The great 11th century scholar, Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni, author of the seminal work al-Waraqat in usul al-fiqh, held the opinion that performing a communal obligation (fard kifaya) was actually superior to performing an individualized one (fard ‘ayn).1
Most scholars hold the opposite opinion—that a personal obligation, such as the five daily prayers, fasting, etc. would be better, since such matters are what one will be personally accountable for on the Day of Judgment.
His reasoning for this unconventional opinion was that unlike a personal obligation, the benefit of a communally obligatory act would be far-reaching and extend beyond one’s self. Performing it would also be a means of relieving the community from accountability, since if no one in the community has stepped up to perform a communal obligation the entire community would be considered sinful.
There are two lessons we can learn from the imam’s opinion on this matter:
- We should not only be interested in bringing benefit to our own selves or our close circle or group, but maximizing and extending benefit and khayr (goodness) to everyone.
- We should not be deluded into thinking that if our own affairs are in order, we will not be asked about the jama’ah, or the community that we live in and are part of. It is for this reason we should be seriously concerned about our collective accountability before God and interested in where we as a community as a whole are headed.
- Imam al-Haramayn’s al-Ghiyathi, p.448 [↩]