Islamic ethics

Islamic ethics

Islamic ethics ("akhlāq"), defined as "good character," historically took shape gradually from the 7th century and was finally established by the 11th century. Encyclopedia of Islam Online, "Akhlaq" ] It was eventually shaped as a successful amalgamation of the Qur'anic teachings, the teachings of the Sunnah 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. Although Muhammad's preaching produced a "radical change in moral values based on the sanctions of the new religion and the present 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.

Foundational motifs

The foundational source in the gradual codification of Islamic ethics was the Muslim understanding and interpretations of the Qur'an and practices of Muhammad. Its meaning has always been in context of active submission to God (Arabic: Allah), performed by the community in unison. The motive force in Islamic ethics is the notion that every human being is called to "command the good and forbid the evil" in all spheres of life. Muslims understand the role of Muhammad as attempting to facilitate this submission. Another key factor in the field of Islamic ethics is the belief that mankind has been granted the faculty to discern God's will and to abide by it. This faculty most crucially involves reflecting over the meaning of existence, which, as John Kelsay in the "Encyclopedia of Ethics" phrases, "ultimately points to the reality of God." Therefore, regardless of their environment, humans are believed to have a moral responsibility to submit to God's will and to follow Islam (as demonstrated in the Qur'an, Quran-usc-range|7|172|173). "Islamic ethics", Encyclopedia of Ethics ]

This natural inclination is, according to the Qur'an, subverted by mankind's focus on material success: such focus first presents itself as a need for basic survival or security, but then tends to manifest into a desire to become distinguished amongst one's peers. Ultimately, the focus on materialism, according to the Islamic texts, hampers with the innate reflection as described above, resulting in a state of "jahiliyya" or "heedlessness."

Muslims believe that Muhammad, like other prophets in Islam, was sent by God to remind human beings of their moral responsibility, and challenge those ideas in society which opposed submission to God. According to Kelsay, this challenge was directed against five main characteristics of pre-Islamic Arabia:

# The division of Arabs into varying tribes (based upon blood and kinship). This categorization was confronted by the ideal of a unified community based upon Islamic piety, an "ummah";"
# 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;
# The trait of "muruwwa" (manliness), which Islam discouraged, instead emphasizing on the traits of humility and piety;
# 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;
# The reverence of and compliance with ancestral traditions, a practice challenged by Islam — which instead assigned primacy to submitting to God and following revelation.

These changes lay in the reorientation of society as regards to identityand life of the muslim belief, world view, and the hierarchy of values. From the viewpoint of subsequent generations, this caused a great transformation in the society and moral order of life in the Arabian Peninsula. For Muhammad, although pre-Islamic Arabia exemplified "heedlessness," it was not entirely without merit. Muhammad approved and exhorted certain aspects of the Arab pre-Islamic tradition, such as the care for one’s near kin, for widows, orphans, and others in need and for the establishment of justice. However, these values would be re-ordered in importance and placed in the context of strict monotheism.

Moral commandments

The Qur'an defines and sets the standards of social and moral values for Muslims.Fact|date=April 2007 S. A. Nigosian, Professor of religious studies at the University of Toronto, states that a lengthy passage in the Qur'an Quran-usc-range|17|22|39 "represents the fullest statement of the code of behavior every Muslim must follow". Nigosian and Ghamidi hold that these resemble the Ten Commandments in the Bible. [ Islam By S. A. Nigosian, p.117, Indiana University Press ] [Ghamidi, pp.18]

Early reforms under Islam

Many reforms in human rights took place under Islam between 610 and 661, including the period of Muhammad's mission and the rule of the four immediate successors who established the Rashidun Caliphate. Historians generally agree that Muhammad preached against what he saw as the social evils of his day, [ Alexander (1998), p.452 ] and that Islamic social reforms in areas such as social security, family structure, slavery, and the rights of women and ethnic minorities improved on what was present in existing Arab society at the time.Lewis (1998)] [Watt (1974), p.234] [Robinson (2004) p.21] [Haddad, Esposito (1998), p. 98] ["Ak̲h̲lāḳ", "Encyclopaedia of Islam Online"] Joseph, Najmabadi (2007). Chapter: p.293. Gallagher, Nancy. "Infanticide and Abandonment of Female Children"] For example, according to Bernard Lewis, Islam "from the first denounced aristocratic privilege, rejected hierarchy, and adopted a formula of the career open to the talents." John Esposito sees Muhammad as a reformer who condemned practices of the pagan Arabs such as female infanticide, exploitation of the poor, usury, murder, false contracts, and theft.Esposito (2005) p. 79] Bernard Lewis believes that the egalitarian nature of Islam "represented a very considerable advance on the practice of both the Greco-Roman and the ancient Persian world."cite news | last=Lewis | first=Bernard | title=Islamic Revolution |date=January 21, 1998 | publisher=The New York Review of Books | url=]

The Constitution of Medina, also known as the "Charter of Medina", was drafted by Muhammad in 622. It constituted a formal agreement between Muhammad and all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib (later known as Medina), including Muslims, Jews, and pagans. [See:
Firestone (1999) p. 118;
"Muhammad", "Encyclopedia of Islam Online"
] [Watt. Muhammad at Medina and R. B. Serjeant "The Constitution of Medina." "Islamic Quarterly" 8 (1964) p.4.] The document was drawn up with the explicit concern of bringing to an end the bitter inter tribal fighting between the clans of the Aws (Aus) and Khazraj within Medina. To this effect it instituted a number of rights and responsibilities for the Muslim, Jewish and pagan communities of Medina bringing them within the fold of one community-the Ummah. [R. B. Serjeant, "The Sunnah Jami'ah, pacts with the Yathrib Jews, and the Tahrim of Yathrib: Analysis and translation of the documents comprised in the so-called "Constitution of Medina." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 41, No. 1. 1978), page 4.] The Constitution established the security of the community, freedom of religion, the role of Medina as a haram or sacred place (barring all violence and weapons), the security of women, stable tribal relations within Medina, a tax system for supporting the community in time of conflict, parameters for exogenous political alliances, a system for granting protection of individuals, a judicial system for resolving disputes, and also regulated the paying of blood-wite (the payment between families or tribes for the slaying of an individual in lieu of lex talionis).

Muhammad made it the responsibility of the Islamic government to provide food and clothing, on a reasonable basis, to captives, regardless of their religion. If the prisoners were in the custody of a person, then the responsibility was on the individual. [Maududi (1967), Introduction of Ad-Dahr, "Period of revelation", pg. 159] Lewis states that Islam brought two major changes to ancient slavery which were to have far-reaching consequences. "One of these was the presumption of freedom; the other, the ban on the enslavement of free persons except in strictly defined circumstances," Lewis continues. The position of the Arabian slave was "enormously improved": the Arabian slave "was now no longer merely a chattel but was also a human being with a certain religious and hence a social status and with certain quasi-legal rights."Lewis (1994) [ chapter 1] ]

Esposito states that reforms in women's rights affected marriage, divorce, and inheritance.Esposito (2005) p. 79 ] Women were not accorded with such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later. [Jones, Lindsay. p.6224] "The Oxford Dictionary of Islam" states that the general improvement of the status of Arab women included prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women's full personhood.Esposito (2004), p. 339] "The dowry, previously regarded as a bride-price paid to the father, became a nuptial gift retained by the wife as part of her personal property."Khadduri (1978)] Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a "status" but rather as a "contract", in which the woman's consent was imperative. "Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives." Annemarie Schimmel states that "compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work."Schimmel (1992) p.65] William Montgomery Watt states that Muhammad, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women’s rights and improved things considerably. Watt explains: "At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible - they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons." Muhammad, however, by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards." [ Maan, McIntosh (1999)] Haddad and Esposito state that "Muhammad granted women rights and privileges in the sphere of family life, marriage, education, and economic endeavors, rights that help improve women's status in society." [Haddad, Esposito (1998) p.163 ]

Sociologist Robert Bellah ("Beyond belief") argues that Islam in its seventh-century origins was, for its time and place, "remarkably the high degree of commitment, involvement, and participation expected from the rank-and-file members of the community." This because, he argues, that Islam emphasized on the equality of all Muslims, where leadership positions were open to all. Dale Eickelman writes that Bellah suggests "the early Islamic community placed a particular value on individuals, as opposed to collective or group responsibility." [McAuliffe (2005) vol. 5, pp. 66-76. “Social Sciences and the Qur’an”]

Pillars of Islam & Development of Excellent Moral & Character

The importance of Moral and Ethics in Islamic Shariah can be understood by the fact that there is so much text in Quran and Sunnah that if we were to collect all of it, it will create many voluminous books. Islam is a religion that came to guide the high standard of morality to human race. Mohammad repeatedly said that the best Muslim is the one who has the best Moral character [ [ Paper on Pillars of Islam & Development of Excellent Moral & Character] ] .

    Usama bin Sharik reported: “We were sitting in the company of the Prophet (pbuh) so quietly as if the birds were sitting on our heads. None of us had the courage to speak. In the meantime some people came and asked The Prophet (pbuh): “Who among His slaves is dearest to Allah?” He replied: “One who has the best moral character” [Tabarani]
    cquote|Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was asked: “Which Muslim has the perfect faith?” He answered: “One who has the best moral character.” [Tabarani]

    Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “On judgment day there will be no deed weightier in the scale of the believer than his noble character. Allah (swt) does not like an obscene and rude talker, and the person who has a good character achieves the status of a person who prays and fasts” [Imam Ahmed]

  • Islam is the religion that heavily focuses on character building and doesn’t grant the place in paradise by merely admitting into Islam. In fact, it teaches that sins can be washed not just by accepting commands of Allah but by physically doing these commands in Actions, and that bad deed can be washed away by doing good deeds. The person who acts on Allah’s commands and perform good deed invariably attain good character.

  • There is strong relationship between Strong Iman (faith) and good character. A person cannot attain full or perfect faith without attaining good character. In fact, a person with bad character is likely to find a place in hell then in paradise.

    Anas reported Muhammad as saying: “A person can reach a high status in the hereafter by his good conduct though he may be weak in matters of worship, and he can also go down to the lowest part of Hell by his wicked character” [Abu Dawood]

  • The person with good character elevates himself to the status of those who are pious in their prayers and worships.

    Aisha (ra) reported Muhammad saying: “A believer with his noble manners achieves the rank of one who prays late night and fast during the day” [Abu Dawood]

  • Similarly, Ibn Omar related that he heard Muhammad saying: “A Muslim who worships in moderation reaches by means of his good manners and noble nature the rank of a person who fasts and recites the holy Quran in the night prayers.” [Imam Ahmed]

  • Islam has five main pillars, namely belief in the oneness of God (tawheed), daily prayers (salah), charity (zakat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj). These are various acts of worship and obedience to Allah. All of these pillars are attributes directly towards character building and bestowing high morals and ethics into Muslims. For instance:

    # The oneness of God (tawheed) is to believe in Allah as one God with unmatched power and attributes, and admit to these unmatched powers of Allah by submitting to commands of Allah (swt) unconditionally. Tawheed teaches humbleness, human nature, humility, philanthropy, piousness, righteousness and doing the right thing and abstaining from all evil and sinful activities.
    # Daily prayers (salah) are five prayers evenly distributed throughout the day. Allah (swt) said in Quran that prayer protect from sins and unlawful activities: “… and perform As-Salat (وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ). Verily, As-Salat (the prayer) prevents from Al-Fahsha (الْفَحْشَاء - i.e. great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) and Al-Munkar (الْمُنكَرِ - i.e. disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed, etc.) ...” [al-Ankaboot 29:45]
    # Charity (zakat) is due on all Muslim (based on financial ability). Zakat not only serves the purpose of welfare of citizens, but it also establishes relationship of kindness and love amongst various classes of the society. It reduces the love of material wealth in heart and increases the sense of helping other people in need.
    # Sawm (fasting) is compulsory for Muslim in month of Ramadan. Fasting brings piousness and tawqa to Muslims. It not only teaches self control and abstinence from worldly desires but it also teaches the pain of others (who do not get enough food to eat).
    # The pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) is a ritually obligatory on Muslims who can afford it (financially and physically). The hajj teaches attributes of self control, high morals, humility, modesty, brotherhood, kindness and caring.
    All these pillars teaches disciple, self-control, piousness, humility, humbleness, modesty, high morals, caring and love, and purify Muslims so much so that they attain moral perfection both inner and outward, while people see it and when no one is watching them, from their tongue and what they have in their heart. They complete eliminate hypocrisy and Riya (show off), and instill real character and noble qualities.
  • [ Read more...]

    Deen Islam and Foundation of Moral Code

    Islamic Civilization created a huge impact on global scene. Some writers charge that Islamic Civilization isinfluenced with nations that lived prior to it, especially roman civilization. And that Arabs only added a mix to it.They try to link its root to Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Babylonians etc. This is a mistake on theirpart.

    Though nations do get influenced with customs and prior cultures but Islamic civilization is original in natureand it's build on principals that were not borrowed from any other civilizations. However, what can be added isthat Arab customs and traditions became part of secondary dealings and became part of civilization.

    Some people consider Civilization as intellectual state, ethics, morals, culture, customs, tradition, science, art,industry, governance, politics etc. The fact is that these are not the fundamental of a civilization but the resultsand gains of it. These are the produce of core fundamentals that is the soul of a civilization. [Islamic Civilization and its principles and origin (اسلامي تهذيب اور اسكي أصول و مبادي) – Abu Ala al-Mawdudi]

    Hence, it is important when one reviews a civilization it looks at the fundamental principles and its basis. Forinstance,
    i. Believes and Thoughts:

    a. Concept of Creation and Human's status in relation to creation: What is the concept of creation ofuniverse and relationship between us (human) and universe?

    b. Objective of Life and end result of our struggle: What is the purpose of our existence in thisuniverse, and why are we doing this entire struggle? What is that objective and end game that weare running after?

    c. Believes and thoughts: What are the founding principles upon which Human characterdevelopment shapes up? What kind of mindset this civilization is building? What is the relationshipbetween the ultimate objective and this special type of character building?

    ii. Human development, Moral Standards and Ethical Code:What kind of human being it is creating?What kind of ethical and moral standards its setting for this human to live and achieve that ultimateobjective. And though that civilization is building of a nation, but the individual humans are those whocollectively build a nation. And building strong characters, ethics, morals and values in individualhumans is what builds a strong nation.

    iii. Collective System (of governance, justice, protection and dealings): Lastly, what kind of relationship itbuilds between various members of the nation. What is relationship between family members, betweenneighbor, between friends and society, rulers and ruled, judge, politicians, industrialist, businessman,priest, and common man etc. what are their rights and boundaries?

    Mawdudi states that Civilization is build upon these five essences and so as Islamic Civilization. Hence, it isimportant to understand how an Islamic civilization approaches character building in light of thesefundamentals. We will briefly discuss some of these points, but mainly focus on our original topic in relating FivePillars of Islam with Human Development and Character Building. [ Read more...]


    Perhaps due to resource scarcity in most Islamic nations, there was an emphasis on limited (and some claim also sustainable) use of natural capital, i.e. producing land. Traditions of haram and hima and early urban planning were expressions of strong social obligations to stay within carrying capacity and to preserve the natural environment as an obligation of khalifa or "stewardship". [S. Nomanul Haq, "Islam", in Dale Jamieson (2001), "A Companion to Environmental Philosophy", pp. 111-129, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 140510659X.]

    Muhammad is considered a pioneer of environmentalism for his teachings on environmental preservation. His hadiths on agriculture and environmental philosophy were compiled in the "Book of Agriculture" of the "Sahih Bukhari", which included the following saying: [S. Nomanul Haq, "Islam", in Dale Jamieson (2001), "A Companion to Environmental Philosophy", pp. 111-129 [119-129] , Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 140510659X.]

    Several such statements concerning the environment are also found in the Qur'an, such as the following: [S. Nomanul Haq, "Islam", in Dale Jamieson (2001), "A Companion to Environmental Philosophy", pp. 111-129 [111-119] , Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 140510659X.]

    The earliest known treatises dealing with environmentalism and environmental science, especially pollution, were Arabic medical treatises written by al-Kindi, Qusta ibn Luqa, al-Razi, Ibn Al-Jazzar, al-Tamimi, al-Masihi, Avicenna, Ali ibn Ridwan, Ibn Jumay, Isaac Israeli ben Solomon, Abd-el-latif, Ibn al-Quff, and Ibn al-Nafis. Their works covered a number of subjects related to pollution such as air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, municipal solid waste mishandling, and environmental impact assessments of certain localities. [L. Gari (2002), "Arabic Treatises on Environmental Pollution up to the End of the Thirteenth Century", "Environment and History" 8 (4), pp. 475-488.] Cordoba, al-Andalus also had the first waste containers and waste disposal facilities for litter collection. [S. P. Scott (1904), "History of the Moorish Empire in Europe", 3 vols, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and London.
    F. B. Artz (1980), "The Mind of the Middle Ages", Third edition revised, University of Chicago Press, pp 148-50.
    (cf. [ References] , 1001 Inventions)


    Many medieval Muslim thinkers pursued humanistic, rational and scientific discourses in their search for knowledge, meaning and values. A wide range of Islamic writings on love poetry, history and philosophical theology show that medieval Islamic thought was open to the humanistic ideas of individualism, occasional secularism, skepticism and liberalism. [Lenn Evan Goodman (2003), "Islamic Humanism", p. 155, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195135806.]

    Certain aspects of Renaissance humanism has its roots in the medieval Islamic world, including the "art of "dictation", called in Latin, "ars dictaminis","and "the humanist attitude toward classical language." [citation|last=Makdisi|first=George|title=Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West|journal=Journal of the American Oriental Society|volume=109|issue=2|date=April-June 1989|pages=175-182]

    Democratic participation

    In the early Islamic Caliphate, the head of state, the Caliph, had a position based on the notion of a successor to Muhammad's political authority, who, according to Sunnis, were ideally elected by the people or their representatives. ["Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World" (2004), vol. 1, p. 116-123.] After the Rashidun Caliphs, later Caliphates during the Islamic Golden Age had a lesser degree of democratic participation, but since "no one was superior to anyone else except on the basis of piety and virtue" in Islam, and following the example of Muhammad, later Islamic rulers often held public consultations with the people in their affairs. [Harv|Weeramantry|year=1997|p=135]

    Democratic religious pluralism also existed in classical [Sharia|Islamic law, as the religious laws and courts of other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, were usually accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early Caliphate, al-Andalus, Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Millet system.Harv|Weeramantry|1997|p=138] citation|title=The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism|first=Abdulaziz Abdulhussein|last=Sachedina|year=2001|publisher=Oxford University Press|isbn=0195139917]

    Freedom of speech

    Another reason the Islamic world flourished during the Middle Ages was an early emphasis on freedom of speech. This was first declared in the Rashidun period by the caliph Umar in the 7th century:citation|title=On the Probable Influence of Islam on Western Public and International Law|first=Marcel A.|last=Boisard|journal=International Journal of Middle East Studies|volume=11|issue=4|date=July 1980|pages=429-50]

    In the Abbasid period, freedom of speech was also declared by al-Hashimi (a cousin of Caliph al-Ma'mun) in the following letter to one of the religious opponents he was attempting to convert through reason: [citation|first=I. A.|last=Ahmad|contribution=The Rise and Fall of Islamic Science: The Calendar as a Case Study|title=“Faith and Reason: Convergence and Complementarity”|Publisher=Al-Akhawayn University|date=June 3, 2002|url= |accessdate=2008-01-31]

    According to George Makdisi and Hugh Goddard, "the idea of academic freedom" in universities was "modelled on Islamic custom" as practiced in the medieval Madrasah system from the 9th century. Islamic influence was "certainly discernible in the foundation of the first delibrately-planned university" in Europe, the University of Naples Federico II founded by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor in 1224. [citation|title=A History of Christian-Muslim Relations|first=Hugh|last=Goddard|year=2000|publisher=Edinburgh University Press|isbn=074861009X|page=100]

    Human rights

    In the field of human rights, early Islamic jurists introduced a number of advanced legal concepts which anticipated similar modern concepts in the field. These included the notions of the charitable trust and the trusteeship of property; the notion of brotherhood and social solidarity; the notions of human dignity and the dignity of labour; the notion of an ideal law; the condemnation of antisocial behavior; the presumption of innocence; the notion of "bidding unto good" (assistance to those in distress); and the notions of sharing, caring, universalism, fair industrial relations, fair contract, commercial integrity, freedom from usury, women's rights, privacy, abuse of rights, juristic personality, individual freedom, equality before the law, legal representation, non-retroactivity, supremacy of the law, judicial independence, judicial impartiality, limited sovereignity, tolerance, and democratic participation. Many of these concepts were adopted in medieval Europe through contacts with Islamic Spain and the Emirate of Sicily, and through the Crusades and the Latin translations of the 12th century. [citation|title=Justice Without Frontiers|first=Christopher G.|last=Judge Weeramantry|year=1997|publisher=Brill Publishers|isbn=9041102418|pages=129-31]

    The concept of inalienable rights was found in early Islamic law and jurisprudence, which denied a ruler "the right to take away from his subjects certain rights which inhere in his or her person as a human being." Islamic rulers could not take away certain rights from their subjects on the basis that "they become rights by reason of the fact that they are given to a subject by a law and from a source which no ruler can question or alter." [citation|title=Justice Without Frontiers|first=Christopher G.|last=Judge Weeramantry|year=1997|publisher=Brill Publishers|isbn=9041102418|pages=132 & 135] There is evidence that John Locke's formulation of inalienable rights and conditional rulership, which were present in Islamic law centuries earlier, may have also been influenced by Islamic law, through his attendance of lectures given by Edward Pococke, a professor of Islamic studies. [citation|title=Justice Without Frontiers|first=Christopher G.|last=Judge Weeramantry|year=1997|publisher=Brill Publishers|isbn=9041102418|pages=8, 135, 139-40]

    Early Islamic law recognized two sets of human rights. In addition to the category of civil rights and political rights (covered in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), Islamic law also recognized an additional category: social, economic and cultural rights. This latter category was not recognized in the Western legal tradition until the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966. [citation|title=Justice Without Frontiers|first=Christopher G.|last=Judge Weeramantry|year=1997|publisher=Brill Publishers|isbn=9041102418|pages=7 & 135] The right of privacy, which was not recognized in Western legal traditions until modern times, was recognized in Islamic law since the beginning of Islam. [Harv|Weeramantry|1997|pp=136-7] In terms of women's rights, women generally had more legal rights under Islamic law than they did under Western legal systems until the 19th and 20th centuries. [citation|last=Dr. Badawi|first=Jamal A.|title=The Status of Women in Islam|journal=Al-Ittihad Journal of Islamic Studies|volume=8|issue=2|date=September 1971] For example, "French married women, unlike their Muslim sisters, suffered from restrictions on their legal capacity which were removed only in 1965."citation|title=Islamic Criminal Justice|first=Gamal M.|last=Badr|journal=The American Journal of Comparative Law|volume=32|issue=1|date=Winter 1984|pages=167-169 [167-8] ]

    In the "North Carolina Law Review" journal, Professor John Makdisi of the University of North Carolina School of Law writes in "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law" article:

    Count Leon Ostorog, a French jurist, wrote the following on classical Islamic law in 1927:

    Some scholars have suggested that the idea of "a charter defining the duties of a sovereign toward his subjects, as well as subjects toward the sovereign", which led to the "genesis of European legal structures" and the development of the "Magna Carta", may have been "brought back by Crusaders who were influenced by what they had learned in the Levant about the governing system" established by Saladin. It has also been suggested that "much of the West’s understanding of liberalism in law, economics and society has roots in medieval Islam." [citation|first=Antony T.|last=Sullivan|title=Istanbul Conference Traces Islamic Roots of Western Law, Society|journal=Washington Report on Middle East Affairs|date=January-February 1997|page=36|url=|accessdate=2008-02-29]

    Another influence of Islamic law on European law was the presumption of innocence, which was introduced to Europe by King Louis IX of France soon after he returned from Palestine during the Crusades. Prior to this, European legal procedure consisted of either trial by combat or trial by ordeal. In contrast, Islamic law was based on the presumption of innocence from its beginning, as declared by the Caliph Umar in the 7th century.

    ;Rule of law

    Islamic jurists anticipated the concept of the rule of law, the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land, where no person is above the law and where officials and private citizens are under a duty to obey the same law. A Qadi (Islamic judge) was also not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of religion, race, colour, kinship or prejudice. There were also a number of cases where Caliphs had to appear before judges as they prepared to take their verdict. [Harv|Weeramantry|1997|pp=132 & 135] The following hadith established the principle of rule of law in relation to nepotism and accountability: [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 681]

    Various Islamic lawyers do however place multiple conditions, and stipulations e.g. the poor cannot be penalised for stealing out of poverty, before executing such a law, making it very difficult to reach such a stage. It is well known during a time of drought in the Rashidun caliphate period, capital punishments were suspended until the effects of the drought passed.

    According to Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University, the legal scholars and jurists who once upheld the rule of law were replaced by a law governed by the state due to the codification of Sharia by the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century:cite web|author=Noah Feldman|title=Why Shariah?|publisher=New York Times|date=March 16, 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-10-05]

    ;Electing or appointing a Caliph

    Fred Donner, in his book "The Early Islamic Conquests" (1981), argues that the standard Arabian practice during the early Caliphates was for the prominent men of a kinship group, or tribe, to gather after a leader's death and elect a leader from amongst themselves, although there was no specified procedure for this shura, or consultative assembly. Candidates were usually from the same lineage as the deceased leader, but they were not necessarily his sons. Capable men who would lead well were preferred over an ineffectual direct heir, as there was no basis in the majority Sunni view that the head of state or governor should be chosen based on lineage alone. Al-Mawardi has written that the caliph should be Qurayshi. Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani has said that the leader of the Muslims simply should be from the majority. Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man also wrote that the leader must come from the majority. [ Gharm Allah Al-Ghamdy] ]

    ;Majlis ash-Shura

    Traditional Sunni Islamic lawyers agree that "shura", loosely translated as 'consultation of the people', is a function of the caliphate. The Majlis ash-Shura advise the caliph. The importance of this is premised by the following verses of the Qur'an:

    cite quran|42|38|expand=no|quote=...those who answer the call of their Lord and establish the prayer, and who conduct their affairs by Shura. [are loved by God]
    cite quran|3|159|expand=no|quote=...consult them (the people) in their affairs. Then when you have taken a decision (from them), put your trust in Allah

    The majlis is also the means to elect a new caliph. Al-Mawardi has written that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, they must have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and must have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph. Al-Mawardi also said in emergencies when there is no caliphate and no majlis, the people themselves should create a majlis, select a list of candidates for caliph, then the majlis should select from the list of candidates. Some modern interpretations of the role of the Majlis ash-Shura include those by Islamist author Sayyid Qutb and by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, the founder of a transnational political movement devoted to the revival of the Caliphate. In an analysis of the shura chapter of the Qur'an, Qutb argued Islam requires only that the ruler consult with at least some of the ruled (usually the elite), within the general context of God-made laws that the ruler must execute. Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, writes that Shura is important and part of the "the ruling structure" of the Islamic caliphate, "but not one of its pillars," and may be neglected without the Caliphate's rule becoming unIslamic. Non-Muslims may serve in the majlis, though they may not vote or serve as an official.

    ;Accountability of rulers

    Sunni Islamic lawyers have commented on when it is permissible to disobey, impeach or remove rulers in the Caliphate. This is usually when the rulers are not meeting public responsibilities obliged upon them under Islam. Al-Mawardi said that if the rulers meet their Islamic responsibilities to the public, the people must obey their laws, but if they become either unjust or severely ineffective then the Caliph or ruler must be impeached via the Majlis ash-Shura. Similarly Al-Baghdadi believed that if the rulers do not uphold justice, the ummah via the majlis should give warning to them, and if unheeded then the Caliph can be impeached. Al-Juwayni argued that Islam is the goal of the ummah, so any ruler that deviates from this goal must be impeached. Al-Ghazali believed that oppression by a caliph is enough for impeachment. Rather than just relying on impeachment, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani obliged rebellion upon the people if the caliph began to act with no regard for Islamic law. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said that to ignore such a situation is "haraam", and those who cannot revolt inside the caliphate should launch a struggle from outside. Al-Asqalani used two ayahs from the Qur'an to justify this:

    cite quran|33|67|end=68|expand=no|quote=...And they (the sinners on qiyama) will say, 'Our Lord! We obeyed our leaders and our chiefs, and they misled us from the right path. Our Lord! Give them (the leaders) double the punishment you give us and curse them with a very great curse'...

    Islamic lawyers commented that when the rulers refuse to step down via successful impeachment through the Majlis, becoming dictators through the support of a corrupt army, if the majority agree they have the option to launch a revolution against them. Many noted that this option is only exercised after factoring in the potential cost of life.

    Medical ethics

    The ethical standards of Muslim physicians was first laid down in the 9th century by Ishaq bin Ali Rahawi, who wrote the "Adab al-Tabib" ("Conduct of a Physician"), the first treatist dedicated to medical ethics. He regarded physicians as "guardians of souls and bodies", and wrote twenty chapters on various topics related to medical ethics, including: [ Islamic Science, the Scholar and Ethics] , Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation.]

    * What the physician must avoid and beware of
    * The manners of visitors
    * The care of remedies by the physician
    * The dignity of the medical profession
    * The examination of physicians
    * The removal of corruption among physicians


    The earliest known prohibition of illegal drugs occurred under Islamic law, which prohibited the use of Hashish, a preparation of cannabis, as a recreational drug. Classical jurists in medieval Islamic jurisprudence, however, accepted the use of the Hashish drug for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, and agreed that its "medical use, even if it leads to mental derangement, remains exempt" from punishment. In the 14th century, the Islamic scholar Az-Zarkashi spoke of "the permissibility of its use for medical purposes if it is established that it is beneficial." [citation|title=Cannabis in Medical Practice: A Legal, Historical and Pharmacological Overview of the Therapeutic Use of Marijuana|first=Mary Lynn|last=Mathre|year=1997|publisher=McFarland|isbn=0786403616|page=40]

    According to Mary Lynn Mathre, with "this legal distinction between the intoxicant and the medical uses of cannabis, medieval Muslim theologians were far ahead of present-day American law." [citation|title=Cannabis in Medical Practice: A Legal, Historical and Pharmacological Overview of the Therapeutic Use of Marijuana|first=Mary Lynn|last=Mathre|year=1997|publisher=McFarland|isbn=0786403616|page=41]

    Medical peer review

    The earliest known lawsuits were described in the "Ethics of the Physician" by Ishaq bin Ali al-Rahwi (854–931) of al-Raha, Syria, who describes it as part of an early medical peer review process, where the notes of a practicing Islamic physician were reviewed by peers and he/she could face a lawsuit from a maltreated patient if the reviews were negative. [Ray Spier (2002), "The history of the peer-review process", "Trends in Biotechnology" 20 (8), p. 357-358 [357] .]


    Most ancient and medieval societies believed that mental illness was caused by either demonic possession or as punishment from a god, which led to a negative attitude towards mental illness in Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman societies. On the other hand, Islamic neuroethics and neurotheology held a more sympathetic attitude towards the mentally ill, as exemplified in Sura 4:5 of the Qur'an:A. Vanzan Paladin (1998), "Ethics and neurology in the islamic world: Continuity and change", "Italial Journal of Neurological Science" 19: 255-258 [257] , Springer-Verlag.]

    This Quranic verse summarized Islam's attitudes towards the mentally ill, who were considered unfit to manage property but must be treated humanely and be kept under care by a guardian, according to Islamic law. This positive neuroethical understanding of mental health consequently led to the establishment of the first psychiatric hospitals in the medieval Islamic world from the 8th century,Harv|Youssef|Youssef|Dening|1996|p=57] and an early scientific understanding of neuroscience and psychology by medieval Muslim physicians and psychologists, who discovered that mental disorders are caused by dysfunctions in the brain. [Harv|Youssef|Youssef|Dening|1996|p=59]

    Military ethics

    The early Islamic treatises on international law from the 9th century onwards covered the application of Islamic ethics, Islamic economic jurisprudence and Islamic military jurisprudence to international law,citation|title=Al-Shaybani and the Islamic Law of War|last=Kelsay|first=J.|journal=Journal of Military Ethics|volume=2|issue=1|date=March 2003|publisher=Routledge|pages=63-75] and were concerned with a number of modern international law topics, including the law of treaties; the treatment of diplomats, hostages, refugees and prisoners of war; the right of asylum; conduct on the battlefield; protection of women, children and non-combatant civilians; contracts across the lines of battle; the use of poisonous weapons; and devastation of enemy territory.citation|title=Justice Without Frontiers|first=Christopher G.|last=Judge Weeramantry|year=1997|publisher=Brill Publishers|isbn=9041102418|pages=136]

    The Islamic legal principles of international law were mainly based on Qur'an and the Sunnah of Muhammad, who gave various injunctions to his forces and adopted practices toward the conduct of war. The most important of these were summarized by Muhammad's successor and close companion, Abu Bakr, in the form of ten rules for the Muslim army:Aboul-Enein, H. Yousuf and Zuhur, Sherifa, "Islamic Rulings on Warfare", p. 22, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA, ISBN 1428910395]

    Prisoners of war

    After Sultan al-Kamil defeated the Franks during the Crusades, Oliverus Scholasticus praised the Islamic laws of war, commenting on how al-Kamil supplied the defeated Frankish army with food:


    The concepts of welfare and pension were introduced in early Islamic law as forms of "Zakat" (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, since the time of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur in the 8th century. The taxes (including "Zakat" and "Jizya") collected in the treasury of an Islamic government was used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058-1111), the government was also expected to store up food supplies in every region in case a disaster or famine occurs. The Caliphate was thus one of the earliest welfare states. [citation|title=Medieval Islamic Political Thought|first=Patricia|last=Crone|publisher=Edinburgh University Press|year=2005|isbn=0748621946|pages=308-9]

    From the 9th century, funds from the treasury were also used towards the "Waqf" (charitable trusts), often for the purpose of building of Madrassahs and Bimaristan hospitals. [citation|title=Medieval Islamic Political Thought|first=Patricia|last=Crone|publisher=Edinburgh University Press|year=2005|isbn=0748621946|pages=309-10 & 312]

    ee also

    *Islamic Peace
    *Early Islamic philosophy
    *Islamic democracy
    *Islamic Golden Age


    External links

    Islamic Ethics - [ Relationship between Pillars of Islam & Development of Excellent Moral & Character]
    Islamic Human Resource Management - [ Islamic view of human resource management]


    *cite encyclopedia | editor=Becker, L.C. and Becker, C.B. | encyclopedia= Encyclopedia of ethics | publisher=Routledge New York
    *cite encyclopedia | editor=P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs | encyclopedia=Encyclopaedia of Islam Online | publisher=Brill Academic Publishers | id=ISSN 1573-3912
    *cite book | last = Ghamidi | first = Javed | authorlink = Javed Ahmad Ghamidi | title = Mizan | chapter = Morals and Morality| chapterurl= |language = English| format=html| publisher = Al-Mawrid | year = 2006 | doi = |
    *cite book | last = Islahi | first = Amin | authorlink = Amin Ahsan Islahi | title = Tadabbur-i-Qur’an | publisher = Faran Foundation | location = Lahore | edition = 1st | id = OCLC|60341215
    *Harvard reference
    first1=Hanafy A.
    first2=Fatma A.
    first3=T. R.
    title=Evidence for the existence of schizophrenia in medieval Islamic society
    journal=History of Psychiatry

    *Harvard reference|last=Weeramantry|first=Judge Christopher G.|title=Justice Without Frontiers: Furthering Human Rights|year=1997|publisher=Brill Publishers|isbn=9041102418

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