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Life in the US and Objectives of Shariah

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

As Shari`ah is the guidance, the teachings, and the rulings that Allah sent to his Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), Fiqh, on the other hand, is our understanding of this guidance, teachings, and rulings. The process with which scholars arrive at fiqh is called the process of ijtihad, a process where scholars expend all their efforts  to arrive at the correct ruling.

The one who performs ijtihad should hold certain qualifications in order for the ijtihad process to be correct. Among those qualifications is the knowledge of the Arabic language, the language of the sources of Shari`ah, the Qur’an 4 and Sunnah.

The knowledge of the Qur’an and its sciences is also required for the people of ijtihad. Similarly the knowledge of the Sunnah, the tradition of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is an essential part of these qualifications.

There also should be knowledge of people’s life, culture, and the matters for which ijtihad takes place. For example, arriving at a ruling about economy requires the mujtahid, the one performing ijtihad, to be aware of economic and financial systems in which rulings are required. No one can issue a fiqhi ruling on the issue of a car lease without the full understanding of the car leasing system.

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Imam Ash-Shatibi, who is one of the renowned scholars of Usul al-Fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) and a prominent writer in the field of  Maqasid  (the objectives of Shari`ah) said that it is also essential that the mujtahid is knowledgeable of the objectives of Shari`ah rulings.

In the Maliki school of fiqh, one of the major four schools of fiqhi thought, the issue of al-Maslahah(the benefit) plays an important role in ijtihad. A similar concept exists in the Hanafi school, another major school of fiqh.

Keeping the objectives of Shari`ah in mind while performing ijtihad is very essential. For example, `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) did not punish a man who stole to eat during the time of famine.  `Umar made his decision based on consideration of the “protection of life” objective.

Likewise, `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) would prohibit soldiers from being away from their homes for more than four months, keeping in mind the value the Shari`ah places on family life and “the protection of progeny.”

Life moves on, new experiences develop, and new people and new cultures emerge in different places.  New business transactions appear and others disappear and Muslim scholars are able to cope with this progress. The knowledge of the objectives of Shari`ah is essential to the success of our scholars to arrive at jurisprudence that is relevant to the society, and in full conformity with our Shari`ah, the pure guidance Allah wishes us to follow.


Objectives of Shari`ah and our lives

It is very important to study and understand the objectives of Shari`ah, not only the major ones but also the wisdom behind all rulings.  Not only is it essential for the scholars, but also very important for all Muslims, especially Muslims in American and the West.  It is well understood that Muslims follow Shari`ah because it is from Allah whether they manage to identify  the wisdom behind its rulings or not.

However, understanding the objectives of Shari`ah help us understand the wisdom of Allah Almighty behind the Shari`ah rulings.  This fosters a sense of pride in our religion and a sense of comfort while living our lives as committed Muslims.  It will also help us understand Islam better and understand many of its rulings and guidance, especially in worldly matters.

One important goal behind this series of articles is to promote the implementation of the Shari`ah attributes and objectives in our lives. Our lives should experience the mercy of Shari`ah, and the values it promotes should manifest themselves in our families, our communities, and our society.

Shari`ah came to promote the utmost justice.  One should ask, “Where is justice in my life? Am I just to myself and to people around me?  Am I just in my business?”  One should also stand for justice as ordered by Shari`ah and exert all effort to support it.  The same applies to all of the other values promoted by Shari`ah.

The best way to bring those values to our lives is to practice Islam, for in this practice lies the mercy Shari`ah comes with.  However, practicing the form of Islam without the essence defeats the purpose.  Going back and forth to the masjid without Salah having a real effect on our practice and our behavior takes away from the benefits of Salah.  Giving charity to the poor while following it with an act of arrogance and looking down on people defeats the objective behind charity as a mean to purify our wealth and to support the poor.  Allah says: {O you who believe! cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury …} (Al-Baqarh 2:264)

Keeping those objectives in mind is essential to getting the full benefit of our Shari`ah.


In the American context

A very important duty for Muslims is to promote the aforementioned values in their society. Those values are universal and are essential to any society even if the majority of the society is non-Muslim. The values of mercy, justice, God-consciousness, piety, chastity, moderation, kindness, and protection of religion, life, intellect, progeny, and property are universal values that many need and agree to embrace.

Our role as American Muslims is to promote those values and stand strongly behind them. Our role is to join hands with other people, groups, organizations, and movements who hold similar values. We should extend a hand to people to help them live by those values and embrace them.

We also should be able to present Islam and convey it to others through these universal values and objectives.  Instead of describing Islam as a set of detailed rituals which may not be understood by many people, one can choose to share those values as genuine Islamic values.

When Ja`far Ibn Abi Taleb was asked by the Abyssinian king about Islam, he answered with a very concise list of these values.  Those values are the essence of Islam and they make logical sense to many people irrespective of who they are and what their experience is.

Understanding the attributes of Shari`ah and the objectives behind its rulings gives us the ability to explain many of its rulings and teachings.  People may not find it normal that Shari`ah forbids sexual relationships other than in marriage, or proscribes certain types of financial transactions.

Explaining those rulings while keeping in mind the preservation and protection of progeny and wealth gives legitimacy to those rulings, at least in the eyes of those who do not acknowledge Shari`ah as a divine system.  We should strive to make Shari`ah a spirit of our lives and make a firm intention to teach people around us its values and how to live by them.