By Hameed Choudhury
14 October 2010
“The Shari’ah is all justice, kindness, common good and wisdom. Any rule that departs from justice to injustice… or departs from common good (maslaha) to harm (mafsada)… is not part of Shari’ah even if it is arrived at by literal interpretation.”I came across the above statement byIbn Qayyim al-Jawziya, a famous and well known student of Ibn Taymiyyah, from his work ‘I’ilm al-Muwaqqin an Rabb al-Alamin’. I think it encompasses with deep clarity and wise insight the definition of Shari’ah (the path and the way to understanding the objectives of the Law giver) and how it underpins our two dimensional relationship -between man and God (Ibadat) and man and man (mu’amilat). It reflects how Islam plays a pivotal role in translating, expounding and clarifying the essential goal of the Law giver and His objectives for His free-willed creation. By exploring the objectives of the Law giver, man is commissioned -through the use of his intellectual and rational capacity, to create a milieu whose fundamental components are that of justice, mercy and equality for all.
This is a very poignant statement that moves to establish the essence of Shari’ah and more so the need to understand and unravel the statements of the Law giver through the end objectives of the law itself. Could it be that lack of such understanding and implementation is the reason why the Muslim world is in such disarray with tyrannical and oppressive regimes ruling over them!?! Ibn Taymiyyah, considered to be one of the most prominent scholars of Islam, understood clearly the underlining objective of God viz-a-viz the rise and fall of nations, when he stated:
“Civilisation is rooted in justice, and the consequences of oppression are devastating. Therefore, it is said that God aids the just state even if it is non-Muslim, yet withholds His help from the oppressive state even if it is Muslim”
With greatest of respect and sincerity of mission, the call is to our dear scholars to reflect deeply and understand with objective openness the core of these statements, for God has been merciful on you and has provided you with an opportunity to avail yourselves of knowledge that lasts beyond the grave. The call is consider the objectives of the Law giver viz-a-viz the environment within which you [the scholars] are operating in and the people are living in, before advocating a ruling, that at times is out of touch with the reality of the environment, its people and all too often devoid of the essential components of mercy and justice. With such short-sightedness, at times, the situation of Muslims is compounded further and all too often acts to undermine the universality of Shari’ah (which at its core enables plurality of opinions and rulings to co-exist at the same time for a single situation), when such rulings that are particular, specific and contextualised -are translated and generalised to fit all people, all environments, all places and all times.
Clearly, this goes against the understanding of the classical scholars for example Imam al-Shafi’ of the Shafi’ school who had established two different rulings -one for Iraq and one for Egypt, that took into account the environment, customs and people. Abu Ishaq Al-Shatibi, who added considerable understanding to the philosophy of Shari’ah and especially focussed on the higher intents of Islamic law, states:
“God made this blessed righteous Shari’ah accommodating and convenient and thus won the hearts of human beings and invoked in them love and respect for law. Had they had to act against convenience they could not have honestly fulfilled their obligations”
If Islam, and by extension Shari’ah, is to maintain its rightful global and dynamic presence and appeal providing solutions for humanity’s ills, than the rulings provided by scholars have to reflect the changing condition, the various and diverse customs and cultures, the environment and the people in those environments. Above all the rulings, advice and statements must be wrapped in the essential component of mercy, compassion and be geared towards justice, while avoiding placing undue burden on the people. For even God recognises the weak nature of humans when He states that ‘He has not placed a burden on anyone more than he/she can bear’.
And finally, it should be remembered that the Prophet has said “the first words God wrote in His first Book were: “There is no God but I, My Kindness exceeds my Wrath”
Hameed Choudhury is a graduate of MEng Electronic and Software Engineering from University of Birmingham and MA Islamic Banking, Finance and Management from Loughborough University (MIHE campus). He currently works as an IT Manager within the educational sector. He has been working in the area of Islamic work for around a decade within his local community. He authors a blog titled ‘The Objective Thinker’ which can be accessed at http://theobjectivethinker.com/