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who cried, "Say, 'There is no God but Allāh, and Muhammad is His prophet!'” and then instructed them in the saving ordinances of Islām. By such means, Islām sees to it that the true religion, on which all depends, is offered to all.
It will now, I think, be plain that, from such a point of view as this, any consideration or teaching of ethics apart from theology can only be described as an impious absurdity. I cannot, therefore, keep entirely or even at all free from theology in the sketch upon which I now enter; and I can, therefore, only ask you to bear with the eccentricity of my Muslim friends who held that the fear of God was the beginning of wisdom and of everything else.
It is true that there exist in Arabia, and are current generally in the East, a most multifarious multitude of treatises of all sizes and profundities on moral philosophy. Their subject is called “ilm al-Akhlāq,” “the science of characters,” which is a tolerable rendering of the Greek tà noixá, and they, undoubtedly, all stand in some relationship with the ethical systems of Plato and Aristotle, treating these with strict eclecticism. In many the Greek element almost vanishes; in some few it greatly preponderates, being yoked most curiously and unequally with extracts from the law of Islām. Others, again, have clothed a skeleton of Greek theory with incongruous robes and trappings of Muslim religious experience, the sayings, sermons, deeds, and miracles of the Saints of the People of Muhammad. Others, again, and they are many, are frank collections of hagiology for the satisfaction and admonition of him who would be admonished. In these we wander in a wonderland of angels, jinnis, and earthly marvels in no way different, though generally more monotonous and duller than those we meet in the enchanted world of “The Arabian Nights.” In truth, it may be said, that the Muslim East has discovered the art so to construct its treatises on moral philosophy—that dullest of all sciences—that they cannot be distinguished from that book which the West regards as of the most irresponsible morality.
But, when we examine these treatises and estimate their weight in the ethical training of the East, we discover that the Greek element has become an atrophied limb, an unused appendix. The part of them which lives and acts is that which tells the experiences, the sayings, the marvels of the pious and wise—mostly the pious—and which exhorts to the imitation of these things. For the ethical system of Islām is strictly a system of separate things—words, happenings—the imitation of which is impressed, not an ordered investigation of the nature of the Good, or of the nature and constitution of human character. The psychological analysis and scientific system and habit of the Greek mind vanish, and in their place the Semitic conception of custom and example come to rule supreme.
It would indeed be hard to overestimate the part which the customary usage (sunna) of Muhammad plays in Muslim life. Every pious Muslim endeavors to pattern his actions, down to the merest details, on the recorded manners and methods, words and ways, of the Prophet. Even the ordinary Muslim, not overburdened with piety, finds that his life is hedged with tolerable strictness by this prophetic precedence. Men do not ask what the right thing to do under such and such circumstances may be; they ask what the Prophet did or said. Fashion and custom are with us often mechanical enough, but they have never reached this absolute imitativeness, this complete lack of inquiry as to a governing thought or reason. But you must not think that this first appeared with Islām and with the overpowering personality of Muhammad. It was always existent in the desert. The Bedawi tribes, ruled by nothing else, were ruled by the customs of their fathers; “Our fathers have told us," was enough for them; “The paths of our fathers —the old paths—we will follow,” spoke their sociological creed. This, of course, they share alike with the savage of all lands, but they retained the same unyielding conservatism long after they had passed from savagery to comparative civilization. The tales of the ancient days, the proverbs and apologues of the wise and their keen and eloquent words, when they came from a sufficiently hoar antiquity, were accepted and followed unquestionedly. So it had been before Islām; so it was after Islām. Only there then entered the especial usage of the
Prophet of God, weighted with a divine sanction which overpowered everything else. Yet in time, as I have already indi
I cated, other elements came to hold a distinct if subordinate place. The saints had their experiences and uttered their half inspired ejaculations. Proverbs, in which Arabic is wealthy to a degree, could claim a standard and acknowledged position. Even tales of the lives of the philosophers, whose systems no one dreamt of studying, of their vicissitudes and sharp replies, of Socrates and Diogenes, of Plato and Aristotle and all the rest, contributed to this mass of moral commonplaces. The poets themselves, although Allāh had said that "they never do the thing they say” (Qur. xxvi, 226), when they had put a sufficiently prosaic maxim into a sufficiently brilliant jingle, might add their stone to the great cairn.
All these things, then, are on the lips of Islam and mould the conduct of Islām to this day. In it life is ruled by maxims, proverbs, examples of every kind; its despotisms are not tempered with epigrams, but with apposite tales and wise saws. Under its sun can be no new thing; all things have been reckoned and tried by them of old time and their judgment is to be followed.
And so with the education of the young. It is strictly on a basis of imitation. All the ways are marked out, and just as a man himself walks in these paths, so must he teach his child to go. And this duty of teaching he must take seriously. Here is a passage which gives, in short, the Muslim view of the rights of a child from his parents. It is from the Ihyā of al-Ghazzāli. The book is an elaborate treatise covering the whole field of religion, and its writer, who died in A. D. IIII, was the greatest doctor of the Muslim Church, a man of the intellectual rank of Augustine. He says (Vol. vi, p. 316 of
. Cairo edition, with commentary by the Sayyid Murtadà):
“A man said to the Prophet, ‘O Apostle of God! to whom must I show pious duty ?' Said the Apostle, ‘Show it to thy parents.' But he said, 'I have no parents. Then said the Apostle, “Show it to thy child. Just as thy parents have a claim against thee, so has thy child.' The Apostle said, 'May God have compassion upon a father who guards a child as to his pious duty; that is, who does not drive him to any undutifulness by treating him badly.' Also the Apostle said, 'Deal evenly between your children as to gifts; it hath been said, “Thy child is thy odorous plant (or Basil plant) for seven years, and thy servant for seven years, thereafter he is either thine enemy or thy partner.” Anas said, 'The Prophet said, “The 'Aqiqa sacrifice is offered for a boy the seventh day, when he is named, and his head is shaved; then when he has reached six years, he is put to sleep alone, and when he has reached thirteen years, he is beaten if he does not pray. Then, when he has reached sixteen years, his father marries him; thereafter he takes him by the hand and says, I have educated thee and taught thee and married thee; I seek refuge with God from thy sin in this world and thy punishment in the next.' The Prophet said, 'Part of the right of a child against his father is that he should
a give him a good education and a good name.'”
Again, Muhammad himself is naturally the first and most important guide after whom men must walk and teach their children to walk. It was God Himself who educated Muhammad by those gradual revelations to him which are now gathered up for us in the Qur'ān. Now the Qur'ān itself and whatever else we know of the character of Muhammad is to educate us: this is what al-Ghazzāli has to say on the matter (Ihyā, vii, 91 f.):
“An exposition of how God Most High educated His beloved and chosen one Muhammad by means of the Qur'ān.
“The Apostle of God abounded in abasement and supplication to Him and was constant in prayer that He would adorn him with beauties of good breeding and graces of character. He used to say in his prayer, 'O God, make beautiful my outward and my inward fashion.' And he would say, 'O God, turn me away from characteristics that are disliked.' Then God answered his prayer in accordance with His saying, 'If ye ask me, I will answer you' (Qur. xi, 62), and sent down to him the Qur'ān and educated him thereby; so his character is the Qur'ān. Said Sa'd b. Hishām, 'I went into ‘A’isha and asked her concerning the character of the Apostle of God, and she said, “Dost thou not read the Qur'ān?” I said, “Yes, indeed.” She said, “The character of the Apostle of God is the Qur'ān.' And the Qur'ān educated him simply by means of such things as the saying of Him Most High, 'Take hold of gentleness and command kindness and turn away from the ignorant' (Qur. vii, 198). And, ‘Verily God commandeth justice and fair dealing and giving to kindred, and forbiddeth wickedness and iniquity and oppressions' (Qur. xvi, 92). "And be
‘ patient as to that which has befallen thee; lo, that springs from the absolute determination of things' (Qur. xxxi, 16). 'And he indeed who is patient and forgiveth, that indeed springs from the absolute determination of things' (Qur. xlii, 41). “Then forgive them and overlook, verily God loveth the well-doers' (Qur. V, 16). 'Let them forgive and overlook, do ye not desire that God should forgive you?' (Qur. xxiv, 22). “Repel with that which is better, then, lo, he between whom and thee is enmity will be as a warm friend' (Qur. xxiv, 34). ‘And those who choke down anger and forgive men; and God loveth the well-doers' (Qur. iii, 128). ‘Avoid much suspicion, verily some suspicion is a sin, and envy not one another and back-bite not one another' (Qur. xlix, 12).
"And when his side incisor was broken and his face was gashed on the Day of Ohod and the blood was made to flow over his face, while he was wiping the blood and saying, 'How can a people prosper which dyes the face of its prophet with blood ?' and while he was praying for them to their Lord, then God Most High revealed, “Thou hast nothing to do with the matter' (Qur. iii, 123), as an admonition to him against that. The like of such admonitions in the Qur'ān are not few. And the Prophet himself was first intended by the admonition and correction; then, from him, the light shines upon all created beings. So he was educated by the Qur'ān, and created beings are educated by him. And therefore did he say, 'I have been sent that I may perfect the graces of character.'
Such, then, is the beginning and basis of all moral education