Ethics deals with right and wrong behavior of human beings. All the religions hold ethical component, often these can be derived from the supernatural guidance. Philosophers from decades believe that religion is necessary to lead life ethically. According to Simon Blackburn, there are those peoples who ‘would say that we can only flourish under the umbrella of a strong social order, cemented by common adherence to a particular religious tradition’. 1 Apart from this, as per the statement of P.V. Kane, the term ‘Dharma is one of those Sanskrit words that defy all attempts at an exact rending in English or any other tongue”. 2. According to the author it does not have a synonym in English language. Whereas Dharma often understood as meaning of duty which can mean in broader sense, right, justice, moral behavior, good deed etc.
As per Hindu philosophy, Ethics is something which cannot be imposed, but it can only be realized. Ethics teaches us to lead good life. In Hindu institutional religion, the Bhagavad Gitā is considered as one of the epitomes where we find the discussion about what is right and what is wrong. The Islamic institutional religion believes that Prophet Muhammad was sent by Allah to mankind to remind them about their moral responsibility. Islam is nothing but the way of life and it works without isolation.
In this chapter a comparative study of ethical concepts of Hinduism and Islam based on Bhagavad Gitā and Qur’ān is presented. The comparison is done here on the basis of topics which I have discussed in chapter 2 and chapter 3 respectively. The two scriptures Qur’ān and Bhagavad Gitā, were preached in Arab and India respectively. These two scriptures have an important role in the field of institutional religion of Islam and Hiduism, mostly on the social and personal behavior development. These two scriptures are in actuality according to their multi-ethnic views; represent the marvelous messages to the mankind under the coercion of circumstances, time and places. According to Dr. Mohammad Khan Durrany, “Neither the Gitā is preached only for the Hindus nor the Qur’ān for the Muslims, yet they are misunderstood to be the scriptures of the Hindus and the Muslims respectively. This misunderstanding is on account of the non-conveyance of the messages of both these scriptures to the public at large.” 3 Both the scriptures contain numerous ethical thoughts to develop good social, personal and economic development irrespective of the bound of religion barrier to the mankind. There is difference in the way of presentation of these thoughts. There are very few self-contradictory ethical presentations in these two scriptures and the depth of the explanations. These discussions are presented in this chapter afterwards.
Lord Srī Kṛṣṇa described the qualities of a human being to be a gentleman which are truly based on ethical pillar. Gitā teaches us that we should not be greedy or possessive but remain steady and determined. We should be free from bad qualities. Bhagavad Gitā is the scripture where Lord Srī Kṛṣṇa delivered the ethical religious teaching for the entire human race. In the Gitā it is said that some works are good for both the individual and the society. Such works are declared as ethical. The Gitā spoke about our daily duties and also spoke about the division of labour. These have ethical values. Again, in the Gitā, there are some metaphysical discussions where we find the essence of ethics.
On the other hand, according to Islamic ethics, Allah in Qur’ān outlined the good qualities of human being which are truly based on ethical agenda. We can divide the whole ethical thoughts of Qur’ān in the following ways. In holy Qur’ān it is said that some works are good for individual, some are for society and some are good for socio-economic development. Such works are declared as ethical. The Qur’ān spoke about our daily duties that have strong ethical base. Again, in the Qur’ān there are some metaphysical discussions where we find the essence of ethics.
So from the above discussion it is clear that in broader sense the ethical teachings of both the religion, Hinduism and Islam are same. Both the religions had concentrated on the social and personal development. Both the religions had focused the ethical ideas and declared them as the duties of human being. But they have presented different ways of worshiping the supreme power.
In chapter 18, verse no. 45 of Bhagavad Gitā Srī Kṛṣṇa said,
“Sve sve karmaṇy abhirataḥ sansiddhiṁ labhate naraḥ
Sva-karma-nirataḥ siddhiṁ yathā vindati tach chhṛiṇu” 4
That is translated by Swami Mukundananda thus: “By fulfilling their duties, born of their innate qualities, human beings can attain perfection. Now hear from me how one can become perfect by discharging one’s prescribed duties.” 5 So from this verse it is clear that Bhagavad Gitā focused on the human duties which can help us to attain good ethical life.
The Qur’ān also in numerous verses declares the duties of human being. The duties to the personal life, to the society, to the needy, to the orphans, to the kin, to Allah are described in Qur’ān. In chapter 9 verse no. 4 it is stated that Allah surely loves those who are careful of their duty. So both the scriptures agree upon the ethics associated with the human duty.
Knowledge is a very powerful tool to develop the sense of duty. Knowledge is awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Through education we can acquire facts, informations and skills. This fact of knowledge is explored in Bhagavad Gītā in the verse no. 37 of the chapter 4. Knowledge is a very strong weapon to build a nation strong and it can make human an ethical person. This topic is taught by Allah to human in Qur’ān in chapter 20 verse no. 114, chapter 96 verse no. 1 and in chapter 35 verse no. 28 clearly. So from the above discussion it is clear that both the scriptures agree upon the ethics associated with knowledge.
Lord Srī Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna that to maintain good quality, one should overcome kāma or lust or selfish desire. So from this point of view of Gītā it is clear that to achieve happiness, successful life and well situated place in society, one must control the lust. In Qur’ān also in numerous verses (chapter 17 verse no. 32, chapter 24 verses no. 2, 4 and 31-32, chapter 33 verse no. 59) Allah told the human being to stay away from fornication or adultery as these are harmful for human civilization.
There are many verses in Qur’ān where it is clearly mentioned that arrogance is not desirable in the personal character. That is strongly forbidden in chapter 31 verse no. 18 of Qur’ān. On the other hand, in Gitā it is told that a selfish person always dishonors another person. This is highly unethical from social point of view. This is not supported by Hinduism and Gitā. So from the above discussion it is clear that both the scriptures agree upon the ethics associated with good personality.
Truth and ahimsā are the two greatest ethical qualities promoted by Lord Srī Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad Gitā. Lord Srī Kṛṣṇa said,
“Ahiṁsā samatā tuṣṭis tapo dānaṁ yaśo’ yasaḥ/
Bhavanti bhāvā bhūtānāṁ matta eva pṛthagvidhāḥ//” 6
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan translated this verse thus: Non-violence, equal-mindedness, contentment, austerity, charity, fame and ill-fame (are) the do afferent states of beings proceed from Me alone. 7
In Qur’ān Allah told,
“Yā ‘Ayyuhā Al-Ladhīna ‘Āmanū Attaqū Allāha
Wa Kūnū Ma`a Aş-Şādiqīna” 8
Mushaf Al-Madinah An-Nabawiyah translated this verse as “O ye who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be among the truthful.” 9 Apart from this verse, in many verses of Qur’ān i.e. chapter 4 verse no. 69, chapter 19 verse no. 54, chapter 12 verse 46 etc. Allah ordered human being to follow always the path of truthfulness. So from the above discussion it is clear that both the scripture agree upon the ethics associated with path of truthfulness.
If anyone carefully studies the Bhagavad Gitā and the Qur’ān, he can easily realize that though there are some similarities between them about the ideas of ethics, but these sacred texts also contain some minute differences. The reason may be due to the place, time and the circumstances of socio-economic scenario in which they were actually preached. But one should keep in mind that both these holy books have novel motto to establish religious pillar in society on firm intention of destructing the evil being from society and establish good socio- economic scenario.
“In chapter 2 verse no. 219 of Qur’ān, Allah told,
Yas’alūnaka `Ani Al-Khamri Wa Al-Maysiri Qul Fīhimā
‘Ithmun Kabīrun Wa Manāfi`u Lilnnāsi Wa ‘Ithmuhumā ‘Akbaru
Min Naf`ihimā Wa Yas’alūnaka Mādhā Yunfiqūna Quli
Al-`Afwa Kadhālika Yubayyinu Allāhu Lakumu
Al-‘Āyāti La`allakum Tatafakkarūna” 10
This has been translated thus: “They question thee about strong drink and games of chance. Say: In both is great sin, and (some) utility for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness. And they ask thee what they ought to spend. Say: that which is superfluous. Thus, Allah make the plain to you (His) revelations that haply ye may reflect.” 11 The discussion along with the other verses of Qur’ān i.e. chapter 5 verses no. 90-91 etc. strongly point out that consumption of alcohol and play of fate game is strongly forbidden for men and women for better society as they only create chaos. But such types of discussion or command is absent in Bhagavad Gitā.
Out of control interest in trading money which is called usury in society is declared as unethical by Qur’ān. Very strong discussion is there on this topic. In chapter 2 Allah told that He does not bless the people who are associated with usury and they are highly ungrateful. In chapter 3 verse no 130 Allah ordered to the believers not to devour uncontrolled interest and making their asset double and redouble because that will create only few people richer and other poorer in society and this will destroy a healthy socio-economic development. Though many topics of ethics were discussed in Bhagavad Gitā, out of control interest in trading money was not discussed there.
According to Qur’ān, men and women are bound by social marriage but there is a provision of divorce when there is problem. In chapter 2 verses 131 and 132 and in chapter 65 verses from 1 to 5 and in chapter 4 verse no. 35 the proper ethical ways of divorce were described. Although divorce is allowed in special case, it is strongly considered the most disliked of the permissible acts. But we do not find such type of discussion about marriage and divorce in the Bhagavad Gitā.
Apart from these, many direct personal and social ethical teachings are present in Qur’ān i.e. parenting, treatment with orphans, business, money lending, and property distribution etc. But these topics were not discussed so clearly in the Bhagavad Gitā. The reason behind this is that the scenario and time of preach of Bhagavad Gitā was not the same with Qur’ān.