The Basic Principles of the Prophet’s Way in Solving Social Issues

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The Basic Principles of the Prophet’s Way

Human bonds are among the fundamental pillars of all human societies. Just like a building, human communities also rely on connections that link their various components together to form a single entity. These necessary bonds of human society, from various perspectives, bring individuals together and guide them towards a common purpose. Society becomes suitable for coexistence only through these bonds.

These bonds, starting from the simplicity of primitive human communities, have evolved over time and reached modern civilization, thus becoming more complex and acquiring different dimensions. These bonds of society have evolved into intertwined relationships that require new sciences, and within human society, they have turned into increasingly complex social and economic actions with growing intricacies and dimensions.

All these factors coming together have resulted in the emergence of the most significant social issues in human life. For example, problems such as illiteracy, generally encompassing family dynamics and specifically the issue of gender relations, as well as education and value-related issues. Similarly, the unequal distribution of wealth and other major societal problems representing significant social issues…

The problem of illiteracy, for example, has reached a dangerous level in the Islamic world, becoming a social phenomenon that rings alarm bells. In terms of danger, this problem is above many issues such as poverty, ignorance, disease, poor living conditions, and security concerns in several Islamic countries.

It has always been like this because illiteracy is the fundamental source of many phenomena that hinder development and condemn societies to backwardness. Illiteracy is not limited to not knowing letters or the alphabet; it also encompasses lacking vocational, cultural, and technological knowledge.

When it comes to family issues–such as relationships between men and women, domestic violence, etc.–undoubtedly, these problems have very negative effects. These effects are so severe that it is difficult to list them all. They are the kind of negative effects that not only afflict family members greatly but also cause significant distress to the entire society. Some of these effects include children growing up with seeds of resentment, hatred, fear, and isolation from society… Likewise, the tendencies of children to run away from home stem from social, moral, and intellectual deviations.

The problem of street children also has a detrimental effect on the economic development of society. This issue leads to a weakening of human capital in this area, resulting in decreased income and economic decline.

When it comes to the issue of education and values, this problem is also considered one of the most significant challenges facing the Islamic community. In this field, we are confronted with many

challenges and handicaps in raising a new generation nurtured upon authentic Islamic values. The current generation tends to continue its existence with a negative orientation due to customs that are incompatible with the society it encounters and lives in.

The dazzle of the culture coming from a different society, whether they are young people aspiring to become more religious or those advocating modernization, has caused them to imitate that society, blurring their vision. As a result, the influence of great Islamic values such as tolerance, compassion, justice, coexistence, and freedom has diminished.

When it comes to the problem of wealth distribution, undoubtedly, the lack of justice has a significant impact on contemporary issues. Poverty, deprivation among people, the inability of states to meet the needs of individuals, and their failure to fulfill social, health-related, and cultural demands are factors that contribute to the emergence of numerous negative social problems.

These are some of the major problems that concern our society and have significant consequences. What prioritizes our attention to these issues is precisely their importance and the resulting significant consequences. Islam is an open system, a comprehensive religion, and undoubtedly, it has provided an answer to every problem, in every era, and in every matter concerning the affairs of the ummah.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) described the believer by saying: “What is necessary for an intelligent person is to use their time wisely, to be diligent in their work, and to guard their tongue. Whoever considers his words to be part of his actions does not speak excessively about matters that do not concern him.” 1 This is a fundamental rule that we must understand in order to grasp both the subject of work and how we will act accordingly.

Someone studying the Prophet’s way will see that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) established comprehensive fundamental principles suitable for eliminating various social ailments and addressing these issues. He (peace and blessings be upon him) formed a community within the framework of the most advanced social methods.

This method transformed human connections from being based on material interests and ethnic affiliations to being based on human principles and relationships governed by general rules, including laws regulating interactions among people.

A true Muslim feels the beauty and maturity of these Islamic bonds along with the members of their society. Their soul benefits from fulfilling social responsibilities. You find them defending their relationship networks with this society. Thus, they do not fulfill the requirements of all these social bonds for worldly gain or the desire for fame; rather, they do so out of their own desire to achieve the most perfect results and to reach the highest levels of maturity.

This is the society that embodies the statement of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) “In the compassion they show towards one another, in their love for one another, and in their mercy towards one another, you will see the believers as if they are a single body, like a single organism. When one part of it suffers, the whole body stays awake in pain and fever.”2

The Principles of the Prophet’s Way in Solving Problems

1. Prioritizing Knowledge

Undoubtedly, the Prophet’s Way is based on certain principles in addressing major social problems. The first of these is prioritizing knowledge. There is nothing surprising in this, as the command to read is the first revealed verse of the Qur’an.3 The Qur’an, the Book of Wisdom, is filled with numerous verses explaining the place and importance of knowledge and learning in Islam.

God (may He be glorified and exalted) has stated that nothing can elevate a Muslim to a higher rank than knowledge, saying: ‘God raises the ranks of those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge.’ God is aware of everything you do.”4 And in another verse, Allah states: “It is only those who have knowledge among His servants that fear God. Indeed, God is Exalted in Might and Forgiving.”5

The knowledge that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) called upon and encouraged people to drink deeply from is the knowledge derived from the signs of the universe, leading one to reach their Creator through reason, with contemplation and deep thought as its fundamental basis. It is the knowledge that deems humans worthy of being stewards on Earth.

Through this knowledge, one can carry and truly comprehend God’s message. By virtue of knowledge and understanding, one truly grasps that God (may He be glorified and exalted) has entrusted this entire universe–the earth, the sky, the stars, celestial beings, the sun and moon, water, and air–to His command, and thus, one can genuinely appreciate and thank Him.”

“Understanding that all of these were given to him with a profound wisdom and that through them, He (may He be glorified and exalted) vividly and perfectly expresses His majesty, beauty, and blessings. This knowledge leads humankind towards deserving this stewardship through enlightenment, understanding, and appreciation. Knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and activity guide humanity not to devastate but to develop the earth, and not to impoverish life but to enrich it. God, the Exalted, says: ‘It is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may test you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.’ (His forgiveness, mercy, and grace are abundant.)6

In the Sunnah of our guiding and glad-tidings-giving Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the knowledge called upon to learn is not limited to one field and disregards the other; rather, he (peace and blessings be upon him) calls upon the Muslim to traverse horizons in pursuit of learning wherever they may be in the world.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Knowledge is like a treasure, and its key is questioning. Therefore, ask to learn. Know that in this regard, there are rewards for four people: the one who asks, the one who teaches, the one who listens, and the one who answers the questions.” 7 In another hadith, he said: “Whoever sets out on a journey to seek knowledge, then he is on the path of God until he returns.”8

2. Action

The second principle of solving social problems, as seen in the Prophet’s method, is action or work. The Prophet’s way has not only encouraged knowledge but has also emphasized that knowledge is inseparable from action. Success and wisdom in achieving stewardship on Earth can only be attained through action. There is no other measure of success or failure for humanity than their effort, striving, toil, and sacrifice, coupled with intellect, understanding, and knowledge.

Therefore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) encouraged us to act upon what we know. He (peace and blessings be upon him) educated his respected Companions to purify their souls, build their identities, and assume their religious and worldly responsibilities, showing them the way to achieve this.

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) did not only content himself with promoting outward worship; rather, he also, through various means, trained his Companions to possess noble character traits. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) presented morality alongside worship and beliefs simultaneously because the relationship between morality and belief is clearly stated in the Book of God.

As action is one of the essential elements for the development of both the world and the hereafter, and is indispensable for life, being necessary for the continuity of the species and in accordance with human nature, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) established a special system for it and linked actions to intentions. Indeed, the righteousness or corruption of an action is determined by the righteousness or corruption of the intention behind it. He said: “Actions are judged by intentions, and each person will have what they intended.”9

In order to ensure equality of opportunity, which is considered an indicator of social justice, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) made work (action) a right that the state must provide for every individual. It is not permissible for the state to neglect this important social duty. The state must fulfill this duty to ensure that individuals’ energies are not wasted, their activities continue, and society does not deprive individuals of their efforts and abilities.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would always help to provide employment for those who were without work. Indeed, God’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) established that: “No individual should have any privilege in employment based on their wealth, family’s wealth, or influence. Employment opportunities must be made available to every one according to their abilities, strength, and capabilities. Therefore, the state must select the most suitable and capable individuals from among its citizens to fulfill its duties.

Regarding this matter, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever is entrusted with the leadership of the Muslims and appoints to a position someone other than the most suitable among them, has indeed betrayed God and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).” 10 Therefore, it is necessary to adhere to the principle of expertise and not depart from it in selecting the most suitable and competent person for every position according to its nature.

3. Balance and Equality

The third principle: Balance. Balance appears in every aspect of life. One of these is equality among individuals, not uniformity. For example, in the Islamic religion, when speaking of equality between men and women in rights and responsibilities, it does not mean that both genders are identical in the Divine qualities and duties they possess by creation.

Because no sensible person would ever claim such a thing. Therefore, calling for the acceptance of men and women as exact replicas of each other is a form of oppression; it is pushing them onto a dark path that contradicts the natural disposition that God has created them with. It is burdening them with an injustice they cannot bear. What is in accordance with the balance established by both genders and the path of God’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is equality, not sameness.

In Islam, equality does not mean eliminating the differences and distinguishing qualities among people. For diversity is one of the Divine norms applied by God in His creation. It is a reality inherent in creation. It is neither possible to eliminate nor ignore it.

However, equality means justice. Justice entails not discriminating among individuals based on their actions and choices. Therefore, the understanding of equality among people should be approached and applied within the framework of respecting their differences and distinguishing qualities. It mustn’t this does not attack or obliterate their individual personalities.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) established equality as a general principle among all people. He ingrained it as a guardian in the human soul, like a support that maintains the relationship between men and women in all systems and judgments he legislated and ruled. One of the examples of his appreciation of the common human value among everyone is his respect and esteem for both men and women without making any distinction between them, thus demonstrating his regard for humanity as a whole.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has many indications in his hadiths showing the equality of people. It is narrated that he said: ‘Undoubtedly, your lineages are not a reason for anyone to insult each other; you are all children of Adam. You are all the same as one another, and no one has any superiority over another except in piety and good deeds. It is enough for a person to be ashamed if he is vulgar, miserly, or cowardly.11

Therefore, in the belief of a Muslim, it is established that all human beings are inherently equal in their original creation (like the teeth of a comb). According to Islam, there is no superiority among individuals based on their humanity. Superiority only comes through the abilities they possess by creation, coupled with their own achievements later in life, based on righteousness and good deeds.

Unless every individual’s right is guaranteed within their society, and unless no one vouches for the exploitation or deprivation of another’s rights, equality among people holds no meaning. The widespread extreme disparity in incomes and wealth that we see in all Islamic countries today is contrary to the essence of Islam because, in such a situation, it is certain that the sense of brotherhood that Islam aims to spread among Muslims will be completely eradicated.

Undoubtedly, the just distribution of wealth among citizens occurs when it provides a standard of living for every individual in society that is befitting of human dignity. Additionally, it is necessary for scholars and distinguished groups to work towards providing employment opportunities for job seekers and ensuring fair wages for workers, while contemplating the means of establishing an Islamic economic system. Indeed, zakat, charity, and endowments constitute the fundamental pillars of this system.

These scholars, who examine the practical means of implementing the Islamic economic system, should fulfill their duty by ensuring a fair distribution of income to the poor who are unable to earn a livelihood on earth, or who struggle with mental or physical disabilities, or who are oppressed by circumstances beyond their control.

4. Justice

The fourth principle: Justice. Justice is the greatest issue upon which governance stands, the most important matter. It is a high Islamic ethic encouraged in the Qur’an by God (may He be glorified and exalted) and in the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). God says “Indeed, Allah commands justice and good conduct…” 12 The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said in a hadith: “This nation will always be on the path of goodness as long as they speak the truth when they speak, judge with justice when they judge, and show mercy when asked for mercy.”13

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has prohibited oppression and injustice in many of his hadiths. The following are some examples: “Oppression will be darkness on the Day of Resurrection.” 14 The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also narrated in a Divine hadith where God (may He be glorified and exalted) says: “O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another.”15

Another indicator of the complete establishment of justice among people is to give each rightful claimant their due, to place the appropriate thing in its appropriate place, and to appoint the appropriate individual to the appropriate position. An example of this is the presence of a group of distinguished scholars to resolve issues and determine a way out of crises based on the laws of God and His established norms/laws in the universe.

We clearly see the concept of elites (nukhba) in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and we observe that it is connected to human history and reality. More precisely, it is evident in God’s law/norm in the universe. Indeed, God has favored certain times over others, certain places over others, certain individuals over others, and certain situations over others.

This difference has throughout history propelled people forward, facilitated their acquaintance, and encouraged them to act together. God (may He be glorified and exalted) states: “Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? It is We who have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and have raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service. But the mercy of your Lord is better than whatever they accumulate”.16

He also says: “… God raises the ranks of those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge. God is Acquainted with what you do”.17 And He says: “And We have preferred some of the messengers over others…”.18 And He also says: “O you who have believed, obey God and obey the messenger and those in authority among you.”19

God (may He be glorified and exalted) has created leaders for people, aligning this with their abilities and, importantly, their sincere intentions in reform. Therefore, He has condemned the notion or conception of absolute equality among all individuals.

The absence of uniformity does not mean, as previously mentioned and explained, the absence of quality. However, the presence of these distinguished and exceptional individuals leads to the resolution of societal issues and fosters trust and stability among people. It is incumbent upon all individuals to support, defend, and assist these elite groups in fulfilling their roles.

This does not mean that this group is above the law. However, when accusations are made, they should be based on solid facts, not on different events or unhealthy imaginations. The presence and preservation of these distinguished scholars and wise individuals, perhaps even preventing their slipping when they falter, is an obligation upon all people.

This matter represents an example of justice through ensuring the appointment of the appropriate person to the appropriate position, which is a fundamental principle of the Prophetic method in resolving societal issues.

the-basic-principles-of-the-prophets-way

5. Dealing with Mercy and Compassion

The fifth principle is to deal with mercy (compassion) and gentleness, not with violence and harshness. Mercy is one of the exemplary traits praised in the Qur’an by God and in the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Mercy is a type of character that leads to various sources of goodness in different aspects of worldly life, and indeed, it is also a source of many rewards in the Hereafter.

Due to this community being the sole community of mercy and guidance, the scholars of hadith have made it a tradition to start their teachings and lessons with the following mercy hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him): “Those who show mercy will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and the ones above the heavens will show mercy to you.”20

Many hadiths from the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) have encouraged Muslims to behave with mercy towards one another and all of creation. Indeed, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also warned his ummah against abandoning this beautiful attribute, stating that doing so would incur the wrath of God on the Day of Judgment.

In this regard, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy by God.”21 Additionally, the truthful Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said in another hadith: “Mercy is only removed from the heart of the wretched.”22

In their civilization, Muslims have practically implemented this sense of mercy in many charitable institutions. They have not only applied it in their hospitals and shelters but their compassionate hands have also extended to animals, as enjoined by their true religion.

6. Preserving Customs and Traditions

The sixth principle is to preserve the customs and traditions prevalent in society. God says: “Embrace forgiveness and enjoin what is customary.”23 As long as they do not contradict the definitive principles of Islam, every custom and tradition is judged according to the apparent meaning of this verse. However, if there is evidence to the contrary, then that means different.

It has also been reported in a hadith: “Whatever the Muslims regard as good is good in the sight of God.” This means that whatever the Muslims, with their intellect, consider good and beautiful among their customs and other traditions, is indeed good and beautiful in the sight of God. God accepts it and values it.

The reason for giving importance to customs in this narration is that since everything that Muslims regard as commendable or beautiful is judged to be beautiful and acceptable in the sight of God similarly, if customs are also regarded as commendable or favorable by Muslims in society, then their acceptability is also confirmed.

7. Gradualism

The seventh principle is gradualism in Sharia. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not implement rulings upon people all at once; his principle was gradualism, meaning applying them step by step or gradually. For he (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Facilitate things to people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them, and give them glad tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam).” During the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), gradualism was based on two main axes:

Firstly: It is the gradual clarification, interpretation, and explanation of Sharia rulings by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) until the completion and perfection of the religion. This aspect of gradualism in Sharia ended with the cessation of revelation. However, this principle remains as a model and basis for scholars to exercise their jurisprudential reasoning in addressing emerging issues and new events.

Secondly: It is the practical implementation of the Sharia rulings that have been revealed, explained, and elucidated. This implementation was also done gradually. In the noble Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), many hadiths elucidate this gradualism in religion.

Among them, the most famous is the hadith of sending the respected Muaz to Yemen, in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) demonstrated the method of gradualism in the fulfillment and application of religious rulings with the following statement: “Indeed, you are going to a people who possess a Scripture. So, the first thing you should invite them to is the worship of the Almighty and Glorious God.”

When they recognize God, inform them that God has made obligatory upon them five prayers to be performed every day and night. And when they fulfill the prayers, inform them that God has made obligatory upon their wealth a charity to be taken from their rich and given to their poor. And if they accept this, then take from them their charity, but avoid the best of their wealth.”24

Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) vividly depicted before the respected Muaz, as if it were right before his eyes, the first goal in accepting firm faith through the declaration of the testimony of faith and establishing its principles in the hearts.

If this is accomplished, proceed to the next stages and instruct them to perform the pillar and backbone of Islam, which is prayer. And if this is accomplished, then instruct them about their obligations regarding their wealth, and inform them about the obligation of giving zakat.

The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) did not hold people accountable for fulfilling all the commands of the religion at once, whether in belief or action. Instead, he started with the most important and then moved on to the second most important. In explaining the principles and rulings of faith to them during the period of prophethood (the early years of his prophethood), he followed the path of gradualism based on the principle of priority sequence.

He first emphasized establishing belief, then gradually progressed by explaining the religious values and general principles revealed to previous prophets. Afterward, he gradually held them accountable for commands and prohibitions. Throughout all these stages, he prioritized five essential matters, which are: preserving one’s self, intellect, religion, progeny, and wealth, which are necessary obligations.

8. Taking the Situation into Account

The eighth principle is to consider the situation. Whether it is the individual’s situation, the community’s situation, the ummah’s situation, or even the situation of the entire world, undoubtedly, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) considered and observed people’s circumstances in the implementation of religious rulings, in political, economic, and social matters, and acted accordingly. His treatment towards individuals differed from his treatment towards groups – whether they were communities or the entire ummah, or even all mankind.

His treatment towards everyone was not the same; rather, he took into account the differences in their circumstances and conditions. He considered the distinctions between the healthy and the sick, the resident and the traveler, the weak and the strong, during times of peace and war, and between those who embraced Islam initially and those who embraced it later.

One of the greatest and most important proofs of his consideration of circumstances and conditions is the narration that has come to us regarding his desire to demolish the Ka’ba and rebuild it upon the foundations laid by the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). When the Quraysh built the Ka’ba, they exercised control and restricted access to it.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to the respected Aisha regarding this matter: “O Aisha, if your people had not recently abandoned polytheism, I would have certainly demolished the Ka’ba, leveled it to the ground, and built two doors for it…”25

Sticking rigidly to a single viewpoint, ruling, or attitude without adapting to changing circumstances is not the method of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). We see that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prohibited his Companions from carrying weapons for self-defense in Mecca. Even though his Companions would come to him beaten and injured, he did not permit them to retaliate but rather commanded them to exercise patience and refrain from taking revenge against those who wronged them. He did not allow them to defend themselves until they migrated to Medina and established a homeland and a state. Only then did God (glorified and exalted be He) permit them to fight in self-defense.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would consider the circumstances of his Companions; he granted ease to the weak ones that he did not grant to the strong ones, and he showed leniency to the Bedouins that he did not show to the city-dwellers.

This method is also followed by Islamic scholars when issuing fatwas. Sometimes a mufti may deem it appropriate to give a harsh ruling to someone seeking a fatwa on a certain matter while giving a softened ruling to another person on the same issue. Therefore, one person may receive a strict fatwa while another may receive a lenient one, based on the approach deemed suitable. This is because each individual’s situation may differ from another’s.

According to Imam Ahmad’s narration, when God’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked whether a fasting person could kiss his wife, he allowed it for one questioner while forbidding it for another. Upon investigation, it was revealed that one of the questioners was elderly, so the Prophet granted permission to kiss; whereas the other was young, so he was prohibited from kissing. Surely, the responses of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) varied for each individual asking the same question, as he considered their respective circumstances and provided an appropriate answer accordingly.

The breadth of Islamic Sharia law and its flexibility in considering emerging issues have also extended to the application of prescribed punishments, known as “hudud” in Islamic jurisprudence. Surely, God’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us to take into account emerging situations, to consider new circumstances, and if a ruling is based on legal reasoning (ijtihad), to change or delay its application, or if it has become definitive, to mitigate its impact from the one it applies to.

From a narration by Abu Dawood, we learn that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade cutting off the hand of a thief during wartime. However, this punishment is one of the prescribed punishments set by God. In this case, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prohibited the application of this punishment out of concern that the consequences of its implementation might be worse than not applying or delaying it. This concern might include the possibility of the punished individual becoming angry or resentful and joining the enemy ranks.

Indeed, the situation with the hypocrites illustrates the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) approach. Despite being aware of their actions, he did not punish them. When the respected Umar wanted to kill Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn Salul, the Prophet advised him, “Leave him be, lest people say that Muhammad is killing his Companions.”26 In all these narrations, we find the greatest evidence of the Prophet’s broad-mindedness, as he took into account the circumstances, conditions, and emerging situations.

Despite this flexibility and breadth, there are certain established rules (principles) that need to be known so that this approach is not misused in unrelated situations. One of these rules is that, although the outward appearance may change, considering the situation aims to keep matters within the jurisdiction of Islamic law. It should never imply stepping outside the bounds of Sharia or introducing new rulings.

For this reason, when scholars advocate for considering circumstances and upholding traditions, they undoubtedly aim to eliminate injustice by not imposing on people what Sharia does not oblige them to do. One of their principles is that those who determine changes in circumstances and customs should be knowledgeable scholars of the Sharia, not whimsical individuals or the ignorant.

Undoubtedly, when Islam came, societies were bound together by certain established social ties. However, these ties were surrounded by various customs and corrupt beliefs. Islam introduced more advanced and stronger bonds than these superficial connections. Islamic bonds were formed from the most suitable social principles and what the Qur’an and the Sunnah brought. The sole reason for the perseverance of a few Muslims against communities many times their number was precisely this factor.

Undoubtedly, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) approached existing social ties based on these principles and this honorable method, preserving what was appropriate among them and opposing what was corrupt. In the end, he laid the foundation for social bonds that were always suitable for every time and place, built upon the most advanced system and the most beneficial method.

May the blessings and peace of God be upon our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and upon all his family and Companions! Amen!

The eighth principle is to consider the situation. Whether it is the individual’s situation, the community’s situation, the ummah’s situation, or even the situation of the entire world, undoubtedly, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) considered and observed people’s circumstances in the implementation of religious rulings, in political, economic, and social matters, and acted accordingly. His treatment towards individuals differed from his treatment towards groups – whether they were communities or the entire ummah, or even all mankind.

His treatment towards everyone was not the same; rather, he took into account the differences in their circumstances and conditions. He considered the distinctions between the healthy and the sick, the resident and the traveler, the weak and the strong, during times of peace and war, and between those who embraced Islam initially and those who embraced it later.

One of the greatest and most important proofs of his consideration of circumstances and conditions is the narration that has come to us regarding his desire to demolish the Ka’ba and rebuild it upon the foundations laid by the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). When the Quraysh built the Ka’ba, they exercised control and restricted access to it. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to the respected Aisha regarding this matter: “O Aisha, if your people had not recently abandoned polytheism, I would have certainly demolished the Ka’ba, leveled it to the ground, and built two doors for it…”25

Sticking rigidly to a single viewpoint, ruling, or attitude without adapting to changing circumstances is not the method of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). We see that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prohibited his Companions from carrying weapons for self-defense in Mecca.

Even though his Companions would come to him beaten and injured, he did not permit them to retaliate but rather commanded them to exercise patience and refrain from taking revenge against those who wronged them. He did not allow them to defend themselves until they migrated to Medina and established a homeland and a state. Only then did God (glorified and exalted be He) permit them to fight in self-defense.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would consider the circumstances of his Companions; he granted ease to the weak ones that he did not grant to the strong ones, and he showed leniency to the Bedouins that he did not show to the city-dwellers.

This method is also followed by Islamic scholars when issuing fatwas. Sometimes a mufti may deem it appropriate to give a harsh ruling to someone seeking a fatwa on a certain matter while giving a softened ruling to another person on the same issue. Therefore, one person may receive a strict fatwa while another may receive a lenient one, based on the approach deemed suitable. This is because each individual’s situation may differ from another’s.

According to Imam Ahmad’s narration, when God’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked whether a fasting person could kiss his wife, he allowed it for one questioner while forbidding it for another. Upon investigation, it was revealed that one of the questioners was elderly, so the Prophet granted permission to kiss; whereas the other was young, so he was prohibited from kissing.

Surely, the responses of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) varied for each individual asking the same question, as he considered their respective circumstances and provided an appropriate answer accordingly.

The breadth of Islamic Sharia law and its flexibility in considering emerging issues have also extended to the application of prescribed punishments, known as “hudud” in Islamic jurisprudence. Surely, God’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us to take into account emerging situations, to consider new circumstances, and if a ruling is based on legal reasoning (ijtihad), to change or delay its application, or if it has become definitive, to mitigate its impact from the one it applies to.

From a narration by Abu Dawood, we learn that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade cutting off the hand of a thief during wartime. However, this punishment is one of the prescribed punishments set by God.

In this case, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prohibited the application of this punishment out of concern that the consequences of its implementation might be worse than not applying or delaying it. This concern might include the possibility of the punished individual becoming angry or resentful and joining the enemy ranks.

Indeed, the situation with the hypocrites illustrates the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) approach. Despite being aware of their actions, he did not punish them. When the respected Umar wanted to kill Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn Salul, the Prophet advised him, “Leave him be, lest people say that Muhammad is killing his Companions.”26

In all these narrations, we find the greatest evidence of the Prophet’s broad-mindedness, as he took into account the circumstances, conditions, and emerging situations.

Despite this flexibility and breadth, there are certain established rules (principles) that need to be known so that this approach is not misused in unrelated situations. One of these rules is that, although the outward appearance may change, considering the situation aims to keep matters within the jurisdiction of Islamic law. It should never imply stepping outside the bounds of Sharia or introducing new rulings.

For this reason, when scholars advocate for considering circumstances and upholding traditions, they undoubtedly aim to eliminate injustice by not imposing on people what Sharia does not oblige them to do. One of their principles is that those who determine changes in circumstances and customs should be knowledgeable scholars of the Sharia, not whimsical individuals or the ignorant.

Undoubtedly, when Islam came, societies were bound together by certain established social ties. However, these ties were surrounded by various customs and corrupt beliefs. Islam introduced more advanced and stronger bonds than these superficial connections. Islamic bonds were formed from the most suitable social principles and what the Qur’an and the Sunnah brought. The sole reason for the perseverance of a few Muslims against communities many times their number was precisely this factor.

Undoubtedly, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) approached existing social ties based on these principles and this honorable method, preserving what was appropriate among them and opposing what was corrupt. In the end, he laid the foundation for social bonds that were always suitable for every time and place, built upon the most advanced system and the most beneficial method.

May the blessings and peace of God be upon our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and upon all his family and Companions! Amen!

Footnotes

[1] Sahih Ibn Hibban 2/361.

[2] Sahih Bukhari, 5/2238.

[3] Surah al-Alaq 96/1.

[4] Surah al-Mujadila, 58/11.

[5] Surah Fatir, 35/28.

[6] Surah al-An’am, 6/165.

[7] Hilyat al-Awliya, 3/192.

[8] Tirmidhi, 5/29.

[9] Bukhari, 1/30.

[10] Sunan al-Bayhaqi, 10/118.

[11] Musnad Ahmad, 28/548.

[12] Surah an-Nahl, 16/90.

[13] Al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, 1/243.

[14] Bukhari, 2/867.

[15] Muslim, 4/1994.

[16] Surah az-Zukhruf, 43/32.

[17] Surah al-Mujadila, 58/11.

[18] Surah al-Baqarah, 2/203.

[19] Surah an-Nisa, 4/59.

[20] Sunan Abu Dawud, 4/285.

[21] Sahih Bukhari, 6/2686.

[22] Sunan Abu Dawud, 4/286.

[23] Surah al-A’raf, 7/199.

[24] Sahih Muslim, 19.

[25] Sahih Muslim, 2/969.

[26] Sahih Bukhari, 3/1296.

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