Comprehensive Invitation, Statements, Upholding the Spirit
Issue 872 » December 11, 2015 - Safar 29, 1437
Yusuf (Joseph) - Chapter 12: Verse 108
Say (Muhammad): "This is my way: I call (people) to God with wisdom and insight, I and those who follow me."
The Prophets dealt with people and life in a holistic manner, appealing to each person's intellect, reason, spirit, and all outer and inner senses and feelings. They never ignored or neglected any human faculties.
The position of a Prophet in relation to Divine Revelation is similar to that of a corpse in the hands of a mortician: The individual can do nothing of his own volition. God directs and guides a Prophet as necessary so that he can lead his people. Without this Divine direction, he would be unable to guide anyone. If he neglected their intellects, the end result would be a community of poor, docile mystics. If he neglected their hearts or spirits, a crude rationalism devoid of any spiritual dimension would be produced. As each individual is comprised of intellect, spirit, and body, each must be assigned its due part of the Message.
Human beings are active. Therefore, they should be led to those activities that form the real purpose of their lives, as determined by God and communicated by the Prophet. God did not create people only to have them to become passive recluses, activists without reason and spirit, or rationalists without spiritual reflection and activism.
Only when the intellect, spirit, and body are harmonized, and people are motivated to activity in the illuminated way of the Divine Message, can they become complete and attain true humanity. All Prophets sought this goal, and those who seek to follow them should strive for it.
"Messenger of God" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 76, 77
After the heart, there is one thing that is particularly important for a believer to guard over and make sure that it does not stray from what is right. This is the tongue. The statements of one's tongue can be very damaging and can lead a person away from the straight path. Many times, a person may not realize the damage that he has done to himself by his own statements. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made this point clear when he said,
"A person makes a statement that is pleasing to Allah although he did not give it much concern. [Due to it] Allah raises his rank. And a person makes a statement that is displeasing to Allah although he did not give it much concern. [Due to it], he is flung into the Hell-fire." [Bukhari]
In another hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
"Whoever guarantees for me what is between his jawbones and what is between his legs [that is, whoever can guarantee that his tongue and private parts will not be involved in forbidden acts], then I guarantee for him Paradise." [Bukhari]
The seriousness of the actions of the tongue may be why this hadith continues with the Prophet (peace be upon him) warning Sufyaan about the dangers of the tongue. Again, the portion of the narration not found in Sahih Muslim states,
[Sufyan then said,] "O Messenger of Allah, what is the thing that you fear most for me?" He [the Prophet (peace be upon him)] took hold of his own tongue and said, "This."
Indeed, in another hadith, from Musnad Ahmad, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is reported to have said,
"The faith of a person will not be straight and sound until his heart is made straight and sound. And his heart will not be straight and sound until his tongue is made straight and sound."
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, pp. 687, 688
Upholding the Spirit
Istihsan literally means 'to approve, or to deem something preferable'. It is a derivation from hasuna, which means being good or beautiful. In its juristic sense, istihsan is a method of exercising personal opinion in order to avoid any rigidity and unfairness that might result from the literal enforcement of the existing law. 'Juristic preference' is a fitting description of istihsan, as it involves setting aside an established analogy in favour of an alternative ruling which serves the ideals of justice and public interest in a better way.
Evidence suggests that the Companions and Successors were not literalists who would seek a specific authority in the revealed sources for every legal opinion (fatwa) they issued. On the contrary, their rulings were often based on their understanding of the general spirit and purpose of the Shariah, and not necessarily on the narrow and literal meaning of its principles. Istihsan has been formulated in this spirit; it is the antidote to literalism and takes a broad view of the law which must serve, not frustrate, the ideals of fairness and justice.
To give an example, oral testimony is the standard form of evidence in Islamic law on which a consensus (ijma) can be claimed to exist. This normally requires two upright (adl) witnesses unless the law provides otherwise (the proof of zina, for instance, requires four witnesses). The number of witnesses required in these cases is prescribed in the Quran, but the rule that testimony should be given orally is determined by consensus. Muslim jurists have insisted on oral testimony and have given it priority over other methods of proof, including confession and documentary evidence. In their view, the direct and personal testimony of a witness who speaks before the judge with no intermediary is the most reliable means of discovering the truth. The question arises, however, whether one should still insist on oral testimony at a time when other methods such as photography, sound recording, laboratory analyses, etc. offer at least equally, if not more, reliable methods of establishing facts. Here we have, I think, a case for a recourse to istihsan which would give preference to these new and often more reliable means of proof. It would mean departing from the established rules of evidence in favour of an alternative ruling which is justified in light of the new circumstances. The rationale of this istihsan would be that the law requires evidence in order to establish the truth, and not the oral testimony for its own sake. If this is the real spirit of the law, then recourse to istihsan would seem to offer a better way to uphold that spirit.
"Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence" - Hashim Kamali