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.

Maqsad Qat’ee (Objective established with Certainty)
If an objective (maqsad) is established as the result of a complete and conclusive investigation (istiqraa’ kaamil) then we say that the maqsad is certain and definitive (qatee’). This means that it is unanimously established for a rule (or set of rules) by all texts with tawaatur (multiple transmissions). A simple example to illustrate this is the maqsad behind the prohibition of murder. It is clearly “protection of life,” so we say it is established with certainty, i.e. qat’ee.

Further examples of this are the general objectives of “Ease” (al-Yusr) and “Prevention of Difficulty” (Daf’ al-Mashaqqa). They are both established by numerous verses of the Qur’an and sayings (ahadeeth) of the Prophet Muhammad (s), and are therefore considered to be definitive and certain even though they are not closely tied to specific (laws) ahkam. That’s why they’re called general objectives or principles outside of the darooriyaat, we will to them in MS13 Insha Allah.

Maqsad Dhanni (Supposed Objective)
In contrast to the above if the investigative process does not give us a certain and definitive link between a rule and its supposed objective, we say just that, that the maqsad is supposed (dhanni). This means that the investigation was inconclusive (istiqraa’ naaqis) and as such we cannot be 100% certain that what the maqsad for a ruling is.

On the face of it, this may seem like a problem, what do we do if we don’t know for certain the objective behind a ruling? Does it mean that the rule has no wisdom, that it is somehow random? Far from it. The search for maqasid is a scholarly endeavour, an ijtihaad and as it is secondary to the objective of obedience, this does not mean that we are unable to follow such a rule. In reality however, there is a wisdom and the rules are not random, and to some extent the classification into qat’ee and dhanni is academic as it is only concerned with measuring the strength of the relationship, it is not saying there is no wisdom (hikmah) or reason (‘illah).

The relationship between these different terms may seem a little confusing at the moment, Insha Allah in the next post we will summarise them and the relationship between them by way of a simple diagram.

The concept of a supposed objective (maqsad dhanni) can be better illustrated with an example. The ruling prohibiting the consumption of alcohol serves the objective “protection of intellect” due to the presence of intoxication, the ‘illah. One can see this link quite clearly so we say it is a certain objective (maqsad qat’ee). However, what is the objective behind the prohibition of drinking even one drop of alcohol? Can we say for sure that it is also “protection of intellect” as surely no one can get drunk from drinking a single drop of wine?

This therefore is why we say that the maqsad for this particular rule is supposed and not certain, i.e. dhanni. In reality, one can see the wisdom behind this ruling and there is a principle in Islamic Law drawn from a hadeeth which says, “Even a small amount of that which intoxicates in large quantities is prohibited.”

Scholarly Opinions on the Maqasid
Historically there has been some difference amongst the scholars as to the validity of the science of Maqasid and whether it is acceptable to take the objectives of Islamic Law into consideration as part of the process of legislation. These different viewpoints are outlined below:

    1. The majority (Jamhoor) of scholars agree that the maqasid of the Shari’ah are established by the Qur’an and the Sunnah and as such accept using them in the formulation of legislation.
    2. The Dhairiyyah did not accept the use of maqasid as they were extracted as a result of investigation, i.e. looking beyond the literal meaning of the texts, something this group of scholars was well known for being opposed to. One of the most well known scholars of this school is Ibn Hazm [d. 1064 AD / 456 AH]
    3. In contrast to the above, the Batiniyyah sect of Shi’a Islam had little concern for the actual words of the texts and only focused on hidden meanings. Therefore there was never really much concern for the maqasid as the whole point of searching for aims and objectives is to draw a link between the underlying meaning and the actual text.

      The opinions held by both the Dhariyyah and the Batiniyyah were not adopted by the mainstream and were by and large marginalised if not forgotten altogether through the course of history. The majority view prevailed and as a result, amongst Islamic scholars today, the science of Maqasid is considered to be of great importantance and is used as a very valuable and useful tool in legislation when a higher level understanding is required.

        The next post will summarise the main terms we have seen over the past few posts by way of a simple diagram. Then with our understanding of them clear in our minds, we will be able to move on to discuss the maqasid themselves Insha Allah.


        1. […] 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 […]

        2. […] 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 […]

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