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Religion Library: Sunni Islam

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Written by: Nancy Khalek

On the other hand, acts of worship that do not have a public impact and the relationship between an individual and God are not a matter of social regulation or citizenship, even if one lives in what is called an Islamic state. Private behavior, such as praying, fasting, and the like is impossible to regulate on a large scale. Therefore, it is generally the exception rather than the rule when an issue of private moral behavior is dealt with publicly.

Of course this varies from society to society and certain states are more restrictive than others. For minority Muslim populations living in larger non-Muslim societies, the privacy of worship is particularly notable. In secular societies that stress a separation between church and state, Muslim communities often resort to the same kinds of social structures as other faith-based organizations, especially in the United States.

As with many religious traditions, it would be artificial to assume that a member of the Sunni community consciously applies an ideological connection to basic moral principles on a daily basis. This is especially so when we consider that many Muslim communities are simply one part of a larger pluralistic society. This signals that in general, Islamic law recognizes a separation between personal, private belief and the broader public world. This separation is a good reminder of the principles of personal responsibility and individual moral accountability, especially for beliefs, that is at the center of Sunni concepts of moral behavior.

Study Questions:
     1.    How are human actions categorized, in terms of morality?
     2.    What are the five fundamental principles at the heart of Islamic law?
     3.    What seven crimes have “prescribed punishments”?


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