The advancements and degenerations of human societies do not depend solely on sciences and material progress. Rather, it is the observation of these ethical standards which bring about either prosperity or fall of such societies. The poet says:
Ethics keeps the human race alive; a tribe of humanity which lacks ethics is doomed to die.
At times, the lack of observation of one of the ethical standards might create a human disaster such as the world wars10 or affect the good desires of a good-doer. On the contrary, observing such standards saves a man who is going to fall, or covers his faults.
Thus, ethics is a requirement for both statesmen and the Messengers of Allah. That is why, the magnificent Qur’an, after eleven oaths, emphasizes that: he who attains salvation is one who purifies his soul of ethical corruptions and the wretched is one who corrupts his soul:
"قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسَّاهَا"
“He will indeed be successful who purifies it (the soul) and he will indeed fail who corrupts it”.11
The Prophet (S) was appreciated by God for holding the highest degree of ethical codes:
"و إنّك لعَلى خُلُقٍ عَظِيم"
“And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.”12
And the secret for his appointment to the prophetic mission was his attainment of highest degree of sublime morality.
But unfortunately, the present world, especially the West, has turned into robots lacking souls and morality codes.
Alexis Carrel, the renowned French scholar, writes in this regard, "As soon as we renounced the precepts of the Gospel, we renounced all interior discipline. The new generation is not even aware that such a discipline ever existed. Temperance, honor, truthfulness, responsibility, purity, self-mastery, love of one's neighbor, heroism are outworn expressions; meaningless words which provoke nothing but a contemptuous smile from the young”.
""For modern man, the only rule of conduct is his own good pleasure. Everyone is enclosed in his own egoism like the crab in its shell and, again like the crab, seeks to devour his neighbor.
"Elementary social relations have changed profoundly; everywhere, division reigns. Marriage has ceased to be a permanent bond between man and woman.
"Both the material and the psychological conditions of modern existence have created a propitious climate for the breaking up of family life. Children are now considered a nuisance, if not a calamity.
"This is the final result of having abandoned those rules which, in the past, Western man had the courage and wisdom to impose on his individual and social conduct”"13
10. Napoleon entered the conference at Paris earlier than the others to be saluted by them. The king of Russia did not salute him. This action led to the destruction of Russia. The French army died of cold there, too. Later Napoleon was banished to the Island of Saint Helena. He had to stay there for six years, dying there because of stomach ulcer and for his longing for his family (Qible Islam).
11. Qur’an 91:9.
12. Qur’an 68:4.
13. Reflections on life, pp. 6-7.
Adapted from: "Imam 'Ali's First Treatise on The Islamic Ethics and Education" by: "Zainol Aabideen Qorbani Lahiji"