The following is an extract from the draft translation of the arabic book entitled 'Dawa ilal Islam' (Dawa to Islam) by Sheikh Ahmad Mahmoud, published by Al-Waie Publications in Lebanon. I will be posting the sections of the book related to this subject.
The method of Islam in understanding the ahkaam (rules)
The work that a group or party does in enjoining the ma’roof and forbidding the munkar related to establishing the deen, must be based on the necessary knowledge of the Shar’a. This is because, as we have explained earlier, there is no action without knowledge, and there is no worship of Allah (swt) without knowledge and sincere intention to Allah (swt).
So what are the limits of the required Shar’ee knowledge for this group? What is the culture to develop the group with and on whose basis its Shabab will be built and the Ummah will be prepared?
Enjoining the ma’roof and forbidding the munkar takes place based on this obligatory Shar’ee knowledge, which the group must adhere to. If it contradicts what the Shar’a required from the group, the group should be advised. If it deviated, it should be corrected. What applies to the group of Shar’ee obligations applies to others. The issue is simply adherence and following, so deviation is not allowed. The advice should come from everyone, and to everyone.
At this stage it is worth mentioning that there is a fixed method for deducing all of the Shar’ee rules, whether they relate to carrying the da’wah, ibadaat (worships), mu’amalaat (transactions), ‘uqubaat (punishments), mat’umaat (foodstuffs), malboosaat (clothing) or akhlaq (morals) ...
This fixed method has been dictated by Islam and its very nature, and it is not due to the genius or intelligence of Muslims. That is because the Islamic ‘Aqeedah dictates to the Muslim that he does not take, even if it is one hukm, from outside the Shar’a. He should restrict himself to its deduction according to the limits indicated by the texts. Hence Islam requires this methodology which protects this direction, controls its understanding such that it is confined solely to the revelation, and in order that its view of the ‘Aqeedah fits completely with its view of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and its conditions are integrated.
This fixed method of Ijtihaad is so important that it should take the highest position in the culture of the group or party. It is this method that will lead to the deduction of rules; if the method of deduction is correct it will lead to the presence of correct Shar’ee rules by least amount of doubt, and one would get the reward for it. Otherwise, there is no consideration for any opinion that is not based on the fixed Shar’ee method of deduction, even though someone may falsely call it a Shar’ee opinion. This is because what matters is not the name, but the reality. Hence this is binding.
Today, more than ever, we need to follow this method, which prevents the Muslim from being influenced by the western thought and its method of deduction. It is the disease of this age, by which many have been afflicted from amongst those known as the ‘Ulema. We find their ijtihaadaat and fatawa have become far removed from dawaabit (regulators), where they proceed according to the western whim and not the divine guidance.
Thus, referring to the Shar’a, which has a fixed method, in Ijtihaad, is something all the Muslims must gather upon, even if the results of their Ijtihaadaat differed. Here we wish to present this method in a general manner. Just as it was the method of the Salaf (predecessors), it must also be the method for the khalaf (later generations) and those who come after them, until the coming of The Final Hour.
Understanding the manaat (reality)
The method of Islam in understanding the ahkhaam is based upon: the deep understanding of the problem, followed by the retrieval, study and understanding of the shar’ai evidences required for the treatment of the problem, and finally, the deduction of the hukm from these evidences.
Thus, the presence of the group (or hizb) that works for change is related to the reality in which it exists, in respect of the necessity of adopting the Shar’ee rules that are necessary to change that particular reality in which it exists.
Understanding the reality demands that one undertakes thorough study of it.
Understanding the Shar’a requires the defining of the sources of the Shar’ee evidences, and the extraction of the principles of Usool that are the laws according to which deduction takes place. This process of deduction requires a Mujtahid who has the ability to apply the rules upon their respective realities and to enforce the rules according to their ‘illah (divine reasons).
Thus, the establishment of any group or party is linked to the reality in which it has emerged. The party aims to change the reality, so it makes it the object of its thought and the object of change. Consequently, the party or group is obliged to study the reality in a deep and precise manner and identify the problems that must be solved. The problems are multitudinous so it is necessary to differentiate between them. One must distinguish between the problems that were the result of other problems, and the problems that caused those results. This requires a distinction to be made between a problem and its apparent appearances; between the main illness and its symptoms. With this type of understanding, one will determine the main illness and the symptoms that resulted from it. After identifying the illness, one must move to identifying the cure.
Here we would like to make an analogy with the skilled doctor; he should not be deceived by the symptoms when diagnosing the main illness. If a man has a disease of his stomach and this leads him to have a reaction, this reaction leads to the appearance of a skin rash with a fever. If the doctor is content just to treat the skin rash and fever by prescribing the appropriate medicine, and if he doesn’t treat the stomach, then his treatment is deficient and he has failed to cure the disease. The doctor must first treat the origin of the problem, which is the disease in the stomach. When this is treated, then the disease will go, together with its symptoms. After that, the doctor will decide whether the symptoms will require treatment or not. They may clear up automatically just by treating the disease that caused them, or some symptoms might remain and they may require treatment. In any case, the treatment of the symptoms will only be a partial job; and so the discussion continues as before.
The same apply to the reality that we live in today. We know that in reality, there are fundamental problems, which in turn have created many other peripheral problems. One of the fundamental problems that afflicts the Ummah today is that Allah’s (swt) sovereignty has no pressence in the life of the Muslims. This has resulted in many partial problems such as; poverty (which arises from injustice), ignorance, the spread of immoral acts and the dominance of corrupt relationships. Regarding this Allah (swt), clarifies the main cause; “Whosoever turns away from My Reminder verily, for him is a life of hardship.” [TMQ 20:124]
These partial problems exist because of the presence of this reality. The permanent and radical change cannot take place until this reality is changed first. One cannot eliminate the effects of referring to other than what Allah (swt) has revealed, until the work focuses on resuming the Islamic way of life, by making the Islamic ‘Aqeedah a political creed that guides all the Muslims’ actions in life, according to the orders and prohibitions of Allah (swt), and pushes them to establish the rule by what Allah (swt) has revealed.
Hence, the fundamental problem is not educational, ethical or economic. The fundamental issue is not salvaging the rights of Muslims and strengthening their social, economic or military position. Rather the issue is al-Hakimiyyah (the sovereignty) in its creedal and practical aspects. This sovereignty is only for Allah (swt), so in the reality we must regain the confidence of the Muslims in the rules of their Islam. We must restore what has been lost from the ‘Aqeedah in their hearts; the interest in establishing the system that emanates from the ‘Aqeedah in their life; to long for Jannah and yearn for it, and to fear Jahannam and escape from it, and to have concern for the conditions of all the Muslims - and the whole of mankind - through the Islamic ‘Aqeedah.
With such an understanding, the group will define the fundamental problem and know with certainty that when this disease is treated, then all the symptoms will be eliminated. So, the importance of having awareness of the reality is clear.
This is what the Usuli scholars term the Manat (reality). It is imperative that one scrutinises the Manat before starting to bring the Shar’ee evidences.
Gaining awareness of the reality and understanding it is more difficult than understanding the rules that relate to it. It requires precision, because if we make a mistake in understanding the reality - and this misunderstanding is imprinted in our minds - and then start searching for the Shar’ee evidences to treat this reality, we will inevitably bring evidences that treat the erroneous reality imprinted in our minds, not the actual reality in which we live. Hence we will have brought evidences not relevant to the reality.
Understanding the reality necessitates the use of the mind. It is not allowed to make the reality the source of our thinking. There should be no solutions arising from the reality. Rather, the reality should be understood as it is, in its true state.
Understanding the Shar’a
After understanding the reality in its true state by using the mind, the Shar’ee solution deduced from the Shar’ee evidences is brought to the reality. It is not allowed to use the mind in deducing the solution as an arbitrator or a source. Here, the function of the mind is to understand the solution that is present in the Shar’ee evidences.
Understanding the Shar’a requires us to have knowledge about the sources from which the group takes the Shar’a, and knowledge of the juristic principles on which it relies to understand the Shar’a, and with which it wishes to change the bad reality. Accordingly, it would give the correct view of the reality that it wants to take the people to, and it would have knowledge of the method it will follow in the process of Ijtihaad, ie the method of deduction.
Sources of the Shar’a
Since every rule must come from a correct source, the source must be adopted after study and becoming definitely convinced of it. It is well known that the principal sources of Islamic legislation are the Book and the Sunnah, over which there is no disagreement. As for the resultant sources – Ijmaa’ (consensus), Qiyas (analogy), Istihsan (juristic preference), Mazhab as-Sahabi (following the opinion of the Sahabah), and Shar’a man Qablena (the Shar’a of those before us) - there is disagreement over all of these. Examining the group’s view of what constitutes an evidence gives an insight into its approach in adopting from the Shar’a.
It is well known that the adoption of the resultant sources depends on definite evidences. Hence, something that decisively proves that they can be depended upon as sources of Shar’ee evidences, must come from the Qur’an and Sunnah. In other words, the two main sources have indicated in a decisive manner the adoption of a particular source. It is not enough to take the Shar’ee sources by Taqleed (imitation). They are from amongst the fundamental things (kulliyaat), and therefore they must be definite, and we know that Taqleed does not lead to certainty.
When the sources of legislation have been determined, then we know the springs from which the group can drink and from which ones it cannot. Defining the sources is of utmost importance, because a single mistake in any one of the sources will lead to mistakes in all the rules coming from that source. Defining the Shar’ee sources should precede the deduction of the Shar’ee rules that are related to the actions of the group. It is unacceptable for a group to carry the message of Islam without first adopting the Shar’ee sources.
It is also not acceptable that all of the resultant sources should be adopted, thinking that this will bring a lot of good. This would rather make the group take the good and the bad, and would lead the group to subjugate the Shar’a to the reality, the mind, desires, emotions or interests. In this situation, the Daleel will be used only to serve these aims whilst it is the opposite that is demanded by the Shar’a.
In principle, the group should set down its sources before giving its opinion on changing the reality. It should not be affected by the reality regarding its sources; rather it should only be affected by the texts and their definite indications, in relation to establishing and disproving the sources. Moreover, the sources that the group establishes for itself will be its Usul without obliging others to abide by them. Rather the group will discuss its opinion with others to convince them through proof and persuasion; especially what it regards as being definite. If the group considered its sources to be binding on others it would create difficulty for itself and for them.
The rules of understanding the Shar’a
After the group has established the sources from which it will obtain the Shar’a, it must move onto understanding how it should use and adopt from them. In other words, it must move towards understanding the principles (qawaa’id) by whose study one can make deduction of ahkaam from their sources. There is no doubt that when the scholar puts his mind to adopting a Shar’ee rule, he would have in his mind the principles of Usul on which he bases the hukm he adopts. There is no knowledge that does not have an Usul, whether that has been written or not.
The Shar’ee texts contain the ‘aamm (general) and the khaas (specific); the mujmal (unelaborated) and the mufassal (elaborated); mutlaq (absolute) and the muqayyad (restricted); awamir (orders) and nawahi (prohibitions); the naasikh (abrogator) and the mansukh (abrogated); mafhum al-muwaafaqah (conformable meaning) and mafhum al-mukhaalafah (opposite meaning); the mantuq (wording), mafhum (implicit meaning) and ma’qul (rationale) of the text; the khabar al-wahid (solitary report) and when it can be used as proof and when it cannot be used as proof and many things besides these. The group must set out its juristic principle, adopt them, and present them to others.
Most of these principles of Usul that have been mentioned are disputed over. It is well known that each principle has many branches emanating from it. Since they are disputed, they must be taken away from being of disputed status. This is done by the group adopting what it views as correct. After the adoption of the principles of Usul, the branches are understood according to these principles.
After gaining knowledge of the Usul and its principles, the group will have acquired the ability to understand the Shar’a from its sources. After that it has no option but to follow the fixed and known method of Ijtihaad. This is what must distinguish the group from others. This is what the group must take to the people by culturing its shabab with it. This is the first thing that the group must be established upon.
Indeed, the work of the Mujtahid is like the work of the doctor. The first thing he does is to listen to the patient and describe his condition. Then he diagnoses the fundamental illness, which the patient complains of, after distancing himself from being distracted by the symptoms of the illness. Then he refers to the knowledge that he gained in his days of study. He may then review the books that help him to prescribe the treatment. After that he gives the solution, in this case the medicine. In other words, he goes to the texts in describing the solution.
If the group that wants change and undertakes the responsibility of change is an Islamic group, its work for change must be Islamic. The change should be based on the Shar’ee evidence, and not on personal opinion, whims, rationally perceived interest, the reality or the circumstances. Rather, it must be the Shar’a that dictates the hukm Shar’ee to the group. The love of Islam or the concern for the circumstances of the Muslims, do not in themselves dictate any rules to the group. The interests of the Muslims are defined by the Shar’a, because the Shar’a defined the interests of the Muslims. Here, it becomes necessary to go into some details that clarify Islam’s viewpoint towards maslahah (the benefit) and when benefit is recognised by the Shar’a.
Al-Maslahah (the interest)
The maslahah is an acquisition of a benefit or repulsing of a harm. It is either decided by the mind, or by the Shar’a. If it is left to the mind to decide, then the people will find it difficult to determine the true interest, because the mind is limited. The mind is not able to encompass the essence of man and his reality, so it cannot decide what is an interest for him, because it cannot grasp the reality in order to know whether something is beneficial or harmful. Nobody can comprehend the reality of man except his Creator. No one can decide what is in man’s interest in a certain manner, except his Creator, who is Allah (swt). Yes, it is possible for man to consider something as beneficial or harmful, but he cannot be definite. That is why leaving the mind to decide what is beneficial, based on speculation will lead to danger and to man’s peril. For he may think something is harmful and then it appears to be beneficial, hence he keeps the good away from himself. He may think something is beneficial, but later it appears to be harmful, and so he brings harm upon himself. Today the mind may judge upon something to be harmful, but tomorrow it judges upon it to be beneficial. Today something may be judged harmful, while yesterday it was judged beneficial. Giving such (contradictory) judgements is not allowed. This is something for which secular systems are well known. Their human legislators wish to bring good for the people, from themselves. We see them constantly changing and altering the laws until the development of the system becomes a requirement for solving problems. This is because in reality, they are not able to arrive at the correct judgement on things and actions; a judgement that is correct and final. That is why they accuse people whose system does not develop as being rigid and static. Consequently we see the Muslims being affected, in this aspect, by the Kuffar. In defence of their own selves and their deen, and because they are far away from correctly understanding the nature of Islam, we see them drifting towards their enemies by adopting this way of thinking.
The Creator is the only one Who can manage the affairs of man and solves the problems that arise from his organic needs and instincts, and enable him to satisfy them in a correct manner. What is required is the correct solution for the reality that is to be treated. Since the reality of human beings is fixed and does not change then his solutions should be constant and not change. The man, as a man according to his original nature, needs to satisfy his inclination towards women. Since men and women in their essential reality do not change, then the relationship, in principle, is constant. It is not acceptable that we set down a system to define the relationship of a man with a woman, and then go back and change the system after a certain period of time under the pretext of development, even though their realities have not changed.
Alcohol, as a reality, is the same and has not changed. So what is the reason for changing its rule?
Gambling, as a reality, is the same and does not change. So what is the reason to change its rule all the time? And there are many more examples than these.
That is why “development”, “flexibility” and “modernisation” are features of man-made systems, which do not lead to the truth. They will continue in a process of change, which expresses man’s inability to guide himself to the correct system. This process of changing expresses their inability, but they use beautiful words such as “evolution”. It is from this standpoint that one must reject the principle that people claim to be from the Shar’a: ‘It is not renounced that rules change according to the change of the time and place.’ Rather, one should reject this principle.
Therefore, the hukm of Allah (swt) on a single issue is one and cannot be more than one. If its reality changes, then the hukm changes according to the change of the reality. Thus, grapes take the rule of permissibility, but when its reality changes and it becomes alcohol, then the ruling changes and it becomes prohibited. When the alcohol changes to vinegar, then it needs another rule, which is also one of permissibility. Hence there is no consideration for the time and place. Thus something is not prohibited in one place, and allowed in another; neither is something allowed in one time and prohibited in another. Time and place have no effect on the Shar’ee rule.
The Islamic Sharee’ah contains the rules for all past incidents, all the current problems and the incidents that may occur. No incident happens, no problem occurs and no event takes place without there being a rule for it. The Islamic Sharee’ah has encompassed all the actions of human beings in a complete and comprehensive manner. He (swt) said: “And We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’an) as an exposition (tibyaan) of everything.” [TMQ 16:89]. So the Sharee’ah either presents an evidence from the Qur’an and hadith regarding the action or thing, or gives the divine reason for its legislation. This requires the mention of an ‘illah, indicated by the text, ie the ‘illah shar’iyyah (Shar’ee reason) and not ‘illah ‘aqliyyah (rational reason). Here we need to clarify the difference between the rational analogy and the Shar’ee analogy.
Qiyas ‘aqli (The rational analogy)
The mind gives the same rule on similar and comparable things. That is why analogy is made between two things that have the same resemblance. The mind also differentiates between different things when giving judgement, ie it gives different judgements for different things.
This is contrary to the qiyas Shar’ee (Shar’ee analogy), because the Shar’a frequently differentiated between things that are similar, and made similar many things that are different. The Shar’a differentiated between similar things, such as two different times. Thus it gave preference to laylatul qadr (Night of Power) over other nights. It differentiated between similar places, such as the preference of Makkah over Madinah, and the preference of Madinah over other places. Regarding the salah (prayer), the Shar’a differentiated between four rak’aat and three rak’aat when shortening the prayer. Thus, it permitted four rak’aat to be shortened but did not give permission for three rak’aat or two rak’aat to be shortened. The mind cannot make comparison in any of these things. For the emission of the maniyy (semen), which is pure, the Shar’a obliged the ghusl (bath) but it ordered wudu (purification) for the emission of the pre-semenal fluid (madhy), which is impure, even though they are both emitted from the same place. It made the ‘iddah (waiting period) of the divorced women three menstrual cycles and the ‘iddah of the widower four months and ten days, even though the condition of the womb is the same. It made water and dust similar in terms of purification, even though water cleanses and dust dirties. It made death the punishment for the adulterer, the murderer and the apostate even though they are different.
In addition, the Shar’a has clarified rules, over which the mind has no say. Thus, it forbade the sale of gold with gold, if not equally or in credit. It forbade the men from wearing gold but allowed the women to wear it, and the same for silk. It forbade usury and allowed trade. It permitted the Kaafir to testify in wasiyyah (bequests) but stipulated that the witness be a Muslim in a remarriage after a revocable divorce.
That is why ‘Ali (may Allah honour him) said; “If the deen was to be taken by personal opinion, then masah (wiping) of the bottom of the shoe would be preferable to its top.”
These principles must be understood by the group or party that works to resume the Islamic way of life. It must show in its culture how it understands the reality and clarifies it to the people, so that they can understand this reality. It must also define the Shar’ee sources and the Usuli principles, and adopt them and the shabab must be cultured with them. This is because the process of shaping their mentality must be based on such principles. This must also be part of the culture of the group. It is also inevitable to adopt an intellectual and Usuli culture, which will preserve the purity of the revelation and clarity of the thought, and remove anything that may not keep the revelation clear. For example, principles such as: ‘It is not renounced that rules change according to the change of the time and place’, and – in its comprehensive meaning -’Necessities permit the forbidden things’, and ‘The deen is flexible and evolving’ and ‘Wherever there is an interest, that is the law of Allah.’
Indeed, this is what the group needs to adopt as its own Usul, which will govern its view and understanding of the Shar’a, before adopting the Shar’ee rules related to its work, and the adherence to them must be its guide and light, so as to please its Lord.
There may be many Ijtihaadaat on one issue. Therefore the group must adopt Shar’ee rules that are from the disputed issues based on the strength of their evidences, and must stick to them. After this the group announces its Usul (juristic principles) and Furu’ (the peripheral principles). It also builds its shabab with this culture, and proceeds in life with it and discusses using it. It wins others to adopt it via proof and persuasion as itself adopted it. It works to achieve its objective according to this culture; otherwise it will lose itself intellectually and stumble in its path of work.
Study of the sources and Usul has precedence over the study of Shar’ee rules related to change. The group will face immense hardships and difficulties during its course of work. If it did not adopt an Usul in a disciplined way and based on the strongest evidence, then we will see it wavering quickly and changing what it holds. It may resort to entering the democratic game with the existing corrupt system, which is the actual problem and the main obstacle in the face of the da’wah. They will do this, under the pretext that there is a principle which accords with this orientation; that Islam has something called Shura, which resembles Democracy. They may resort to complying with the previous religions and taking from them, under the pretext that ‘The Shar’a of people before us is a Shar’a for us.’ The thing that made it resort to this change is the difficulty in following the correct Shar’ee method. Or it may take the view that the work, by using the style of associations, enables it to change the reality, so it becomes preoccupied with the style at the expense of the method. Or it may rely on armed struggle and not the Shar’ee rule, because the circumstances have imposed that upon it.
Thus, adopting the Usul and the sources and following the fixed Shar’ee method of Ijtihaad, is what will restrict the group to what Allah (swt) wants and not what the reality and circumstances impose, or what interest dictates.
In this manner the group, after defining its method of legislative thinking, arrives at defining its method of work. Otherwise it will diverge into many paths, and Allah (swt) will not show concern for those who diverged into paths where they would perish.
The party or group, after setting out the sources of its culture and controls, must move to define its culture in the light of these sources and the Usul that it has adopted.
In studying the sources and the Usul, the group must ensure its understanding of the Shar’a is not impure or mixed up with other ideas. It must strive to remove anything that does not protect the purity of the revelation and it must strive not to be affected by whims in understanding the Shar’a and not allow the mind to be in control of the legislation. It is not possible to study the culture of the group without studying the sources or the Usul on which it is based.
Based on what we have mentioned previously, the group must then turn to the reality in which the Ummah lives and study it. Thus it studies the thoughts, emotions and the systems that exist in it, to know the extent of the people’s response and acceptance of these thoughts and systems. The Ummah has been attacked by the Kufr thoughts, which the Kaafir portrayed as the energy that she needs to regain her health. The Ummah has been controlled politically by the puppet rulers whom the Kaafir colonialists have imposed over the Muslims, in order to dominate her resources and prevent any sincere work from threatening their interests or endangering their colonisation. Since the western Kaafir colonialist is aware of the dangers of organised collective work to his own existence and consolidation, he spread thoughts amongst us that drive people away from collective or party work. Instead he encourage people to undertake partial associative actions, which treat the peripheral problems, such as poverty and corrupt morals. The western Kaafir has also shaken the confidence of the Muslims in their deen as the only true solution to the problems of man, when he separated their ‘Aqeedah from their life, forced this separation upon them, and prevented them from working to abolish it. Therefore, the party or group is obliged to study the reality, and the thoughts, emotions and systems present in it, in a deep and precise manner. This is in order to know the land upon which it stands and the nature of this land, and to know after that how to walk upon it, and what it needs in terms of pickaxes and tools to overcome the obstacles, and what it needs in terms of fertiliser and other substances to regain its fertility. So one must understand the reality first. This in itself will form an important part of the culture of the group, because it must be clear to the group and it must clarify it for the shabab and the people so that they are not ignorant of it, and they comprehend afterwards the importance of the solution and its correctness.
After the intellectual, political and social reality in which the Ummah lives has been defined, the group moves to adopting thoughts, opinions, and Shar’ee rules, in light of the Usul (principles of jurisprudence), regulators, and Shar’ee sources that we have mentioned previously. It must clarify to the shabab and the people the method by which it reached these thoughts, opinions and Shar’ee rules. This is because all this will create the conviction, awareness and Islamic personality in the Shabab of the group in a concentrated manner, and in a general manner in the Ummah.