Islamic Studies

Understanding Minority Fiqh [1]: Imam al-Shatibi and Dr. Abdullah Bin Bayyah

Asalamu alaykum:

Dr. Abdullah bin Bayyah writes that in order for one to engage Minority Fiqh in the proper light, six important maxims must be kept in mind. This is the first in a series or articles that will explore this, at times, controversial approach to legal issues. This article seeks to lay out the foundations for our understanding of the place and function of religious law within the West. It is our hope that Western Muslims will be able to move beyond a simple tit for tat discourse and learn to engage, think and develop a religious expression that is dynamic and yet harmonious with their responsibilities as Western citizens.

The Six Maxims:

1. Facilitation and the removal of hardships
2. The changing of a fatwa due to the changing of location
3. Raising a need to that of a necessity
4. Custom
5. Considerations for implications of rulings and their wisdoms
6. Raising the Muslim community to the position of the Qadi [judge]

The first axiom: Facilitation and The Removal of Hardships:

Imam al-Shatibi [may Allah have mercy upon him] states, ‘The intent of Islamic Law is not to commission that which is difficult or overly burdensome.’

The Proofs:

1) Allah [the Most Exalted] says describing the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him]: ‘He releases them from their heavy burdens, and from the fetters (bindings) that were upon them.’ Surah 7/157.

2) The famous supplication found at the end of the second surah of Qur’an, ‘Our Lord! Put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear.’ Surah 2/286. It is reported in Sahih Muslim that Allah [the Exalted] responded to this supplication by saying, ‘I have done it.’ Realted by Imam Muslim on behalf of Ibn ‘Abbas [may Allah be pleased with him] hadith 180.

3) Allah says, ‘Allah intends ease for you.’ Surah 2/185.

4) Allah says, ‘Allah intends to lighten the burden upon you.’ Surah 4/28

5) The Prophet [may Allah’s peace and prayers be upon him] said, ‘I was sent with the religion of hanafiyah and compassion.’ related by Imam Ahmad from Abi Umama [may Allah be pleased with him] hadith 2127.

6) ‘Aiesha [may Allah be pleased with her] states that, ‘The Prophet [may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] never chose between two things, one difficult and the other easy, except he chose the easier one as long as there was no sin in it.’ Related by Muslim on behalf of ‘Aiesha hadith 6047.

The Concept of concessions [rukhsah]

Al-Shatibi [may Allah have mercy upon him states], ‘Concessions were, without any doubt, legislated by Islamic Law. The concessions related to joining prayers [for those who meet the requirements], breaking the fast [for the one who meets the requirements], or using what is forbidden due to necessity, are clearly legislated for the removal of hardship and difficulties in the absolute sense. Therefore, if the intent of Islamic Law was to make things difficult or overly burdensome, there would have never been such concessions nor removal of difficulties!’ al-Muwafaqat vol. 2 pg. 121-122

Dr. Bin Bayyah, commenting on the above, notes that the texts that elude towards the removal of hardship and difficulties are general and that it is possible to apply them to a large number of circumstances who, although different, share in [the need for actualization of] removal of hardships and difficulties.’

al-Shatibi [may Allah have mercy upon him] states, ‘Through the details [of law] on [will find] the intent [is clear for] the removal of hardships and burdens. Thus we must judge [the scholars of fiqh], in the universal sense, utilizing the removal of hardships and difficulties in every area based on our survey of the law.’

Part Two: The Causes for the removal of difficulties

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

1 Comment

  • Salam, this is one of the most fascinating articles I’ve come across, but I couldn’t find a second part and would realllly like to read it and the rest of the series, can anyone help?

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