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Islamic Law
Maqasid Shariah
Case Study

:: In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Kind ::


What is Maqasid Al-Shariah?

Linguistically, ‘maqsid’ (plural: maqasid) means purpose, objective, principle, intent, goal, end, telos (greek), finalite (French), or Zweck (German).

Maqasid of the Islamic law are the objectives/purposes behind Islamic rulings. For some Islamic legal theorists, it is an alternative term to ‘people’s interests’ (masalih).  [1]

Therefore, Maqasid al-Shari'ah or the objectives of Shari'ah can be defined as follows [2]:

  • Maqasid al-Shari'ah comprises those benefits/welfare/advantages for which Allah has revealed His Shari'ah.

  • Maqasid al-Shari'ah aims at the attainment of good, welfare, advantage, benefits, etcetera, and warding off evil, injury, loss, etcetera, for the creatures.

The aims and objectives of Shari'ah are everlasting and unchangeable. They are set by Allah and their application or interpretation is not left to the sweet will of any person or class. These aims relate to both the worldly life and the life hereafter; and to take them only for the worldly benefits at the cost of the hereafter life's benefits is prohibited and condemned. However, Shari'ah is considerate in case of darurah (necessity) and hardships.

Dimensions of Maqasid

They are various ways of classifying the Purposes, or maqasid of the Islamic law according to a number of dimensions. Some of the dimensions are as follows. [3]

  1. Levels of necessity, which is the traditional classification.

  2. Scope of the rulings aiming to achieve purposes.

  3. Scope of people included in purposes

  4. Level of universality of the purposes.


Traditional classification of maqasid

The traditional classification of the objectives or Maqasid al-Shari'ah is :

  • Necessities (darurat)

             Preservation of faith, soul, wealth, mind, offspring, honor.

  • Needs (hajiyat)

    Shari'ah aims at facilitating life or removing hardships. All such provisions of Shari'ah which aim at facilitating life, removing hardship, etcetera, are said to fulfill the hajiyyah (requirements). For example, permission of hunting and use of halal goods for food, lodging, and conveyance, etcetera. Besides, the permission for qirad (profit sharing through borrowing), musaqat (profit sharing), bai salam (forward buying of a commodity which does not yet exist), which are apparently illegal interest bearing dealings, are the examples of Shari'ah provisions that aim at facilitating life or removing hardships in the life in this world. The exploitative, usurious and doubtful dealings and contracts have also been forbidden for the same purpose. [4]

  • Luxuries (tahsiniyyat)

Shari'ah beautifies life and puts comforts into it. There are several provisions of Shari'ah which are meant to ensure better utilization, beautification and simplification of daruriyyah and hajiyyah. For example, permission to use beautiful, comfortable things; to eat delicious food; to have cold drinks and juices; to wear fine clothing and so on. [4]


Is There a Problem with the Traditional Classification of Maqasid al-Shariah?

Islamic theories of goals (maqasid) evolved over the centuries, especially in the twentieth century. Contemporary theorists criticized the above traditional classification of necessities for a number of reasons, including the following.

The scope of traditional maqasid is the entire Islamic law. However, they fall short to include specific purposes for single scripts/rulings or groups of scripts that cover certain topics or ‘chapters’ of fiqh. [5]
  • Traditional maqasid are concerned with individuals rather than families, societies, and human, in general.
  • The traditional maqasid classification did not include the most universal and basic values, such as justice and freedom.
  • Traditional maqasid were deduced from the ‘fiqhi literature’, rather than the original sources/scripts.


To remedy the above shortcoming, modern scholarship introduced new conceptions and classifications of al-maqasid by giving consideration to new dimensions. First, considering the scope of rulings they cover, contemporary classifications divide maqasid into three levels. [6]


  1. General maqasid : These maqasid are observed throughout the entire body of the Islamic law, such as the necessities and needs mentioned above and newly proposed maqasid, such as ‘justice’ and ‘facilitation’.
  2. Specific maqasid : These maqasid are observed throughout a certain ‘chapter’ of the Islamic law, such as the welfare of children in family law, preventing criminals in criminal law, and preventing monopoly in financial transaction law.
  3. Partial maqasid : These maqasid are the ‘intents’ behind specific scripts or rulings, such as the intent of discovering the truth in seeking a certain number of witnesses in certain court cases, the intent of alleviating difficulty in allowing an ill and fasting person to break his/her fasting, and the intent of feeding the poor in banning Muslims from storing meat during Eid days.


The Public Good and the End Goals of Islamic Law: al Maslahah and Maqasid al Shariah

Islislah is a conjugated word word  that shares the same root with maslahah with saluha as its root word.

Saluha : to be good, suitable or befitting.

Shalabi (1943, p 281) of al Azhar University writes in a published dissertation that ‘maslahah could be dichotomized according to three issues:

1.       Whether it was considered or stressed by God, or not

2.       Whether it is constant or not

3.       The degree and need for maslahah for reasons of survival and well-being

Shalabi (1943, p 281) gives the different kinds of maslahah in accordance with the first issue as follows:

  • Contemporary/Recognized maslahah (maslahah mu’tarabah): the maslahah that has been clearly stated in the Quran and Sunnah, or has gained the consensus of the fuqaha (ijma’)
  • Nullified maslahah (maslahah mulgha): the maslahah that is in clear contradiction to the Quran, the Sunnah, and did not gain consensus from the fuqaha.
  • Conveyed maslahah (maslahah mursalah): the maslahah that has nothing directly related for or against it in terms of ijma’ or the Quran and the Sunnah.

Maslahah is an important notion in Muslim legal thought because it is the general formula that ties the different schools of Islamic jurisprudence together. As Sardar (1985, p 113) indicates:

Traditionally, Muslim scholars have focused  not on istislah, but its more general form, maslahah, which means a cause, a means, an occasion, or a goal which is good… Its [maslahah’s] uses as a principal tool of promoting the Shariah is based on the argument that good is lawful and that lawful must be good. On the basis such reasoning, traditional Muslim scholars developed a whole array of maslahah categories, some of which required direct evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah while others could lead to binding legal sanctions on the basis that they clearly promote a noted ethical criterion such as preservation of life, property, promotion of Islamic mores and sound reasoning of the Shariah.  


Read more on Maqasid al-Shariah

  1. Maqasid Al-Shari'ah: The Objectives Of Islamic Law, by Mohammad Hashim Kamali

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