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Islam and the Ethical Presuppositions of Technology

The new Islamic lifestyle has preliminaries, one of which is the realization of the software movement to help introduce Islamic civilization to the world.

One of the basics of the movement for the production of science is to examine the dimensions and angles of religion’s relationship with technology. If the relationship between the two matters is to be ascertained, technological bases and presuppositions must first be clarified, and then the relationship between each with Islamic thought need to be studied and criticized from a religious point of view, so that we can study the technological effects and consequences in the next steps and then turn our attention to organizing Islamic technology. So, the first question is what are the basics and assumptions of the technology? After listing these principles, one must look at them from a religious perspective and weigh them in the light of religious criticism to better understand the religious or non-religious or anti-religious image of technology.

Technological presuppositions can be divided into two categories: philosophical and ethical.Philosophical assumptions include but are not limited to acceptance of the causality principle; philosophical materialism; acceptance of induction; quantity overcoming quality and instrumental rationality. Ethical presuppositions include escaping morality and captivity to nature. The philosophical presuppositions were explained in the previous paper titled “Islam and the Philosophical Presuppositions of Technology” and this paper deals with the ethical ones.

  • Escaping Morality

The first ethical presupposition of technology is that it is not bound by ethical values; i.e. technology is not the backbone of any moral judgment. In fact, everything occurring in the technological system is justified in and of itself. Technology does not advance in terms of ethical aspirations; it does not seek to realize values and virtues. Technology finds no moral judgment. A technician must work freely and not be limited by moral values.

Islamic Perspective

The claim that technology is empty of any value is but a trick to cover up the moral evils of its creators, and such a view has so far inflicted great material and spiritual damage on humanity and caused many crimes in history. From the Islamic point of view, every human phenomenon must have a positive moral value  concerning God and the Hereafter, and technology is no exception.

  • Captivity to Nature

Another of the ethical presuppositions of experimental science and technology is that nature is captive and enslaved to human beings and man is entitled not only to possession and use but also to exploitation, plunder and extravagance.

Islamic Perspective

Today’s human being has passed through the conquest and capture of nature and has plundered and invaded it. This is due to the assumption that man (without God) is the axis of the universe, and nature turns around him and he has all the rights with regard to it and bears no responsibility. It means that he only demands and has no duty or responsibility towards it. The second problem that has caused the modern man to come to this mentality is that according to the modern man, God is only the primary creator of nature, not the director and the guardian of it; that is to say, God’s supervision and planning over nature and its internal mechanisms are rejected, and in some sense, God is the watchmaker who made nature, abandoned it and retired; sometimes this watch is broken and man has to repair it with his hand. He changes its face wherever he thinks fit, interferes in the process of evolving it, and in this way, he intends to solve the crises of nature, while creating crises.

Thirdly, in the eyes of the religious man, the purpose of his life is to gain divine salvation and perfection. So, he sees the world only as a farm for the Hereafter; that is, his purpose is discovering nature and proper use of it, not that he changes the world with his whims and desires; rather he does so only so much as it is necessary and useful for the purpose. In general, he must be in harmony with the system of nature. So, in the religious sense, the end of science is harmony with nature, not the extravagant use of it, because that view considers a real purpose for the world. Areligious person respects the dignity of nature and does not forget future generations.

The Holy Qur’an mentions the following about some schemes of Satan:

وَ لَأُضِلَّنَّهُمْ وَ لَأُمَنِّيَنَّهُمْ وَ لَآمُرَنَّهُمْ فَلَيُبَتِّكُنَّ آذانَ الْأَنْعامِ وَ لَآمُرَنَّهُمْ فَلَيُغَيِّرُنَّ خَلْقَ اللَّهِ وَ مَنْ يَتَّخِذِ الشَّيْطانَ وَلِيًّا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ فَقَدْ خَسِرَ خُسْراناً مُبيناً

“And I will lead them astray and give them false hopes, and prompt them to slit the ears of cattle, and I will prompt them to alter Allah’s creation.” Whoever takes Satan as a guardian instead of Allah has certainly incurred a manifest loss.” (The Qur’an, 4:119)

Thus, altering the creature and nature is of the goals of Satan and God warns the people not to be deceived by him:

يَعِدُهُمْ وَ يُمَنِّيهِمْ وَ ما يَعِدُهُمُ الشَّيْطانُ إِلاَّ غُرُوراً أُولئِكَ مَأْواهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَ لا يَجِدُونَ عَنْها مَحيصا

“He makes them promises and gives them false hopes, yet Satan does not promise them anything but delusion. The refuge of such shall be hell, and they will not find any escape from it.” (The Qur’an, 4:120-121)

From the viewpoint of the Abrahamic religions, man has the right to dominate and conquer nature within the framework of divine decrees and to the extent of meeting human needs. In the Holy Qur’an, human beings are also permitted to justly take benefit from nature:

اللَّهُ الَّذي خَلَقَ السَّماواتِ وَ الْأَرْضَ وَ أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّماءِ ماءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَراتِ رِزْقاً لَكُمْ وَ سَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ لِتَجْرِيَ فِي الْبَحْرِ بِأَمْرِهِ وَ سَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْأَنْهارَوَ سَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الشَّمْسَ وَ الْقَمَرَ دائِبَيْنِ وَ سَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَ النَّهار

“It is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth, and He sends down water from the sky and with it He brings forth crops for your sustenance. And He disposed the ships for your benefit so that they may sail at sea by His command, and He disposed the rivers for you. He disposed the sun and the moon for you, constant in their courses, and He disposed the night and the day.” (The Qur’an, 14: 32-33)

وَ سَخَّرَ لَكُمْ ما فِي السَّماواتِ وَ ما فِي الْأَرْضِ جَميعاً مِنْهُ إِنَّ في‏ ذلِكَ لَآياتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“And He has disposed for your benefit whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth; all is from Him. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect.”(The Qur’an, 45: 13)

So, the purposeful use of nature which is in line with religious thought is possible and desirable, but where is this and the rude look of modern man to nature?

The article was written by Hujjat al-Islam Sayyid Mostafa Daryabari and Dr. Morteza Karimi

About Ali Teymoori

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