We also have essays and books devoted to the subject of akhlāq. For example, among the companions of the Imam al-Riḍā (a), there was a person called Isma‘īl b. Mihrān. He wrote a book called Sifāt al-Mu’min wa al-Fājir. This book is entirely about the moral characteristics of believers and sinners; it does not deal with, for example, history, jurisprudence, or other issues.
From the 3rd century (A.H.), we have a book called al-Māni‘āt min Dukhūl al-Jannah or “Obstacles to Entering Heaven”, which explains the things which can hinder entrance to heaven. This was compiled by Ja‘far b. Ahmad al-Qummī.
We also have Tuhaf al-‘Uqūl, a collection of hadiths which is mostly about ethics with reference to hadiths from previous prophets (a) and hadiths from Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Imams (a). It was compiled by Ibn Shu‘bah Harrānī.
From the 4th century (A.H.), we have a book called al-Ādāb wa al-Makārim al-Akhlāq which was written by Abu al-Qasim al-Kūfī about noble traits of character. In the same century, we have the book al-Sa‘ādah wa al-Is‘ād by Abu al-Hasan Muhammad b. Yūsuf al-‘Āmirī about happiness and the way to attain it.
From the 5th century (A.H.), there is Tahdhīb al-Akhlāq wa Tathīr al-A‘rāq by Ibn Miskawayh, which is about morality.
From the 6th century (A.H.), we have a major book called Ihyā’ al-‘Ulūm al-Dīn written in Arabic by al-Ghazālī, a very famous Sunni scholar who wrote several volumes on ethics and issues related to ethics. The title of the book means “The Revival of Religious Sciences.” He also has another book called Kīmīyaye Sa‘ādat or “Alchemy of Happiness” which was written in Farsi. It aims to teach us how to achieve happiness and salvation.
There is another important book about moral teachings written in the 6th century called Tanbīh al-Khawātir wa Nuzhat al-Nāżir – also known as Majmū‘eye Warrām – written by Warrām b. Abi Farās. In this century, we also have Makārim al-Akhlāq written by Hasan b. Faḍl Tabarsī.
From the 7th century (A.H.) we have a great scholar called Khājeh Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī2 who was a distinguished philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and theologian, as well as an eminent master of ethics. He has a book called Akhlāq-e-Nāserī and another called Awsāf al-Ashrāf meaning “Characteristics of the Noble.” The latter is a book that describes different qualities and characteristics according to the stages a wayfarer experiences while passing through the different stations of mysticism. This is a very interesting book which is related to practical mysticism or practical spirituality.
From the 8th century (A.H.), we have Akhlāq al-Ashrāf which was written by Khājeh Niżām al-Dīn ‘Ubayd Zākānī.
From the 10th century (A.H.), we have two important books called Akhlāq-e-Shamsī and Akhlāq-e-Kāshifī. Akhlāq-e-Shamsī
is by Mawlā Hasan b. Rūzbahān Shīrazī and Akhlāq-e-Kāshifī is by Hasan b. Ali Kāshifī.
From the 11th century (A.H.) we have many great and important figures, one of which is Mullā Mohsin Fayḍ Kāshānī. He has many books on hadiths, exegesis, theology, and akhlāq. One of his most important works on akhlāq is al-Mahajjah al-Bayḍā’ fī Tahdhīb al-Ihyā’. He very much liked the book Ihyā’ al-‘Ulūm al-Dīn by al-Ghazālī but found that it needed some improvements, so he added hadiths from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and removed any narrations which did not have strong supporting evidence. He also tried to add some other important things which were missing in Ihyā’ al-‘Ulūm al-Dīn. He compiled Mahajjah al-Bayḍā’ fī Tahdhīb al-Ihyā’ in eight volumes, but the latest edition is published in four volumes with eight parts.
From the 12th century (A.H.) we have a very important book called Jāmi‘ al-Sa‘ādāt by Mullā Mahdī Narāqī, written in Arabic in three volumes. It is a very detailed book on ethics and contains plenty of references from the Qur’an and hadiths. However, at the same time it follows a form of philosophical or Aristotelian approach to ethics and therefore classifies moral virtues and vices according to the
faculties of human beings: the faculty of reason (al-quwwah al-nātiqah or al-‘aqlīyah), the faculty of anger (al-quwwah al-ghaḍabīyah), and the faculty of appetite (al-quwwah al-shahawīyah). The book discusses the golden mean or the balanced position which we should aim to achieve for each faculty.
After Mullā Mahdī Narāqī, we have Mullā Ahmad Narāqī who wrote the book Mi‘rāj al-Sa‘ādah. Jāmi‘ al-Sa‘ādāt is more detailed and is written in three volumes in Arabic, whilst Mi‘rāj al-Sa‘ādah is written in Farsi in one volume. Both books have received great attention. Recently, Dr. Jalal al-Dīn Mujtabawī has translated the three volumes of Jāmi‘ al-Sa‘ādāt into Farsi. He also summarised them into one
volume. Some years ago a very brief summary of Jāmi‘al-Sa‘ādāt was translated into English and it contains about a
twentieth of the original book in Arabic.
From the 14th century, books like Tuhaf al-‘Uqūl and Makārim al-Akhlāq are frequently republished and reprinted. They are
available in any significant library.
From the 14th century, thanks to God, we have many great books on akhlāq and also some developments in the study of akhlāq which we will discuss in the next lesson.
2Not to be confused with Shaykh Tūsī, known as Shaykh al-Tā’ifah, who lived earlier and was a great muhaddith. He was the author of Tahdhīb al-Ahkām and al-Istibsār which are two of the four major Shi‘a collections of hadiths. He was also a jurist and wrote a very good commentary on the Qur’an called al-Tibyān.