people believe that morality comes from religion and when religion loses
its grip, people will become immoral. Is morality a product of religion?
Are irreligious people immoral?
had a conversation with a young Muslim who insisted that if it were not for
religion people would commit incest and nothing would stop them to sleep
even with their own mothers. I asked him whether he personally lusted
after his mother and whether Islam was the only deterrent that stopped him
from fornicating with her? He seemed insulted, but before he responded, I
added, if you are nauseated even by me mentioning such a thing, then
realize that many others are just like you and feel and think the same
big portion of our morality is part of our instinct. Incest, for example, is
not condoned in any society whether religious or not. There are of course
individuals with abnormal mental development who are exceptions to the
norm. In fact, except for Bonobo chimps of Zair that rub their genitals
together for social binding, no ape commits or procreates by incest.
Usually the male individual visits other clans to find his mate. The young
lions are forced to leave the pride to find mates in other prides while
the lionesses stay.
marriages between children that grew-up together in one foster home are
rare or non-existent, even though these kids are not related to each other
some moral issues are not as clear as the above example. What is moral and
immoral depends on time and culture. It may even vary from person to
person. What was moral; say, a thousand years ago may be immoral today and
vice versa. Also what is moral in one part of the world may not be so in
the example of promiscuity. Many cultures consider promiscuity to be
immoral. Yet there are some cultures that accept it as the norm. To us, (western minded people), having multiple sex partners simultaneously
is considered promiscuity and immoral. Yet for a Muslim who practices
polygyny, it is a “mercy of Allah”. In some parts of the world, women
practice polyandry. Among the Inuit, a man would offer his wife to his
guest to spend the night with, hoping that he may impregnate her. Which
practice is immoral? And who is to determine it?
showing parts of your body immoral? In the heart of Amazon Jungle some
tribes are completely nude. Is that immoral? That is to them the way of
life. In some Islamic countries women are required to cover every part of
their body (like children playing ghost). Is that good morality? If that
is the definition of morality are all those Muslim women who cover
everything except their faces immoral? What about those who dress
adequately yet do not use Hijab? Are they immoral? Now what about bikini
wearing beach going women? Are they immoral? And finally, what about those
who like to show it all in a nudist camp? Are THEY immoral? Your answer to
this question depends on who you are and what is your own personal
standard of morality.
us take another example: Slavery. Is slavery immoral? Slavery was
practiced for centuries even by very pious people. Muhammad not only
had slaves but he benefited from reducing free people into slaves and
selling them. Was he immoral? If yes; why should we follow an immoral
person and if no; why should we condemn slavery?
about pedophilia? Obviously we all cringe at the thought of it and think
that it is a shameful act of immorality. But during the time of the
Prophet having sexual intercourse with a 9-year-old child was not immoral.
In fact Aisha’s father after a little bit of trepidation consented to
give her in marriage to Muhammad when Muhammad suggested it. At that time
no one raised an eyebrow. The question is, if sleeping with a
nine-year-old child was not deemed bad and therefore was not considered
immoral, was it okay? Not everything that a society accepts as moral is
right. Having sex with a minor may not have been immoral for Arabs 1400
years ago, but it is, as it has always been, unethical. Moralities are defined by
circumstances, but ethics transcend time and space. They are rooted in
logic. Morality can vary from culture to culture, from time to time and
from person to person. Who is to determine what is moral and what is not?
Man in Pakistan may think that if his wife meets her male-cousin with whom
she has grown up without the presence of a third person she has committed
an immoral act, has sullied his honor and the only way to restore his
honor is to kill her. For him the meeting of two cousins is immoral but
killing a human being is not.
have to distinguish between those moralities that harm the society and
those that do not. What harms others must be called unethical and
discouraged. Slavery, for example, infringes upon the freedom of another
human being. Therefore regardless of whether a society or a culture
sanctions it, it is an unethical practice. 1400 years ago it was not
immoral to have slaves. But slavery is ethically wrong, and that transcends
time. Even the Prophet knew that slavery is wrong. That is why he advised
his followers to manumit their slaves as an act of charity. Nonetheless he
himself kept adding to his slaves by raiding city after city and capturing
free people who were then reduced to slaves.
of what Muhammad said, Muslims manumitted their slaves when they were
old, could not work and needed care. Manumitting the slaves when they were
young was an act of charity and moral but manumitting them at old age
without provision was unethical. The Holy Prophet failed to mention that
and the old slaves ended up as beggars in the streets while their masters
gained the pleasure of Allah on one hand for manumitting them and
exonerated themselves from having to take care of them in their old age on
the other; thus killing two birds with one stone.
would have been the right thing to do was not to take slaves in the first
place. But the wealth of Muhammad and later on the Islamic rulers came
from slave making and trading. The so called Golden Age of Islam is a
misnomer. It is actually a shameful age because the wealth generated in
those days was not through industry and commerce but through looting and