Islamic ethics (أخلاق إسلامية), defined as “good character,” historically took shape gradually from the 7th century and was finally established by the 11th century. It was eventually shaped as a successful amalgamation of the Qur’anic teachings, the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, the precedents of Islamic jurists, 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.
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. 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.
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 identity and 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.
In the 17th chapter, “Al-Israa” (“The Night Journey”), verses [Quran17:22], the Qur’an provides a set of moral stipulations which are “among the (precepts of) wisdom, which thy Lord has revealed to thee” that can be reasonably categorised as ten in number. According to S. A. Nigosian, Professor of religious studies at the University of Toronto, these resemble the Ten Commandments in the Bible and “represents the fullest statement of the code of behavior every Muslim must follow”. However, these verses are not regarded by Islamic scholars as set apart from any other moral stipulations in the Qur’an, nor are they regarded as a substitute, replacement, or abrogation of some other set of commandments as found in the previous revelations.
Worship only God:
Do not make with Allah another god; lest you will sit disgraced and forsaken. (Quran 17:22)
Be kind, honourable and humble to one’s parents:
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him alone, and to be good to the parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], a word of disrespect, and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. (Quran 17:23) And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.” (Quran 17:24)
Be neither miserly nor wasteful in one’s expenditure:
And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, and do not spend wastefully. (Quran 17:26) Indeed, the spendthrifts are brothers of the devil, and the devil is, to his lord, ungrateful. (Quran 17:27) And if you [must] turn away from the needy awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect, then speak to them a gentle word. (Quran 17:28) And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it to its utmost reach, so that you [thereby] become blamed and insolvent. (Quran 17:29)
Do not engage in ‘mercy killings’ for fear of starvation:
And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin. (Quran 17:31)
Do not commit adultery:
And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is an immorality and an evil way. (Quran 17:32)
Do not kill unjustly:
And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law]. (Quran 17:33)
Care for orphaned children:
And do not approach the property of an orphan, except in the way that is best, until he reaches maturity…(Quran 17:34)
Keep one’s promises:
…fulfill (every) engagement [i.e. promise/covenant], for (every) engagement will be questioned (on the Day of Reckoning). (Quran 17:34)
Be honest and fair in one’s interactions:
And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way] and best in result. (Quran 17:35)
Do not be arrogant in one’s claims or beliefs:
And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – all those will be questioned. (Quran 17:36) And do not walk upon the earth exultantly. Indeed, you will never tear the earth [apart], and you will never reach the mountains in height. (Quran 17:37)
Many Muslim theologians see the Golden Rule implicit in some verses of the Qur’an and in the Hadith. The Golden Rule was agreed 1993 also by Muslims as a central unconditional ethical norm in the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic.
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, 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. 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. 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.”
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. The document was drawn up with the explicit concern of bringing to an end the bitter intertribal 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. 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. 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.”
Esposito states that reforms in women’s rights affected marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Women were not accorded with such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later. 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. “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.” 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.” 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.” 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.”
Sociologist Robert Bellah (Beyond belief) argues that Islam in its seventh-century origins was, for its time and place, “remarkably modern…in 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.”
See also: Muslim Agricultural Revolution
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 (site) and hima, an Arabic term meaning “protected place”, 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”.
After Muslims established themselves in Madinah, 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.
Hadiths on agriculture and environmental philosophy were compiled in the “Book of Agriculture” of the Sahih Bukhari, which included the following saying:
There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift [for which there is great recompense].
Several such statements concerning the environment are also found in the Qur’an, such as the following:
And there is no animal in the earth nor bird that flies with its two wings, but that they are communities like yourselves.[Quran6:38]
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. Cordoba, Al-Andalus also had the first waste containers and waste disposal facilities for litter collection.
“In order to preserve the natural environment by not polluting, plant trees, support environmentally-friendly goods and products, Muslims must rectify themselves through simplicity, contentment, resisting endless desires, and then remembering God as well as following His commands”.
Many medieval Muslim thinkers pursued humanistic and rational approaches in discourses regarding values.
Main article: Islamic democracy, Shura and Ijma
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. 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.
- 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.
- 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:
“…those who answer the call of their Lord and establish the prayer, and who conduct their affairs by Shura. [are loved by God]”[42:38]
“…consult them (the people) in their affairs. Then when you have taken a decision (from them), put your trust in Allah”[3:159]
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 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.
Islamic legal framework included religious pluralism. Classical Sharia, the religious laws and courts of Christians, Jews and Hindus, were usually accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early Caliphate, Al-Andalus, Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Millet system. Non-Muslims were allowed to engage in religious practices that was usually forbidden 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 the prophet Muhammad, who did not forbid such self-marriages among Zoroastrians despite coming in contact with them and having knowledge of their practices. 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.
Freedom of expression
Citizens of the Rashidun Caliphate were also free to criticize the Rashidun Caliphs, as the rule of law was binding on the head of state just as much as it was for the citizens. In a notable incident, when Umar tried to investigate a disturbance, by entering a home without permission, he was criticized for his behavior; he was also later criticized for the judgement he gave in that case. There were also numerous other situations where citizens insulted Caliph Umar, but he tolerated the insults and simply provided them explanations. Similar situations also occurred during the time of Caliph Ali. For example, there was an occasion when he was giving a sermon and a Kharijite rudely interrupted him with insulting language. Though he was urged to punish the interrupter, Ali declined on the grounds that his “right to freedom of speech must not be imperilled.”
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.
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 deliberately planned university” in Europe, the University of Naples Federico II founded by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor in 1224.
In a letter written by the fourth Rashidun Caliph and first cousin of the prophet Muhammad, Ali ibn Abi Talib to his governor of Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar. The Caliph advises his governor on dealings with the poor masses thus:
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
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 anti-social 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 sovereignty, 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.
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.” 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.
Early Islamic law recognized two sets of human rights. In addition to the category of civil 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. 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. 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. For example, “French married women, unlike their Muslim sisters, suffered from restrictions on their legal capacity which were removed only in 1965.” Noah Feldman, a Harvard University law professor, notes:
As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them — hardly progress toward equality of the sexes.
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:
[T]he manner in which an act was qualified as morally good or bad in the spiritual domain of Islamic religion was quite different from the manner in which that same act was qualified as legally valid or invalid in the temporal domain of Islamic law. Islamic law was secular, not canonical… Thus, it was a system focused on ensuring that an individual received justice, not that one be a good person.
Count Leon Ostorog, a French jurist, wrote the following on classical Islamic law in 1927:
Those Eastern thinkers of the ninth century laid down, on the basis of their theology, the principle of the Rights of Man, in those very terms, comprehending the rights of individual liberty, and of inviolability of person and property; described the supreme power in Islam, or Califate, as based on a contract, implying conditions of capacity and performance, and subject to cancellation if the conditions under the contract were not fulfilled; elaborated a Law of War of which the humane, chivalrous prescriptions would have put to the blush certain belligerents in World War I; expounded a doctrine of toleration of non-Moslem creeds so liberal that our West had to wait a thousand years before seeing equivalent principles adopted.
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.”
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. Other freedoms and rights recognized in the Islamic legal system based on the Qur’an since the 7th century, but not recognized in the Western world until much later, include “the rights to know, to choose belief and behaviour, to read and write, the right to power, and even the right to choose government.”
- 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. The following hadith established the principle of rule of law in relation to nepotism and accountability:
Narrated ‘Aisha: The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, “Who will intercede for her with Allah’s Apostle?” Some said, “No one dare to do so except Usama bin Zaid the beloved one to Allah’s Apostle.” When Usama spoke about that to Allah’s Apostle Allah’s Apostle said: “Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah’s Prescribed Punishments?” Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, “What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah’s Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad (my daughter) stole, I would cut off her hand.”
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:
How the scholars lost their exalted status as keepers of the law is a complex story, but it can be summed up in the adage that partial reforms are sometimes worse than none at all. In the early 19th century, the Ottoman empire responded to military setbacks with an internal reform movement. The most important reform was the attempt to codify Shariah. This Westernizing process, foreign to the Islamic legal tradition, sought to transform Shariah from a body of doctrines and principles to be discovered by the human efforts of the scholars into a set of rules that could be looked up in a book.
Once the law existed in codified form, however, the law itself was able to replace the scholars as the source of authority. Codification took from the scholars their all-important claim to have the final say over the content of the law and transferred that power to the state.
- 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:
“…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’…”[33:67–68]
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.
- Right of revolution
According to scholar Bernard Lewis, the Qur’an and Sunnah have several points to make on governance regarding the right of revolution in Islam:
The Quran, for example, makes it clear that there is a duty of obedience: “Obey God, obey the Prophet, obey those who hold authority over you.” And this is elaborated in a number of sayings attributed to Muhammad. But there are also sayings that put strict limits on the duty of obedience. Two dicta attributed to the Prophet and universally accepted as authentic are indicative. One says, “there is no obedience in sin”; in other words, if the ruler orders something contrary to the divine law, not only is there no duty of obedience, but there is a duty of disobedience. This is more than the right of revolution that appears in Western political thought. It is a duty of revolution, or at least of disobedience and opposition to authority. The other pronouncement, “do not obey a creature against his creator,” again clearly limits the authority of the ruler, whatever form of ruler that may be.
The ethical standards of Muslim physicians was first laid down in the 9th century by Ishaq ibn ‘Ali al-Ruhawi, 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:
- 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
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.
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.”
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.”
Medical peer review
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.
Main article: Islamic psychology
Islamic neuroethics and neurotheology hold a sympathetic attitude towards the mentally ill, as exemplified in Sura 4:5 of the Qur’an:
Do not give your property which God assigned you to manage to the insane: but feed and cloth the insane with this property and tell splendid words to him.
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, 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.
Main article: Islamic military jurisprudence
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, 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.
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:
Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.
Prisoners of war
Main article: Prisoners of war in Islam
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:
Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power.
Peace and justice
Main article: Peace In Islamic Thought
As in other Abrahamic religions, peace is a basic concept of Islam. The Arabic term “Islam” itself (إسلام) is usually translated as “submission”; submission of desires to the will of God. It comes from the term aslama, which means “to surrender” or “resign oneself”. The Arabic word salaam (سلام) (“peace”) has the same root as the word Islam. One Islamic interpretation is that individual personal peace is attained by utterly submitting to Allah. The greeting “Salaam alaykum”, favoured by Muslims, has the literal meaning “Peace be with you”. Muhammad is reported to have said once, “Mankind are the dependents, or slaves of God, and the most beloved of them to God are those who are the most excellent to His dependents.” “Not one of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Great Muslim scholars of prophetic tradition such as Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani and Sharafuddin al Nawawi have said that the words “his brother” mean any person irrespective of faith.
Main article: Bayt al-mal
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. 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.
See also: Islam and animals
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 the creatures that crawl on the earth and those that fly with their wings 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.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia