By T.O. Shanavas, New Age Islam
17 November 2016
Sharia is central to Islamic faith. It is the Divine Law of Guidance for personal and public behaviour of Muslims, and justice to humanity. Justice is one word in Islam that wraps balance, harmony, fairness, mercy and equity together for the society to function cohesively, where none has live in fear of the other but God. In its absence, humanity will degenerate into a dysfunctional society. Most Muslims believe that the complete code of Sharia or Divine Law is primarily in the Qur'an and secondarily in the authentic reports of Prophet teachings as well as the practices (Hadiths). However, there are many Hadiths in the Sahih Bukhari, Muslim, etc., that defame Prophet (s), is irrational, unjust, contrary to common good, and contradict the Qur’an, and “Any rules that depart from justice to injustice, from kindness to harshness, from common good to harm, or rationality to absurdity cannot be part of Sharia.’ (13th century jurist Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya)
Unfortunately, it is a common Muslims misconception that Divine Law equals Fiqh (understanding by jurists) or Muslim jurisprudence. Various forms of Muslim Jurisprudence are built on the idea that every human effort to articulate Sharia (Divine Law) in specific legal rules is human, and therefore unavoidably fallible process. This process is called Ijitihad, and rules it produces are called Fiqh (understanding) or Muslim jurisprudence. Thus, for Muslims there has always been one Law of God (Sharia), but many schools of Fiqh articulating Divine Law here on earth. Sunni schools are: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, Hambali, Zahari, etc., and the schools of Shia are Jaf’ari, Zaydi, and Ibadi. Each of the schools of Islam are named by students of the classical jurist who taught them. Fiqh rules can be criticized or rejected or reframed without questioning God's infallibility, because Fiqh rules are merely the result of fallible human efforts to understand and elaborate Sharia.
The logic of the Sharia is its minimal number of clear interdictions, and maximal scope for the interpretative extension of key precepts to particular situations. It means that any freezing of the Ulema’s (scholars’) ‘arbitrary’ decisions arises not so much from the essential characteristics of the Sharia, but merely from a fallible human decree of a particular legal tradition or method of exegesis. Only God knows who is right and no Muslim religious-legal scholar (Fuqaha) can insist that his or her conclusions are the correct articulation of Sharia (Divine Law) as against all others. In short, whereas Sharia is perfect, incontestable and is not in need of reform, Fiqh rules are always fallible, therefore can be wrong.
I define: Contemporary Muslim fundamentalists are those who believe Fiqh (understandings by Fuqaha) or Muslim jurisprudence are divine, perfect, infallible, incontestable and Ijtihad (unfettered reasoning) is a closed for Muslims. Such a Muslim belief is called fundamentalism.
T.O. Shanavas is a native of Kerala, but is now based in the USA.He is the author of “Islamic Theory of evolution of Evolution the Missing Link between Darwin and The Origin of Species.” Co-author of the book, And God Said, "Let There Be Evolution!” Reconciling The Book Of Genesis, The Qur'an, And The Theory Of Evolution. Edited by Prof. Charles M. Wynn and Prof. Arthur W. Wiggins.