Wednesday, September 24, 2008



Prepared by : Hasbullah Mohamad

The objective of sharÊÑah (divine guidance) brought by the prophet Muhammad (saw) is to guide people to the right path, to make lawful the good and pure things and to forbid bad and impure things. SharÊÑah was revealed to free mankind from the grip of their whims and fancy (al-hawÉ). So that they may submit and surrender to the will and guidance of Allah (swt) which it shows the purpose of one’s life towards God.

As a general principle, virtues are those things that are beneficial to the individuals and society. Allah (swt) has created things and the benefits derived them are essentially for man’s use and hence are permissible (ÍalÉl). Nothing is unlawful (ÍarÉm) except what is prohibited by any text of the Quran and Sunnah or the principles derived from them. Allah (swt) says:

قُلْ مَنْ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي أَخْرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِ وَالطَّيِّبَاتِ مِنْ الرِّزْقِ قُلْ هِيَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا خَالِصَةً يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ(32)
“Say who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants and the good provisions? Say: these are for the believers in the life of this world, purely (theirs) on the resurrection day.” (7: 32)

Al-TirmidhÊ has narrated:
عن سلمان الفارسي أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: "الحلال ما أحل الله فى كتابه والحرام ما حرم الله فى كتابه وما سكت عنه فهو مما عفا عنه"
“The ÍalÉl is that which Allah (swt) has made lawful in His Book and the ÍarÉm is that which Allah has forbidden, and that concerning which He is silent, he has permitted as a favor to you” (al-TirmidhÊ and Ibn MÉjah).

As far as the wordly activities of people are concerned, the principle is freedom of action; nothing may be restricted in his actions unless what has been restricted by Allah (swt). That is the right of Allah (swt) alone to make something lawful or unlawful.

According to al-GhazÉlÊ, the redeeming qualities (al-munjiyÉt) or virtues (al-FaÌÉ’il) and the destructive qualities (al-muhlikÉt) or vices (al-RadhÉ’il), in order to achieve the moral end, one has to build a good character which comprises all the virtues, the most important is love of God. The actual worth of a virtue is essentially determined by the part it plays in helping man to achieve perfection to be closed to God.

Al-FÉrÉbÊ describes that the ultimate goal of human existence is to attain supreme happiness (al-saÑÉdah al-quÎwÉ). He equates the supreme happiness with the absolute good (al-khayr ÑalÉ al-iÏlÉq). The absolute good is God which means the supreme happiness in a life hereafter is conditional upon happiness in the present life (al-saÑÉdah al-dunyÉ). According to his view, human perfection in the present life is a result from the acquisition of the virtues.

Meanwhile, vices are those things that are harmful to the individuals or the society. In Islam, whatever is conducive to ÍarÉm is itself harmful. If something is prohibited anything that leads to it is likewise prohibited. For example, Islam has prohibited sex outside marriage and also all avenues which lead to it. Vices are unethical forms of the natural propensities of man which become harmful when they engender love for the world at the expense of spiritual development.

According to al-GhazÉlÊ, the love of this world is the root of all vices. If the self is to attain perfection, these propensities must obey the dictates of reason. But, it often happens that they disobey reason, transgress their proper limits and subject self to humiliation and gradual decay. It is this transgression which takes the shape and colour of so many vices. Vices then, are the wrong developments of human propensities which act as curtains between man and his goal.

In Islam, sin comes as a result of forgetting the Oneness of Allah and the consequences of the Oneness of Him who is the All-Powerful and the All-Knowing, which in turn results in disobeying His commands and rebelling against Him. Islam is totally opposed to the idea of rebellion and revolt against divine authority. Islam does not emphasize the importance of sin any less than does Christianity. But it does not consider the sense of guilt in the same way as does Christianity and does not believe that man is sinful by nature.

In fact, it has to be noticed that any action will be considered lawful and virtue if it does not contradict with the teaching and general principles of Islam. It is divine Will that declares something to be vice and virtue. Human reason may be able to recognize some vices and virtues as long never contradict with Islamic primary sources (al-Quran and Sunnah) and the principles of Islam. Only the authority scholars have ability to determine such thing through the way of ijtihÉd and fatwÉ within the framework of sharÊÑah in which the Quran and Sunnah are silent about it.

Main Sources:

Abul Quasem, Muhammad, (1975), The Ethics of al-GhazÉlÊ A Composite Ethics in Islam, Petaling Jaya: Central Printing Sdn. Bhd.

Azami, Iqbal Ahmad, (1990), Muslim Manners, Leicester: UK Islamic Academy.

Al-Farabi, (1961), FuÎËl al-MadÉnÊ (Aphorism of the statesman), D.M Dunlop (ed. and trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Al-GhazÉlÊ, AbË ×Émid MuÍammad, (n.d), IÍyÉ’ ÑUlËm al-DÊn, BayrËt: DÉr al-Kutub al-ÑIlmiyyah.

Heer, Nicholas L., (1997), Moral Deliberation in al-GhazÉlÊ’s IÍyÉ’ ÑUlËm al-DÊn in Islamic Philosophy and Mysticism, Parviz Morewedge (e.d), New York: Caravan Books Delmar.

Umaruddin, M, (2003), The Ethical Philosophy of al-GhazÉlÊ, Kuala Lumpur: A.S Noordeen.

Other Sources:

Afridi, M.R.K and Khan, Arif Ali, (2007), Social Philosophy of Islam, New Delhi: Pentagon Press.

Al-FarËqÊ, IsmÉÑÊl RÉjÊ, (1988), Christian Ethics, Montreal: McGill University.

Al-Ghazali, Muhammad, (1990), al-JÉnib al-ÑÓÏifÊ min al-IslÉm, al-Iskandariyah: Dar al-Dawah.

Al-KailÉnÊ, ÑAbd al-RaÍmÉn IbrÉhÊm, (2000), QawÉÑid al-MaqÉÎid inda al-ImÉm al-ShÉÏibÊ, BayrËt: DÉr al-Fikr.

Kotva, Joseph J, (1996), The Christian Case for Virtue Ethics, Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press.

Pojman, Louis P, (1990), Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong, Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Al-QaradÉwÊ, YËsuf, (1993), MalÉmiÍ al-MujtamaÑ al-Muslim, al-QÉhirah: Maktabah Wahbah.

Ross, William David, (1988), The Right and the Good, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc.

Shams al-DÊn , AÍmad, (1990), al-GhazÉlÊ ×ayÉtuhu Atharuhu Falsafatuhu, BayrËt: DÉr al-Kutub al-ÑIlmiyyah.

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