Posted by: admin | February 6, 2008

MS05 – Conditions of the Maqasid

So far we have seen the definitions, origins and foundational principles for the science of Maqasid al-Shari’ah. There are just one or two points we need to cover before we can begin our discussion of what the actual objectives of Islamic Law are.

What we’ve been looking at so far is effectively still an introduction to the subject but it is by no means something to gloss over. By spending time ‘setting the scene’ however, we establish sound foundations, the necessary background knowledge on which to build our understanding of the science.

We could have gone straight into explaining the objectives but as my teacher keeps reminding me, we need a complete and not partial understanding in order for our knowledge to be of any use. Insha Allah we’ll be taking a similar step by step approach to all the subjects we discuss here at bitesize islam.

Conditions (Shuroot) of the Maqasid
The maqasid of the Shari’ah need to satisfy certain conditions and exhibit some specific characteristics in order to be accepted as valid objectives. The scholars of this science, as introduced in MS03, defined the following list of conditions:

  1. al-Dhahoor (Clear and Understandable)
  2. al-Thaboot (Fixed and Unchanging)
  3. al-Indibaat (Well Defined and Restricted)
  4. al-Idtiraad (Not Affected by a Change in Circumstance)

We will take these conditions in turn providing a brief definition for each.

1) al-Dhahoor (Clear and Understandable)
This term comes from an Arabic verb dha-ha-ra which means to be ‘apparent,’ ‘evident‘ or ‘manifest‘ and in the context of this science it means that the objective (maqsad) must be clear (dhaahir) such that there is no disagreement in defining its meaning and no confusion in understanding. Basically it should be easy to identify and the link between the law and its maqsad must be apparent for all to see.

For example, for the ruling prohibiting murder, the maqsad is “protection of life” and for the legislation of marriage the maqsad is “protection of lineage.” This does not require any elaboration as it’s clear for all to see how these rulings serve their respective objectives.

2) al-Thaboot (Fixed and Unchanging)

The Arabic term for this condition is al-Thaboot, which comes from the verb tha-ba-ta meaning to be ‘established‘ or ‘unshakable’ or ‘abiding.’ Islam is God’s final revelation to mankind and its Shari’ah is valid until the end of time. As such its objectives must be firmly established (thaabit) and not subject to change with the passage of time.

For example, the protection of life will always be an objective of the Shari’ah and neither it, nor how it is understood is subject to change.

This is quite different to jurisprudence (fiqh) where scholarly opinions (fatawa) are contigent on the time and place in which they were issued. Here we are talking about the big picture, therefore the objectives are timeless and are more like themes which run through every ruling in the Shari’ah regardless of the actual details.

3) al-Indibaat (Well Defined and Restricted)
This term comes from the Arabic verb in-da-ba-ta meaning to be ‘detained,’ ‘regulated,’ or ‘kept in order‘ and shares a root (da-ba-ta) with the word for an army officer (daa-bit), i.e. someone who keeps things in order.

Following on from this defintion, the objective should be well defined, regulated and with established limits (mundabit) so that its meaning is restricted and cannot be added to or taken away from. This restriction and definition comes from the Shari’ah, i.e. the objective must always be according to the rules of the Shari’ah and its rules.

For example, the maqsad behind the prohibition of fornication (zina) is the “protection of lineage” as having children born out of wedlock leads to a confusion in identifying lineage etc. This condition of Indibaat prevents someone from using the reasoning that due to the presence of modern means of contraception, we can maintain this objective and at the same time allow people to engage in sexual relations outside marriage. Stating such would be contradictory to the Shari’ah ruling that sexual relations outside marriage are unlawful.

The maqsad is well defined and always under the laws of the Shari’ah. Recall how we said that obedience to the laws of the Shari’ah was itself an objective of the Shari’ah and the search for objectives etc was secondary to this.

4) al-Idtiraad (Not Affected by a Change in Circumstance)
This comes from a verb id-ta-ra-da which means to be ‘continuous‘ or ‘constant‘ and in this context it means that the objective should not be subject to change (mudtarid) given a change of place or people. So regardless of the place or the people being considered, the same maqasid apply.

This is one of the reasons behind the inherent justice in Islam, everyone regardless of race, religion or social status is equal in the eyes of the law.

We can summarise the above by saying that the Maqasid al-Shari’ah must be clear in understanding, restricted in terms of definition and applicable for all people, in every time and place.

The next post Insha Allah will look at the different degrees in the application of Maqasid and the opinions of Islamic Scholars regarding their use.



  1. […] 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 […]

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