Muslim Ethics and World View: An Essence of Manners and Care- Alex Broekhuijse

The ethical beliefs and world view of a community, faith, or nation are some of the most essential elements of that societies structure. When one specifically examines the ethical beliefs and world view of the Muslim faith, one finds that the most common theme throughout is the concept of supporting and caring for all within the Muslim community. This theme builds itself into several core traditions and concepts within the Muslim culture and faith. These traditions have metamorphosed Islam from a religion to an all encompassing lifestyle. The basis and essential core of Muslim ethics and world view is born from a amalgamation of manners, philanthropy, and community.

The primary aspect of the Muslim world view is a thorough appreciation of proper manners, which is deeply rooted in a shared love for all in the Muslim community. This appreciation for manners represents itself in the concept of adab. Adab refers to the concept of the prescribed Islamic etiquette. Specifically it refers to the ability to sense what is appropriate in each moment and to give to each its dueAdab itself is the representation in the Muslim world of being kind and good to others, and the way it manifests itself is through treating others properly and with goodness. It is a structured belief, and it is a lifestyle drawn directly from the Qran and the primary muslim society created by Muhammad. This differs for example from Christianity, which preaches doing right to others, and to love thy neighbor as thyself, however this concept is not a core tenement of Christian life. In Islam however, being good to others, possessing good manners, and practicing Adab is a primary way to praise, show appreciation to, and please God. Adab is inscribed into Muslim life, and is similarly a particularly strong aspect of the foundation of Muslim society. In his text Adab: The Sufi Art of Conscious Relationship, Kabir Helminsky describes Adab as The practical outcome of adab was to help create an atmosphere of sharing, of unity, of coherence It is Adab that provides the compassion that is necessary for individuals within a society to coexist. It serves a role historically as well, as when Muhammad was constructing the initial Muslim society, he needed to gather several different tribes together into one. By both preaching and enforcing social goodness, he provided a way to bring individuals to care about one another, as a way of pleasing their shared God.

The secondary pillar of Muslim ethical and world perspective is the concept of philanthropy, which fosters an element of compassion that allows the Muslim community to flow. This philanthropy manifests itself in many ways, however it manifests itself most uniquely in the concept of a waqf. The waqf, a religious institution established in the Muslim community to care and benefit the poor represents the bond between man and God. Waqfs display a modern day sacrifice from man, to God, with the community and individuals giving pieces of property and structures to God in order to care for the poor. These places become shelters for those with nowhere else to go. Surrendering ones property to God and to those who suffer displays not only dedication to ones God, but also dedication to ones fellow man. This form of religious charity represents an attempt from Muhammad to engrain care for thy fellow man deep into traditional Muslim culture. In her text Islam and Civil Society: The Waqf, Claire Morgan describes the Waqf as The real purpose of making a waqf  is to acquire merit in the eyes of the Lord; all other purposes are subsidiary. Therefore every purpose considered by Muhammadan law as religious, pious, or charitable would be considered valid. From an ethical perspective the concept of a waqf reveals a unique conclusion about the Muslim faith and community. It reveals that the primary way to succeed both in life and in the eyes of God, is by helping others. It is through charity and philanthropy that individuals can truly do great things, and it is likely this philanthropic outlook that the Muslim empire was able to succeed the way it was, because individuals were not only looking out for themselves, but also for others.

The final essential pillar to the Islamic world view is the concept of an ummah, or community, a concept which also the citizens of the Muslim world to bind together, and also care for one another. The word ummah drawn from the Arabic word for mother and the Hebrew word for tribe represents the Muslim concept of a natural community.  These natural communities represent a melding of a religious and a political world, producing a place where the Muslim lifestyle can take place. In the primary Muslim empire faith and politics were one and the same, and what allowed this fusion to take place was the concept of ummah. Similarly to the concepts of waqf and adab, the traditional ummah represents the promotion of mutual respect and kindness for each individual within that natural community. It similarly represents a bond to God, as the natural community is a place where God sends his prophets.

The ummah serves as the natural conclusion and similarly essence of the Islamic world view and ethical perspective. It reveals the importance of community in muslim life, but more than that it adds context to the etiquette and philantrophic emphasis within muslim life, because it reveals the motivation. The muslim individual desires to serve and care for their community, because their community is their connection to God. Their tribe is a representation of their God and their faith, and thus by caring and helping others, they are helping their God.

 

  1. Kabir Helminsky, Adab: The Sufi Art of Conscious Relationship, 93
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid, 94.
  5. Claire Morgan, Islam and Civil Society: The Waqf, 21
  6. Ibid, 21.
  7. Ibid, 21.
  8. Montogomery Watt, The Islamic State Under Muhammad, 5.
  9. Ibid, 6.