There can be little doubt that today Islam is surging forward, unique and powerful
by directing the flow of events in the Muslim countries. The world is witnessing a
phenomenon in history that is unprecedented and unmatched in its far-reaching
conscience for the future. In this movement of resurgence, there emerges a symbol
of Muslim aspirations committed to establishing the only solution, Shari'ah. A
complete change is gradually emerging destined to shape life according to the
precepts of Shari'ah.
A Way of Life
Paradoxically, it is the Shari'ah which seems to arouse the most intense reactions of
hostility, ridicule and misgivings among those who are not within the fold of Islam.
According to them, the Shari'ah is seen as a barbaric and cruel, an inhumane and
uncivilized way of life (Allah forbid), which will turn the clock back on progress
and plunge the world into an age of darkness. Women will be shackled into slavery
and the non-Muslims will be degraded as second-class citizens. Cutting off the hand
of a thief, stoning the adulterer, veiling the women and so on are according to
many, the substance of the Shari'ah that inspires Muslims everywhere. Therefore
the need of the west to understand the Shari'ah is no less urgent and compelling
than the Muslim's desire to implement it.
The Shari'ah is not merely a collection of "do's" and "don'ts", nor just a set of
criminal laws prescribing punishments for certain crimes. It encompasses the
totality of men's life. Shari'ah means literally a clear path, the path that a Muslim.
must travel to reach his Creator. The Shari'ah translates deep yearning within man
to seek his Lord and Master into steps on the pathway of life. The Shari'ah
represents the external and internal, individual and collective modes of life that
must be observed as the Will of the Almighty.
BASIS OF THE SHARI'AH
In order to fully understand the concept and basis of Shari'ah, one must understand
the relationship between man and his Creator outlined by Islam. There is no God
but Allah Ta'ala. He is the Creator, the Master of the universe and to Him we all
belong. Therefore man must submit his entire person to Him. He is the Sovereign
and the Provider who has given man everything he requires to live.
The greatest need of man is to therefore to know how to live in such a way that he
fulfils the purpose of his creation so that he can relate with his fellow human
beings. The Shari'ah is the divinely ordained code of behaviour that dictates the
way of life for mankind. To live an Islamic life is to live by the Sharia'ah and to
give up the Shar'ee or any part of it, is to give up Islam.
The first basic source of the Shari'ah is the word of Allah revealed to the Prophet
Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). These revelations which have been
compiled in the Qur'an are without doubt exactly as they are conveyed to the
Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Acting under divine guidance, he not only
delivered the message but launched a movement, changed man and society and
spent every moment of his Prophethood in guiding and directing his companions.
The Prophet's life and his Sunnah practice are the second basic source of the
Sharia'h. The authority of the Sunnah is firmly rooted in the Qur'an. The other
source is Ijtihaad, the utmost human endervour to solve problems in the light of the
Qur'an and the Sunnah by means of Ijmaa (consensus of the Jurists) and lastly
Qiyaas (analogical reasoning). It must be borne in mind that anything clearly
ordained by Allah Ta'ala and His Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) can never
be changed by any one. Furthermore, it cannot be amended to conform to changing
human values and standards; rather it is the absolute form to which all human
values and conduct must conform.
LIVING WITH THE SHARI'AH
Since no part of man's life can be exempted from the need of divine guidance, the
Shari'ah provides to cope with any human situation. Hence, the Shari'ah regulates
every sphere of human life. No aspect of man's being, be it the spiritual or the
physical, the private and the public can ever be excluded from the Shari'ah. This
does not mean that every single issue in human life has been settled for all times to
come, but what it does mean that the Shari'ah has laid down principles and
injunctions which cannot be altered. Any issue not specifically mentioned in the
Qur'an and the Sunnah will be in the light of the principles laid down by the
Shari'ah i.e. the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
.The Shari'ah consists of things which are (i) expressly prohibited (Haraam), or (ii)
expressly enjoined (Waajib), or (iii) disliked but not prohibited (Makrooh), or (iv)
recommended but not enjoined (Mandub), or (v) simply permitted through silence
(Mubaah). Many do not realise that whatever is not prohibited is permitted and a
major part of human life lies under Mubaah, as the Shari'ah prohibits only a few
things. The Shari'ah is also not equivalent only to laws enforceable through political
authority, though they are an important and integral part of it. It overwhelmingly
consists of morals, manners and regulations, from worship to statecraft, which
depend for compliance entirely upon man's conscience.
The entire sanction behind the Shari'ah is man's inner relation with his Lord, his
love and fear of Him, and his sense of responsibility and accountability to Him,
here and after death. That is the main reason why the institutions created by the
Shari'ah like family life, abstinence and chastity have tenaciously survived for
In Islam, faith must spring forth into actions in day-to-day life, extending from
inner to outer, from individual to social, from moral to legal. It is the Shari'ah that
translates faith and moral ideals into clear, definable, viable goals and forms, and
brings them within the grasp of every ordinary man and woman.
However, the Shari'ah is not all formalism. At every step the Qur'an and the Prophet
(Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) stress the importance of inward relation to Allah,
without which outward conformity may be of no avail. For example, the prayers
cannot be performed without turning to Makkah, but, the Qur'an says, 'It is no
virtue to merely turn your face to the East or to the West" (2:187); "It is not the
flesh and blood of a sacrificial animal that finds acceptance with Allah but the
Taqwa (God-consciousness) inside you," says another verse of the Qur'an (22:37);
and, declared the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), "One who fasts all day
and prays all night but does not refrain from speaking and acting falsely gains
nothing but hunger and a sleepless night."
Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)
Source: Jamiatul Ulama (Kwazulu-Natal)
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