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Ethics-based Education: A Prophetic Perspective!

“God-consciouisness (taqwa) and ethics (akhlāq) are the two major characteristics which lead to Paradise”: Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Dr. Javed Akhatar[1]

Abstract: One of the most important and urgent issues that is a concern of the whole of humanity is lack of ethics in education. When we wake up in the morning, whether we read a newspaper, listen to a radio, watch the news on a television we confront news of violence, injustice, crime, conflicts, wars, murders and the list does not stop here! We can barely remember one single day without the same terrible news occurring somewhere or another. The 21st century belongs to the advancement in the field of science and technology, is it not ironic that more serious problems are originating from the more technologically advanced and educated societies? There must be something seriously wrong with our progress and development. The future of humanity depends on the concept: education with ethics. However, it seems that many countries today, including Muslim countries, do not give the necessary attention to the concept of ethics and morals that are integrated into the curriculum. The present research paper will deal with the concept, i.e., ethics and morals in education from an Islāmic perspective. The paper will raise a few focal issues in order to draw attention to the ethical gap in education and knowledge that is provided by schools, colleges and universities. With sincerity, I will attempt to identify the discussions that are conducted around the issue of the ethical gap in education. I will prioritize the most prominent concerns on the tapis before humanity and those related to the most pensive challenges which are discussed in the academic circles of ‘ulamā in the Islāmic world.


I begin my point with a question: “Is education the name of some information provided to students or is it something else?” When we wake up in the morning, whether we read a newspaper, listen to a radio, watch the news on a television we confront news of violence, injustice, crime, conflicts, wars, murders and the list does not stop here! We can barely remember one single day without the same terrible news occurring somewhere or another. One of the most important and urgent issues which concern not just Muslims but the whole of humanity is lack of ethics in education. Ethics has always had a special relevance to educational activities, but more so in modern times, when the size and nature of education has gone through a sea change, this question has occupied the attention of many countries, their governments, societies and corporate communities. Ethics in education has thus become a major topic of discussion for academicians and other related organizations.[1]

Hadhrat Abū Hurairah (r. a.) narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“God-consciouisness and ethics (akhlāq) are the two major characteristics which lead to Paradise.”[2]

أَكْثَرُ مَا يُدْخِلُ اَلْجَنَّةَ تَقْوى اَللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ اَلْخُلُقِ

Once Theodore Roosevelt said to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society, it tells the relevance of ethics in education to the present world.[3] A well educated person with strong ethics is boon while one having education but no ethics to stand by is a definite bane for the society. Today, moral inclination is fast becoming a growing concerns on how to manage the human values and save humanity for the future generations since it is a very relevant subject of today’s environment of intolerance, conflicts, violence and stress. However, it seems that many countries today, including Muslim countries, do not give necessary attention to this pressing issue.

The present research paper deals with the lack of ethics in education problems and prospects from an Islamic perspective. The essay deals with the idea that it is necessary to identify a concept of ethics in order to discuss about its relation to education. It creates some questions and concerns and constructs a few focal issues to be focused on in order to draw attention of the readers towards the ethics or lack of it in current education within Muslim societies generally and schools, colleges or universities particularly. I have attempted to identify the most pressing challenges which are discussed in the academic circle of ‘ulamā (Muslim scholars) in the Islamic world.[4]

To tell methodology the first section of the paper begins with why an Islamic perspective is required on the issue, exploring the notion of ethics, factors that determine ethics, significance of education at various stages and why education needs ethics? The second section examines a systematic exploration of the problems, gap and challenges that exists in the present world. The third section discusses about the prospects, hope and anticipation. In doing this a few sample of the basic principles of ethics based on Qur’ān and Ḥadith (the prophetic tradition) has been documented in this part. The Islamic view concerning the code of ethics in education in view of a sample from the Qur’ān and Ḥadith related of five major areas: brotherhood, truthfulness, justice, commitment and sincerity. It is with this method and approach the essay hopes to identify the question and issues of ethics or lack of it in education in the light of Islam.[5]

An Islamic Perspective

The value system of Islam has created some fundamental differences between Islamic and the modern education system-both of the West and the East. The first and the foremost difference between the two lied in their attitude towards life itself. While the former does not regard this life as an end in itself but also as a means to the attainment of spiritual goals hereafter, the latter considers this life and its happiness as its final aim. It concerns itself solely and entirely with material well-being. Unlike the West, there is no segregation between the religious and secular or temporal education in the Islamic worldview. The Islamic concept of education does not lead to such a rootless or lack of an integrated personality. The Islamic worldview, in fact, controls and determines the value in education at large.[6] Islamic education is much broader in its scope than the educational systems of the democratic West and the socialist East. It aims at training the sensibility of the pupils in such a manner that in their attitude to their environs and approach to all kinds of knowledge, they are governed by the spiritual and ethical values of Islam. Further, there is no place for monopoly of knowledge in the Muslim value system. As Shah Walī Allāh has said, “Muslim education aims at nurturing of a righteous man in a righteous society”. But, in other systems this aspect of human being has been neglected. That is why the nations that adopted such systems they consequently suffer from moral chaos and commotion.[7] Ibn-Ḥazm has said, “Knowledge like faith is a passport to happiness in this life as well as in the hereafter.” Al-Rāzī refused to prepare poison and Al-Bīrūnī also insisted that experimental sciences must be guided by ethical values.[8] The aim of acquisition of knowledge in the Islamic system is not merely to satisfy an intellectual curiosity but to train rational and righteous individuals for the moral and physical good of their families, their people and for the entire mankind. The Islamic system of education strikes a balance between the need for individual excellence and the requirements of the society. Islamic education is based on the whole-hearted acceptance of the wahy (revelation) as a guide to all knowledge and conduct.[9]

The Notion of Ethics

Values such as responsibility, integrity, commitment and patriotism are considered old fashioned by some. These may be old values but they are certainly not obsolete. They have stood the test of time and will be here forever. These values have the same meaning in New York as in New Delhi or New Zealand. They are universal. I do not know of any time or culture in history that did not respect these values.[10]

There are various notions of ethics since its definitions are produced from various sources such as religion, society, philosophers, academicians etc. Basically, ethics is defined as a branch of philosophy that deals with moral behavior. Morality refers to whether something is right or wrong, good or bad.[11] Ethics is also defined as the code of moral principles that sets standards of good or bad, or right or wrong behavior[12]. Ethical behavior is what is accepted as good and right as opposed to “bad” or wrong in the context of the governing moral code. Islamic ethics is defined as the code of moral principles that are prescribed by the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth. Islamic ethics is based on rational methods as well as revelation. Revelation provides the truth which rational methods lead to understanding and appreciation of truth. Hence, Islamic ethics is based on tawḥīd (oneness of God), or unity principle, which determines the unique relationship between God and man; man and man; and man and his environment.[13]

Moral and spiritual values may differ from culture to culture, as sociologists and anthropologies state on the strength of their researches, yet in civilized societies, certain values are accepted unanimously. It is also true that most people consider religion to be the source of values, implying that the same values may not be acceptable to the followers of different faiths. Nevertheless, there are certain human values common to all religions that guide the people to live in amity and harmony. These are the values which, when imbibed by men, exalt and refine life, and bring it into accord with the standards of conduct in civilized society.[14]

Factors that Determine and affect Ethics

Are we born with ethical values or do we develop them as we grow? What are the factors that determine and affect our ethics? Most of our values were shaped during our formative years. Environment, experience, education, greed, fear and pressure[15] are the main factors that largely determine our ethics formation. Wherein, environment consists of home (positive and negative influences), school (peer pressure), work, media (television, newspapers, magazines, radio, movies, social media etc.) cultural background, religious background, social and political environment, traditions and beliefs.[16] The main burden of moral education in any form must be borne by the home and the community, not by the school. Children are interested in knowing the opinions of adults, especially of their parents, about the moral issues they face in day-to-day life. If parents are not clear about their own values, children turn to other sources, e.g., TV, films, books, peer-groups, etc.[17]

Significance of Education at Various Stages

The Qur’ān divides men into three groups: Mu’min (believer in Islam), kāfir (a non-believer) and munāfiq (a hypocrite) and explains their nature and action in the early section of Sūrat al-Baqara. The notion of education in Islam aims at warding off the disrupting tendencies among Muslims, through teachers, books, and the social order. Thus it aims at developing a strong Muslim ummah (Muslim community) united in faith, disciplined in action, living and dying for the cause of truth and peace and providing the light of tawḥīd to humanity at large. Let us analyse briefly the concepts and attitudes of education and its significance at various stages.

  1. Pre-Primary Stage

This is the most important stage of a child’s life, when he is given the concept and attitudes which play a very important role in his later life. Education at his stage consists in creating such an environment for the child as is suitable for his proper development, which means the development of the “whole child”, body, mind and soul. It is in the lap of his mother that his emotions and feelings are trained in a certain direction which the child gets through affection and love from his parents.[18]

  1. Primary Stage

In the primary schools, children reach a stage where they can be told in a more definite manner what Islam means in actual practice. The emphasis should still remain more on physical development and the development of a healthy attitude and pleasant manners. Environment here has to play a very important role, and much that will be learnt will be learnt through the teacher.[19]

  • Secondary Stage

This is a stage which prepares students either to enter into life and accept their responsibilities or to take up professional training or an academic career. It is a stage which does not merely develop the innate qualities of the boys and girls but prepares them for shouldering the inevitable responsibilities of the future. It is here that the importance of the building up of character is most emphasised and education preparatory to life is stressed. Every opportunity at this important stage should be provided for developing body, mind and soul.[20]

  1. Colleges and Universities

According to Steven Muller, “Universities are turning out highly skilled barbarians because we don’t provide a framework of values to young people, who more and more are searching for it.[21] While our schools will be concerned with producing cultured citizens and equipping them with characters based on values, the great task of reorientation of Islamic thought and the rediscovery of the Islamic principles for the onward march, will have to undertaken in earnest by our colleges and universities.[22] A man who is ethically educated will be much better equipped to move up in life comparing a morally bankrupt with excellent academic qualifications.

Why Education Needs Ethics?

In the value system, neither the East nor the West do divinity and religion occupy a place of any serious study. An educational system which overlooks or negates the spiritual cravings of the individual by cutting him from his religious moorings does make a man or a society rootless. It may produce excellent engineer, competent doctors and learned philosophers but it would fail to imbibe in the younger generation righteous and ethical sensibility without which the other capabilities are not of much avail.[23] Teachers should lay emphasis on the merit of truth telling and honesty; than to stress the wrong of lying and stealing.[24] Development of human qualities such as brotherhood, justice etc should be one of the main aims of education. Students must be taught akhlāq within the subject of educational curriculum in relation to God, the Prophet (pbuh), parents, teachers, society and the universe.[25]

Problems: A Few Focal Questions and Issues

Educated Criminals: The defects in the current educational system means ethics or lack of it is evident in every profession but the more shocking thing is that most of the immoral, wrongs and crimes are committed by the educated mind! Most of the contemporary big crimes are committed by intelligent people. Educated mind with no ethics become educated criminals and very risky for society as they have potential of causing bigger damage and destruction. For instance: Cyber crime – India is vulnerable to cyber-crime done by people adept with technology but bereft of ethics. Financial crime – Students who have been taught law now find loopholes and ways to manipulate and circumvent it. The practice of offering bribes to prospective customers, misleading advertisements, sales of spurious and adulterated goods, hoarding and marketing manipulation, greedy doctors do unnecessary procedures and surgery. Lawyers bend the truth. Parents and children alike tell white lies, accountants and secretaries often falsify reports provide only a few examples. It should have been as if the light of education reaches, in the same way the crimes are reduced and the evils go away; but the reality is just opposite. Today, the fact is that the number of educated criminals is increasing every day. When we cheat the people around us, most of all we are cheating ourselves. We are preparing ourselves to be cheated. Additionally, when we cheat others, we start believing that others will do the same to us and we become suspicious and pessimistic. Prosperity brings responsibility. We cannot build industry and infrastructure while destroying the moral and social fibre.[26]

Changing Values: A survey of high school principals in 1958 asked this question: What are the main problems among your students? The answer was not doing homework, not respecting property for example throwing books, leaving lights on and doors and windows open, throwing spitballs in class, running through the halls. The same survey question was asked 30 years (one generation) later, in 1988. The answers were startlingly different. Here are the main problems of today’s high school students: Abortions, AIDS, rape, drugs, fear of violent death, murder, guns and knives in school.[27] Where are we heading?

Negative Influence: No ethics or lack of it in education is obvious scars. Today’s kids are learning their values more from television and movies than from any other source. It is estimated that in the United States, by the time a youngster gets out of high school, he has watched more than 20,000 hours of television, witnessed 15,000 murders, and watched 100,000 alcohol-related commercials.[28] Such movies and TV programs show the negative things into positive and fun way. No matter the crime rate is so high!

The Theory of Evolution: The first question in this is “who is a man? Is he a god or a beast, an angel or a creature? Although apparently its answer is very easy, but contemporary education has made it very complex. For example, Charles Darwin responded that a man is actually a beast and the current system of education has accepted this ideology. Obviously, if man is an animal, then what is the need for him to be bound to any faith or any ethical values? So today, when you see a man being deprived of ethics, it is because of the same conception. Therefore, it is very important to answer to all of these questions from the Islamic perspective.

The Style of Imparting Education: Education is named as physics, chemistry and biology then how will they comply with Islamic ideology. Will their notion and information be different in Islamic institutions? In the Islamic teaching, the notion and information will not be different, but the style of presentation will be different. For example, you probably do not conceive that the style of Western education is based on Idolatry. If you do not believe then take a closer look at their curriculums and see what kind of books they study. You will soon know the fact that they see nature is the whole sole creator of everything. Here, allow me to present examples of two big scientists, Darwin and Ibn al-Haytham. Darwin keeps his ideology on the nature and rejects the creator of nature completely, while Ibn al-Haytham begins the interpretation of his ideas in the name of God and praises the creator of the nature. This is a key difference between the scholar who does not believe in God and the scholar who does believe in God. There is no difference between their intellect and knowledge but the way of imparting information is quite different! Academic information does not change, neither ours, nor of them, but the stand does differ.

Is Progressive Education Leading Towards Atheism?: Why are highly educated people more likely to be atheists? What is wrong with this progressive educational system which leads to more and more atheism? Atheism is rare in Muslim populations. Still, there is a Muslim tradition of religious scepticism and agnosticism particularly among intellectuals with a modern education. If we look at the system of western education it lacks moderate balance wherein Islamic values have been backed up in the name of science and technologies, resulting scepticism, agnostics and atheism embedded in the current generations.

Age of Technologies: The positive effect, such as innovation in science and technology, has transformed human beings into a better life and has accelerated their activities and productivities. Nevertheless, the negative effects of modern life are rapidly accelerating. The rapid development and innovation of technology has exerted a great influence upon the pattern of human interaction, and has resulted in the changes of interpersonal and intergroup relations. Technology has connected people more closely, yet technology also has brought into the traditional culture a new wave of other cultures, which has somehow impacted the values. As a result, individuals have been very busy with their own matters and they no longer pay much care and concern about other people.

When we wake up in the morning, whether we read a newspaper, listen to a radio, or watch the news on a television, we encounter news of violence, injustice, crimes, conflicts, wars, murders, and the list does not stop here! We can barely remember one single day without the same terrible news occurring somewhere or another. The twenty first century belongs to technological and scientific advancement. Is it not ironic that the more serious problems are originating from those societies that are most advanced and educated in these areas? This indicates that there must be something seriously wrong with progress and development.

The qualities of both good and bad inside human beings have been laid. The spirit of goodness is also within him, and the desire of evil also keeps burning inside him. The whole life of a man passes into this tussle. The education must be that helps a man, in the struggle of good and evil, to attain goodness and conquer over evil. Then when good morals are created within the person, he uses his knowledge ethically. Therefore, the education is essentially required ethics and such education leads man to good conduct that ultimately becomes the beneficial for the humanity. For which the prophet also prayed: “O Allah! Grant me benefit in what you have taught me, and teach me useful knowledge and provide me with knowledge that will benefit me.”

اَللَّهُمَّ اِنْفَعْنِي بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنِي, وَعَلِّمْنِي مَا يَنْفَعُنِي, وَارْزُقْنِي عِلْمًا يَنْفَعُنِي

Sectarianism: Other challenge, which seems in our educational system, is the problem of sectarian conflicts. The disease of sectarianism is common not only among madrasa students but even among college and university students. It has now taken the shape of organized communalism, undermining all efforts to promote the notion of brotherhood. The literature produced by our traditional madrasas and the speeches of their ‘ulamā instigating ideological war against other Muslim sects in order to further boost sectarianism. Therefore, madrasas are far from being completely immune to new, updated, new methods and techniques of teaching and learning. And this is what disables the youngsters to be creative and further create sectarianism. Such youngsters then execute strike-down, demolish, destroy and spread corruption on the earth. As Qur’an appeals people: “And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption”.[29]

وَيَا قَوْمِ أَوْفُوا الْمِكْيَالَ وَالْمِيزَانَ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَلَا تَبْخَسُوا النَّاسَ أَشْيَاءَهُمْ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ –

Lack of a Good Training: Sometimes children are confused about the real meaning of a particular value. It is necessary for parents to clarify values in operational terms, so that the meaning of a value could be understood correctly by the young child. For this purpose, parents may use a suitable story, an anecdote or an event with which the child is familiar.[30] Here, it benefits us to investigate the ways by which the Prophet (pbuh) taught his companions. Following are a few examples:[31]

  1. The Prophet would sometimes repeat something three times: “The Prophet said, ‘By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!’ It was said [by one individual listening], “Who is that, O Allah’s Apostle?” He (pbuh) said, “That person whose neighbour does not feel safe from his evil.”
  2. He also used drawing or illustration to make a point graphically. Once the Prophet (pbuh) drew a straight line through the sand and then drew lines to the right and lines to the left of the first line. Then while the people were looking intently at the drawing, he recited the verse, “And verily, this is My Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path”[32]

The role of the teacher is, however, not less important in moral education, particularly at the primary stage. In the case of young children, the teacher’s personal influence is of great consequence. From the teacher, if he is worthy of his profession, children would learn, in a thousand subtle ways, the attitudes and sentiments that distinguish the humane from the brutal, the civilized from the barbaric way of life.[33]

Are You Good?: If we take a survey, asking people one question, “Are you good?” most people would respond, “Yes!” Ask them, “What makes you good?” Response will be: I don’t cheat so I’m good. I don’t lie so that makes me good. I don’t steal, so I’m good.

If you analyze the above rationales, there is not much substance in them. Just think of the person who says, “I don’t cheat.” Well, that only means that he is not a cheat. And the person who says they don’t lie and steal only mean that they are not liars and thieves. But that doesn’t make them good. A person becomes good when he actually does good rather than not doing wrong. A person of values would be one who has qualities such as fairness, compassion, courage, integrity, empathy, humility, loyalty and courtesy.[34] Are we supposed to be called a good person?

Am I Making This a Better Place to Live?: There are many kinds of desire – desire for success; desire to do one’s duty even at the cost of pleasure; desire for purpose – something worth dying for which gives meaning in life. What good is it if you gain the whole world and lose your conscience?[35] What is your purpose? Do you have one? Every day we need to ask ourselves: “Am I getting any closer to my purpose in life? Am I making this a better place to live?”[36]

Between Right and Wrong: Bad circumstances are not excuses for making bad choices. Values and ethics are not just designed for good times, but also to get you through bad times. They are like the laws of the land – you need them when circumstances are good, but they are even more valuable to protect you from the bad. Most choices are not ethical choices. For example, what clothes to buy or what mobile to get are personal choices based on what is most appropriate for your situation. They are not ethical choices. Personal choices are subjective, not objective. Even though these are not ethical issues they certainly involve responsibility. Ethical choices reflect objective choice between right and wrong. That is why your conscience hurts when making an unethical choice and does not hurt when you make a wrong personal choice – because in ethical matters there is a clear right choice.[37]

Why Should Not I Notion?: Being a nice person is not the same thing as being a good and ethical person. A person can be socially nice yet be a cheat and a liar. That makes him nice but unethical. However, niceness reflects social acceptability. Unfortunately, many of our choices today seem to be based on our desire for convenience, comfort and pleasure. Our feelings – the criteria is to feel good rather than do what is responsible. Social fads and ads – the philosophy that everyone else is doing it, so why should not I? [38]

Where Will The Younger Generation End Up?: We worry about the declining morals of the younger generation: where will they end up? Before we point a finger at them, let’s evaluate who is to blame. Values and virtues are not hereditary; they are learned. We need to get our priorities right if we are to influence the next generations positively.[39]

Conditioning: Conditioning is the psychological process whereby we get used to (or become conditioned to) specific events occurring in association with each other. The most famous example of conditioning is Pavlov’s dogs. The Russian scientist Pavlov would ring a bell each time he fed his dogs. Of course, the dogs would salivate at the sight of their meal. Pavlov did this for some time. Then Pavlov rang the bell and did not produce the food. The dogs still salivated because they had been conditioned to expect the bell with their food.[40]

Most of our behavior comes as a result of conditioning. We are all being conditioned continuously by the environment and the media, and we start behaving like robots. It is our responsibility to condition ourselves in a positive manner. If we want to do anything well, it must become automatic. If we have to consciously think about doing the right thing, we will never be able to do it really well. That means we must make it a habit. Good habits are hard to come by but easy to live with. Bad habits come easy but are hard to live with. We are constantly being conditioned, consciously or unconsciously, by exposure to the kind of books we read, the kind of movies and TV programs we watch, the kind of music that we listen to, the kind of company we keep.

How High Are Our Ethical Standards?: What would you do in the following situations?

  1. You know the taxi fare from your home to the airport is $64. You have paid that price several times before; you know it is the correct fare. This time the taxi driver asks for $32. What would you do?
  2. You are dining in a restaurant. You ordered four dishes and the waiter brings all four but, by mistake, billed you for only three. What would you do?
  • Your best friend is terminally ill and you are a life assurance salesman. Your friend needs $100,000 worth of insurance. No one knows and no one can find out that your friend is dying. Would you write the policy?

What advice would you give to your children or students under the same circumstances? Is your behavior in conformance with the advice you would give your children under the same situation? We start learning ethics right after birth and continue all through our lives. Can we change ethical behavior?[41]

Teaching Wrong Values: Many times, inadvertently and innocently, we end up teaching wrong values within our families and organizations. For example, we tell our children or staff to lie for us.

  • Tell them I am not here.
  • The check is in the mail.

We all look to our parents, teachers and supervisors to teach us integrity. And many times we are disappointed. Practicing these petty lies turns a person into a professional liar. When we teach others to lie for us, a day will come when they will lie to us too. For example, a secretary calls in sick when she really wants to go shopping. Maybe the boss gave her enough practice lying for him that she has become an expert in lying to him.[42]

Prospects: Hope and Anticipations

People have to be educated. But it must be equipped with ethics. The 21st century is lashed with 360 degree technology but this advancement without ethics may be dangerous to the world. Therefore, there has to be a link or connection between education and ethics. This link can be brought or explored through several ways.  One of the ways is through religion. As the religion has always been the fundamental source of ethics in known academic human history. There are some religious values and cultural norms that we all share, which are acceptable to all. When people start connecting over common human values it leads to mutual cooperation and understanding. We have to adopt Islamic values: a distinctive framework for ethics in education.[43] The dimension of the code of educational ethics in Islam are numerous, far reaching and comprehensive. Islamic morality deals with all aspects of human life. It deals with relationship between man and Allah, man and his fellowmen man and other elements and creatures of the universe, and his innermost self. To them arrogance, vanity, harshness and indifference, are distasteful and displeasing to Allah.

Principle of Islamic Educational Ethics

The range of ethics in Islam include belief in Allah, religious rites, spiritual observance, social conduct, decision making, intellectual pursuits, habits of consumption, awareness of speech and all the other aspects of human life. Moral principles and the code of ethics are repeatedly stressed throughout the Qur’ān. Besides the Qur’ān there is also the Ḥadīth which cover the area of ethics. For that reason it would also be beyond the ability of one paper to have a comprehensive coverage of the principle of ethics in Islam. In view of the nature of the subject, the following topics have been selected as a sample of principle of educational ethics in Islam. I have included the following: brotherhood, truthfulness, justice, commitment and sincerity.

  1. Brotherhood (ukhuwah)

Islam offers the concept of universal brotherhood and declares all human beings are brothers to each other without the distinctions of caste, creed, colour, tribe, race, territory and language of an individual or group. Islam has presented the concept of brotherhood as follows:

  1. Qur’ān
  2. O mankind! We have created you from single of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.[44]

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا

  1. And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you, when you were enemies and he brought your hearts together and you became brothers by his favour.[45]

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا

  1. Ḥadīth
  2. Do not hate each other, do not envy each other, do not turn away from each other, but rather be servants of Allah as brothers. It is not lawful for a Muslim to boycott his brother for more than three days.[46]

لَا تَبَاغَضُوا وَلَا تَحَاسَدُوا وَلَا تَدَابَرُوا وَكُونُوا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ إِخْوَانًا وَلَا يَحِلُّ لِمُسْلِمٍ أَنْ يَهْجُرَ أَخَاهُ فَوْقَ ثَلَاثٍ

  1. None among you will be a true believer until he wants for his brother that which he wants for himself.[47]

لا يَبْلُغُ عَبْدٌ حَقِيقَةَ الإِيمَانِ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لِلنَّاسِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ

  1. Truthfulness (misdaqia)

Truthfulness is a basic ethical code of Islam. It includes all aspects of life. It is repeatedly mentioned in both the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth. Some examples are as follows:

  1. Qur’ān
  2. Say: Allah has told the truth. So follow the religion on Ibrahim, the upright.[48]

قُلْ صَدَقَ اللَّهُ ۗ فَاتَّبِعُوا مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا

  1. ‘O ye who believe! Fear Allah, and be with those who are truthful.[49]

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ

  1. Ḥadīth
  2. It is obligatory for you to tell the truth, for truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Paradise, and the man who continues to speak the truth and endeavours to tell the truth is eventually recorded as truthful with Allah, and beware of telling of a lie for telling of a lie leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to Hell-Fire, and the person who keeps telling lies and endeavours to tell a lie is recorded as a liar with Allah.[50]

عَلَيْكُمْ بِالصِّدْقِ فَإِنَّ الصِّدْقَ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْبِرِّ وَإِنَّ الْبِرَّ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَمَا يَزَالُ الرَّجُلُ يَصْدُقُ وَيَتَحَرَّى الصِّدْقَ حَتَّى يُكْتَبَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ صِدِّيقًا وَإِيَّاكُمْ وَالْكَذِبَ فَإِنَّ الْكَذِبَ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْفُجُورِ وَإِنَّ الْفُجُورَ يَهْدِي إِلَى النَّارِ وَمَا يَزَالُ الرَّجُلُ يَكْذِبُ وَيَتَحَرَّى الْكَذِبَ حَتَّى يُكْتَبَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ كَذَّابًا

  1. Abū Hurairah reported that the people said, “Messenger of Allah, you joke with us!” He replied, “But I only speak the truth.”[51]

يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، إِنَّكَ تُدَاعِبُنَا‏؟‏ قَالَ‏:‏ إِنِّي لاَ أَقُولُ إِلا حَقًّا‏

  1. Justice (ʻadl)

To treat people equally is a pre-requisite of fairness and justice. The whole universe is based on the concept of justice and balance. The following is a selection of verses in the Qur’ān as regards to justice:

  1. Qur’ān
  2. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression.[52]

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ

2.      O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against you or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not the lust (of your hearts), lest you not be just. And if you distort [justice] or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well acquainted with all that you do.[53]

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ ۚ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا


  1. Ḥadīth
  2. The best fighting (jihad) in the path of Allah is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler.[54]

أَفْضَلُ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةُ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ‏.‏ أَوْ ‏”‏ أَمِيرٍ جَائِرٍ ‏”‏

  1. If anyone seeks the office of judge among Muslims till he gets it and his justice prevails over his tyranny, he will go to Paradise; but the man whose tyranny prevails over his justice will go to Hell.[55]

مَنْ طَلَبَ قَضَاءَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ حَتَّى يَنَالَهُ ثُمَّ غَلَبَ عَدْلُهُ جَوْرَهُ فَلَهُ الْجَنَّةُ وَمَنْ غَلَبَ جَوْرُهُ عَدْلَهُ فَلَهُ النَّارُ

  1. Commitment (ailtizam)

An integral part of a good value system is commitment. Our relationships are tied together and work because of the promises. Breaking a promise is a sin and leads to the fire. Commitments will be asked about on the Day of Judgment. The following are some of the Qur’ānic verses and tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) in this respect:

  1. Qur’ān
  2. And fulfil [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.[56]

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا مَالَ الْيَتِيمِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ حَتَّىٰ يَبْلُغَ أَشُدَّهُ ۚ وَأَوْفُوا بِالْعَهْدِ

  1. But yes, whoever fulfils his commitment and fears Allah – then indeed, Allah loves those who fear Him.[57]

بَلَىٰ مَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِعَهْدِهِ وَاتَّقَىٰ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ

  1. Ḥadīth
  2. The signs of a hypocrite are three: Whenever he speaks he tells a lie; whenever he is entrusted he proves dishonest; whenever he promises he breaks his promise.[58]

آيَةُ الْمُنَافِقِ ثَلاَثٌ، إِذَا حَدَّثَ كَذَبَ، وَإِذَا اؤْتُمِنَ خَانَ، وَإِذَا وَعَدَ أَخْلَفَ

  1. Do not argue with your brother, do not ridicule him, and do not make a promise, only to not fulfil it.[59]

لاَ تُمَارِ أَخَاكَ وَلاَ تُمَازِحْهُ وَلاَ تَعِدْهُ مَوْعِدَةً فَتُخْلِفَهُ

  1. Sincerity (ikhlāṣ)

Islam attaches great importance to the sincerity of intentions and actions in every walk of life. Sincerity discourages manipulation and exploitation of others for personal reasons. Islam has emphasized this code of ethics as we see in Qur’ān and Ḥadīth:

  1. Qur’ān
  2. And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practice regular charity; and that is the religion right and straight.[60]

وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاءَ وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ

2.      So woe to those who pray who are neglectful of their prayers those who make show [of their deeds] and withhold [simple] assistance.[61]

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ – الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ – الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ – وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ

  1. Ḥadīth
  2. Religion is sincerity, religion is sincerity, religion is sincerity. They said; “To whom, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “To Allah, to His Book, to His Messenger, to the imams of the Muslims and to their common folk.”[62]

“‏ إِنَّ الدِّينَ النَّصِيحَةُ إِنَّ الدِّينَ النَّصِيحَةُ إِنَّ الدِّينَ النَّصِيحَةُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالُوا لِمَنْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ‏”‏ لِلَّهِ وَلِكِتَابِهِ وَلِرَسُولِهِ وَلأَئِمَّةِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَعَامَّتِهِمْ ‏”‏‏


  1. The Prophet (pbuh) said in relation to sincerity, “Verily Allah does not look to your bodies, to your faces but He looks to your hearts and deeds.”[63]

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى أَجْسَادِكُمْ وَلاَ إِلَى صُوَرِكُمْ وَلَكِنْ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى قُلُوبِكُم


We need a balanced approach to the education. We have to resolve this conflict, education for dīn (faith) and education for Dunyā (this world), without further loss of time. The balanced system of education has to take into account the need for harmony between faith and knowledge and between education and values in order to turn out well educated young men with ethical conscience who become worthy heirs to the global human society. It is difficult to lay-down an exhaustive list of the functions of such an integrated system of education. However, in the light of the above discussion, In fact, the studies should go hand in hand as the former is the study of the book of Allah while the latter is that of Allah’s creation. Teaching theology alone will be performing half of the task. However, teaching modern sciences without religion, ethics and belief in Allah will bring some knowledge of the world around without any of the destiny of Man and his well-being, ending in frustration and unhappiness. The approach, then, shall have to inculcate a sense of ethics and moral principles. To conclude in a nut shell education must be provided with vision and values so that an educated person is expected to turn scars into stars.

[1] Guest Faculty, Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi-110025

Notes and References

[1] Today, the very widely discussed issue all over the world is the inclination of human values in a man. Indeed, man is essentially an ethical and moral being. As such, the most distinguishing feature of human life is the sense of moral judgment. The question of ethics has always the attention and the consideration of scholars, administrations and others alike throughout the history of mankind. The rise and fall of different civilizations often reveal an important effective ethical dimension.

[2] Bulugh al-Maram, Kitab al-Jām’i, Book 16, Hadith 1576.

[3] Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) was an American statesman and a prolific writer. He also served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. As an editor of Outlook magazine, Roosevelt had weekly access to a large, educated national audience.

[4] To discuss Ethics means to understand it in society because it can’t happen to a person alone. People relate themselves in society and Ethics is the basic foundation to social life.

[5] It would be beyond the ability of one paper to have a comprehensive coverage of ethics in Islam. Such endeavour is a life time research. Therefore, the future research is open for more details and elaboration of each of the variable presented as well as others that have not been mentioned.

[6] Manẓoor Aḥmad, Islamic Education: Redefinition of Aims and Methodology, Qazi Publishers and Distributers, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 4-6. This segregation in the West is a curious product of the historical conflict between the Church and the leaders of the Renaissance and the Reformation.

[7] Stand of ‘Ulamā towards Modern Education, compiled and partly translated by Muhammadullah Muhammad Khalili Qasmi, Reseach Fellow, Markazul Ma’arif, Mumbai.

[8] Manẓoor Aḥmad, Islamic Education: Redefinition of Aims and Methodology, Qazi Publishers and Distributers, New Delhi, 1990, p. 25.

[9] Manẓoor Aḥmad, Islamic Education: Redefinition of Aims and Methodology, Qazi Publishers and Distributers, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 4-6.

[10] Khera, S. You Can Win, Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., New Delhi, 2009.

[11] Cherrington and Cherrington, 1995, p. 2. Also see: Mahony, 2009, p. 983.

[12] Schemerhorn, 2008, p. 32.

[13] Alhabshi, 1993, p. 83.

[14] Encyclopaedic of Madrasa Education in India. Vista International Publishing House, Delhi, 2007, p. 250.

[15] Pressure to perform does not justify unethical acts.

[16] Khera, S. You Can Win, Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., New Delhi, 2009.

[17] Encyclopaedic of Madrasa Education in India. Vista International Publishing House, Delhi, 2007, pp. 250-251, p. 254.

[18] Education in Elementary Schools, Coswell and Foshay, p. 87.

[19] Bilgrami, Hamid H. Call from the Minaret: Islamic Values and Education. London: Islamic Council of Europe, 1981, pp. 29-30.

[20] Ibid., p. 31.

[21] Steven Muller (1927–2013) was born in Germany. He was the president of the Johns Hopkins University, serving from 1972 to 1990. He was also a co-chairman of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

[22] Bilgrami, Hamid H. Call from the Minaret: Islamic Values and Education. London: Islamic Council of Europe, 1981, p. 32. Perhaps the first Muslim who felt the urge of this new spirit in him was Hazrat Shah Waliullah of Delhi; whereas the man who was fully aware of the importance of this task and who continued it in full earnestness was Dr. Muhammad Iqbal himself.

[23] Manẓoor Aḥmad, Islamic Education: Redefinition of Aims and Methodology, Qazi Publishers and Distributers, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 3-4.

[24] S.P. Ruhela, Raj Kumar Nayak, Value Education and Human Rights Education’, Vol. 2, Neelkamal Publications Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad, 2011, p. 158.

[25] Morality and religion must go together. If an educational system is to be morally effective, if the school is to inspire its pupils to higher reaches of moral endeavour, must rest on a sound religious foundation. In fact, standards of right and wrong prevalent in any society have their ultimate source in religion. morality in other words has its root in religion.

[26] Khera, S. You Can Win, Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., New Delhi, 2009, p. 289.

[27] Ibid., p. 285.

[28] Jerry Johnson, It’s Killing Our Kids, Nelson Incorporated, p. xvi. A woman is raped in the United States every 46 seconds. (National Victim Centre/Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992). Eighty-six percent of rapists admit to regular use of pornography, with 57 percent admitting imitation of pornography scenes when committing sex crimes (Dr. William Marshall, 1988). From the National Coalition for The Protection of Children and Families, Annual Report, 1995.

[29] Qur’ān 11:85.

[30] Encyclopaedic of Madrasa Education in India. Vista International Publishing House, Delhi, 2007, pp. 250-255.

[31] For those who are interested in further researching this topic, the following book is suggested: “Prophet Muhammad – The Teacher and His Teaching Methodologies” (Ar-Rasul al-Mu’allim wa Asalibuhu fi ‘l-Ta’lim) by Shaikh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah; Translated by Maulana Mohamed.

[32] Qur’ān 6:153.

[33] Encyclopaedic of Madrasa Education in India. Vista International Publishing House, Delhi, 2007, pp. 250-255.

[34] Khera, S. You Can Win, Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., New Delhi, 2009, p. 287.

[35] The part of you that judges how moral your own actions are and makes you feel guilty about bad things that you have done or things you feel responsible for.

[36] Khera, S. You Can Win, Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., New Delhi, 2009, p. 277.

[37] Ibid., p. 272.

[38] Ibid., p. 273.

[39] Ibid., p. 260.

[40] Ibid., pp. 226, 228. How do we get conditioned? Think of the mighty elephant that can lift in excess of a ton of weight with just its trunk. How does an elephant get conditioned to stay in one place, tied with a weak rope and a stake, when it could easily uproot the stake and move wherever it wants? The answer is that when the elephant was a baby, it had been tied by a strong chain to a strong tree. The baby is not used to being tied, so it keeps tugging and pulling the chain, all in vain. A day comes when it realizes that tugging and pulling will not help. It stops and stands still. Now it is conditioned. And when the baby elephant becomes the mighty full grown elephant, it is tied with a weak rope and a small stake. The elephant could, with one tug, walk away free, but it goes nowhere, because it has been conditioned.

[41] Ibid., p. 288.

[42] Ibid., p. 148.

[43] Minneapolis Tribune, July 11, 1988.

[44] Qur’ān 49: 13.

[45] Qur’ān 03: 103.

[46] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5718, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2559.

[47] Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 238.

[48] Qur’ān 3: 95.

[49] Qur’ān 9: 119.

[50] Sahih Muslim, The Book of Virtue, Enjoining Good Manners, and Joining of the Ties of Kinship, Book 45, Hadith 136.

[51] Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Dealing with people and good character, Book 14, Hadith 265.

[52] Qur’ān 16: 90.

[53] Qur’ān 04: 135.

[54] Sunan Abi Dawud 4344.

[55] Ibid., 3575.

[56] Qur’ān 17: 34.

[57] Qur’ān 03: 76.

[58] Sahih al-Bukhari 2749.

[59] Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1995.

[60] Qur’ān 98: 05.

[61] Qur’ān 107: 4-7.

[62] Sunan an-Nasa’i 4199.

[63] Sahih Muslim 2564.

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