Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.
There is a branch of Islamic sciences known as the Maqasid al-Shariah (the goals of Islamic Law). The objective of this subject is to study the whys behind Islamic rulings. Why were the five daily prayers legislated? What is the wisdom behind the punishment of cutting the thief’s hand? These and many other questions are answered by scholars apt in the Maqasid al-Shariah.
Two important uses of the Maqasid al-Shairah are:
In deriving rulings from analogy. As times change, our problems also take new forms. Along with new discoveries come new fiqh issues. Are tequila halal? The answer to this question cannot be found in the Quran or hadiths directly. Scholars have to derive it from general instructions in the Quran or Sunnah, or through relating it to an established ruling. Tequila can be considered haram by relating it to khamr, which is explicitly forbidden in the Quran. The maqsad behind the prohibition of khamr is that it causes intoxication:
O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah . . . [Quran, 4:43]
This same maqsad also applies to tequila.
In knowing why we’re doing an act of worship and what we want to achieve through it.
For example, the purpose of the five daily prayers is mentioned in the following ayah:
Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance. [Quran, 20:14]
Another purpose is:
Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing. [Quran, 29:45]
Knowing these maqasid (goals) of prayer gives us to think – Are my prayers achieving these goals?
Misuses of Maqasid al-Shariah
Although it’s an immensely beneficial concept, Maqasid al-Shariah can be used negatively to cause harm or come to a totally misleading conclusion, either intentionally or unintentionally. Here are two examples:
Some people may argue that the goal of wearing hijab is to protect women from harm and distinguish them from non-Muslim women.
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [Quran, 33:59]
One may argue that the maqsad of wearing hijab is to prevent abuse, therefore since our modern society is so advanced and safe (an arguable point in itself), women no longer need to wear hijab. This conclusion is wrong and misleading. Neither the Prophet, nor the Companions or scholars of the past and present understood the ayah in this way. The primary maqsad of wearing hijab is to please Allah (swt), and not solely to prevent abuse.
Some people argue that the purpose of the legislation which allows men to marry more than one wife is to protect women. Since the number of men in a society is always less than that of women, especially in times of war, and because women need protection from their husbands in times of distress, the Quranic permission of polygamy is understandable. Therefore, they argue, men should commit polygamy only when there is a woman in distress who needs a guardian. This is a false maqsad, because there is no proof in the Quran or Sunnah supporting it, nor did the male Companions understand it this way when they married multiple wives.
Knowing the goals of the Shariah helps us understand Islam and worship Allah better, but the goals need to be the right goals and according to the Quran and Sunnah and the understanding of the early generations of scholars.
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Tabassum Mosleh is a freelance writer and a student of MA in Islamic Studies at IOU. She is also studying at al-Salam Institute, UK and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She likes playing with animals, watching natural beauties, reading novels, and researching interesting topics on psychology, sociology, history, and current affairs. She shares her reflections at the blog sections of Understand Quran Academy, IIPH and Ibana. Contact: [email protected]