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The Bases and Principles of Ethics and Education In Islam

Against the different schools which have dealt with the philosophy of ethics and education, Islam, too, has offered specific principles and bases. To study these principles one is referred to the Qur’an, tradition, and books on ethics and Hadith. However, a summary of these principles will suffice here:

Man possesses a specific ability for material and spiritual growth. The flourishing of this growth in all phases is possible only in the worshiping God and asking for His help.

However, the Islamic ethics and education are based on monotheism, resurrection, the existence of spirit and its ever-lasting status after death and a preference for spiritual pleasures over material ones. The Islamic ethics and education will emphasize on any action which will help man attain his exultance (which is to have sacred beliefs and proper behavior) and manifest all his spiritual and material abilities and all his personal and social capabilities. In contrast, any act which hinders his growth is prohibited by the Islamic ethical education.

One of the characteristics of the Islamic ethics and education is that they have root in human innate nature. Islam invites people to monotheism, to resurrection, to justice, to piety and to worship. This is because all of these traits stem from his nature. And Ibn al-Athir in al-Nihayah defines "fitrah" or nature as:

    "اِنَّهُ يُولَدُ على نَوعٍ مِنَ الجِبلَةِ والطَبعِ المُتهيئ لِقَبولِ الدِّينِ فلو تُرِكَ عَلَيها لاستَمَرَّ على لُزُومِها ولمَ يُفارِقها اِلى غَيرِها واِنَّما يَعدِلُ عَنهُ مَن يَعدِلُ لآفة مِن آفاتِ البَشَرِ والتقليد"

“Man is created according to a natural disposition and nature that is inclined to accept religion. If he is left on it, he will continue in accordance with its requirements, and will not separate from it to other than it. One who turns away from it only does so because of an evil in mankind and blind imitation.”73

The famous hadith which Ibn al-Athir delves on is the following:

    "كُلُّ مَولُودٍ يُولَدُ على الفِطرَةِ حتى يَكُونَ اَبَواهُ يُهَوِدَانِهِ ويُنَصِّرانِهِ"74

“Every child is born according to the original nature until his parents make him a Jew or a Christian.”

The following sacred verse, too, emphasizes the same thing:

    "فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ"

"Then set your face upright for religion in the right state-the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah's creation; that is the right religion."74

One of the characteristics of Islamic ethics and education is that they are based on science, wisdom and logic and not on ignorance, superstition and following by imitation.

The objective of the Islamic ethics and education is to purify man's soul and spirit so that he can make use of all the means that he has at his disposal and in this way could reach the title "God's vicegerent on the earth" and "To meet God".

And since the justification of these principles, traits and aims is only possible in the light or Qur’an, Tradition and all-pervasive researches in the life- giving school of Islam, therefore the details can only be reached by referring to the above–mentioned sources.75 I have selected the treatise of Imam ‘Ali (as) which is written for his son as a good example.

Notes:

 

73. Al-Nihayah, vol.3, p.475.

74. Qur’an 30:30.

75. Refer to the following: Al-Mahajjah al-Bayda, Ihya’ al-‘ulum, Jami’ al-Sa'adat, Bihar, Wasa’il, Wafi, The Educational principles in Islam, The principles and philosophy of education, Islamic Education, Ethics from the view of human values and co-existence, A second glimpse at the Islamic Education.

Adapted from: "Imam 'Ali's First Treatise on The Islamic Ethics and Education" by: "Zainol Aabideen Qorbani Lahiji"