Ethical concepts

The Vigour of ‘Fairness’ in Qur’anic Ethical Concepts – Part 2


The writer, Dr. Sibtain Panjwani (London, United Kingdom) qualified as a dentist and obtained his MA in Medical Law and Ethics and a PhD in Law, after which he went on to work closely with Marhum Mulla Asgherali M M Jaffer at the World Federation.

Ethical concepts:

I want to begin with the premise that the most basic word in moral language is ‘good’.[1] We say words like ‘right’, ‘good’, ‘just’ and ‘reasonable’ to express our innermost sense of  ‘fairness’ about the situation or the context of the situation or our action or someone else’s action. So, when we naturally feel good and proper toward an action, we deem it to be right. We also observe that every one of us has a ‘natural sense’ that conveys to each one of us that something in the action or conduct is ‘ fair’ and therefore ‘good’ or ‘not fair and not right’ and therefore ‘not good’. Let us call this our ‘fundamental sense of fairness. We accept this as our natural experience and act upon it or make a judgement from it. So, when we act upon such notions that have a sense of fairness and balance at the core of it, we call it a ‘good or right’ action or conduct. Essentially, the ‘goodness’ experienced is tied in with our ‘fundamental sense of fairness’.

When we sense unfairness to ourselves or in others then out of this emerges one’s quest to right that which is not fair. Many of us have experienced such situations in our own lives. For example, when faced with cheating or lying from others who dominate or control us, we find the inner strength to motivate ourselves to fight the cheating or the lying by others which has denied our rightful due. Also, in our daily experiences, once a sense of ‘unfairness’ is felt within us in any given situation then this becomes the cause for which we are willing to sacrifice time, energy, wealth and life to remove the unfairness.

In the history of humanity, we find many examples where a singular determination by someone to fight for the cause of fairness is then joined by many and a movement for ‘fairness’ or ‘justice’ is established. Out of these movements, we see structures and processes emerge that are based on fairness or justice. Human history records such struggles in all its glory and beckons humanity to build societies based on fairness. This sense of ‘being fair’ or ‘not being fair’ is inherent within all of us. We experience this sense ourselves and observe it regularly in our daily lives. We know from experience that a baby or young child deprived unfairly will make his/her feelings known either by crying or complaining or both. This is the only way he/she can react but

react he/she must against the unfairness. Here, the sense that something is ‘not fair’ and therefore ‘not right’ emerges from within our consciousness. For example, the child wants a redress. At least, at this stage, this initial and critical action of a child to the perceived ‘unfairness’ is not taught to a child.

Here, there is no involvement of rational faculty or apparatus yet, merely a sense of unfairness perceived by a child. The child’s rational faculty, to the extent developed, will only come to play to further the cause of fairness by understanding the how, why, when and where of the ‘unfairness’ and the redress that is required to correct the ‘unfairness’. This is not limited to our childhood. It is present within us from our birth to our death. It is a fact borne out of our experiences in life. We begin our quest for ‘fairness’ or ‘justice’ when our inherent sense of ‘unfairness’ is ignited first followed by our intellectual faculty rationalising to achieve ‘fairness’.

[1]Something resulting in a beneficial effect or something worth having or achieving

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