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Religion Library: Islam

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Written by: Mohammad Fadel

Five ethical categories
The obligatory(wajib)
The prohibited(haram)
The supererogatory(mandub)
The disfavored(makruh)
The indifferent(mubah)

Muslim ethical thinking begins from the premise that the most fundamental relationship in the life of human beings is their relationship with God. Accordingly, the first subject of ethics is to understand the nature of the relationship between humanity and God. Muslim theologians have categorized all human acts from this perspective as falling into one of five ethical categories: the obligatory (wajib); the prohibited (haram); the supererogatory (mandub); the disfavored (makruh); and the indifferent (mubah).

This overriding concern with the relation of the human to the divine is manifested most clearly in Islamic ritual law, which is always the first topic discussed in any work of Islamic law, and generally takes up roughly a quarter of the pages of any treatise on Islamic law. Five Pillars of IslamThe most important elements of Islamic ritual life are known as the "Five Pillars of Islam," and impose, as moral obligations, the requirement to witness to the truth of Islam by declaring publicly that there is no god except for God and that Muhammad is God's messenger; to pray in the specified manner the five daily prayers—at dawn, at noon-time, in the afternoon, at evening, and at night-time—in their specified times; to fast from food, drink, and sexual intercourse during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan, the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar; to dedicate a portion of one's wealth (customarily believed to be 2.5 percent) for poor-relief annually; and to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca once in one's lifetime if one has the means to do so. Islamic ritual law also includes countless supererogatory ritual acts, observance of which constitutes the bulk of the spiritual discipline of the Sufi orders.

Social interactions (mu 'amalat)Ritual
*concerns human welfare in secular world
*assumes human ability to understand and interpret divine commands
*concerns relationship between human and divine

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