The Dynamics of a Fatwa -By Mufti Ebrahim Desai

A fatwa is a culmination of fiqh (jurisprudence) which has its roots in the Quran, Hadith, Ijmā’ (consensus of the Sahabah), and Qiyās (analogy).

 The academic content of a fatwa is like the mountaintop that is uplifted by the entire mountain and further supported by the surface of the ground and its underground structures. When a request for a fatwa is made, a Mufti is required to exert himself and apply his mind to the best of his ability to arrive at a ruling of Sharia. In doing so, he has to be cognizant of all the structures of Sharia: Quran, Hadiths, Ijmā’, and Qiyās.

 The fuqahā’ (jurists) had comprehensive knowledge of the Sharia, as well as the practical aspects of life. They condensed Sharia in broad principles, within which the entire Sharia is encapsulated and from where all the issues of Sharia flow. It is these principles that help a Mufti to navigate his way in arriving at a decision not expressly mentioned by the fuqahā’.

 The fuqahā’ had insight and wisdom that directed them deep into the hearts of people to deduce rulings based on intentions; hence the maxim:

لا ثواب إلا بالنية

Reward is only attainable through intentions.

(Ibn Nujaym, Al-Ashbāh Wa Al-Nazā’ir, pg. 20. ‘Ilmiyyah.) 

They understood that issues had to be analyzed according to their purpose; hence the maxim:

الأمور بمقاصدها

Affairs are determined according to their purpose. (Ibid, pg. 27)

 The fuqahā’ understood the psychological onslaught faced by an individual as well as the onslaught of the Shaytān to distract him from the worship of Allah. They, in turn, brought great relief through the following maxim:

اليقين لا يزول بالشك

Certainty is not eradicated through doubts. (Ibid, pg. 56)

 As human beings, we are created weak. We tend to lose courage with difficulties. Creating ease and removing difficulties bring relief to us in worshipping Allah; hence the maxims:

المشقة تجلب التيسير

Difficulty draws ease. (Ibid, pg. 75)

الضرر يزال

Hardships are removed. (Ibid, pg. 85)

 We are living in a multicultural world with various traditions and customs. Islam, being a practical religion, considers norm and traditions; hence the maxim:

العادة محكمة

Norm will judge. (Ibid, pg. 93)

 In this age of scientific calculations and technological advancements, calculated ijtihād has to be conducted to arrive at correct and appropriate decisions; hence the maxim:

الاجتهاد لا ينقض بالاجتهاد

An ijtihād does not invalidate an ijtihād. (Ibid, pg. 105) 

 Taqwā is the essence of the Sharia. It is the means of spiritual revival and upliftment. In our daily practices, taqwā is always upheld; hence the maxim:

اذا اجتمع الحلال و الحرام غلب الحرام

When halal and haram gather, haram will overpower the halal. (Ibid, pg. 109)

 In this world of power and dominance, there has to be some order. One has to be in control and the other has to submit. The one in power has to be given some autonomy to maintain justice and equity; hence the maxims:

التابع تابع

A subordinate will be regarded as a subordinate. (Ibid, pg. 120)

تصرف الإمام منوط بالمصلحة

The power of the imam will be based on the best interest of issues. (Ibid, pg. 123)

 A human being is prone to do wrong. When he is being criminalised, consideration should be given to the possibility of error and wrong judgement by those in power; hence:

الحدود تدرأ بالشبهات

Capital punishments are removed by doubts. (Ibid, pg. 127)

 The dignity of a human being is always upheld; hence:

الحر لا يدخل تحت يد أحد

A free person is never under anyone. (Ibid, pg. 131)

 At all times, we ought to interpret the speech of a human being according to his human intellect; hence:

إعمال الكلام أولى من إهماله

Considering one’s speech is better than invalidating it. (Ibid, pg. 135)

 When he is silent, that too is considered:

لا ينسب إلى ساكت قول

A statement is not attributed to a silent person. (Ibid, pg. 154)

 While preference is given to a fard act, at times, voluntary acts are given more virtue to promote sublime character and goodwill:

الفرض أفضل من النفل إلا في مسائل

A fard act is more virtuous than a nafl act, except in certain issues. (Ibid, pg. 157)

 There is a balance of justice and fairness between personal dealings and dealings with others; hence:

ما حرم أخذه حرم إعطاؤه

That which is impermissible to take is impermissible to give. (Ibid, pg. 158)

 While all laws are designed for the well-being of human beings, we cannot ignore the fact that we also live in a world of some selfish people. In the general interest of human beings, such people will have to be dealt with accordingly:

من استعجل الشيء قبل أوانه عوقب بحرمانه

Whoever seeks an issue before its time will be punished by being deprived of it. (Ibid, pg. 159)

 Family and blood relationships are endorsed and strongly considered; hence:

الولاية الخاصة أقوى من الولاية العامة

Specific guardianship is stronger than general guardianship. (Ibid, pg. 160)

The abovementioned maxims are not conclusive and exhaustive. They do, however, provide a glimpse into a perfect and absolute Sharia.

ذكر بعض ما لا يتجزأ كذكر كله

Mentioning part of that which is indivisible is like mentioning everything. (Ibid, pg. 162)

The website aims to guide the ummah with the Shar’ī rulings based on the guidelines set out by our illustrious fuqahā’. While we attempt to analyze the questions and circumstances presented to us and attempt to issue rulings to the best of our ability, we also take cognizance of the fact that we can never be perfect.

لا عبرة بالظن البين خطأه

There is no consideration of conjecture when error is clear. (Ibid, pg. 161)

We use the laws as our guide and, if we have erred, it is attributed to us; this we have to accept:

إذا اجتمع المباشر والمتسبب أضيف الحكم إلى المباشر

When the direct pursuant (person who is directly involved) and the means come together, the ruling will be attributed to the direct pursuant. (Ibid, pg. 163)

In any event, the pleasure of Allah Ta’ālā is the common goal of all. Hence, the maxim:

إذا اجتمع أمران من جنس واحد‏,‏ ولم يختلف مقصودهما‏,‏ دخل أحدهما في الآخر غالبا‏

When two issues of the same nature come together with a common purpose, one is usually included in the other. (Ibid, pg. 132)



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