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Categories of Shariah

Categories of Shariah


how is there a difference in sharia between, like you said, legal issues of sharia, and religious practice? sharia is everything, i think you should learn some more

I think I should learn more, too. Insha Allah, I’ll be able to.

I’m assuming you’re referring to my “about” section, so, allow me to clarify. My studies focus upon legal rulings for communities who utilize what we call “Shariah Law.” Through the study of this history and its contemporary development, I am currently working on creating a legal model that would enshrine Shariah while ensuring that it meets the modern concerns of today.

Now, I am not of the opinion that there are real modern issues that are beyond the scope of Shariah. Technology doesn’t really change things, if someone steals something electronically, for example, they are still stealing, the only trouble we have is how can we establish the identity of who stole what, and whether that that person was using the computer in question. The simple fact is the same: something was stolen. The only difference is we have a harder time (in this example) of establishing who stole what.

So technology is not what I mean, when I say “modern concerns.” What I mean when I say “modern concerns” is far more basic and boring. There is no historical record that shows Shariah “traffic courts.” No mechanism has existed for Shariah to deal with traffic violations, the question becomes, how does a modern state, which wants to use Shariah, factor in an issue like a traffic court for people who get speeding tickets, etc.

What is great is that, historically speaking, there are so many different models of Shariah court systems that we have a lot to use as precedent, but we also have to create systems that can deal with the amount of court cases a modern state would produce, and how to do this ensuring justice and fairness.

I realize that was probably the most boring thing you’ve ever read. It really didn’t answer your question either, but I wrote it to illustrate one aspect of what I study and why I say that my studies of Shariah are not primarily concerned with rituals (ibadat).

Now, Shariah is divided between the individuals actions with society (muamilat) and with God (ibadat). Muamilat is roughly translated as “actions,” while ibadat means “acts of worship.” This separation is a classic division, and one that is routinely forgotten about today, unfortunately, because the methodology in which you derive opinions in either category is fundamentally different. This process, is known as “Usul al-Fiqh.”

In plain English, this means that the way we get answers to questions for ibadat (rituals) is different than how we get answers for muamilat (actions).

In general (there are exceptions) the process of getting answers for ibadat is far simpler, and things have changed very little since the time of The Prophet. One rare example that I can think of, regarding recent ibadat rulings, are the rulings for prayer in space. That being said, what makes ibadat so much simpler is that we have The Holy Qur’an and the extensive record of The Prophet to guide us. There are still issues which the scholars do not agree upon, but there is far more consensus in this aspect of Shariah.

On the other hand, how we get to decisions on muamilat is far more complex and involves far more sources. While, we obviously have to utilize The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, there is also the immense record of previous scholars to consider, as well as our own judgment. How does someone get to their own judgment? It matters on the person, because different scholars will utilize different “tools” when reaching a decision. What do I mean? Simply, scholars use different methods to evaluate the record.

These tools are: Ijma (consensus); Qiyas (analogical reasoning); Istihsan (juristic preference); Masalih al Mursalah or Istislah (the public welfare); Istishab (utilizing the previous state of affairs); Adat (custom); ‘Urf (existing practices); and Ijtihad (individual judgment)

If someone cares to know about them individually, I’ll answer that another time.

However, the point is that the Usul (methodologies) for muamilat is far more complex, because in order to even properly utilize any of these tools, previous scholars’ opinions, or The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, we must consider the question through three considerations.

These three considerations are:

Makaan (place), Waqt (time), and Tafa’eel (implementation)

To further complicate this whole mess, within the muamilat category, there is an informal separation between the rulings for the individual and what the legal code should be. This is a little controversial, as many scholars would disagree vehemently with the idea that what is mandated for the individual should be mandated for the society. This may sound desirable and logically sound, but, when we are constructing legal systems, we have to construct the system that benefits society the most. That is a whole other issue so I will leave that for another question, if anyone cares enough to ask me.

Insha Allah, I hope that this answers your question, and I am sure that there will be many more questions from this, which I would be more than happy to answer.

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