Lavishness, Tongue, Legal Certainties

Issue 929 » January 13, 2017 - Rabi Al-Thani 15, 1438

Living The Quran

Al-Baqarah (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 195

"Expend your wealth in God's way, but cast not yourselvs by your own hands into perdition. Try to do good, for God loves the good-doers."

In order that generosity may become a genuine Islamic virtue, it must first of all be deprived of the thoughtlessness which characterized it in the days of Jahiliyah. One who goes to the length of slaughtering on the spur of the moment, or worse still merely for display, all his camels without stopping a moment to think that his act may reduce him and his family to misery and perdition on the morrow - such a one is not to be considered a man of true generosity. A man of true generosity is he who 'expends his wealth in God's way', that is, from a pious motive. And being founded on piety, it must be something well-controlled and restrained. Generosity in Islam is something essentially different from the boastful and excessive charity of which the pagan Arabs were so fond. Thus the duty of almsgiving was offered to the Muslims as the most suitable mold into which they might pour their natural generosity without being led into the satanic vices of haughtiness and extravagance. Almsgiving provide in this way a new outlet for the old instinct of generosity that was deeply rooted in the Arab soul, but it was so calculated, at the same time, as to work as a powerful regulator of its excessive energy.

Almsgiving is a religious duty imposed on every Muslim, but to give out all one has too liberally and thoughtlessly until one is cast by one's own hands into perdition is neither more nor less than to fall back into the godless folly of Jahiliyah.

Niggardliness is of course dishonourable, it is admittedly a moral defect or a vice. But the excess of lavishness is no less a dishonourable moral defect. Keep always to the happy medium; this is the rule of conduct that must control believers in matters concerning private property.

Compiled From:
"Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran" - Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 78-80

Understanding The Prophet's Life


"Those who believe in God and the day of resurrection should say good things or be silent." [Bukhari, Muslim]

That's because people who truly believe in God fear God's punishment and hope for God's reward. They work diligently to perform what they have been ordered to do and refrain from what they have been asked to stay away from. The most important thing they can do is restrain their body parts, which they have control over.

The flaws of the tongue are plenty. Hence, those who know these matters well and believe truly in God, fear the Lord and pay attention to what their tongues utter. They only say good things or keep silent.

Some scholars said that all acts of goodwill emanate from four hadiths. They mentioned the above saying of the Prophet, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, as one of the four.

Some people said that the hadith means that when people have something good, truthful, and rewarding to say, they should say it. Otherwise, they should keep silent regardless whether the thing is haram, detestable, or neutrally permissible. Based on this, permissible talk must be avoided when it is feared that such talk might lead to something haram or detestable. This usually happens a lot and often.

Compiled From:
"Ibn-Daqiq's Commentary on the Nawawi Forty Hadiths" - Ibn Daqiq Al-Eid


Legal Certainties

The ultimate point of Shariah is to serve the well-being or achieve the welfare of people (tahqiq masalih al-ibad). The word Shariah, which many have very often erroneously equated with Islamic law, means the "way of God" and the pathway of goodness, and the objective of Shariah is not necessarily the compliance with the commands of God for their own sake. Such compliance is a means to an end—the serving of the physical and spiritual welfare and well-being of people. Muslim jurists reasoned that if law will be made to serve the well-being of people while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of the tyranny of human whim or unfettered reason, divine guidance or direction is necessary and indispensable. Significantly, in Islamic legal theory, God communicates God's way (the Shariah) through what is known as the dalil (pl. adilla). The dalil means the indicator, mark, guide, or evidence, and in Islamic legal theory, it is a fundamental building block of the search for the divine will and guidance. As a sign of God's mercy and compassion, God created or enunciated numerous indicators serving as guidance to human goodness, well-being (al-hasan wa al-maruf), and ultimately, the divine will. Moreover, God ordained that human beings exert a persistent effort in investigating the divine indicators, or the evidence of God's Will (badhl al-juhd fi talab al-dalil), so that the objectives of Shariah may be fulfilled.

Not surprisingly, the nature of the dalil became one of the formidable and formative debates of early Islamic jurisprudence. The most obvious type of indicator is an authoritative text (sing. nass Sharii or pl. al-nusus al-Shariyya), such as the Quran, but Muslim jurists also recognized that God's wisdom is manifested through a vast matrix of indicators found in God's physical and metaphysical creation. Hence, other than texts, God's signs or indicators could manifest themselves through reason and rationality (aql and raiy), intuitions (fitra), and human custom and practice (urf and ada).

In Islamic jurisprudence, the diversity and complexity of the divine indicators are considered part of the functionality and suitability of Islamic law for all times and places. The fact that the indicators are not typically precise, deterministic, or unidimensional allows jurists to read the indicators in light of the demands of time and place. So, for example, it is often noted that one of the founding fathers of Islamic jurisprudence, al-Shafi (d. 204/ 820) had one set of legal opinions that he thought properly applied in Iraq but changed his positions and rulings when he moved to Egypt to account for the changed circumstances and social differences between the two regions. The same idea is embodied by the Islamic legal maxim: "It may not be denied that laws will change with the change of circumstances" (la yunkar taghayyur al-ahkam bi taghayyur al-zaman wa al-ahwal).

One of the most important aspects of the epistemological paradigm on which Islamic jurisprudence was built was the presumption that on most matters the divine will is unattainable, and even if attainable, no person or institution has the authority to claim certitude in realizing this Will. This is why the classical jurists rarely spoke in terms of legal certainties (yaqin and qat). Rather, as is apparent in the linguistic practices of the classical juristic culture, Muslim jurists for the most part spoke in terms of probabilities or in terms of the preponderance of evidence and belief (ghalabat al-zann). As the influential classical jurist al-Juwayni (d. 478/ 1085) stated: "If we were charged with finding [the truth] we would not have been forgiven for failing to find it." Muslim jurists emphasized that only God possesses perfect knowledge— human knowledge in legal matters is tentative or even speculative; it must rely on the weighing of competing factors and the assertion of judgment based on an assessment of the balance of evidence on any given matter. Nevertheless, this philosophy did not mean that Muslim jurists accepted legal relativism or even indeterminism in Shariah. Shariah was considered to be the immutable, unchangeable, and objectively perfect divine truth. Human understanding of Shariah, however, was subjective, partial, and subject to error and change.

Compiled From:
"Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age" - Khaled Abou El Fadl