Medicine is one of the well-respected fields of science in the holy religion of Islam, to the extent that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) mentioned it along with theological studies as two main branches of knowledge . However, as in any branch of practical science, there are specific moral codes that Islam obliges people who are involved in them to observe.
Accordingly, a Muslim doctor is not only concerned with his/her patient’s bodily health but also is responsible for his/her spiritual side. This is where doctors need medical ethics in their profession to fulfill their job satisfactorily both for themselves and patients, which ultimately brings with it God’s satisfaction and contentment.
The first and foremost responsibility of doctors is to find a cure -if there is any- as fast as possible and to put the needs of their patients above their financial concerns. Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “the one who avoids curing the injury of an injured person, would be associated with the one who caused the injury. Since the injurer intentionally harmed the wounded person, and the one who avoided his/her treatment did not intend to cure him, thus he/she intended his/her destruction” . In other words, if a doctor neglects his responsibility and does not make enough effort to help the patient, he would be the cause of any harm that inflicts on him/her.
In their decision-making also, doctors should follow the codes of ethics. First of all, they should consider the patient’s opinion and then try to offer the best option to him/her, being always observant of his/her wellbeing and satisfaction. Islamic rules and regulations should play an essential part in the decision that doctors make - e.g., in the case of child abortion, euthanasia, etc. Moreover, they should try to be as kind and tolerant as possible toward their patients; the disease is severe enough for patients to make them anxious, add an impatient and rude doctor to that and imagine how they might feel.
Being a doctor, according to Islam, is not only a religious responsibility but also a social and humane necessity and a moral obligation . Therefore, a doctor should do his best to fulfill all those duties and should not be content with the mere financial benefits of the work or the social position that might be attached to his/her job.
Finally, the most important characteristic of an ethical work is to gain Allah’s satisfaction; in other words, if a person did something and his intention in doing it was God’s contentment and not financial matters and earning more money, the given effort would be worthy to be called ethical .
While a Muslim doctor believes in his/her power in curing the patients, he/she knows that the ultimate healer and decision-maker is Allah and all he/she does is in line with His will.
- Bihar ulanvar. Vol. I, p 220.
- Muhammad ibn Yaqub Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi (The Sufficient Book). Vol.VIII. Tehran, Masjed Publication, p 345.
- Morteza Ameli, Medical Etiquettes in Islam, Jame’e Modaressin Qom publication, p 59.
- Morteza Mottahari, Taalim va Tarbiat dar Islam (Teaching and Education in Islam), Sadra publication, 23rd ed. p71.
Had it not been for his coherent explanations on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Avicenna would probably never have been able to understand it; he read Aristotle forty times, but it was just through the straightforward and comprehensive commentaries of Al Farabi that he finally realized Aristotle’s ideas on Metaphysics.
The great Muslim philosopher, logician, and cosmologist, Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad Farabi, was born in 872 A.D. in Farab, Khurasan, to Iranian parents. He spent most of his life in Baghdad and from a very early youth started learning the teachings of Islam and the Holy Quran under the training of the best Islamic philosophers and scholars. He traveled to many countries, including Egypt and Syria. He died in 950 or 951 A.D. in Damascus, Syria.
In philosophy, he is considered to be the second in rank after Aristotle, and is called “the second teacher” and on some occasions “the second master” . His wise and easy to understand explanations shed a clear light on the complex philosophy of Aristotle, to the point that many western philosophers owed their appreciation of “the first teacher”’s philosophy to Al-Farabi .
Moreover, he is the founder of Islamic philosophy. He genuinely believed in the existence of the first cause -God, Allah- and admitted the limits of human knowledge in understanding the nature of it .
In one of his most notable works “Al-Madina Al-Fadila” (The Virtuous City) which is basically about political philosophy, he argues that the favorable form of government is the one ruled by a prophet or Imam. Accordingly, the city of Medina when it was ruled by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the ideal kind of society that would ultimately guide human beings to everlasting felicity both in this world and the world that is to come.
He also criticized those philosophers who do not utilize their knowledge for the benefit of their society. He compared the philosopher's role in society with a physician’s relation to the body; the body's health is affected by the 'balance of its humors just as the city is determined by the moral habits of its people. The philosopher's duty, he says, is to establish a ‘virtuous’ society by healing the souls of people, establishing justice, and guiding them towards 'true happiness' .
He was also a grandmaster of music; “He is said to have created musical compositions. To this day there are melodies in Anatolian music and rags in classical North Indian music attributed to him, sung and performed by masters of these musical genres”. His famous book on music, Kitab al-musiqi al-Kabir ("The Great Book of Music"), is the study of the theory of Persian music and the philosophical principles of music, its cosmic qualities, and influence.
His other well-known book is called Kitab ihsa al-ulum ("On the Introduction of Knowledge"). It consists of eight parts, each dealing with one branch of science such as linguistics, logic, mathematics, astronomy, metaphysics, Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic science of dialectic and discourse, as well as politics.
Finally, Al-Farabi, one of the greatest Muslim philosophers, is a universal phenomenon whose innovative and sensible ideas marked a turning point in the history of philosophy. His philosophy was easy to understand and apply to real-life which is the essence of the sharia of Islam; a religion with rules that are highly compatible with human nature and if followed would bring satisfaction as well as peace.
- Ian Richard Netton. “al-Farabi, Abu Nasr" .Islamic Philosophy from the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- F.W Zimmermann, Al-Farabi 's Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle 's De Interpretation, Oxford, 1981.
- Ian Richard Netton. Breaking with Athens: Alfarabi as Founder, Applications of Political Theory by Christopher A.Colmo".
- Charles Butterworth. Ethical and Political Philosophy in Adamson, P, and Taylor, R. The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy
- Hussein Nasr, Mehdi Aminrazavi. “An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia," Vol. 1: From Zoroaster to ‘Umar Khayyam”, I.B.
- Hamid Taleb Zadeh. Philosophy (Introduction to Islamic philosophy) the field of humanity, for pre-university students.
“Imam Hussain is the leader of humanity” Rabindranath Tagore
People have looked into the movement of Imam Hussain (AS) from different aspects throughout the history of Islam. Some see it as a historical trajectory, where the teachings of Islam were distorted and violated by the tyrant caliph of the time, Yazid, thus Imam Hussain’s movement as a revolutionary act and sacrifice to revive true Islam.
To some others, yet, the most important lesson we can learn from the event of Karbala is its moral or ethical dimension. As Imam Hussain (AS) himself puts: “I seek to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil and follow the traditions of my grandfather (Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)) and my father (Imam Ali (AS))” .
One of the moral principles that Imam Hussain (AS)’s movement represents and emphasizes is the Golden rule. Based on this rule you should treat others the way you would like to be treated by them: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” .
Although it is often said that the term ‘Golden Rule’ first started to be used in the 17th or 18th century , we can also find it much earlier in the words and acts of Imam Ali (AS) and the other infallible Imams (AS). Imam Ali (AS) tells his son Imam Hassan (AS) in his last will that: “like for others whatever you like for yourself, and whatever you dislike happening to you, spare others from such happenings” .
Imam Hussain (AS) also advises people (as a general rule and a decent way of life): “If you do not believe in any religion, at least be free-spirited and honest in your actions” .
A newer version of the Golden rule also says: “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” .
So, for an action to be considered morally good, you should ask yourself whether you could always reason or defend it as a universal law. In other words, to be a good person, you must be good for goodness’ sake, no matter what.
Now let’s see how this ethical value was manifested in Imam Hussain (AS)’s conduct.
A question anyone might ask after reading about the event of Karbala is ‘why didn’t Imam Hussain (AS) take an oath of allegiance to Yazid to save his life? Why did he choose to be martyred?’ [i]
One clear answer to this question is that he was the perfect leader (Imam) and role model for the Muslim community. A role model is someone who serves as an example and whose behavior is emulated by other people. To be a good role model you have to observe all your acts so that you set proper examples for others to follow.
Now, if Imam Hussain (AS) had pledged allegiance to Yazid’s tyranny, would he be a good exemplar of resistance against injustice for people? Wouldn’t his compromise then make the tyrant ruler more powerful and dominant?
The answer is obvious. Imam Hussain (AS) chose not to follow the indecent tyrant of his time since he intended to act on that maxim he wished it would become a universal law.
On the other hand, some people criticize Imam Hussain (AS)’s decision, saying he could have pledged allegiance to Yazid while at the same time trying to fight him and his injustice over time.
This would also contradict Imam Hussain (AS)’s maxim and is paradoxical, too. In fact, Yazid’s deviations from true Islam and the moral norms were so many that Imam Hussain (AS) could not turn a blind eye to them.
Imam Hussain (AS) did not want to compromise with those so-called Muslims whose behavior and actions had nothing to do with Islam. Instead, he chose to do the right thing, which any free-spirited, wise and virtuous man would do. And with his movement, he invited us all to do the same and follow in his footsteps.
The other ethical lesson we learn from Imam Hussain (AS) is that he never disregarded human values on his way to achieve his purpose. And he always advised his followers to choose the right way in life. For him, the end did not justify the means. What mattered to him more than anything else was the values not the victory in its apparent sense.
As Imam Ali (AS) says: “The victory achieved through sins is not, in fact, a victory, the one who dominates with the help of evil is defeated” .
It is due to this ethical principle that Muslim ibn Aqil did not kill his enemy, Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, before the event of Karbala (before the enemy declared war against them), when he had every chance of doing so in his friend’s house.
He did not kill him because the Holy Prophet (PBUH) forbade any guile: “Verily, Islam became an obstruction of deceit and an obstacle of trickery” . Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions were seeking to revive the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (AS). So, killing even the most wicked person on earth through deceit, and before he has shown an act of hostility against you, is not compatible with Islamic teachings.
In another account from the event of Karbala, Zuhayr, one of Imam Hussain (AS)’s companions, recommended fighting the enemy when they were fewer in number and so easier to defeat. But Imam Hussain (AS) replied he did not intend to start a war; [he would rather defend if a war was imposed on him].
The examples mentioned above manifestly show the behavior of a great role model. Imam Hussain (AS) only wanted to restore what was right, the true teachings of Islam which had been distorted by the tyrant ruler of the time. He tried to preserve human dignity and values.
He could have saved his life as well as that of his family’s and companions’ by accepting Yazid’s allegiance. But this would have been at the cost of ruining their dignity and living a life humiliation. Never would he put up with such disgrace.
So Imam Hussain (AS) made the most of every opportunity to invite people to the righteousness and prevent bloodshed. However, when he was left with two options, humiliation or death, and war was being forced upon him, he chose martyrdom and bravely fought against injustice.
[i] In one of his sermons to people of Kufa, Imam Hussain (AS) said: “Beware! Now this illegitimate son of the illegitimate father (Ubaydullah bin Ziyad) has stationed me between unsheathing the swords or then bear the humiliation, and far be it that we accept humiliation” .