The Quran has imparted to us a
methodical approach by which issues are broken down and
questions reconstructed before they are answered.
Our understanding of religion and
religious practice should, in the first instance, be based on
the study of divine revelations on the one hand, and the real
dynamic world on the other. The Quran guides us to the marvels
and secrets of the physical world while reflection on the real
world leads us back to misunderstanding the Quran. We must
appreciate how the two interact, contrast and complement each
other. This is what we refer to as the “combined reading”: a
reading of Revelation for an understanding of the physical world
and its law and principles, and a reading of the physical world
to appreciate and recognize the value of Revelation. The purpose
of reading revelation is to apply the general “key principles”
to specific situations and link the absolute to the relative, as
far as our capabilities allow. The reader in all cases is man,
God’s vicegerent on earth, guided by his strong faith in
Revelation and his understanding of it on the one hand, and his
appreciation of the laws and behavior of the physical world on
Once the process of the “combined
reading” is underway, we shall find that the most noble values
that the two “readings” highlight are the following: monotheism
(tawhid); purification (tazkiyah); and civilization (umran).
Tawhid : the belief in the
absolute and pure Oneness of God Almighty as the Creator, Maker
and Everlasting Lord.
Tazkiyah : relates to man as God’s
vicegerent on earth, entrusted by and accountable to Him,
charged with building and developing the world. He can only
achieve this through self-purification.
‘Umran : taken to mean the
cultivation and development of the world as the arena harnessed
for discharging man’s mission and the crucible for his trials,
accountability and development.
These values are, in fact, ends in
themselves, reflecting God’s purpose behind the creation of the
world, which was not pointless, and the creation of man, which
was not in vain, and His admonition not to corrupt the earth.
These three values, or objectives, come under the heading of
“worship,” and it has been necessary to understand and highlight
them from the outset as the criteria by which human behavior is
We must consider the levels of
purpose with reference to responsible adult apropos
“expediency,” “priority” and “embellishment,” which should be
linked to the three higher values: tawhid, tazkiyah and ‘umran.
This will open wide the doors for jurists who are capable of
including all new situations under these levels, as was done by
Shaykh Ibn Ashur who listed freedom as one of the main purposes
of Shari’ah. So did Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali who included
equality and human rights among its purposes. There are other
issues that need to be included among the needs and priorities
of the Muslim community and these should be accommodated
The tendency to equate between the
Quran and the Sunnah has, at times, led to confusion in
understanding the true relationship between the two sources.
For, although they are not the same, contradiction or conflict
between them cannot be possible. The Quran is the source that
sets the rules, values, and standards which the Sunnah explains
and elaborates further. The Quran, in fact, endorses and
legitimizes the other available sources, including the Sunnah,
and supersedes them. The Sunnah revolves around the Quran and is
closely tied up with it, but never surpasses or overrules it.
The confusion in defining the relationship between the Quran and
the Sunnah has produced a number of absurd notions such as: the
Quran and the Sunnah mutually annul or cancel the other; the
Sunnah is the judge of the Quran; the Quran is far more
dependent on the Sunnah than the other way around. These claims
made the relationship between the Quran and the Sunnah one of
precise logic, of either definitive or speculative nature,
which is contrary to the Quranic description of the
relationship. Al-Nahl:44, 64, 89.
The Quran must be freed of many of
the allegations surrounding it. Its language should be
understood outside lexicon of pre-Islamic Arabic and according
to its own grammar, just as its style and prose were their own
standard. The Quran is simple and accessible to all serious
students. The fact that it can have different interpretations is
an aspect of its miraculous nature and a rich advantage.
Humanity is in greater need of the Quran guidance than ever
before; a book which encompasses all time and space and the
nature of man. It deals with all issues and offers solutions and
answers to all questions.
Methodological Principles for the
study of the Quran.
Unveiling the structural unity of the Quran by reading it in
contrast to the physical universe and its movement. The Sunnah
of the infallible Prophet is viewed as the practical example and
an interpretation of the Quran’s values in the real world. The
Sunnah should also be viewed as an integrated structure in its
own right, closely linked to the Quran as an elaboration of its
values for relative specific situations.
Acknowledging the supremacy and precedence of the Quran as the
judge over all else, including the sayings and actions of the
Prophet. Once the Quran establishes a certain principle, such as
tolerance and justice in dealing with non-Muslims, the ruling of
the Quran takes precedence. The sayings and actions of the
Prophet, in this case, should, if possible, be interpreted to
conform with the principle established by the Quran and be
subservient to it. One of the examples in this case is the
interpretation of a hadith regarding not to return the greetings
of a non-Muslim with a better greeting which does not seem to
conform with the teachings of the Quran.
Recalling that the Quran has revived the legacy of earlier
prophets. It verifies, evaluates, and expurgates this legacy of
all distortions, and then represents it in a purified form in
order to standardize human references. This is how the Quran has
embraced the whole legacy of previous prophets and taken
supremacy over it.
Reflecting on the purpose of the Quran in linking the reality of
human life with that which is beyond human perception, or ghayb,
and discrediting the notion of randomness or coincidence. This
facilitates an understanding of the relationship between the
seen and the unseen worlds, the knowable and the unknowable;
between the absolute text of the Quran and the real human
condition. It reveals part of the delicate distinction between
man’s humanity and individuality. As an individual, man is a
relative being, but his humanity makes him universal and an
Recalling the importance of the factors of time and space. The
Quran emphasizes the sanctity of time by specifying the number
of months as twelve and totally forbidding the intercalation of
the calendar. It identifies certain lands as sacred and others
as sacrosanct. Within this time-space frame one may come to
understand the existence of man since the time of the creation
of Adam and Eve until he reaches his ultimate destiny. This
existence is the link between the universality of the Quran and
that of mankind.
Recognition of an intrinsic Quranic rationale whose rules are
infused in its text, and that man is capable, with God’s help,
of uncovering the rules of this rationale that will guide his
mind and his activity. These rules are themselves capable of
becoming laws that protect the objective mind against deviation
and perversity. The Quranic rationale can provide a common base
for human intellectual activity that would help man break away
from the hegemony of his own thinking which is shaped by
tradition and blind imitation of previous generations and the
attendant tribal consequences.
Adopting the Quranic concept of geography. The whole earth
belongs to God and Islam is the religion of God. In reality,
every country is either the land of Islam (dar al-Islam) as a
matter of fact, or will be so in the future. All humanity is the
community of Isalm (ummat al-Islam), either by adopting the
faith or as a prospective follower of it.
Recognizing the universality of the Quranic mission. Unlike
previous scriptures which addresses specific, localized
communities, the Quran began by addressing Muhamamd and his
close family, then turned to Makkah and its surrounding towns,
then to other communities, and finally to the whole of
humankind. Thus, it became the only book capable of dealing with
contemporary global situations. Any message to today’s world
must be based on common rules and values, and must be
methodical. It has to based on rules that govern objective
thinking. Apart from the Quran, there is not a single scripture
anywhere in the world today that can satisfy these requirements.
Studying very closely the complicated aspects of the lives of
people, as the context within which questions and issues arise.
Unless life is understood properly in all its dimensions, it
will be difficult to formulate a suitable fiqh theory capable of
referring to the Quran and obtaining satisfactory and correct
answers. During the time of the Prophet, questions would arise
out of various situations and revelation would be received
providing the answers. Today, the Revelation is complete and all
we need to do is articulate our problems and requirements and
then refer to the Quran for answers. We then refer to the Sunnah
of the Prophet to understand the context of the Revelation and
link the text with the actual situation or incident.
Studying in detail the fundamental principles, especially those
relating to the ultimate purposes of the Shariah, in order to
incorporate them in the formulation of the principles of a
modern fiqh of minorites. The study must be based on the
ultimate purposes and linked to the governing higher values,
noting the delicate distinction between the purposes of the
Shariah and the intentions of responsible adults.
Recognizing that the inherited fiqh is not an adequate reference
for fatwa or the formulation of rules in such matters. It does,
however, contain precedents of fatwa and legislation which can
be applied and referred to for determining approaches and
methodologies, as appropriate. Whatever is found to be
applicable, useful and representative of the spirit of Islam may
be taken, preserving continuity from the past to the present,
without elevating the ruling to the level of Quranic text or
taking it as an absolute ruling for the issue in question. It
is not a criticism of our predecessor that they did not have
answers to issues they had not encountered or events and
situations unheard of in their time.
Testing our fatwas, rulings and opinions in real-life
situations. Every ruling of fiqh has its own impact on reality,
which can be positive, if the fatwa is correctly deduced, or
otherwise resulting in certain setbacks somewhere along the way.
The outcome in the latter case would be negative and the ruling
must be reviewed and revised. Thus, the fatwa process becomes
one of debate and discussion between the fiqh and the realities
of life which are the ultimate testing ground that will prove
how appropriate and practical the fiqh really is.
(1981, p. 152), a contemporary member of the Muslim Brotherhood,
If one takes
a verse from the Quran or any particular hadith, without going
back to the other hadith or to the Prophet’s practice and
without relating it to the maqasid, one is likely to
misunderstand and misinterpret the Shariah… This is why al-Imam
al Shatibi in his book The Treatise insisted that to understand
the Shariah one has to comprehend and know its end goals (al
maqasid). This only happens when one is knowledgeable about the
verses of the Quran and the hadith; why, how and when they were
revealed, the reason behind the revelation, which hadith are
eternal and which were temporal…etc.