Thursday, December 2, 2010

"As we can see,

Qur'anic rulings and principles have been extended by scholars to ensure that the revelation remains relevant to new situations and circumstances. Scholars have also recognized that while it is important to analyze individual verses for their vocabulary, syntax, grammar, rhetorical style, and cultural and historical references, the Qur'an will be left in disjointed pieces if one does not have a broader framework that goes beyond these particularities. To this end, scholars have invoked general principles and universal values found in the Qur'an to connect, reconcile, and balance divergent rulings obtained through deductive reasoning from particular Qur'anic texts. in the early centuries of Islam, legal scholars referred to concepts such as istihsan (setting aside a particular ruling if it will have a negative impact), istislah (choosing a ruling that benefits people), and ma'ruf (what is "fair" or "reasonable") to empower them to set aside a judgement arrived at through narrow legal reasoning for the sake of another judgment that is more in keeping with the overall spirit and values of the Qur'an.
A more comprehensive and holistic framework for assessing legal rulings was fully developed by the middle period of Islamic history. Imam al-Ghazali, once agian, emerges as an influential figure in Sunni Islam with his convincing and emphatic demonstration that all rulings found in the Qur'an and Sunna aim to promote a limited number of universal goals. Other scholars, including, most famously, Abu Ishaq Al-Shatibi (d. 790/1388), joined al-Ghazali in arguing that the primary purpose of Islam was to promote and preserve five or six fundamental values: religion, life, property, intellect, family, and honor. [29] Theoretically, any exegesis or ruling that contravenes these "goals of the Sharia" (maqasid al-Shari'a) must be set aside.

Reference to the goals of the Shari'a have become more frequent since the advent of modernity, when Muslim scholars have been trying to find a consistent and holistic approach to legal reasoning that can replace, to some extent, the narrower, technical, and case-by-case deductive approach of much traditional legal reasoning. According to many contemporary scholars such as Mohammad Hashim Kamali, this approach is more consistent with the message of the Qur'an:
A cursory perusal of the Qur'an would be enough to show that the Qur'an pays much greater attention to values and objectives such as justice and benefit, mercy and compassion, upright character and taqwa, promotion of good and prevention of evil, affection and love within the family, charity, camaraderie and other redeeming values. The Qur'an may thus be said to be goal-oriented and focused on the structure of values that have a direct bearing on human welfare. The Qur'an is for the most part concerned with the broad principles and objectives of morality and law, rather than with the specific detail and technical formulas that occupy the bulk of the usul [juridical] works. [30]
While emphasizing the importance of the goals of the Shari'a, Kamali also stresses that they in themselves are not a methodology, but rather "serve the purpose of opening up the avenues of ijtihad." After all, to determine whether a ruling furthers or hinders a goal of the Shari'a, scholars must assess the "benefit" (maslaha) of the ruling. This assessment is, to a large extent, an empirical determination. Who is qualified to make such an assessment? Is it only scholars of the Qur'an and other religious scholars? In any case, this new legal thinking will only be productive if it occurs within an interpretive framework that is consistent, and within a context that can be accepted as legitimate and authoritative. At this point, it is therefore necessary to consider the way in which authority has been constructed in an Islamic exegetical and legal context and what challenges entail for arriving at authoritative rulings in a modern context.
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 205-206

No comments:

Post a Comment