What is Shariah about

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What about Shariah in Islam?

Now I shall tell you what Shari’ah is. The meaning of Shari’ah is mode and path. When you have acknowledged Allah as your sovereign and accepted His servitude and have also admitted that the Messenger is the tangible ruler holding authority on His behalf and that the Book has been sent by Him, it will mean you have entered Deen. After this, the mode in which you have to serve Allah and the path you have to traverse in order to obey Him, is called Shari’ah.

This mode and pate has been indicated by Allah through His Messenger who alone teaches the method of worshipping the Master and the way to become pure and clean.

The Messenger shows us the path of

  1. righteousness and piety,
  2. the manner in which rights are discharged,
  3. the method of carrying on transactions and
  4. dealings with fellow-beings and the mode of leading one’s life.

But the difference is this that while Deen always was, has been, and is still one and the same, numerous Shari’ahs came, many were cancelled, several were changed but these alterations did not change the Deen.

The Deen of Nur (peace be upon him) was the same as that of Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, Shuaib, Saleh, Hud (peace be upon them) and Muhammad ﷺ but the Shari’ahs of these Prophets varied from each other to some extent. The modes of saying prayer and observing fast were of one kind with one prophet and of another kind with the other.

Injunctions about Halal and Haram, rules of cleanliness and codes of marriage, divorce and inheritance somewhat differed from one Shari’ah to another. In spite of this, all were Muslims – the followers of Nur, Ibrahim, Isa and those of Musa (peace be upon them), and we too are all Muslims because Deen is one and the same for all. This shows that Deen is unaffected by differences in the rules of Shari’ah. Deen remains one though modes of following it differ.

Nature of difference among Shari’ahs

To understand this difference, suppose there are many servants of a master. The one who does not acknowledge the master as such and does not consider his orders worthy of obedience, is a disobedient fellow excluded from the sphere of service, while those who acknowledge him as master, consider it incumbent upon themselves to obey his orders and are afraid of disobeying him, are included in the category of servants.

If their modes of discharging duty and serving their master differ from each other, the fact of all of them being servants remains unaffected. If the master has shown one way of service to one servant and a different way to another, the former has no right to say that he alone is a servant and the latter is not.

Similarly, if one servant on hearing his master’s order understands its purport in one way and another servant in a different way, and both carry out that order as understood by them, then both are equal to each other in the matter of service. It is possible that one might have erred in understanding the meaning of the order and the other has understood the correct import, but as long as one has not refused to obey the order, no one has a right to tell his that he is disobedient and that he has been dismissed from the service of his master.

From this example you can very well understand the difference between Deen and Shari’ah. Prior to the Holy Prophet ﷺ, Allah ﷻ used to send various Shari’ahs through various prophets. One mode of service was sent forth for one prophet and another mode for another prophet. Those who served the Master according to all these modes were all Muslims though the systems of service were different from each other.

Then when the Holy Prophet ﷺ came, the Master commanded: “Now We cancel all the previous modes. From now on whosoever want to serve Us must follow the system which We are now promulgating through Our last prophet”.

After this no servant has the right to do service according to previous methods, because if he does not accept the new method and is following the old methods, he is in fact not obeying the orders of the Master but following the prejudices of his mind. Therefore, he is dismissed from service or in the religious language, has become a Kafir.

Nature of difference between Juristic schools

This concerns the believers in the past prophets. As for the followers of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ the second part of this example applies to them appropriately. All those persons are Muslims who believe that the Shari’ah sent by Allah through the Holy Prophet ﷺ is Allah’s Shari’ah and consider it compulsory to follow. Now if a certain person understands the injunctions of Shari’ah in one way and another person in a different way, while both follow these as per their understand, none of them will be dismissed from service, irrespective of the difference found between their deeds, because each one of them who is following a particular mode is doing so with the consciousness that such is the master’s order.

In such a case, what right has one servant to say that he alone is the genuine servant while the other is not.

The utmost he could say can be that he had understood the exact meaning of the master’s order while the other had not, but how could he have the authority to discharge the latter from service?

Whosoever displays such temerity assumes, as it were, the status of the master. He would seem to say: “Just as it is compulsory for you to obey the master’s order, so also it is compulsory for you to accept my way of understanding. If you fail to do that, I shall with my own power dismiss you from the master’s service”. Just imagine what a serious thing it is!

For this very reason the Holy Prophet ﷺ said: “Whosoever unjustly brands a Muslim as Kafir, his verdict will bounce back on him”.

This is so because while Allah has made a Muslim subservient to His commandments, this fellow says: “No, you must also submit to my interpretation and my judgement. (That is to say Allah alone is not your God but I am also a small god of yours). And if you do not obey my order I shall with my own power dismiss you from the servitude of Allah, irrespective of whether Allah Himself dismisses you or not”.

Whosoever makes such a pretentious assertion involves himself in the danger of becoming a Kafir, irrespective of whether of not the other Muslim has turned a Kafir.

My dear brothers and sisters, I hope you have fully understood the difference between Deen and Shari’ah. You must have also comprehended the fact that any difference in the modes of serving Allah does not entail deviation from Deen provided a man who follows a particular course is genuinely conscious of the fact that Allah and His messenger have actually enjoined what he is doing, and that in support of his actions he possesses authentic proof from the Book of Allah or the Sunnah of His Messenger.

Three Ways of Going Astray

Abdallah Madani


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