USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 47, Hadith 8 Arabic reference: Book 47, Hadith 1643". Sunnah.com. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  24. ^ Campo, Encyclopedia of Islam, "Ethics and morality" 2009: p.215
  25. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari 50
  26. ^ Murata, Sachiko; Chittick, William (June 1998). The Vision of Islam. Paragon House. ISBN 978-1557785169.
  27. ^ a b Hindery, CrossCurrents, "Muslim and Christian Ethics" Winter 1973: p.389
  28. ^ Hindery, CrossCurrents, "Muslim and Christian Ethics" Winter 1973: p.390
  29. ^ Maududi, Abul A'la (21 May 2015). "The Moral System Of Islam by Syed Maududi". Islam101. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  30. ^ "ETHICS AND MORALITY, Basic Ethical Concepts" (PDF). Technical University Darmstadt. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  31. ^ a b c d e Leaman, The Qur'an, (2006), p. 139-143
  32. ^ a b c d e Birgivi (2005), p.111
  33. ^ Birgivi (2005), p.110
  34. ^ Birgivi (2005), p.108
  35. ^ J. Cowen p.1082 - malaka (pl. -at) trait of character, faculty, talent
  36. ^ J. Esposito p. 89
  37. ^ Sahih Muslim, 6017
  38. ^ Sahih al-Tirmidhi, 2003
  39. ^ Wehr, Hans. Searcheable PDF of the Hans Wehr Dictionary (PDF). p. 258. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  40. ^ Ibramsa, Habeeb; Abdul Rahim, Adibah. "UNDERSTANDING ISLAMIC ETHICS AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE ON THE CHARACTER BUILDING". Academia. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  41. ^ "ISL471 Islamic Morality (Akhlaq) and Character (8)". Charles Sturt University. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  42. ^ a b Mahdi Naraqi, Muhammad. "The Meaning and Origin of Akhlaq". Jami' al-Sa'adat (The Collector of Felicities). Al-Islam.
  43. ^ Karzoon (Vol.1 p.12)
  44. ^ Quran 17:13-14
  45. ^ Quran 18:49
  46. ^ Quran 3:30
  47. ^ J. Cowen p.791
  48. ^ Quran 91:7-10
  49. ^ Nahjul Balagha
  50. ^ Quran,At-Tawbah:108.
  51. ^ The Purification of the Soul p.71
  52. ^ 7:172-173
  53. ^ a b c Becker & Becker 1992
  54. ^ Goodman 2003, p. 155
  55. ^ Hindery, CrossCurrents, "Muslim and Christian Ethics" Winter 1973: p.382
  56. ^ a b Dunn, Shannon (2018). "Islamic Law and Human Rights". In Emon, Anver M; Ahmed, Rumee (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law. Oxford Handbooks Online. pp. 818–842. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199679010.013.26. ISBN 978-0-19-967901-0. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  57. ^ Weeramantry 1997, p. 138
  58. ^ Sachedina 2001
  59. ^ Jackson 2005, p. 144
  60. ^ Jackson 2005, p. 145
  61. ^ Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. pp. 48, 174. ISBN 978-0816054541.
  62. ^ Szombathy (2007). "Freedom of Expression and Censorship in Medieval Arabic Literature". Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies. 7: 1–24. doi:10.5617/jais.4580. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  63. ^ Cyril Glassé; Huston Smith (2003). The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman Altamira. p. 492. ISBN 9780759101906.
  64. ^ a b Nowaira, Amira (10 May 2010). "When Islamic atheism thrived". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  65. ^ Ahmad 2002
  66. ^ Paladin 1998
  67. ^ Spier 2002
  68. ^ Al Kawi 1997
  69. ^ Sardar 2011, p. 270
  70. ^ Coward 1995, p. 131
  71. ^ Bekoff 2010, p. 464
  72. ^ Verde 2008
  73. ^ Ozdemir, Ibrahim (12 Aug 2020). "What does Islam say about climate change and climate action?". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  74. ^ Haq 2001, pp. 111–129
  75. ^ al-Bukhari. "Sahih al-Bukhari. Book #41, Agriculture". Sunnah.com. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  76. ^ a b Clark, Islam For Dummies, 2011: p.246
  77. ^ Campo, Juan E. (2009). "Ethics and morality". Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 214. ISBN 9781438126968. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  78. ^ Leaman, The Qur'an, "MORALITY", (2006), p. 415
  79. ^ "Sahih al-Bukhari » Wills and Testaments (Wasaayaa) - كتاب الوصايا". Sunnah.com. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  80. ^ Laeheem, Kasetchai (May–August 2018). "Relationships between Islamic ethical behavior and Islamic factors among Muslim youths in the three southern border provinces of Thailand". Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences. 39 (2): 305–311. doi:10.1016/j.kjss.2018.03.005. S2CID 158340165. Retrieved 20 February 2022.


External links[edit]