Sunday, March 14, 2010

Al-Ghazali & The Basic Purpose of Legislation in Islam: Protect the Interest of People Against Harm

Dr. Mashhad Al-Allaf

Some Muslim scholars of jurisprudence, especially Ibn Taimia (661-728 A.H./1263-1328 A.D.), said that Allah revealed such a legislative system or Shari’ah in order to achieve Justice. Other jurists said it is for the purpose of achieving happiness. And still some others, especially al-Ghazali, said it is only for the achievement and the realization of the very benefits of man on earth.

A closer look at these three approaches to Shari’ah shows that they complement each other: happiness of mankind cannot be achieved at large without justice, and justice is one of the essential benefits and interest of people on earth.

The Maqasid Model of the Existential Structure
The Islamic Divine Law or Shari’ah was revealed for one basic universal purpose: to realize or to make real the best interests of humans on earth.
Maslaha in Arabic language, which literally translates as benefit or interest, is defined by Imam al-Ghazali as that which secures a benefit or prevents harm.

The Islamic Divine Law then has a two-fold function.
12.2. Categories of Benefits in Islam
As we just mentioned Imam al-Ghazali defined Maslaha as that which secures a benefit or prevents harm. However, benefits mentioned in the Islamic Divine

Law are of three kinds:

First: accredited benefits (Masalih Mu'tabarah), which are regulated by The Lawgiver in the sense that a textual authority from the divine law could be found to prove their validity.

Second: nullified benefits (Masalih Mulghat): there are also other kinds of benefits and interests that the Shari’ah neglected because they lead to harm and hardship (Mafsadah), such as stealing or usury.

Third: unregulated benefits (al-Masalih al-Mursalah), since the benefits of people can be as numerous as their public interests, we find that the divine law did not regulate a number of these benefits. So it provides no indication as to their validity. In the principles of jurisprudence these kinds of benefits are called the unregulated benefits, and it is left for legal scholars or jurists to work on them.

Benefits and the Objectives of Shari’ah
According to Imam al-Ghazali, masalih or benefits should be harmonious and consistent with the objective (Maqasid) of the Shari’ah, since the basic purpose of legislation (tashri’) is to protect the interest of people against harm.

In regard to their importance and priority, benefits were divided by Muslim scholars into three kinds:

- The essentials (,
- The complementary (Ha.jiy.yat), and
- The embellishments (Tah.seen.niy.yat)

In relation to the masalih and its division, the existential model will consist of four circles, three of them orbiting around the central one which represents the Islamic creed and the main source of legislation:

- The circle of the Shari’ah,
- The circle of the essentials,
- The circle of the complementarities, and
- The circle of the embellishments

In Islamic culture this circle represents the Islamic belief especially the Creed (‘Aqidah) as this ‘Aqidah is presented in the Qur’an and the Sunnah or the tradition of the prophet. The Islamic Divine law represented in this core also emphasizes what is beneficial to all humans. It is like the supreme constitution of necessitation.

This circle is the source of legislation and practicality of preserving existence. Human beings should use their maximum rationalization to understand the wisdom and the benefits of such Divine legislation.

Mashhad Al-Allaf is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toledo. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee,1995.

No comments: