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A translation of Sir Syed’s “IKHLAQ”

By: Abbas Ali

“In the opinion of Mr. Edison, religion can be branched into two: beliefs and practices. By beliefs, Mr. Edison means only those issues that came to be known with the help of divine revelations and which cannot be decerned with the help of wisdom, neither by pondering over the vast universe. Nevertheless, I have a certain degree of disagreement with his statement. By beliefs, we refer to those issues that are not impossible according to the principles of wisdom, nature, and the vast universe. Except that we cannot trust in them only based on wisdom and nature, the revelations have endorsed them only when they exist or have made us trust them. At this point of discussion, I have used the words of denial because I doubt the issues we have included in our beliefs, whether trusting them is a part of faith. Among practices, Mr. Edison has included issues that the religion has ordained following the principles of wisdom and nature. Therefore, the first part he names as beliefs and the second one as morality.

He further writes that more often than not, we come across people that take too much care of the beliefs but ignore morality out rightly. Moreover, other people emphasize morality and take no care of their beliefs. Man of perfection ought not to be defective regarding either of them. Those who contemplate it and the benefits of each of them agree with this statement and endorse it.

Alas! Even at this point of discussion, I have some disagreement with Mr. Edison, the latter part of his essay is very much genuine, but the earlier part contains some errors. In my opinion, beliefs and practices- which Mr. Edison calls morality, have no relation. No matter how much a man values his beliefs, morality cannot experience any difference. Similarly, even if he takes excellent care of his morality, his beliefs cannot experience any adverse effect because these tasks are related to two separate tools and two separate persons. The first is related to our heart or our soul and Allah and the second is with our outward movements, sentiments, and human beings.

Further, he writes that although religion is divided into morality and beliefs, both have their unique qualities; however, morality has preference over beliefs in most situations.

  1. Because most of the issues related to morality are very trustworthy and are based upon solid foundations, even if the beliefs do not remain intact, the issues of morality remain valid.
  2. A person with morality and no beliefs can do far better in the world than a person who has no morality. Furthermore, let me say that he can do much better for human beings both within the religious sphere and worldly affairs.
  3. Morality confers greater perfection to the nature of a person because it provides satisfaction and comfort to the heart, sentiments of the heart remain in a balanced state, and every human’s happiness increases manifold.
  4. As compared to beliefs, there is a very significant advantage of morality. If it is correct, all the civilized nations agree upon the essential principles of morality, no matter they profess different beliefs.
  5. Immorality is worse than infidelity, or let me put it in other words, that most people have accepted that a virtuous ignorant savage who does not know about the words of Allah may also be salvaged. However, an evil character believer cannot be salvaged.
  6. The beauty of belief is that it is reflected in one’s morality. If we ponder over it that what are the merits of keeping faith in the religion provided by Allah, then would we come to understand amply the truthfulness of what we said a while ago. I understand the goodness of religion lies in the following points I put forth.
  7. To understand the issues of morality and take them to a higher stage.
  8. To provide newer and stronger motives to act upon virtuous morality.
  9. To create better thinking about Allah and behave appropriately with other human beings, which will boost love among them and understand the reality of oneself concerning goodness and badness of one’s nature.
  10. To reveal the badness of the evil.
  11. To consider morality as the means for salvation.

This is a brief mention of the goodness of religion. However, those busy with such discussions can very quickly provide growth and development to these ideas and derive valuable conclusions from them. However, I can trust that the apparent result of these discussions is that nobody can attain perfection in morality unless Christianity supports morality. This is the saying of Mr. Edison. However, I opine that no belief or religion can be valid unless it improves morality. Therefore, morality does not require the support of any religion; however, to understand the truth of religion and belief, we need the support of morality.

Mr. Edison establishes a couple of principles more, but those do not pertain to this discussion.

  1. He says we ought not to make any such root of the belief that does not strengthen morality and enhance it.
  2. No belief can have a genuine foundation that adversely affects morality and causes deterioration.

Both of these principles put forth by Mr. Edison are so true that no man in the world whom Allah has not deprived of reason and rhyme can deny these.

After that, Mr. Edison derives one more issue from these principles. He says that in all the doubtful situations, we should rigorously ponder that if those are wrong for the sake of example, ill consequences are likely to result from it. For example, to strengthen one’s belief and gain imaginary rewards by harming people, creating dismay and hatred, anger and animosity, and making people accept those beliefs forcibly which they are not comfortable with. In such services, we do not stop here, but besides all these issues, we deprive them of all sorts of worldly benefits and happiness. It harms their bodies, damages their wealth, distorts their fame, destroys their families, makes their lives hell, so much so that it kills them. Therefore, if these are the consequences of any issue, I do not doubt the doubtfulness of such an issue. It is as clear as two and two equals four. Therefore, we cannot make such an issue the foundation of our religion, and neither can we practice it.

In such matters, we harm our fellow human beings, and through which issue we perform such acts that are doubtful and objectionable, morality shall be significantly destroyed with it.

Edison’s essay probably points towards that era of Christianity when Roman Catholics and Protestants, the two sects, were at loggerheads and men, women, and children were burnt alive for not accepting religion. Extremely unfortunate bloodshed was practiced, which in reality was totally against the teachings of Christianity.

People think that in the religion of Muslims, such bloody acts and the acts against morality are the issues of Jihad. Suppose that issue was like that in reality that some people who often do not reach the essence of the issue, or have selfish motives or which has been practiced by the most tyrant and cunning Muslim rulers, nobody can doubt it is against the tenants of morality. However, this is not our belief. The reality of Jihad in Islam is not against the principles of morality. There is no compulsion in it, or teasing anyone’s religion or shedding the blood of anyone for the sake of religion has no relation with it. That is founded on national law, which different nations ought to practice among them and which is being practiced among the civilized nations of the world.

I have written many writeups regarding this issue and hope that someday I shall write on it and publish it in this paper.

Mr. Edison concludes his essay with the beautiful and heart-touching words of a writer. Moreover, here is the saying, “To create hatred among ourselves religion is enough for us, but it is not enough to create love among ourselves.”

I accept that the behavior of the prevalent religions is not different from that, and the behavior of Muslims is the worst. However, the behavior of the genuine religion, meaning the actual issue of Islam, is this, “To believe in Allah, and consider humans as brethren, and whosoever is against this issue is on the wrong path.”

Anwar Sidiqi’s Intikhab Mazameen Sir Syed (pg. 76-81) The translator is a Sr. Lecturer in Economics. [email protected]

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