2 – Adh-Dhamir (Conscience) in terminology:

Researchers of philosophy and ethics differ in determining the meaning of this term. The plainest opinion said about this term is:

“It is an inherent capacity that has been regarded as an authority in distinguishing between good and evil and right and wrong that stimulates for good and right and rewards with peace and satisfaction, and keeps away from evil and wrong and punishes with qualm and regret.” (1)

This innate ability of the soul according to some researchers of ethics is an instinctive aptitude. Whilst others concluded that it is an acquired quality that is attained from the environment in its broad and general sense. At the same time, other philosophers viewed that the conscience is an inherent instinct in the constitution of a person; however, the environment and education have their role in its growth and development. (2)

We should bear in our mind that most of the definitions of conscience do not differ from our definition. Although, those scholars who regarded the conscience as an innate ability have added that condition in their definition, while those scholars who view it as an acquired ability or an inherent aptitude in nature that is influenced by the environment, did not determined the source of this ability. (3)

However, the preferred opinion is that the conscience is inherent in its origin and an acquired one in its growth and development. Conscience is an instinctive quality that can recognize the good and works accordingly, or that can recognize the evil and can refrain form it. Allah (Glory be to Him) says: “And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it, and inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness. (Ash-Shams 91:7-8) An ancestor scholar, Mujahid said: “Allah (Glory be to Him) has introduced the soul to the obedience and disobedience.” While other scholars said: “Allah (Glory be to Him) guided it to the path of good and evil. (4) So, it has the same aptitude for the piety as it has the ability for debauchery.

One of the proofs on the existence of innate sense that can distinguish between good and bad is the common agreement across the world on several moral values despite their countries were separate and distant from each other, their times were different and their cultures varied. Shaykh Al- Islam, Ibn Taymiyyah(5) says: “The goodness of truth and justice and the ugliness of injustice and lying are values  agreed upon by all nations.”(6) He added: “If there was no principle in human abilities for these issues, it would not have been agreed upon in all nations. The values that are agreed upon and famous in all nations require some reason in common instinct in all nations. (7)

Though the conscience is acquired in its growth and nature, the life of the conscience and the consequent effects of good calling to good and virtue, require full awareness of virtue and comprehension of its details. This awareness depends on Shari`ah (8), and faith that motivates to its commitment, Allah (Glory be to Him) says: “And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness. He has succeeded who purifies it. And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].” (9) In this verse, Allah (Glory be to Him) made success i.e. complete virtuousness, in interior and exterior, leading to the goodness of the heart and purity of the conscience dependent on the act of purification, that is represented in obeying Allah’s orders by fulfilling His orders and avoiding His prohibition.

Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Allah (Glory be to Him) has created human being able to accept the perfection according to the granted aptitude and disposition that are hidden like fire in the flint, He (Glory be to Him) inspired him, enabled him, gave him awareness of it and guided him, and sent to him His messengers and revealed to him His scriptures to bring the quality to its perfection by activating it". (10)

Therefore, the perfection of the conscience and carrying out its full functions depends on external factors.

In the light of the previous explanation, the conscience may be defined as follows: 

The conscience is an instinctive aptitude for recognizing the truth and accepting it. It is a psychological capacity that needs care and purification by adopting piety, so that it can lead to the righteousness and virtue and can feel satisfaction with it, and can censure when it violates the values or neglects them.




(1) Muhammad Yusuf Musa, the Philosophy of Ethics in Islam and its Relation to the Greek Philosophy, p. 138 (in Arabic), Mo’assasah Al-Khanji, Cairo, edition 3rd, 1963.

(2) Ibid.

(3) See: Jamil Saliba, Al-Mu`ajam Al-Falsafi, vol. 1, p. 763 and `Umar Ash-Shaibani, an Introduction to Islamic Philosophy (in Arabic), p. 189 and afterwards, Dar Al-Arabiyyah Lil-Kitab, Libya and Tunisia, edition 2nd, `Ali M`abad Al-Farghali, lectures on Islamic and Human Morality, p.13, Maktabah Al-Kulliya’t Al-Azhariyyah, 1396.

(4) Al-Qurtubi, Al-Jami`a Li Ahkam Al-Qur’an, vol. 20, p. 75.

(5) Ahmad ibn `Abdul-Halim ibn `Abdus-Salam An-Numayri, Al-Harrani, Ad-Dimashqi, Al-Hanbali, a scholar, jurist, inviter to Islam, fighter, reformer, who has been traumatized in the way of Allah and died in prison in Damascus in 728 A.H.. His birth was in 661 A.H. see also Al-Bidayah Wan-Nihayah vol.14, p.135, Ibn Hajar, Ad-Durar Al-Kaminah Fi A`ayan Al-Mi’ah Ath-Thaminah, vol. 1, p.144, Majlis Da’irah Al-Ma`a’rif Al-`Uthmaniyyah, India, edition 1st, year 1350 A.H. and Shazra’t Adh-Dhahab, vol.6 p. 80.

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