Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Understanding Islamic Ethics and Its Significance on the Character Building - Adibah Binti Abdul Rahim 

International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, Vol. 3, No. 6, November 2013 

Full Article PDF:

I. INTRODUCTION: DEFINITIONS AND SOURCES OF ISLAMIC ETHICS Islamic ethics is being defined as akhlaq (plural of khuluq) which means character, nature, and disposition. The word akhlaq has a very close relationship with the word khaliq (the Creator) and makhluq (the creature). Therefore, akhlaq assumes a good relationship between khaliq(the Creator) and makhluq (the creature), and between makhluq (the creature) and makhluq (the creature) themselves. The term khuluq appears in the Qur’anic verse “And You (Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character” 1 . Khuluq (akhlaq) or character has been referred as the state of the soul that determines human actions. It is neither the soul nor the action. Such character could be acquired through training and practice [1]. In addition, to differentiate between the words character and action, character is the internal and hidden state of the soul, while action is its outward manifestation. Character or akhlaq is the inward cause while action is its outward consequences. A good character hence begets good action whereas a bad character yields bad actions2 . Al-Farabi (d. 950) was to be known as the earliest great Muslim philosopher who acknowledged the interrelation of akhlaq or the state of the soul with human action3 . Indeed, he defined Manuscript received June 1, 2013; revised August 10, 2013. Adibah Binti Abdul Rahim is with the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Malaysia (e-mail: 1 Qur’an: 68: 4. See also Qur’an 26: 137. 2 Mohd Nasir Omar, Christian and Muslim Ethics, Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 2003, pp. 4. 3 In his work Fusul, al-Farabi emphasized that ‘the states of soul by which a man does deeds and fair actions are virtues, and those by which he does wicked deeds and ugly actions, are the vices’. Refer to Mohd Nasir Omar, Christian and Muslim Ethics, pp. 4. Islamic ethics or akhlaq as ‘a science that studies the state of human soul’. Besides al-Farabi, Ibn Miskawayh (d. 1030) in his work Tahzib al-Akhlaq defined akhlaq as ‘a state of the soul which causes it to perform its actions without thought or deliberation’. The definition of akhlaq as the science of the human soul was further elaborated by successive writers and philosophers on Islamic ethics, such as, al-Ghazali (d.1111), Fakhruddin al-Razi (d. 1209), al-Tusi (d. 1274), al-Dawani (d. 1502), and others 4 . Overall, they defined ethics or ilm al-akhlaq as the science of the human soul which defines the characteristics and qualities of the soul as well as the methods of how to control and moderate them5 . Al-Ghazali stated that man consists of two forms, khalq and khuluq or akhlaq. Khalq refers to the physical form of mankind while khuluq or akhlaq refers to the spiritual form of mankind. Thus, akhlaq from al-Ghazali’s point of view is rooted in the soul and manifested through man’s actions. Good soul will produce right action and vice versa. Al-Ghazali defined Islamic ethics or ilm al-akhlaq as the way to acquire the well being of the soul and to guard it against the vices. It is also a study of certain religious beliefs and of rightness or wrongness of actions for the purpose of practice, and not for the sake of mere knowledge. For him, the study of akhlaq includes the study of right actions towards God, family members, and society. Thus, the scope of akhlaq, according to al-Ghazali, is very wide [2]. Meanwhile, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, Islamic ethics or ilm al-akhlaq is a science that seeks to know which actions should be done and which should be avoided. It is a practical science meant to be applied [3]. Accordingly, Islamic ethics or ‘ilm al-akhlaq is a science which deals with the ways to maintain virtues at their optimum level, i.e, to avoid wrongdoing and to do what is right and desirable [4]. The scope of Islamic ethics is numerous, far reaching and comprehensive because Islamic ethics deals with the relationship between man and God, man and his fellow men, men and other creatures of the universe, and man with his innermost self. Meanwhile, the two primary sources of Islamic ethics are the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h). Al-Qur’an is the most significant source given by God for the human being to refer to pertaining to human conduct besides the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) as the role model to be imitated. Both Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) are called the scriptural morality. There are some elements in the Qur’an which can be considered as fundamental problems of ethics, such as, i) the nature of right and wrong, ii) divine justice and powerand iii) freedom and responsibility [5]. 


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