The Islamic basis of ethics is spiritual purification and to elevate the true essence of humanity by diminishing animalistic and material desires.The Islamic Moral System is written by the Ayatollah Ja’far Subhani and translated into English by Shaikh Saleem Bhimji. Lucky are the ones who are able to get access to the books of this great author, who primarily aims towards the youth in his works and writings.
The title itself suggests the aim of this book. The nurturing of good values and ethics always was and is the primary goal of Islam and the leaders of Islam. Ethics and morality are always considered desirable. Every society likes to live with good morals. However, the question is – who defines what those good morals are? Furthermore, what is required in a society to build good morals? These questions are interrelated, and the author examines them from different angles.
The Islamic basis of ethics is spiritual purification and to elevate the true essence of humanity by diminishing animalistic and material desires. Our ethical standards are not merely for the sake of material benefits or to promote trade and business. Firmly rooted moral traits can be brought about solely through a true divine religion, through the love and fear of God, and strong belief in the Hereafter. Human intelligence has not reached and can never reach such a level that it can substitute divine morals and religion that is an entire way of life. Therefore, we need our Creator and His chosen guides to teach us the principles of pure morality.
After making it clear that Islam is the proper and only source of learning and cultivating good ethics and morals, the author moves on to explain some important ethical traits from the Quran. The Surah that has been used in this regard is no other than Surah al-Hujurat, which is full of ethical teachings. Something important to note about this wonderful chapter of the Qur’an is that it only talks to the Momineen, or the True Believers (“O you who have true faith!”[49:1]).
The author has explained the entire Surah; I personally want to focus on the ethical guidance from this very Surah. The Chapter starts with cautioning the believers that they have no right to express their opinions into matters that have been decided by Allah and the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny). The foundation of Islam is submission to Allah Almighty, and a true believer has no doubts or difficulties in doing so. Furthermore, accepting some parts of Islam and rejecting others is equal to disbelief itself. Islam is a whole entity, and cannot be subject to fragmentation or “pick and choose”.
Among the aspects of morality which the Chapter explains are the manners of speaking and conversing with people. The best example to understand this of course is that of the Prophet himself. The author has explained the details of his style and the way of communication with the people of the time, who not only greatly lacked manners, but also many of them held the worst manners of communication with the Prophet himself.
The Surah also concerns itself with the damage set up by the problem of making and spreading rumors within a society. To be careful of this phenomenon, the author laid down details and conditions that we should follow before we accept any news from anybody. As Muslims, we are warned against accepting information from just any source that comes on our way, and this certainly includes the media. If we are not critical about the media, and choose not to follow Islamic guidelines before accepting what it has to say, then media can serve as the most powerful tool for our devastation.
Islam is said to be a religion of peace. Peacemaking is believed to be better than worship and fasting. The Surah declares that Islam is nothing but Deen-e-Fitrat, which means that none of its rules can conflict the innate human nature and conscience. In addition, when a person commits a sinful action, the first being to be displeased and scornful of the act is none other but his very own soul!
The concept of goodwill among Muslims can also be understood through this Surah. A society of Momins (true believers) is just like one whole body, governed with one soul or ideology (Islam). This unity and goodwill alone can help Muslims to defeat enemies of Islam at all times. Any action that one Muslim does to harm another Muslim in any way will actually harm the entire Muslim body, which includes his own self.
One of the actions that go against Islamic goodwill is backbiting (Gheebah). It is often repeatedly said that backbiting and hurting the reputation of another Muslim in any way is a sin. Moreover, through hadith we conclude that humiliating a believer is the thing that makes one at the farthest position from Allah. However, this Surah not only warns of such outward actions, but also goes further ahead by instructing each Muslim to not even hold negative thoughts and imagination about others! The author gives wonderful reasons (about seven) and explanations as to how a person himself is harmed if he entertains negative thoughts about others. Thus, Islam has not only given a believer the security of life, property, and honor, but even the safety from being judged in the minds of people!
One of the outcomes of negative thinking is spying on the lives of others, which is again strictly prohibited. Prying is also an outcome of pessimistic attitude about others. The author has wonderfully explained the harms of this act.
This Surah breaks down the walls that people have created on the basis of their nationalities. Islam recognizes only two types of people: true believers, and sinners. Regardless of nationality, every believer is considered equal in Islam. As Allah states in the Surah, “They impress on thee as a favor that they have embraced Islam. Say, ‘Count not your Islam as a favor upon me: Nay, Allah has conferred a favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if ye be true and sincere.'”
The book is available online from Al-Fath Al-Mubin Publications.