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Adab and its significance for an Islamic medical ethics
  1. Elizabeth Sartell1,2,
  2. Aasim I Padela2,3,4
  1. 1Divinity School, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  2. 2Initiative on Islam & Medicine, Program on Medicine and Religion, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  3. 3Section of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  4. 4MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Elizabeth A Sartell, Initiative on Islam & Medicine, University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Ave, MC 5068, Chicago IL 60637, USA; esartell{at}


Discussions of Islamic medical ethics tend to focus on Sharī‘ah-based, or obligation-based, ethics. However, limiting Islamic medical ethics discourse to the derivation of religious duties ignores discussions about moulding an inner disposition that inclines towards adherence to the Sharī‘ah. In classical Islamic intellectual thought, such writings are the concern of adab literature. In this paper, we call for a renewal of adabi discourse as part of Islamic medical ethics. We argue that adab complements Sharī‘ah-based writings to generate a more holistic vision of Islamic medical ethics by supplementing an obligation-based approach with a virtue-based approach. While Sharī‘ah-based medical ethics focuses primarily on the moral status of actions, adab literature adds to this genre by addressing the moral formation of the agent. By complementing Sharī‘ah-based approaches with adab-focused writings, Islamic medical ethics discourse can describe the relationship between the agent and the action, within a moral universe informed by the Islamic intellectual tradition.

  • Religious Ethics
  • Moral Status
  • International Affairs
  • Ethics

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