Our Moral Dilemma


The philosophical moral teachers like Socrates, make us learn that the sense of right and wrong or good and bad comes out of human reason. It means that human intellect decides what is right and what is wrong. One who knows what is good, will never do bad. Knowing good and bad leads to doing good; therefore, knowledge is virtue.

In Darwin’s, The Decent of Man, one will find that morality in human being, is a fruit of a biological evolution, from a lower level to a higher level of animal. The sense to know good and bad is neither intrinsic nor by great design, but a learned behavior. The Renaissance philosophers, like John Locke, known as Founder of Liberalism, thought that man comes to this world with ‘tabula rasa’ (clean slate of mind). Will Durant, in his Story of Civilization, opines that human social manners are mostly learnt by man through seeing practices of animals. The most important American Developmental Psychologist of 21st century, Michael Tomasello, is working on the evolution and natural development of ethical sense in humans.

Ethics and morality has been always, the most important subject in philosophy. Starting with Aristotle, philosophers have been convinced man has been a ‘social animal’. Converting itself into a higher animal in Darwinism and a ‘libido animal’ in Freudian theory. In turn changing into an ‘economic man’, according to Marxism and incarnating into a ‘political animal’, in modern and postmodern political theories. In short the ‘human discourse’ on human, have been revolving around, the idea that ‘man is an animal anyways’ through-out last two millenniums.

The sacred books, the Bible in general and the Qur’an in particular, explained that one part of human inner-self is divine and the other is animal. It is the divine–self in human being, that becomes the origin of morality; if nourished properly it conditions a ‘moral man’. The Prophets have been appointed to develop morals in man. On the other side, if the animal-self of human nature dominates, the morality dies down. The man becomes devil’s disciple; a prey to animal desires, and ethical spirit is wiped out, or at least decayed.

The world religions have been presenting morality as the prime human quality and characteristic. Islam, no doubt, gives a comprehensive conceptual frame-work about man’s nature and status upon earth. Accordingly, man has been created by Almighty Allah, with a specific nature, characteristics and qualities, amongst the comity of creatures. Bounties and blessings of Almighty are bestowed upon man, in the form of physical, mental and spiritual energies. Humans are gifted with a special conscious reason and moral epitome of conduct in this life. The creator not only inculcated an intrinsic awareness of right and wrong or good and bad, in man.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has proclaimed: Morality (hayaa) comes out of belief (iman). Both remain together in soul; if one quits, the other follows. The meaning of ‘haya’ has been confined to just its sensuous implications, rather this is something like a cautious judgement of human mind and heart to make human able to choose between what is below human dignity and what is up to the mark. It is always obvious through the cultural mores and ethical manners, one performs intrinsically. This consciousness warns alarmingly humans, as one falls prey to vulgarity, and haya in the long run raises human to its honored status of being a human.

Since haya is the part and parcel of Muslim faith, therefore one expects Muslims to be the most modest creature on earth. But unfortunately, for sometimes, G B Shaw’s statement becomes true that: Islam is the best religion and Muslims are the worst followers. What to talk of the cultural mores and manners of life, sometimes they perform their religious rituals in such a way that one is left in a fix; whether they are good human being or not. This pinches serious, especially one who has been studying Islam with its philosophy. Not to talk far, recently Eid ul Azha (sacrifice to the will of Allah) event, stands testimony to the bitter fact.

Putting aside the fact that it has become only a cultural activity of the society, rather than being the act of piety; nearing human to its Creator. Leaving apart the philosophy of ‘animal sacrifice’ that, as to what ‘animal’ needs to be ‘sacrificed’, sanctified by the Qur’an, the manners and etiquette of sacred ritual become alien to the believers and followers of the prophets and the sacred books. Would that they were following the religious injunctions, made compulsory for them by their own religion. No doubt they follow the ‘technical aspects’ of the Islamic code for Zibh and Zabihah (sacrifice and slaughtering) but they, unfortunately, ignore the ‘moral aspects’ of this law totally.

Having celebrated the sacrifice ritual, being a good human-being and good Muslim, they must have been abiding by all bye laws as well. Good Muslim is not one who slaughters animals, eats meat and give it to others; but also is one who does act of virtue in the best possible manners. He is not one, who executes ‘mechanics’ of sacrifice correctly, but one, who completes this action keeping all ‘morals’ intact. To perform an obligation in the best way of conducting it is known as ‘ihsan’ (excellence), in Qur’an and Hadith.

The etiquette specific for animal sacrifice, does not allow to slaughter an animal in front of other animals; neither in open, nor in front of house-door. Its blood should go into the dry land, not to be washed away to streets or to the drain canals. Its skin is not to be un-wrapped while putting it in streets; its body-parts are processed with great care and waste is not to be thrown away, outside the home. Every part and step of this ritual demands ethical essentials. Believing and proclaiming one thing and practicing it without manners, is a haunting moral dilemma for us; the paradox demands recitations. (Dr Mustafeez Ahmad Alvi)

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