Rafed English

Life under the Grace of Ethics

by : Ayatullah al-`Uzma al-Hajj ash-Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi Global stalemates, groans of victims of aggressions, wars, crimes and increasingly cutting ties of family relations are all true evidences of one reality, that current rules of world, despite all attempts apparently made for their reform, improvement and enforcement, not only have been ineffective in granting an ideal life to men, but also have killed this hope for the future.


We don't know how long we shall try these worn principles. They cannot even support their own custodians, what about the others?

These rules are like deep wells, which sometimes reach massive underground stone pieces, and the more we try to pierce into these stones and progress inside them, the more we exhaust ourselves, and finally there is no trace of water.

So we shall look where the fault is, recognize it, contemplate, and think about the solution.

First, we find that such regulations resemble the drugs which are only for external use and their effect is completely superficial. They have neither succeeded to penetrate into the depth of human conscience, which is the inspiration of his attempts, endeavors, and movements, nor to mobilize his powers in a bid to eradicate the roots of pain.

For example, which law can revive human intellect and affection of those riches that have made testament for allocation of their wealth to their cats and have provided the facilities for establishment of a village for millionaire cats, and invite them to support millions of African hungry men? Which law can restore the sense of philanthropy in those who wear precious diamond pieces, and several millions value stamp albums are one of the little decorations of their drawing rooms, and invite them to save the life of millions of leprous, cancerous and tuberculosis patients?

Which law can manage obstinate and destructive instincts, and control man's feelings and utilize his great industrial powers for urbanization and reclamation of the countries?

Is any law able to penetrate into the territory of their spirit and soul, and cause these changes? It goes without saying that there is not such law among the existing ones.

It is here that the necessity of training and development of another principle called "ethic" is clarified. The principle which passes any obstacle just like the powerful waves of gravity and even passes through vacuum and accedes to the interior of man's soul, alters him, and creates a new person which is excellent and heavenly and in the real sense, humanistic attributes.

The man who sympathizes in grief and distress of others.

The man who considers his own and others' interests the same.

The man who never seeks relief in discomfort of others.

And finally, a man whose wide horizon of thought causes him to be relieved from disturbances, offences, intolerance and vindictiveness, and forms a real unity along with his fellowmen, in which there is welfare and blessing.

Yes, these principles, which are called "ethic", should be revived, and present book is written for this purpose and has originated from Islamic rich and powerful resources.

Qom, Theological Center
Nasir Makarim Shirazi
November 1973
Thanks to the Almighty God, Who gave me success to accomplish translation of this book.

Allah may send blessings on our Prophet, Muhammad (S), who guided us to His Straight Path, and illuminated our heart with His guidance.

I offer the reward of this book to the spirit of my late grandmother, May God have mercy on her, and beseech Allah to make it, for me and her, a means of attainment to His reward and pleasures on the Day of Judgment.

I shall acknowledge that my reference books have been: ``A Glossary of Islamic Technical Terms'', Islamic Research Foundation of Astan Quds Razavi, ``Holy Qur’an'', Arthur J. Arberry, and ``Nahjul Balagha'', S. Ali Reza.

Dear readers are requested to send their views, suggestions, comments, questions, problems, to my email address: monirshafiei@yahoo.com [11]

Monir Shafiei
Tehran, Iran
Is it possible to alter individuals' morality and mentality through training?
This is the question, which clarifies the position of ethics, because if we accept that morality and mentality of individuals depend on the structure of their body and soul, ethics will be vain and purposeless. But if we accept that it is changeable, the importance and value of this science is manifested well.

Some of the scientists have accepted the first possibility and believe that as some of trees bear bitter fruits, and as a gardener cannot change his nature, mentality of the lowborn and impure-hearted will not be changed through training and even if it is changed, it will be very transitory and superficial, and will soon be restored to its first mode.

They suggest that structure of body and soul has a close relation with morality, and in fact morality of each person depends on the disposition of his soul and body, and for this reason, it is not changeable. They cite as a proof the traditions like:
«اَلنّاسُ مَعادِنٌ کَمَعادِنِ الذَّهَبِ وَ الْفِضَّةِ»
The people are like the mines of gold and silver. 1
In contrast to this attitude, majority of scientists believe that morality and mentality of individuals is completely alterable through training.

A great deal of experiences on the immoral persons has fully proved this reality that a lot of wicked and vicious individuals are perfectly corrected by a "healthy environment", "good association" and "high training". Otherwise, all of divine instructions of prophets and religious leaders were cancelled, because all of them are concerned with training men's souls. On the other hand, all punishments having a corrective aspect, being common among all nations throughout the world, were vain and ineffective.

We see that even fierce and wild animals are domesticated through training, and are used for the purposes against their original disposition. How can we believe the ill-humour in men to be more rooted than ferocity of wild animals?

We believe that the best way for proving this claim is studying the procedure of formation of a "moral habit" in a bid to find the way of eradicating it in the same way it is formed. We know that every good or bad action leaves a similar effect in man's soul and "attracts" man's soul to it.

Practice and repetition of the action increases this effect and gradually a feature called "custom" is achieved and with more practice, it changes into "habit", and thus man's interior tendency to perform that action is increased by rooting of customs and habits. This reality is proved by experience.

Therefore, if moral customs and habits are formed through repetition of an action, they are removable in the same way. That is to say, first, "action", then "repetition" and then "formation of a moral attribute and habit".

Of course, suggestion, reflection, correct instructions and healthy environment- which have a suggestive effect are very effective in predisposing soul for acceptance and formation of a good morality.
Ill-humour is a sort of disease
All of us know that man enjoys a special and particular position among all living creatures, because his personality is composed of antagonistic powers. On one hand, rebellious sensual desires as well as animal instincts and inclinations invite him to insolence, aggression to the rights of others, sensuality and lechery, lie and treachery, and on the other hand, the powers of intellect and cognition, humanistic affections and conscience call him to philanthropy, chastity, honesty and virtue.

Struggle of these powers exists in all men and relative dominance of one of these factors causes men to be in completely different levels in view of humanistic values, and increases the distance of man's "ascending" and "descending" curve. At times he becomes superior to the nearest-stationed angels, and at others he becomes more inferior to the most dangerous predator animals.

This fact is also deduced from several traditions. For instance, Imam Ali (A.S.) says:
«اِنَّ اللهَ خَصَّ الْمَلَکَ بِالْعَقْلِ دُونَ الشَّهْوَةِ وَ الْغَضَبِ، وَ خَصَّ الْحَیواناتِ بِهِما دُونَهُ وَ شَرَّفَ الاِْنسانَ بِاِعْطاءِ الْجَمِیعِ فَاِنِ انْقادَتْ شَهْوَتُهُ وَ غَضَبُهُ لِعَقْلِهِ، صارَ اَفْضَلَ مِنَ الْمَلائِکَةِ لِوُصُولِهِ اِلى هذِهِ الرُّتْبَةِ مَعَ وُجُودِ الْمُنازِعِ. »
God granted to the angel only intellect, without lust and wrath, and gave to the animals only lust and wrath, without intellect, but ennobled man to granting all of these. So if his lust and wrath are controlled and ordained by his intellect, he will be superior to the angels, because he has achieved such station despite the existence of an opposing power. 2
But it should be noted that instincts and dispositions and lusts in an original, natural and balanced form are not only harmless, but will also be an essential means for continuation of life.
In other words, as no useless and idle limb is created in the structure of man's body, any incentive, instinct and disposition has a vital role in the structure of his spirit and soul, and only in case of deviation from normal condition and disturbance of the balance, they will appear dangerous and fatal.
For instance, who can deny the role of "wrath" in man's life? Suppose when the rights of a person are transgressed; if all of reserve powers of his body are not excited and mobilized, thanks to the wrath; is it possible for him to defend his rights in a composed mood, in which he may not utilize more than one tenth of his reserve powers? But when this anger and wrath is deviated from its main path, and is not any more a powerful tool under control of intellect, it alters man into a fierce animal who does not recognize any boundary.
In addition, the role of man's moderate desire to wealth, rank and such like in more attempts for development and progress is as obvious as the destructive effect of Mammonism and ambition that is extravagant in these desires.
Thus, as disturbance in corporeal balance is always accompanied with undesirable results called "disease", disturbance in balance of spiritual powers and instincts and desires too is considered as a sort of "mental disease", and ethics scholars call it "heart-sickness".
This concept has basically originated from Holy Qur’an that has considered hypocrisy of a hypocrite as a disease, where it says:
فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ فَزَادَهُمُ اللَّهُ مَرَضًا ۖ
 In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increaseth their disease. A painful doom is theirs because they lie. (2:10)
Purification of carnal soul or the greater warfare
Calling purification of carnal soul as "the greater warfare" suffices for its importance, and this interpretation is derived from the famous tradition in which Prophet (S) told to the warriors of his companions after returning from one of the battles:
«مَرْحَباً بِقَوْم قَضَوُا الْجِهادَ الاَْصْغَرَ وَ بَقِیَ عَلَیْهِمُ الْجِهادُ الاَْکْبَرُ. فَقِیلَ: یا رَسُولَ اللهِ مَا الْجِهادُ الاَْکْبَرُ؟ قالَ: جِهادُ النَّفْسِ».
Bravo to the crowd who performed lesser warfare and the greater warfare is still left undone. They told: what is the greater warfare? He answered: warfare and conflict with rebellious sensual desires. 3
This phrase too is narrated from the Prophet following this tradition:
«اِنَّ اَفْضَلَ الْجِهادِ مَنْ جاهَدَ نَفْسَهُ الَّتِی بَیْنَ جَنْبَیْهِ»
The highest warfare is warfare with rebellious desires, which are inside man's chest. 4
This statement can explain Islam's logic in this critical issue and after studying and reviewing, following facts are found out thereof:

1- There are always antagonistic powers in man like a battlefield, and destiny of man depends on the dominance of one of these two parts of powers.

2- This warfare is called "the greater warfare" since it is an eternal and unceasing one. Moreover, an internal battle is always more dangerous than an external battle, and more importantly, defeat in this warfare has no result save misery and misfortune, while defeat in common warfare may result in acquiring the honour of "martyrdom". That is to say, warfare with external enemy has never a real defeat, but there is a high possibility of defeat in inner warfare.

3- Although this warfare is painful, it is the code of man's perfection, because perfection is usually the outcome of conflicts and struggle of "negative" and "positive" powers, and this is the reason why man does not become experienced and trained unless he is involved in the events and struggles with problems as Imam Ali (A.S.) says: The wood of forest trees (which are always exposed to a lot of incidents) is stronger and their fire is more durable.

And herein the mystery of creation of these antagonist powers and sensual desires is manifested.

4- Warfare with outward enemy may occasionally be performed for material purposes (collecting booties or achieving fame and such like), but inner warfare will always be for gaining perfection and achieving virtue. So overcoming therein indicates decision, will and belief power as well as prominence of ambition and greatness of man's personality.
Prosperity and happiness
Ethic scholars have mentioned prosperity and happiness as the final end of ethics. This is the same reality that men are always trying and struggling for prosperity and happiness, and are often complaining for not gaining it.
What is prosperity?
We can define prosperity in one short phrase: gaining any possible perfection that man has capacity and competence for achieving, and in other words, correct utilization of different material and spiritual powers being available for man.

But since to the same extent that "perfection" and "utilization" are clear in view of general sense, they are ambiguous and complicated in view of partial concepts, most often people have mistaken the path of prosperity so that for example, one egoist rich man, who has exchanged the heart’s ease and relief of his spirit and body with accumulation of a massive wealth, may consider himself prosperous, while his capricious child, after death of father, deems scattering of this wealth for satisfaction of his lusts as prosperity, and in the meantime both of them are wrong.

Anyway, herein we shall recognize man's real perfection and the correct way of utilizing these material and spiritual favours, although this recognition may need a great deal of study and inconvenience.
Does prosperity have only a spiritual aspect?
A number of Greek ancient philosophers like Cynics believed that prosperity has only a spiritual aspect and whatever corporeal and material condition may be, it does not have the least effect on man's prosperity, and therefore considered acquiring moral perfection and virtues as the only way of prosperity.

Rather, they believed that absolute prosperity for man would not be possible in this world and as far as the spirit is connected to this material body, and tainted to corporeal impurities, it is deprived of real prosperity. Only when it is disconnected from body, it may achieve absolute prosperity. On this end, they spurned and neglected all material affairs.

The conditions of Dewjanse, the famous physician of Cynics, and his life in a jar! Instead of house and room, and his contentment to one drinking cup from all life facilities is well-known. Even it is said that once he saw someone drinking water from a water course with his hands, then he threw away that cup too.

Existentialists are on the opposite side to this idea and consider prosperity only in an unconditional utilization from material pleasures and condemn any obstacle on this way.

They assume absolute happiness only through material pleasure and go ahead in this way till the threshold of insanity, and practically disregard all social and moral limits and habitudes for achieving it.

It is obvious that we cannot call this ideology, which is unfortunately spread nowadays among some nations, a doctrine. Rather, it is a sort of delusion and mental disease. However, we can assume it a reaction to the extremist doctrines like Cynics who have totally ignored corporeal aspects in prosperity.

Moderate doctrine: since man is not merely a body or a soul, and the reality of his essence is composed of two parts, he should seek prosperity too in both parts and surely any program focusing in one part of his essence, shall not guarantee his prosperity, because it is not in conformity with the outward realities.

Among Greek philosophers, the first teacher, Aristotle and his followers advocated this doctrine and Islam's superior instructions have explicitly supported it, and have mentioned new principles for it. This reality is reflected in Qur’an and sayings of our great leaders, and motto of Islam in this regard is summarized in the following verses:
فَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَقُولُ رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَمَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَاقٍ*
وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَقُولُ رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا كَسَبُوا ۚ وَاللَّهُ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ
But of mankind is he who saith: "Our Lord! Give unto us in the world," and he hath no portion in the Hereafter.
And of them (also) is he who saith: "Our Lord! Give unto us in the world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and guard us from the doom of Fire."
For them there is in store a goodly portion out of that which they have earned. Allah is swift at reckoning. (2:200-202)
The point, which should be carefully considered in such discussions, is that the relation and connection of soul and body is so close that the effect of any deviation in one of them is manifested in the other.
Today psychoanalysis has proved that a part of moral and mental deviations is caused by incorrect satiation of corporeal and material instincts.
Repressed desires and instincts always emerge as mental complexes. Such complexes are a big problem for ethic scholars, and removing them through the ways available for training souls, is usually not possible. Rather, they should be treated in the same way they are created, that is, physical instincts should be satiated in a correct manner.
There are a lot of people suffering from suspicion, fear, jealousy, pride and hatred and such like vices and its cause is deprivation and repression in correct satiation of their physical instincts. Thus for being successful, now it is necessary for all ethic scholars and mental trainers to consider both physical and mental conditions for treating moral diseases.
Islam has studied this issue subtly and it explicitly says:
قُلْ مَنْ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي أَخْرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِ وَالطَّيِّبَاتِ مِنَ الرِّزْقِ ۚ قُلْ هِيَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا
Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world. (7:32)
And we read in aphorisms of Imam Ali (A.S.):
«لِلْمُؤْمِنِ ثَلاثُ ساعات: فَساعَةٌ یُناجِی فِیها رَبَّهُ وَ ساعَةٌ یَرُمُّ مَعاشَهُ وَ ساعَةٌ یُخَلِّی بَیْنَ نَفْسِهِ وَ بَیْنَ لَذَّتِها فِیما یَحِلُّ وَ یَجْمُلُ».
The believer's time has three periods: the period when he is in communion with Allah, the period when he manages for his livelihood, and the period when he is free to enjoy what is lawful and pleasant. 5
And this phrase is added to some traditions:
«وَ ذلِکَ عَوْنٌ عَلى سائِرِ السّاعاتِ».
"And the last part is tonic and refreshing for the other parts."
Individual and Social Morality
Some believe that all moral principles return to the man's special social relations with others so that if there was no society, and any man lived completely apart from the others, and any individual lived unaware of existence of others, "ethics" was basically meaningless because envy and jealousy, modesty and pride, good opinion, justice and injustice, chastity, generosity and stinginess, and such like are all strictly meaningful within the society and contact of man with others. Thus man minus society will be accompanied with man minus ethic.

But while confessing that most of moral virtues and vices are concerned with social life of man, we believe this could not be generalized. Because there are a great number of moral cases which have only an individual aspect, and are true for a single man too.

For instance, patience or impatience for afflictions, bravery or fear for events, endeavour or laziness in achievement to one's objective, ignorance or attention to the Creator of the world, thanksgiving or ingratitude for His endless favours and such affairs, which ethics scholars have discussed in ethical books and have called them moral virtues or vices, that could have an individual aspect, and are truthful for one living completely isolated from the society.

Hereof division of morality into "individual morality" and "social morality" is clarified. However, it is obvious that social morality is more important in ethics, and man's personality focuses on it, although individual morality too has a considerable part in respect to oneself.
Big Mistake
It should be mentioned herein that those who isolate themselves from the society for purification of morals and training their souls, secluding themselves and supposing that they can achieve this great aim better in this way, are completely wrong.

Because they actually destroy the subject of social morality, and although they avoid some vices in this way, it is not really considered a virtue. It looks like the one who cuts his sexual apparatus for avoiding adultery and lewdness, although he is not tainted with unchastity, but this will not be a virtue for him.

Moreover, experience has shown that isolation and seclusion from society will cause a series of moral vices such as peevishness, suspicion, vanity and conceit, and suspicion of divine predestination in man, which will be illustrated in a separate discussion in detail.

So, Islam has encouraged Muslims to have a social life and to live in large cities and has recommended observance of moral principles in the heart of society.
Way of treatment of Moral Deviations
Now, we shall study details of "moral virtues" and ways of treatment of "moral vices". However, two points are noteworthy:

First point: We shall always treat those involved in moral deviations like a patient, because as it was already referred, moral deviations are in fact a sort of mental disease, which sometimes result in physical diseases too, and or vice versa sometimes they originate from physical diseases. Thus, we shall observe herein the same principles which we observe in the treatment of physical diseases.

Second point: we always consider three principles in the treatment of diseases:

1- Diagnosis of disease

2- Finding causes of disease

3- Way of treatment of disease

We usually use symptoms and consequences of disease for its diagnosis. Of course, this is a relatively simple task in respect to physical diseases, especially with existing facilities and equipment. But in view of moral cases, it is a very complicated matter, because moral deviations often have similar manifestations and symptoms, or there are some manifestations which are caused by a mixture of several moral diseases, and their diagnosis becomes difficult, and thus the ethics scholar and soul physician should study this science patiently and carefully for treating himself or the others.

For finding the causes of a disease, one should also carefully study biography of the deviated person, specially the backgrounds of his childhood period, which constitutes foundation of man's personality, as well as his family and social environment, his occupation and job and geographical area for recognizing the causes of a moral disease. Even heritage should not be ignored, because ill-humour (like physical diseases) is sometimes inheritable.

And for treating moral vices, it should be noted that if they have become chronic, they should be treated patiently and carefully and vigilantly, and one shall never get tired by lapse of time. However, if they are superficial and extrinsic, they will be treated in a shorter period.

For this reason, correction of moral vices of youths and children is much easier than adults. Because the former are both tainted and treated soon.

Imam As-Sadiq (A.S.) said:
«عَلَیْکَ بِالاَْحْداثِ فَاِنَّهُمْ اَسْرَعُ اِلى کُلِّ خَیْر».
Pay attention to the youths, who are ready for quick acceptance of any goodness. 6
Hygiene of morality
It is also noteworthy that current medicine is actually divided into two parts: "therapeutic medicine" and "hygienic medicine". What is meant by therapeutic medicine is clear. But hygienic medicine refers to preventing occurrence of diseases and destroying their causes, and since preventing a disease is much easier than curing it, hygiene has a precious importance in the life of individuals and destiny of the societies. On this account, heavy budgets are spent for it.

These two parts exactly exist in moral cases and mental diseases. So, we shall avoid occurrence of moral deviations as far as possible, and try for hygiene of morality of ourselves and others through adopting necessary counsels.
1- Avoiding poisonous and suspicious associations
Surely, a lot of moral deviations are caused by association, and just like contagious and epidemic diseases, particularly in cases that mental condition is ready for acceptance of morality of others, due to little age or little knowledge or weak belief and such like, association with immoral individuals is a fatal and noxious poison.

It is seen in a lot of cases that destiny of a man is completely changed due to such associations and thereby, direction of life is changed.

Effects of association in correcting man's personality are so significant that it is said for knowing someone; look at the companions and friends he keeps. Imam Ali (A.S.) says:
«مَنِ اشْتَبَهَ عَلَیْکُمْ اَمْرُهُ وَ لَمْ تَعْرِفُوا دِینَهُ فَانْظُرُوا اِلى خُلَطائِهِ».
When you are uncertain about someone and do not know his religion, look at his friends. 7
The Prophet (S) says:
«اَلْمَرْءُ عَلى دِینِ خَلِیلِهِ وَ قَرِینِهِ».
A man has the same religion of his friend and companion. 8
Association with evil doers darkens soul, and weakens moral sense, and reduces ugliness of evil deeds and ill-humour, and it is interpreted as "heart death" in the traditions. The Prophet (S) says:
«اَرْبَعٌ یُمِتْنَ الْقُلُوبَ... وَ مُجالَسَةُ الْمَوْتى; فَقِیلَ لَهُ: یا رَسُولَ اللهِ! وَ مَا الْمَوْتى؟ قالَ: کُلُّ غَنِیٍّ مُتْرَف».
Four things extinguish heart ..., including association with the dead. They asked: O God's messenger! Who are the dead? He said: lavish rich men. 9
Association with evil doers stimulates sense of suspicion in man and makes him pessimistic to everybody.
Imam Ali (A.S.) says:
«مُجالَسَةُ الاَْشْرارِ تُورِثُ سُوءَ الظَّنِّ بِالاَْخْیارِ».
Association with evil doers causes suspicion on good doers. 10
In brief, the issue of association is so critical that God even premonishes His messenger from association with evil doers in Qur’an.
In contrary, association with good doers is one of the most important means of training, purification and developing moral virtues and reviving heart and acquiring personality.
Islam emphasizes greatly on association with good individuals and righteous doers. Holy Qur’an says:
وَاصْبِرْ نَفْسَكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَدَاةِ وَالْعَشِيِّ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَهُ ۖ وَلَا تَعْدُ عَيْنَاكَ عَنْهُمْ تُرِيدُ زِينَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَا تُطِعْ مَنْ أَغْفَلْنَا قَلْبَهُ عَنْ ذِكْرِنَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُهُ فُرُطًا
Restrain thyself along with those who cry unto their Lord at morn and evening, seeking His Countenance; and let not thine eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, who followeth his own lust and whose case hath been abandoned.(18:28)
The Prophet (S) says:
«اَسْعَدُ النّاسِ مَنْ خالَطَ کِرامَ النّاسِ».
The most prosperous people are those who associate with good and honourable people.11
2- Correcting Environment
Tainted environments, particularly those in which display of sin and vice is popular, increase the risk of involvement to moral vices, and this is an undeniable truth. Thus, one of the actions for hygiene of morality is conflicting vices in the environment and preventing display of sin and vice.

Basically, one of the most important hindrances for involvement in sin and moral vice is the importance and greatness of vice and sin in view of man and his hatred towards them. Display of moral vices and sins decreases its importance in view of people and lessens its hatred and prepares soul for accepting it.

And on this account, for renewing importance of sin in public opinion, it is instructed in Islam to punish evil doers publicly and in presence of people:
وَلْيَشْهَدْ عَذَابَهُمَا طَائِفَةٌ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
And let a party of believers witness their punishment. (24:2)
Thereby, the significance of sin is renewed for people and the barrier which was violated, is restored.
Islam has put a great emphasis on open sin and vice, and has assumed immodesty and open debauchery as the causes of a person's defamation. Imam As-Sadiq (A.S.) says:
«اِذا جاهَرَ الْفاسِقُ بِفِسْقِهِ فَلا حُرْمَةَ لَهُ».
Whenever an evil doer debauches openly, is defamed.12
Imam Al-Baqir (A.S.) says:
«ثَلاثَةٌ لَیْسَ لَهُمْ حُرْمَةٌ: صاحِبُ هَوىً مُبْتَدعٌ وَ الاِْمامُ الْجائِرُ و الْفاسِقُ الْمُعْلِنُ بِالْفِسْقِ».
There shall be no respect for three persons: Innovator, unjust leader, and evil doer debauching openly. 13
Even the narration of stories in respect to vice and adultery which taints minds and prepares environment for accepting vice, is forbidden in Islam's view. Prophet (S) says:
«مَنْ سَمِعَ فاحِشَةً فَاَفْشاها کانَ کَمَنْ اَتاها، وَمَنْ سَمِعَ خَیْراً فَاَفْشاهُ کانَ کَمَنْ عَمِلَهُ».
One, who hears an evil deed and divulges it, is like the one who has performed it, and one, who hears a good deed and divulges it, is like the one who has performed it.14
And as for fighting with physical diseases, we shall first destroy centres tainted with microbe and purify life environment and restrain contamination of air, water, food and such like, it is necessary to purify social life environment from morality deviation means.
3- Emigration and escaping from tainted environments
We shall do our best for correction of tainted and corrupted environments, but if, for any reason, it is not possible to correct the environment, and there is the possibility of being tainted in case of staying there, and we can immigrate to another healthier place, there is no alternative save immigration.

The same is observed in most of physical diseases, when those interested in their health immediately immigrate from the contaminated environment.

"Emigration" enjoys a special concern in Islam and it is interesting that it constitutes the foundation of Islamic Epic. Emigration of Islam's Prophet (S) from Mecca to Medina was nothing else than escaping from a tainted and unfavourable environment to a more favourable one for spreading belief and virtue.

The immigrants at the beginning of Islam enjoy a special privilege and prominence in Islam's history, and several verses are found in Qur’an concerning them. Several traditions are narrated in respect to immigration from parts tainted to sin and polytheism towards healthy parts indicating importance of the matter.

In Majmaol Bayan interpretation under verse:
وَمَنْ يُهَاجِرْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ يَجِدْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مُرَاغَمًا كَثِيرًا وَسَعَةً
Whoso migrateth for the cause of Allah will find much refuge and abundance in the earth. (4:100)
It is narrated from Islam's Prophet (S):
«مَنْ فَرَّ بِدِینِهِ مِنْ اَرْض اِلى اَرْض وَ اِنْ کانَ شِبْراً مِنَ الاَْرْضِ اسْتَوْجَبَ الْجَنَّةَ وَ کانَ رَفِیقَ اِبْراهِیمَ وَ مُحَمَّد».
Whoso emigrates for his religion from a territory to another territory, although it may be as much as one palm of land, deserves paradise and will be companion of Abraham and Mohammad (two great emigrant prophets).15
Emphasis is indicated by the phrase "although it may be as much as one palm of land", and friendship and companionship with these two great prophets is for their immigration. Abraham (A.S.) departed from Babylon, the centre of idolaters and Nimrod, to Syria and Palestine, and Islam's Prophet from Mecca to Medina.
In Ali Ebne Abraham interpretation, under the verse:
يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ أَرْضِي وَاسِعَةٌ فَإِيَّايَ فَاعْبُدُونِ
O my bondmen who believe! Lo! My earth is spacious. Therefore serve Me only. (29:56)
It is narrated from Imam Al-Baqir (A.S.):
«لا تُطِیعُوا اَهْلَ الْفِسْقِ مِنَ الْمُلُوکِ فَاِنْ خِفْتُمُوهُمْ اَنْ یَفْتِنُوکُمْ عَنْ دِینِکُمْ فَاِنَّ اَرْضِی واسِعَةٌ».
Do not follow sinful rulers and if you fear of being deviated from your pure religion (do emigrate) because My Earth is wide.16
Not participating in sin and vice meetings, which is mentioned in Islamic ordinances, and non-privacy with strangers and such like are all considered as sort of short term immigration from sin and mistake and risk area, and surely it is for preventing transmission of moral vices and not being tainted with sin.
1. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 61/65, tradition 51

2. Naraghi, Jami’ as-Saadat 67/1

3. Hurr al-Amili, Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, 122/11, narration 1

4. Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, 123, narration 9

5. Nahjul Balaghah, aphorisms, no. 390

6. Hurr al-Amili, Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, 447/11

7. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 197/74

8. Kulayini, Kafi 375/2

9. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, volume 2, page 128

10. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 191/74

11. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 185/75

12. Hurr al-Amili, Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, 604/8

13. Wasa’il ash-Shi’a,page 605

14. Hurr al-Amili, Wasa’il ash-Shi’a, 609/8

15. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 31/19

16. Ali Ebne Ebrahim commentary, vol. 2, page 151
• Studying and criticism

• Scale for evaluation of good and bad morality

• Effect of seclusion and unsociability in morality

• Arguments of advocators of seclusion and association

• Exceptional cases in which seclusion is permitted

• Vigilance and self-examination or studying incentives and consequences. First, we shall review a prospect of the principles of ethics in view of pioneers of this technique, and study exactly the course of their discussion in brief.

Ethics scholars have summarized principles of moral virtues in four articles:

1- Wisdom

2- Chastity

3- Bravery

4- Justice

They believe that each of these four principles has a norm, between two extremes of sensual powers and instincts, and so moral vices are on two sides of them, and there are two vicious attributes for each virtue.

1- Wisdom means moderation in recognition and understanding of realities as they are, and the opposite side in its high extreme is "slyness and astuteness", which refers to hyperactivity of perception faculty and relying on the probabilities and doubtful matters and non-stability on correct theories and in its low extreme is "stupidity and dullness".

2- Chastity refers to moderation in using lusts and appropriate utilization from desires and instincts, and the opposite side in its high extreme is "greed and self-indulgence" and in its low extreme is "numbness".

3- Bravery is moderation in anger faculty and fearing of what should be feared and not fearing of what should not, and the opposite side in its high extreme is "rashness" and temerity, and in its low extreme is "cowardice" and horror.

4- Justice refers to listening of desire and anger powers to intellect power and their appropriate control for correction and prosperity, and the opposite side in its high extreme is "being oppressed and tolerance of oppression" and in low extreme is "injustice".

They assume moral vices infinite in one aspect, while moral virtues, as the normal limit and moderate point, have only one stage, and thus they have resembled it to the centre of a circle, which is only one point, and the vices to infinite points existing within the circle.

It is narrated from Mohaghegh Tousi, Khajeh Nasireddin and some other scholars that "the path" described in the traditions as:
«اَدَقُّ مِنَ الشَّعْرِ وَ اَحَدُّ مِنَ السَّیْفِ».
"is thinner than hair and sharper than sword", is the same moral moderation. 1
Now, we shall see from where these quadruple principles have originated?

Ethics scholars say in reply: man's soul has three powers:

1- Power of perception and distinction

2- Power of acquiring benefit or "attraction" and in the other word "desire" (in its general sense)

3- Power of loss repulsion or "repulsion" and in the other word "anger"

Moderation in each of these powers forms one of the moral virtues, which are respectively, called wisdom, chastity and bravery.

And when two powers of desire and anger are under control of distinction and perception power, justice is achieved.

In other words, balance in each of the above triple powers is considered as a virtue, but their combination with each other, that is desire and anger being controlled by perception power, will be another virtue.

It often happens that a man is brave and for example, is not afraid unduly in the battle field, but this bravery may be utilized in a wrong way, like fighting for little and worthless objectives, and this is bravery but not justice. But if this bravery is applied for a high and intellectual objective and mixed with wisdom, justice is achieved.
Studying and criticism
The principles mentioned by previous scholars for morality (good and bad) and described in the foregoing discussion are not perfect, although they may seem interesting:

1- There are some good moral habits that placing them in one of the above quadruple principles seems difficult. For instance, philanthropy, self-sacrifice and self-devotion, can hardly be included in "chastity", because it is possible that an individual's desires are moderate, while he lacks self-sacrifice, self-devotion and philanthropy. That is to say he neither aggresses to the rights of others, nor desires their loss, but at the meantime does not have any self-sacrifice and self-devotion.

Moreover, optimism could not be included in "wisdom", because "optimism" differs with "correct distinction".

Perhaps insisting on this quadruple division is caused by the ideology of the ancients who assumed most of world's issues based on the number four, and considered four things as the main elements, and divided body's components and temperaments into four. They considered four diseases as the principles of physical diseases, and assumed one of four temperaments for all medicines. While today it is certain for us that none of these quadruple divisions are correct. The same is true for division of principles of good ethics into four.

2- Including wisdom among principles of moral virtues, and its opposite point among the vices is not appropriate, because moral habits are along the perception system and deal with desires, affections and instincts, not with perceptions, and so interpreting braininess as "good morality" does not seem appropriate.

3- Insisting that all good moral habits are moderation between two extremes is baseless, because although this is true in some cases, it is untrue in others.

For example, considering tolerance of oppression as the high extreme for justice is not suitable, because high extreme is not applicable to justice. If tolerance of oppression means indolence and numbness, it will be the opposite side of chastity, and if it means fearing of adjudication, it will be low extreme of anger power, and anyway high extreme in justice is meaningless, especially when justice is considered as anger and desire powers being controlled by intellect. It is a certainty that high extreme in this control is senseless.

It is concluded that although moderation of good moral habits is true in the cases like bravery and chastity, but it is not a generalization and is untrue in the case of justice and wisdom.

It is also inferred from above discussions that dividing principles of good and bad attributes into four principles has no clear reason, and is even objectionable in different aspects.

Therefore, it is better not to restrict principles of moral virtues to four. Rather, we have good and bad moral attributes as many as different instincts, desires and affections entrusted in man, and training and balancing each of these instincts and desires for being useful and effective for individuals’ and society's perfection is a virtue, and deviation of each of them causing degeneration of individual or society is considered as a vice.

On this account, there are vicious and virtuous attributes as many as man's instincts and desires, just as there are physical diseases as many as different systems of body and its components.

The figure mentioned in traditions and narrations of the Prophet's Household (A.S.) for moral virtues is much more than four. For example, in a well-known tradition at the beginning of Osoul Kafi, it is narrated from Imam As-Sadiq (A.S.) in respect to "hosts of intellect and ignorance", the number of intellect and ignorance hosts is counted to be 75, most part of which are among moral virtues or vices.
Scale for evaluation of good and bad morality
Not all of moral concepts are clear and obvious. Of course, some concepts such as bravery, generosity and self-sacrifice are so clear that nobody doubts in their virtue, and their opposite side (fear, stinginess and selfishness) are obviously among the vices.

But some others may be discussed and doubted in view of being a virtue or a vice. Thus, we cannot pursue moral discussions without having a clear evaluation scale.

For instance, nowadays some of materialist scientists like Bertrand Russell suggest: if performing an action, whatsoever it may be, does not cause a loss for the others, we do not have any reason for condemning it, and we cannot condemn an action only for being tabooed (something which religion or custom regards as forbidden with no reason) and called obscene by an old religion. We shall only consider profit and loss of the action. 2

Following this belief, he prescribes a lot of obscene moralities and actions of not being harmful for the others (including adultery and homosexuality if both parties agree).

Some other materialists like communists believe that most of ancient moral principles have been caused by capitalism economy, and since it is abolished, these principles are eliminated, and so they restrict ethic to the affairs which help in creation or continuation of proletarian revolution (proletariat)

Thus, we shall see what the evaluation scale in these cases is and how we can recognize that an action has a moral and virtuous aspect or is immoral and a vice.

If we want to discuss this with a religious view, our duty is exactly clear, because after recognizing Islam's legitimacy and rightfulness for definite reasons, we shall refer to definite evidences in Qur’an and practices of the Prophet (S) for evaluation of principles of moral virtues and vices.

And in intellectual view, we shall consider this principle that any moral factor supporting man's perfection is a virtue, and any factor degenerating him, is a vice.

But it is noteworthy that a man should not be studied only in view of material aspect and primary requirements in this life. Rather, the spiritual and immaterial aspects in which most of man's honours are summarized and the material life to which is a means of attainment to it, should be exactly noticed.

Therefore, an evil and undesirable action may not cause any difficulty for others, but may result in degeneration of the doer in humanistic and spiritual aspects. Certainly, such action will be a vice.

Those who consider only material aspects, have actually known half of man's existence (the lesser and smaller half), while the ethical principles should be studied based on knowing man's overall existence (including body and soul).

And even worse is communistic ethics, which not only has ignored man's spiritual aspects, but also has focused merely on one part (economic part) in material aspects and has studied man in this respect.

It goes without saying that since such moral doctrines are not accompanied with correct realism and anthropology they cannot cause correct effects, and surely they will involve in great mistakes in distinction of moral virtues and vices.

Therefore, as it was already told, the correct intellectual and logical basis in studying moral principles is man's perfection in all aspects, and recognizing whatsoever helps it, and studying the virtues and vices accordingly.
Effect of seclusion and dissociability in morality
Is purification of carnal soul and acquiring moral virtues better possible in the society or in seclusion and dissociability? This is a question that a lot of people ask themselves.

Some believe that more seclusion for man means healthier morality for him, because a lot of deviations and moral vices and or most of them appear when facing others. Envy, pride, lies, slander, calumny, hypocrisy, grudge and such like are all caused by association with others. The one who does not associate with people, neither slander nor hears it, neither envies nor is envied, neither dissimulates nor is involved in lie, grudge and suspicion.
Arguments of advocators of seclusion and association
Advocators of seclusion and dissociability, among which there are some of ethic scholars and a number of famous pious men and votaries, have other reasons for preference of this action and its effect on improvement of morality in addition to above reasons.

They say: when a man secludes, he can better worship God, and pray Him heartily, can better mediate and reflect on the mysteries of creation and different fields of science and distinguish the realities. In seclusion, there is less love and hatred as well as debate and disputation hindering comprehension of facts and realities, and on this account most of great thinkers live in seclusion and dissociation.

Moreover, when associating and communicating with people, a man often faces the events which create heavy duties for him and it happens that a man neglects in performing his duties and consequently is deviated. For example, in association and living in the society, we often encounter unlawful things and sins and breach of duties that the obligation of bid to good and forbiddance of wrong necessitates to oppose, while we are not sure of performing always our duty in this part. So it is better to select seclusion and escape the responsibilities.

In addition, there are some verses and traditions encouraging seclusion and dissociation. For example, pay attention to the following verses and traditions:
فَلَمَّا اعْتَزَلَهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ ۖ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا نَبِيًّا
So, when he had withdrawn from them and that which they were worshipping beside Allah, We gave him Isaac and Jacob. Each of them We made a prophet. (19:49)
This verse indicates that the bounty of children, as a prophet, was granted to Abraham when he chose seclusion and dissociation.
وَإِذِ اعْتَزَلْتُمُوهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ فَأْوُوا إِلَى الْكَهْفِ يَنْشُرْ لَكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ مِنْ رَحْمَتِهِ
And when ye withdraw from them and that which they worship except Allah, then seek refuge in the Cave; your Lord will spread for you of His mercy. (18:16)
This verse shows that People of Cave became liable to divine favour after seclusion and dissociation.
«قِیلَ لِرَسُولِ اللهِ (صلى الله علیه وآله) : اَیُّ النّاسِ اَفْضَلُ؟ قالَ: مُؤْمِنٌ مُجاهِدٌ بِنَفْسِهِ وَ فِی سَبِیلِ اللهِ تَعالى. قِیلَ: ثُمَّ مَنْ؟ قالَ: رَجُلٌ مُعْتَزِلٌ فِی شِعْب مِنَ الشِّعابِ یَعْبُدُ رَبَّهُ وَ یَدَعُ النّاسَ فِی شَرِّهِ».
3- They asked the Prophet (S): who is superior to all people? He said: the believer who struggles in the way of God. It was asked: Then who is even superior to him? He said: one, in a valley, who has dissociated from people, worships God and people are secure of his evil.3
This tradition too has put the position of seclusion and dissociation after holy struggle and has commended it.
4- In Mesbahol Sharia, it is narrated from Imam As-Sadiq (A.S.):
«صاحِبُ الْعُزْلَةِ مُتَحَصِّنٌ بِحِصْنِ اللهِ وَ مُحْتَرِسٌ بِحَراسَتِهِ فَیاطُوبى لِمَنْ تَفَرَّدَ بِهِ سِرّاً وَ عَلانِیَةً».
The isolated people are in the divine castle and under God's protection; good for those who are with God publicly and in privacy.4
Disadvantages of seclusion and dissociation
Besides the above mentioned advantages and profits for seclusion and dissociation, there are several disadvantages for seclusion and numerous advantages for association which can be accounted for the reasons of excellence and preference of association:

1- The first point clarifying importance and value of association is that acquiring most of virtuous moral habits is only possible in the society and not in solitude, because most of these habits are concerned with the way of relations with each other. Courtesy, modesty, kindness, self-devotion, forgiveness, remission, bravery, patience, suppression of anger, affection, pity and soul appropriation, appear in the relations and associations of men and we surely have to live in the heart of society to acquire these virtues.

On the other hand, being secure from moral vices including envy, pride, lies, slander, through seclusion and dissociation is not actually a virtue and honour, rather it is a kind of "waive by waiver of subject", and it is just like a person who excludes himself from sexuality by any means for being saved from taint to adultery.

Although such person is protected from this stain, but this chastity is not a virtue, rather it is only a safety. The virtue is when a man lives in the society and goes ahead to the edge of crag in the critical moments like Joseph, and preserves his mastery on his soul and returns (of course not creating such events deliberately and on purpose).

Thus for acquiring virtuous habits which are considered as the scale of humanistic values, there is no alternative save living in the society and associating with people.

And in the other words, such typical attributes are achieved through challenge with desires and vicious factors, as resistance and strength of forest wood is due to growing in the hard storms of events, and if they are grown in seclusion and in a closed and restricted environment they lose their resistance, similarly, secluded and dissociable individuals will also gradually lose their spiritual and moral powers. The following tradition may refer to this reality:

At the time of Prophet (S) one of the Muslims went to the mountain for worship and secluded himself. He was brought to Prophet (S) The Prophet said him:
«لا تَفْعَلْ اَنْتَ وَ لا اَحَدٌ مِنْکُمْ، لَصَبْرُ اَحَدِکُمْ فِی بَعْضِ مَواطِنِ الاِْسْلامِ خَیْرٌ مِنْ عِبادَةِ اَحَدِکُمْ اَرْبَعِینَ عاماً».
Neither you, nor none of the Muslims do this, because patience and resistance of one of you in the Islamic environments is better than forty years of worship. 5
This phrase is a reply to the first reasoning of advocators of seclusion.

2- Solitude and seclusion is the source of several mental deviations as well as taste of distortion, because even if a man is brainy, virtuous and tasteful, he still has some mistakes, which are only revealed when encountering others. In association, man finds his mistakes very soon, but in seclusion, since there is not any way of correcting them, he continues his deviated courses, and like the one who is going astray, the more he proceeds, farther he becomes from the main road, and sometimes he finds other deductions based on that deviated thought and gradually a mass of mistakes will occupy his brain, devaluating his thoughts in general.

Meanwhile, this is another reply to the advocators of seclusion who say meditation in seclusion is better possible, as the danger of deviation is much more in seclusion.

3- The other big fault, in which man is involved in seclusion, is vanity and selfishness. Based on self-love instinct, man is usually very interested in himself and his works, and "self-love" instinct is in fact like a magnifier which through its magnification power, shows man's thoughts and actions greater than what they actually are. On other hand, it shows man's faults smaller than what they actually are, and the sum of these two aspects is "vanity and selfishness".

Seclusion and dissociation is a very favourite environment for culture of this vicious attribute. But man knows himself as he actually is, through association with others, he is informed of the real degree of his perfection and virtues, and becomes aware of his faults, and also faces individuals who are more prominent and perfect than himself, and consequently finds his fault, and this cuts the root of vanity in him and or minimizes it. And on this account, it is widely seen that secluded and dissociable persons have made big and sometimes odd claims all showing their deep vanity and selfishness.

Moreover, another great advantage of association with people is clarified herein, that is recognizing one's own faults. People, parti

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