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.

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Posted by: admin | February 2, 2008

MS04 – Foundations of Maqasid

As we mentioned in the last post, the Shari’ah can be reduced to what is essentially a set of “dos” and “don’ts.” Commands and prohibitions. Describing religion in such terms these days is not very popular, people generally don’t like to feel that they not free. Islam however, by its very definition is the religion of submission.

The name of this religion, “Islam” as chosen by Allah [Qur’an 5:3] comes from the verb “as-la-ma” which means ‘to surrender,‘ ‘to commit,‘ and ‘to forsake.‘ In line with this meaning, as Muslims, we submit our will to that of the Creator and try to live according to His laws, His “dos” and “don’ts.”

Motivating Forces
The question we are concerned with here is what are the mechanisms by which people are motivated to follow the Shari’ah and more broadly speaking, laws in general. What are the push and pull factors which enable people to live in society amicably and what systems are in place to take to account those who choose to breach these laws.

These questions are central to our understanding of the Shari’ah as rather than just being limited to pieces of advice, or words of encouragement, Islamic Law contains quite specific pieces of legislation and understanding how and why these are followed is foundational in our study of Maqasid and something we shall keep returning to.

Furthermore as Islam is comprehensive, we need to understand that these laws relate to all spheres of life. Put simply, they govern our duty to God, our duty to ourselves and our duty to others. In each of these areas we have motivating factors or deterrents encouraging us to adhere to the commands and preventing us from falling into the prohibitions.

We can look at these factors in the following way:

  1. Internal Deterrent (Waazi’ Fitri)
  2. Religious Deterrent (Waazi’ Deeni)
  3. Penal Deterrent (Waazi’ Sultani)

The Arabic word for one of these deterrents is waazi’, which linguistically means ‘an obstacle’ or ‘an impediment’ but in this context carries the meaning of “the power which prevents a human being from doing something harmful or damaging.” Of course, when we say harmful or damaging here, we mean it in the broadest possible sense, in this life and the hereafter.

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Posted by: admin | January 30, 2008

MS03 – Origins of the Science

Development of Maqasid al-Shari’ah
In this post we will look briefly at the history of the science of Maqasid al-Shari’ah and how it developed over time. As with most of the Islamic Sciences, if we were to look back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Companions (ra), we would be not find them referring to these sciences as we do today.

That’s not to say they did not exist. Fiqh, Hadith, Tafsir etc were being taught and applied by the Prophet (s) and his Companions (ra), but as applied knowledge rather than as scientific disciplines. What developed in subsequent generations is how this knowledge was classified, interpreted and understood. With this evolution, the separate subject areas became distinct sciences in the Shari’ah and with that much easier to understand and access. Scholars too became specialised in particular fields, dedicating their entire lives to the advancement of Islamic knowledge.

The science of Maqasid is no different. It too evolved over time but as with all the sciences, the concepts and knowledge therein were being understood and applied by the Prophet (s), his Companions (ra) and later generations, just not in the form we do today.

Note: When we look at Usool al-Fiqh after completing our discussion of Maqasid, we will spend a little longer looking at the Evolution of the Shari’ah, as it’s a fascinating topic in itself.

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Posted by: admin | January 27, 2008

MS02 – Definitions of Terms

In this, the second post in the series on Maqasid al-Shari’ah, we shall define some important terms of which a basic understanding is needed before we can proceed to look at the science in more detail. Traditionally when explaining the Islamic Sciences, the first step is always to define the terms used and the most important of these is the name of the subject itself. We shall Insha Allah proceed in the same way.

Maqasid al-Shari’ah
The term is a possessive construction, known in Arabic grammar as an Idafa, by which the meaning, “The Maqasid of the Shari’ah” is conveyed. We shall look at the first component in this construct first.

The linguistic meaning of the word Maqasid is as follows: Maqasid is the plural of the word Maqsad and comes from the verbal root qa-sa-da which has several meanings, some of which are: ‘to intend,’ ‘to take a middle course’ and ‘to walk towards.’ From this root comes the noun, Qasd which means ‘a goal,’ ‘an aim,’ or ‘an aspiration.’

The second part of the title is the word Shari’ah, which is a noun meaning ‘a path to a water hole,’ and in its more common usage, ‘the law of God as revealed to Muhammad (s).’

Together, the term Maqasid al-Shari’ah carries the meaning, based on its constituent parts, of the ‘goals and objectives which are the reason for the legislation of the rules of Islam’ or more simply, ‘The Objectives of Islamic Law.’

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Posted by: admin | January 23, 2008

MS01 – Introduction to Maqasid al-Shari’ah

The first series of articles on Bitesize Islam will look exclusively at the science of Maqasid al-Shari’ah. We begin with this subject rather than any of the others as it the foundation upon which the Shari’ah is built. It gives us a broad understanding of Islam together with its aims and objectives and presents us with the ‘big picture,’ a holistic and consistent framework in which to plug in all the remaining sciences as and when we come to them.

This ‘top down’ view of Islam is helpful for a number of reasons. It gives us confidence that the religion of Islam and its rules and regulations are not random, rather there is a comprehensive structure behind which there is an amazing level of wisdom at work. Having this overall understanding is also very important for those engaged in Islamic work and presenting Islam to others.

Maqasid al-Shari’ah can be translated as the “Objectives of Islamic Law.” We will look at the meaning of the Arabic title in detail later but this should suffice us for now. It is important to note that in many Shari’ah curriculums, the science of Maqasid is not generally taught as an introductory course. Reasons for this include the fact that it is quite an advanced subject and without a firm grounding in fiqh (jurisprudence), taking such a high level approach can have the negative effect of causing one to potentially disregard the rules and look at things too liberally.

I think this danger can be avoided by properly understanding the principle that we don’t accept anything that contradicts clear texts, i.e. from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This principle will be expanded on when we look at the Conditions of the Maqasid in due course.

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Posted by: admin | January 20, 2008

Welcome to Bitesize Islam

Assalamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
Welcome to my new blog, Bitesize Islam. There are two main aims behind this site. Firstly, to introduce the different Sciences of Islamic Law in a simple, easy to understand way and secondly to give me a kick start in translating what I’m learning, something which I’ve been quite slack on until now! To read more about my motivation for this blog, go to the About page.

In addition to explaining the different sciences as I have been taught them, I will also provide defintions to the Arabic terms in the Glossary as and when they are encountered. They will be linked to from the articles themselves so you don’t have to search around for them. As Arabic is the primary language for the teaching and transmission of Islamic knowledge, an appreciation of the terminologies is crucial though the more knowledge of Arabic one has the better.

The different subjects which will Insha Allah be covered on this blog are listed below. They will be tackled one subject at a time, with each post containing one topic only, so as to make it easy to digest. The order selected is purely based on the order that I am studying the subjects. As they are independent, it shouldn’t make too much difference which one is tackled first, though Maqasid and Usool and looked at first so as to give a broad picture of the Shari’ah before diving into the details.

The subjects are as follows:

  1. Maqasid al-Shari’ah – Objectives of Islamic Law
  2. Usool al-Fiqh – Principles of Islamic Law
  3. al-Firaq al-Islamiyah – Islamic Sects throughout history
  4. Uloom al-Hadith – Sciences of Hadith
  5. Uloom al-Qur’an – Sciences of the Qur’an
  6. Aqeeda – Islamic Belief
  7. Tasawwuf – Islamic Spirituality
  8. Tafsir – Qur’anic Interpretation
  9. Seerah – The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (s)

    As the blog progresses Insha Allah, the different posts will be organised by subject using the categories listed at the bottom of the page. Each post will be numbered as well as filed chronologically so to help build a complete picture of each subject, which I hope will Insha Allah become a good resource for those wishing to gain an introduction to the Islamic Sciences.

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