Prophets' Tasks, Response to Situations, Instrument of Restriction

Issue 975 » December 1, 2017 - Rabi-al-Awwal 13, 1439

Living The Quran

Prophets' Tasks
Fussilat (Clearly Expounded) Sura 41: Verse 6

Say thou, [O Prophet:] "I am but a mortal like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is the One God: go, then, straight towards Him and seek His forgiveness!" And woe unto those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him.

God has assigned His prophets and apostles tasks and responsibilities which they must carry out precisely as given. The Quran was revealed in order to clarify what these tasks are. It cites the examples of bygone religious communities whose perceptions of who their prophets were had become distorted, and warns against falling into the same errors into which they once fell. The Quran stresses the full humanity, and sinlessness, of all God's messengers with a clarification of the meaning of the miracles they performed. It emphasizes the finite nature of the prophets' human capacities, reminding its readers that whatever signs these messengers and prophets performed were the doing of God alone, Who has no partner, and Who granted them these miracles in order to confirm the truth of their messages.

Compiled From:
"Reviving The Balance: The Authority of the Qur'an and the Status of the Sunnah" - Taha Jabir Alalwani, p. 11

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Response to Situations

The main purpose of an act of worship is sincerity and gaining moral and spiritual benefit from it. A ritual devoid of sincerity and moral and spiritual benefit is worthless. The Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, God is not in need of his leaving food and drink in fasting" [Bukhari]. This means that God will not accept his fasting, which looks like a good deed while it is not.

An act of worship that produces arrogance in one's heart is an evil deed, not a good one. The Prophet said: "He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance shall not enter Paradise" [Muslim].

These matters depend on our response. The Prophet said: "How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him" [Muslim]. This hadith indicates that we are the ones who bring good or bad outcomes to ourselves. It is all up to us! If we are thankful to God for the good things that happen, this is good for us. If we are patient when bad things happen to us, this is also good for us. However, if we are arrogant when good things happen, this is an evil outcome. If we are impatient when bad things happen, this is also an evil outcome. Thus, based on our reactions, we determine whether what happens to us is a heavenly gift or otherwise.

Compiled From:
"A Journey to God: Reflections on the Hikam of Ibn Ataillah" - Jasser Auda


Instrument of Restriction

Historically fatwa began as a private activity that was independent of state intervention and control. The ulama who acted as muftis responded to people's questions over issues and gave fatwa as a service to the community, and they themselves set their own professional standards usually without government intervention. The muftis acted as legal advisors and counsels in much the same way as the professional lawyers of today. They provided valuable guidance and advice on detailed issues of Islamic law in legal disputes and in court cases for those who were not in a position to consult the law books themselves.

The ruling that is arrived at through fatwa is often based on an interpretation of the Quran or Sunnah and the general principles of Shariah. In the absence of any evidence in these sources, the Islamic scholar (mufti) formulates his own best judgement, enlightened by his general knowledge of the Shariah and the mores and customs of society. The resulting judgement or verdict consists usually of an opinion that does not bind the person or persons to whom it is addressed, nor does it bind anyone else. The recipient of a fatwa is consequently free to go to another mufti and obtain a second or even a third fatwa over the issue of concern to him, and it is his choice whether or not to comply with any of them. Only in cases where the fatwa consists of a clear injunction of Shariah and the two or three views given on the issue are found to be concurrent would the fatwa bind its audience and recipient, but not otherwise. Fatwa that is based on the interpretation and personal opinion of the mufti is normally not binding on anyone. This is the main difference between fatwa and a judicial ruling (qada). Fatwa also differs from ijtihad in that fatwa may be attempted in matters which may have been regulated by decisive evidence or by a mere indication in the Quran and Hadith. Ijtihad, on the other hand, does not proceed on matters which are covered by decisive evidence in these sources.

Fatwa in many Muslim countries has become a state matter and can no longer be practised by anyone other than an officially employed mufti in accordance with a stipulated procedure. Whereas fatwa in Shariah is not a binding instrument, under statutory law it has generally been given this role. A basically voluntary and investigative concept has been turned into an instrument of mandatory and binding rule-making. Fatwa under the Shariah is also a vehicle that facilitates the free flow of thought and expression in religious issues, whereas now it has in many countries become an instrument of restriction on freedom of expression in religious matters.

Compiled From:
"Shariah Law - An Introduction" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 174, 175