Ethics in Arab-Islamic Civilization

31 January, 2019

Published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, The Issue of Ethics in Arab-Islamic Civilization, is a research collection from the 6th annual conference for social sciences and humanities held by the ACRPS in Doha on March 18-20, 2017. The book (567 pp.) consists of 16 chapters in 5 sections.

Firstly, the book addresses the relationship between modernity and Arab-Islamic ethics, and how the topic of ethics was mainly reserved for the Arab jurists and mystics -but not philosophers; which left the subdivisions of faith and conviction intermingled with humanitarian values and principles. It then argues that religion provides the most effective moral answer to the imbalances of modernity; attempting to refute the myth of Western modernity being a supreme and the final step for the development of humankind. The role of “citizenship” as a gateway to effective Arab ethics is also investigated, being a key building block for the modern ethical construction and political philosophy. A closer look at Mohammed Arkoun’s discourse is then presented, focusing specifically on “humanism”, and how it transcends the dualism of reason and faith. 

Secondly, the issue of ethics in Islamic philosophy is explored; beginning with al-Farabi’s dilemma of the notion of prudence, as it manifests in the ethical nature of the mind and the rational nature of ethics at the same time. Al-Razi’s notion of moral independency and the separation of ethics from religion follows; whereby the rational self becomes one’s own and only ethical legislator. In Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes) take on politics and ethics and Aristotle’s model of debate and rhetoric, the best civilian industry could produce is mere rhetorical controversial corroborations. It is worthy of note that in Ibn Rushd’s writings on Plato’s “Republic”, the Arab privacy replaced the Greek privacy, in which the Arab-Islamic civilizational experience and Andalusian reality were placed.

The third section brings to light contemporary readings in the Moral Isolationism system, particularly the ethical issue of the Mu'tazila; as its relation to the concepts of human freedom and responsibility pushes for a common social reform and order. Additionally, a comparison is drawn between the Mu’tazila and Ash'ari dispute during the golden Islamic era, and the conflicting contemporary views on the relationship between morality and the law, and on the need to base the legal standards on ethical standards.

The next section looks upon the issue of Islamic ethics in contemporary readings. It questions the link between religion and ethics at both the legislative and moral levels; and the convergence of the ethical system in Islam with democratic moral values. It also reviews the applied ethics in the contemporary practice of issuing fatwas; pointing to the remarkable confusion in coming to grips with recent technical breakthroughs – such as organ transplantation, euthanasia, human cloning, genealogies and motherhood… – and exploring means to establishing Islamic bioethics.

The last section addresses the moral legacy of Islamic civilization, upon initially taking note of the birth of moral mysticism in Morocco to a morally challenged society; and its reality-myth ideology. Discussed after are the rooting of the Persian morals and culture in Islamic literature, and the Japanese orientalist Toshihiko Izutsu’s fresh perspective on the Islamic moral code and the concept of grace in the Qur’an.

Read Also