Posted by: admin | December 20, 2009

MS09.5 – Protection of Wealth [Part 2 of 2]

This post forms the second and final part in our discussion of Hifdh al-Maal and we look at those things which threaten the maintenance and permissible growth of Wealth.

From the Perspective of That Which Threatens al-Maal

Those things which threaten al-Maal are discouraged, prevented and prohibited. Some examples of how is achieved are as follows:

1) Prohibition of Usury (Ribaa)
Ribaa is translated as usury, a slightly archaic term that is not much used today; a more common translation is ‘interest’. Ribaa is an Arabic word coming from the verbal root ra-baa which literally means ‘to grow’ or ‘to increase.’ This is the linguistic meaning, but does it imply that any form of growth or increase is categorised as ribaa?

The short answer is no, and is clarifed in Surah al-Baqarah: “Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury,” but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (the offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).” [Qur’an 2:275]

This verse refers to a group from Bani Isra’eel at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s) who were attempting to blur the distinction between the usury and trade by saying that they were one and the same. In the above verse, Allah makes clear this distinction and concludes by mentioning the severe punishment for engaging in such financial transactions and attempting to justify them. An interesting point to note here is that this group of people were able to confuse the two and present them to others as the effectively the same thing, implying that the distinction may at times not be absolutely clear to all.

Even today, many Muslims find themselves unsure as to what the actual difference between ribaa and profit is. Even linguistically, in Arabic, the words sound similiar. As mentioned above the increase from a usurious loan or transaction is referred to as ribaa, and the increase from profit is termed ribh (which comes from the verbal root ra-bi-ha, meaning ‘to gain’ or ‘to win’). As believers in Allah and the Last Day, we must keep this distinction clear in our minds. There are very few things prohibited in Islam so absolutely and with such severity. In the verses following the one above, Allah declares war on those who engage in such transactions: “O ye who believe! Fear Allah, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if ye are indeed believers. If ye do it not, Take notice of war from Allah and His Messenger. But if ye turn back, ye shall have your capital sums: Deal not unjustly, and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly.” [Qur’an 2:278-279]

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Posted by: admin | November 10, 2008

MS09.5 – Protection of Wealth [Part 1 of 2]

In this post, we focus on the penultimate daroori, which in Arabic is “al-Maal” and is translated as ‘property‘, ‘possessions‘ and ‘wealth.’ The Arabic word maal is said to come from the root verb maala which means ‘to digress’ or ‘to turn away’ as “maala bihi al-Qalb” (the heart is turned away or deviated by it). This correlates to the famous saying that money is a necessary evil. It may well be at the root of many of society’s problems, indeed the current financial crisis is evidence of this, but it is an essential commodity for us to live and so is classified as one of the darooriyaat, the protection of which is one of the Maqasid of the Shari’ah.

Our discussion will be split over two posts and as previously, will focus on that which maintains and protects wealth and how this is legislated and encouraged as well as that which threatens wealth and how this is outlawed and discouraged.

From the Perspective of That Which Maintains al-Maal
Those things which help preserve and maintain al-Maal are encouraged, promoted and obligated. Some examples of these are as follows:

1) Encouragement of Trade (Tijara) and Investment (Istithmaar)
In the Islamic worldview, wealth, property and material possessions are considered one of the blessings of God. One of Allah’s most magnificent attributes is that He is al-Razzaq (The Provider) and everything that we may have in our possession is ultimately from Him. Anything we have is therefore only ours for the short period of our lives and the test we face is what we do with what we have been provided with by al-Razzaq. As with all blessings, the Day of Judgement will be Yawm al-Hisaab (The Day of Account), when our use of God’s blessings will be analysed and judged.

As members of a society, or indeed the world, we all have different resources, skills and abilities which we need to utilise and exchange in order to satisfy our varied needs and wants. Over time, from the days of bartering to the exchanging of gold pieces and coins, money has become the standard means by which goods are bought and sold and the needs of everyone in society can be met.

In order to keep an economy flourishing, this money needs to be kept in circulation, passing from the hands of those who have it to those who need it, in exchange for goods, services or profit. Trade (Tijara) and investment (Istithmaar) are two ways that this circulation is maintained.

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Posted by: admin | March 18, 2008

MS09.4 – Protection of Lineage

This post looks at the fourth of the darooriyaat, which is a combination of both al-Nasab and al-Nasl which together translate in English to Lineage.We will look at how this is defined in the context of the Shari’ah and how it is protected (Hifdh al-Nasab / al-Nasl), as usual from both the perspectives of what maintains it and what threatens it.

Definition of Lineage (al-Nasab and al-Nasl)
al-Nasab is a noun formed from the Arabic verbal root nasaba which means ‘to relate‘, ‘to trace ancestry‘ or ‘to attribute‘. In our context, al-Nasb means ‘geneology‘ or ‘extraction‘ and refers to one’s ancestors, from parents to grandparents, great grandparents and so on.

al-Nasl is also a noun, formed from the Arabic verbal root nasala meaning ‘to procreate‘, ‘to sire‘ and ‘to beget‘. It means means ‘descendents‘, ‘offspring‘ and ‘progeny‘ and refers to the opposite of al-Nasab, i.e. one’s descendants, from children to grandchildren and so on.

The English term ‘lineage‘ carries the meaning both an-Nasab and al-Nasl and is effectively all those people in one’s family geneology. The protection of the line itself is the intended meaning when we say Hifdh al-Nasb or Hifdh al-Nasl, i.e. Protection of Lineage as the protection of the lives of people in this line is covered by the maqsad Hifdh al-Nafs, i.e. Protection of Life.

From the Perspective of That Which Maintains al-Nasab and al-Nasl
Those things which help preserve al-Nasab and al-Nasl are encouraged, promoted and obligated. Some examples of these are as follows:

1) Prescription of Marriage with its Associated Conditions
The Prophet said in a hadith, “Nikah (Marriage) is my Sunnah (Way). He who shuns my Sunnah is not of me” [Related by Muslim]. The union of marriage is strongly recommended in the Islamic faith. As intimate relationships outside marriage are not permitted it is the only legitimate means for one to seek sexual fulfilment and also to have children. Despite the strong recommendation and encouragement to get married, it is not by default obligatory, the actual ruling depends on the individual circumstances of a person.

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Posted by: admin | March 7, 2008

MS09.3 – Protection of Intellect [Part 2 of 2]

This post forms the second and final part in our discussion of Hifdh al-Aql and we look at those things which threaten the Intellect from its intended use.

From the Perspective of That Which Threatens al-‘Aql
We mentioned earlier that role of the intellect is twofold, personal reflection and collective thought and planning. Anything which threatens al-‘Aql is discouraged, prevented and prohibited. Examples of how this is achieved are as follows:

1) Absolute Prohibition of Alcohol, Drugs and Intoxicants
Although the word used in the Qur’an [5:90] khamr, refers specifically to wine, all alcoholic drinks are prohibited in Islamic Law, as are all intoxicating substances. When the Qur’an was revealed wine was the prevalent alcoholic beverage being consumed, so this was addressed specifically. By referring to several Prophetic sayings and using Legal Analogy (Qiyaas) scholars (‘Ulema) are able to extend the ruling to any type of intoxicant, including drugs.

This generalisation is captured in the words of the Prophet (s) who is reported to have said: “Every intoxicant is khamr, and every khamr is prohibited” [Related by Muslim] and furthermore, outlining a broad definition of khamr he (s) said, “Khamr is that which befogs the mind.” [Related by Bukhari]

From this we can understand exactly what khamr is and the reason why it is haram (prohibited). When defining the intellect in the previous post, one of the definitions presented was “a mind’s ability to apply knowledge to a problem-solving situation.” Of course if someone is drunk, this ability is temporarily suspended and they are no longer in control of their actions.

A rebuttal to this can be made by saying that if one drinks a single drop of wine, they are not going to end up in a drunken stupor. That’s obviously true, but this goes back to our discussion in MS06 where we presented the concept of a maqsad dhanni (supposed objective). Saying that the only reason alcohol is prohibited is to protect the intellect is tenuous, which is why we say the objective here is dhanni not qat’ee (certain). Furthermore, as our first mode of understanding the Shari’ah is as “dos“‘ and “don’ts” which all Muslims are obliged to follow, this matter is clarified by the following hadith which also gives us one of the general principles of Islamic Law, “Of that which intoxicates in a large amount, a small amount is prohibited” [Related by Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi].

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Posted by: admin | March 6, 2008

MS09.3 – Protection of Intellect [Part 1 of 2]

The next in our list of the darooriyaat (essentials) is al-‘Aql or Intellect. Our discussion on its protection (Hifdh al-‘Aql) will be split over two posts. In this first post, we will define the meaning of ‘Aql, its purpose and how it is preserved and protected from the perspective of what maintains and strengthens it.

Definition of al-‘Aql
The Arabic word ‘Aql comes from the root verb (‘a-qa-la) which has several meanings including ‘to detain‘, ‘to arrest‘, ‘to comprehend‘ and ‘to have intelligence‘. In our context the noun ‘Aql carries the meaning of ‘intellect‘, ‘discernment‘ and ‘intelligence‘.

As we mentioned in the previous post, God has ennobled all human beings and by our very nature we enjoy a unique position in Creation. “And indeed, We have honoured the Children of Adam” [Qur’an 17:70]. The one unique thing that differentiates us from animals and thus gives us a position of both authority and responsibilty on earth is the power of reasoning and discernment, i.e. the faculty of intellect. Such a precious God given blessing needs protection and this is therefore one of the Maqasid al-Shari’ah.

Before we can understand how the Shari’ah achieves its protection of intellect, it is important to understand exactly what the intellect is and what its role and purpose is in our lives. Firstly our intellect is not a physical part of our bodies, rather it is a combination of faculties that gives us the ability to reason, to plan, to think abstractly and to learn. There are several defintions available for what exactly constitutes the intellect, or intelligence, some of which are; “a mind’s ability to apply knowledge to a problem-solving situation”, “innate general cognitive ability” and “goal directed adaptive behaviour”.

The Role of Intellect
Why did God honour us with this unique blessing and what did He intend for its use? We can think of its purpose as twofold and it can be divided as follows:

  1. Reflection: To recognise and reflect on the signs around us to arrive at the Truth
  2. Thought and Planning: To think and plan how to live our religious and wordly lives in the best way possible

The first purpose is general and required of each and every one of us whereas the second is more of a collective effort where the common good is sought. We will look at these points from both the perspective of that which maintains intellect and that which threatens it (in the next post).

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Posted by: admin | February 22, 2008

MS09.2 – Protection of Life

The second of the darooriyaat (essentials) is al-Nafs (Life) and is the topic of discussion in this post. We will look at the protection and preservation (hifdh) of this daroori, our approach taking the same form as our presentation of Hifdh al-Deen in the previous post.

Definition of al-Nafs
Nafs is an Arabic term meaning ‘soul‘, ‘life‘ and ‘person‘. It comes from a root verb (na-fu-sa) meaning to be ‘precious‘, ‘valuable‘ and ‘priceless‘. These meanings taken together help us to appreciate how the concept of life is understood in Islam and why its protection is so important. Our life is obviously one of, if not the most, valuable things that all of us as human beings share and is therefore considered to be daroori (essential).

From the Perspective of That Which Maintains al-Nafs
Those things which help preserve al-Nafs are encouraged, promoted and obligated. Some examples of these are as follows:

1) Provision of that which Guarantees Life
There are certain things that are deemed essential for human life to be maintained with dignity. These are divided into two categories, Internal Necessities and External Necessities.

Internal necessities include the need for food, water and medicine, i.e. those things without which we would die. External necessities include clothing and housing, i.e. those things which allow us to live with dignity. These internal and external necessities are the most basic elements without which, from an Islamic perspective, it is not possible to live as one should be able to.

From this, we can understand two points. Firstly from an individual perspective each and every one of us needs food, drink, medicine, clothes and roof over our heads. As these things are considered necessary, in times of extreme need there are dispensations (rukhas) available in the Shari’ah to enable us to maintain that which is daroori. For example, if starving and faced with death, one is permitted to eat or drink that which is haram. This is also the reasoning used by many scholars in permitting a Muslim in a non-Muslim country to take an interest based mortgage if there are no other options available.

Both of these examples and more will be looked at in greater detail in MS12, where we look at the resolution of potential conflicts between the darooriyaat, e.g. How to reconcile between the desire to protect religion (pork being haram) and the desire to protect life (if one is starving).

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Posted by: admin | February 16, 2008

MS09.1 – Protection of Religion

Structure of Posts on the Darooriyaat
This post looks at the first of the Darooriyaat (or Essentials): al-Deen (Religion) and the associated maqsad (objective) Hifdh al-Deen i.e. The Protection of Religion. Before we get into the details of how this protection is achieved we will introduce the structure of the next few posts on the Darooriyaat and how the information will be presented.

The protection of any one of the darooriyaat (singular: daroori) is considered from two perspectives:

  1. That which supports its presence
  2. That which leads to its absence (threatens its presence)

Taking this two-pronged approach we will highlight those things which support the presence of the daroori and discuss how they are promoted, encouraged and obligated to achieve this end. For those things which threaten the presence of the daroori we will see how they are prevented, discouraged and prohibited.

    For each of the darooriyaat we will look at their (hifdh) protection from both these perspectives, starting first with Hifdh al-Deen, the Protection of Religion, the first maqsad we are discussing here at bitesize islam.

    Hifdh al-Deen (Protection of Religion)
    First of all it’s important to define what the intended meaning of each of the darooriyaat is. For example, what do we mean by religion?

    The word “deen” in Arabic means ‘religion’ in its most general sense, the plural of which is Adyaan and from which the term Muqaaranat al-Ayaan is coined, i.e. Comparative Religion. In addition to this, the word deen also has a wider meaning encompassing all systems, ideologies or ways of organising life whether originating from revealed sources or from the human mind.

    However when the word deen is used with the definite article ‘al‘ making “al-Deen” (The Religion) then the intended meaning is the religion of Islam. As Allah says in the Qur’an Verily, the religion (al-Deen) with God is Islam“[Qur’an 3:19].

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    Posted by: admin | February 11, 2008

    MS08 – General Principles of the Maqasid

    This post will begin our discussion on the actual objectives of the Shari’ah. Before we get down to the details however we will present a high level overview of how the maqasid are classified by the scholars of this science.

    Simply put there are three areas of classification:

    1. ad-Darooriyaat (The Essentials)
    2. al-Haajiyaat (The Supportive Needs)
    3. at-Tahseeniyaat (The Embellishments)

    This way of classifiying these core principles is agreed upon and accepted by all scholars with the exception of Najm al-Din at-Tufi [d. 716 AH], a rather controversial Hanbali scholar who also claimed that the desire to satisfy the overall maslaha (interest) could override clear texts, a position which is not accepted by consensus and was historically rejected. We will return to al-Tufi and this position in later posts where we shall explore the relationship between the Shari’ah and the modern world.

    Here, we will offer a simple definition of each principle before taking each one in turn in subsequent posts Insha Allah:

    ad-Darooriyaat (The Essentials)
    Translated as the the “essentials,” and defined as meaning ‘those things which are necessary for the establishment of the benefits and interests in both religious and worldly affairs, an absence of which leads to a disordered and incomplete life.

    These darooriyaat are essential for the perfection of life in this world and the hereafter. They must all meet the conditions presented in MS05 and are general for all people, regardless of race, gender or religion. In short these essentials are:

    1. ad-Deen (Religion)
    2. al-Nafs (Life)
    3. al-‘Aql (Intellect)
    4. an-Nasl and an-Nasab (Lineage)
    5. al-Maal (Wealth)

    These five darooriyaat are as they have been drawn up by scholars through the ages, both classical and contemporary. This list is not however closed and could well be extended by scholars if in their ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) they deem necessary.

    For the purposes of this discussion however we will limit our scope to these five. These darooriyaat are not listed above in order of importance. There is an order of preference however which we will look at in MS12 Insha Allah where the topic of discussion will be resolving potential conflicts or apparent contradictions between the darooriyaat.

    It can be said that the protection and preservation of these ‘essentials’ is the objective of the Shari’ah and more generally the objective of all legal systems.

    al-Haajiyaat (The Supportive Needs)
    Translated as the “needs,” and defined as meaning ‘those things which are needed for the protection, establishment and execution of the darooriyaat. They are those things which are not prescribed in isolation, rather in support of the essentials’.

    at-Tahseeniyaat (The Embellishments)
    Translated as the “embellishements,” and defined as meaning ‘those things which help in the completion of the essentials and whose presence is more preferable than their absence’.

    So, in conclusion we can say that the haajiyaat and the tahseeniyaat aid the establishment of the darooriyaat which are the essential foundations for an ordered, civlised and successful life both in this world and the hereafter.

    The next post will start by looking at the first of the darootiyaat, ad-Deen (Religion) and will Insha Allah follow the order of topics outlined in this post from hereon in.

    Posted by: admin | February 8, 2008

    MS07 – Summary of Hukm and Maqsad

    So far we’ve been introduced to a number of new definitions and terminologies which are foundational in our understanding of the science of Maqasid and the Shari’ah as a whole. They all describe concepts which are closely linked and to illustrate the relationship between them, the following diagrams should prove useful Insha Allah.

    Diagram illustrating relationship between Hukm and Maqsad

    In the above diagram, the hukm is the rule, i.e. any law in the Shari’ah. The reason for the existance of this hukm can either be clear, apparent and measurable in which case it is called an ‘illah. Or by definition it can be other than this, i.e. unclear, not apparent and not measurable, in which case it is referred to as a wisdom, a hikmah.

    This is on the side of the hukm, and the hukm itself serves a maqsad, one of the objectives of the Shari’ah. If the relationship between the hukm and its maqsad is established with certainty, it’s called maqsad qat’ee. On the other hand, if the relationship is supposed rather than certain, it is called maqsad dhanni.

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    Posted by: admin | February 8, 2008

    MS06 – Degrees of Maqasid and Scholarly Opinions

    In the previous post we presented the conditions (shuroot) which must be satisfied for any objective to be considered as part of the Maqasid al-Shari’ah. These conditions are inherent to the maqasid and describe the characteristics that underpin Islamic Law as a whole; i.e. it is logical, well defined, timeless and just.

    The points discussed in this post look at the maqasid from a bottom-up perspective, i.e. the relationship of individual law to their objectives. Recall our discussion in MS03 where the processes for arriving at the maqasid were outlined. We said that it was through a process of investigation (istiqraa’) that the scholars were able to extract common threads from amongst the different rulings and arrive at the objectives or maqasid that these rulings aim to achieve.

    This process of investigation can have one of two outcomes depending on the strength of relationship between the law and the maqsad it serves:

    1. Maqsad Qat’ee (Objective established with Certainty)
    2. Maqsad Dhanni (Supposed Objective)

    These are discussed in turn with examples below.

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