The moderate nature of Islam

April 9, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Posted in ARTIKEL | Leave a comment

Ikim Views
Senior Fellow/Director Centre for Syariah, Law & Political Science, IKIM

The Prophet himself combined his prayer on a number of occasions when such need arose.

THE fact that Islam is easy and simple does not mean that it is a simplistic or an immature religion at all.

Firstly, its theological principles are receptive of reason, sensible and comprehensible even to the minds of common people.

Secondly, in the legal sphere, Islam comprises two closely interrelated qualities: strict adherence (azimah) and concession (rukhsah).

While the former reflects religion in reality, the latter provides some flexibilities of how those realities may be exercised under special circumstances.

Under normal circumstances, Muslims are required to observe the general provisions of Islamic laws (Syariah) according to their abilities. But when a situation becomes untenable, the Muslims are allowed certain exceptions by the lawgiver.

When discerning Muslims advocate other Muslims undertake these exceptions, both the advocators as well as the receivers are not to be regarded as taking religious matters lightly, as such an exercise is still within the parameters of the Syariah.

Note that one of the most important features of the Syariah is that it is convenient.

This has been repeatedly mentioned by the Quran as well as the prophetic tradition in various sources, and is agreed upon by many jurists from the early days of Islam until now.

In addition, the overriding objective of Islamic law is the preservation of human interest, its welfare and well-being (masalih). This is possible either by means of removing evil or by acquiring goodness or benefit for man.

This can generally be further translated as the protection of religion, life, reason, progeny and property.

The Syariah sanctions that if the manifestation of this greater objective is threatened, such as during an emergency or if one is in dire need, Muslims may diverse from the specific rulings of the law.

There are Quranic and prophetic injunctions to this effect, again consolidated by Muslim jurists throughout Islamic history via various other principles and opinions.

It is the combination of the principles of convenience and preservation of human interest that makes Islam practical, progressive, dynamic, able to be relevant to changing social conditions and needs regardless of people, geographic topography and periodisation.

Problems seem to emerge when certain parties, some claiming superiority over others, attempt to deny these overwhelming principles and objectives.

They are either extremely rigid, or interpret the divinely inspired injunctions literally, or choose to ignore certain authorities from authentic Islamic sources. Consequently, they corrupt Islam and make life difficult for Muslims.

In the process, they create the impression that Islamic law is rigid, static, not progressive, not dynamic, incapable of developing in tandem with social needs and changing conditions in a given society.

The reality is, however, quite the converse. Ponder, for example, this situation.

Imam Nawawi in his commentary of Sahih Muslim says that a number of Shafi’i scholars like Ibn Sirin, al-Qaffal, al-Shashi al-Kabir and Ibn Munzir allow for prayers to be combined (jamak) for those not travelling, provided there is a reasonable need, and as long as it does not become a habit.

The proof lies in the fact that the Prophet himself combined his prayer on a number of occasions when such need arose.

This was supported by Ibn Abbas r.a., one of the well known Companions of the Prophet, in response to a question posed to him concerning why the Prophet did so.

The answer was intended not to burden the Muslim community. That notwithstanding, there was no further explanation offered, whether it was due to certain illness or any other reasons.

On another occasion, Ibn Abbas himself once gave a lecture to a number of people after Asar prayer which lasted until the time for Maghrib.

When the time for Maghrib arrived, the audience began reminding each other that the time for prayer was upon them. One of them stood up and began incessantly reminding the rest that the time for prayer had arrived.

This annoyed Ibn Abbas so much to the extent that he shouted to the man, “Are you teaching me the Sunnah of the Prophet?”, saying that he had seen the Prophet perform combined prayer for no apparent reason.

This matter was later referred to Abu Hurairah, another of the Prophet’s Companions, and he affirmed the truth of Ibn Abbas’ statement.

The above exemplifies that it is permissible for Muslims to combine their prayer even if one is not travelling, is not sick, and the whether is calm. As long as the need arises, one may do so.

In our time, the possibility of extending the permission for combining one’s prayer to other new situations warrants consideration. These include surgeons performing long surgeries; one attending a meeting of grave importance, and so on according to reasonable circumspection.

In the above circumstances, those Muslims involved are confronted by two choices: to miss their prayer altogether, or to opt for a way which allows them to combine their prayer.

Of the two, reasonable Muslims who are concerned about their prayer would choose the latter. I personally feel that in such a situation, combined prayer is to be given preference over the replacement of prayer (qadha’).

This opinion should not be perceived as trying to confuse the public. Compared to other fields of knowledge like theology, sufism or philosophy, the legal domain is relatively straightforward in nature, and significantly contributes to the facilitation of human life.

While acknowledging the fact that there are certain levels of knowledge that are not meant for laymen to understand, Islam is not a religion whereby the domain of knowledge and truth is exclusive to the clerics.

If one indulges in a certain discipline of learning, one may pursue it from the lowest to the highest levels.

If one is not able to comprehend and discern between one level to another, then one must know one’s limits and be just to knowledge and to himself.



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