The science of akhlāq (‘ilm al-akhlāq) deals with understanding our present position and discovering how we can elevate it. In the science of akhlāq we study khulq, which is our spiritual or moral aspect and refers to those qualities which are not physical. We also study good and bad actions.
The science of akhlāq is the science which deals with mankind’s character traits, vices, and virtues. In Islamic morality we deal with virtues and vices, and also with the actions which are related to them. We do not merely discuss actions as do some ethical systems. Some ethical systems, especially in the twentieth century, are influenced by the theory of behaviourism in psychology. According to this theory, everything is a form of behaviour, and the spirit – as an immaterial substance from which behaviour sprout – does not exist. Their focus is placed solely on behaviour and thus, some people have also restricted ethics merely to a study of the moral behaviour of human beings which constitutes their good and bad actions. However, we believe that the most important things to study are the qualities of the soul, such as vices and virtues, and also actions and behaviour, because our actions are very important in forming or maintaining our virtues and also in helping us to achieve our aims and objectives. We need to acquire virtues so that we can become pious, move closer to God, and find happiness in the hereafter. For these same reasons we should also perform good actions. We can neither disregard actions nor disregard qualities of the soul. However, relatively speaking, qualities of the soul are much more
important because they are enduring, they form our personality, and we will be resurrected in a condition which is based on the qualities that we have.