Learning ethical science depends on one’s desire to do so. Enforcement is inutile. Every optional (ihtiyârî) action can be achieved in two stages of preliminary knowledge acquisitions. First, the essence of the matter should be understood. Second, first-hand knowledge should be acquired as to what will be obtained by doing it. There is yet a third, in which it has become a popular method to acquire some preliminary information which will help learn a certain science.
FIRST STAGE: Ethics of Islam is divided into three categories,
1– The knowledge of ethics, (’ilm al‑akhlâq), deals with invariable personal behaviour, which is good or bad, depending not on whether a person is alone or with others, but on his character. For example, a person who has a gentle nature, or who is generous, or who has a sense of shame, is so he is alone as well as when he is with others. The knowledge of ethics teaches us these personal traits which never change.
2– The second category of ethics deals with a person’s behaviour towards his family members in his home. This is called manners of family management (tadbîr al‑manzil).
3– The third category of knowledge of ethics teaches a person’s social responsibilities, codifies behavioral principles, and instructs on how to be useful to others. It is called siyâsat-i-medîna, or social manners.
As is stated in the book Akhlâq-i-Nâsirî, by Nasîr-ud-dîn Muhammad Tûsî, when a person does something, whether it is good or evil, it is for a reason. This reason is either something natural, or a commandment or law. What he does on account of his nature is an outcome of his mind, thought and experience. His doings of this sort do not change with time, nor are they dependable on his social environment. The second kind of reason, a law or a commandment, either issues from a common thought shared by a community or by an entire nation, in which case it is termed a rusûm or an ’âdat (custom); or it has been posited by a scholarly, authoritative or experienced person, such as a prophet, a Walî, a monarch, or a dictator. If it is a commandment of Allâhu ta’âlâ, which is communicated by prophets ‘alaihim-us-salawât-u-wat-taslîmât’ and explained by Awliyâ or by Islamic scholars, it can be of one of the following three groups: The first group consists of commandments which are to be observed by every individual person. They are called ahkâm (rules), or ’ibâdât (worships). The second group subsumes social and business transactions such as munâkahât, i.e. matters of marriage, and mu’âmalât, i.e. matters such as selling and buying. In the third group are commandments encompassing countries and societies and pertaining to legal and political matters (hudûd). Science dealing with these three groups of commandments and rules is termed Fiqh. Learnings pertaining to matters of fiqh, as well as principles regulating those matters and their execution, change with time and depend on the country and the nation wherein they are to be practised. Allâhu ta’âlâ is the sole authority to dictate the change. The abrogations and changes which Allâhu ta’âlâ made in the past dispensations throughout history were in this group of commandments. For instance, the time in which Âdam ‘alaihis-salâm’ lived required a proliferation of mankind. It was therefore canonically legal and permissible for a man to marry his sister. As its necessity was obviated with the increase of population in process of time, so was the canonical law allowing it revoked.
SECOND STAGE: The knowledge of ethics is neccessary for explaining the usefulness and application of ethics.
When a person studies his environment, such as the earth and the skies, or contemplates the balance and order in the universe, that is, how billions of stars in space continue to move in their orbits without colliding with one another for centuries, or how the construction, movement and amount of atmospheric pressure, temperature, air and water are delicately balanced to allow life to flourish on earth, or when he observes the delicate order in the construction of human beings, animals, plants, inanimate objects, atoms, cells or, in short, the numerous creatures which are studied in the science courses taught in high schools and universities, he will feel compelled to believe in the existence of an all‑powerful and all‑knowledgeable creator, who creates all the orderly systems and creatures. A person with intelligence will understand and appreciate this great, delicate balance and order in the universe and will readily believe in the existence of Allâhu ta’âlâ and become a Muslim. When a philosophy professor from Switzerland who converted to Islam in 1966 was asked by a newsman about his conversion, he replied: “By studying Islamic books I understood the true (Haqq) way and the greatness of Islamic scholars. If Islamic religion would be exposed in a correct manner, everyone in the entire world who has intelligence would accept it lovingly and willingly.”
When a person becomes a Muslim by studying nature and himself and then studies the books written by Islamic scholars and learns the life story and beautiful moral conduct of Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’, his belief will become more firm. Furthermore, by studying the knowledge of ethics he will understand good and ill temperaments, useful and harmful matters. By doing good deeds, he will become a mature and valuable human being in the world. His worldly affairs will be orderly and they will materialize easily. He will live in comfort and peace. Everyone will love him. Allâhu ta’âlâ will be pleased with him. Also, He will treat him with compassion and give him many rewards in the Hereafter. We would like to emphasize once again that a person needs two things in order to attain happiness. The first of these two is that he should possess the correct knowledge and belief which can be acquired by learning scientific knowledge and reading the life story and moral conduct of Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’. The second one is that he should be a gentle-natured human being with good behavior. These things can be acquired by learning the knowledge of “Fiqh” and “Ethics” and by practicing them. Whoever acquires these two things will attain the consent and love of Allâhu ta’âlâ because Allâhu ta’âlâ knows everything with His infinite knowledge. If a person fails to attain the true belief in consequence of his remissness in studying scientific knowledge and observing nature, which means to lapse into a state of ignorance; and if he does not invigorate his belief by acquiring genuine knowledge about Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’, he will join those who will abide in eternal perdition and distress. Conversely, if he accomplishes to attain true belief and refuses to follow his nafs and obeys the commandments of Allâhu ta’âlâ and avoids the prohibitions He has enjoined, then he will not be deprived of the Mercy and Forgiveness of Allâhu ta’âlâ. He will not be deprived of happiness.
Knowledge of ethics is the branch teaching the cleanliness of spiritual heart (qalb) and soul (rûh). It is similar to the knowledge of medicine’s being the science of hygiene for the body. Vices are diseases of the spiritual heart and soul. Evil deeds are symptoms and signs of these diseases. The knowledge of ethics is a much honored, valuable and necessary knowledge. Vices infesting the spiritual heart and soul can be weeded out only with this knowledge. It is this sole knowledge which runs the gamut of invigorating and healing the spiritual heart and soul with good moral qualities, embellishing the hearts and souls thereby invigorated and healed with even more beautiful moral qualities, and establishing a permanent state of purity in the hearts and souls habituated to an ever-improving acquisition of better and more refined perfections.
THIRD STAGE: Every branch of knowledge and science has a number of ancillary branches. Sometimes all the branches concur on some points. At these points, all the branches of that science become one. This one point is the topic of that science. For example, the science of medicine has many branches but every branch unites at the study of illnesses and health of the body and this is the topic of medicine. In order to learn a science easily, first, we must understand its topic. The topic of the knowledge of ethics is the human soul. It teaches how to cleanse the evil qualities of the soul and how to fill it with virtues. First, we should learn about the soul and then evils and virtues. Imâm ash-Shâfi’î said the following couplet:
I learned vices, not to become an evil one,
who does not know what is vice, will fall into it, know for sure!
What are spiritual heart (qalb) and soul (rûh)? What happens to the soul when a person dies? We will explain the heart and soul in steps in future successive quotes taken from the same source in order to recognize the heart and soul as much as possible and explain its apparent and hidden forces, as well as the things that will cause its happiness and those which will lead to perdition.
Neither the spiritual heart and soul nor angels can progress or attain higher grades. They stay in the same state as they were created. When the spiritual heart and the soul unite with the body, they acquire attributes rendering it possible for them either to make progress or to become a disbeliever or a sinner, in which case the person concerned gets demoted to lower grades and heads for destruction.
 Ref: These paragraphs are quoted from the book “Ethics of Islam” page 176, which is the translation of the book Berîka written by Abû Sa’îd Muhammad bin MustafâHâdimî ‘rahima hullâhu ta’âlâ’, who passed away in 1176 Hijrî, 1762 A.D. in Konya / Turkey and the book Akhlâq-i-Alâî written in Turkish by Alî bin Amrullah ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ,’ who passed away in 979 Hijrî, 1572 A.D. in Edirne / Turkey. “Ethics of Islam” published by Hakikat Kitabevi, Istanbul. You can find the whole book and the other valuable books in the web site www.hakikatkitabevi.com.tr and download in PDF format for Adobe Acrobat Reader, EPUB format for iPhone-iPad-Mac devices and MOBI format for Amazon Kindle device.