It should be noted that the affairs of Islam are founded on the following order: Meta-physical principles, akhlaq area, ‘ibadat (Worship), social regulations (law, trading). Moreover, the three principal themes of the Meccan revelations of the Qur’an are “Allah and his unity (tawhid),” “the coming resurrection and judgement,” and “righteous conduct.” Therefore, it should be noted that the concept of akhlaq and its application in daily lives is one of the main themes in the Qur’an.

Akhlaq is the plural of qhuluq in Arabic, meaning “character and temperament of a person”. There are various aspects of ethical duties and responsibilities such as human’s duties towards himself/herself, physical, spiritual such as taqwa, hilm, hikmah, ‘iffat, honesty (sidq, istiqama), modesty (tawadu‘), ethical duties in family, social ethical duties and responsibilities, and ethical duties related to business and commerce (Cagrici, Ahlak, DIA). There are various verses regarding many aspects of akhlaq. The Qur’an should be considered to be a book based on theory and ethics. Therefore, re-discovering the universal principles of the Meccan period and central akhlaq values of the Qur’an in the contemporary period is of particular significance.

Muslim scholars produced many works on akhlaq and moral ethics throughout the Islamic history. ‘Adududdin al-Ijī’s (d. 756/1355) Akhlaq ‘Adudiyya (Risalat al-Akhlaq) can be given as a great example from the literature. Various super-commentaries have been written on it, and Tashkoprizade’s Sharh al-Akhlaq al-‘Adudiyya is one of the well-known glosses. In the first chapter, al-Ijī focuses on the topics of theoretical ethics (nazarī akhlaq) and discusses the soul’s (nafs) major functions such as intellect (‘aql), savage passion (qhadab), and animal appetites (shahwat), their excess (ifrāṭ) and deficiency (tafrīṭ), and the middle way (i‘tidal) of these three powers and the virtues when they are on the  middle way (See, al-Ijī, Risalat al-Akhlaq; Erdem, TDV, 2018). For example, ‘deficiency in the power of intellect (al-quwwa al-‘aqliyya) is stupidity and foolishness (ghabawat), and its excess, perfidious deception and over-meticulousness in trivialities (jarbazah), and its middle way is wisdom (hikmah). Deficiency in the power of animal appetites (al-qawwa al-shahawiyya) is apathy and want of appetite (khumūd), while its excess is profligacy (fujūr), which is to desire whatever is encountered whether lawful or unlawful. Its middle way is uprightness (‘iffa), which is desiring what is licit and shunning what is illicit. Deficiency in the power of savage passion (al-quwwa al-ghadabiyya) is cowardice, that is, fear of what is not to be feared and delusive imagining (jabānat, jubn). Its excess is uncontrolled anger (tahawwur), which is the progenitor of despotism, domination, and tyranny. In addition, its middle way is courage (shaja ‘a), which is giving freely of oneself with love and eagerness for the defence of the laws of Islam and the upholding of the Word of divine unity. In summary, the Straight Path (al-ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm) is justice, consisting of the blending and summary of wisdom (ḥikma), chastity (‘iffa), and courage (shajā‘a), which are the mean or middle way of the three degrees of man’s three powers.’ (Nursi, Signs of Miraculousness, trans. S. Vahide)

Meccan Qur’anic verses also indicate the primary objectives of the Shari‘ah (maqāṣid al-sharīʿah). According to Imam Shāṭibī (d. 790/1388), an Andalusian Muslim scholar, there are five main purposes of religions. They are protection of religion, protection of life, protection of progeny, protection of the mind and protection of wealth. Following maqāṣid method, a number of new values could be developed in response to the needs of the modern world. For example, Ramadan al-Bouti (mercy upon him) emphasises the necessity of including the concept of freedom (hurriya) as the sixth purpose of the religion (al-Bouti, Davabitu’l Maslaha).

In conclusion, I would like to say that Muslims need to promote and practise these universal values and the principles of akhlaq based on the Qur’anic teachings. Scholars working on Muslim ethics have produced a large number of books and articles on moral ethics throughout the Islamic history, however, providing more space to ethics area and limiting dominance of classical fiqh is one of the main features of modernist Islamic thought. In this context, some modern thinkers such as Taha Abdurrahman criticise usulis because they consider akhlaq under Tahsiniyyat (embellishments). Abdurrahman believes such an approach contradicts with the hadith [“I was only sent to perfect good character” (Muvatta’, Husnu’l-khuluq, 1.)]. Finally, one of the issues for Muslims today is that Muslim thought has changed order of the affairs in Islam, and practices and social regulations (mu‘amalāt) are given priority over meta-physical principles and akhlaq area.


Dr. Hakan Çoruh is Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University, Australia.  

“Ilm is worship of reason (‘aql). As each organ has its purification, purification of reason is ethics (akhlaq).” (Tashkoprizade)