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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Scholars deliberate on Shariah issues
By Manzar Imam

New Delhi: Founded by late Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi, Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA), New Delhi is a pioneering institute for discussing issues confronting Muslims in matters of religion. Shariah is not just a seven-letter word to describe certain faiths and beliefs of Muslims; it is a way of life, a set of do's and don'ts: a complete way of life. It has the potential to guide men and women to lead a dignified life and avail of the upcoming treasures of science and technology. It has in it the capacity to deal with ever happening occurrences and find solution to rising problems. 

Left to right: Wazeh Rasheed, Atiq Ahmad, Dr. Salah Sultan Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadwi, KS Rahmani and Prof Ijtiba

The Islamic Fiqh Academy, in collaboration with the International Institute of Islamic Thoughts, Washington organised a five-day workshop here at Jamia Hamdard Convention Centre from December 21 to 25, 2003. Young scholars discussed issues relating to contemporary needs of the modern world. This select gathering of young scholars from different parts of the country illuminated on various aspects of the purpose of Shariah. There were question-answer and debate sessions. Shariah views on vote, election, politics, government jobs and constitutional ethics were discussed in detail. 

Is Islam a religion to suit the needs of any time and period or was it meant for a period that has passed? The answer demands detailed discussions. 

Islam as a religion and a way of a complete life was and is the most up-to-date religion. The need is to understand it, which demands collective and concerted effort to find its flexibility to fit to any time.

In his message read out by Maulana Fahim Akhtar Nadwi, Maulana Syed Rabe Hasani Nadwi, president of All India Muslim Personal Law Board said Shariah laws are from the time immemorial. Messengers were sent to explain those laws to the people. Either in the form of the Quran or the sayings of the Prophet (SAW) these laws are meant to guide people to lead a successful life here and in the Hereafter. Earlier, scholars discussed several issues. We need to read and understand them and also add our own findings. 

The message further said that the four major fiqh schools dealt with complicated issues which had arisen in their times. But pondering upon new issues is a part of Islamic Shariah as Islam is not a stagnant religion. Hence institutions are set up to deliberate on new issues to give guidance to people.

Prof. Ijtiba Nadwi, former Head of the Arabic department, Allahabad University, who presided over the inaugural session paid tributes to Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi. Prof. Ijtiba said Qazi Sahab was a visionary scholar who prepared a team of young scholars to carry forward his mission. Knowledge of Arabic and a deep study of Islamic resources are indispensable for knowing the wisdom and philosophy behind Shariah laws, he said. As a faqih needs worldly information, there is need for introduction of certain new subjects in madrasa syllabi, he said. 

In his welcome address Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, general secretary of IFA, said Islamic Shariah is the final and complete form of God's laws. These laws are from the One Who knows man's flaws and faults. They are harmonious with intellect and observation. Research in Islam is seen with respect and men are invited to it. Islamic Shariah is not meaningless, and there is scope for the needs of individuals their worldly necessities and success in the Hereafter. He says that majority of ummah believes that no Shariah order is devoid of man's benefit. Sometimes we find it and at other times we fail to see it. The beauty of Islamic Shariah is that it is for ever and has potential to solve issues of people in all ages. It is because it guides us in resources and also tells us about their purposes. One part of the Shariah is unchangeable but the other part of it is flexible and changes can be brought to it as per needs of time. The latter 'relates to communications and resources', he said.

Maulana Rahmani said that given thought it becomes clear that the prime purpose of the whole Shariah is to avail of the opportunities and save people from evils. The definition of maslihat i.e. expediency given by Islamic jurists is to draw benefits and avoid harms.

The real purpose behind all commands of religion is to establish justice, and justice according to Islamic jurisprudence means 'putting a thing on its right place', Rahmani said. He added that difference of opinion is not bad; rather it is commendable.

In his introductory speech Maulana Atiq Ahmad Bastawi, secretary IFA, said that the purposes of Shariah as is clear from the works of Imam Ghazali are five: preserving one's religion, his person, his progeny, intellect and property. He quoted Hafiz Ibn Qaiyim that the foundation of Shariah lay in the benefit of people here and in the Hereafter. Hence, anything that is against justice, mercy, expediency and wisdom is not part of Shariah. 

Others who spoke on this occasion included Maulana Jalaluddin Ansar Umri, Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi, Dr Mohsin Usmani, Maulana Abdur Rahim Qureshi.

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