THE MORAL SYSTEM OF ISLAM Moral sense is inborn in man and through the ages it has served as the

common man's standard of moral behavior, approving certain qualities and disapproving others. While this instinctive faculty may vary from person to person, human conscience has given a more or less uniform verdict in favor of certain moral qualities as being good and declared certain others as bad. On the side of moral virtues, justice, courage, bravery and truthfulness have always elicited praise. History does not record any period worth the name in which falsehood, injustice, dishonesty, and breach of trust may have been upheld. Fellow-feeling, compassion, fidelity, and magnanimity have always been valued while selfishness, cruelty, miserliness and bigotry have never received the approval of the human society; men have always appreciated perseverance, determination and courage and have never approved of impatience, fickle-mindedness, cowardice and imbecility. Dignity, restraint, politeness, and amiability have throughout the ages been counted among virtues, whereas snobbery, misbehavior and rudeness have never found recognition as good moral qualities. Persons having a sense of responsibility and devotion to duty have always won the highest regard of men; never have people who are incompetent, slothful and lacking in sense of duty been looked upon with approval. Similarly, in respect of the standard of good and bad in the collective behavior of society as a whole, the verdict has always been almost unanimous. Only that society has been looked upon as worthy or honor and respect which possesses the virtues of organization, discipline, mutual affection and fellow feeling and has established a social order based on justice, freedom and equality of men. As opposed to this, disorganization, no-discipline, anarchy, disunity, injustice and social imbalance have always been considered as manifestations of decay and disintegration in a society. Robbery, murder, larceny, adultery, fraud and graft have always been condemned. Slandering, scandal mongering and blackmailing has never been considered as wholesome social activities. Contrary to this service and care of the aged, help of one's kith and kin, regard for neighbors, loyalty to friends, assistance of the weak, the destitute and the orphans, and nursing the sick are qualities which have always been highly valued ever since the dawn of civilization. Virtuous, polite, mild and sincere persons have always been welcomed. Individual who are upright, honest, sincere, outspoken and dependable, whose needs conform to their words, who are content with their own rightful possession, who are prompt in the discharge of their obligations to others, who live

in peace and let others live in peace and from whom nothing but good can be expected, have always formed the core of any healthy human society. This shows that human moral standards are in fact universal and have been wellknown to mankind throughout the ages. Good and evil are not myths to be hunted out. They are well- known realities and are equally well-understood by all. The sense of good and evil is inherent in the very nature of man. Hence, in the terminology of the Qur'an virtue is called "Ma'roof ' (something to be announced) and evil is designated as "Munkar" (something to be denounced); that is to say virtue is known to be desirable for every one and evil is not known to commend itself in any way. This fact is mentioned by the Qur'an when it says: "And (Allah gave to the Soul) its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; ..... (Quran, 91:8) Why Differences ? The questions that arises are: if the basic values of good and evil have been so wellknown and there has virtually been a universal agreement thereon, then why do varying patterns of moral behavior exist in this world? Why are there so many and do conflicting moral philosophies? Why do certain moral standards contradict each other? What lies at the root of their difference? What is the unique position of Islam in the context of the prevailing ethical systems? On what grounds can we claim that Islam has a perfect moral system? And what exactly is the distinctive contribution of Islam in the real of ethics? These questions are important and must be squarely faced; but justice cannot be done to them on the brief span of this talk. To cut a long story short, I shall briefly sum up some of those important points which strike us at the very outset when we undertake a critical examination of the contemporary ethical systems and the conflicting patterns of moral behavior. (a) The present moral system fail to integrate various moral virtues and norms by prescribing their specific limits and utility and assigning to them their proper place. That is why they fail to provide a balanced and coherent plan of social conduct. (b) The real cause of their differences seems to lie in the moral systems offering different standards for good and bad actions and enunciating different means of distinguishing good form evil. Differences also exist in respect of the sanction behind the moral law and in regard to the motives which impel a person to follow it.

being the master. It is difficult for me in this brief talk to take stock of the various ethical system prevalent in the world. Man is His creature. we find that the grounds for these differences emerge from different peoples conflicting views and concepts about the universe. weaknesses and faults and pure in every respect). He. has raised from time to time prophets for the guidance of humanity and has revealed His books through them.(c) On deeper reflection. Here I can confine myself to the Islamic concept only and this I shall try to propound. free from all defects. The whole universe is functioning under His Divine Command. philosophy and religion are but a record of the vast divergence of views of mankind on these most vital questions. it is for God to decide this. with all his faculties . subject and servant and is born to serve and obey Him. He is All-Wise. however. It is not for man to determine the mode of worship and obedience. Is there a God and a Sovereign of the universe and if there is. the ethical philosophy and the pattern of moral behavior of the individual and the society. viz. indicate what solutions each one of them has proposed to these questions and what has been the impact of these answers on the moral evolution of the society believing in these concepts. Sovereign and Sustainer. is that this universe is the creation of God Who is One. During this test every person is responsible for all his beliefs and actions. God. mistakes. Islamic Concept of Life And Morality The viewpoint of Islam. 'and the purpose of man on the earth. Man is answerable to God for all his actions in life. The time for rendering an account will be in the life-hereafter and not in this world. His God-hood is free from partiality and injustice. The short span of worldly life is really an opportunity to prepare for that great test. All-Powerful and Omniscient. The correct way of life for man is to live in complete obedience to Him. It is the duty of man to take the code of his life from these sources of divine guidance. In this life all efforts of man should be centered on the object of soliciting the Pleasure and Blessings of God in the Hereafter. Various theories of ethics. He is Subbooh and Quddoos that is. then what are the matters for which he is to be answerable? What is the ultimate aim of man's creation which he should keep in view throughout his life? Answers to these questions will determine the way of life. is He One or are there many gods? What are Divine Attributes? What is the nature of the relationship between God and the human beings? Has God made any arrangements for guiding humanity through the rough and tumble of life or not? Is man answerable to God or not? If he is. He created it and He alone is its unrivaled Master. the place of man in the universe.

These regulations imply the widest application of moral principles in the affairs of our life and make us free from exclusive dependence on any other source of knowledge.and potentialities. This is the standard by which a particular mode of conduct is judged and classified as good or bad. being tossed about by the blows of wind and tides. Goal of Moral Striving This is Islam's fundamental attitude towards life. desire. This standard of judgment provides the nucleus around which the whole moral conduct should revolve. and thus. as embodied in the Book of God and the Sunnah way of life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). There will be an impartial assessment of his conduct in life. is on trial. This source prescribes a standard or moral conduct that is permanent and universal and holds good in every age and under all circumstances. which constantly undergo shifts. intuition. While providing a normal standard Islam also furnishes us with means of determining good and evil conduct. a highest and noblest objective is set before humanity. By a Being Who keeps a complete and correct record not merely of his movements and actions and their influence on all that is in the world from the tiniest speck of dust to the loftiest mountains but also a full record of his innermost ideas and feelings and intentions. Man is not left like a ship without moorings. It does not base our knowledge of vice and virtue on mere intellect. expect as an aid to this primary source. with making the "pleasure of God" as the object of man's life. This concept of the universe and of man's place therein determines the real and ultimate goal which should be the object of all the endeavors of mankind and which may be termed briefly as "seeking the pleasure of God". modifications and alterations and do not provide definite. It guides us in every stage of life. Moreover. It provides us with a stable and flawless set of values which remains unaltered under all circumstances. Sanction Behind Morality . unstained at any stage by any shadow of narrow selfishness or bigoted race or nation worship. unlimited possibilities are opened for man's moral evolution. categorical and unchanging standards of morality. This dispensation places a central object before mankind and lays down values and norms for all moral actions. the Divine Revelation. It provides us with a definite source. or experience derived through the sense-organs. The moral code of Islam covers the smallest details of domestic life as well as the broad aspects of national and international behavior.

do whatever he likes but in any event he has to die one day and present himself before the Divine court of justice where no advocacy.This concept of the universe and of man's place therein also furnishes the sanction that must lie at the back of every moral law. Islam seeks to firmly implant in man's heart the conviction that his dealings are with God Who sees him at all times and in all places. Islam's moral law does not really depend on these external pressures alone. and the obedience to God as the mode of his life and strives to seek His Pleasure in his every action. the belief that whoever violates the Commandments of God in this . this faith alone can keep a Muslim individual and a Muslim community on the straight path of virtue. There may or may not be any police. whatever difficulties and handicaps he may have to face in this transitory phase of life. Motives and Incentives This concept of Islam about man and his place in the universe also provides those motivating forces which can inspire a person to act in conformity with the moral law. It relies upon the inherent urge for good in every man which is derived from belief in God and a Day of Judgment. That he may deceive everyone but cannot deceive God. If popular opinion and the coercive powers of the state exist to give it support so much the better. The fact. the sense of accountability on the Day of Judgment and the promise of eternal bliss and reward in the life hereafter. is the real force at the back of the moral law of Islam which helps in getting it enforced. that while he may. misrepresentation. Along with this. through its legislative and executive power. the belief in the Day of Judgment and the belief that whosoever obeys Divine Commands is sure to have a good life 'in the Hereafter. provided. which may induce individuals and groups to abide by the principles of morality laid by it and also aims at the evolution of a political system which would enforce the moral law. favor. as far as possible. the Eternal Life.. in his short sojourn on this earth. That he may hide himself from the whole world but not from Him. On the other hand. provides a strong incentive for virtuous life. the love and fear of God. the spark of genuine faith dwells in their hearts. Before laying down any moral injunction. only God probes into his innermost intentions and desires. otherwise. Viz. Although Islam wants to cultivate a powerful and strong mass opinion. that a man voluntarily and willingly accepts God as his own Creator. law court or jail in the world to enforce the observance of these moral injunctions and regulations but this belief firmly rooted in the heart. recommendation. provides a sufficient incentive to enable him to obey the commandments which he believes to be from God. deception or fraud will be of any avail and where his future will be decided with complete impartiality and justice. That he can flee from the clutches of any one else but not from God's. That while the world can see man’s onward life.

economic. and it will keep one away from evil even on occasions when it looks extremely attractive and profitable. can be termed its special contributions to ethics. It widens the scope of their application to cover every aspect of man's individual and collective life his domestic associations. This system has many distinguishing features and I shall refer to the three most significant ones which. It does not. Distinctive Features of Islamic Moral Order By setting Divine pleasure as the objective of man's life. his civic conduct. it gives permanence and stability to the moral standards which afford reasonable scope for genuine adjustment. Through belief in God and the Day of Judgment. atomistic relativism or moral fluidity. Thus. It covers his life from home to society. it can be justifiably claimed that Islam possesses a perfect moral system of its own. By making Divine Revelation the primary source of knowledge. no sphere of life is exempt from the universal and comprehensive application of the moral principles of . If this hope and fear are firmly ingrained. In short. and deeply rooted in one's heart. through a false sense of originality and innovation. This clearly indicates that Islam possesses a distinctive criterion of good and evil. they will provide a strong motive-force to inspire one to virtuous deeds even on occasions when worldly consequences may appear to be very damaging and harmful. wild variations. it furnishes a motive force which enables a person to adopt the moral conduct with earnestness and sincerity. from the dining table to the battlefield and peace conferences. provide any novel moral virtues nor does it seek to minimize the importance of the well-known moral norms nor give exaggerated importance to some and neglect others without cause. legal educational and social realms.world and dies in a state of Kufr (unbelief) shall have to bear eternal punishment however superficially nice a life he may have led in this temporary abode. and its own sanction and motive force. and his activities in the political. adaptations and innovations though not for perversions. its own source of moral law. in my opinion. literally from the cradle to the grave. with all the devotion of heart and soul. is an effective deterrent against violation of moral law. it has furnished the highest possible standard of morality. It provides a sanction to morality in the love the fear of God which will impel man to obey the moral law even without any external pressure. This is bound to provide limitless avenues for the moral revolution of humanity. and by them its virtues in all spheres of life after knitting them into a balanced and comprehensive plan. It takes up all the commonly known moral virtues and with a sense of balance and proportion it assigns a suitable place and function to each one of them in the total plan of life.

If only the People of the Book Had faith. Hajj. But most of them Are perverted transgressors. jihad. Forbidding what is wrong. Enjoining what is right. It wants that the verdict of conscience should prevail and virtue must not be subdued to play second fiddle to evil." (Qur’an. And believing in God. It stipulates for man a system of life which is based on all good and is free from all evil. This division is built upon the fact that the injunctions dealt with by each of these two categories have quite different and distinct primary objectives. not only to practice virtue. It also deals with the relationship between nations in both war and peace. but also to establish virtue and eradicate vice. zakah. Devotional Law deals with the injunctions that have as their primary objective attaining nearness to Allah. Those who have responded to this call and gathered together into a community (Ummah) are given the name "Muslim" and the singular object underlying the formation of this community (Ummah) is that it should make an organized effort to establish and enforce goodness and suppress and eradicate evil. deals with realizing worldly benefits and regulating human activity. This covers many branches of law. It invokes the people. If we establish them In the land. evolved For mankind. and with his society and nation. fasting. to bid good and to forbid wrong. establish Regular prayer and give Regular charity. it were best For them: among them Are some who have faith. . with his fellow human beings. It makes morality reign supreme and ensures that the affairs of life. both on the individual and societal level." (Qur'an. and the fulfillment of covenants. showing Him gratitude. should be regulated by the norms of morality. including Commercial Law and Personal Law. This includes prayer. 22:41) It will be a day of mourning for the community and a bad day for the entire world if the efforts of this very community were at anytime directed towards establishing evil and suppressing good Islamic Law is a comprehensive system covering the human being’s relationship with his Creator. enjoin The right and forbid wrong: With God rests the end (And decision) of (all) affairs. Most jurists divide the study of Islamic Law into two broad categories: Devotional Law and Transaction Law.Islam. 3:1 10) And also in the following verse: "(They are) those who. instead of being dominated by selfish desires and petty interests. Transaction Law. on the other hand. and seeking eternal reward in the Hereafter. The Qur'an is quite explicit on this fact as can be seen from the following verse: "Ye are the best for Peoples.

under such headings as “The Zakh Tax”. “Tariffs”. in their view. in works that range from concise to comprehensive. There are chapters in the Islamic Law books devoted to Criminal Law. give these issues a thorough treatment. have investigated all four forms of modern Law that deal with internal affairs – Constitutional Law. we find that Islamic Law comprehends all branches of modern Law. Administrative Law constitutes a body of statutes that . They come under the heading of “Crime. The Islamic jurists. When Islam came. the Chief Justice in the era of the Caliph Hrûn al-Rashîd. such as Kitb al-Kharj (The Book of Land Tax) by Abû Yûsuf. its methods. It investigates matters of International Law when dealing with issues relating to war. and human reason is often able to ascertain the intent behind them. in more general terms.Devotional Law also differs from Transaction Law in that Devotional Law is generally beyond the scope of human reason. is dealt with when discussing the injunctions relating to the state treasury. All the books of Islamic Law. such distinctions do not yield any real benefit. and when dealing with issues pertaining to the relationship between the Islamic state and others. As for Transaction Law. general and specific. it reaffirmed more than a few of these laws that they used to govern themselves with. Administrative Law. irrespective of the school of thought they were written for. Scholars of Islamic Law do not take the distinction between these different branches of law very far – in contrast to scholars of secular law – because. Because of this. and how that wealth is to be allocated. most notably the works of Muhammad b. and the distribution of special powers between them. without any distinction being made between property matters – for instance – and anything else. The judge passes judgment in every case brought before the court. There is practically one judicial procedure for all. In spite of this. its injunctions are generally understandable. al-Hasan al-Shaybnî. and Criminal Law. and “Tax on Discovered Treasure” as well as others. This same topic. the types of wealth it deals with. In Islamic Law. there are no procedural differences for establishing different kinds of legal rights. its sources of revenue. Commercial Law. people who lived in times when there was no divine guidance were still able to use their faculties of reason to develop legislation. Some jurists also prepared specialized works on this subject. and Discretionary Punishments. purposes. Prescribed Punishments. “Land Tax”. There is no way for man to understand the ultimate objectives behind the injunctions except that they constitute the worship of Allah. Some of these questions can be found collected under the heading of “Campaigns and Military Expeditions”.” The Islamic jurists investigated Fiscal Law in various places in their general legal works. and results. the relationship between the various political authorities within it. Constitutional Law defines the form that government is to take. These issues have been dealt with in specific essays as well.

For this reason. Commerce was not as diversified and complex as it is today. 450 A. Thereafter. Islamic Law covers all aspects of Law covered by manmade “positive” law as well as other issues that such man-made laws do not touch upon. the society. and because the religion of Islam is the last in the line of divinely revealed religions. The reason for this is that the Sharia has a permanent and global character. the statutes regulating the judicial process in its application of Civil and Commercial Law. or the international arena. . Civil Law is dealt with as a branch of Transaction Law. The subsidiary branches of Law have also been dealt with. and “Testimony”. The reason for this is the simplicity of the business environment at that time. it places all of these injunctions under the heading of “Islamic Politics” or “Injunctions Pertaining to Political Authority”.). it deals with them in broad terms. As for those issues that Islamic Law does not cover in particular. necessary for the Sharia to have certain unique qualities that afford it the continuity and stability it needs to deal with the ever-changing requirements of human life over vast stretches of time and space. we wish to point out that Islamic Law is much broader in scope and much more complete than any man-made code of law. under such headings as “Lawsuits”. one orientalist was of the opinion that there is no exact equivalent to the term “fiqh” in any Western language. making it possible for the particulars of the law to be ascertained in light of general. Instead. Before discussing the most important of these distinguishing features. It shall remain so until Allah repossesses the Earth and everyone upon it. have dealt with the Code of Procedure. There is nothing strange about this. It is. and relevance for over fourteen centuries.regulates the activities of executive authority in performing its duties and assuring that such activities are carried out in a harmonious way. like al-Ahkm al-Sultniyyah (Injunctions Pertaining to Political Authority) by al-Mwardî (d. the Most Praiseworthy Creator. because Islamic Law derives its principles and tenets from the Book of Allah that was sent down by the Most Wise. Books have been written specifically on this topic. “Limited Partnerships” and “Bankruptcy”. growth. Lastly. a Book that cannot be approached by falsehood from any angle. The books of Islamic Law do not refer to these branches of Law by these terms. they made custom the deciding factor in business practices. because it is the final. Distinctive Characteristics of Islamic Law Anyone who follows Islamic Law or studies it carefully will find that it is distinguished by certain characteristics and unique qualities that are not shared by any other legal system. With respect to Commercial Law. thus. These characteristics have allowed it to enjoy stability. flexible principles. divinely revealed Sharia for the whole world. whether it be on the level of the individual. “Judicial Decisions”. whether dealing with individuals or property. we find that the Islamic jurists.H. We can see how fiqh – Islamic Law – covers every domain of human activity. the Islamic jurists of old had dealt with the issues that were relevant to their needs under such headings as “Partnerships”.

Islamic Law is divine revelation All the injunctions of Islamic Law are revelation from Allah. the state employs law as a means of achieving certain limited goals where the political authority has no other means at its disposal to bring them to realization. Moreover. For this reason. and what will clash with it. is unprecedented in the history of Law. and he is the Gentle. is not shaped by society. Many nations of the world borrowed their own legal systems from Islamic Law by way of contact with Islamic Spain. but in fact. with its distinctive features. This objective varies from culture to culture. fasting. In this regard. Sicily. Likewise. as nations employ law as a means of directing their citizenry to certain objectives. it is considered one of the sources of world law. Islamic Law aims at a great objective: that of realizing the benefits and best interests of both the individual and society and warding off what is to their detriment. recreates himself in conformity to it. it defines the rights and obligations each individual has with respect to others. so that the potential harm any individual might cause for others is effectively negated. It. and Hajj. regulates the relationship between the individual and the Creator by legislating different forms of worship like prayer. society is shaped by it. He knows the psychological makeup of the human being. so the one who is legislating for mankind is their Creator who knows best what will be of benefit to his creation in both this world and the next. The principles that it follows are established with the sole aim of realizing this objective. law becomes the obedient donkey of the state. zakh. Allah says: Does the One who created not know. through various schools of thought. Quite the contrary. Bukhara. on the other hand. bearing its burdens and following its directions. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “There should be no harm and no harming of others. from one end of the Muslim World to the other. In short.Islamic Law. It was applied. and the Balkans. the All-Aware . Turkestan. Islamic Law is the broadest. It also varies due to the changing aims and objectives of those in power who have legislative authority. what will be in harmony with it. most comprehensive system of legislation in the world. changes and amendments are commonplace. Islamic Law. This is because man did not create it. In today’s time. Islamic Law is not limited to regulating the interrelationships between individuals in society. Some of the unique characteristics of Islamic Law are the following: Nobility of purpose Every system of law has an objective behind it that it seeks to fulfill. giving preference neither to the needs of the individual nor to those of society as a whole. first and foremost. It also had a great impact on other nations and cultures.” In short.

All Islamic legislation can be referred back to the preservation of one or more of these five necessities. Likewise. As for man-made laws. not the hope of attaining blessings and rewards from Allah. buying and selling. on the other hand. Devotional Law deals with the first of these through its legislation of different forms of worship. retribution. Some forms of transgression have prescribed punishments that are supposed to be carried out in this world. disobedience to such laws does not instill a feeling of wrongdoing as long as it goes unnoticed by the authorities. reason. the impetus to obey them is the fear of reprisal from the political authority. and testimony. The relationship between the individual and himself is handled by injunctions like those dealing with dietary laws. because whatever the judge rules will be deemed permissible or forbidden. The relationship between the individual and others is regulated by Transaction Law and the prescription of punishments to be carried out in this world by the political authorities. Thus. Applying the injunctions of Islamic Law constitutes obedience to Allah Following the injunctions of Islamic Law is a way of worshipping Allah and earning His reward. Likewise. his mind. on the basis of his judgment. discretionary punishments. In Islamic Law. The regulation of all three of these concerns assures that Islamic Law deals with every aspect of human life. this is expressed in terms of the five necessities: life. the relationship between the individual and himself. those regulating personal dress. we will find that the latter only deal with the relationship between the individual and others. Therefore. legal verdicts.Man-made law. religion. fixed punishments. It covers such things as marriage. It is. honor. and property. and his body. disobeying the Law amounts to disobedience of Allah and is a way of deserving of His wrath. Islamic Law holds the distinction of being comprehensive and general in its scope It comes to regulate three different factors: the relationship between the individual and his Lord. Others hold the threat of punishment in the Hereafter. thus. the legislations that come from human effort may not always be suitable for human nature. This is the reason that the intellect can never truly comprehend the human soul and what is in harmony with the nature that Allah has placed within it. is the product of the human intellect that has limited powers and is subject to deficiency and error. in the most absolute sense. and everything else that is legislated for the purpose of protecting the individual. there is nothing to discourage the use of deception to assert a legal claim against someone else. It is on this basis the character of the individual and society is built. and the relationship between the individual and others. like prayer and fasting. leasing. As for the individual’s relationship with himself –who can often be his worst . possible for us to say that the individual Muslim is always acting as an overseer policing himself out of fear of Allah. If we compare Islamic Law in this respect to any of the man-made legal systems.

then throughout his infancy. In carrying out the objectives of the Sharia. The Islamic political system is a good example. so long as the injunctions imposed by the sacred texts and the principles of the Sharia are not violated. there is a great degree of flexibility and a tremendous capacity for development. allowing the jurist to refer all the matters that the texts are silent about back to similar issues where the texts have given a ruling. likewise. or is in his infancy. so there is no reason to discuss them with reference to what is before or after this life. The texts of the Quran and Sunnah have been most carefully and accurately recorded and preserved. and cooperation in righteous conduct. or after death. by enjoining acts of worship that must be carried out by every believer in this faith. consultation between Muslims. At the same time. Ethics is likewise a fundamental principle. The important thing is that the outlined objectives of Islamic government are realized. From the time that he is in the womb until the time that he is born. and old age. like when he is in the womb. There is nothing to prevent the appearance of new injunctions that were previously unknown. and even up to his death and beyond. adolescence. even when the individual is unable to assert them for himself. The comprehensiveness of Islamic Law also manifests itself in its direct concern for every stage in an individual’s life. but also in the eternal life to come. . or is beset by senility. obedience to political authority. not the manner in which they are carried out or the different forms that this might take. With this principle. It assures these rights. This affords the jurist broad powers of discretion that allow him to take ever-changing circumstances into consideration. not only in this worldly life.enemy – and his relationship with his Creator –who brought him into existence and submitted the rest of Creation to his needs to facilitate his worship of The notion of “separation of church and state” is rejected by the Sharia that has Islamic Law as one of its fundamental components. It. Man-made laws are not even concerned with this worldly life except in a limited framework. unchanging principles derived from the Quran and Sunnah. Most of these texts contain general injunctions for legislation without going into the precise details relating to application. which includes such things as justice between the citizenry. adulthood. Islamic Law protects and safeguards the rights of the human being. in response to changing requirements. Islam leaves the door to juristic discretion open. The jurists refer to this as the principle that legal injunctions change with the changing of time and place. Stability and permanence in principles and flexibility in application Islamic Law rests upon a set of stable. the texts leave the application of this general outline to practical circumstances that require a measure of flexibility. protects the rights of the rational adult without any discrimination. Islamic Law is also concerned with the future of the human being. The religious texts give a general outline of how it is supposed to be.

They do not have many particulars and secondary factors to consider.Added to this is the fact that. Whoever scrutinizes the injunctions of Islamic Law will find within them a clear tendency towards alleviating difficulties. . They can all be learned in a short period of time. Nothing in Islamic Law is overly burdensome. The difficulty in carrying it out does not reach the level of any real hardship. Expiations have been provided to compensate for certain sins. Allah has commanded that every legally accountable person must perform prayer five times a day. Allah has forgiven them. are sorely in need of a measure of substance and of sound principles. The absence of difficulty and the limitation of imposition Islamic Law does not impose any obligations of great severity or difficulty. breaking the fast is permitted for the one who is traveling or is ill. no individual prayer requiring more than a few minutes. they will be made clear to you. so that change and reform do not lead to the demise of their basic principles and fundamentals. and Allah is Forgiving. The obligations imposed by Islamic Law are few. have had leniency and ease taken into consideration for the ones who must carry them out. The one who is unable to stand is permitted to sit. Consumption of meat that has not been properly slaughtered is forbidden. because most of these other systems. The permanence and stability of these basic principles and the flexibility allowed in their application give Islamic Law a distinction not shared by any other modern legal system. There is an equal degree of leniency in fasting. but may be eaten in cases of dire necessity. There are many other things that point to the fact that Islamic Law aims at achieving ease and removing difficulties in its legislation. customary practice and the consideration of the general welfare are two important secondary sources of legislation. from the onset. in Islamic Law. Those before you asked about them then became disbelievers. making it easy to know them. This is attested to by Allah’s words: O you who believe. Forbearing. He or she will also find that all obligations that have been imposed. do not ask about things that if they were made clear to you would cause you harm. These two sources are themselves. In spite of this. If you ask about them when the Quran is being revealed. quite capable of keeping the injunctions harmonious with the cultural environment in which they occur. so that people will not find themselves incapable of fulfilling their obligations and so that their resolve will not become weak in fulfilling that which has been enjoined upon them for their own benefit. The foundations and principles of most of these legal systems are exposed to change and substitution so much that they become the targets of sport and corruption for those who are in a position to set down such legislation. Fasting is obligatory for one month out of the year. while they attempt to respond to the needs of the day through continuous revision and reform.

not antagonism and contradiction. This richness is one of the factors that give Islamic Law the ability to develop. Quite the contrary. and respond to the growth of human civilization. You will find in Islamic Law that. I have perfected for you your religion and completed my favor upon you and . in reality. their differences. it is a collection of opinions that ultimately all stem from the Quran and Sunnah. none of them go outside the general scope of the Sharia. treating even the most rare cases and sometimes even posing hypothetical situations that have not yet occurred. and diversity. there are four major orthodox schools of thought. then deriving general axioms from their patterns. so that these patterns could be used as guidelines for legal decisions. Moreover.Allah Almighty had forbidden the people from delving into issues and becoming severe with them so that this would not cause certain injunctions to become obligatory that otherwise would not have been made compulsory. so it is a form of disagreement that offers diversity. This would have led to a greater number of obligations that the people would be incapable of carrying out. This verse alludes to the fact that Allah intended to make the number of obligations small in order to make carrying them out easy for us and so that we would not fall into undue hardship. for example. the numerous injunctions that were studied were themselves derived on the basis of other rules outlined in the separate discipline of Islamic Jurisprudence. The richness of Islamic Law manifests itself in the encyclopedic books where its injunctions are recorded in great precision and detail. grow. This would have caused them to fall into ruin. stems from disagreement in understanding the same body of textual evidence. Added to this. In turn. The richness and fullness of Islamic Law Anyone who studies Islamic Law will find that it contains an abundance of material and a wealth of ideas. This diversity. In spite of their large number. and you will find that in each school of thought there are a number of opinions attributed to the school’s founder and his students. All of this should make the reader realize that Islamic Law is not limited to the opinions of one scholar or those of a specific group of people. the jurists have explored the general tendencies in Islamic Law by studying the injunctions. This has become a field of study on its own. This is evident in the various opinions of the jurists and the number of schools of thought. so that the injunctions will be readily available when they do. there are the numerous other schools of thought from the earliest generations of Islamic scholars. It prevents Islamic Law from becoming rigid and stagnant. This has been established by a clear text from the Quran: Today. Stages in the Development of Islamic Law The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not leave this world until after the edifice of the Sharia was completed and its basis and general principles fully outlined. which deals with the methods by which legal injunctions can be derived from their original sources.

comprising the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Thereafter. writings began in the field of defining general axioms of Islamic Law that included comparing and grouping injunctions according to patterns evident in the legislations. as well as Legal Theory. the understanding of which was capable of being broadened and advanced with the broadening of the scope of human thought and the appearance of the new circumstances that Islam had to deal with when it came in contact with other cultures and customs. and its objectives. and development over the past fourteen centuries. The writings in Law for every school of thought have seen development since the era of their founders. It is possible to outline the stages of development that Islamic law passed through by dividing it into the following seven stages: 1. its injunctions. from commentaries on original texts. This era saw the completion of the edifice of the Sharia and the completion of the religion. It was also necessary to apply these injunctions in a way that would properly regulate human interaction and clearly define the peoples’ rights. the codification of definitions. to summaries and abridged works. Islamic Law advanced over the ages. That which is contained in the Quran was a set of principles. This would almost have been sufficient for them if the authority of Islam had not spread beyond the confines of the Arabian Peninsula and met with circumstances and customs that the Muslims had never before encountered. One who follows the historical development of Islamic Law will observe that it passed through different stages with respect to its formation. they disagreed on how these new factors fit in with the general principles of Islamic Law. This advancement in the organization of Islamic Law was the result of the work of the Caliphs and those that followed them in accordance with what was suitable for the circumstances. At the same time. The field of Comparative Law also developed. At this point in time. in a religious light. derive laws for the circumstances of a more informed life. In this way. passing through different styles. growth. the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not leave for his Companions a fully codified Law. . The prophetic era. and then to the great legal encyclopedias. regulating in detail every type of human interaction and relationship. until it became a great and awesome edifice. When this happened. the Muslim scholars began to investigate issues and. each successive generation contributing to its growth. In the newly opened territories where foreign peoples began entering the fold of Islam in droves. He left them with only a collection of principles and general rules and a number of specific injunctions and judicial verdicts that are found in the Quran and Sunnah. and the formulation of formal legal codes.have chosen for you Islam as your religion. there was a pressing need to instruct them in the things that they were ignorant of and to clearly define the injunctions of the Sharia.

to the beginning of the second. For this reason. Before discussing these sources of Law in depth. the founder of one of the four orthodox schools of thought. that being the Quran. From the middle of the fifth century to the fall of Baghdad at the hands of the Tatars in the middle of the seventh century.H. The Sources of Islamic Law What we mean by “the sources of Islamic Law” are the types of evidence that the Lawgiver set down as valid proofs for the injunctions. . At this stage. The era of the rightly guided Caliphs and the period that followed it up to the middle of the first century A. to the present day. 3. studies in Islamic Law broadened considerably. he recognized juristic analogy as the only valid way of referring new issues back to the texts. 7. From the middle of the seventh century to the to the beginning of the modern era. Islamic Law became a distinct science of its own that scholars would specialize in. Every source of Law coming after the Quran is derived from it. used to say: “The injunctions must be derived only from the sacred texts or related back to them. From the middle of the thirteenth century A. The jurists unanimously agree upon some of these types of evidence. Furthermore. 5.H. 6. customary practice. The majority of scholars also recognize juristic analogy as a fourth source of evidence.H. From the middle of the first century A. these being the Quran. This stage is one of weakness with regard to the methodologies employed in the codification of Islamic Law. Added to this are secondary forms of evidence like juristic discretion.2. During this period. Schools of thought were formed in this period. Other leading jurists had a broader view of what could be considered a means of referring issues back to the texts. alShfi`î. This period and the one that preceded it are considered the preliminary stage for the codification of Islamic Law. From the beginning of the second century to the middle of the fourth. in actuality. 4. it is appropriate to make it clear that all of them. During this stage. and the consideration of general welfare. At this stage. which is the stage that Islamic Law as a science was established. and juristic consensus. adding all the other possible secondary sources of Law. the Sunnah. have their origins in one source. the codification of Islamic Law was completed. the writings in the field of Islamic Law started to become rigid and beset by blind following. especially in the field of Comparative Law and in the critical study of the major classical works in the field.” AlShfi`î did not recognize anything except the sacred texts or referring issues back to them.

clarifying its principle teachings. It allows for the texts to be understood and applied in various ways. This is why the Quran is considered the source of all legislation. and juristic analogy. making the injunctions capable of responding to the requirements of the general welfare over the course of time without departing from the fundamentals and objectives of the Sharia. Sometimes the Quran deals with the particulars of its injunctions. in general terms. their exposition would draw the Quran away from its primary objectives and its eloquence. It is the model for the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those who come after him. by declaring: Whatever the Messenger gives you. then leave it alone. without the manner of performance being dealt with. The sources of Islamic law are as follows: The Quran This is the origin of all Islamic legislation. It does so with regard to inheritance. as well as to the political and social order. and whatever he forbids you.We shall first discuss the primary sources of Islamic Law – the Quran. The reason for this is that these particulars are innumerable. among other injunctions that do not change with the passage of time. the consideration of general welfare. Due to their generality. the texts of the Quran need the Prophetic Sunnah to clarify them. It does not stipulate which types of contracts are valid and must be fulfilled and which types are invalid. asserts the permissibility of trade. The generality of Quran’s texts provides another important distinction with respect to Civil Law. For this reason. . certain prescribed punishments. This is then expounded by the words and practices of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as recorded in the Sunnah. juristic consensus. This has been taken up by the Sunnah. The general orders for such things as prayer and the Zakh tax are given in the Quran. and prohibits interest. and the prohibited degrees of marriage. so their injunctions can be carried out in the manner and to the limit intended under various. the Quran. It clarifies beliefs in great detail and discusses forms of worship and legal matters in broad terms. rarely dealing with particular details. It fulfills the role in Islamic Law that a constitution fulfills for the man-made laws of nations. then take it. Sunnah. the Qur’an alludes to the Sunnah when it comes to these details. even though its role as a “constitution” for Islamic Law limits it to clarifying injunctions in only general terms. orders that contractual obligations be carried out. Likewise. particular circumstances. all of which are accommodated by the wording of the texts. we shall deal with the secondary sources – juristic discretion. Thereafter. It sets forth the fundamentals of the Sharia. and customary practice. the divorce procedure due to an accusation of adultery.

Since the era of prophetic relation came to an end with the death of the Messenger (peace be upon him). as it comes to clarify what the Quran leaves ambiguous or difficult to understand. in addition. Only the narrations whose authenticity can be established according to the most stringent conditions are acceptable as proof for legislation in Islamic Law. the Sunnah has been transmitted to us by way of narrators. hasan (good). the authoritative points of reference for everything contained in the Sunnah. The Muslims all agree that the Quran is a source of legislation and that its injunctions must be followed. The most prominent and reliable works in the Sunnah are Sahîh al-Bukhri. even though the Sunnah contains. Sunan Abî Dawûd. The Sunnah. some material that is not necessary for this understanding. actions. never departs from the Quran’s general principles even when it sets forth injunctions that the Quran does not mention. in truth. and that in other cases multiple interpretations are possible. in addition to its role of providing explanation and clarification. Sunan al-Nas’î. It holds a position secondary to that of the Quran in that the Quran takes precedence in providing proof for legislation. da`îf (weak). Likewise. Only the first two are acceptable as proof in Islamic Law. the Muwatta’ of Mlik and the Musnad of Ahmad b. With this meaning. the Sunnah becomes the key to understanding the Quran. qualify what the Quran leaves unqualified. The texts of the Quran and the general principles that they outline are. Hanbal hold a position of importance with the scholars of hadith and Islamic Law. When a jurist looks for a ruling on a . It is also accepted that the meaning of its words are in some case unambiguous in it’s meaning. and tacit approvals of the Messenger (peace be upon him). and mawdû` (fabricated). it is synonymous with the word “hadith”. for it is established that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ruled that the grandmother receives one sixth of the estate. An example of the latter is the grandmother’s share of inheritance. and bring up issues that the Quran does not mention. The Sunnah This term is used to refer to the statements. is necessary and indispensable for the proper understanding and application of the Quran. for the Sunnah. The scholars of the Sunnah expended great efforts in the classification of the prophetic hadith into sahîh (authentic). Sunan al-Tirmidhî.On this basis. The Sunnah shows itself to be subsidiary to the Quran in another way. Sahîh Muslim. We might also use the word Sunnah to mean the practical application of the injunctions during the prophetic era. They also agree that it is the first source to be referred to and that nothing else should be referred to except if the needed injunction is not found therein. in turn. There is no disagreement about the Sunnah being one of the sources for Islamic legislation. having only one possible interpretation. and Sunan Ibn Mjah. The Sunnah comes after the Quran in its ranking as a source of Islamic Law.

Juristic Consensus This refers to the unanimous agreement of the jurists of a given era on a legal ruling. then judge according the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger. . It makes no difference whether the jurists are from the era of the Companions after the death of the Messenger (peace be upon him) or any era thereafter. It comes after the Sunnah in rank. The proof for its validity is drawn from a number of verses and hadith that show the unanimous statement of the people of knowledge is in itself a valid proof. For this reasons. when investigating the possibility of consensus. Consensus is a very strong source of evidence for establishing the injunctions of Islamic Law. The reason for this is that the issues where consensus has taken place are few. though its effects are more widespread and far-reaching than that of juristic consensus due to the fact that so many injunctions in Islamic Law are based upon it. This order of precedence is indicated by the following discussion that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had with Mu`dh: The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked: “How will you judge if the position is given to you?” Mu`dh said: “I will judge according to the Book of Allah. Juristic analogy ranks as the fourth source of Islamic legislation. If it were necessary to look for the textual proof for every case where consensus took pace. The reason for this is that the scholars have become scattered all over the world and have not been able to engage in mutual consultation. The verdicts arrived at by consensus are.” He then asked: “And if you do not find it in the Book of Allah?” Mu`dh responded: “Then I will judge according to the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). scholars of later generations. in and of themselves. and if you do not find what you need in the Book of Allah.” It is not known that anyone took exception to this.” Is has been related that the Caliph `Umar wrote to the judge Shurayh: “You should judge according to the Book of Allah. If he finds the desired injunction therein. even though it is possible that the hadith that formed the basis of the jurists’ consensus did not reach us. This is because it is inconceivable that the reliable scholars of Islam would ever come to agreement on an issue on the basis of personal inclination without there being a proof from the sacred texts establishing it. Juristic Analogy This refers to taking an injunction that applies in one case and applying it in another because they share a characteristic that is the effective cause of the injunction being applied in the first case. he looks to the Quran first. since there is no way that it could occur after the earliest eras of Islamic history. always drawn from the Quran and Sunnah.certain matter. If not. look for the presence of the consensus and the reliability of how it has been reported without concerning themselves with the textual evidence behind it. he applies it. he takes recourse to the Sunnah. then juristic consensus would effectively cease to be a valid proof in and of itself.

took many of the injunctions referring to sales and applied them to lease agreements due to the fact leasing is essentially the sale of rights and benefits. or consensus. Analogy is the most widely applied and versatile sources for extrapolating specific injunctions to deal with new issues confronted by Islamic Law. Analogy continues to be used for every new issue that is not directly addressed by the sacred texts. Likewise. Sunnah. except that they play a subsidiary and subordinate role to that of the four primary sources. This facilitates applying these injunctions in new but similar cases that make their appearance in every age. the jurists. For this reason the majority of scholars do not count them as distinct sources of law. They also derived many of the injunctions pertaining to endowments themselves from those that the texts had established for bequests. The sacred texts generally state the effective cause and the rationale for most of the injunctions that they establish. each jurist uses analogy according to his own. due to the similarities in their duties. The texts of the Quran are mostly of a general and universal nature. at the forefront of which is that of analogy. applied the same injunctions to the executors of endowments. We shall deal with the two most important of these secondary sources: consideration of general welfare and customary practice. allowing cases that the texts have not treated to be referred back to those that the texts have dealt with decisively by applying the textually established injunctions wherever their effective causes are evident. detailing their rights. Consequently. There is no way for Islamic legal injunctions to be established for every new development and every possible transaction except by way of applying the methods of reason. The Secondary Sources of Islamic Law There are other acceptable means of deriving Islamic legal injunctions. The jurists. This has opened the doors to analogous reasoning. . the texts deal at length with the injunctions pertaining to the guardians of orphaned minors. and capabilities. personal reasoning for every new situation that has not been previously addressed by the Quran. by way of analogy. At the same time. For example. but merely as extensions of the primary ones. as we have seen. by way of analogy. The Quran and Sunnah have given indication that these sources are also to be considered as legitimate means of establishing legislation. because it does not require unanimous agreement.This is not the case for juristic analogy. The greater portion of Islamic legislation is made up of these cases. It should not go unnoticed that the Quran and Sunnah are necessarily limited in the number of issues that they can directly address. besides the four primary sources. The cases handled by way of analogy in Islamic Law are too numerous to count. the number of new occurrences and expected future occurrences knows no limit. the texts that deal with injunctions pertaining to an agreement of sale are more than those that deal with a lease agreement. Quite the contrary. responsibilities.

The sacred texts and the principles of the Sharia clearly indicate the necessity of taking these factors into consideration when regulating all aspects of human life. If. Consideration of General Welfare (Istislh): This is establishing injunctions on the basis of broad aspects of human welfare (maslahah mursalah in Arabic) neither expressly considered nor rejected by the sacred texts. on the other hand. b. He then established registries for other purposes. He established the general registry for the armed forces to set their salaries and their terms of service. A good example of the application of this principle is an act initiated by the second Caliph. Each of these four factors requires the jurist to resort to considering the general welfare in order to produce new injunctions that can effectively carry out the general objective of the Sharia to establish society in the best manner possible. for example – then it is outside the scope of the Sharia. regardless of whether this harm is of a material nature or a moral one. even if only unintentionally. if the texts indicate that the consideration of a certain aspect of general welfare is rejected – like the preservation of life that might be achieved by surrendering to the enemy. since they have not been strictly defined. for it has been rejected on account of a greater manifestation of human welfare that takes precedence over it – in this case. Changing times: This refers to the changing circumstances people find themselves in. most dignified manner. . That is why the consideration is of “broad aspects” of human welfare. c. Likewise. though they do not pinpoint the specific ways in which these issues might be made manifest. we can say that the factors that encourage a jurist to consider the general welfare are the following: a. In the same vein are the traffic laws of today that came in response to the demands of the automobile and were set down in order to preserve life and prevent collisions and accidents. Attaining that which is beneficial: This means attaining that which society needs so that human life can be maintained in the best. d. al-Khattb. Preventing wrongdoing: This entails preventing the means by which the commands of the Sharia are neglected or its prohibitions are violated. In general.1. Avoiding that which is harmful: This entails avoiding those things that can cause detriment either to the individual or to society. the specific means of realizing an issue of welfare is enjoined by the texts themselves – like the recording and preservation of the Quran or the importance of reading and writing – then it is an injunction established by the texts and is not considered as an issue falling under the principle of considering the general welfare. This consideration must remain within the confines of the general consideration for human welfare evident in the Sharia with its concern for attaining that which is beneficial and avoiding that which is harmful. protecting the honor and might of the Islamic nation. `Umar b.

always tending toward the best method and solution. If it is not the practice of at least the vast majority of the population. seeks only to provide for the best interests of the people and to preserve their rights. Customary practice to them is a valid proof for establishing binding legislation wherever any other proof is not present. taking from much of their Common Law and setting much of it down in statutory form in order to remove any ambiguity as to what is considered legitimate customary practice and what is not. Likewise. enjoin what is good (al-`urf). the . even though they differ greatly in the extent to which they use it. widely accepted. We find it used in the Qur’an in the following verse: Show forgiveness. In this way. in its civil injunctions. It can even take precedence over juristic analogy.2. it reaffirms those aspects of customary practice that are in harmony with this objective and with its methods and principles. The Hanafî jurists considered customary practice an important principle and a great source of legislation for establishing rights and obligations wherever it does not contradict the sacred texts. it is imperative for the custom to be the general assumption shared by the majority of the people. Customary Practice (`Urf): The Arabic word `urf refers to that which is well known. it completely regulated the rights and obligations of people in their societal lives on the basis of their needs and interests. and turn away from the ignorant ones. According to our definition. Islamic Law reaffirmed a good number of the rights and practices that were known to the Arabs before Islam. Mas`ûd – one of the greatest jurists from among the Companions of the Messenger (peace be upon him) – as a proof for the status of customary practice in Islamic Law: “Whatever the Muslims see as good is seen by Allah as good. The majority of scholars use a statement related from `Abd Allah b. Jurists of modern. The jurists – especially those of the Hanafî school of thought – have given customary practice considerable weight in establishing and limiting the rights of people in the domain of legal transactions and other aspects of social behavior. thus.” The efforts of the Islamic jurists are in agreement with respect to recognizing customary practice. because applying an injunction based on analogy in conflict with custom might be cause undue hardship. it should be clear that something should not be considered customary practice if it is not consistently applicable to all or most of the members of a given population. then it will only be counted as an act of individual discretion. like the custom today in Syria that only one-third of the dowry stipulated by the woman in the marriage contract is due immediately. Positive Law take customary practice as one of the most important sources of law. In this case. Thus. the other two-thirds being due only upon death or divorce. This means that the majority of the people must take it into consideration and act on it basis. and regarded as correct among those of sound mind. The Divine Law. It also modified or prohibited a good number of those practices and came with completely new injunctions as well.

customary practice violates a sacred text commanding some other form of behavior. Practices such as these are rejected outright because they are clearly prohibited by the sacred texts. If. then the custom is rejected.Hanafî concept of juristic discretion comes into play. on the other hand. This includes practices such as consuming usury and the custom of imbibing alcoholic beverages on certain occasions. . which allows for the circumvention of analogous reasoning in some instances.

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