The Applicable Qualification:

  1. The verses of the Qur’an in this article are rendered, in a contextual translation (ترجمة المحتوي), by the author himself. As opposed to the literary and textual translation, the contextual rendition helps the divine message being delivered closer to the reader’s heart, making it easier to grasp! For an easy reference to a reader however, the Arabic texts of the relevant verses are also produced (in the online version).
  2. The opinions expressed and the conclusions drawn in this write up are that of the author himself. They don’t necessarily represent the positions of AMUST.

 

The applied approach to life and the Shari’ah:

The ever evolving public interests will always have to be accommodated within the main frame of the Qur’anic dictums: “God intends to make life easy for you and He does not intend to make it difficult.” (يريد الله بكم اليسر، ولا يريد بكم العسر). (Qur’an 02:185)

In another theme of this mainframe, the Qur’an dictates: “God intends to make life light and bearable for you, because the humans are created weak.” (يريد الله أن يخفف عنكم، وخلق الانسان ضعيفا). (Qur’an 03:28)

The revealed phrase that “God intends to make your life easy and light”, would live on as highly charged with its universally applied legal implications!

Legally speaking thus, as God expressed His “intention” to be ‘making human life easy and light’ none, must dare to make life difficult for them. Sometimes, people make difficult choices in the name of being chaste, pious or extra careful! But when judged by the Shari’ah matrix above, this approach will prove to be wrong! Understood in their true contexts, these verses lay down the universal principle of Islam to be accommodating the ever evolving public needs, interests and comforts of humanity at all times and places.

According to the Qur’an thus, God intends to make the human life easy and liveable eg on issues of fasting, praying, eating and dealing with halal. By the same authority, God also intends to make life easy and enjoyable on the streets and marketplaces. This is to be achieved, by avoiding the clearly stated practices of haram (the prohibitions).

The universal scope of the Qur’an and the rebuke:

The Qur’an expressly states that the mission of the Prophet Muhammad (s) was meant for the entire humanity: “O’ Prophet! The only objective for which your mission was meant was, for it to benefit the entire humanity, delivering them good news and warning at the same time. But the majority of the humanity does not realise this!” (وما أرسلناك الا كافًة للناس، بشيرا ونذيرا، ولكن أكثر الناس لا يعلمون). (Qur’an 34:23)

For the ‘majority of the humanity not to realise this’ identity aspect of the Qur’an, is a tacit warning and rebuke!

The verse 07:158 presented the universal scope of the Qur’an in the form of a public proclamation by the Prophet Muhammad (s) himself: “Declare! O humanity, I am the Prophet of God to you all. To Him alone belongs the kingdom and the control of the heavens and the earth. Beside him there is no other God! He alone grants life and death…” (قل! يا أيها الناس، اني رسول الله اليكم جميعا، الذي له ملك السماوات والأرض، يحيي ويميت …) (Qur’an 34:23)

With such a clarity of the revealed statement, limiting the scope of the Qur’an among the believers only, will be a great disservice.

A holistic and pragmatic understanding of the Qur’an would prove that ‘the mission of Islam is indeed, the blessing for the entire universe and the mankind’ (وما ارسلناك الا رحمة للعالمين) the Qur’an: 21:107. But to realise this, one must not judge the Qur’an by the reactionary and historical practice of the Muslim rulers or societies, at one time or another. Instead, while passing a judgement on the mission of the Qur’an, one must be just and fair-minded at all times. This is the applied meaning of “But the majority of the humanity does not realise this”! ( Qur’an 34:23)

Here comes the true consequence of such a pragmatic understanding of the Qur’an today: As an equal members of the universe and the humanity, the contemporary scholarship must prove that in the same way as the Qur’an is the blessing, for Rashid, Mohammad and Ahmad, it also is the blessing, for Michael, John and Haripad in India!

This is where the accommodation of ‘public interests’ at all times and places (مصا لح مرسلة), as a legal tool and institution, comes into play.

The freedom of choice in its true meaning:

With the universal guarantee for the freedom of choice, lifestyle and religion for all, (لكم دينكم ولي دين،  & لااكراه في الدين), the Qur’an has no case to answer. Nothing could be more compelling than the public declaration to “those who opted not to embrace the Qur’an” (قل يا أيها الكافرون…): “…..You already have a religion of your choice, which I both accept and respect. Please let me have my own religion as well and grant me the same right”. This is the applied meaning of the Qur’an in verses 109:06 & 02:256.

However, one needs to apply the Shari’ah, led by the Qur’an, within this wider scope today, yesterday and at all times in the future. Whether the contemporary scholarship of Islamic law and legality, would dare to entertain such an introspection of the Qur’an, would build a credit or discredit for their legal conclusions! Clearly thus, sticking to the watertight traditionalism, possessed by the fear that ‘what if I am wrong’ will never serve the cause of the universal Islam. In turn, this will defeat the application of verses 07:158, 34:23 & 21:107 of the Qur’an.

How the Shari’ah is to be approached today:

The application of the Public Interests (مصالح مرسلة ), as a legal institution of the Shari’ah, would bring an Islamic scholar face-to-face to the measured application of the relevant principles on the reality of life i.e. a problem before him/her. A legal professional would then accommodate the public interest, by keeping his finding within the upper and the lower ceilings of the Shari’ah do’s and don’ts. In dealing with a reality of life, the professional would employ the relevant legal texts from the Qur’an and authentic Hadith. In doing so, he/she will also refer to the relevant legal matrixes. But in drawing a conclusion i.e. the solution, he/she would make a justified, middle-ground and custom-made decision.

To draw the time befitting solutions from the Qur’an and Hadith, one needs to be of the sound legal thinking and socially pragmatic at the same time. The holistic understanding of the Qur’an and the authentic Hadith, in the light of life and living, is the only way to understand the Shari’ah at all times. To understand them in isolation from the realities of life, time and space, would be an outright rebellion on the universality of the mission itself.

The comprehension of the Sharia’h therefore, has to accommodate the finding of solutions on the issues and challenges at every time and place. This is the direct implication of the Shari’ah being guided by the Qur’an and for it to be the universally applicable revealed law. The onus for it, squarely falls upon the contemporary Islamic scholarship of the law and legality.

Let’s now put in perspective to some 20th Century scholarly understanding. Abdul Wahhab Khallaf is one of the outstanding scholars who guided the contemporary Islamic legal thought as an institution.

According to him, the most useful tool in this space, is to utilise effectively, the legal instrument of “Securing the ever evolving cases of public interests, by providing the custom made solutions” (مصا لح مرسلة). Re. Abdul Wahhab Khallaf, ‘Ilm Usul al-Fiqh. Pp. 84-88. Dar al-Qalam Kuwait, 1983.

As the issues of life are continuously changing, so must be the Islamic Shari’ah solutions. Finding the custom-made solutions for the ever evolving issues of life and living, without violating mainframe of the permanent principles and the underlying legal values, would require professionally trained scholarship.

The underlying objectives of the Shari’ah:

All the Islamic rulings have an underlying objective. This is known as ‘the Shai’rah objectives’ (المقاصد الشرعية). Upholding this objective dictates whether a ruling is to be deduced in the affirmative or in the negative. It makes a distinct case that without one attaining first, the skills of life, living, street and marketplace, along with their underlying socio-political values, tastes and limits, a contemporary Islamic scholar is never fit to find a dynamic Shari’ah solution.

Call it a restriction or a qualification, this is how the legislative Qur’an and Hadith are to be studied, comprehended and correctly applied on a moving life. Short of attaining such an applied and dynamic legal skill, one would be the liability on the Shari’ah law itself! We obviously don’t expect a legally made out judgement from the clerk of a court. The same applies to the Shari’ah skill and most of the Islamic leadership.

Measured by the above tool, an abortive approach to the Shari’ah will fail to deduce a time-befitting Sharia’h solution. The onus for this failure, would fall on the half-baked approaches and never on the Sharia’h itself. The content is never to be judged by the colour of the container! But at the same time, the one cannot be delivered and effectively utilised without the beneficial help of the other! So, both are important. But to serve their respective roles, both the content and the container need to be applied diligently.

Without engaging with one’s conscience, applied logic, and critical thinking, a contemporary Islamic scholar will never interact with the true message of the Qur’an and the Shari’ah. It may now be safely concluded that on engaging its researchers with a serious mind and the legally pragmatic thought, the Qur’an, as explained by Hadith where relevant, will live on as the unique champion of the Shari’ah law! The Qur’an 04:82, 47:24, 22:47 & 13:02-03.

A pragmatic approach by the Prophet himself!

The Qur’an was revealed to reform a moving life and living. The Prophet (s) has introduced the principle of commercial honesty and transparency as a part of the faith. He had physically inspected the shady trade practices in the marketplaces.

Besides being a Prophet of God, a prayer leader at the Grand Mosque of Madinah, he also acted as the inspector of quality in the delivered goods and services in the marketplace. Adopting him as a role model, while carrying out the socio-political reform, there is no alternative to this type of pragmatic Islamic leadership today and for all time in the future.

While visiting a market place and stopping at the stockpiled food grains, (مر علي صبرة طعام), the Prophet (s) suddenly ‘took an inquisitive interest in a pile of food grain. He then pushed his bare hand deep inside the pile. Eventually, he exposed the wet grains from the underneath’ (فأدخل يده فيها، فنالت أصابعه بللا). What is this O’ trader? He inquired? “It was affected by rain, O’ Prophet of God”, the trader replied (أصابته السماء يا رسول الله)! “Why didn’t you then display it on top, so the buyers can see it?” (أفلا جعلته فوق الطعام، يراه الناس؟), the Prophet encountered.

The Prophet, then introduced the principle: “Whoever dared to cheat us commercially or otherwise, is not in fact a true believer” (من غشًنا فليس منا). Sahih Muslim, Section Iman: Hadith No. 102. Sunan Tirmidhi, Section: Buyue’ Hadith No. 1315.

Honesty and integrity aside, the point of focus here is that a true Islamic model of life must not be considered in devoid of empirical living experience that are shaped up by the human needs, necessities and comforts.

What else is the ‘cheating’ if it is not, one delivering contrary to what he had pledged? The most compelling aspect of this experience is the Prophet’s keen interest to interact with life and living in the street and the market place.

Here is the Qur’an supporting it: “O Prophet, We have revealed to you the Book that contains the ultimate Truth in order that you may resolve the disputes amongst the people, according to the judgement that God has guided you to….” (انا أنزلنا اليك الكتاب بالحق، لتحكم بين الناس بما أراك الله). (Qur’an 04:105)

The Shari’ah scholars today, are dealing with the same function of the Prophet (s) as described above. Hence is the duty for them to employ their guided logic as a legal tool. Without dealing with the reality of life thus, one will never follow the prophetic model of Islam, now and never in the future.

In conclusion thus, the solutions that are claimed to be Islamic but don’t meet the empirical lifestyle on the streets, eye to eye, are in fact neither Qur’anic nor Islamic!