The practice of all great prophets and saints was to honor ethics. Over centuries, all original civilizations sought unity and brotherhood. The noblest cause of all scholars and genius people was that people be friends and exceed each other in acquiring ethical traits.
Islamic ethics contain a series of moral virtues. If one possesses these virtues, he will display ethical behavior. Ethical behaviors can be summarized in three sections: first, individual ethics which includes individual moral traits; second, social ethics which includes one’s relationship with others; third, divine ethics which refers to traits and behaviors concerning man’s relationship with God.
In Islam, laws and rights are founded upon something. Ethics is the most important foundation for the Islamic rights. In verses and hadiths also laws and ethics are so intertwined that it is very difficult to find a defining border between them. From among hundreds of examples, we can refer to an interesting one. Undoubtedly, execution is one of the Islamic laws; Holy Quran incorporated life into it:
وَلَکُمْ فِی الْقِصَاصِ حَیَاةٌ یَاْ أُولِیْ الأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّکُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“In the Law of Equality there is [saving of] Life to you, o ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves.”
The prophet of Islam and Shia Imams also preferred ethics over worshipping in many narratives. Imam Reza (A.S.) explicitly referred to this fact:
“Do not be deceived by the abundance of prayers, fasts, hajj, and other worshipping acts and nightly religious whispers in people’s lives; but consider their honesty and reliability .”
Ethics guarantee the execution of Islamic laws. Ethics gives meaning to life, and reveals the true identity of man. Common good and social disciplines are based upon ethical conscience. Afterlife has an ethical foundation. Acquiring admirable ethical traits is the goal of the prophet’s prophetic mission. In Islam, worshiping is also ethical. Ethical principles are not in the margins of an Islamic society, but they are in the context, and are the foundation of a divine society. The primary goal of the noble religious leaders is to disseminate ethical behavior.
Razavi hadiths reveal the fact that a religious society is an ethical society. Many statements have been attributed to Imam Reza (A.S) considering patience, forgiveness, thankfulness, trust, reliability, honesty, contemplation, piety, humbleness, meekness, modesty, generosity, and sincerity. Moreover, he forbade the Shias from judgement, anger, suspicion, fame-seeking, greed, lying, cheating, arrogance and oppression.
Imam Reza’s remarks imply a decisive principle: everybody must observe ethical principles in social relationships.
We are well aware that Ma’mun was Imam Reza’s sworn enemy, and eventually showed his evil intentions and managed to murder the holy Imam. At the time of being the crown prince, while referring to some good traits of Ma’mun, Imam Reza (A.S) addressed people and said:
أَقُولُ وَ أَنَا عَلِیُّ بْنُ مُوسَى بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ إِنَّ أَمِیرَ الْمُؤْمِنِینَ عَضَدَهُ اللهُ بِالسَّدَادِ وَ وَفَّقَهُ لِلرَّشَادِ عَرَفَ مِنْ حَقِّنَا مَا جَهِلَهُ غَیْرُهُ فَوَصَلَ أَرْحَاماً قُطِعَتْ وَ آمَنَ نُفُوساً فَزِعَتْ بَلْ أَحْیَاهَا وَ قَدْ تَلِفَتْ وَ أَغْنَاهَا إِذَا افْتَقَرَتْ مُبْتَغِیاً رِضَى رَبِّ الْعَالَمِینَ لَا یُرِیدُ جَزَاءً إِلَّا مِنْ عِنْدِه ... وَ لا یُضِیعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِینَ
“I say, and I am Ali Ibn Musa al-Reza, God makes Ma’mun stronger by truth and righteousness, makes him successful in guiding people. He recognized that part of our right which was ignored by others, reconnected the relatives, protected those who were scared, and revived the people. He built the society while it did not exist before. He sought God’s content. God does not waste the reward of the benefactors .”
4. Following Imams
One of the remarkable points in the infallible Imams’ remarks is that God introduced them as the criteria. If imams are role models, accordingly they have to be considered as the criteria for our conduct. One who intends to assess his righteousness or wrongdoing must compare his conduct with that of the infallibles and find out if he has done right. The position of the prophets and the saints is equal to that of Quran.
In many hadiths, Imam Reza (A.S) emphasized the fact that “our Shias are those who step into our path, who do not cut off their relationships with us, who admire us, who honor us, and who put efforts into reviving our cause”. Two instances can be mentioned in this regard:
First instance: Ibn Fazzal quoted a remark from Imam Reza (A.S):
مَنْ وَاصَلَ لَنَا قَاطِعاً أَوْ قَطَعَ لَنَا وَاصِلًا أَوْ مَدَحَ لَنَا عَائِباً أَوْ أَکْرَمَ لَنَا مُخَالِفاً فَلَیْسَ مِنَّا وَ لَسْنَا مِنْهُ
“One who connects with whom we had disconnected with, and disconnects with whom we had connected with, who slanders us and honors our enemy, is not one of us and we are not with him .”
Second instance: Ibn Saleh Heravi quoted Imam Reza (A.S) saying: “God bless the one who revives our cause.” He then asked Imam: “How can one revive your cause?” And Imam Reza (A.S) replied:
یَتَعَلَّمُ عُلُومَنَا وَ یُعَلِّمُهَا النَّاسَ فَإِنَّ النَّاسَ لَوْ عَلِمُوا مَحَاسِنَ کَلَامِنَا لَاتَّبَعُونَا
“One who acquires our knowledge and teaches it to people. Verily, if people learn about the merits of our speech, they will follow us .”