Objectives of the Sharī'ah

Sharī‘ah is principally based upon the benefit of the beings. That is why it holds that originally and essentially all beneficial actions are legitimate, all harmful ones illegitimate. The divine attributes Rahmān (the Compassionate) and Rahīm (the Merciful) imply that Allāh  is Oft Forgiving, protecting His creatures, “preserving them, guiding them, and leading them to clear light and higher life.” The word Rahmān expresses Allāh’s love to man. Therefore, Allāh’s relation to man is the relation par excellence of love, sympathy, concern, solicitude, compassion and mercy.”

Both the words Rahmān and Rahīm are derived from Rahmah ‘which signifies tenderness, requiring the exercise of beneficence and thus comprising the idea of love and mercy.’ While Rahmān denotes Allāh’s tenderness towards all His creatures in general, Rahīm denotes His tenderness towards His worshippers in particular. Justice being the fundamental principle existing in every commandment of the Sharī‘ah, its every rule bears witness to this generalization when it takes into consideration human nature and its general weaknesses and basic needs. Consider, for example, some of its rules:

  1. Difficulty gives rise to convenience.
  2. When a matter becomes rigid, it turns flexible.
  3. It is not legitimate to fulfill one’s needs by encroaching upon other’s rights.
  4. Need becomes necessity, be it general or specific.
  5. It is not legitimate to harm anybody or tolerate harm.

From the above many sub-rules are deduced of which a few are:

  1. Harm should be stopped as far as possible.
  2. Harm should not be ended by replacing it with the same thing.
  3. Greater harm can be discontinued by replacing it by smaller harm.
  4. A limited harm can be tolerated when it stops a general harm.
  5. Stopping of harmful things is better than gaining of beneficial things.
  6. One who has access to confidence mustn’t act on doubt.
  7. Anything which is yet to come into existence, its nature cannot be decided.
  8. Anything, the taking of which is unlawful, its giving is also unlawful.
  9. When Allāh’s right and man’s right come at the same time, man’s right is given priority for Allāh   has no need and man has need.
  10. Laws of Punishment cannot be implemented in presence of doubt.

The objectivesof the Sharī‘ah are six. They constitute the prime values whose actualization is desirable in order to materialize the purpose of creation and aim at preserving: (i) Life   (ii) Progeny (iii) Property (iv) Honour (v) Dīn (vi) and reason.

Preservation of Dīn

“Religion” is a loose rendering of the word Dīn, which, unlike the western concept of religion, encompasses man’s whole life, in this world and in the Hereafter. Here it fittingly means belief in the Oneness of God and all other fundamentals of faith that follow it. All the commandments of Sharī‘ah are fundamentally faith-based and any such commandment, which ever goes against faith is irreligious and hence rejected. While on one hand the Sharī‘ah commands that the faithful must obey their leaders, it orders that any such kind of obedience to the ruler that leads to disobedience to Allāh is strictly prohibited. At one place Allāh  says:

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you.” (4:59)

Rasūlullah  sallallahu alayhi wa sallam explains this as under:

“It is obligatory upon a Muslim to listen to obey (his amīr) whether he likes (his amīr’s order) or not unless he is not commanded to commit sin. So when an amīr orders for doing a sinful act, then (you should) neither listen (to his order) nor obey (his command).”

Preservation of Life

After mentioning the first ever murder on the earth committed by Ādam’s son Qābīl (Cain) when he killed his own innocent brother Hābīl (Abel), the holy Qur’ān declares in clear terms:

“Whoso kills a person, except for a person, or for corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso brings life to one it shall be as if he had brought life to all mankind.” (5:32)

Thus in the Islāmic Sharī‘ah “the murder of an individual is a crime against the whole community, or rather humanity.” On the other hand saving a life from unjust murder is a service to the humanity as if the whole humanity has been saved from injustice and peace and security has been safeguarded.  Moreover, in this Āyah the Arabic word Ihya’ is here synonymous with Ibqa’, which means not only letting a person live but protecting his life also.

Preservation of Progeny

The Pagan Arabs used to bury their female children alive. The holy Qur’ān puts an end to this heinous crime thereby paving way for the sustenance of coming generations:

“When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned—for what crime she was killed.” (81:8-9)

Not only this, but even killing of the yet unborn fetus is prohibited: Once a woman killed another woman with a stone. The later was pregnant and her fetus also died with the blow. This case was brought to the holy Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. He decided that the murderer woman should pay the diyah (blood money) against the fetus by setting free a slave (male or female) and the diyah of the slain woman should be paid by the murderer’s family members, her heirs and her son.

Allāh says:

“Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin.” (17:31)

Thus feticide has been strictly prohibited by Islām as Harām. It is in Bukhārī and Muslim that Allāh’s Messenger sallallahu alayhi wa sallam , when asked by ‘Abdullāh b. Mas‘ūd about what constitutes the grave sins replied that killing of children for fear of poverty is one of the heinous sins.

Preservation of Property

Rasulullah10sallallahu alayhi wa sallam has made one’s property harām for another (except through lawful means). He said:

“So your blood, your property and your honour are sacred to each other.”

Again, it is narrated by Bukhārī and Muslim that Allāh’s Messenger sallallahu alayhi wa sallam  said:

“One who usurped the smallest piece of land, be punished by Allah by having seven earths suspended around his neck.”

Every human being has right to keep his or her personal property. Whatever one earns belongs to him:

To men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn.” (4:32)

Stealing others’ property is a grave sin. That is why a thief is punished by cutting off his hand. Allāh  says:

“As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands a retribution for their deed and exemplary punishment from Allah.”  (5:38)

Since the Sharī‘ah preserves and protects people’s property, it considers one who loses his life while protecting his legitimate wealth as a Shahīd (martyr):

The holy Qur’ān prohibits in clear terms earning of wealth through unlawful means. Even the state cannot interfere with any of its people’s lawful earnings. The following Qur’ānic commandment is for all, ruler as well as the ruled:

“And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as bait for the judges, with intent that ye may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of (other) people’s property.”   (2:188)

Preservation of honour

The Sharī‘ah protects the honour and prestige of every human being as his basic right. Allāh  says:

Let not some men (and women) among you laugh at others.”  (49:11)

Thus laughing at people in contempt and ridicule is prohibited. Again says Allāh  :

“Nor defame no be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other b (offensive) nicknames.”                (49:11)

“And spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs.”  (49:11)

In this way the Sharī‘ah has forbidden all such ways of insult. Every individual has legal right that no one injures his honour and prestige nor defames his image whether by hand or tongue. Slandering of chaste women is cursed thus:

“Those who slander chaste, indiscreet and believing women are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter: For them is a grievous chastisement.”    (24:23)

Preservation of al-‘Aql (reason)

Islām claims that all humans can know the Truth by any of the two: revelation or reason. Hence all humans are entitled to know the Truth which is translated into Law in the form of the Sharī‘ah. Man is off and on invited by the holy Qur’ān and the Sunnah to think and ponder over the phenomena taking place around him. When the holy Qur’ān rejects compulsion in the matters of religion, then it becomes clear that one has every choice to choose his way by applying his faculty of reason.

Yes, revelation can be and is sometimes beyond reason but never against it. That is why the Islāmic scholars unanimously hold reason subordinate to revelation. Hence “the Sharī‘ah declares ideological skepticism to be false, a defiance of God, and it prescribes that none may promote it to destroy the tradition of human knowledge and wisdom, or prevent anybody from appropriating it or contributing to its growth.” This fact puts a halt to the spread of ignorance and hate in the name of the so called “freedom of thought and speech”. You are not allowed to defame people or spread rumor in the society in the name of freedom. Remember that ‘your freedom ends where other’s nose begins’. One can raise his voice against the state in a democratic system but cannot resort to rebellion which is in no way acceptable. That is the reason why apostasy is liable to death in Islam because it is considered rebellion against a state which is fundamentally based upon faith. An apostate is not similar to a non-Muslim who enjoys every right as a human being. In fact a rebel loses his right to live unless he discontinues rebellion.

The fact that the holy Qur’ān has invited all to apply reason in order to understand Allāh’s Message of Truth by using the world al-‘aql and its various derivatives 49 times, (reasoning), tafaqquh (understanding) tadhakkur (perceiving) and other related words hundreds of times enables one to conclude that even belief without its proper understanding is considered blind which often bears more hatred than mutual understanding, peace and harmony.  So highly appreciated is reason in the Islamic system that the scholars of hadīth unanimously reject a hadīth as forged if it is contrary to reason and common experience in addition to some other things.