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3 Major Goals of Islamic Shariah

Reading through the sources of Shari`ah, i.e., the Glorious Qur’an and the tradition of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), one would find that Shari`ah promotes a set of values through all of its teachings, rulings, laws, and guidance.

Erudite scholars found a reason and wisdom behind what it teaches and there is a set of major objectives it aims to achieve.  Muslim scholars such as Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali and Ash-Shatibi paid special attention to the values and objectives of Shari`ah.

Those objectives are explicitly mentioned in some Shari`ah rulings. They are also implicitly understood through deep examination of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Scholars expended great effort to come up with a set of major objectives Islamic Shari`ah aims to achieve. Though written and articulated differently, almost all of them arrive at a very similar set of objectives.

Sheikh Mohamed Abu Zahra stated that Shari`ah came as a mercy to humanity. This mercy demonstrates itself in achieving three major goals: nurturing the righteous individual, establishing justice, and realization of benefits. (Sheikh Mohamed Abu Zahrah, Usul Al-Fiqh)

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Nurturing the righteous individual

Looking at this heavenly law, one would realize that the first goal it aim to achieve is to develop and nurture the righteous human being to be a source of good for himself or herself and for the community, and to reduce and eliminate any bad that may occur from him or her that may harm himself or herself or people in the community. This takes place through the rituals and moral systems that aim mainly at developing the righteous human being.

This human being knows the Creator, is conscious of Him, obedient to Him, and observant of His orders. These human beings are beneficial to others, such as their families and their societies. This human being is a manifestation of the mercy of Islam to humanity.

Establishing justice

Secondly, Shari`ah came to establish justice between people within the community of believers, and with other communities and groups. {Indeed, Allah commands justice …} (An-Nahl 16:90) as He said in the Qur’an and commands people to {stand firmly for justice.} (An-Nisaa’ 4:135)

Justice in Islam is a noble goal and is comprehensive. Islam promotes justice in court, justice in dealing with each other, justice to family members, and justice with oneself.

Shari`ah considers people to be equal, no one has superiority over another because of race, wealth, or family.  Shari`ah even obligates Muslims to be just with their enemies during war.

Shari`ah establishes justice between men and women and makes women peers to men in terms of rights and responsibilities. {And women shall have rights similar to the rights upon them, according to what is equitable; …} (Al-Baqarah 2:228) as Allah mentioned.

Realization of benefit (Maslahah)

Thirdly, Shari`ah came to achieve benefits. Shari`ah never states anything except to achieve a real benefit (maslahah).

Muslim scholars observed that all the teachings of Shari`ah aim at preserving and protecting five major benefits, namely, religion, life, intellect, progeny, and property (or wealth).

Those five benefits (or necessities as some call them) are essential to the honorable human life. As Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali said,

Bringing about benefits and removing harm is essential to people. However, what we mean by the benefit is what the Shari`ah aims at.

Shari`ah aims at five objectives for people; that is to protect their religion, life, intellect, progeny and property. Anything that protects these is a benefit and anything that emaciates them is a harm and overcoming it is a benefit. “Kitab al-Mustasfa” by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

To be continued