Moral Teachings of Islam 2 – Foundations Of Islamic Ethics

Jamal Badawi

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The name of God they've been ever since the Merciful, the creator and the Sustainer of the universe, peace and blessings forever upon his servant and messenger Muhammad Amin. I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except the one true God. And I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger and servant of God. I greet you with the universal greetings of peace, the greeting that have been used by all of the profits from Abraham to Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon them all. Assalamu Aleikum, which means peace be upon you. I'm your host Hamad Rashid. In today's program, we have our second program, dealing with moral teachings of Islam. In today's program,

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we'll focus on religious morality. Joining me as usual on the program is Dr. Jamal betawi of St. Mary's University or the Jamal assalamu Aleikum, Ronnie who said,

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last week, we began our first program in this series, we were talking about secular ethics, I wonder if perhaps you could very quickly go back and review last week's program for us are the main points that we touched on in last week's program. Certainly, there's hardly any difference among people to have today that the world is facing a great crisis.

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Our civilization is being threatened. Many people making various diagnosis of this malaise that we have today, some say that the problem is mainly economic, social, technical, political. But in VR, this is only emphasizing the symptoms of the problem rather than the real causes of the problem. And we try to indicate last time that at the heart of all of these problems and crisis is basically a moral crisis, an ethical and moral crisis that the world really is facing today. And more specifically, by that we meant the problem of determining what is right and what is wrong, what is evil, and what is good.

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We indicated that ethics or morality could be either secular, that is religious morality without religion, or it could also be religious morality. Like you said, last program focused largely on the secular morality, how morality without religion address some of the fundamental issues that are faced in ethical systems. Mainly, what is the ultimate good to strive for? What are the sources of knowledge about good and evil? Who has the right to sanction moral or ethical code? And finally, what motivates the individual internally to follow the moral code? The thrust of the program was basically a discussion and critique of how secular morality answered these questions. For example,

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on the question of ultimate good, some answered that as happiness, but happiness is the ultimate thing to strive for. Some say that's perfection, some like Emmanuel concept, God for the sake of deity,

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sources of knowledge about good and evil were suggested to include the human experience or empiricism, intuition, or inspiration that some individuals may have or reason. And we said that, again, in terms of sanctions and motives, both sanctions and motives for morality, various explanations were given that people do that in pursuit of happiness of perfection of

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just the feeling of doing the gap. Or they do that because of the pressure, by political power, or by social norms, which push people to follow certain code of conduct. And our basic critique of these ways, the ways that secular morality answer the questions, we indicated that first of all, there is a lack of clarity in defining what exactly is meant by for example, happiness, what happened is

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physical, mental, spiritual.

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The difficulty in the fact that most modern secretaries cannot really give you a uniform answer. Like I said, everybody would say somebody would say happiness, perfection, God and all of that. So there's no clear, stable, ethical moral system on the in the secondary thinking that you can really follow

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And above all, we said that basically, the main problem is that secular morality tried to establish a moral system, independent of God, and independent of religious faith. And perhaps that is the heart of the problem with this approach of explaining ethics. Well, in today's program, we're going to be focusing on the question of religious ethics or religious morality. I'm wondering if perhaps you could explain, in your view what the main differences are between the secular ethics that we discussed last time, and religion, religious ethics, or morality, which forms the, our topic for today? And that's a big question. And I can give you first a very capsulized answer, if I may,

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fundamental one, perhaps if you wish to explore it more we can go into that. But basically,

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the difference is that in religious morality, or religious morality is based, are founded on fundamentally two things. One is the belief in God as the creator of the universe, and secondly, the belief in the life hereafter.

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But I have to make a precaution here also that when you use the term religious morality,

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it's, it's not any one uniform thing. In other words, you can say, for example, that the fundamentals of religious morality is all the same for all religions, for all faiths, each face also might have its way of answering that particular question. But I would say there is something that joins religious morality approaches together, the belief in God and the life hereafter in a fundamental way.

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Perhaps we could just briefly explore the

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the Muslims preset concept of God, since it forms an integral part to this whole question. Could you perhaps just quickly

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explain what the Muslims concept of God is mean, as it relates to the ethical dilemma as it relates to the ethical system as well, I think that's an important limitation, perhaps because, of course, one cannot pretend to give a full and complete answer about Muslim understanding of God in a couple of minutes.

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A year ago, on this program, we had almost eight of our programs just dealing with Muslim understanding of God and the nature of Islamic monotheism. So the answer is very limited in a sense of just relating that to the question

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of ethics. But essentially, a Muslim believes

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in the absolute

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perfection, sovereignty,

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lordship

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of God, that He is the only sole Lord and creator and Sustainer of this universe. Some of the measures divine attributes of God include things like absolute perfection, absolute life, absolute and perfect knowledge, wisdom, power, mercy, and justice.

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But I'd like also to indicate that the emphasis in Islam on the absolute transcendence and perfection, if you will,

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of God

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goes hand in hand, with the emphasis also on God as a person.

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He's a person who is you can relate to him in relationship.

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This model is particularly important because of the some of the comments of the Sofitel ideas about God being so transcendent that is so different that is so removed from this universe. Many philosophers, you know, like Plato, Aristotle, in Hellenistic philosophy in deism as one approach, there's some belief that God is an impersonal

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that he's either identical with the world, or totally separate from it, that is to hide that is separate from the world. This is not the view held by Muslims and I suppose also by both Jews and Christians, the question question or concept of God as a personal God, and Islam in particular, the best way I could think of to describe a Muslim perception of God is a relationship which is I call a loving, conscious submission,

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a relationship of loving, conscious, voluntary submission to the will of God.

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The the question, perhaps of closeness is reflected very

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succinctly in the Quran. In one verse, which describes

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Man's relationship with God, when I know who he would have been worried that God says we are closer to mankind than his jugular vein. So you have both, say, you have the absolute transcendence and perfection of God alongside with his direct relationship with, with mankind This is in a very outline form, the essence of Muslim conviction

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about how different is the this concept of God, say, versus the concept that might be held by other religious communities?

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One, this

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question is very significant, because when you talk about, again, religious morality,

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we're really talking about some ultimate ideal, as we said before, that you're looking at the, what is the supreme good, what is the model, the highest model for human conduct. Now, this problem is not really

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this is not a major problem, I should say, in the case of, of Islam, because of the Muslim belief of one supreme and universal God. God,

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who is divine attributes are not shared by any of his creatures.

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This leads automatically to the belief in one single, ultimate Supreme, when in one ultimate good, and that leads in terms of the moral or ethical system itself to a complete stability, a sense of certitude, because you only have one ultimate ideal to look up to.

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Indeed, this is the only plausible explanation of the conception about God, which is consistent with the scientific mind of today. Let me explain what I mean by this.

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Any person who observes the phenomenon or the phenomena in nature, can readily see that there are certain permanent laws, that the universe is not going in a haphazard way, there is definitely some coordination between the various components of this universe, that itself leads to the conclusion that there must be some single and uniform will, behind all of that, that creation.

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Now, the Some people like to refer to this as the laws of nature, or Mother Nature, Father, nature, whatever. But as a believer, one should not make an apology, I would rather put it as the nose that God created in nature. Because this laws are not created by nature, they are created in nature, by God. So what I'm saying is that if you look at it, even in terms of the the fair minded, scientific deduction of what's the universe looks like, you come to the conclusion that there's one single one and one single creator behind all of that. Now, as you compare that, like you were asking with things, for example, like polytheism, you run into difficulties, because in polytheism, by

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definition, you believe in more than one ultimate well, or ultimate sovereign in this universe. And of course, that's leads to the logical

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conclusion that there must be more than one highest and ultimate ideal it can be. That's why the Quran puts it very

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clearly when it says that, now can I see him Allah to Allah Who ever said that, if in the heavens and earth, there were any other deity or other powers or servants, other than God alone, there will have been lots of commotion and corruption of turmoil, and the in this universe, in other words, the universe would not run if you just be totally chaotic in terms of natural phenomena.

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And when I say By the way, polytheism I am not only referring to the belief in different gods, seven gods, but also the whole notion of

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believing that other creatures of God shares, some or all of his divine attributes, also the belief that existed among some polytheistic nations of believing in some minor cuts. So why there is a belief in ultimate God does believe in minor gods or gods who might intercede between men and God, these are all different shades of polytheism. So in that sense, then it's quite different and the difference is quite fundamental in terms of the ultimate source of guidance.

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I'd like to turn for a moment to look at the biblical concept of God and in contrast, Atlas, the Islamic concept of God is real

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revealed in the in the Quran could you perhaps? Well, I should say in fairness first of all that

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definitely the extent of difference between Islamic monotheism and the concept of God as depicted in the Bible.

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It definitely is not as competitively as large, as the difference between Islamic monotheism, for example, and other forms of polytheism that I described, witches are totally rejected, of course, on the part of the Muslim.

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But I think we have to be also fair and honest about that. Many times, we hear a very common error repeated by many authors about Islam and almost anything that you find written and taught in high schools in universities. That gives the reader the impression somehow that the Islamic concept of monotheism is simply a kind of extension of the biblical concept of God or that it is based on it or a kind of modification of it. This is a very common error.

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But

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to make the point more concrete, there have been many scholars nonmuscle scholars, even who have pointed out to the fact that among the early Israelites,

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the conception of God seems to be a nature of a god,

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kind of super human

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being.

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To be more specific, if you check, for example, the first book in the Bible, the book of Genesis, you find, for example, that describes God as someone who needed to rest after he created the heavens and earth, that he walks in the garden, and that Adam and Eve hears, hear the sound of his feet and the freshness of the day, sometimes is depicted as a God who is jealous, because of the power of humans like the famous story of Babel, that when human beings start to build the Tower of Babel, God said that they are becoming very smart. So that's why he changed the languages of some of them. And that's the explanation of the origin of languages in the Bible. In other places, God is depicted as

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someone who make mistakes, and even people correcting him. Many times the description, or the term is used as God of Israel, getting the impression of more of a tribal god, I'm not saying that all the description, but there are lots of use of the term garvis right.

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Now, to be truthful with you, I mean, if you take these descriptions, I think there's justification for scholars who said that the guard was viewed more as a superhuman really, that does not really match at all, with the emphasis in Islam, about the transcendence of God, about his total freedom from all of this human defects, that God is not a human life doesn't look like a human because it's not physical, in the sense that you can perceive.

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Indeed, as contrasted with the biblical concept of God of Israel. You find that the first chapter in the Quran describes God as Robin alameen, the Lord of the universe. The last chapter of the Quran brattiness described as the Lord of mankind, doesn't say, of Arabs or Muslims or any ethnic group, but of the entire humanity. And in between the first and last chapter of the Quran, the whole Quran is very consistent, never once it mentioned God as God of Muslims, or Israel or Arabs, or whatever God of the entire universe. So in that sense, one can easily conclude that definitely, the standard concept of monotheism is far from being just a replica of what can be found in the in the Bible. In

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the New Testament also, we find that there have been an a trend or attitude to attribute certain passages to Prophet Jesus peace be upon him and from them, theologians interpreting that he was the physical, the physical, the actual or intimate Son of God, the sole Son of God, coming to shed his blood on the cross to save humanity, and all the other doctrines that go with this, like the doctrine of original sin, the necessity of bloodshed in order to reconcile men to God. Now, from the Quranic point of view, find that this concept of God is again, not

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acceptable, it's quite different. A Muslim believes in Jesus peace be upon him as you indicate, in different occasions as a holy, righteous and noble prophet among the greatest prophets of God, but that he is only exclusively human, in all sense that all other prophets of God were human beings and that his sense

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ship to God of gods is a figurative or metaphorical sonship in a sense that all human beings are children of God who provides for entire for the entire mankind. So what I'm saying is that, if you really want to,

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I hope you don't mind my direct and straight approach. And I hope nobody takes any hard feeling of that. But to be honest about it really, the Islamic monotheism concept of God in Islam is definitely the purest form and the highest form that you could think of in terms of the purity of monotheism. And it is extremely erroneous, no matter how common it is. To say that the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him simply had a replica of the biblical concept of God, it's just far from being a replica, even adaptation. So total, consistent and coherent system of belief, quite independent.

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Now that we've compared the, the Islamic concept of God with the concept is held by other religious views. How do the differences that you've described relate to or affect the whole question of ethics, what it affects, in many ways, just to give you a few examples, just considering the time limit. But last week, for example, we were discussing the

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the basic notion or the fundamental question of ethics, and that is to identify the supreme good, the ultimate goodness, according to which we can establish criteria for distinction between good and evil. Now, if that conception of the highest ideal in this case, and religious morality, God, if that concept is mixed up with imperfections, errors,

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or inconsistencies, about the supreme being about God,

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then how could that be used as an ultimate, single, absolute source because you have to get some absolute somewhere, and anything could be relative, but you have to get something that's absolute as the end of the line.

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As contrasted to this one, the believers, upholds the pure monotheism of God as totally and completely perfect, free from any

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imperfections or deficiencies that can apply to us as humans, when that belief is so consistent and coherent, that there is no vague doctrines that's inexplicable, that there is no inconsistency is everything seems to be followed to be consistent also, with the scientific view of the universe, I say scientific also in a fair minded way, not just to use science to propagate false ideas, fair and open minded observation, then you feel you get into a stable and ultimate source that you can refer to as the end of the line. So there's a big difference in that sense. Another point also is that by acknowledging God as the sole bestower, of all gifts,

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that we have in this life, this leads of necessity, for those who really

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get that feeling, or get this faith in their hearts, to the submission to God, which I called before the loving, conscious submission to God, which is actually the meaning of the term Islam as a faith. That in turn leads the individual to have a sense of loyalty to God and to God alone, that the ultimate loyalty really belongs to God, not to any particular geographic limits, or lace or group or whatever. And that would be very essential, as an attitude for the establishment of any higher system of ethics. If I may add just one more point to this also just to complete the lecture at least in the fundamental form.

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By believing in God and His perfection and his divine attributes, as

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the sole power in this universe as the ultimate

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deity or ultimate,

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God who has the full and perfect and complete knowledge,

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it follows from that, that one realizes that God knows what is in our hearts and our minds, we cannot really hide it from him, we cannot really deceive him or think that we are doing something or pretending something before him. We know that he is all encompassing, that results in a feeling of self policing, self control, that you know that you can get away with something when you're not caught, but you know, that you can get away from the

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all encompassing knowledge of God. And definitely when you talk about any ethical or moral code of conduct, definitely at the heart of the system would be the attitudes or inclination to have

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The self control, self discipline.

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Now, I think in the beginning of the program, you mentioned that the vision Hereafter is one of the things that distinguishes between

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secular ethics and religious ethics. I wonder if perhaps you might explain some of the

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views held by religions other than Islam, on this issue of life in the hereafter. What the,

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in essence,

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I'm not trying to codify religions or anything, but just to give a few examples, for example, in some of the Eastern religions, they look at the pleasures and desires of this world as something that's passing temporary, which of course, is common in other religions, but the conclusion is different. They conclude from that, that because they are passing pleasures, what is the sense really, of trying to get anything in this universe, leading to an attitude, that the best thing in this life is to renounce the body, physical

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existence, to focus on purifying the soul to save that soul by getting it out of the shackles of material in that sense, then a life of meditation and religious exercise become the almost the ideal that a human being can really aspire to.

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But this is not only limited to so called Eastern religions, we find, for example, in a book by EF Scott called the ethical teachings of Jesus peace be upon him.

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He indicates also that it appears that some of the early Christians also especially of the first, second and third century, tended to uphold a similar view, that somehow the kingdom of God is something that is going to take place only in the future, miraculously, and that denouncing this word, perhaps would be an act of piety, because then you can focus on this sort of self purification.

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Now,

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of course, Muslims also have a very firm belief in life in the hereafter I want especially like, very quickly, we only have about two minutes left in today's program, you might very quickly contrast the Islamic viewpoint of life in the hereafter with the viewpoints you've just discussed.

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Okay, then,

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to put it in a very brief way Islam teaches that

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belief in the hereafter should not mean in any sense neglect of this life.

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Like the Quran taught in, for example, in chapter 28, verses 7879 and 80, talking about the quarter who was one of contemporaries of Moses, and it addresses him seek something for the life hereafter, but do not forget your portion of this world. So Islam, while like you said, firmly hold the belief and the life hereafter life of punishment and reward, it still shows that this does not necessarily mean that the ultimate piety or righteousness is by renouncing this word, but rather, that this life here should be coordinated with the life hereafter, both considerations should be taking a hand in hand. And that, as one aspect of preparing for the life you're after of accumulating credit, even

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for salvation, is to struggle on this earth here, to write the wrong to achieve justice and peace right here and now on Earth. So kingdom of God is partly in the Hereafter, but it's partly also right here.

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Thank you very much, brother. we've exhausted our time for today. Join us next week once you and we continue our programming on ethical teachings of Islam. Assalamu alaikum, peace be unto you