Individuality, Ethic of Action, Shariah-Oriented Policy

Issue 732 » April 5, 2013 - Jumada Al-Awwal 24, 1434

Living The Quran

Surah al-Mumtahana (The Tested Woman) Chapter 60: Verse 12

"O Prophet! When believing women come to thee to take the oath of allegiance to thee, that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter; then do thou accept their allegiance, and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."

The individuality of a woman is a principle of religion. In Islam, a woman is an independent entity, and thus a fully responsible human being. Islam addresses her directly and does not approach her through the agency of Muslim males. A woman would assume full capacity and liability once she has attained maturity and has received the message of Islam.

Moreover no woman is said to have truly accepted the message of Islam unless she does so out of her independent will. Admission to faith is entirely a personal matter; indeed, faith cannot be adopted by proxy. Women, just like men, would come to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and pledge their own allegiance to Islam and the Prophet.

If embracing Islam by a woman is an entirely personal matter in the Islamic tradition and cannot be done through proxy, so are all obligations and duties, which Islam enjoins on her. No one else can do them on her behalf. She performs her acts of worship purely on the basis of her own intention; and as such these are treated in Islam as her personal achievements.

On the basis of her own action, a woman earns reward or punishment. No man is allowed to plead or intercede for a woman, nor is he held responsible for her actions and their consequences. The doctrine of ultimate accountability does not take the family as a unit for collective responsibility; rather, each individual male or female, is an autonomous unit of reckoning in front of God, and is held directly responsible for his or her actions or his or her share in joint acts.

Compiled From:
"On the Position of Women in Islam and in Islamic Society" - Hassan al-Turabi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Ethic of Action

Al tawhid commits man to an ethic of action; that is, to an ethic where worth and unworth are measured by the degree of success the moral subject achieves in disturbing the flow of space-time, in his body as well as around him. It does not deny the ethic of intent, but demands fulfillment of its requirements as the preliminary prerequisite for entering into the fulfillment of those of the ethic of action. He must enter the rough and tumble of history and therein bring about the desired transformation. He cannot lead a monastic, isolationist existence except as an exercise in self-discipline and self-mastery.

You will recall that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to retire, to isolate and discipline himself, especially before revelation. Indeed, it may be said that revelation was the climax of his tahannuth [worship, avoidance of sin]. However, it was Allah Who ordered him not only to go down, but also to outwit his opponents when they plotted to kill him, to build a community, to emigrate, to build a state, to promote and govern the material life of his people. Our Prophet faced reality, political, economic, military reality and made history. He was husband and father, tradesman and provider, statesman and judge, military leader, and prophet, all at once. The revelation which came to him and of which he was the first embodiment left nothing without guidance or direction. Islam is a religion of action, and action is public and societal whereas an ethic of intent is personal and has no need to go out of conscience.

Compiled From:
"Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life" - Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi, pp. 163, 164


Shariah-Oriented Policy

Siyasah shariah or Shariah-oriented policy is generally seen as an instrument of flexibility and pragmatism in Shariah, designed to serve the cause of justice and good government, especially when the rules of Shariah fall short of addressing certain situations or developments. Siyasah shariah means government in accordance with the goals and objectives of Shariah and in its widest sense applies to all government policies, be it in areas where the Shariah provides explicit guidelines or otherwise.

Essential harmony with the spirit of the Shariah may at times even justify a certain departure from its letter. This may be illustrated by many of the policy decisions of Umar b. al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. In one such decision he refused to assign the fertile lands of Iraq as war booty to the warriors even though the Quran had clearly entitled the warriors to war booty (8:45). Change of circumstances also led the caliph Umar to impose zakah on horses despite the fact that the Prophet, peace be upon him, had exempted these animals from the payment of zakah. It is interesting to note that caliph Umar b. Abd al-Aziz in an effort to revive the early Sunnah, once again abolished the zakah on horses.

It is similarly reported that the third caliph Uthman b. Affan, validated the right to inheritance of a woman whose husband had divorced her in order to be disinherited. The husband's right to divorce was thus deemed prejudicial and therefore obstructed on the grounds, it would seem, of just siyasah.

The decision of Caliph Umar seem to stand in a class of their own and tend to represent the upper limits of siyasah. No other leader would appear to have surpassed the calibre and boldness of Umar's decisions in that they actually went against the clear text of the Quran. Many commentators have discussed and analysed them but no one has actually disputed the propriety and aptitude of those decisions.

Compiled From:
"Shariah Law - An Introduction" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 225-231