Moral Hierarchy in Islam Part 1

Following on from  the article “The Trolley Problem”, this article will attempt to organise moral principles in an order of importance.

 

Just like the “Trolley Dilemma” we can use a thought experiment to try and work out what the Islamic position on certain moral situations. For example, if a man comes to your door and says, “if you tell me where your children are, I will kill them”. We are faced with two options, one is to lie and say we have no children etc, or to tell the truth and say they are watching TV in the front room. What is worse to lie or to murder? (or at least be constructive in it). 

What is worse to kill a society or one person? 

 

The Moral Hierarchy

 

The most important thing from a moral Islamic perspective appears to be the survival of society as a whole, and their right to a free, just existence.

 

2|191|And kill them wherever you overtake them, and expel them from where they had expelled you. Oppression is more serious than murder. But do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque, unless they fight you there. If they fight you, then kill them. Such is the retribution of the disbelievers.

 

The next most important thing appears to be preserving life.

 

5|32|Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel: that whoever kills a person—unless it is for murder or corruption on earth—it is as if he killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves it, it is as if he saved the whole of mankind. Our messengers came to them with clarifications, but even after that, many of them continue to commit excesses in the land.

 

There are a few interesting issues that arise already. Firstly the second verse confirms the priority of the first concept, that although killing is abhorrent, having a society without justice is more abhorrent.

Also we see that for someone to preserve their life, they can commit lesser sins. By lesser I mean sins that are categorised as less in the moral hierarchy. 

5|3|Prohibited for you are carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and animals dedicated to other than God; also the flesh of animals strangled, killed violently, killed by a fall, gored to death, mangled by wild animals—except what you rescue, and animals sacrificed on altars; and the practice of drawing lots. For it is immoral. Today, those who disbelieve have despaired of your religion, so do not fear them, but fear Me. Today I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My favor upon you, and have approved Islam as a religion for you. But whoever is compelled by hunger, with no intent of wrongdoing—God is Forgiving and Merciful.

 

So far we have established that societies right to freedom and safe existence is of the greatest moral importance, following by the sanctity of life. Part 2 coming soon.

 

 

Ahmed Hilmi

Ahmed Hilmi

Ahmed is a contributor for Medina minds. He has also written the book Shield of the Believer

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