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Tendency of Rationalizing the Laws of the Shariah

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi Islam is a Deen – religion. Deen means a complete system of life consisting of beliefs and laws. To know the Islamic attitude towards the laws of the shari’ah, we have to study the Qur’an and Hadith. In the Qur’an and hadith, we find two different attitudes towards two different aspects of deen. 

Sayyid Muhammad RizviWhy do we have to pray five times a day?” “Why are dogs and hogs regarded unclean (najis)?” “Why is an animal slaughtered in a non-Islamic way forbidden (haram) and unclean?” These are but a few of the many questions asked by our youngsters about the laws of the Shari’ah. They want to “rationalize” each and every law of the shari’ah; they want to know the reason and purpose of the legislation of these laws. Before explaining the validity or otherwise of the “rationalization” of the shari’ah, it seems necessary to clarify the fundamental attitude of a Muslim towards the shari’ah.

Islam is a Deen – religion. Deen means a complete system of life consisting of beliefs and laws. To know the Islamic attitude towards the laws of the shari’ah, we have to study the Qur’an and Hadith. In the Qur’an and hadith, we find two different attitudes towards two different aspects of deen. These two aspects of deen are: a) the fundamental beliefs known as Usul ud-Deen, the roots of religion; b) the laws of the shari’ah, known in general as Furu ud-Deen, the branches of religion.

In regard to the “roots of religion”, Islam expects Muslims to hold our belief in the fundamentals of our religion after attaining conviction of their truth through examination and reflection. The Qur’an clearly condemns those who follow others blindly in matters of beliefs: “There is no compulsion in [accepting the] religion [of Islam because] truly the Right Way has become clearly distinct from error.” (2:256) Again, the Qur’an says: “And when it is said to them, ‘Come to what Allah has sent down, and the Messenger,’ they say, ‘Enough for us is what we found our fathers doing.’ What, even if their fathers had knowledge of naught and were not rightly-guided?” (5:104) This strong condemnation of the idol-worshippers is repeated elsewhere: “And when it is said to them, ‘Follow what Allah has sent down,’ they say, ‘No, but we will follow such things as we found our fathers doing.'” (2:170 and 31:20) Islam says that one may consider the views and opinions of others, but that one should only accept that which is reasonable to believe: “So give (O Muhammad) good tidings to My servants who give ear to the word and follow the fairest of it. Those are they whom Allah has guided, and those are men possessed of minds.” (39:17)

Likewise, in the books of narrations, we find the Prophet and the Imams of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) using intellectual arguments in matters of beliefs to convince their opponents or the seekers of truth. This itself is an example and Sunnah for the Muslims to base our beliefs on understanding and conviction. But when it comes to the “branches of religion”, Islam expects absolute obedience from Muslims. The reason of this expectation is very obvious: once a Muslim has believed, by his own free will, in Allah as the Creator and the Wise Author of laws, in Muhammad as the infallible Messenger of Allah, and in the Qur’an as the message of Allah, it follows as a necessary consequence that he must adhere to the shari’ah. This absolute obedience regarding the shari’ah can be inferred from the following verses:

“It behooves not a believing man and believing woman that they should have any choice in their affairs when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter; and whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he surely has strayed off a manifest straying.” (33:36)

“O you who believe! Do not take precedence before Allah and His Messenger [in matters of the shari’ah] and fear Allah; surely Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” (49:1)

“O you who believe! Obey Allah, obey the Messenger, and those who are in authority among you (i.e., the Imams).” (4:59)

“We have not sent a Messenger but to be obeyed.” (4:64)

To summarize: In Islamic beliefs, a Muslim is expected to believe only after reflection; and in Islamic laws, he is expected to follow them without any reservations.

Now, we come to the problem that why such and such law of the shari’ah was legislated. Considering the reasons and purposes of the laws, the shari’ah can be divided into four categories:

The First Category

The laws whose reasons and purposes are self-evident, like helping the needy is highly recommended, killing is forbidden, paying taxes like khums and zakat is obligatory. One does not need any expertise or extraordinary intelligence to know that helping the needy is good, paying taxes is necessary for preserving the financial equilibrium in the society, and killing and lying is evil.

The Second Category

The laws whose reasons and purposes have been explained in the Qur’an and hadith, like intoxicants are forbidden, interest is prohibited, fasting in the month of Ramadan is obligatory, and prayers is obligatory.

The Qur’an and the hadith have said that intoxicants are among the main causes of evil, because an intoxicated person is no longer in control of himself. Although it took the world a long time and a bitter experience to realize the harm of drunkenness, Islam declared its harm and evil 1400 years before by saying that “its sin is greater than its [financial or other] profit.” (2:219)

Interest is prohibited. The Qur’an and hadith have explained the harm of interest. Interest leads to destruction of the poor section of the society, and all wealth gravitates towards the already wealthy group. [1]

Fasting is a physical and spiritual training which brings the servants of Allah nearer to Him and makes them more obedient to the shari’ah.

Prayer is a means of expressing our gratitude to Allah. “O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided you with and thank Allah.” (2:172) It is an important way of achieving peace of mind. “Surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest” (13:28). And it is also a very effective method of making the believer more obedient to the laws of Allah. “Surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil.” (29:45)

There are many traditions of our Imams explaining the reasons and purposes of many laws of the shari’ah. Shaikh as-Saduq has collected many of these narrations in his ‘Ilal ash-Sharaya.

The Third Category

The laws whose reasons and purposes have not been explained in the Qur’an or hadith, but the rising horizons of human knowledge have helped in understanding their purpose and usefulness, for example, why the meat of hog is forbidden, why circumcision is highly recommended by the shari’ah, and why only the fish which has scales is permitted in Islam. [2]

For the benefit of circumcision, we quote Sherman Silber who says that: “There are a number of reasons why circumcision is beneficial and why it ought to be performed in infancy. First, it prevents cancer of the penis in later life. Cancer of penis generally occurs when there has been carelessness in taking care of one’s foreskin. A second benefit of circumcision is that the wives of circumcised men are less commonly afflicted with cancer of the cervix. The most common benefit of circumcision is that it prevents accumulation of oils and secretions (called smegma) under the foreskin, which lead to infection, swelling, and sometimes contraction of the foreskin so the tip of the penis is trapped inside.” [3]

About the fish, it has been said that the fishes that do not have scales are harmful to human beings. Based on that research, American troops in the east were directed that “tropical marine fishes without scales were to be left alone.”

It must be mentioned here that the reasons of the shari’ah laws which have been discovered by human knowledge cannot be regarded as the actual reason (ratio legis) for the legislation of those laws, because the human knowledge is still in its infancy whereas Islam, the final shari’ah of Allah, is to stay in practice up to the end of this world. However, the scientific facts can be used to explain the usefulness and benefits of the laws of the shari’ah. 

The Fourth Category

The laws whose reasons and purposes have neither been explained in the Qur’an and hadith, nor the new advancement in human knowledge has been able to explain them. For example, why four units in Dhohr, Asr, and Isha prayers, while only three in Maghrib, and two in Fajr?

As far as the first three types of laws are concerned, there is not much problem in explaining their reasons and purposes. The problem arises when one starts to rationalize the laws which come under the fourth category. 

Regarding the laws of the fourth category, the only thing which can be said is that a Muslim should have complete faith that there surely are useful purposes in these types of laws. The purposes can be of material or spiritual nature, or both. Why we should have such a confidence in these laws of the shari’ah? Because we, the Shia Ithna Asharis, believe that all the actions of Allah have purpose, and that they are for the benefit of human beings; and this includes the laws of the shari’ah. [4] On basis of this belief, we must have confidence that all His laws (including the ones whose purposes are still unknown to us) have a purpose and benefit for human beings.

One more thing which must be clarified at this point is that it is not the responsibility of the scholars to discover and explain the purpose and reason underlying the laws of the shari’ah. Their only duty is to explain the laws of the shari’ah. The people responsible for discovering and explaining the purposes of the laws of the shari’ah are those Muslim intellectuals who are experts of modern science. Unfortunately, very few of them are interested in this aspect of the shari’ah, and those who are interested lack the knowledge of Qur’an and hadith.

The belief that although we might not know the reason and purpose of a certain law of the shari’ah it surely has a good reason and useful purpose behind it can be understood from the following episode in the Qur’an. This episode also shows that if we are made aware of its reason, we would readily admit that it was the very right thing to do. 

One day while preaching to his people, Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) thought that Allah has given him a great privilege and that he is the most learned among mankind. Allah was not pleased with even such a slight indication of pride in the mind of Musa, and so Jibrail was sent to inform Musa that there is a person among the servants of Allah who is more learned than him. He was also given an address to go and meet this more learned person. Musa, along with one of his disciples, went to meet the learned person who is named in our narrations as Khidr. The Qur’an narrates the details of their meeting:

Musa: Can I follow you so that you may teach me the right knowledge of what you have been taught [by Allah]?
Khidr: Surely you cannot have patience with me. How can you have patience in [the things or actions] of which you do not have a comprehensive knowledge?
Musa: If Allah wills, you will find me patient, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.
Khidr: If you would follow me, then do not question me about anything until I myself speak to you about it.

So they went their way until they reached a river where they embarked in a boat. When they were in the boat, Khidr made a hole in it.

Musa: Have you made a hole in it to drown its inmates? Surely you have done a grievous thing!
Khidr: Did I not say that you will not be able to have patience with me?
Musa: O Khidr, do not blame me for what I forgot, and do not constrain me to a difficult thing in my affair.

Then they went on until they met a boy. Khidr slew that boy.

Musa: Have you killed an innocent person who had not killed someone else?! Certainly you have done an evil thing.
Khidr: Didn’t I say to you that you will not be able to have patience with me.
Musa: If I ask you about anything after this, then do not keep me in your company; indeed, you shall then have found an excuse in my case [to dismiss me from your company].

They went on until they came to a township. They asked food from the people of that town, but no one accepted them as guests. In that town they found a wall which was on the point of falling in ruin, so Khidr repaired the wall and put it into the right state.

Musa: If you had wished, you might certainly have taken a payment for this work.
Khidr: This shall be the parting between you and me. But before you leave, I will inform you of the significance of my actions which you could not understand:
– As for the boat, it belonged to some poor men who worked on the river. I wished to damage the boat because a king was coming behind them who seized every good boat by force.
– As for the boy, his parents were believers, and I feared lest he would oppress them by rebellion and disbelief. And we desired that their Lord might give then in his place a better one than him in purity and nearer to having compassion.
– As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them, and their father was a righteous man; so I rebuilt the wall because your Lord desired that when they attain maturity, they should take out their treasure, which was a mercy from your Lord.
And moreover, I did not do it of my accord. This is the significance of that with which you could not have patience. (18:60-82)

If such a great prophet of Allah like Musa could not understand the significance of the actions of a fellow human being who was more learned than him, then how can we expect to know the wisdom and purpose of each and every law which has been legislated by Allah, the Wise, the Omniscient and the Omnipotent?!

References:

[1] For a detailed discussion on interest, see Allama Tabatabai’s al-Mizan (translated by S.S.A. Rizvi), vol. i, Wofis, Tehran 1982, pp. 295-303.

[2] For a detail discussion on pork, see Pork by S.S. A. Rizvi, published by Wofis, P.O. Box 2245, Tehran.

[3] Sherman Silber, The Male. New York, 1981, pp. 115-116.

[4] Allama Hilli, al-Babu ‘l-Hadi ‘Ashar, (translated by W.M. Miller), Luzac, London 1958, pp. 45-46.

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28 comments

  1. Salamu Alykum,

    Nice article!

  2. An exceptionally well-written and much-need article!

    It should also be noted that those laws of the [i]shariah [/i]which make absolutely no sense to us are the ones that really test our faith. In other words, if a rule makes sense to us, then if we obey it, we are simply doing something that “makes sense” and we would have done anyway. Meanwhile, when a law of [i]shariah [/i]doesn’t make any sense to us, but we still sacrifice our faulty [i]aql[/i] to Allah’s greater wisdom, then that is the true essence of “submission”. 😀

    May Allah grant the Maulana health and a long life. He is truly an asset for the North American Shia community. 🙂

  3. mohamad naboulsi

    amazing article and well-needed for our community members to have excuses to sin because a lack of understanding, great work
    salam

  4. Salaam Alaikum
    If there is a wound on one’s body that never seems to heal and is smaller than the tip of their thumb what must be done about wudhu?
    Wasalaam

  5. Assalam Alaikum

    I don’t think Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi checks the site too often. In regards to your question, Ayatollah Sistani states in his book Islamic Laws:

    285. If a person has a cut or wound on his face, or hands, and the blood from it does not stop, and if water is not harmful for him, he should, after washing the healthy parts of that limb in proper sequence, put the place of wound or cut in Kurr-water o r running water, and press it a little so that the blood may stop. Then he should pass his finger on the wound or cut, within the water, from above downwards, so that water may flow on it. This way his Wudhu will be in order.

    http://www.najaf.org/english/book/1/

  6. Very beautiful article

  7. The article states: “One more thing which must be clarified at this point is that it is not the responsibility of the scholars to discover and explain the purpose and reason underlying the laws of the shari’ah. Their only duty is to explain the laws of the shari’ah. “

    Well, if the scholar does not think about these things, he or she is going to have trouble deriving the law. If you don’t think about the purpose, then you automatically give up understanding whether a particular statute still serves the purpose it once did, and therefore miss the point of ijtihad, which is to derive laws that help to steer the society and its people according to certain Islamic principles. How can you reach a place without knowing what the goals are? How can you reach a conclusion that a law is still valid unless you have some idea of what it was supposed to achieve originally?

  8. CA, uynderstanding how laws are derived from wider legal principles is not the same as trying to find a justification to satisfy one’s mind. There is a big difference — one’s personal feelings are not a replacement for a legal expert examining precedents, principles, and carrying out justice.

    Obviously the article is not suggesting accepting everything at face value without thinking about whether there is a basis for that, but it IS saying that it’s silly of people who want a reason for everything to satisfy their own mind, even though they don’t have the first clue about how Islamic law works. Experts in a field cannot be replaced by laypeople.

  9. No, the article said scholars have no responsibility to discover the purpose and reason for laws. This is nonsense from where I’m standing. On the contrary, that’s exactly their responsibility. Unless they get into thinking about these things, there is no way to distinguish between the laws that were specific to the circumstances of a specific time and place and those of more general application. I guess it comes down to whether a person conceptualizes Islamic law as a set of unchanging, rigid statutes, or a set of timeless principles and goals whose application , depending on the law, may change with changing circumstances.

  10. CA, right after the one sentence you keep quoting out of context, the scholar says:

    “The people responsible for discovering and explaining the purposes of the laws of the shari’ah are those Muslim intellectuals who are experts of modern science.”

    So obviously, he is not saying it is NOT important for the right reasons to be known or learned. What he is saying is that a cleric is not supposed to take the role of people who have studied their whole lives to be specialists in certain areas like doctors and engineer.

    The article also says: “As far as the first three types of laws are concerned, there is not much problem in explaining their reasons and purposes. The problem arises when one starts to rationalize the laws which come under the fourth category.”

    This clearly means that there are three types of laws you can find out the reasons to. Can you tell me why the evening prayer is three rakats or why is it that the Friday prayer is said out loud as opposed to quietly? You are not going to be able to find out the reason. I don’t see the shame in that.

    CA, you are obviously trying to start a controversy out of nothing. This is not Twitter where our attention span only lasts 140 characters. I dare say the scholar has studied Islamic law a lot longer than you and has written books on the changing elements of Islamic law. Be humble and don’t try to show off your knowledge as if you know better than him. Just seeing how you handled this article shows you are neither prudent nor a person with much knowledge.

  11. Dear CA.

    You wrote,

    “I guess it comes down to whether a person conceptualizes Islamic law as a set of unchanging, rigid statutes, or a set of timeless principles and goals whose application , depending on the law, may change with changing circumstances.”

    If Islamic law was constantly changing, what would be left 1400 years later if it was up to fickle humans who will never [i]fully[/i] know Allah’s goals in making each law?? Wouldn’t we decide back then, when travel was so difficult and time-consuming, that going for Hajj is not mandatory? That you can do it from afar or send your slave or something, even if you are fit and wealthy? I’m sure we could have made up some very nice-sounding reason by pulling a verse or hadith out of context. Like some people like to do today when they are not qualified enough to even interpret a single hadith.

    The laws are for us, devised by our Creator, and we can’t even begin to imagine the reasons behind them. Even with alcohol, forget drunkenness, liver damage, and detriment to society, which is what we assume now is a reason behind the law forbidding it. Why is it that our prayers aren’t accepted for a period of time after eating/drinking a najis thing? There are spiritual effects upon us from disobeying the law that we aren’t even aware of, and maybe even more physical effects that we’ll trace back to alcohol/pork in a few centuries.

    In the meantime, were we supposed to just go ahead and disobey the law because we did not have the technology to understand some of it it hundreds of years ago, especially if having just one glass of wine did not appear to cause ill health or drunkness? Should the scholars have tried to study what’s behind the law and said, ok, just one glass in a day is ok? Especially when they were without the technology to see liver damage etc? Should they have said, ok, the principle of good health and the goal of having a sober society will still be maintained, let’s go ahead and allow one glass? Who are they to say that those were the main principles and goals Allah (swt) has in mind?

    When you mention if Islam is looked at as a “set of timeless principles and goals whose application , depending on the law, may change with changing circumstances.”,

    Should we go ahead in the future, and using the principle of good heart health and keeping in mind that we’re avoiding what we think is the goal behind the law of avoiding drunkeness and liver damage and their effects on society, should we go ahead and make a new law saying one glass of red wine with a meal a day is halal, because the circumstances have changed and we can avoid addiction with a new pill, and cure liver damage?

    How can laws that are clearly stated in the Quran ever change?

    Why should the scholars of the past, when they did not have the technology we have today, have spent their time trying to understand why it was forbidden? What would have been the purpose? If they learn of some obvious reasons, that’s all fine and dandy, but there is NO WAY they could have know what Allah has in mind when He made these laws. Scholars would only be able to guess. So what’s the point? The laws are not going to change.

    There are reasons behind these laws we can’t even begin to understand. Or maybe we can begin, but what we see is not going to be the big picture of creation, we aren’t going to see the main points and all the different spiritual and physical aspects behind the law.

    Humans are limited in this regard. Accept that. You are not the Law-maker. And Islam is not a democracy that must hold everything up transparently. This is God, your Creator, we’re talking about. What He decides is what is best for us. And laws have been set down very clearly, there’s nothing confusing about it. You’ve been told to follow them, and since Allah is Just, He would never tell us to follow a law that wasn’t good for us. How it’s good for us is not for us to understand. We are to go about our lives according to the law.

    For new situations we have the maraje, the experts, to derive new rulings based on original laws. They have studied this stuff for decades, that’s why they are marjae taqlid. But essential Islamic laws on their own are not to change just because the times have. They stand as they are, and Allah has decreed in the Quran that we are to follow the them without question. What is there to debate about?

  12. ————-Look at the article in full.
    “…in regard to the “roots of religion”, Islam expects Muslims to hold our belief in the fundamentals of our religion after attaining conviction of their truth through examination and reflection. The Qur’an clearly condemns those who follow others blindly in matters of beliefs….”

    “…But when it comes to the “branches of religion”, Islam expects absolute obedience from Muslims. The reason of this expectation is very obvious: once a Muslim has believed, by his own free will, in Allah as the Creator and the Wise Author of laws, in Muhammad as the infallible Messenger of Allah, and in the Qur’an as the message of Allah, it follows as a necessary consequence that he must adhere to the shari’ah. This absolute obedience regarding the shari’ah can be inferred from the following verses:
    “It behooves not a believing man and believing woman that they should have any choice in their affairs when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter; and whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he surely has strayed off a manifest straying.” (33:36)…”

    “…To summarize: In Islamic beliefs, a Muslim is expected to believe only after reflection; and in Islamic laws, he is expected to follow them without any reservations.”
    ——–

    If it says right in the Quran that a Muslim is to follow the Sharia, that he is not to have any choice in the matter and must obey Allah, then obviously it stands to reason that there are laws that are beyond our understanding, beyond our choosing. If it was left up to us, we would have changed many things that we didn’t understand

    While scholars do the research for new laws, such as whether smoking would be considered haram, it’s not their responsibility to EXPLAIN the reasoning behind every single law to the layperson, they just have to teach them what to do, because in the case of the branches of religion (as opposed to the roots), a person is supposed to just follow, do taqleed.

    But even the scholars do not claim to know the reasoning behind the laws, they understand that Allah knows best. They make new rulings based on the original laws, that’s why you see the “If…then…” statements so much, they deciding according to their research, using the original laws. But they don’t claim to know the ultimate Whys behind the laws, they do the best according to their knowledge, and they have BEEN GIVEN PERMISSION to do so. Ijithad for them and taqleed for us is MANDATORY.

    Why else would we need the Prophets and Imams to guide us if we were able to get to the point behind the laws on our own? Why would we need the Twelfth Imam (as) in this technologically advanced day and age, when we could study the scientific aspects behind many laws such as about alcohol? The Infallibles are there to teach us the application of Islam, if there is new application to be done, he is the one authorized to do it. [b]While the Twelfth Imam (as) is in occultation, the marja taqlid is authorized to do it.[/b] And such a scholar knows what he’s doing.

  13. [quote]CA, right after the one sentence you keep quoting out of context, the scholar says:

    “The people responsible for discovering and explaining the purposes of the laws of the shari’ah are those Muslim intellectuals who are experts of modern science.”

    [/quote]

    I read the whole article with care, thanks. I didn’t quote the statement out of context, and read the later part about scientific specialists. My very problem is that I see him as passing the buck. He’s saying maraja have no responsibility for finding reasons (implicitly giving the matter a 2nd tier importance jurisprudentially), but that scientific specialists can amuse themselves with the matter.
    In my view, maraja have precisely the largest reason to concern themselves with these matters. It’s at the heart of what they are supposed to be doing.

    [quote]The article also says: “As far as the first three types of laws are concerned, there is not much problem in explaining their reasons and purposes. The problem arises when one starts to rationalize the laws which come under the fourth category.”
    [/quote]

    This is beside the point of my objection, which is that Rizvi characterizes the issue of the reasons and purposes of law as something outside the responsibility of the maraja. I did not claim Rizvi said explorations of reasons were forbidden.

    [quote]CA, you are obviously trying to start a controversy out of nothing. This is not Twitter where our attention span only lasts 140 characters. I dare say the scholar has studied Islamic law a lot longer than you and has written books on the changing elements of Islamic law. Be humble and don’t try to show off your knowledge as if you know better than him. Just seeing how you handled this article shows you are neither prudent nor a person with much knowledge. [/quote]

    If you’re not prepared to respond with civility to comments, then don’t put a box for them on the site, or be silent.

  14. [quote]Why else would we need the Prophets and Imams to guide us if we were able to get to the point behind the laws on our own? Why would we need the Twelfth Imam (as) in this technologically advanced day and age, when we could study the scientific aspects behind many laws such as about alcohol? The Infallibles are there to teach us the application of Islam, if there is new application to be done, he is the one authorized to do it. While the Twelfth Imam (as) is in occultation, the marja taqlid is authorized to do it. And such a scholar knows what he’s doing. [/quote]

    Did it ever occur to you that perhaps the prophets and imams were there to guide us through the earlier, childlike stage of our existencea s a species to try to give us some mental tools to develop ourselves to a point where we could think through such things for ourselves? That the 12th imam stepped away out of the limelight to give us space to develop in this way? That what he is waiting for is for us to develop to the point where he has fully thinking followers who can accomplish things under his guidance rather than dullards who can do nothing but mindlessly follow instructions?

    Ever heard the “Human Islam” series by Arif Abdulhussein? It has much more on this line of thinking, which there is not space to fully elaborate in a small comment box here.

    [quote]
    If Islamic law was constantly changing, what would be left 1400 years later if it was up to fickle humans who will never fully know Allah’s goals in making each law?? [/quote]

    Didn’t say everything changes. Read more carefully. Said the applications of some principles may change as the environment in which they apply does. If a law still accomplished its purpose and is the best way to reach the purpose, there is no reason to change it.

  15. I didn’t “put a box” on the site, I have nothing to do with the site.

    You’re contradicting yourself:

    1. “My very problem is that I see him as passing the buck. He’s saying maraja have no responsibility for finding reasons …”

    2. “I did not claim Rizvi said explorations of reasons were forbidden.”

    If you can’t be consistent in your points, then you probably need to ask yourself why you are taking sides on this issue.

    By the way, I don’t need your permission to post on this site, CA.

  16. Please don’t try to give your ideas weight by saying Sheikh Arif supports them. He has nothing to do with this conversation.

    You are really a lost person … perhaps you’ll be saying that tomorrow we don’t need to offer prayers either because we’re so evolved or that we don’t need the Quran because we are able to think things through and come to all the answers ourselves.

    You’ve basically exposed yourself as a humanist, not a person who sees that they cannot have all the answers. If you think that we can get all the answers during the absence of the 12th Imam, then what do we need him for? Are you suggesting that we can know what he knows, astaghfirullah? Your views are quite frightening, frankly, and your whole aqeedah is shaky!

  17. [quote]didn’t “put a box” on the site, I have nothing to do with the site.

    You’re contradicting yourself:

    1. “My very problem is that I see him as passing the buck. He’s saying maraja have no responsibility for finding reasons …”

    2. “I did not claim Rizvi said explorations of reasons were forbidden.”

    If you can’t be consistent in your points, then you probably need to ask yourself why you are taking sides on this issue.

    By the way, I don’t need your permission to post on this site, CA.
    [/quote]

    There’s no contradiction between the two statements. I haven’t the foggiest clue why you would think there is.

    [quote]Please don’t try to give your ideas weight by saying Sheikh Arif supports them. He has nothing to do with this conversation.

    You are really a lost person … perhaps you’ll be saying that tomorrow we don’t need to offer prayers either because we’re so evolved or that we don’t need the Quran because we are able to think things through and come to all the answers ourselves. [/quote]

    Wow. hyperbole much?

    [quote]You’ve basically exposed yourself as a humanist, not a person who sees that they cannot have all the answers. If you think that we can get all the answers during the absence of the 12th Imam, then what do we need him for? Are you suggesting that we can know what he knows, astaghfirullah? Your views are quite frightening, frankly, and your whole aqeedah is shaky!
    [/quote]

    and your akhlaq is abysmal. As for what a developed ummah would need with an imam, I gave some outline of an answer above, as much as is possible within the limits of the sort of reply that is appropriate in a comment box. This really isn’t the place for an essay. I might suggest that you read what someone says before responding to what he says. I might also suggest that if you are unclear about what exactly someone’s POV is, that you ask a few simple questions to clarify in a well-mannered fashion rather than leaping to wild assumptions and hurling abuse.

  18. Salaam to all… The comments mentioned about respected Sayyid Rizvi’s article are truly food for thought, but I think the way the comments came across was not ideal. The subsequent responses did not help either, but insha Allah we can all reflect on the situation and remember that our intention should be to find the truth.

    To understand what the respected Sayyid wrote about the responsibility of the scholars to discover the reasons of the laws, one must consider the fact that it is impossible to know the TRUE REASON (milaak) of any law except through infallible inspiration. Why? Because it is from the knowledge of Allah which is only revealed to those whom He gives permission. Those who receive permission do not receive it by reading books or studying (as the scholars deduce the laws). The scholars may possibly find out “wisdoms” or “possible reasons” for a law…but as for the true reason, that’s not in our ball park. Even if it was possible for the scholar to know it through divine inspiration, since he is not infallible, and a 100% intellectual proof is not available, it would not make a difference to the rest of the people who did not receive divine inspiration.

    So…Since the issue in question was the relevance of a law based on its true purpose, and the true purpose cannot be known to all (in the explanation above), then it would not make sense to say it is the responsibility of the scholar to find the purpose. Rather, he must deduce the law through the legitimate means and based on other general laws which he deduces, sometimes the context of some laws changes, etc…that’s how the laws may change from time to time…etc…Think about it….

    Wassalaam

  19. Wasalamz Servant,

    Thanks for the wonderfully concise summary of the article. The comments appear to have misinterpreted the true content of the article. As far as the comments go, our Ulema, especially Sayyid Rizvi deserves our gratitude for considering us worthy and contributing to Islamic Insights. If we continue to embark on adventures which show disrespect towards what the Sayyid has written, we are only to blame ourselves, if such esteemed scholars reconsider our requests for contributions in the future. As the last post points out, understanding the “why” behind every statement in our faith is sometimes not possible. In fact going to the other extreme and to question each and every single statement risks misleading one outside the scope of this religion. So at times, one should not go too deep and debate each and every single statement put out there. It is times like the latter when one should let things go and accept that at times, “ignorance is bliss”.

  20. I agree to some extent with the last two posters although how much insulting of respected scholars, twisting their words, and extremism can one take? Especially when the posts are saying blatantly contradictory things such as:

    1. “My very problem is that I see him as passing the buck. He’s saying maraja have no responsibility for finding reasons …”

    2. “I did not claim Rizvi said explorations of reasons were forbidden.”

    Servant, it’s one thing to try to defuse tension by being neutral, but where an idea is wrong it should be pointed out directly. I think it’s fair to say that the responses to the comments made about the scholar were very direct and helpful and basically said the same thing you just said.

  21. Insulting? Not at all. Where? To be quite upfront, I have serious misgivings about some of Rizvi’s opinions, for one, his writings on Islam and apostasy, but in my universe, principled disagreement is not an insult.
    You’ve been plenty rude however in hurling insults and drawing unwarranted conclusions about what I am arguing.
    Twisting words? Nope. Rather, a direct response to the meaning of words that were at the heart of the thrust of the article.
    Extremism? Hardly.
    As for contradictions claim, you seem to be having some serious reading comprehension issues. There’s no contradiction. Rizvi didn’t say there was anything wrong with seeking reasons for laws. He did however say that maraja had no responsibility to seek out and explain reasons (and it is clear that Rizvi speaks in general here and not merely about his 4th category of laws). There is a difference between saying that something is less important to research and saying it is forbidden to research. No contradiction. Hooked on phonics – it can work for you, too!

    That aside, some of the rhetoric and examples used have been misleading both from yourself and from Mr. Rizvi. This debate about rationalizing laws is not a simple academic exercise, but sits in a context of an ongoing larger debate about Islamic law’s encounter with modernity. Those who assert that the timeless part of Islamic law consists of principles that aim toward certain goals, and that the specific statutes of the law CAN change are not talking about abolishing hajj or making 4 prayers instead of 5 or changing the night prayer to 2 units from 3 or about abandoning fasting. No one argues this. This is a cheap slander tactic to disrupt the discussion and paint the other side as “Liberal (presumably God-hating as well) Extremists (TM).” Nor do they, or I have any fundamental disagreement with the fact that certain things you are not going to know a reason for.

    They , and I, are concerned principally about specific practical matters of laws that had a purpose and were quite acceptable given the context of another earlier time, but which are problematic today.
    Examples: Women’s ability to be scholars to be followed, women’s ability to lead nations, to work outside the home and move freely.
    The issue of human slavery, allowed in the early days, with certain new restrictions applied. Similarly concubinage of prisoners of war.
    Questions of what is riba – is it interest? Or exploitation? How to set up financial systems that allow material progress but meet Islamic values.
    Corporal punishments – appropriate in a more savage time, but appropriate today?
    Minimum marriage age of young women – conceivable for a biologically precocious 9 year old to possibly be ready for marriage in a simple agrarian past, but today, is it consistent with rights of young women to be educated and develop themselves?
    Execution of apostates.
    Testimony of women.
    Rights of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim societies.
    Etc.

    Of course man’s knowledge can never fully reach that of God or of the fully enlightened ones. But it is quite fair to expect that God has given us the mental hardware such that with thought and learning we can understand the reasonings behind practical social, economic, and political laws.
    We don’t follow some pagan mystery religion. We follow a religion of reason, and we have the capability to understand laws of nature, including human nature.

    The need to understand the reasons behind practical laws affecting the social sphere has profound importance to efforts of the global Muslim community to confront the challenges of modernity and chart a safe course between a Pharisaic, rigid adherance to the superficial letter of old precedent and the other extreme of a Libertine total abandonment of religious principle. Of course, for basic religious practices we can simply be satisfied that there is a reason, or with simply a vague understanding, and rest relatively certainly that for such basic things, that we can assume a timeless nature to them. Fasting and prayer and hajj and religious taxes still feel natural and right even in 2009. Many of these other things don’t ring so true anymore, and need some re-examination to see if it is really Islam we are dealing with, or Islam’s previous solution to conditions that are no longer relevant.

    I pray this makes it a little clearer to some of the others where I am coming from.

  22. There you go again. You’re saying you’re not insulting and then you’re calling this scholar “Mr” or just by his family name which is not only bringing him down to a lay person’s level, it makes you look remarkably petty. Don’t throw rocks if you’re going to live in a glass house.

    Let’s look at what you said again, I think it’s important:

    1. “My very problem is that I see him as passing the buck. He’s saying maraja have no responsibility for finding reasons …”

    2. “I did not claim Rizvi said explorations of reasons were forbidden.”

    Let’s add to this your third statement:

    “There is a difference between saying that something is less important to research and saying it is forbidden to research.”

    Just because something is [i]less important[/i] does not mean it is not important. You can have two things which are important, but one of them more so.

    Yes, I’ll say it again. You’re an extremist CA — extremely bad mannered. You act as though we’ve never heard of laws that change (mutaghayira) and laws that are fixed (saabita), or kubra-sugra principles. First fix your akhlaq, then talk about Islam. You’re welcome to disagree if you want, but you’re just throwing mud. Your arrogance does not make you look any more intelligent. Much of the stuff you are presenting as though it were so amazingly groundbreaking is discussed in the very beginning of hawza with qawa’id fiqhiyah. Maulana Rizvi has addressed these topics many times in his lectures and I’ve had discussions with him myself.

    Do us all a favor and study. Ahlul-Bait never had patience for people who tried to slam others who were better. This is the characteristic of those who conspired in saqifah, and, in order to elevate themselves, insulted Imam Ali and attacked his character.

    At least we have learned from you how NOT to be, which I thank you for! 😀

  23. Furthermore, as you’ve been told already by at least five people on this thread, Maulana Rizvi has clearly pointed out that there is still a responsibility of people in the community to focus on the reasons behind laws. So, to break it down, there are two groups of people who have strengths and things they should focus on.

    Should lay people not study Islamic laws? Not at all. Should scholars not study the natural world and the reasons for things? No. But clearly some people are better suited for certain tasks. And, you may hate this, but there are times when NOBODY can know what is the reason for something.

    If God’s own representatives can be unaware of something, then that should say something to you. Unless you would rather do away with using the Qur’an and stick with what makes sense to you, in which case you have much bigger problems, CA.

  24. Wa salaam, wa salaam. 😉

    If other’s were not reading CA’s words, I would have just given him the same and walked away along time ago. As it stands, CA hasn’t answered the issues raised and should not even talk to me now. I’ll take that as conceding defeat.

    For everyone else, once again the weakness of CA’s ideas are quite clear. Watch out for what he says — as has been proven, if follow CA’s idea’s you might as well throw away your need for the 12th Imam (aj) to remove misunderstandings and incorrect thinking in our faith.

  25. “Don’t listen to this man! He is crazy!”

    Historically, a certain type of person has always relied on this sort of line.

  26. Hey, what happened to the “Salaama. Salaama”? 8)

    As far as I recall, I didn’t say you were crazy, just that you’re foolish. Historically, a certain type of person has always relied on this sort of line. 😉

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