The following is the draft english translation from the Usul Al-Fiqh masterpiece of the Arabic book الشخصية الاسلاميَة الجزء الثالث (The Islamic Personality Volume 3 ) by Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani. Please refer to the original Arabic for accurate meanings.
Chapter 3: There is No Hukm Prior to the Coming of the Shar’
It is not permissible that a hukm be given upon things and actions except if there is a shar’i evidence for that hukm, because there is no hukm for things and for actions of the sane, before the coming of the shar’; the Exalted says,
وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُولاً•
“And We do not punish until We send a messenger” (al-Isrā’:15); and He says, the Exalted,
لِئَلاَّ يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللّهِ حُجَّةٌ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ•
“So that people should not have a plea against Allah after the (coming of) messengers” (al-Nisā’: 165);
And because the hukm is not established except by one of two: the shar’ or the intellect. As for the intellect, it has no place here because the matter is one of obligation and prohibition, and it is not permissible for the intellect to obligate or prohibit, for this is not its realm. Rather this is the realm of the shar’, thus the hukm depends on the shar’. Because there is no shar’ before the coming of the shar’, the hukm thus depends on the coming of the shar’ from Allah, that is, on the coming of a messenger with regards to a whole shari’ah, and the shar’i evidence with regards to a given issue for which evidence is sought. With respect to (the coming of) a messenger, then this is clear from the explicit meaning [sarīh] of the āyah, because the negation of punishment on the people prior to the advent of a messenger indicates upon their not having responsibility [taklīf] for any rules or beliefs, that is, their not having responsibility for anything. This means naught but a complete negation of the hukm for the people prior to Allah raising for them a messenger.
Thus the ahl al-fatrah – those who lived between the loss of a message and the advent of a message, like those who lived before the advent of Muhammad (saw) (and after the corruption of the message of Isa (as)) – are saved from punishment and their judgment is the judgment of those to whom the message does not reach. Similarly those to whom the message of Muhammad (saw) does not reach in its correct form, are saved from punishment like the ahl al-fatrah, because the āyah applies to them and they are considered as if no messenger was sent to them, because the message did not reach them and the sin of it not reaching them is upon those who were able to take it to them but did not.
Therefore, prior to the advent of the Messenger it is not said that the hukm of things is halāl or harām, because they had no hukm; the same with the actions. Rather, until Allah does send a messenger, man is free to act as he wishes, without being under any hukm, and nothing is upon him from Allah. When a messenger is sent then man is obliged by the ahkām of Allah which the messenger communicates to him, as communicated to him (the messenger) from Allah.
After the advent of a messenger and his deliverance of his message, the matter is considered: if the message came with specific things and commanded the following of a different message (of another messenger) for other things, as in the case with our master ‘Isā (as) then until this message is abrogated the people are responsible for the ahkām communicated to them and are obligated to follow them and will be punished for not living by them. If the message of the messenger came with some things and not others, then the people are obligated only by what came and are not punished for what did not come. On the other hand, if the message covers all things and came explaining all things, then the people are obligated with everything in this message, as is the case with our master Muhammad (saw); his message covers all things and came explaining all things; therefore there is no hukm except what came in it.
This is because the mafhūm [implied meaning] of His saying,
وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُولاً •
“And We do not punish until We send a messenger” (al-Isrā’:15)
Is that We punish those for whom we raise a messenger and they go against his message. Anyone who goes against even one hukm, whatever it be, from the message of the Messenger which is communicated is punishable. Therefore there is no hukm upon a thing or an action before an evidence is established for it.
It should not be said then that the ‘asl [original state] of things and actions is prohibition [tahrim], by the argument that it is free disposal [tasarruf] in the dominion of Allah the Exalted without his permission so it is prohibited, drawing analogy upon the created beings, because the explicit meaning of the āyah is that Allah does not punish until he raises a messenger, so He does not account until he clarifies the hukm. Further the creation is able to be harmed, but Allah the Exalted is above being benefited or harmed.
Similarly it should not be said that the ‘asl of actions and things is permissibility, by the argument that it is utilisation that is free from any sign of corruption or harm to the owner and so it is permissible. This should not be said because the implied meaning [mafhūm] of the āyah is that man is obligated with what the messenger comes with; he is punished for contravening this; thus the ‘asl becomes following [ittibā’] the messenger and being bound by the ahkām of his message; the ‘asl is not permissibility, which is the absence of being bound. Since the generality of the verses of ahkām indicate upon the necessity of referring back to the shar’ and the necessity of being bound by its ahkām; the Exalted says,
وَمَا اخْتَلَفْتُمْ فِيهِ مِن شَيْءٍ فَحُكْمُهُ إِلَى اللَّه•
“Whatever it be wherein you differ, the decision thereof is with Allah” (al-Shūra: 10);
فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ•
“So if you dispute in a thing, then refer it back to Allah and the Messenger” (al-Nisā’: 59);
وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ تِبْيَاناً لِّكُلِّ شَيْء•
“And we sent down to you the book explaining all things” (al-Nahl: 89);
And because the Messenger (saw) said in what was narrated by al-Daraqutni, “Any matter upon which is not our command, then it is rejected”, this indicates upon the ‘asl being following the shar’ and being bound by it.
Further utilisation that is free from any sign of corruption or bringing harm to the owner is not a proof for permissibility. It is not evident that adultery with an unmarried female who has no relatives constitutes utilisation that is free from any sign of corruption or harm to the owner, yet it is prohibited. Similarly lying in jest to make someone laugh is free from any indication of corruption or harm with regards to both the one who lies and the one who is lied to, yet it is prohibited. Therefore the things and actions have a hukm after the coming of the shar’; so the ‘asl is to search in the Shari’ah for the things and actions: has a hukm come for them or not? The ‘asl is not permissibility by assumption nor should the hukm of permissibility by given by the intellect straight away in the presence of the shar’.
Similarly it should not be said that the ‘asl of things is cessation [tawaqquf] and the absence of the hukm. Since cessation means the action is suspended or the hukm is suspended and this is impermissible, because the established (rule) in the Qur’an and Hadith for the lack of knowledge is inquiring about the hukm and not the cessation and absence of the hukm. The Exalted says,
فَاسْأَلُواْ أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ•
“Ask those of Knowledge if you know not” (al-Anbiyā’: 7);
and the saying of the Messenger (saw) in the hadith of tayammum, narrated by Abu Dawud from Jabir,
“Don’t they ask when they do not know, for the only cure of ignorance is to ask”;
this indicates that the ‘asl is not cessation and the absence of the hukm.
Therefore it is after the advent of a Messenger that it that the hukm becomes for the shar’ and there is no hukm prior to the coming of the shar’, so the hukm depends on the coming of the shar’, that is, on the presence of a shar’i evidence for a single issue. Thus no hukm can be given except on the basis of an evidence, just as no hukm can be given except after the coming of the shar’. The ‘asl, then, is to search for the hukm in the shar’, that is, the ‘asl is to search for the shar’i evidence for a shar’i hukm from the shar’.