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Dr Alizade

The Rationality of Islamic Morality and Modern Challenges (What is the Islamic Moral/Intellectual Roadmap for Life?)


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As an introduction, I will deal with the four different approaches to Islamic ethics in the history of Islamic ethics, which are as follow: 

Philosophical approach

Mystical-Intuitive approach

Transmitted approach

Integrative approach

In the second part, the Glorious Quran and Intellect along with their characteristics will be discussed as two more important resources of Islamic ethical system.

And finally, we will address an important part of the new-born challenges of the modern life, i.e. the ethical crises of the genetic technology and criticize the modern civilization rationality. 

Four main approaches to Islamic ethics

 In the history of Islamic ethics, there are four different approaches to ethics that are respectively philosophical approach, mystical-intuitive approach, transmitted approach and integrative approach. 

Philosophical Approach

Philosophical Morality

Philosophy is divided into speculative philosophy and practical philosophy.

Speculative philosophy deals with the modes of beings which are not under human beings will and control.

Practical philosophy is a science of the realities whose realization is under human beings will and control.

Practical philosophy is divided into three branches:

A. Ethics

B. Domestic politics

C. National politics

According to philosophers, it is an increase in human knowledge and his intellectual development that should be regarded as human beings perfection. When  the human’s will be at the service of appetitive facultys pleasures or irascible faculty, following these appetites and low desires makes him neglect requirements of rational faculty –such as gaining knowledge.

As a result of aforementioned points, for philosophers, Self-purification is the very removing obstacles from the path of thinking and total actualization of, the rational faculty; and according to philosophers, the science of morality, in fact, is the science of the agents of the soul and voluntary behaviors which affect the process of thinking and intellectual self-actualization.

Sub-Approaches to Philosophical Morality:

There are certain sub-approaches to morality within the very philosophical approach. Sometimes they are called as follow:

Galenical sub-approach

Platonic sub-approach

Pythagorean-Hermesian sub-approach

Aristotelian sub-approach

Of course epistemological considerations, during the history of sciences, show that It is doubtful if the first three sub-approaches are properly attributed to Greek philosophers.

Al-tibb al-ruhani (Spiritual Medicine), by Mohammad ibn Zakariyyayi Razi (d. 313 A.H.), is the main representative of Galenical sub-approach. Maintaining that the science of morality is a branch of general medicine, Razi, in his book, studies human psychological trauma as a pathologist physician.

Farabis (d. 339 A.H.) works such as Tahsil al-Saada (Attainment of Happiness) and Fusul Muntazia are representatives of Platonic sub-approach. In this sub-approach, special emphasis is laid on the civil and social aspects of human happiness.

The Pythagorean-Hermesian sub-approach that emphasizes on allegorical interpretations of realities of the world and mankind and on the effects of celestial souls on human moralities, can be found in the ninth treatise of Rasail Ikhwān al-Safa (Epistles of Sincere Brethren).

Abu Ali Miskwayh (d. 421 A.H.) and his well-known book, Tahzib al-Akhlaq wa Tathir al-araq, are the most leading representatives of the Aristotelian sub-approach whose fundamental characteristic is the golden rule of ‘moderation’. Of course, it is worth mentioning that this book lays great emphasis on civil aspects of human life.

In the meantime, there are some important  and scholarly works such as Tahzib al-Akhlaq (Cultivation of Morals) by Ibn Maytham (d. 430 A.H.) and Madarij al-Kamal by Afdhal al-Din kadshani (d. 610 A.H.) which, while holding the fundamental principles of   philosophical morality school, do not belong specifically to any four sub-approaches mentioned above.

In studying the history of Islamic ethics, intuitive approach is the third one that results in mystical ethics. Many definitions of Irfan (mysticism/gnosis) and Tasawwuf (Sufism) have been offered; for example, Abd al-Razzaq Kashani defines Tasawwuf as assuming the character traits of Allah(Istilahat Sufiyya, p. 156). Tahanawi says, sufi is the one who is fani (annihilated) to self and baqi (abiding/subsistent) by God (Kashshaf Istilahat al-Funun, V. 1, p. 841).

The aim of mystical school of ethics is training perfect man whose characteristics consist in:

Loving God exclusively  assuming the character traits of Allah and acquiring His attributions  Escaping from "self" towards self-annihilation and total submission to God Based on mystical epistemology, special emphasis is put on vision (intuition) of heart and empirical and rational methods of gaining knowledge are not adequate.

For mystics, it is the "heart" (i.e. inner perception) of human being – not his intellect, body or senses – that is his true essence. According to mystics, human soul is of several stages and levels which exist in a sequential (longitudinal) order; for them, spiritual wayfaring, therefore, is to go successively through the stages of soul.

By transmitted approach, we mean the ethical approach and a set of books which have collected Islamic moral traditions and, at most, classified them. Works such as Mishkāt al-Anwār by Tabarsi (d. 548 A.H.), Ghurar al-Hikam by Abdul-Wāhid Āmudi (d. 550 A.H.), al-Zuhd by Hussein bin Sa’īd Ahwāzī (d. 250 A.H.), and Musādiqat al-Ikhwān by Sheikh Sadūq (d. 381 A.H.) from Shiite scholars; and Sh’uab al-Īmān by Bayhaqi (d. 458 A.H.), al-Adab al-Mufrad by Bukhārī (d. 256 A.H.), al-Zuhd by Abdullah bin Mubārak (d. 181 A.H.), and Rasā’il by Ibn Abi al-Dunyā (d. 281 A.H.)  from Sunnite scholars, can be considered as the most remarkable and important works of this approach.

Of course, it must be noted that a limited number of traditions in these books deal with Islamic etiquettes (mores/customs) of –for example- how to go to bed, how to eat, how to wear clothes, how to travel, how to get married and the like; so that they are not exactly moral or ethical.

With a little negligence, we could say that the authors of this approach have unanimously presupposed that morality or ethics depends on the Islamic revelation and it is in need of the revelation. Based on this approach and the relevant literature, perhaps it is possible to say Islamic revelation is the only –or at least the most important- source of Islamic morality and it is not correct - or at least not enough- to justify ethical propositions by means of mystical-intuitive approach or philosophical approach.

Now, the question is as follows: have these books and treatises been written to design a revealed ethical system or they have tried their best just to put a great deal of Islamic ethical narrations in a proper order? In other words, is it possible to see these works as ethical or they must be regarded as only tradition/Hadith collections which can be used as the main resources of ethical books?

Undoubtedly, most of these works do not enjoy these qualifications and are just collection of traditions. This is because a series of repeated traditions – general and specific – have been collected under a given subject without any attempt to classify them and extract Islamic ethical rules.   

Among various approaches to ethics, there has been an approach to ethics advocates of which did not tend to take just an especial and given approach from three above-mentioned approaches, i.e. transmitted approach, mystical-intuitive approach and philosophical approach; this approach tried to benefit from all the three kind of transmitted, intellectual and intuitive-mystical resources of knowledge to a maximum extent.

The most important reason to call the books of this approach as “integrative” is the integrating methods of citation and presenting the ethical teachings.

It should be noted that integration of the methods and resources in this approach can be at its maximum level, thereby all the three resources of intellect, transmitted tradition and intuition are used.

The following books are some examples of strong integrative approach:

Ihyao Olum al-Din by Abu Hamid Mohammad Ghazzali (d. 505 AH.)

Alhqaiq by Muhsin Fayz Kashani (d. 1091 AH.)

JamiuS Saadat by Mahdi Naraqi (d. 1209 AH.)

The integration can also be at its minimum level, in which only intellect and intuition or intellect and transmitted traditions are integrated and taken as method and resource.

The following books are some examples of strong integrative approach:

Arriaya Li Hquq i- Allah by Harith ibn Asad Muhasibi (d.243 AH.)

Adab u-Ddunya wa-Ddin by Abul-Hassan Ali ibn Mohammad Basri, known as Imam Mawardi (d.450 AH.)

Al-Zaria ila Makarim al-Sharia by Hussain ibn Mohammad Raghib Isfahani (d. 502 AH.)


Every branch of science in general possesses two parameters: rationality and efficiency. In addition to these two, Islamic sciences have in particular a third parameter called Authoritativeness (hujjiyyat).

It is necessary for a science to be capable for transmission from a mind to another and understandable for all scientific minds and opinions. Inter-subjective acceptability of a science is rooted in its being transmittable, and the fact that its propositions should be convincing and verifiable. Efficiency of a science means that is able to accomplish the particular tasks assigned to it by the society. Authoritativeness means that propositions of a religious science are attributed to religion and, in more accurate words of science of Usul al-Fiqh, authoritativeness of a reason is signed by Allah as the Legislator.

The epistemic resources of Islamic morality include the Quran, Sunnah, Intellect and Intuition. It must be noted that Muslim scholars of ethics, during the history of Islamic ethics, have regarded the Quran and Intellect as two main sources of Islamic ethics, and indeed there has been some different views concerning whether Sunnah and Intuition are qualified to be sources of Islamic ethics, and if so, to what extent.

The Quran is named as proof, light, guidance, illuminating book and separator (distinguisher) by Allah the Almighty. The aim of the Quran is to train and refine human being and guide him to reach his high human status. Therefore, the special goal of The Quran is to guide people and because of this it has a unique capability for granting knowledge. It is possible, therefore, to find a great deal of profoundly moral teachings of the Quran, stated in different expressive styles.

Four most important areas of ethics, i.e. principles of ethics, descriptive ethics, normative ethics and moral education, have been explained in the Quran. Moral teachings of the Quran are very convincing, justifiable, and mutually understandable.

… We have certainly made the signs clear for you, should you apply reason. (3/118)

یاأَيهُّا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَتَّخِذُواْ بِطَانَةً مِّن دُونِكُمْ لَا يَأْلُونَكُمْ خَبَالًا وَدُّواْ مَا عَنِتُّمْ قَدْ بَدَتِ الْبَغْضَاءُ مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَ مَا تُخْفِى صُدُورُهُمْ أَكْبرَ قَدْ بَيَّنَّا لَكُمُ الاَيَاتِ  إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْقِلُون (آل عمران/ 118).

Thus does Allah clarify His signs for you so that you may apply reason. (24/61).

لَّيْسَ عَلىَ الْأَعْمَى‏ حَرَجٌ وَ لَا عَلىَ الْأَعْرَجِ حَرَجٌ وَ لَا عَلىَ الْمَرِيضِ حَرَجٌ وَ لَا عَلىَ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَن تَأْكلُواْ مِن بُيُوتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ ءَابَائكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ إِخْوَانِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخَوَاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَعْمَمِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ عَمَّتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخْوَالِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ خَلَاتِكُمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكْتُم مَّفَاتحِهُ أَوْ صَدِيقِكُمْ  لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَأْكُلُواْ جَمِيعًا أَوْ أَشْتَاتًا  فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُم بُيُوتًا فَسَلِّمُواْ عَلىَ أَنفُسِكُمْ تحَيَّةً مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ مُبَرَكَةً طَيِّبَةً  كَذَالِكَ يُبَينِ‏ُّ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الاَيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُون (النور / 61(

Since the Glorious Quran is over-widely transmitted and is an eternal miracle for Muslims, it is certain that it came definitely from God the Omniscient. Not only is the Quran the first and most authoritative resource of Islamic teachings, but also it is a primary criterion for authoritativeness and attribution of everything to Islam. The Glorious Quran, therefore, is the most important resource of Islamic sciences including Islamic ethics.

Considering the fact that the Glorious Quran is beyond time and place and that the Omniscient knows all human needs and Islam, being the last Divine religion, predicted all human scientific needs, this Divine scripture is an informative book that responds to all serious questions of intelligent and thoughtful persons forever and cures all human illnesses.

A short review of principles, criterion, goal, models and educational approach of Quranic ethical system:

The anthropological principles are the most important principles of every   ethical system.  The most important anthropological principles of the Quran are as follow:

Immortality of soul or spirit; e. g.:

Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him we indeed return. (2/156)

Allah takes the souls at the time of their death,… . (39/42)

Intrinsic dignity; e. g.:

Certainly We have honoured the children of Adam. (17/70)

Acquired dignity depending on piety levels; e. g.:

Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most Godwary among you. (49/13)

يَأَيهُّا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكمُ مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَ أُنثىَ‏ وَ جَعَلْنَاكمُ‏ْ شُعُوبًا وَ قَبَائلَ لِتَعَارَفُواْ  إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكمُ‏ْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَئكُمْ  إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِير(الحجرات / 13).

Moral responsibility and free will; e. g.:

Every soul is hostage to what it has earned. (74/38)

كلُ‏ُّ نَفْسِ  بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينه (المدثر / 38)

And that nothing belongs to man except what he strives for. (53/39)

وَ أَن لَّيْسَ لِلْانسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَی (النجم /39)

The fact that moral virtues and vices are acquired;  e. g.:

So whoever does an atoms weight of good will see it, (99/7)

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَه (الزلزله / 7)

and whoever does an atoms weight of evil, will see it. (99/8)

وَ مَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَه (الزلزله /8)

Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity. Whatever

[good] it earns is to its benefit, and whatever

[evil] it incurs is to its harm. (2/286)

لَا يُكلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا  لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَ عَلَيهَْا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ  رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا  رَبَّنَا وَ لَا تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلىَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا  رَبَّنَا وَ لَا تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ  وَ اعْفُ عَنَّا وَ اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَ ارْحَمْنَا  أَنتَ مَوْلَئنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلىَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَفِرِي (البقره / 286)

According to the Quran, criterions for moral value is "perfectionism", in other words, complete flourishing of human especial dispositions and aptitudes.

In the Quranic ethical system, which is based on the pure monotheism, the point of departure of the moral journey is the belief in God (Iman bi Al-Lah) and the final point of the moral journey (the point of perfection) is proximity (Qurb) to Allah and assuming His character traits (Taklalluq bi Aklaq Al-Lah). As we read in the Quran:

O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! (89/27,28)

يَأَيَّتهَُا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئنه( الفجر/27)

ارْجِعِى إِلىَ‏ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّیه(الفجر/28)

In addition to describing the morals of good exemplars such as the prophets and bad persons such as Pharaoh, Qarun, Samaritan and so on, the Quran describes the morality of the peoples such as Children of Israel, Aad, Thamud, Lut, and so on.

Moral Educational Approach is mostly pathological; because the Quran mentions just 40 Virtues, but we can find more than 80 Vices in it.

The Second resource: Intellect

Intellectuality of Intellect:

 the inter-subjective intellectuality of rational arguments is inevitable; for the reason that rational alphabet is the ground of any initial communications and is the only universal and general language. The argumental and demonstrating power of Intelligence is also evident.

Authoritativeness of Intellect:

Demonstrating the principles of religious laws is upon the verification of Intelligence. This is the most important reason for legitimacy of Intelligence (practical intellect). So every faithful Muslim in advance has accepted the validity of the practical intellect. With a little negligence, we could say that the authors of this approach have unanimously presupposed that morality or ethics depends on the Islamic revelation and it is in need of the revelation. Based on this approach and the relevant literature, perhaps it is possible to say Islamic revelation is the only –or at least the most important- source of Islamic morality and it is not correct - or at least not enough- to justify ethical propositions by means of mystical-intuitive approach or philosophical approach.

Now, the question is as follows: have these books and treatises been written to design a revealed ethical system or they have tried their best just to put a great deal of Islamic ethical narrations in a proper order? In other words, is it possible to see these works as ethical or they must be regarded as only tradition/Hadith collections which can be used as the main resources of ethical books?

Undoubtedly, most of these works do not enjoy these qualifications and are just collection of traditions. This is because a series of repeated traditions – general and specific – have been collected under a given subject without any attempt to classify them and extract Islamic ethical rules.   

The principle of “essentiality of goodness and badness” (husn wa qubhi zati) means that the standard of the goodness and moral pertinence of an act exist in itself not because of that God has ordered to it. Adliyya (Shiite and Mutazilite) for demonstrating the essential goodness and badness of behaviors apply to these verses:

Verily God has enjoined justice, the doing of good, and the giving of gifts to your relatives; and forbidden indecency, impropriety and oppression. He warns you so that you may remember.(16/90)

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَ الْاحْسَنِ وَ إِيتَاى ذِى الْقُرْبىَ‏ وَ يَنْهَى‏ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَ الْمُنكَرِ وَ الْبَغْىِ  يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُون (النحل /90)

… who bids things noble and forbids things vile … . (7/157)

وَ اتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِى ءَاتَيْنَاهُ ءَايَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَنُ فَكاَنَ مِنَ الْغَاوِين(الاعراف/175)

Should We equate those who do the right with those who spread corruption in the land? Should We make those who are morally integrated equal to those who seek disintegration? (38/28)

أَمْ نجَعَلُ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَ عَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ كاَلْمُفْسِدِينَ فىِ الْأَرْضِ أَمْ نجَعَلُ الْمُتَّقِينَ كاَلْفُجَّار(ص/28)

The principle of "intellectual nature of goodness and badness" (husn wa qubhi aqli) of some behaviors" means that the reason can distinguish between good and bad and why they are good or bad, and in these cases we are in no need of Divine commands to know about goodness or badness of some acts; e.g. the human intellect can find out the goodness of justice and badness of tyranny, with no need of religious order. Demonstrating this principle, Adliyya refer to verses like:

Will you enjoin good deeds on the others and forget your own selves? You also read the Scriptures, why do you then not understand? (2/44)

أَ تَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبرِِّ وَ تَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَ أَنتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ  أَ فَلَا تَعْقِلُون (القره /44)

they say: "Why do you tell them what the Lord has revealed to you? They will only dispute it in the presence of your Lord. Have you no sense indeed?" (2/76)

وَ إِذَا لَقُواْ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قَالُواْ ءَامَنَّا وَ إِذَا خَلَا بَعْضُهُمْ إِلىَ‏ بَعْضٍ قَالُواْ أَ تحَُدِّثُونهَُم بِمَا فَتَحَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لِيُحَاجُّوكُم بِهِ عِندَ رَبِّكُمْ  أَ فَلَا تَعْقِلُون (القره / 76)

Moreover, in this regard we can also apply to the famous narration from Imam Kazim (as) about intellect (Aql): Allah the Almighty has granted all human beings two authoritative Guides: exterior Guide, which is the Apostles and the Prophets, and interior Guide, which is the Intellects; and the famous narration from Imam Sadiq (as) about the forces of intellect and ignorance (Aql wa Jahl). Shia scholars deduced that intellect is religion form inside and religion is intellect form outside.

Intellectual goodness and badness has two versions: maximum version and minimum version. The minimum version means intellect understands goodness and badness of just some behaviors and maximum version means the intellect understands goodness and badness of all behaviors. Shiite defends the minimum version and Mutazilite defends the maximum version

From the Shiite point of view, the particular rulings that intellect alone cannot discover in the domain of Fiqh are so less than that in ethics.

Efficiency of intellect is as much as the capacities which it gives to ethical thinking; thus we take a glance into the ethical cognitive capacities of intellect: 

Intellect is divided into three types regarding how it contemplates:

Abstract and deductive intellect

Empirical intellect

Intuitional intellect

Abstract intellect, in moral philosophy, seeks to philosophically justify grounds of ethical system and specify criterion of ethical rightness in normative ethics.

Empirical intellect is applicable in two areas of descriptive ethics and moral education.

Man through introspection and intuitional knowledge can find out the ethical judgment of some voluntary behaviors and these psycho-empirical propositions are among the self evident propositions which some call them intuitional intellect. This intuitional intellect is very effective in the process of moral judgments and moral education.

 to sum up, we said that the Quran and intellect help each other as two exterior and interior authoritative guides, so that a faithful person in the light of perfect awareness coming from them reaches a high level of moral education. Imam Ali (as) in a very beautiful and informative tradition introduces divine prophecies and revelations in general and the Holy Quran in particular as arousing human intellect (li yuthiru lahum dafain al- uqul; Nahj. Sermon 1;). It means that stimulating and actualizing of human rational faculty is the prophets mission of knowledge.

Therefore, it is obligatory for us to not value the knowledge deviates from Quranic epistemic system on the one hand, and on the other hand to reject unreasonable conceptions of the Quran. What is required of us, by Islam, is that we have to try our best always to balance our Quranic and intellectual understanding to the maximum. It is only on the basis of this analysis that the maxim of Aql-Sharia correlation, (i.e. whatever Islamic law (Sharia) order to it is ordered to by intellect (Aql) and vice versa) is reasonable and justifiable.

Meta-Ethics is a branch of philosophical studies on morality. Its aim is to deal with correctness and truth of moral concepts and propositions critically and with epistemological concerns. For this reason, sometimes, they call it critical ethics.

Are the moral concepts used in value statements informative or not? And thereby

Are moral statements predicative or imperative?

These questions are the most important epistemological issues in Meta-Ethics.

in Meta-Ethics

 Are moral concepts such as ‘good/bad’, ‘right/wrong’ and ‘ought/ought not to’ indicative of objective referents independent of human mind?

 And if so, what kind of existence do the objective referents of moral concepts have?

These questions are the most important section of ontological discussions in Meta ethics.

What is moral realism?

Moral realism believes that moral values are

 of objective existence and thereby moral concepts such as good/bad, right/wrong, ought/ought not to and duty are indicative of objective realities and moral values.

Moral Realists’ Claims:

a. Moral truths exist in the objective world; and therefore, there exist  moral concepts such as good, bad, right, wrong, virtue and vice which are irreducible to non-moral concepts.

b. These truths are independent of our awareness, the state in which we think, our beliefs, tendencies, emotions and wishes (appetites).

c. If a proposition denotes moral truths and properties, it means the proposition has the capacity to be true or false.

d. At least some of the moral judgments and properties are true.

Moral Unrealism

Rejecting any one of the moral realistic claims, unrealistic views come into existence. For instance, emotivists, like A. J. Ayer holding that the moral judgments express only the good or bad emotions of the judgment maker, and prescriptivists, like R. M. Hare regarding moral judgments just as prescriptions generalized to other similar cases, are classified as unrealists. To sum up, moral unrealists see moral values as having no real, independent existence beyond the mind of the judgment maker.

Moral relativism is a clear and direct consequence of unrealism, which finally leads to invalidity of moral values. Moral relativism means that there is no moral judgment that can be everlasting and for everywhere.

In contrast, moral absolutism means that all moral values and judgments (not etiquettes) are beyond time and place; i. e., they are permanent for all human beings in all places and all times.

Moral relativism has two types:

a. Epistemological Moral relativism

b. Sociological Moral relativism

According to Epistemological Moral relativism, the concepts predicating moral judgments are reduced either to mere expressing the personal emotions of the judgment maker (regarding good/bad) or to his tendency towards ordering one to do something (concerning ought to/ ought not to).

Based on Sociological Moral relativism, different cultural etiquettes and customs in different societies show the fact that moral values are conventional and culture bound.

An accurate analysis of moral concepts in Islamic philosophy, based on the invention of  “philosophical secondary intelligible (intention)”:

It is possible to suppose an end for morality and then study human voluntarily actions and qualities, and see if they come to achieve the end. If the actions and qualities reach the goal, it is true to apply the property of " moral good" to them. But if they failed to obtain the end, it is true to attribute the property of "bad" to them; and if they are indifferent to both sides, neither helping the moral agent to reach the end nor preventing him from achieving the goal, they have to be regarded as ‘indifferent’. Goodness and badness of a voluntarily action or quality are not like colure and shape of physical things, to be readily observed. Rather, they are true realities that can be grasped only by a double mental activity.

This additional mental activity is in fact examining the fact whether the voluntarily action and quality play any role to reach the moral end or not. If they help morality to achieve its goal, it is possible to abstract the title and concept of "good" from the relationship between them and the moral end; and if they cause the moral agent to miss the moral goal, it is the title and concept of "bad" that must be abstracted from the relationship.

As a result of the aforementioned analysis, that we expect to be able to figure goodness and badness out just as the way we can think of the colure and shape of physical things is basically an unreasonable expectation; because goodness and badness are not like primary intelligible of a quiddity that can exist independently in real world.

Likewise, if fire is the cause of heat, it is not reasonable to think that there should be something by the name of cause alongside the light, heat and other effects of the fire. But in fact, causality is an objectively true relationship between the fire and the heat and light; and its concept is abstracted from the relationship.

The real referent of the concept of goodness and badness is just as the real referent of a concept such as "cause". It means that goodness and badness are actualized in reality by means of the real relationship between the voluntarily actions and the moral end from which their concepts is abstracted, just as the causality comes into reality by means of the real relationship between fire and heat which is the source of abstraction of the concept of the causality. Moral realism is in need of nothing more than this.

In other words, having a real referent in external world is realized either by means of an instance of a thing such as width and length or by means of having a source of abstraction such as cause, effect, goodness, badness, right, wrong and etc.

If nobody exists on the earth to observe the causality of fire for burning a piece of wood, there would be no problem and fire will burn the wood really. It is the case in moral values area. It means that whether anybody exists on the earth or not, killing an innocent being is realistically wrong and it has negative value, but rescuing a living being is good and has positive value. The real existence of values, therefore, is independent of existence of human beings.

Consequently, moral concepts aim to denote the true value realities, which are beyond the mind or emotions of individuals and independent of human being existence. In this way, we can prove moral realists claims.

To sum up, it is to say that a morally good action is the action that is objectively effective in the process of achieving the goal of morality in the external world and a morally bad action is the action that prevents a moral agent from achieving the moral goal.

According to the aforementioned analysis of moral judgments on the basis of Islamic philosophy, moral concepts denote the objective realities that come from the permanent and everlasting relationship between voluntarily action and its end.

Based on Islamic intellectuality, moral concepts and judgments, therefore, are not subject to individual feelings, emotions or wishes or social agreements among members of society, and, consequently, moral relativism is apparently false and invalid.

In Islamic view, because of being the last of divine revelations and because of the fact that Islamic teachings are everlasting, Islamic revelation shows that moral values and principles are permanent and eternal. In the holy Quran, moreover, there is a great deal of evidences supporting the fact that moral values are absolute.

According to the Glorious Quran, God the Almighty addresses all human beings (al-Nas) by phrases such as O mankind! (ya ayyuhannas; 7/158)

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ فَآَمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الْأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُون(الاعراف / 158)

and O children of Adam (ya bani Adam; 36/60),

أَلَمْ أَعْهَدْ إِلَيْكُمْ يَا بَنِي آَدَمَ أَنْ لَا تَعْبُدُوا الشَّيْطَانَ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُبِينٌ ( یس/60)

  and gives the message of Islamic revelation to all of them, and places a great emphasis on the fact that the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.) is sent to all human beings.

For example:

And this Quran has been revealed to me that I may warn thereby you and whomever it may reach. (6/19).

قُلْ أَيُّ شَيْءٍ أَكْبَرُ شَهَادَةً قُلِ اللَّهُ شَهِيدٌ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكُمْ وَأُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآَنُ لِأُنْذِرَكُمْ بِهِ وَمَنْ بَلَغَ أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَشْهَدُونَ أَنَّ مَعَ اللَّهِ آَلِهَةً أُخْرَى قُلْ لَا أَشْهَدُ قُلْ إِنَّمَا هُوَ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِنَّنِي بَرِيءٌ مِمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ(الانعام/19(

We did not send you except as a bearer of good news and warner to all mankind, but most people do not know.(34/28)

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ(سبأ/28).

those who follow the Apostle, the uninstructed prophet, whose mention they find written with them in the Torah and the Evangel, … those who believe in him, honor him, and help him and follow the light that has been sent down with him, they are the felicitous.(7/157).

الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِنْدَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنْجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ فَالَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ مَعَهُ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ( الاعراف/157)

Say, O mankind! I am the Apostle of Allah to you all, … There is no God except Him. He gives life and brings death. So have faith in Allah and His Apostle, … and follow him so that you may be guided. (7/158).

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ فَآَمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الْأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُون (الاعراف / 158).

In addition, it is worth mentioning that the figures regarded  as noble characters, in a lot of Quranic verses, are introduced as those who take on moral values and criteria, which are of worth and validity in all times and all places and help moral people achieve development and salvation. In this regard, we read in the Quran:

Indeed Allah commands you to deliver the   trusts to their [rightful] owners, when you judge between people, to judge with fairness. (4/58).

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَنْ تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ نِعِمَّا يَعِظُكُمْ بِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا (النساء /58(

Indeed Allah enjoins justice and kindness and generosity towards relatives, and He forbids indecency, wrong, and aggression. He advises you, so that you may take admonition. (16/90).

اِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُون(النحل 16)

The servants of the All-beneficent are those who walk humbly on the earth, and when the ignorant address them, say, “Peas!”(25/63).

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا(الفرقان/63).

Those who spend the night for their Lord, prostrating and standing [in worship]; (25/64).

وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا (الفرقان/64)

Those who when spending, are neither wasteful nor tightfisted, and moderation lies between these [extremes]; (25/67)

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنْفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَلِك    قَوَامًا(الفرقان/67)

Those who do not invoke another god besides Allah, and do not kill a soul [whose life] Allah has made inviolable, except with due cause, and do not commit fornication. Whoever does that, shall encounter its retribution; (25/68)

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَهًا آَخَرَ وَلَا يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا يَزْنُونَ وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ يَلْقَ أَثَامًا (الفرقان/68)

Those who do not give false testimony, and when they come upon vain talk, pass by nobly. (25/72)

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا (الفرقان/72)



A Review of the Types of Biotechnology and the Risks and Problems resulted from it:

There are two branches of Biotechnology; Agricultural and medical

Agricultural biotechnology:  in this branch, types of transgenic plants are generated through genetic manipulation in plants and animals. This project started just by the purpose of resistance against deuces and generation of full- product kinds, but in the continuance price decrease or diversity of color, shape, smell, and taste of products for deference elegances had been aimed by big companies and capitalists.

Medical biotechnology: scientific researches in medical biotechnology mostly relate to researches in genetics. Today, it is truly claimed that no branch of science, by identifying the 45000 or so genes, has created more acute or more subtle and interesting ethical dilemmas than genetics. Nuclear physics, for example, which gave us atomic weapons and hence the capability, literally, to destroy the world, has presented us with perhaps the ultimate moral dilemma. But it is genetics that makes it possible, for the first time, to determine not simply who will live and who will die, but what all those who will live in the future will be like.      

The impetus for these researches has largely been therapeutic. But nowdays, modern highly expecting man has entrusted these researches with a great deal of duties formally and informally.

These range from factors with therapeutic importance like the ability to fight disease or the ability of tissue to repair itself, to traits like height, weight, build and stature; hair, eye and skin color and even intelligence.  This fact has caused the controversial problem of "ordered embryo".

The rates at which we age, and our life expectancy, are also matters which are genetically influenced and highly likely to be manipulable by human beings in the future.

What might be good for us as individuals might not be good for society as a whole? For example, what age distribution in society would be best; is it in favor of all including future generations that our age of youth becomes long?  Would it makes everyone happier or more at ease with one another? Are we entitled to attempt to influence such things?

Business value of genetics progresses has much importance. Besides ethical issues of absolute possession of these information for the big cartels, or pothers of person’s privacy, these information have much prediction power of the future health and the rate of person’s life expectancy.

This information gets the fortunes of choice and distinguishes persons in many scopes, which only some of the most obvious examples of them are: chance of employment, health-care offering that is very important for companies, especially for insurance ones, and chance of having a baby, and its influence to marriage.

Genetics also triggers racial awareness in both desirable and less desirable manifestations. The unfairness of a genetic inheritance which makes for so many hugely important differences between people has also increasingly set the moral and political agenda of genetics.

Following someones death, stored genetic material can be of enormous benefit scientifically. What has come to be called "the human tissue archive," can all generate important information of personal significance and general utility. Who owns this material? Who has the right to use it? Who should reap the financial and other benefits of its use?

At any rate, in our time positions to technology, especially to the newest and more vigorous sorts of it, are often joined with radical advocacy or disagreement. Technology lovers are imagine grate dreams and opponents and technology-phobia momentarily predict crisis and ring the alarm of danger.

Regardless of this going from one extreme to the other,  It seems that modern civilization’s interpretation of individualistic and humanistic autonomy of humans and liberal capitalist reading of social justice fallowing social management and way of usage and promotion of modern biotechnologies are too far away from Islamic spiritual and theistic life style, and it must be criticized.

By the Islamic theistic and moderate rationality, we are about dealing with the objections of the view of modern civilization to biotechnology and domain of human choices to him, in tree pivots.

Now, it is turn to define autonomy and to explain its philosophical roots. Then we criticize the view of modern civilization to the humanistic foundation of biotechnology and how to be distributed.

Autonomy definition: this principle states that the scale of action and the basis of decision is exclusive to the individual’s will.

Individualistic humanism: With no doubt the modern autonomy have roots in humanism, meaning it denies any superhuman reference’s to intervene in human life. This human centricity means the absolute sovereignty of mankind on his own destiny. This autonomy as a legal principle has a complete individual approach; i.e. the reference to determine the righteousness of an action is the person themselves, not the common sense. Therefore it is the person themselves who is the owner and governor of their own body and soul and their own destiny, and they protect their own interests better than anyone else.

The teaching of the priority of right to goodness: From one point of view human is free to decide about themselves and have the right to choose for themselves and of course from another view a some of human choices might be harmful for themselves and the good might not be in those choices. Can the individual themselves or their kin or the society or God and religious experts deprive the individual from their right or they can’t? From the fundamentals of liberal value system, the principle of autonomy in our discussion puts liberty on top of the pyramid of social and ethical values; therefore the right of freewill must not be replaced by any value, so right is prior to anything even goodness.

 Conceptual criticism of the principle of autonomy (two critiques)

First critique - The principle of autonomy as a legal scale is refuted as a norm for the action and decision making of the individual; since the maximum of autonomy means that the individual can decide anything any time, he is allowed and whatever he does is right. However with no doubt such human cannot be an ethical being, for scope of authorized acts for an ethical being is always smaller than scope of interesting things that are possible for it to do. This approach is fundamentally an unethical approach; because it has no place for “ethical responsibility”. In addition, this autonomy apparently contradicts spirit of obedience and submission to God, as we read in the Quran:

قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللَّـهِ هُوَ الْهُدَىٰ ۖ وَأُمِرْنَا لِنُسْلِمَ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (انعام/71)

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ دِينًا مِّمَّنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّـهِ (نساء/125)

Second critique - The principle of autonomy as a scale of ethic for decision making and action of others for an individual in biotechnology is unjustified and cannot be defended; because in the Islamic ethical system, the members of ummah (society) are responsible toward one another.  Brotherhood and the principle of “mutual social responsibility” do not allow any Muslim to be apathetic from an ethical point of view. The Persian poet has written in this context:

When you see a blind and a pit

If you will stay silent you have sinned

According to the Quranic advanced teaching of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil (al-Amr bi al-Maruf wa al-Nahy an al-Munkar) prevention from the illegal and improper deeds in the first place is carried out by preaching and then in the case of insufficiency it will developed to actual prevention.

Second Pivot:

 Criticism of the philosophical foundations of the principle of individualistic autonomy (four critiques)

First critique: On the basis of the principle of autonomy each individual himself decide of his values. On the other hand Islamic ethics based on (realism) through which ethical values are independent of decision and desire of individual and are unchangeable and absolute.

Second critique:  Humanism means disbelieving in superhuman authority and absolute governess of mankind over his destiny. This is obviously refuting the religious divinity and oneness in divinity. The refined intellect of a monotheist looks into itself wisely and declares its limitations and politely sits facing revelation and by contemplating in divine signs makes himself ready for receiving sacred wisdom.    

Third critique: Extreme modern Individualism has no place in social philosophy and philosophy of law in Islam. In Muslim monotheistic community, regarding Islam teachings, as each of individual human has dignity and moral status and having distinguished legal status which preserve his life, wealth and possesses, the community also has its own life, authentic moral status- legally, dignity, tasks and extended authorities.     

Forth critique: Since the individual in Islamic philosophy of life and Islamic ethical system is perfectionist and seeks with all his attempts for prosperity, the absolute good or genuine good find its meaning and made valuable. Thus Right is merely a possibility or a potentiality toward Good and in fact is a tool in comparison with the goal (which is defined as essential and absolute Good).

Those who believe in (priority of power over Good) are just concern to preserve individual’s free will and to not enforce him. But social philosophy and ethical system in Islam believes in preparatory and prerequisite role of free will toward ethical conducts and free will emphatically considered as practicing rather than having ethical value. Therefore Right is the servant of Good which definitely must be respected and preserved in its right place.

Third Pivot:

 The critic of liberal capitalism definition of Justice (one long critique):

The managers and programmers of the health and medical care and environment networks in the modern societies, have pay attention toward the distributive justice. The distributive justice means to make the equal opportunities, to equally distribute facilities and make no discrimination in allotment of the resources to citizens.

Rating the minimal to maximal distributive justice (3 rates)

a. indiscrimination among the people of the same level in terms of the wealth and social power along with equally division of the opportunities and facilities of biotechnology among the weak and weak or strong and strong.

b. Indiscrimination among the people who are not at the same level of richness or having social power or in another word, to equally divide the opportunities and facilities of the biotechnology among the weak and strong.

c. Upgrading the level of the power to act and the power to choose of the weak one and making him equal to wealthy in social power and then equally dividing opportunities and facilities of biotechnology among them.

The point is that the level of the expectancy of the managers and policy makers of the Modern liberal capitalists does not exceed the first level which is minimal justice. A claim which most repeated in realizing of the distributive justice in the field of services and production of biotechnology is (2 expectancies): 

a. To make free the use of the productions of biotechnology for all, but not considering the right of especial people like politics or capitalists in this regard.

b. Providing access to facilities and productions of biotechnology for all people and genders and races. But there is no way except accepting the undeniable reality of gap of social classes.   

If we divide citizens to two groups including weak (without social influence) and strong (wealthy or with social influence), we find out that speaking of equally dividing of opportunities and facilities is certainly inefficient and does not reach to moral standards.

They do not have the resources to afford the heavy prices of biotechnological products or services

They do not have the financial resources to enjoy consultation

 They do not have enough time (furlough) to spend for the recovery

 They do not have a reliable supportive network to help them in court against the medical team, as they do not have enough money for attorney

Therefore we see that providing an equal opportunity for citizens to enjoy the products or services of biotechnology for all people in all regions is not sustaining the distributive justice and will not fulfill the aspiration of social justice and finally there will be a great portion of people who do not reach the necessary products and services of biotechnology. And they will be deprived of the "right of healthiness". While Quranic moral society is completely justice-based, as we see in the Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّـهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ. (نساء /135)

قَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ. (حدید/25)

Therefore providing an equal opportunity and conditions for the availability of biotech products need promotion of weak peoples power in decision making and action. It is for reaching this goal that the new subject of affirmative action is put in the subject of applied ethics and before this, in the philosophy of politics we have witnessed the division of liberty into positive and negative and the relationship between the positive liberty and social justice.


15:35 - 04/10/2015    /    Number : 65481    /    Show Count : 1436





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