By Rashaad Amra
When there’s no clear articulation in the Qur’an and corroborated Hadith on a judicial matter (fiqh position), you should “slow-down” rather than impose on, or judge others based on the position you follow, said prominent Islamic scholar, Sheikh Nuruddeen Lemu, of Nigeria when he addressed a group in Durban recently.
This was one of the main advises from Sheikh Lemu at the Shariah Intelligence seminar, hosted by the Islamic Forum. The Sheik was on a countrywide tour.
He said that in a community characterized by groups criticizing, name-calling and claiming monopoly to “the right path”, and a Muslim ummah engulfed by extremism – and sectarianism boiling-over into a sunni-shiá civil-war – appreciating why and how scholars, schools and groups differ is necessary to appreciate diversity and promote tolerance.
Sheikh Lemu explained how the need for perpetual application of the Qur’an and the Sunnah in the lives of Muslims has led to the development of different judicial schools of interpretation (e.g. Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki, Hambali etc).
The variation in methodological approaches of the different schools, combined the scholars’ interpretation of Qur’an and corroborated Hadith, admission of proofs, lived experience and context contributes to the observed variation in judicial positions between the schools and even scholars with the same school.
Appreciating why differences exist is necessary to build unity, tolerance and respect, he pointed out, however, some fiqh rulings may not be correct – they may actually be inconsistent with Islam. As the application of judicial methodology in an attempt to approximate an Islamic position is a human endeavor, and thus by definition subject to error, errors will be made.
To test the consistency of fiqh rulings with the Shariah, Sheikh Lemu explained that the Islamic tradition provided tools for triangulation, a safety-net of sorts for the application of judicial interpretation. These tools include the Maqasid of the Shariah (the higher intents of the Shariah) and the Qawaaid-al-Fiqiyyah (the legal maxims).
Fiqh rulings need to be consistent with the Maqasid of the Shariah and Qawaaid al Fiqiyyah. For example a fiqh ruling calling for parents not to vaccinate their children, thus placing the lives of their children and others at risk, may not be consistent with the Shariah’s higher intent of preserving life, nor would the fiqh position be consistent with the legal maxim of “harm must be removed.”
Fiqh is a product of judicial methodology based on the Islamic sources of Quran and Hadith in particular context. As the context changes, fiqh needs to adapt to remain perpetually applicable.
The sheikh quoted: Ibn Al-Qayyim, (may Allah have mercy on him), who said, “Verily, the Sharia is founded upon wisdom and welfare for the servants in this life and the afterlife. In its entirety it is justice, mercy, benefit, and wisdom.
Every matter which abandons justice for tyranny, mercy for cruelty, benefit for corruption, and wisdom for foolishness is not a part of the Sharia even if it was introduced therein by an interpretation”, he said, adding that Muslims require courageous and qualified leadership to restore justice, mercy, benefit and wisdom. – Islamic Forum.