1.1 Faith and Ethics
Ethics is defined as the study of morality which helps to inform people when deciding what is right and what is wrong behaviour in a given situation. This decision could involve something trivial such as whether to eat a bar of chocolate instead of an apple on the way home! It could equally be something very important and long term such as a Muslim refusing to drink alcohol. These decisions for a Muslim involve seeking guidance from God (Allah). So for example: eating chocolate is acceptable in moderation, drinking alcohol is not.
The Islamic Faith:
Islam is the religion followed by Muslims. The definition of Islam is: “To submit to God by worshipping Him alone; and to surrender to Him in obedience; and to abandon idolatry.” Muslims believe that the one who does this sincerely will truly be at peace with himself and his life, regardless of trials he is faced with.
Goal of a Muslim
The goal of a Muslim in his or her life is to please Allah by worshipping Him alone and, by doing so, he enters Paradise after death. A Muslim attains the pleasure of Allah and His Paradise through living an “ethical” life by:
- Sincere religious observances upon the Prophet’s way: Shahādah (the testimony of faith), Salāh (daily prayers), Zakāh (charity), Sawm (fasting), Hajj (the pilgrimage), and other obligations such as: Umrah, the Friday prayer, etc.
- Leading a righteous life by keeping away from that which Allah has forbidden, and being a morally upright person: generous, kind, modest, merciful, humble, sincere, etc.
Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadeeth
This ethical way of life is guided by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Muslims believe:
- the Qur’an is the actual Speech of Allah that was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him), brought down to him by the Angel Gabriel (Jibreel). The same Angel who brought Revelation to the other Prophets, such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them).
- the Sunnah is “path” or “way” of the Prophet Muhammad. It consists of four matters: 1. His sayings, 2. His actions, 3. His silent approvals, 4. His characteristics.
- Hadeeth (plural: Ahādeeth) is the oral and written Prophet tradition: the recorded sayings, deeds, silent approvals and characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); these are compiled in books of Hadeeth, such as Saheeh al-Bukhāri, Saheeh Muslim, Abu Dawood, etc.
Muslims, and especially the “Salafis” believe that the Qur’an and Sunnah is timeless and can be practiced throughout the centuries. They believe that Islam is for all people, all races and all times. Salafi Muslims believe that the Sunnah is a guide to the Qur’an and explains the Qur’an. The way of religious living promoted in the Qur’an and Sunnah is not widely open to interpretation. Salafis believe that both the Qur’an and Sunnah are to be understood as the Disciples (Sahābah) of the Prophet understood them.
- Explain the term ethics?
- What is your goal in life? Is it in line with Islamic ethical teachings? Explain.
- How do you intend to achieve your goal?
Muslims around the World and in Britain
Many Islamic countries are ruled by Muslims in line with their faith and the teaching of the Qur’an and Hadeeth. They can hear the call to prayer, they are are not allowed to cohabit with the opposite sex, and must marry if they want to start a family, they cannot drink alcohol, gamble and so on. So those laws help Muslims live a more Islamic life. Offences such as rape, pedophilia and murder carry severe punishments because they are: (a) destructive crimes, (b) go against Islamic teachings, (c) ruin the fabric of civil society.
The British government is a secular government (i.e. not based on religion). It allows practices that Muslims are not allowed to indulge in, such as drinking alcohol, eating pork, partaking in interest transactions, having sexual relations before marriage. However Muslims do not have to partake in practices that go against their faith. There were many practices that took place in Makkah when the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived there for the first thirteen years of his Prophethood, the worst of those being idolatry. Other oppositions to Islam also took place (such as the killing of baby girls), but he persevered patiently with the people and did not abandon calling them to worship Allah alone and to good conduct and morals. He lived amongst them and had great concern for their spiritual well-being.
The Qur’an is the main source of religious and ethical/moral authority in Islam. The Sunnah compliments the Qur’an and explains it. The Salafis believe that the Qur’an and Sunnah are both Revelation from God, and they are the basis of belief, law, religion and ethics. The Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was observed by his Disciples (the Sahābah) and memorised, and then passed on through word of mouth and writings to the following generations.
Discussion with a partner:
Do you think a Muslim should do whatever is legally allowed in Britain, even if his/her faith does not allow it? Give your reasons and list them.
- Explain the difference between the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadeeth.
- Why do you think Muslims are keen to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Use some Quranic verses or Hadeeth to express your point.
- Explain why some people believe that Islam is a little outdated? How would a Muslim respond? Does Islam allow for modern technologies? Can you give examples of instances where Muslims have embraced modern living and kept firmly upon the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah?
You should understand the link between faith and ethics in the context of Islaam; that Muslims are guided in their moral values and outlook by the Qur’an and Sunnah.
I initially compiled these worksheets for my students at the Redstone Academy (aged between 13 and 16 years), Moseley Road, Birmingham, UK who are working towards their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). I felt that others who do not attend the school can also benefit from these topics since they are presented in simple bitesize chapters. I have relied upon GCSE text books and adapted them for my classes.
There will inevitably be typos (or other mistakes). Please leave a reply below if you see any.