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Islamic ethics

is the “philosophical reflection upon moral conduct” with a view to defining “good character” and attaining the “pleasure of God” (raza-e Ilahi).[1][2] It is distinguished from “Islamic morality”, which pertains to “specific norms or codes of behavior”.[1]

It took shape as a field of study or an “Islamic science” (ʿIlm al-Akhlaq), gradually from the 7th century and was finally established by the 11th century.[3] Although it was considered less important than sharia and fiqh “in the eyes of the ulama” (Islamic scholars) “moral philosophy” was an important subject for Muslim intellectuals.[4] Many scholars consider it shaped as a successful amalgamation of the Qur’anic teachings, the teachings of Muhammad, the precedents of Islamic jurists (see Sharia and Fiqh), the pre-Islamic Arabian tradition, and non-Arabic elements (including Persian and Greek ideas) embedded in or integrated with a generally Islamic structure.[3] Although Muhammad’s preaching produced a “radical change in moral values based on the sanctions of the new religion … and fear of God and of the Last Judgment”; the tribal practice of Arabs did not completely die out. Later Muslim scholars expanded the religious ethic of the Qur’an and Hadith in immense detail.[3]



Akhlaq (Arabic: أخلاق, /æxˈlɑːk/, plural of (Arabic: خلق khulq which means disposition), is the practice of virtue, morality and manners in Islamic theology and falsafah (philosophy). Akhlaq is the most commonly used Islamic term for morality.[5]

The science of ethics (`Ilm al-Akhlaq) teaches that through practice and conscious effort man can surpass their natural dispositions and natural uncorrupted state (Fitrah) to become more ethical and well mannered. Akhlaq is a kind of normative ethical system known as “virtue ethics”, which is based on “virtues, or moral character”, rather than “conceptions of the right (as in Kantian ethics) or the good (as in utilitarianism)”.[6]

Akhlaq is not found in the Quran, but its root – kh-l-q – is shared by khaliq (Creator) and makhluq (creature), which are found throughout the Quran. It is most commonly translated in English-Arabic dictionaries as: disposition, nature, temper, ethics, morals or manners or in general a person who has good manners, and behaves well.[7][8]: 470


Adab (Arabic: أدب) in the context of behavior, refers to prescribed Islamic etiquette: “refinement, good manners, morals, decorum, decency, humaneness” (according to the book Religion and Law).[9] While interpretation of the scope and particulars of Adab may vary among different cultures, common among these interpretations is regard for personal standing through the observation of certain codes of behavior.[10] To exhibit Adab would be to show “proper discrimination of correct order, behavior, and taste.”[10]

A description of the difference between Akhlaq and Adab is

Aklaq is ethics, the ‘moral philosophy’; Ethics/ morality. Islamic behaviour, disposition, good conduct, nature, temper, ethics, morals or character of a person.
Adab is “the actual practices of moral philosophy”; Manner, attitude, behaviour and the etiquette of putting things in their proper place[11] “a culture of refined behavior [that] shaped the ethical outlook of urban Muslims” There were writings setting forth “the virtues for different classes and groups to honor, including the ulama, rulers, bureaucrats, merchants and craftsmen”.[4]
Furthermore, according to one source (Abdulmajeed Hassan Bello), sharia (usually defined as Islamic law) is not just concerned with concerned “with legal rules and regulations indicating “what man is entitled or bound to do, … but also what he ought, in conscience, to do or refrain from doing. Thus, shari’ah … embraces both private and public activities.”[citation needed]

Scriptural sources


The Quran, which Muslims believe to be the verbatim word of God, serves as the primary source of moral teachings in Islam.[15] Verse 2:177 declares:

“Righteousness is not in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Rather, the righteous are those who believe in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Books, and the prophets; who give charity out of their cherished wealth to relatives, orphans, the poor, ˹needy˺ travellers, beggars, and for freeing captives; who establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and keep the pledges they make; and who are patient in times of suffering, adversity, and in ˹the heat of˺ battle. It is they who are true ˹in faith˺, and it is they who are mindful ˹of Allah˺.”
Another verse states:

“Believers are those … who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex except with their wives, or whom their right hands possess. Thus they’re free from blame, but those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors. Believers faithfully observe their trusts and covenants and keep their prayers. They will be the heirs, who will inherit Paradise, where they will dwell.” (Q.23:3–11)[16]
However, the Quran offers “more in the way of general principles”—justice, goodness, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, and piety – “than specific rules”.[5]

The Ten Commandments In Quran[edit]
Quran provides the Ten Commandments which is believed to be as originally revealed to Moses: [17][18][19][20]

151. Say: “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: 1Join not anything in worship with Him; 2And be good (and dutiful) to your parents; 3And kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; 4And come not near to Al-Fawahish (shameful sins, illegal sexual intercourse, adultery etc.) whether committed openly or secretly, 5And kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to the Law). This He has commanded you that you may understand.

152. “6And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full strength; 7And give full measure and full weight with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. 8And whenever you give your word (i.e. judge between men or give evidence, etc.), say the truth even if a near relative is concerned, 9And fulfill the Covenant of Allah. This He commands you, that you may remember.

0And verily, this (the Commandments mentioned in the above Verses) is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).”[21]
Evidence for these verses having some relation to Moses and the Ten Commandments is from the verse which immediately follows them:

Then, We gave Musa (Moses) the Book, to complete (Our Favour) upon those who would do right, and explaining all things in detail and a guidance and a mercy that they might believe in the meeting with their Lord.[22]
According to a narration in Mustadrak Hakim, Ibn Abbas, a prominent narrator of Israiliyat traditions said, “In Surah Al-An`am, there are clear Ayat, and they are the Mother of the Book (the Qur’an).” He then recited the above verses.[23]

Also in Mustadrak Hakim is the narration of Ubada ibn as-Samit:

The Messenger of Allah said, “Who among you will give me his pledge to do three things?”

He then recited the (above) Ayah (6:151–153).

He then said, “Whoever fulfills (this pledge), then his reward will be with Allah, but whoever fell into shortcomings and Allah punishes him for it in this life, then that will be his recompense. Whoever Allah delays (his reckoning) until the Hereafter, then his matter is with Allah. If He wills, He will punish him, and if He wills, He will forgive him.”[23]

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