Contributing to Islamic Ethics

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Yasien Mohamed
Norman K. Swazo

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Abstract

Islamic ethics (akhlaq islamiyah), which is concerned with good character
and the means of acquiring it, took shape gradually from the seventh century
and culminated in the eleventh century with the teachings of Miskawayh
(d. 1030), al-Raghib al-Isfahani (d. 1060), and al-Ghazali (d. 1111). Islamic
philosophical ethics combined Qur’anic teachings, the traditions of Muhammad
(s), the precedents of Islamic jurists, and classic Greek (Hellenic) ethical
ideas.
Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Verily I have been sent in order to perfect
moral character” (Fainnama bu`ithtu-li-utamima makarim al-akhlaq). Such
prophetic traditions, Qur’anic moral exhortations, and Hellenic ethical writings
became the main sources of inspiration for Miskawayh, al-Isfahani, and
al-Ghazali. Inspired by the Arabic version of Aristotle’s Nicomachean
Ethics, these moral philosophers Islamized virtue ethics and focused on cultivating
character and purifying the soul (al-nafs). Although al-Isfahani
inspired al-Ghazali and tried to maintain a balance between the justice of the
soul and the justice of society, the latter developed a Sufi ethics that became
increasingly otherworldly with its focus on purifying the self. This ethical
model later became a source of inspiration for St. Thomas Aquinas and
Maimonides.
This special issue of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
focuses on Islamic ethics, especially ethics as applied to such contemporary
issues as bioethics, the environment, human rights, and evolution. The
papers provide insight into how ethical problems are dealt with within ...

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