Rafed English

The Difference between Moral and Legal Laws

Adopted from the book : "Freedom; The Unstated Facts and Points" by : "Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi"

In the course of the life of man, there are two kinds of dangers. The first kind refers to the dangers related only to ourselves. If we do not abide by the laws and regulations, we have brought harm to ourselves. In reality, the harm and loss of non-abidance with the regulations are individual and personal.

In these events, decrees are enacted and following which is emphasized, which are technically moral laws and they are called as such. If a person would not pray or, God forbid, would commit other sin in privacy in such a manner that no one would be aware of it, this person has harmed and wreaked himself. Nobody will pursue him and ask why he has committed such a sin in privacy.

Nobody is even permitted to investigate it because spying on actions done in privacy by individuals is unlawful. For, this issue is a personal one. Although there are moral admonitions, decreeing that even in privacy man shall not commit sin and think of committing one, these admonitions are like the warning signs posted along the roads.

It is similar to the admonition to drive slowly, which in case of its non-observance and deviation from right to left, or to have high speed, man has brought harm to himself, and the police will no more look after him. Nevertheless, the second kind of danger is not related only to the person himself.

In case of non-observance of the rules and regulations, which are technically called legal laws, both the person in question and the society will be harmed. As such, these laws have the assurance to be executed, and violation of which shall be dealt with accordingly.

These are similar to the driving offenses that will bring about accidents for others and endanger their lives. It is on this account that the police will pursue and penalize the offender. It is here that legal laws, including penal and criminal laws, are brought up vis-à-vis moral laws. That is, this domain is concerned with the field of law and laws enacted by the legislative organs and enactment of which is guaranteed by the government.

Thus, the basic difference of the moral rules with the legal rules is that in the moral rules, nobody is the guarantor of their execution such that anyone who violates them will be penalized. If someone is being pursued, it is not a violation from the moral perspective, but from its legal perspective it is, which is related to the laws and the government, the guarantor of its execution. And if “privacy” would be advanced, it is legal in its general sense, otherwise it is penal and criminal.

In any case, just as a driver must be careful of his life as well as that of the passengers and to keep them from danger, man is like a traveler who moves from a starting point and will face many dangers along the way leading to the destination.

These dangers are sometimes related to himself and have individual rules for which there are moral admonitions. Yet, wherever there are possible dangers to be posed on others, or somehow morally corrupt others, or encroach on their lives, properties and chastity, it falls under the legal (in contrast to moral) laws, which the government has to execute.

If with regard to the driving rules we mentioned, a boastful driver would say, “I am free and I want to act in violation of the rules,” and its consequences will harm him only, they will merely advise him to be careful and cautious otherwise his life will be endangered, but if the lives of others are also threatened, they will prevent him.

The police will chase him. Through the use of different devises such as radar, electronic cams, automatic cameras, and others, they will pursue and punish him. Here, nobody will say that the police’s pursuit is against the freedom of man. All people and all rational individual in the world acknowledge that if a certain act of individual poses a threat to others, there must be a law to curtail the freedom of violator because that freedom is not legitimate and legal. The intellect does not accept this freedom as it poses a threat to other people.

All rational people accept this subject and we do not know of any ‘rational’ person who, out of knowledge and awareness, would say that man should be free in life such that he could do whatever he likes no matter what harm it entails for himself as well as for the lives, properties and chastity of others; nobody confirms and approves this statement. Thus, wherever there must be a law, and the society must accept that law and be acknowledged by the individuals, there is no dispute.

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