Objectives of Shariah (Maqaasid Shariah): Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

After studying the Shariah extensively, scholars derived that all the laws of Shariah fulfil one of the five objectives, benefits or wisdoms:

  1. Protection of the Religion (حفظ الدين)
  2. Protection of Life (حفظ النفس)
  3. Protection of Lineage / Progeny (حفظ النسل)
  4. Protection of Intellect (حفظ العقل)
  5. Protection of Property / Wealth (حفظ المال)

However, they agreed that these “Objectives of Shariah” cannot be used willy-nilly to legislate Shariah Law.

Yet, recently, some daaees and pseudo scholars are calling for the abolishing of Shariah Law under the guise of “Objectives of Shariah” (Maqaasid Shariah) and “Benefits of Shariah” (Masaalih Shariah) (مصالح الأحكام الشريعة ومقاصدها). In the extract below, Shaikhul Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (حفظه الله) proves that this “modern” principle of legislation is a fallacy. May Allah protect us from deviation.

Shaikhul Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (حفظه الله) writes in his “Principles of Issuing Legal Decrees and Its Etiquettes”:

“A group of Scholars [namely Shaashi, Ghazali, Qarafi, Shatbi, Dehlvi] have authored a few books regarding the “Benefits of Shariah Law and their Objectives” (مصالح الأحكام الشريعة ومقاصدها). Their intent was not to make these objectives and benefits the primary causes (مناط أو علة) for the Laws of Shariah at all times, without gazing carefully at the primary Islamic Texts (i.e. Quran and Sunnah النصوص الشريعة). Rather, their goal was to explain the benefits of those laws which came in the primary Islamic Texts (i.e. Quran and Sunnah النصوص الشريعة), so that it becomes clear that Shariah does not legislate laws except that behind it is a benefit for the slaves in this World and the Hereafter. Also, their intent was not that these objectives are the exact things of consideration regarding permissible issues and that they are taken in those issues where no Shar’i text is found. Rather, the only judge regarding something being a benefit (مصلحة), is the Shariah and its Texts (نصوص), not the sheer intellect or the desires of the soul. This is so because these objectives, like protection over life, wealth and honour are not objectives generally and in all situations. Rather, the truth is, as Imam Shaatbi said, “The benefits and harms, majority of the time are relative (اضافية) and not real. Being relative means, that things are beneficial or harmful in one state and not in others; or in relation to one individual and not another; or at one given time and not at another.”

Therefore, that which determines which matter is beneficial or harmful, is the Shariah of Allah. The apparent benefit (مصلحة), which contradicts a text from amongst the texts of Shariah, is not a benefit or a harm in reality. Rather, it is not but the offspring of following the desires of the soul, which the Shariah came to abolish.

There has appeared in our era, some people who hold firm to the phrase “المقاصد الشرعية” (Shari’ Benefits), and they intend to place it before the Texts (نصوص) of Shariah based on the notion that the goal of these Textual Laws is to establish some benefits (مصالح) and some objectives (مقاصد). They do this on the basis that, sometimes practicing on the actual text (of the Quran and Sunnah) these benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد) are seemingly disrupted. (They say) we are ordered to follow these benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد) and not the actual texts (of the Quran and Sunnah). This mind set only leads to the total destruction of the entire Shariah and the uprooting of the shackles of divine legal responsibility (التكليف) based on speculative and imaginary benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد).

In reality, all that which Allah has legislated in our religion is in fact based on benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد), no one doubts that. This is because, Allah did not legislate any law out of play or to harm His creation. However, benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد) are words which are vague and loose. So, everyone who looks at the different issues in life with just his intellect, will think that this is one of the benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد), while another person will feel that it is not one of the benefits and objectives of life. So, the sheer intellect, which does not base itself on divine revelation, cannot reach such a standard, which can be universally relied upon, in setting the parameters for these benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد).

Hence, everything that is considered from amongst the objectives of Shariah (مقاصد الشريعة) are not as general as they calim, rather, they have parameters and regulations. For instance, there is no doubt that “Protection of Life”, is from amongst the most important of objectives in Shariah, however, a murderer is not allowed to hold to this Shar’i Objective and exploit it to protect himself from qisaas (the death penalty). This is exactly the state of all the objectives (مقاصد).

The fundamental question in relation to these objectives is, who is the one who identifies these objectives? Who is the one who sets the parameters in which these objectives (مقاصد) are practiced upon? If we delegate this identification to the sheer intellect, then the Shariah would certainly fall into disarray. The Shariah only brings set laws in matters, which many a time, the sheer mind would not be guided to the right answer concerning it. If the human mind was sufficient for this specification, then there would be no reason to send Messengers (عليهم السلام) and to reveal divine books.

The clear truth is that there is no way to specify these objectives and to give them boundaries except by going back to the Shar’i Text i.e. the Quran and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Therefore, we are not allowed to erect some vague objectives in front of the established explicit Texts (of Shariah), whether the Texts are of the Book of Allah or from the Prophet ﷺ. We cannot take these benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد) as a foundational source in legislation and then twist the Shar’i Text to conform to them. The truth is that the benefits (مصالح) and objectives (مقاصد) are themselves derived from the Shar’i Text. Therefore, that which Allah and his Messenger ﷺ considered a benefit (مصلحة) is a benefit, and not what we claim is a benefit (مصلحة), according to our personal views.

The scholars of the Objectives of Shari’ah (مقاصد الشرعية), like Imam Shaatbi, Ghazali, and Shaikh Waliyullah Dehlavi -may Allah have mercy on them- agree that Laws revolve around their illahs (primary causes) and not on wisdoms and that wisdoms and benefits which contradict the Texts of Shariah are nothing but that which the Noble Quran has named as “desires” (الأهواء).

Imam Shaatbi (رجمه الله) says -and he was the flag bearer in the subject of Objectives of Shari’ah (مقاصد الشرعية)-, “The Shariah came to elevate the legally responsible people (المكلفين) from the calls of their desires to becoming the slaves for Allah. Since this fact is established, then it does not come together with the false notion that Shariah was laid down is accordance to desires and seeking temporal worldly benefits however possible. Our Rabb -Glory be to Him- has said, “Had the truth followed their desires, the heavens and the earth and all those therein would have fallen in total corruption.” {Al-Muminun: 71}[1]

Allahmah Waliyullah Dehlavi (رجمه الله) said, “Yes, just like how the Sunnah has necessitated this and a consensus has been made on it, they also necessitate that the revelation of a ruling of obligation and prohibition is a great enough reason, in itself, for rewarding the obedient and punishing the sinner, irrespective of any benefits (مصالح). They also necessitate that, it is not permissible to suspend the implementation of the Laws of Shariah -if the narrations are authentic- upon the recognition of those benefits (مصالح).”[2]

[Usool Iftaa wa Adaabuh by Shaikhul Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani 245-248]

[1] Al-Muwaafiqaat by Shatbi Vol.2 Pg.62

[2] Hujjatullahil Balighah Vol.1 Pg.32-33 Meaning if we understand the wisdom and benefit, only then we will practice on it. This is not permissible.

May Allah reward Hafiz Hamzah ibn Muzaffar, a student of Usulul Fiqh, for his contribution in translating the above extract.

Author: Ibn Suleman

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