Reform (Islah) and Renewal (Tajdid) in Islamic Thought
Islah (reform) and tajdid (renewal) are religious imperatives that aim to return Islamic faith, its texts, principles, methodologies, understanding and inference to their original pristine state and remove any properties that effaced their essence and disfigured their reality.
Islamic thought is the product of the Islamic intellect in its attempt to apply Islam to the reality of the times and is therefore governed by a temporal and spatial framework. Islamic thought is not infallible and the difference between Islam and Islamic thought corresponds to the difference between what is attributed to God and what is attributed to man.
The term 'Islamic thought' is a recently coined term. It was nonexistent in early Islamic studies. It first emerged in the last two centuries after the need for distinguishing Islamic thought, whether or not it emerged in an Islamic environment, from non-Islamic thought became apparent.
Contemporary Islamic thought refers to the entire intellectual output of Muslims inferred from the primary sources, whether in tackling local context issues, facing challenges that have arisen with the times or even the old and common challenges that continue to plague Muslims.
Islah and tajdid
There is a difference between islah and tajdid and the difference between them is one of purpose that necessitates the formulation of a plan and its execution. Change is spontaneous—it occurs with a change in time and people, by life and death, through the dynamics of life and their complexities, and the scientific discoveries or flashes of intellectual inspirations that in turn effect the relations between individuals and societies and between countries and conglomerations. Change is the amendment of some faulty state of reality. To effectuate change and move to a better direction, it is necessary to devise a plan that brings about a change that is suited for the achievements of goals or, at least, part of them.
The difference between islah and tajdid
The terms islah and tajdid fall under the umbrella of change. Based on their usage, a group of contemporary literary figures have maintained that the two terms are synonymous while others contended otherwise.
According to the latter group, islah presupposes a deficiency in reality that may reach a degree of imbalance, requiring its displacement. For this reason, islah necessitates not surrendering to inherited legacies and assuming that the predecessors have made some error either in their understanding of religion, its practical application or both. This forms the grounds for the need to eliminate any deficiency through amendment. This notion of islah can accommodate the notion of partial or complete cognitive detachment depending on the reformer's view of the scope of islah or of the intent and goals of change. It makes it possible to review knowledge, the necessary apparatus for dealing with it, and finding a new standard for its assessment, generating a new classification of knowledge. These are only the initial steps though they are nevertheless essential elements of islah.
Islah in this sense usually faces strong resistance because:
(i) It conflicts with the prevailing culture;
(ii) It introduces an untested idea, thereby people are hesitant to accept it;
(iii) It is usually articulated in different formulations than the established sciences which have been scrutinized and transmitted from one generation to another.
(iv) It ascribes faults to inherited thought.
The role of islah is difficult and needs time to take effect
Tajdid on the other hand, incorporates additions that do not necessarily efface existing concepts or practices and any additions are based on the contingencies of the age. The stance of tajdid toward old concepts and practices is grounded in a temporal context. It presupposes that the predecessors have done their duty and homework towards their age according to the exigencies of their life and time and that they have indeed accomplished successes. However, the duties towards one age naturally differ from those of another. For this reason, though we respect our inherited legacies, we ought not refrain from making our own contributions and re-formulating methodologies commensurate to any additions introduced by tajdid.
The Arabic word 'masa`il' (statements) is the plural of 'mas`ala' that refers to what is called in Arabic grammar as a complete thought or a complete sentence. In Arabic, there are two types of sentences: the nominal sentence wherein the first word is a noun and is composed of a 'mubtada`' (subject) and a 'khabar' (predicate), and the verbal sentence wherein the first word is a verb and is composed of a 'fi'l'(verb) and a 'fa'il' (subject). These two types of sentences comprise two parts: the topic and a description attributed to that topic. For this reason, we find that grammarians use the terms 'musnad ilayhi' (that to which something is ascribed i.e. the topic) and 'musnad' (that which is ascribed to something i.e. the description) and 'isnad' (ascription).The number of masa`il are as manifold as the number of human expressions but through isnad, it follows a certain methodology or a number of methodologies to ascribe the suitable ruling to the musnad ilayi.
Methodologies differ depending on the particular field of investigation — they are either perceptual such as in saying , 'the sun is shining' or 'fire burns', rational such as mathematical truths and geometry or transmitted such as in describing the subject of a sentence as being either 'marfu'(nominative) or mansub (accusative). The latter are not invented but were transmitted down to us in our inherited language. Then there is the conventional field such as authorship on the various sciences and the legal field that draws upon the legal rulings derived from their specific evidences such as in saying 'prayers are obligatory' and 'bribery is prohibited'. In this manner, the relationship between the 'musnad' and the 'musnad ilayi' is one of confirmation or repudiation. Every field has its sources, tools, and the conditions of research. These three elements comprise what is referred to as a methodology. We can therefore notice that usul al-fiqh is often described as a methodology because it comprises these three elements. Freedom from the constraints of classical fiqh and methodologies, reformulating them if and when necessary, to manifest and understand the true nature of the prevailing culture are essential elements of the meaning of tajdid.
The complex reality of today's world rejects dichotomous notion that islah and tajdid are mutually exclusive. It is erroneous to classify someone as a reformer and another as a revivalist as change may require both. There are times when the need for islah is greater than the need for tajdid and vice-versa or both may be needed in the same measure. Liberating the two terms of such constrictions is of great import.
The concept of tajdid in Islamic thought
Tajdid in Islamic thought means renewing the ideology representing the intellectual product of Muslims in the fields of science, knowledge and ijtihad to interpret Islam and understand and explicate its rulings. Islam is the Divine inspiration embodied in the Qur`an and the established sunnah.
Religiosity refers to the relationship of man to religion, intellectually and emotionally, pragmatically and morally. On this plane, it is said, "The piety of such-and-such is weak or strong shall determine whether his religiosity is superior and inferior. This is the locus of tajdid ; it likewise accepts islah and change." This is because the basic code of Islam is fixed and does not accommodate change or tajdid.
Al-'Azim Abadi wrote in his Elucidation of Sunan Abu Dawud, "Tajdid is resuscitating what has been suppressed from the dictates of the Qur`an and sunna, calling upon the people to act upon their requisites, and eradicating new innovations."
Al-Suyuti mentioned in his book Al-Jami' al-Sagheer, " Renewing religion means renewing its guidance, clarifying its truth and precedence, refuting the innovations and extremism presented to its followers or their reluctance in upholding it, and following its rules in managing the interests of the people and the law of society and civilization."
The element of tajdid in Islamic thought is a prominent feature of the message of Islam. Islam is the seal of heavenly revealed religions and, to endure, it is necessary to renew its cultural dynamics across every age because, in Islam, tajdid is the legacy of the succession of prophethood and messages in the previous nations. Contemporary Islamic thought has known various levels and articulations of renewal; they include the following:
1- Usuli thought
Usuli (puritanical) thought refers to renewing thought from root level by eliminating the corruptions that have tainted its purity. The most important revival movements in Islamic thought gave expression to a complete renaissance based on purifying Islam of any accrued pollutants. An accurate description is Abu al-A'la al-Mawdudi's definition of tajdid: "Indeed, tajdid is cleansing Islam of the impurities of ignorance and manifesting truth to shine bright like the sun free of any obscurity." The beginnings of this trend first emerged with the turn of the 19th century which is considered the age of scientific and technical development in the West and the age of decline, corruption, and imperialism in the East. The conditions of Muslims gave rise to very important questions: What is the secret to the West's progress and development in spite of their disbelief and the reason for the deterioration of Arabs and Muslims? And what are the best effective means by which Muslims may become part of this civilized world while preserving their doctrinal and historical heritage?
Proponents of this trend concluded that the decline and weakened state of Muslims ensued from abandoning the authentic teachings of Islam and embracing Western civilization. This revivalist movement represents most of the works produced by contemporary Muslim intellectuals; it espoused the issue of reclaiming the Islamic identity and making it the main axis of the cultural renaissance program.
This reformist trend espoused a rigorous approach towards the other, especially in facing Western thought and methodologies. It sought to challenge Western civilization and was inclined to champion the Islamic identity by reclaiming the inherent reasons of Islam's superiority and reviving them anew.
This particular trend and its proponents assumed a great role in an age when the East was fascinated with the West and their civilization and at a time when Western imperialism sought to obliterate the originality of nations and called upon them to embrace Western thought with the pretext that it is the sole and optimal example of renaissance and progress. Thus, the goal of the revivalist movement was to highlight and revive Islamic truths. They sought to demonstrate that these truths are valid for every place and time and that they suffice to extricate the community from its decadence and propel it towards progress and regeneration. The problem of Arabs and Muslims in the 19th century which molded the quest for tajdid was the basis for restoring religion and religious heritage to return to Muslims their freedom and restore their lost glory. Through this, the protagonists of tajdid assumed important roles and reflected the following:
- Their success, even if restricted to theorization, in advocating Pan-Islamism.
- Rejecting religious and sectarian fanaticism that succeeded in reducing the existing tensions between the various schools of jurisprudence on various juristic and religious issues.
Though the call for Muslim unity did not rise to the level of an organized and effective practice due to the absence of a strategy on the ground, it was nevertheless effective in bolstering the resolution and determination of Muslims and in uniting their energies to resist colonial occupation of Muslim lands.
Professor Tarek al-Bishri opined that the Islamic call emerged in the late twenties to restore lost or, in other words, conquered, lands in a doctrinal, cultural and political sense. It was for this reason that Islamic thought emerged as a call for Islam in its entirety. In general, contemporary Islamic thought was characterized by strong antagonism towards imperialism and called for resistance through all available means. The political address that was hostile to imperialism was very much a part of the fabric of this thought as it was primarily tied to the existential reality of Muslims who suffered from religious deceleration and Western political hegemony, both of which served as the temporal and spatial justifications for this address.
We may ask then, why did this address and its strict stance towards the other prevail in the Islamic revivalist program? Are all aspects of 'the other' considered imperialistic? Was it possible for Islamic discourse to relinquish its rigorousness towards 'the other' especially in the post-colonial period?
Advocating and summoning this form of discourse at present requires careful evaluation and learning from mistakes. Moreover, in all fairness, it is possible to say that this trend exhausted its efforts because it was tied to exceptional temporal circumstances and was unable to attend to the increasing challenges and rapid changes of its time. For the most part, it was transformed to an idealistic address that glorified the past and completely neglected the present.
The modernists of Islamic thought are those who were infatuated with neo-Western thought and its achievements that relied on modern methodologies compared to the decrepitude that characterized the jurisprudential heritage. This trend is most prevalent in Oriental studies and later studies which can be traced to the students of orientalists, especially those who were influenced with Western thought and its achievements. After comparing the state of their community with the progress of the West, a group of Muslims concluded that the savior of the community lay in espousing Western methodology. To this end, they proceeded to emulate Western methodologies and superimpose them upon Islamic societies.
Western influence on the modernist thought led to a grave methodological crisis in Islamic studies which were overshadowed by latent feelings of cultural helplessness. This feeling prevented the modernists from objectively comprehending facts, whether those produced by authentic Islamic thought or by the encroaching Western thought, to effectively compare them and pick the beneficial and reject the harmful.
The greatest challenge faced by contemporary Muslim thought is represented in the response to Western intellectual and cultural challenges in the various fields. Unlike the authentic usuli thought that tended to underestimate these challenges through its resistance, taking a hostile stance and, as Mohammed Mubarak said, rejecting everything coming from the West, is not possible at present. This is not only because the West imposed itself as an unsurpassable universal culture but also because it studied Islamic culture using prejudiced methodologies that ensued in serious ramifications on Islamic thought.
In view of this immature manner of dealing with 'the other', the problems of Islamic societies stood in need of Muslim intellectuals at the level of philosophers who, through their profound and comprehensive outlook, can arrive at the core of the problem and track its genesis and development.
The cultural problem became most prominent in the soul-searching of the protagonists of tajdid. They reflected on the dire condition of Muslim societies which remained stagnate for centuries and were heedless of the means of material, intellectual or cultural development.
A group of contemporary Muslim scholars and intellectuals emerged who felt the need for change and understood from the beginning the gravity of the influx of challenges coming from the West and the dangers of its cultural paradigmatic role model. They applied themselves to understanding these challenges for the sake of taking an enlightened stance. Foremost among these, were Mohammed Iqbal, Malik Ibn Nabi, al-Farouqi, Shari'ti, and Abdul Wahab al-Messiri all of who precipitated a new trend in contemporary thought that sought out the heart of the crisis and not just its symptoms.
The features of the cultural renewal movement
Most modern scholars of Islamic thought consider Malik Ibn Nabi the modern equivalent of Ibn Khladun and the first scholar since Ibn Khaldun to give an extensive consideration to Islamic cultural thought. He is among the pillars of the cultural renewal movement in contemporary Islamic thought. He was unique among his reformist peers in approaching the problems of the Muslim community from a holistic and integrated viewpoint. He devoted his efforts to constructing modern Islamic thought and to a distinguished study of cultural problems in general. Jawdat Sa'id observed that Malik Ibn Nabi was the first researcher to attempt to determine the scope of the Muslim problem from a psychological, sociological, and historical viewpoint.
If Malik Ibn Nabi was responsible for alerting the community to its essential problems through an unprecedented modern expression, it was Dr. Abdul Wahab al-Messiri who opened the way for the community to understand its cultural locus. He applied himself to studying the hegemenous Western culture, in addition to making a fruitful, extensive and objective study of Zionism over a twenty year period. The copiousness of his specialized scholarly material, remains unmatched. His famous encyclopedia rivals the writings of early scholars at the peak of the Islamic civilization. The notable themes of this revivalist movement of contemporary Islamic thought as reflected in the works of Malik Ibn Nabi and Abdul Wahab al-Messiri are:
(i) The inclination to evaluate and assess Western culture critically;
ii) Expounding the cultural dimension of contemporary Islamic thought;
iii) The balanced man in Islamic civilization.
Renewing contemporary Islamic thought
Just as our predecessors found themselves facing an exigent need to interpret this term in relation to the "challenges of their age", later Muslim intellectuals endeavored to examine the essential nature of tajdid, its substance and its purport based on the current challenges facing Muslims. Divergent opinions on the specification of these unprecedented challenges, their nature, interpretation and means of confrontation have inevitably led to differences in determining the concept of "tajdid". And because these current challenges were extensive, the Islamic community became largely marginalized after cultural supremacy was transferred to the West. The schism that ensued over these differences was neither partial nor subsidiary; it split the community itself into unanticipated sects and movements.
Though differences of opinion are legitimate, any aggravation inevitably leads to conflict. Such an internal strife will undoubtedly preclude the crucial role of the community as God's vicegerents on earth. Exchanging accusations of misguidance, innovation, and disbelief is not in the interest of the faith and so we should always attempt to understand the good intentions of the various ijtihads provided they are based on the Qur`an and the authentic sunnah.
The emergence of the notion of "tajdid" in modern times
It is possible to say that Islamic reformism that represented the school of Mohammed Abdu branched into two schools:
(i) The first was oriented towards modernism and secularism;
(ii) The second was oriented towards Salafism after it witnessed the disintegration of the reformist movement of Mohammed Abdu, the transformation of some of his students as secularists, and the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate whose repercussions on Muslims have left a psychological scar.
There remained only a number of Mohammed Abdu's students who remained faithful to his genuine ideas which may be summarized in his own words as, "Freeing the mind from taqlid ( blind imitation), understanding through the methodology of the early Muslim community (salaf) prior to the emergence of division, a return to deriving knowledge from its primary sources, and considering religion among the mechanism of equilibrium endowed by God to the human mind to prevent deviation and reduce confusions and mistakes for the purpose of fulfilling His word in preserving the human world order."
The fall of the caliphate and the rise of modern Turkey brought about important ideological changes at a time when secular tajdid became completely alienated. The reformists of Abdu's school continued in their intellectual and scientific pursuits in Al-Azhar and Cairo University until the mid-fifties.
It is possible to maintain with certainty that the slogan of tajdid was not merely derived or borrowed from a Prophetic tradition. Rather, the Prophetic tradition was only invoked to prove the legitimacy of tajdid and not vice-versa. However, the term tajdid must not be viewed with skepticism because it was eventually governed by religious texts as long as it was compatible with them.
It is not possible to accurately determine the exact historical moment when the term Islamic tajdid was born, but it is possible to approach i from the period between the mid-fifties and the early sixties. Sheikh Amin al-Khouli's article, Al-Tajdid fil Din in the13th edition of the journal "Al-Resla" in 1933 included the term tajdid and was the first article we could come upon on this subject. It was later followed by Al-Mawdudi's book in 1948 which he wrote in Urdu, Mujaz Tajdid al-Din wa Ihya`ahu. Until the mid-fifties, the term tajdid was largely ignored in favor of islah which represented Islamic discourse that challenged contemporary crises.
In the intervening period between al-Mawdudi's book and al-Khuli's article and between Iqbal's book The Construction of Religious Thought in Islam in its Arabic translation, and Abdul Mit'al al-Si'idi's book Al-Mujadidun fil Islam min al-Qarn al-Awwal ila al-Qarn al-Rabi' Ashr (The proponents of renewal from the first century AH to the fourteenth century AH), which were published in 1955, the term tajdid was non-existent. It will be noticed, that after the publication of these two books, there appeared a number of books whose titles included the term, indicating that the word tajdid appeared in this specific period. This temporal approach confirms that Abdul Mit'al al-Si'idi himself had published his book Tarikh al-Islah fil Azhar (The history of reformation in AlAzhar) in the early fifties in which he relies solely on the term islah. By the time he wrote his book Al-Mujadidun fil Islam, the term tajdid finally replaced islah.
All the above proves that at this specific historic moment, the term tajdid came to characterize a new intellectual orientation. However, it is important to stress once again the need to distinguish between secular tajdid which evolved at the beginning of the last century and between the rise of Islamic tajdid in the middle of the last 20th century whose legitimacy was derived from the known Prophetic tradition after the former had expired.
Principal directions in contemporary Islamic thought
Following are the directions of interpreting the concept of tajdid:
1-The concept of tajdid in the perspective of the Salaf
A trend emerged that adhered to the interpretation of the pious Salaf of the term tajdid. It considered any deviation from the Salafi interpretation of Islam as a misguided innovation and distortion of religion. The most notable illustraton of this movement was Dr. Mohmud al-Tahhan, the author of Mafhum al-Tajdid: Bayn al-Sunna al-Nabawiyya wa Ad'iya` al-Tajdid al-Mu'aserin. This conservative trend urged a return to the purity and rectitude of the first Muslim societies. Though their aim to "revive the sunna", "eliminate innovation" and "revive religion", the problem however remains in the new challenges.
It is noticed, that the concept of tajdid is confined in this direction to applying the tools "ijtihad to resolve the novelties of the age." According to them, these 'novelties' are nothing more than juristic novelties and so 'the challenges" are reduced to very narrow interpretations that were insufficient to adapt to changing times.
The concept of tajdid is used by many scholars and intellectuals in the sense of open "ijtihad" that is not constrained by methodological and juristic parameters. In the words of the erudite Fat-hy al-Duraini, open ijtihad is, "conceptualizing and scrutinizing the reality of legislation and its mysteries." It is the interaction between the Muslim mindset and the eternal rules of religion. In this direction, there are no limits to ijtihad provided it is based on principles and is conditioned on a source text (the illumination of its external meaning and the extraction of its hidden meaning). It therefore does not stray from the scope of Islam and its basic code. Scholars who view tajdid as open ijtihad can be classified into two groups:
1- The only reference for the first group is the known Islamic sciences which they consider are sufficient for ijtihad.
2- In addition to the Islamic sciences, this second group resorts to Western sciences for their ijtihad.
The association of Western sciences with the West generated sensitivity between the two groups. Some scholars were of the view that the West is an indivisible entity. Therefore, its culture cannot be separated from its politics. Others opined that religion and science are harmonious and that as Ibn Taymiyya said, "Clear rational rulings are compatible with an authentic source text." Knowledge is a double-edged weapon that can be simultaneously used for good or evil. We have to therefore distinguish between Western politics and its culture and between Western knowledge and science. Knowledge is the object of every believer.
There is a certain truth to the words of both groups. Renouncing modern sciences and refraining from embracing them to serve Islamic law may lead to complete stagnation. On the other hand, an exclusive absorption of modern science may lead to distorting the rulings of religion. In both cases, it is important to note that proponents of this direction included most of the contemporary Muslim intellectuals such as Mohammed Iqbal, Malik Ibn Nabi, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Umar Ubayd Hasana, Mohammed Imara and others. More importantly, it should be noted that this direction considers the problem to lie in:
(i) The cognizance and awareness of Muslims who have shouldered the ramifications and ijtihad of 14 lunar centuries;
(ii) The substantive reality represented by the West. The postulated solution to the problem lay in opening the gate of ijtihad to reveal the defects of the Muslim mindset, resuscitate its creative ability, culture, and progress. Moreover, by opening the gate of ijtihad, Muslims will not only benefit from Western sciences but these very sciences will arm them against and help them control the reality which was primarily generated by Western influence.
It seems that open ijtihad is the most vibrant of directions. The writings of its advocates comprise the majority of works produced on contemporary Islamic studies. It is worthy of preservation as it allows Muslims to undergo a necessary experiment in their contemporary complex circumstances. It is likewise necessary to defend the two groups that make up this direction in spite of their sensitivities towards each other, because this also affords Muslims with the opportunity to undergo a new experience that may benefit the future of the community provided the whole matter is dictated by the Basic ethical code of Islam. Consequently, because the matter is tied to the life of the entire Muslim community, we as Muslims, must neither rush to reject the opinions of this direction in Islamic thought nor be too hasty to accept them without meticulous study and debate.
3-Reforming the methodology of thought and the Islamization of knowledge
There are no considerable differences between this and the two branches of the previous trend. However, by virtue of their specific diagnosis of the malaise of the Umma, a more specific notion of ijtihad has emerged.
This trend views the Muslim crisis as not only pertaining to their heritage or external reality, but to the Islamic civilization at large. The historical reasons behind the Muslim crisis—losing control of their destiny, their material development and the cessation of their intellectual creativity are not historical in the traditional sense. Such was the force of the complex historical changes in the human mind and his social structure, the development of human relations and the flux of everyday life alongside the new technologies that controlled every moment of life. In addition, startling scientific developments caused the Islamic intellectual schools that developed from the efforts of the salaf unable to control or even change their reality without repudiating the foundational principles of Islam. In other words, the trend was historically exhausted. The Muslim crisis emerged against the backdrop of this methodology and traditional schools. On the other hand, the crisis in which the traditional Islamic methodology was caught up in, allowed educated Muslims to borrow from the West. The only solution was for Muslims to reconstruct their Islamic methodologies and integrate Western science, after sieving inherent and hidden Western beliefs, and imbuing them with religious orientation and values. This "Islamization of knowledge" has been the task of the International Institute of Islamic Thought. It is important to admit that the Islamization of knowledge to which a substantial number of intellectuals subscribed, generated a huge wave of re-evaluation of the known Islamic sciences and numerous attempts to construct many other sciences such as "Islamic sociology" and"Islamic psychology" that fall within the framework of social sciences.
The criticism that was labeled against this particular school of Tajdid was that this idea generated discord without substantial construction; there is no doubt however that the program and plan was ambitious. It subscribed to the "second direction" i.e. open ijtihad mentioned earlier.
The reformist import of tajdid
The reformist meaning of tajdid is the application of legal rulings on concrete reality and incidents based on the primary sources of Islam.
Umar Ubayd Hasana observed that ijtihad and tajdid do not mean repudiating, substituting and encroaching upon the foundational principles of the Qur`an and sunna. Rather, it means a sound re-interpretation of their texts, allowing Muslims to tackle their problems and troubles of every age based on the guidance of Divine inspiration.
Abdul Fatah Ibrahim said, "Tajdid means a return to those matters of religion which have been abandoned, reminding the people of the matters they have neglected, and orienting the matters of the public to religion and not vice-versa."
Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali criticized the proponents of the developmental methodology in Islam saying, "Every attempt at severing, interpolating or diverting in matters of Islam means departing from it and tantamount to fabrication against God, arrogating the prerogative of the people, and condemning truth without knowledge. It is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to say that a particular source text is outdated, a particular ruling is obsolete or that life developments necessitate omitting a particular ruling or dispensing with a particular law. All of these are attempts to destroy Islam and return to ignorance … We must know that renewing religion means nothing more than clarifying what ignorance has obscured from the teachings of religion, solidifying those [religious] matters that have been undermined by neglect, tying religious rulings to worldly problems, and adopting changing circumstances to the general principles of Islam and public interest. None of the early scholars or others understood religious tajdid to mean justifying innovations in matters of religion, submitting to desires and tampering with the Qur`an and sunna and the principles of Islam. Presently, there is a group of people who have taken to circulating a strange word for establishing what they call 'developing religion' and accommodating its rulings to modern life."
The Rationale for tajdid
Tajdid in Islamic thought is an inherent necessity in Islam and one which is imposed by those characteristics which God endowed upon His law. It is possible to understand these facts and confirm their urgency by examining some of the characteristics which are necessary for the existence and continuity of tajdid. These include:
The canonical laws prior to Islam were abrogated by a succeeding law and every prophet sent by God renewed what was obliterated from the preceding religion. But God sent Prophet Muhammad as the seal of prophets and Islam as the last religion. He says, "Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah and the seal of the Prophets." [Qur`an 33: 40] The Prophet
said, "I am the seal of the Prophets." The Prophet also said, "There is no Prophet after me." Islam is the eternal religion sanctioned by God; it will not be abrogated or modified until the Last day. This notion of the eternality of Islam gives rise to two reasons for the necessity of tajdid:
The first reason
The scriptural texts are limited whereas life events are numerous. It is therefore necessary to open the gates to ijtihad, allowing the mujtahids of every age to apply legal rulings to the new circumstances and issues of their time and across different environments. Imam ash-Shatibi said, "Because existential occurrences are limitless, it is not valid to subject them to limited evidences. For this reason, it is necessary to engage in ijtihad through such tools as qiyas and others. It is inevitable that unprecedented events will occur for which there are no rulings in the source texts and which the early scholars did not research. In such a situation, the people are either left to their whims and caprices, or these occurrences are not examined in accordance with legal ijtihad and so are also considered following whims and caprices. This necessarily disrupts moral responsibility and pushes it beyond one's ability. Ijtihad is therefore mandatory in every age because occurrences are not particular to one time apart from another."
The second reason
As the people moved away in time from the Prophet's guidance, this inevitably led to the extinction of many of the features of religion. There was therefore a pressing need for revivalists and distinguished Islamic leaders to manifest Islam, demonstrate its true nature, extricate any extraneous factors and issues which impede following the revealed texts and revive those features and rulings of Islam that have been obliterated."
The second feature necessitating tajdid is the universality of Islamic law that takes into account time, place and man. The universality of Islamic law with respect to place means that the global nature of the message of Islam. It is valid for all humanity regardless of race, color and ethnicity. God the Almighty says, "We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures." [Qur`an 21: 107] and, "Say: O men! I am sent unto you all, as a Messenger of Allah." [Qur`an 7: 58]
The universality of Islamic law with respect to mankind means its accommodation of all aspects of man's life, both his private and public life in this world and in the Here-after. There is nothing for which God has not legislated a ruling. The Almighty says, "We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a guide, a mercy, and glad tidings to Muslims." [Qur`an 16: 89] and, "And is it not enough for them that We have sent down to thee the Book which is rehearsed to them?" [Qur`an 29: 51]
The pillars of tajdid
If tajdid has become a pressing necessity for the endurance of Islam, this in turn, predicates the work of revivalists on the elements and pillars of Islamic law. Anyone who contemplates Islamic law will discover its dynamic nature that guarantees its endurance and validity for every time, place and man.
Following are the most important features of Islamic law that are also considered the basic pillars for tajdid:
1- Constancy and flexibility
In Islam, constancy refers to those matters which do not change with time or place and are not subject to ijtihad. Their rulings are fixed and enduring in spite of life developments. This constancy is represented in the universals of Islamic law and its general principles. It does not conflict with a temporal or spatial reality but optimally meets the requirements of every time and place. If there are certain exigencies that are not considered by the general principles of Islam, then this evidences their unlawfulness. The deficiency lies in the requirements themselves and not in the shari'ah. Changing reality must be subjected to the fixed elements of Islamic law and its rulings and not the other way round, otherwise the fixed elements would become fluid like the fluid reality, resulting in change and modifications and forfeiting the legal parameters and principles and finally morals and values, conditions and norms and the fixed bases for rulings.
Through the process of induction, it is noticed that constancy is most manifest in the following fields:
- Tenets of faith, doctrinal truths, and matters of the unseen.
- The principles and the higher purposes of Islam, and the general objectives of Islamic law.
- Morals and virtues.
- Ritual worship.
- Rulings related to the prescribed legal penalties.
- All rulings directly derived from the Qur`an and the sunnah.
Based on the above, how can we describe the role of revivalists and their mission towards these constant principles? The answer lies in that tajdid in any of these constant elements is by means of explicating them, calling upon the people to adhere to them and act upon the rulings related to them, warning against interrupting and neglecting them, and interpolating with them under the pretext of gaining an interest or to accommodate the spirit of the age.
In Islamic law, flexibility means that God the Almighty has instituted in this shari'ah factors for enrichment, vitality, and prosperity, making it viable for self development and renewal and capable of withstanding the various turbulences of time and place and environment. The rulings that may change with time and place are those which the shari'ah ties to their operative causes and reasons. A change in the operative cause or reason means that the issue in question or situation has changed, giving rise to a new ruling. A legal ruling is always the same for two identical cases sharing the same operative cause.
Types of legal rulings
Ibn al-Qayyim observed that rulings are of two kinds:
Rulings of the first kind are immutable—they are not subject to the changing demands of time, place, or scholarly ijtihad. Examples include the obligation of duties, the proscription of prohibitions, the prescribed legal penalties and the like. These matters are constant and no ijtihad may change their constancy.
Rulings of the second kind change in accordance to the interest gained and is conditioned by time, place and conditions. Examples include the rate of monetary payments in and their various kinds which are subject to variegation by the lawmaker according to the considered interest."
Through induction, flexibility is manifest in the following cases:
- The limitation of details in texts on universal principles. Instead, general precepts, suitable for all circumstances, have been legislated. Examples can be found in the Qur`anic treatment of:
* The principle of shura (consultation). God says, "Consult them in the matter". The verse only prescribes the means or methodology of shura, leaving what is suitable for the state of Muslims in various conditions and circumstances.
*Adjudication. The Lawmaker prescribes justice in adjudication and in military preparations and says, "Make ready." [Qur`an 8: 60] He, the Almighty, left the particulars to the discretion of His servants.
*Financial transaction. God prescribes agreement between the contracting parties. He says, "And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities." [Qur`an 2: 188] The Prophet
said, "Selling is by reaching an agreement."
The second pillar: Consideration of necessity, legal excuses, and exceptional circumstances
Along with His Divine laws and prescribed moral responsibility, God also enacted legal concessions designed to facilitate man's needs. Though prayers are to be performed in a certain fashion and at certain times, God took into account potential exceptional circumstances. He eases the integrals of prayer for someone who is ill and permits a traveler to join and shorten prayers. He legislated fasting and at the same time, made it permissible for those who have an excuse, such as the ill and travelers, to refrain from fasting and so forth.
Scholars have laid down legal maxims expounding facilitation and removing hardship; these include:
- Hardship begets facility.
- Necessity makes an unlawful thing lawful.
- Private harm is to be tolerated to prevent public harm.
- A greater harm is eliminated by a lesser harm.
The third pillar: Ratiocination of legal rulings
The legal rulings are divided into:
(i) Non-rationalizeable devotional rulings (imperceptible to the human intellect): A Muslim must obey these kinds of rulings and perform them precisely as prescribed.
(ii) Rationalizeable rulings (perceptible to the human intellect): These offer mujtahids and revivalists room to develop and expand the designation of rulings and, through the process of qiyas, use them to generate new rulings based on their rule occasioning factors ('illal); they comprise the majority of the Islamic legal rulings.
Through ratiocination, the mujtahids were able to extrapolate numerous sources for rule derivation such as qiyas, istihsan, 'urf, al-masaleh al-mursala, sad al-dhara`i', istihsab and so forth. The science of the objectives of Islamic law was only established for the purpose of the ratiocination of legal rulings.
These means of deduction open the door wide open to the mujtahids and revivalists to tackle the new conditions and circumstances in light of Islamic law and through the guidance of its wisdoms and objectives.
The fourth pillar: Consideration of interest
All Divine prescriptions aim to fulfill the happiness and beneficence of the servants of God in this world and in the next. He says, "We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures." [Qur`an 21: 107] Al-'Izz ibn Abdul Salam said, "The shar'iah in its entirety is an interest. When you hear God's words, 'O ye who have believed!,' ponder His command and you will find that He is either encouraging you to that which is good, steering you away from evil or both simultaneously." Ibn Taymiyyah said, "The shari'ahcame to realize and consummate interests and to prevent and reduce evils."
The fifth pillar: Consideration of customs
Due to its importance, jurists count the maxim 'Custom is arbitrator' among the five maxims that form the axis of Islamic jurisprudence.
On this subject, Ibn 'Abdin said, "Changing local customs and temporal exigencies and the corruption of people occasion change in many of the rulings such that if the original ruling was to remain, it would beget difficulty and harm the people and consequently contradict the legal principles that have been founded on facilitation and ease, and repelling harm and evil to maintain the world in perfect order."