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Home arrow Religion arrow Ethics in Islam: Friendship in the Political Thought of al-Taw??d? and his Contemporaries
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Conclusion

Having looked at the issues that philosophers of the fourth/tenth century tried to solve by proposing concepts of love, brotherhood, and friendship, one can explain why these ideas spread in a specific socio-cultural situation of Buyid society. Rather than looking at these concepts as emerging in a limited context of commitment to reason in scholarly circles, as suggested by some modern commentators,174 it is better to consider them as a reflection of these philosophers’ ambitious aspirations for society and concern for public morality. The interest in promoting these concepts as a means for the cultivation of virtue and communal living may reflect a concern for the general pursuit of human happiness and betterment of their society. In a society that was composed of competing ethnic groups, and was burdened by social and political strife, the constant references that were made by Muslim philosophers to a person as a social animal in need of cooperation can be seen as a call to lessen social tension and to remind people of their need for one another. They also promoted the idea of the divine essence, that all human beings share, as a way to ultimate happiness. This was not only an epistemological exercise but an attempt to foster a common interest in the good among members of a community.

The philosophers encouraged systems of ethics on the basis of the purification of the human soul. The perfection of the soul stems from the acquisition of virtues, and the practice of moral qualities, which they systematically define as matters of the soul. This can be achieved by promoting the rational soul’s desires and its control over the other two faculties of the soul. They defined a number of virtues, e.g. love and friendship, which the soul needs to learn and make habitual to reach perfection. This shows a close link between knowledge and action. The authors granted knowledge an important societal role in the perfection of man. This might reflect an interest in a form of “practical ethical philosophy”, which is concerned with human interaction and doing good within a social community, and not only interested in defining virtue theoretically. This could be seen as their intellectual response to the lack of spirituality in their culture that was changing rapidly, with the temptation to prioritise material and worldly goals.

The interest in training the soul to acquire good moral qualities may also reflect an apparent concern for the spiritual and moral reform of the person, who is capable of forming friendships with other members within the wider context of communal unity. This can be seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between the person and the community which can only be realised in a perfect society. Furthermore, ideas such as friendship, brotherhood and love, are presented as moral fulfilment, and the empowerment of the well-being of the community. They can be seen as a dialogue through which persons attempt to improve their lives and to create a better society. Philosophers discussed the forms of ruling that could maintain such forms of commitment. This might reflect how much, or even most, of the cultural and ethical thought of the Buyid period emerged out of a necessity to address new cultural and social demands.

In addition, the use of the religio-moral knowledge particular to Islam, as well as philosophy, to discuss contemporary issues demonstrates the use of a logical relation between reality and revelation. It also aims to reform Islam intellectually, which the authors represent as an agent of socio-political good. Ideas such as the divine origin of the idea of sociability, the social purpose of religious practices, and the idea of the love of God, not only through asceticism, but also as expressed in the realm of ordinary human relationships - all represent immediate ethical concerns and offer attractive statements of religion that were able to respond to the socio-political challenges of the time and account for a broad cultural reality.

 
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