Four Excellent Principles of Shariah

The four guided principles of Shariah can effectively be used to explain the beauty of Islam to non-Muslims. Today Islamic Shariah is seen by non-Muslims as a strict way of life with little or no benefit for humanity. However, a brief explanation of the four principles of Shariah can be used to spread the beauty of Islam’s realistic justice and the fact that it was revealed by a loving God.

Removal of Difficulty – Islamic law realizes that people may come across different circumstances in their lives which may make things difficult for them to act upon. Therefore, it allows leniency towards laws which otherwise would be sinful to ignore. For example, while traveling Islam allows Muslims to combine prayers in order to make it easy for the traveler to make his journey because stopping for prayer every few hours may make the trip longer and more difficult to complete. However, under normal circumstances (with a few exceptions) it is completely forbidden for a Muslim to combine prayers without a valid excuse. This leniency is a form of Mercy from Allah as He Says:

“He did not make any difficulty for you in the religion” (Quran 22:78).

Another example is the permissibility of eating foods which would be absolutely forbidden under normal circumstances for the one who is starving and has no means or access to permissible foods. Therefore, pork and wine would become permissible for a Muslim to eat and drink if he cannot find any alternative and avoiding such forbidden types of foods could result in either death or harm to his body due to starvation or thirst. This is another example of a form of Mercy from Allah as He Says:

“But if anyone is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Quran 5:3).

These are just some examples of the ease provided with the already established laws in Shariah. Other examples include but are not limited to: wiping over the socks for three days and nights during travel, shortening the prayers in travel, praying in any direction if one cannot determine the qiblah, permissibility of praying while sitting or laying for one unable to stand or sit, breaking the obligatory fast while traveling, giving food instead of fasting for the one unable to fast, purifying oneself with dirt for one unable to use or find water, etc. All of these examples carry the condition of hardship for the worshipper, therefore, Allah made it easy for his servant to abide by His laws.

Reduction of Religious Obligations – The general principle in Islam with regards to non-worship activities is that everything is permissible unless there is proof that it is forbidden. Therefore, there are far more things which are permissible than forbidden in the religion. In fact, compared to the previous revealed Mosaic Law, Islam is far less strict. For example, according to the Jewish slaughtering law, Shechita, a Jewish rabbi must be present and witness the slaughter take place by the hand of a religious Jew who is duly licensed and trained before it can be considered permissible to eat1. In Islam, however, there are no such requirements. In Shariah, a certified witness is not necessary to be present when the actual slaughter takes place and it also allows the slaughterer to be a Muslim, Jew or Christian whether religious or not. Another example is the issue of menstruation in women. The Jewish law is far stricter with how to treat a woman who is menstruating than Islam as shown by the following hadith:

Anas narrated: Among the Jews, when a woman menstruated, they did not dine with her, nor did they live with them in their houses; so the Companions of the Apostle (may peace be upon him) asked The Apostle (may peace be upon him), and…The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Do everything except intercourse (Muslim Book #3 Hadith #0592).

So Allah reduced the strictness of the obligations for the Muslims as compared to those of previous religions.

Realization of Public Welfare – All of Islamic law (Shariah) is designed to either bring benefit or keep away harm. In general, all of Islamic law tends to preserve the five basic principles: religion, life, intellect, wealth and lineage. All laws of Islam can be traced down to preserving these five principles for the welfare of societies all across the world. For example, killing an innocent life is prohibited to preserve human life, alcohol is prohibited to preserve the intellect, stealing is prohibited to preserve wealth, fornication is prohibited to preserve lineage, and a Muslim woman’s prohibition of marrying a non-Muslim man2 is there to preserve her religion. All that which is forbidden in Shariah is either 100% bad for the individual and/or society or it is bad in majority for the individual and/or society. As Allah Says about alcohol and gambling:

They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit (Quran 2:219).

Allah also, through his Divine Mercy and Grace, went into details with regards to laws which do not change with human conditions, such as, marriage, divorce, and family laws. But He mentioned in very general terms those laws which change based on time, place and conditions. For example, the issues of clothing and food have very general guidelines which can be adjusted based on time, place and conditions.

Realization of Universal Justice – Islamic law does not favor the rich over the poor or the powerful over the weak. Rather, it treats all mankind fairly in order to attain universal justice. Even the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself was not an exception from this rule as he said about his own beloved daughter Fatima:

By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand (Bukhari Book #56, Hadith #681).

Even his own beloved uncle, Abu Talib, was not safe from this universal justice. His uncle helped his nephew and protected him from his enemies due to his great love for his nephew. But that did not save him from entering the fire of hell due to his rejection of the message of Islam from the One True God, which had successfully reached him. As mentioned in a hadith:

Narrated Al-Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib: That he said to the Prophet “You have not been of any avail to your uncle (abu talib) by Allah, he used to protect you and used to become angry on your behalf.” The Prophet said, “He is in a shallow fire, and had it not been for me, he would have been in the bottom of the (Hell) fire.” (Bukhari Book #58, Hadith #222)

Islamic law is a divinely revealed law for the benefit of all mankind. It’s laws are not adjusted based on whims and desires of the politicians. It treats all of mankind on an equal level and punishes through it’s laws all those who deserve it also on an equal level. Shariah sees all people in the light of Allah’s creation without any discrimination. This is clearly seen during the days of pilgrimage in Mecca when all of the pilgrims gather together wearing the same color, eating the same food, and sleeping on the same floor without any prejudice or favor of the rich over the poor. The same pilgrimage rites are executed by the rich and powerful as those by the poor and weak.

Footnote:

1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shechita
2A Muslim man is also prohibited from marrying a non-Muslim woman, however, there is an exception for a Jewish or Christian woman who is chaste.

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Categories: Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence)

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