By studying the history of humanity, it is evident that any nation builds its material achievements upon a specific intellectual foundation.
This foundation sustains and advances the nation’s material achievements, even in the face of severe problems or crises.
On the other hand, if a nation lacked an intellectual foundation, its achievements would wither away and it would be unable to recover from any setbacks that confront it. It would lose its momentum altogether and cease to exist as a civilisation.
This intellectual foundation is of the utmost significance, as it serves as the basis for any civilisation and provides a nation with its point of view about life, goals, methodology, and a reference for problems and issues that emerge in the course of a society.
When the intellectual foundation is adopted and implemented, it engenders creativity and an effective way of thinking.
The Muslim Ummah has a lengthy and rich history with the Islamic ‘Aqeedeh,’ as its intellectual foundation. Today, the Muslim Ummah is living in decline, whether in the area of economics, politics, social order, government or morals. It becomes important to scrutinize this set of conditions carefully so as not to mistakenly attribute these aspects as the reason for the decline. Since, this may cause us to direct our efforts away from the correct solution by addressing the symptoms rather than the root problem.
This apparent state of decline did not occur in a sudden manner or due to minor problems. The Ummah abandoned Islam as its reference and intellectual basis.
We began viewing Islam as a set of rituals and a historical heritage, with no relevance to life. This was a result of many factors that accumulated over many centuries.
Some of them are as follows: (a) Neglect in the Arabic language (b) Muslims influenced by alien philosophies such as Greek, Hindu, and Persian. Some Muslims in the past were influenced by such philosophies and established groups as Al Mu’tazilah (c) The intellectual invasion headed by missionaries in the 17th century (d) The political invasions during the 19th century and the current educational curricula in the Muslim world.
Islam is relevant to the 21st century in the same manner it was in the 7th century.
Human beings can form a system for life. However, such endeavours will never be free of errors, inconsistencies, and will lack relevancy for all peoples at all times.
The manmade system would be able to address specific problems in time, place, and for specific people under certain conditions. However, it will never be able to solve all the problems for all humanity at all times under every condition.
All of this is due to the nature of human beings who are limited in their abilities, being influenced by their own needs and surroundings.
A system revealed from the Creator surpasses all of these limitations. Allah states: “Know you not that it is Allah to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth? And besides Allah, you have neither any Wali nor any helper.” (TMQ 21:107).
“And We have not sent you (Mohammed) except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind, but most men know not.” (TMQ 34:28)
“And (remember) the Day when We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst themselves. And we shall bring you (O Mohammed) as a witness against these. And We have sent down to you the Book as an exposition of everything, guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves.” (TMQ
Islam is relevant, since it addresses Man as a human being with his inherent needs and wants. It addresses Man’s problem as they relate to him as a being with a specific nature.
Islam viewed Man from a holistic perspective and addressed his needs as the basis for its solution, while capitalism did not view Man from a holistic perspective.
It concentrated on certain aspects of Man’s needs while neglecting his other needs. For instance, in capitalism, any commodity or service is considered beneficial and has to be produced as long as it satisfies a need for an individual in the society (for example wine, drugs and prostitution).
Capitalism views the producer or provider of such services as the one who contributes towards solving the economic problem. The problem is addressed by increasing production and subsequently closing the gap between supply and demand.
Increasing production to meet demand overlooks the impact of producing the material or providing certain services for society. While, in Islam certain commodities and services have no value because of their negative effect on the society
Additionally, the tool through which Capitalism guarantees acquisition of products or services is through money. So, whoever does not possess the price of something would be deprived of it.
In Islam, the wellbeing of the individual and society at large is considered and thus one would acquire things needed either through the mechanism of price or through other mechanisms, such as Zakah or through the State’s treasury.
Islam prescribed or specified a system for all aspects of life while leaving the technical and scientific aspects to man. One such example of this is the incident when the Prophet in the battle of Badr chose a location for the Muslim army to encamp. One of the Sahabah asked the Prophet, “Is this the location that Allah has ordered you to choose or is it a tactical decision?”
When the Prophet said that it is a tactical decision, the Sahabi directed the Prophet’s attention towards a more strategic location.
In another example, some people asked the Prophet about the method of pollinating date trees. He told them to leave it up to the wind. When this method did not work and they complained, the Prophet said, “You know better in your daily affairs (referring to the knowhow of life).”
On the same token, Islam encouraged us to cultivate agricultural land but left it up to Man to use the most efficient techniques available in cultivating and enhancing the quality of vegetation and fruits.
The nature of the text of both Quran and Sunnah possesses the following characteristics that give them relevancy:
The text is viewed as a legal text, enabling the Mujtahid to derive rules for other issues not mentioned in the text based upon a valid methodology.
If the text was viewed in the way the Church viewed the Bible, its scope would be literal.
Shariah & Fiqh
Some Muslims would agree that Islam is relevant and that it is not expected of any Muslim to doubt this fact. However, the relevance of Islam is distorted due a number of factors.
The difference between Shariah and Fiqh is that while the former was founded upon revelation whereas the latter is a product of juristic interpretation and is considered as an “independent opinion.”
Fiqh is stated to be the knowledge of the practical rules of Shariah.
Shariah is a collection of revealed rules and principles. Fiqh evolves and enables the Shariah to be relevant in the light of the changing conditions of society through Ijtihad.
Some view Fiqh as encompassing the aspects related to the Ibadah (rites and rituals of worship) whereby a person received reward or punishment.
It is obvious that any law student can propose a law that adapts to new realities in society just by adding one proposition to this law that permits changes in the system.
These changes in the system would be an attempt to keep up with the so called changes in life. Humanity witnessed Marx, Hobbes, Adam Smith, James Madison, and the American Founding Fathers who introduced systems that kept undergoing many changes.
If we view Islam in the same manner, you would find it unique and miraculous nature.
In fact, why do we need Allah (if the system that He provided us is changed)? Why do we need Allah’s system if it is similar to that of Marx or Jefferson?
These efforts to deviate the Ummah from Islam should be viewed very seriously because they amount to nothing other than the current degree of submission of the Muslim Ummah to other than Islam by replacing its label with a false Islamic one.
It must be a matter of belief that Islam is relevant in all places and all times for all people as their way of life.
The emerging need is for Ijtihad to ensure that the rules are correctly extracted from the Shariah for new problems. This means that the doors of Ijtihad should be open but not broken.
The above article, which has been highly edited, appeared some time ago on the website of ‘Islamic Revival.’ Toe read the full text, please visit www.islamicsystem.blogspot.com