Islamic ethics has mainly taken shape as a successful amalgamation of the Qur’anic teachings and the teachings of the Sunnah of prophet Muhammad (SAW).
For one to understand properly the ethics in Islam, he/she has to take a look at the period before prophet Muhammad (SAW) came amongst the Arabs. This period is known as Jahiliyya, the period of ignorance. It was mainly marked by polytheism, cultural practices and idol worshipping. Some of the practices included slavery, woman’s rights, female infanticide, gambling etc.
When Islam came, changes had to be made in most areas, such as:
a) Redefinition of moral virtues
b) Limitation to polygamy. It was limited to a maximum of four wives.
c) Introduction of alms and prayers
d) Birth of the Muslim community called the ummah.
The background of Islam is divided into three; aqidah, shariah and akhlaq (morality and ethics). Aqidah is a branch of Islam describing the beliefs of the Islamic faith. Any religious belief system, or creed, can be considered an example of aqidah. However, this term has taken a significant technical usage in Islamic history and theology, denoting those matters over which Muslims hold conviction. Shariah is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexual intercourse, hygiene, diet, prayer, and fasting. Though interpretations of sharia vary between cultures, in its strictest definition it is considered the infallible law of God—as opposed to the human interpretation of the laws (fiqh). Akhlaq is a term referring to the practice of virtue, morality and manners in Islamic theology and falsafah (philosophy). The prophet Muhammad (SAW) is considered as the best man in terms of akhlaq. Allah (SWA) says in the Qur’an, ‘Innamaa buithtu liutammima makaarima alakhlaq’ it means that the Prophet was sent to complete the good akhlaq. In this sense, we regard the prophet as the ultimate role model.