"The idea behind promoting maqasid a shariah is to re-interpret Islam in the modern-era that would enable interaction with the society in a manner that would avoid hardship and enable Muslims to interact with Western society in an appeasing manner. The advocates of such an approach state that the shariah has come with the legal reason (illah) of benefiting the people. From this view, it is understood there are five benefits that are the aims (maqaasid) sought by the shariah: the protection of deen, life, mind, lineage and property. According to this view these aims are taken as the illah for the rules (ahkam) as a whole."
The first generation of Muslim immigrants came to the West carrying with them Islam as a collection of beliefs, rituals and traditions. As Muslims held fast to Islam, the second generation of Muslims started discovering Islam. The first generation of Muslims worked hard to preserve the Islamic heritage of the Muslim community, through the construction of masjids, Islamic schools, and establishing Islamic businesses that sold everything from halal meat to Islamic books. This effort had a tremendous impact on the youth. Through such efforts, the youth found in Islam a source of goodness, a source of guidance, and most of all a source of meaning to live by. However, the youth wanted to obtain a deeper understanding of Islam. They demanded more than the interpretation of Islam that their parents knew. The youth began to see discrepancies between culture and Islam. Is it proper for a woman to dress in a saree? Is hijab a choice or is it an obligation? Can male cousins and female cousins socialize and mix freely? The youth also wanted to understand how Islam offers solutions to preserve one’s identity in the West. Along with this, the youth wanted to present Islam to the non-Muslims in an effective manner. They knew that Islam was the deen of truth, but the onslaught of the media presented Islam as a violent religion. Practicing Islam as a culture, instead of way of thinking, did not afford them the answers they needed to respond to these challenges.
The lack of leadership within the Muslim Ummah, prompted some individuals to present the idea of maqasid a shariah. The idea behind promoting maqasid a shariah is to re-interpret Islam in the modern-era that would enable interaction with the society in a manner that would avoid hardship and enable Muslims to interact with Western society in an appeasing manner. The advocates of such an approach state that the shariah has come with the legal reason (illah) of benefiting the people. From this view, it is understood there are five benefits that are the aims (maqaasid) sought by the shariah, and these are: the protection of deen, life, mind, lineage and property. According to this view these aims are taken as the illah for the rules (ahkam) as a whole. Following on from this it is concluded that if the shariah as a whole seeks these aims—and consequently they are the illah for the rules as a whole—then they must also be the aims of, and the illah for, the individual rules. This is further established from a scrutiny (istiqraa) of the rules themselves, which shows that they seek these aims. So after scrutinizing the text it can be seen from the (divine wisdom) and illah contained within the text, and also from the results of the rules themselves, that these aims are sought. So it is concluded that the aims or benefits that are sought by the shariah are the illah of the ahkaam. Based on this approach, shariah must either acknowledge the maslaha and that there shouldn’t be a text explicitly canceling it or preventing us from considering its benefit. The basis of this approach is justified as follows:
- The claim that the shariah has remained silent on new issues, and that the existing methodology of Islam is incapable of dealing with these issues.
- The claim that the shariah rules change according to time and place, and citing Imam Shafi’i’s fiqh as evidence.
- The claim that the questions we ask about the shariah rule need to be changed.
Applying this type of thinking to a practical issue, we can see how this approach leads to an action that contradicts the commandment of Allah (swt). Consider the situation where a married woman converts to Islam, but her husband and children do not. An advocate of using maqasid a shariah as a source of evidence argued that “the woman has just converted to Islam and she has a husband and two young kids. The husband is very supportive but is not at this time interested in converting. The woman was told immediately after converting that she had to divorce her husband of 20 years. Within these circumstances the question should have been: Is it worse for a Muslim woman to be married to a non-Muslim husband or for her to leave the religion? The answer is that leaving the religion is much worse, therefore, it is acceptable for her to continue with her marriage and she is responsible before Allah on Judgment Day.” However, such a solution is completely contradictory to the following ayah
revealed by Allah (swt):
“They are not lawful for the disbelievers, nor are the disbelievers lawful for them” [TMQ Al-Mumtahinah: 10].
Furthermore, this problem occurred at the time of The Prophet (saw) when his daughter Zaynab (ra) accepted Islam while her husband remained a non-Muslim. He (saw) instructed her to leave him and did not go against the definitive command of Allah (swt), because going against the explicit command of Allah (swt) is the greatest harm and evil that can occur here.
Some would correctly point out that maqasid a shariah is not something new, but was developed by classical scholars. However, the difference is in the application. As for the five maqaasid they are the results of certain ahkam and not the illah (i.e. reason of revelation) of these ahkam. For example Islam permitted polygamy without providing an illah. However the reality of applying the hukm of polygamy is that certain problems are solved. For example if the wife cannot bear children or the number of women in society is greater than men; these problems can be solved as a result of applying the rule of polygamy. Hence the hukm of polygamy brings certain results, but these are not the illah of the hukm. Only Allah (swt) can determine the total harm and benefit; and that is why we are in dire need of His (swt) guidance. As Allah (swt) has revealed:
“It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” [TMQ 2:216]
Also consider the following narration reported by Imam Ahmed on the authority of Rafi’ b. Khadeej (ra):
"We used to cultivate land in the time of the Messenger of Allah (saw). We used to lease it for a third, fourth or a specified amount of food. One day a man from my paternal relatives came and said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) forbade us from something which was beneficial for us but the obedience of Allah and His Messenger is more beneficial for us. He forbade us from cultivating the land by leasing it for a third, fourth or a certain amount of food, he ordered the landowner either to cultivate it himself or give it to others to cultivate it for their own and he disliked that it be leased or the like."
To embrace Islam as a way of thinking and a way of action is a difficult task. Those who are willing to compromise on the commandments of Islam for various reasons (e.g. Islam is flexible and adaptable) are praised as moderates and modern, while those holding fast to the ahkam of Islam are labeled as extremists, radicals and backward. Regardless of the label they apply on us, we are only permitted to adopt thoughts and actions based on daleel (i.e. evidences from Quran and Sunnah). We cannot allow anyone to reshape Islam to suit their whims and desires. Instead we must make Islam the source of our thoughts and actions. Furthermore, attempting to present Islam in a favorable light will not make the West happy with us. Allah (swt) has revealed to us that the only way to make the Christians and Jews happy is to leave Islam. Allah (swt) revealed:
“Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with you unless you follow their mila (way)” [TMQ 2:120]
Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the sahabas (ra) were steadfast in the face of intimidation and oppression. When they faced challenges their turned to Allah (swt) and relied on Him. The Muslim youth of today are facing similar challenges. The answer does not lie in imitating our oppressors. Instead we should follow the example of Rasullah (saw). In the end, what matters is whether Allah (swt) will be pleased with us.