It’s said that a man once headed to Mecca to perform pilgrimage, and he violated some details so he called a sheikh he knows for a fatwa (religious edict). He demanded a strict fatwa that asserts it will redeem his violations.
After insisting that the sheikh issues a suitable fatwa, the sheikh finally mockingly told him to slay 10 camels and to personally distribute their meat in the mountains around the Great Mosque at night. This story reflects the tendency to adopt extremist approaches when performing religious rituals.
Resorting to obligatory duties as the only way to acquit one’s conscience is an act of extremism.
Islam sets few obligations and plenty of facilitations. Sharia was established on the originality of self-innocence and on the concept that forgetfulness and mistakes while committing a ritual does not annul the latter. The principles of permission, facilitation and forgiveness are the basis of sharia. If we examine the rules of prayer, fasting and pilgrimage, we’d realize they’re actually simple.
Any elementary student can understand them and follow them. Therefore, abiding by strict obligations and punishment has nothing to do with sharia.
Enjoying the permissible
Mixing jurisprudential, historical and preaching concepts violated pardon principles which Sharia let them be so people can comfortably live and enjoy the permissible as obligations do not mean destroying life, abandoning reality and continuously yelling at Muslims during sermons to call on them to abandon the permissible.
Al-Shatibi in his book Al-Muwafaqaat (The Reconciliation of the Fundamentals of Islamic Law) criticized this approach and warned of resorting to sayings and narratives as exploiting them aims to harm the permissible and trivialize life. Using them as an argument without closely examining them yields no results either.
Mixing jurisprudential, historical and preaching concepts violated pardon principles which sharia let them be so people can comfortably live and enjoy the permissible as obligations do not mean destroying life, abandoning reality and continuously yelling at Muslims during sermons to call on them to abandon the permissibleFahad Suleiman Shoqiran
The Prophet [PBUH] and the Quran allowed people to engage in what is permissible; therefore, those who desire to abandon life have no authority over others to generalize what they want when it contradicts with Sharia.
Abdelmajid al-Sagheer further explained Shatibi’s ideas in his study, ‘Fundamentalist thought and the problematic authority of Sharia in Islam.’
Sagheer wrote: “The permissible in sharia falls within the principle of making choices. It may be used to serve what’s necessary or to complement something else. In this case, it will govern achieving purposes, especially when taking into consideration the qualitative difference between individual dimensions and collective dimensions of obligatory rulings.”
Shatibi liberates the permissible from obligatory rulings as doing otherwise contradicts with sharia. He says: “If the permissible is used to serve a need but corruption follows, the latter does not annul the permissible.”
Many Muslim societies tended to adopt extreme ideas due to certain cultural, political and ideological reasons. Individuals do not view the permissible as something that’s protected by Sharia. Preaching became an alternative jurisprudence that contributed to collective neurosis among Muslims.
Discussing the afterlife became more common than discussing the world. The same applies to discussing the signs of the hour during eras that often let political influences and power imbalances affect religious legislation. This has been clear in the Islamic history of legislation and jurisprudence.
Sagheer thus states that the 8th century was the century of sharia purposes and political writings. “Yes, the 8th century was the century of Shatibi and Ibn Khaldun. However, it was also the century of Ibn Taymiyyah, Tufi, Ibn Qayyim of the Hanbali school. It was also the century of Ibn Farhun, Ibn Ridwan, Al-Sabky, Ibn Gamaa and others from the Shafei and Maliki schools of thought.
The writings of Al-Maqrizi, Ibn al-Azraq, Ibn al-Sakkak and Ahmad Baba Timbukti also highlighted two major interests: the purposes of sharia and Islamic politics,” Sagheer said.
Enlightened jurists must now resume researches on jurisprudential analysis and conclusions according to what suits the rapid pace of life and the renewed needs of the Islamic communities that suffer from neurosis and excessive concerns.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.