What is the Purpose of Islamic Law?

Islamic Law leads to human freedom
Islamic Law leads to human freedom

Understanding the purpose of our obedience to Allah (SWT) and the “why” of our adherence to his halal and haram is sometimes more important than the “what” and the “how.”

As a matter of fact, understanding the purpose of a certain ruling of Islamic Law is the most important factor for a scholar (faqih) applying the rule or making ijtihad or qiyas. One of the best verses in the Qur’an that clearly explain to us the purpose of Islamic Law is verse 157 in Surat Al-A'raf:

"Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Injeel (who) enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were upon them; so (as for) those who believe in him and honor him and help him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him, these it is that are the successful." (Al-A'raf 7:157)

In this important verse, Allah (SWT) with His ultimate wisdom and knowledge, tells us that whatever is good for us, whether we are aware of it or not, can comprehend it or not, is good for us individually or collectively for our society, then that is what Allah had made halal or allowed for us. And whatever Allah sees as harmful for us, whether short-term or long-term, whether we are aware of it, or not, if it hurts us individually or hurts our society, then that is what Allah (SWT) had made haram or forbidden for us.

Within that context we can also comprehend the blessing of Allah (SWT) upon us that is called Islam, which is simply the guidance of Allah (SWT) not just to get us to Paradise (Jannah), but the guidance of receiving His ultimate wisdom and advice about how to live the most joyful, fulfilling and satisfying life in this world on our way to Jannah.

One of the greatest thinkers of all time, Shaykhul Islam Ibn Taymiyah, had also defined the meaning of Islamic Law (Shari'ah), when he said that Islamic Law is about bringing benefits to people in a general way and making it lasting for them, and defending society of harms, deactivating them and making sure to keep them that way.

Obeying Islamic Law is like having the ultimate wisdom and knowledge of Allah (SWT) as your sincere adviser guiding you in all matters in your life

I watched the American Health Secretary in 1997 speaking with pride that America was the first western country to ban feeding dead animal parts to live animals to protect cattle from Mad Cow Disease and other diseases. I smiled because Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his authentic hadith had forbidden Muslims from doing the same 1,400 years ago. Just by obeying Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), even though at the time many Muslims were illiterate poor men in a harsh desert, they had received the same exact benefit of scientific and technological advancement that required 1,400 years of accumulated knowledge and hundreds of millions of dollars of research to attain. The examples are many.

Obeying Islamic Law is like having the ultimate wisdom and knowledge of Allah (SWT) as your sincere adviser guiding you in all matters in your life. We are born to move from status A to status B, which is a journey every human being will take. Some people try to reach their destination relying on their personal desires and the limited comprehension of men which is so blinding; it is as if you are trying to go to a location in another city, only without a map and taking roads that have no street signs or directions. Islamic knowledge on the contrary gives you a precise map and the most accurate of directions, not just to get you there, but reaching there on the shortest path that is the straight path of Allah (SWT).

The more precise and sincere one will follow the correct Shari'ah of Allah, the clearer that map and the benefit of the directions on the path would be. Understanding the mindset of the significantly important purpose of Islamic Law is crucial in a Muslim’s journey into the ultimate prize of the Jannah of Allah.

A helping factor also is to contemplate the greatness of Allah by contemplating His creations, for once we understand that, we will realize that the planet that we live on, and the entire galaxy are nothing but a grain of sand in an endless ocean of the universe that Allah (SWT) created; then we will understand that everything that we do is worthless in comparison to the greatness of Allah (SWT), yet only our sincere obedience to Allah (SWT) is what matters to Him. Allah says in the Qur'an "It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him" (Al-Hajj 22:37)

Another helping factor that remains and it is so important that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim", male or female, which is the factor that precedes us even attempting to benefit from the gift of ultimate wisdom that is truly learning the blessing of Islam.

The knowledge that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) speaks about is the knowledge of Islamic Law, which clarifies the purpose and the meaning of our lives and by which we can find our true liberty of our humanity, the clear definition of our Creator given rights, worshipping, yielding only to our Creator while benefitting from His guidance and His ultimate blessing upon ourselves. In the Internet age, such knowledge is a click away and people should train themselves into reading and gaining a little amount of Shari'ah knowledge, but every day.

One of the most powerful pieces of advice from Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in everything that we do is that: "The deeds most loved by Allah (SWT) (are those) done regularly, even if they are little". (Muslim)

Finally, the purpose for a scholar or a mujtahid (law-maker) applying Islamic Law and making ijtihad to derive new laws that correspond to changing times is for protecting life, children, properties, religion and the intellect.

May Allah make us of those who are blessed with the knowledge of his religion (deen) and those who benefit and benefit others with it.


Related Links:
What Is Shari`ah and Why Does It Matter?
Imam Moustafa Zayed has a degree in communication systems engineering, and is a member of the scientific board of Quran and Sunnah research of Cairo. He has appeared numerous times on the NY-area television program, "Understanding Religion". Imam Zayed speaks widely in interfaith settings with devotion to bridging peace between the major religions and communities. Zayed is the author of "Muhammad Said" and "Journey of All Times"; he is also a leading teacher in several mosques in New Jersey. Imam Zayed is the author of the long anticipated book " the Lies About Muhammad" which has recently been released.

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