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Chapter 2  - The Meaning of the Maslahah

The Meaning of the Maslahah Which is the Goal of the Lawgiver

This chapter has four sections to it:

(1)     The lexical meaning of the word maslahah

(2)     The technical meaning of the word maslahah

(3)     The relationship between the lexical and technical meaning

(4)     The parameters for recognizing maslahah and mafsadah


The Lexical Meaning of the Word Maslahah

Lexically, maslahah27 (?????) is like manfa’ah (?????) in both its pattern and its meaning. It is derived from al-salaah (??????) [meaning, “good, proper, right condition’], which is the opposite of al-fasaad (??????) [meaning, “depravity, iniquity, immorality, corruptness”]. Thus, maslahah is the opposite of mafsadah, in the same way that a benefit is the opposite of a harm. It is the singular of masaalih. It is a meemi verbal noun having the meaning of salaah.

The word maslahah is in the pattern of mafalah (?????), this acquires for it a greater strength in meaning because this form of the word indicates the name of the place wherein the meaning of the original word occurs often. In this case, the usage is figurative. In other words, maslahah is something that contains a strong aspect of salaah.28


Maslahah is what is beneficial in an absolute sense. Its opposite is mafsadah, which is harmful in an absolute sense, regardless of whether its benefit or harm is personal or general, common or rare, current or in the future.


Everything that contains benefit, regardless of whether it be in the form of producing or engendering something, such as seeking benefits and pleasure, or in the form of protection and repelling harm, such as preventing harm and pain, is termed maslahah.29

Maslahah, therefore, has the meaning of “something of benefit, an interest.” This is its literal meaning. Figuratively, it is also used for the causes that lead to such benefit. This is a case of using the “caused” for the “cause”. This is a type of majaaz mursal (“a loose trope”).30  Thus, the work that a person does seeking benefit is referred to as maslahaha. One says, “Trade is a type of maslahah,” or “Seeking knowledge is a type of maslahah.”


These mean that each of them is a cause to achieving maslahah, which is profit in the case of trade and knowledge in the case of seeking knowledge.31


In Aqrab al-Muwaarid it states32 , “Maslahah is that which is the result of an action and which leads to goodness. One says, ‘The leader considered maslahah in that issue,’ meaning [he considered the] thing that leads to goodness. Thus, one also calls the everyday work of people that is done for benefit as maslahah. The plural is masaalih. [Hence, one says,] ‘He is from the people of evil, not from the people of masaalih.’ 33


The Technical Meaning of “Maslahah”

One of the most famous definitions given for the meaning of maslahah is that given by Imam al-Ghazaali who stated, “In its basic meaning,34  maslahah means to produce benefit or repel harm.35  This is not what we mean by it here36,  for bringing about good and repelling evil are goals of humankind and the goodness of humankind is in achieving their goals. But what we mean [here] by maslahah is the preservation of the goal of the Law. The goals of the Law with respect to creation are five: to protect and preserve for them their religion, lives, mental capacities, familial ties and wealth. Anything that entails the preserving of these five foundations is a type of maslahah.


Anything that causes any harm to these foundations is a type of mafsadah (‘evil’) and its repelling would be maslahah.”37 


Al-Zarkashi38  and al-Shaukaani39  quote al-Khawaarizmi as saying, “The meaning of maslahah is the preservation of the intent of the law by preventing evil from the people.” This definition is close to al-Ghazaali’s and can even be considered an abridgement of al-Ghazaali’s definition. However, he restricts the preserving of the intent of the law to only preventing evil from the people. This, though, does not mean that preserving the goal of the law is by that means only. In fact, it first and foremost is comprised of the positive aspect which is exemplified by producing and bringing about benefit.


Perhaps it is the extreme clarity and obvious nature of this point that led al-Khawaarizimi into explicitly stating the repelling of evil alone, in order to make sure that it is included as part of the meaning and he did not intend to restrict the meaning only to that. Furthermore, maslahah is the opposite of mafsadah. Thus, repelling evil from humankind requires the brining about of good for them. Otherwise, the lack of producing good means the presence of the evil which must be repelled.40


Najm al-Deen al-Toofi defines maslahah as, “The cause that leads to the goal of the Lawgiver, whether related to worship or [mundane] customary acts.”41


Al-Booti, who is followed in this by many of the later scholars, defined it as, “It is the benefit that is intended by the All-Wise Lawgiver for His servants, being the preservation of their religion, lives, mental capacities, familial ties and wealth—according to a specific ordering among them.”42


These are some of the more important definitions given by the legal theorists in explaining the purport of the word maslahah.


When I reflected upon the first three definitions,43 I realized that they are insufficient. This is because the reality of maslahah is the benefit itself.  Those definitions do not mention “benefit.” They only mention its cause which leads to it. Najm al-Deen al-Toofi explicitly states that it is the cause that leads to the intent of the Lawgiver. That is, it leads to the benefit intended by the Lawgiver.

Al-Ghazaali and al-Khawaarizmi state that it is the preserving of the goal of the law. Preservation means producing benefits to or repelling any harm to the goal of the Lawgiver. Al-Ghazaali explicitly states that at the end of his definition when he stated, “Anything that entails the preserving of these five foundations is a type of maslahah. Anything that causes any harm to these foundations is a type of mafsadah (‘evil’) and its repelling would be maslahah.”


Dr. Yaqoob al-Baahusain excuses them for their approach. He states, “This practice of the legal theorists is consistent with their division of the relevant attributes upon which the ruling is based. The attributes that are pointed to are not the masaalih or mafaasid. Instead, they are the causes which result in those masaalih or mafaasid.”44


As for al-Booti’s definition, he explicitly stated the reality of maslahah, which is the benefit intended by the lawgiver. However, his shortcoming is that he restricts maslahah to benefits only and does not consider it inclusive of both the benefits and the causes that lead to those benefits. He may be excused for this because the means have the same rulings as the goals. In other words, if something is a maslahah, then the means that lead to it, of the legally sanctioned possible causes, are also maslahah.


In actuality, this is what he intended, as he himself states in his explanation to his definition, “The benefit is pleasure, and whatever is a means to it, or repelling pain, and whatever is a means to that. To put it in other words, it is, as al-Raazi stated, the achievement or remaining of pleasure. The meaning of achieving is the producing of pleasure immediately. The meaning of remaining is the preservation of it and the repelling of harm and its causes.”45  At another location, he stated, “The means to benefits take on the same ruling as the benefit itself.”46  Elsewhere, he also stated, “Maslahah is the benefit or the means to it.”47


Thus, this definition adds an important restriction: “according to a specific ordering among them.” This demonstrates that there is a difference among these masaalih and that some of them are stronger than others. This restriction, although it is not from the essence of the definition, includes an important point that makes the definition clearer.


Based on the above definitions that I have mentioned, we may conclude the following:

(1) Maslahah as a technical term is “benefits” and the means to them which are intended by the All-Wise Lawgiver for His servants, being the preservation of their faith, their lives, their mental capacities, their familial ties and their wealth.


The term is used for benefit itself as well as the means that produce such benefit, which fall under what is included under the goals of the Islamic Shareeah.


Whoever reads through the books on legal theory will find this very obvious. One will find that they sometimes use the word maslahah for “benefits”48 while at other times they use it for the causes that lead to such “benefits.”  Al-Izz ibn Abdul-Salaam emphasized this when he stated, “Masaalih are of two types: the first is the literal, which is the actual pleasure and happiness and the second is the figurative, which are its causes [that is, the causes of the pleasure and happiness].”49  However, the meaning of this passage must be restricted because the meaning of those two types of masaalih, literal and figurative, must be in accord with the goals of the Shareeah. This is because not everything that the people or some of the people see as maslahah is considered as so by the Shareeah, as we shall explain shortly. Close to the above is the statement by ibn al-Qayyim, “Maslahah is pleasure and happiness and whatever leads to that. Mafsadah is torment and pain and whatever leads to that.”50


(2) The meaning of “preserving” in these definitions is to attend to these five masaalih, both with respect to their existence as well as their lack thereof. With respect to their existence, it is by legislating what leads to their existence, establishment and completion. With respect to their non-existence, it is by legislating what guarantees their permanence and continuance, protecting it from what may remove or damage them, protecting them from any existing or possible aggression against them.


The Relationship Between the Lexical and Technical Meanings of the Word

The preceding makes clear the relationship between the lexical and technical meanings of the word maslahah. It is the relationship of a general with a more specific. The lexical meaning of maslahah is more general than the technical meaning. Lexically, it is general for any type of “benefit,” regardless if it is in accord with the Shareeah goals or if it contradicts them. However, as a technical term, it is particular only for the benefits that are intended by the Lawgiver alone and not simply any type of benefit. Something is not considered maslahah, according to the technical meaning, unless the Lawgiver also considers it such.


This is what Imam al-Ghazaali was eager to emphasize in his earlier quoted definition of maslahah. And Allah knows best.


The Principles for Knowing Maslahah and Mafsadah

The maslahah which is upheld by the law is that which is consistent with the goals of the Shareeah, of protecting the necessities of humankind as well as their needs and amenities. Not everything that is lexically or customarily called maslahah or viewed by the people as a whole or a group of people as maslahah is a maslahah that is intended by the Lawgiver, has laws legislated to achieve it or has had people ordered to adhere to it. The same is true with respect to mafsadah, which is the opposite of maslahah.


What is meant by masaalih and mafaasid is only that which is so in the eyes of the Shareeah and not that which is in accord with or despised by human nature.51


This is what al-Ghazaali emphasized in his previously mentioned definition: “In its original meaning, maslahah means to produce benefit or repel harm. This is not what we mean by it here, for producing good and repelling evil are goals of humankind and the goodness of humankind is in achieving their goals. But what we mean [here] by maslahah is the preservation of the goal of the Law.”

Therefore, the criterion for maslahah and mafsadah is Islamic Law. Whatever the Law testifies to as being “good” is a maslahah. Whatever it testifies to as being “evil” is a mafsadah. Violating this standard means that one is following desires. And desires are false and are not suitable for distinguishing “good” from “evil.” Allah says,

 “O David! We have certainly placed you as a successor on earth, so judge you between men in truth (and justice) and follow not your desire for it will mislead you from the Path of Allah” (Saad 26).


Therefore, there is nothing but either truth or desires. The truth is that which the pure Law has come with. What is beyond that is desires. Thus, the Shareeah maslahah is not desires, fulfillment of personal interests or material wishes. In fact, the desires of people vary; their wants are different; and their dreams are divergent. Indeed, humans are driven by their desires and lusts to every kind of pleasure and the repelling of any kind of dreaded hardship, even if that should imply harming oneself or others, immediately or in the future.

Al-Shaatibi stated,

“The masaalih by which the affairs of the human are set aright are not truly known except by the One who created it and laid it down. The human is unaware of some of its aspects. In fact, what is hidden to him is more than what is apparent to him. He may be seeking the same maslahah via a way through which he will not reach it. Or he may reach it immediately but not in the future. Or he may achieve it in an incomplete, not perfect, manner. Or he may achieve it in such a way that it contains mafsadah that is greater than the maslahah, its good not being able to withstand its evil. How many people who consider a matter cannot complete it completely or do not get any fruit from it? This is well-known and witnessed by the intelligent people. Thus, Allah sent prophets as bringers of good tidings and as warners. Since the affair is like that, going back to the way laid down by the Lawgiver is returning to the way in which the maslahah will be fulfilled completely, as opposed to following some divergent way.”52


Truly, a present pleasure could be followed by a great deal of pain and evil, presently and in the future. Such is the case with consuming alcohol, taking drugs, immoral sexual activities and so forth.


Inactivity and rest can also lead to humiliation, dishonor and a great deal of loss and lengthy effort in the future. This is also the case with abandoning jihad for the sake of Allah out of a want for rest and clinging to the things of this world.


Earning wealth is a maslahah for its earner. However, earning it through illegal means, such as through interest, bribery, devouring the wealth of orphans and other ways of devouring wealth wrongfully, entails wronging and harming others, in addition to it leading to a removal of blessings and a destruction of the soul and wealth.


Contrary to that, we find that some of the means to masaalih entail pain and hardship. However, their end results are praiseworthy and good. This is like the pain of medication and cures or like the pain of jihad for the sake of Allah and fighting against the enemies of Allah. Allah says,

 “Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful to you; but it may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows while you know not” (al-Baqarah 216).


Allah also says,

 “If you are suffering pains, then they are suffering pains just as you are suffering. But you have hope in Allah for that which they do not hope” (al-Nisaa 104).


Similar to this are the legal punishments. They are painful to the one who is administered them but their general goodness returns to the punished person himself and to society as a whole.53  That shall be discussed in more detail in Chapter Four, God willing, when the purposes of the punishments of Islamic Law are discussed.


Al-Izz ibn Abdul-Salaam stated,

“It could be the case that the causes of masaalih are [in themselves] mafaasid which are ordered or permitted—[they are ordered] not because they are mafaasid but because they lead to masaalih. Such is the case with amputating the hand with gangrene in order to save lives or putting lives at risk in the case of jihad. Such is also the case with legal punishments. They are not desired in themselves because they are mafaasid. But they are needed for a desired goal of the law. These include the cutting of the hand of the thief, the punishment for highway robbers, the punishment for those who inflict bodily harm on others and the stoning, flogging and banishment of the fornicators and adulterers. Similarly is the case with the discretionary punishments (tazeeraaat). All of those are mafaasid that are prescribed by the Law in order to achieve the true masaalih that results from them. They are also called masaalih in the figurative sense of referring to the cause as the caused.”54


Therefore, the legally sanctioned maslahah is that which preserves the goals of the Lawgiver even if it conflicts with the goals of humankind. This is because the goals of mankind, in this case, are not true masaalih. Instead, they are simply desires, lusts and incorrect views that custom and practices have dressed up in the clothing of masaalih. If we were to review past history and present circumstances we would find many and various examples of this nature. I shall note the following:

(1)  The people who lived between the time of the Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to think that there was maslahah in killing their new-born daughters, in preventing women from inheriting and in killing in retribution other than only the murderer himself. In fact, they did not believe that there was any evil in drinking alcohol, gambling, marrying the wives of one’s father, marriage with impregnation by another man and the other forms of marriage that they had at that time55  and to ascribe a child to other than his biological father. In the view of the Lawgiver, these are all mafaasid and the Islamic ruling concerning them is well-known.

(2)  Roman Law, while at the peak of its greatness, allowed a creditor to enslave his debtor if he did not have the ability to pay his debt. If there were more than one creditor and they could not find anyone willing to buy the debtor, the Law gave the right to the creditors to divide up the body of the debtor. No one in Rome saw that ruling as a type of evil. But Islam came with the just principle:

 “And if [the debtor] is in straitened circumstances, then (let there be) postponement to (the time of) ease; and [to remit the debt] as charity would be better for you if you did but know” (al-Baqarah 280).

(3)  For about ten centuries, English law saw it good to prohibit women from inheriting, given all of the inheritance to the eldest son. The inheritance would pass on the descendants and never to the ascendants [in the absence of the eldest son]. They did not believe that the ascendants had any right to a portion of the inheritance. This continued until about 1925 when they decided to allow women to take part of the inheritance, younger siblings to inherit and ascendants to inherit. They finally saw that the maslahah was in what the Islamic Law had brought.

(4)  American law continues to give absolute freedom to the writer of one’s own will, such that he can leave all of his wealth to his girlfriend or even his dog, horse or cat, leaving his [rightful] heirs with absolute nothing of his inheritance. As for Islamic Law, it restricts the freedom of the writer of the will to protect his maslahah and, equally as well, to protect the maslahah of his heirs. This is a topic discussed in its proper place.56

(5)  Included among these examples is the practice of some Eskimo tribes in presenting their wives to their guests so that they may sleep with them. They consider that a form of hospitality.57  Similarly, some African tribes allow the brother-in-law to sleep with his sister-in-law, in accordance with a specific ritual.58

(6)  The last example I shall mention wherein lusts and desires dress in the clothing of maslahah is the law that the British parliament and the Council of British churches agreed upon. This law states that homosexuality when practiced among consenting adults is legally sanctioned and permissible.59


What maslahah is there in making this lewd act and this act that goes against natural inclinations a legal act that is affirmed by the law and protected by the government? In any case, this is the limited ability of humans in gaging maslahah.


Ibn Taimiyyah mentioned that the Shareeah would not ignore any maslahah at all. In fact, Allah has perfected for us our religion and completed His favor upon us. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also left us upon a clear path whose night is like its day and only those who are destroyed ever deviate from it. Then ibn Taimiyyah stated,

“As for what a person thinks is a maslahah, if the Law does not state it, then the situation must be one of the two cases for him. Either the Law indicates it in such a way that the person does not realize it or it is, in reality, not a maslahah although he believes it is a maslahah. Maslahah is the achieved or predominant benefit. Many things that people think are beneficial for the religion or worldly matters are actually things whose benefits are outweighed by harm. Thus Allah says about alcohol and gambling,

 “Say, ‘In both is great sin, and (some) benefits for mankind; but the sin of them is greater than their benefits’” (al-Baqarah 219). Much of the beliefs and actions that the people introduced, from among the theologians, Sufis, people of “personal opinion” and politicians, is believed by them to be beneficial or truly and correctly a beneficial maslahah. However, it is not so.


In fact, many of those outside of Islam—the Jews, Christians, polytheists, Sabeans and Magians—many of them think that the beliefs, actions and worship that they follow is a maslahah and beneficial for them in their religion and worldly life. Truly,

 “[their] efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds” (al-Kahf 104). Their evil deeds were beautified for them and they saw them as good…60


From here we find that humankind—no matter how much knowledge they have been given and no matter how much understanding and reasoning they obtain—is incapable, by its nature, of encompassing the true masaalih and of knowing how to achieve them in this life and in the Hereafter. If man can recognize some of them, he is incapable of recognizing all of them. And even of those that he recognizes, it is rare that he is guided to their details and an understanding of their true reality. Allah has said,

 “And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little” (al-Israa 85).


Furthermore, human reasoning is usually influenced by the environment and the blemish of desires, lusts and emotions. This is indicated by the fact that humans differ in their judgments. In fact, a single individual may even contradict himself. Today, he will contradict what he concluded yesterday. Hence, humankind is in dire need of guidance via an upright law that will open for them the way to see, enlighten the path and guide them to the straight way, guaranteeing for them the masaalih in their world of this life and in their Hereafter.


On this point, ibn Taimiyyah noted,

The Message [from Allah] is a must for the betterment of the human in his worldly life and Hereafter. In the same way that there is no goodness for him in his afterlife except if he follows the Message, there is also no good for him in his daily and worldly life except by also following that Message. So, humankind is in need of the law. He is between two actions: an action that will produce what benefits him and an action that will repel what harms him. The Law is the light which clarifies for him what benefits him and what harms him. The Law is Allah’s light on His earth, His justice between His servants and His fort that, when anyone enters it, he is safe.


It is not the intention of the Law to distinguish between benefit and harm by the senses. In fact, dumb animals can achieve that. Donkeys and camels distinguish between wheat and mud. Instead, it distinguishes between the actions that can harm a person in this life or the Hereafter, like the benefits of faith, monotheism, justice, righteousness, charity, goodness, trust, chastity… purity in one’s deeds for the sake of Allah, putting one’s trust in Him, submitting to His command, implementing His orders… believing in Him and affirming His Messenger in everything that he reported, obeying him in everything he ordered, which contains what is benefit and goodness for the individual in his worldly life and in his Hereafter. And in what is contrary to that lies his misery and harm in both this worldly life and in his Hereafter.


If it were not for the Message [from Allah], the mind would not be guided to the details of what is beneficial or harmful in this worldly life or in the return in the Hereafter. One of the greatest bounties of Allah upon His servants and most noble blessing for them is that He sent messengers to them, revealed books to them and make clear to them the straight path. If it were not for that, they would be like the animals and beasts—in fact, they would be in a worse state…61 


Al-Shaatibi stated, “Therefore, when the Law came after a break [in revelation between the time of Jesus and Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon them)], it clarified how the people of that break had deviated from the sound way and how they deviated from justice in their rulings… Customarily, it is impossible for the human mind to independently discover what is beneficial or harmful to him in detail.”62  This truth is also confirmed by ibn al-Qayyim who stated,

“The need for messengers is in fact a necessity. In fact, it is above and beyond all needs. The world is not in greater need than it is for messengers—the blessings of Allah be upon all of them. For that reason, Allah reminds His servants of the blessing upon them of His messengers. He reckons that as one of the greatest bounties for them due to their great need for them and that their general and specific well-being is dependent upon them. There is no happiness, success or existence for them except via the messengers… If it were not for prophethood, there would be no beneficial knowledge at all in the world, or any righteous deed, or any goodness in one’s living, or any establishing of a kingdom. Humans would be in the same situation as the animals, beasts of prey and ferocious dogs devouring one another… It is for this reason that in every place in which the effects of prophecy have remained, the people are in a better state and situation then in the places in which such effects were lost. In sum, the need of the world for prophethood is greater than their need for the light of the sun and greater than their need for water and air, without which life cannot be sustained.”63


People’s reliance on their regular experiences and intellectual tools in understanding masaalih and mafaasid has led them to consider that dealing with interest is a necessity for economic activity and prosperity. The same has led to them to conceive that mixing between men and women in educational institutions and other places as a social maslahah, as it refines character, reduces sexual impulses and prevents rape and aggression. It is these same experiences and intellectual tools that have also led them to conceive of the Islamic penal punishments, such as the punishment of retaliation, cutting the hand of the thief, stoning the adultery and others, as being inappropriate for this era as they are harsh and coarse and prevent some from full social participation. It is these same bases that have led them to conceive of jihad for the sake of Allah, to make the word of Allah supreme and a defense of His religion, as savagery and incivility, not appropriate for this age and not in agreement with the accords of the United Nations and the current international standards. Again, these have led them to conceive of the act of ordering good and preventing evil as violating the freedoms of people and involving in their personal matters, thus it should be abandoned and discontinued.


One can add to this many examples that we come across every now and then from those people who have not been enlightened by the law of the Shareeah nor have they been guided by Allah’s guidance.

 “Whomever Allah sends astray, for him there is no guide” (al-Zumar 23).

 “And he for whom Allah has not appointed light, for him there is no light” (al-Noor 40).



Imam al-Shaatibi stated, “The masaalih that are brought about by the Law and the mafaasid that are prevented by it are those that are taken into consideration in order to establish the life of this world for the sake of the life of the Hereafter. They are not for the sake of the desires of the soul, to bring about its usual benefits or repel its usual harms.”64  Then al-Shaatibi mentioned four proofs. They are, in brief, the following:

(1) The Shareeah came to take the humans away from the drives of their desires so that they may become slaves of Allah by choice in the same way that they are His slaves by necessity. This meaning, if it is confirmed,65 does not concur with the hypothesis that the Shareeah should be laid down to agree with the desires of the soul and that the soul’s immediate benefits should be sought in any way whatsoever. In fact, our Lord has said,

 “And if the truth had been in accordance with their desires, verily, the heavens and the earth, and whosoever is therein would have been corrupted” (al-Muminoon 71).


(2) The benefits that accrue to an individual are normally mixed with difficulties. And the difficulties are usually accompanied by some benefits. Therefore, the point to consider is: Which is the greater component?66  This is the viewpoint of the maslahah that is the basis of the religion and worldly life. It is not a matter of the desires of the soul. In fact, the intelligent people agree on this type in general, even if they did not discern its details that the Law brought. Indeed, they agree in general that the establishment of worldly life is either for the sake of such desires or for the Hereafter, as they are prohibited from following a number of desires due to that latter goal.


Without the Law, they are not upon anything that is sound. When the Law came, it clarified all of that and burdened the humans with following it, voluntarily or non-voluntarily, so that the affairs of their worldly life may be established for their sake of their Hereafter.


(3) The majority of benefits and harms are relative and not absolute. What is meant by them being relative is that they are benefits or harms in some circumstances but not in others, with respect to some individuals and not others or with respect to some time and not others. Many beneficial aspects may be harmful to certain people and not benefits or may be harmful at a certain time or situation and not so in others.


This is all clarified in the masaalih or mafaasid being sanctioned or prohibited in order to make this life not for the sake of satisfying desires and not even for itself but only for the Hereafter. If the matter was one of simply satisfying desires, the one who follows his desires would not face any harm. However, that is not the case. This demonstrates that the masaalih and mafaasid do not follow or concur with desires.


(4) The goals [of people] differ, even over one issue. Thus, the goals may be met for some, by which they benefit while others are hurt because their goals have not been met. Since this divergence in goals is the normal case, it is not permissible that the Shareeah should be instituted in accordance with such goals. The Law is established upon what is in accord with masaalih in an absolute sense, not what does or does not agree with such personal goals.67

I have discussed this issue at length and have provided a large number of quotes herein due to the importance and significance of this topic. There was definitely a need to clarify it. It was especially needed during this time in which secularists and Western-minded people are trying to tear Islam apart bit by bit and to annul the Shareeah law by law. All of that they do in the name of maslahah.


In fact, we will be indebted to this discussion for many of the forthcoming topics, for example, the question of jihad, ordering good and eradicating evil, prescribed punishments and so forth.


27 [Maslahah means “that which is beneficial or helpful; benefit, good, welfare.” Its plural is masaalih. Due to its distinct meaning and its important as a technical term, the words maslahah and masaalih will be left untranslated throughout this work. The same holds true for mafsadah (pl., mafaasid), which is the exact opposite of maslahah.—trans.]

28 See ibn Ashoor, Maqaasid al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 65; Adillah al-Tashree al-Mukhtalaf fi al-Ihtijaaj biha, p. 190; Najm al-Deen al-Toofi, “Sharh Hadith La Dharar wa la Dharaar” in Mustafa Zaid, al-Maslahah fi al-Tashree al-Islaami wa Najm al-Deen al-Toofi, pp. 210-211; Mustafa Zaid, Al-Maslahah fi al-Tashree al-Islaami, p. 190.

29 See Mustafa Ahmad al-Zarqaa, Al-Istislaah wa al-Masaalih al-Mursalah, p. 40; Muhammad Saeed Ramadhaan al-Booti, Dhawaabit al-Maslahah fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 23; Khadhari al-Sayyid, Al-Ijtihaad feema la Nass feeh, vol. 2, p. 53.

30 [This is a fairly common form of speech in which one word is used not according to its lexical meaning or for something analogous to it, but due to a different relationship, such as one of causation, being a causer and so on. For example, Allah says in the Quran, “He sends down for you from the sky sustenance” (Ghaafir 13). Actually, what Allah sends down from the skies is rain, which is the source and cause for the sustenance. Instead of mentioning the cause or source, Allah mentions the product of that cause. This is a common but not the only type of majaaz mursal.—Trans.]

31 See Husain Haamid Hasaan, Nadhariyyah al-Maslahah fi al-Fiqh al-Islaami, p. 4; al-Shalbi, Usool al-Fiqh al-Islaami, vol. 1, p. 282.

32 Vol. 1, p. 656. Also see Taaj al-Aroos Sharh al-Qaamoos, vol. 2, p. 183; Al-Munjid, p. 432; al-Misbaah al-Muneer, vol. 1, p. 345.

33That is, he is from the people whose acts lead to evil and do not lead to good. Al-Munjid fi al-Lughah wa al-Alaam, p. 432.

34 That is, both lexically and colloquially.

35 In a general sense, without necessarily being restricted by the goals of the Shareeah.

36 That is, we do not mean here a general producing of good or preventing of harm even if such is not consistent with the goals of the Shareeah.

37 Al-Ghazaali, Al-Mustasfa fi Ilm al-Usool, vol. 1, pp. 286-287. Muhammad Salaam Madkuur has taken this meaning in Madkhal al-Fiqh al-Islaami where he says (p. 93), “In the language of the Islamic Shareeah, maslahah means producing benefit and repelling harm within the parameters of preserving the goals of the Shareeah.” Also see al-Madkhal al-Fiqhi al-Aam, vol. 1, p. 92.

38 Al-Bahr al-Muheet, vol. 6, p. 76.

39 Irshaad al-Fahool, p. 242.

40 See al-Maslahah fi al-Tashree al-Islaami wa Najm al-Deen al-Toofi, p. 22; Nadhariyyah al-Maslahah fi al-Fiqh al-Islaami, p. 12; Ahmad Faraaj Husain, Hujjiyyat al-Masaalih al-Mursalah, p. 8; Yaqoob Abdul-Wahhaab al-Baahusain, Raf’ al-Haraj fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 328.

41 Sharh Hadith “La Dharar wa la Dharaar”, p. 211.

42 Dhawaabit al-Maslahah fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 23. Also see Al-Ijtihaad feema laa Nass feeh, vol. 2, p. 53; al-Baahusain, Raf’ al-Haraj fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, pp. 328-329; Adillah al-Tashree al-Mukhtalaf fi al-Ihtijaaj biha, p. 190.

43 Ibn Taimiyyah stated (in Majmoo al-Fatawaa, vol. 11, p. 345), “Maslahah is the achieved or predominant benefit.”

44 Raf’ al-Haraj fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 328.

45 Dhawaabit al-Maslahah fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 230. As for what he mentioned from al-Raazi, it is with some abridgement and can be found in al-Raazi, al-Mahsool, vol. 2, pp. 187-188, 218.

46 Dhawaabit al-Maslahah fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 24.

47Dhawaabit al-Maslahah fi al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 45.

48 In addition to the definitions given earlier, see, for example, Radhah al-Naadhir, p. 86; al-Fanaari, Fusool al-Badaai, vol. 2, p. 371; Al-Ibhaaj fi Sharh al-Minhaaj, vol. 3, p. 45; Khalaaf, Ilm Usool al-Fiqh, pp. 64, 84 and 198; Majmoo al-Fataawa ibn Taimiyyah, vol. 11, pp. 343-345.

49Qawaaid al-Ahkaam, vol. 1, p. 12; see his similar statement on p. 10. Also see Usool al-Fiqh al-Islaami, vol. 1, pp. 282-283.

50 Miftaah Daar al-Saadah, vol. 2, p. 14.

51 See al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 1, p. 243; Wahbah al-Zuhaili, Usool al-Fiqh al-Islaami, vol. 2, p. 756.

52 Al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 1, p. 349.

53 See Al-Wajeez fi Usool al-Fiqh, p. 378; Usool al-Dawah, p. 302; Al-Istislaah wa al-Masaalih al-Mursalah, p. 40; Manaahij al-Ijtihaad fi-l-Islaam, p. 281; al-Maslahah fi al-Tashree al-Islaami, p. 22; Masaadir al-Tashree al-Islaami feema la Nass feeh, p. 50; ibn Ashoor, Maqaasid al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 71.

54 Qawaaid al-Ahkaam, vol. 1, p. 12. For other examples and details also see vol. 1, pp. 95-104 and vol. 1, p. 32. Al-Shaatibi also spoke about this issue in al-Muwaafaqaat in many places. See, for example, vol. 1, pp. 237f, vol. 2, p. 30f and vol. 2, p. 168f. Also see Sharh Mukhtasar al-Raudhah, vol. 3, p. 216.

55 Al-Bukhari records from Aishah who said, “Marriage during the time of Jaahiliyyah [pre-Islamic Arabia] was of four types: One type was the same as what we have today wherein a man proposes to a guardian for a woman under his guardianship or for his daughter, gives her the dower and then they get married. Another type would be where a man would say to his wife after she had finished her menses, ‘Go to so and so and get impregnated by him.’ The husband would then stay away from her and would not touch her until it was clear that she had become impregnated by the other man. When it was clear that she was pregnant, he would have intercourse with her if he so willed. He would do that out of a desire of having a child of noble breed. Such marriage was the ‘marriage of impregnation.’ Another form of marriage was when a group of men, less than ten in number, would have intercourse with a woman. If she became pregnant and then gave birth, she would, after some days would pass, send for all of them and none of them could refuse to appear. When they all gathered together, she would say to them, ‘You all know what you have done and now I have given birth to a child. This is your child, O so and so,’ naming whoever among them she willed. The child would then be ascribed to him and he could not refuse him. The fourth kind was where many men would have intercourse with a woman and she would not refuse anyone who came to her. Those were the prostitutes who used to put a flag outside their doors. Whoever wished could go in and have intercourse with them. If one of them got pregnant and gave birth, she would bring them all together and call for an expert in genetic traits. They would then ascribe the child to who they saw fit. The child would be ascribed to him and called his son, and he could not refuse that. When Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sent with the truth, he abolished all the types of marriage of Jaahiliyyah except for that which the people have today.” Saheeh al-Bukhaari, (The Book of Marriage: Chapter on He Who Says That There is No Marriage Without a Guardian,” Hadith no. 5127, vol. 3, pp. 369-370).

65 For these examples, see Nadhariyyah al-Maslahah fi al-Fiqh al-Islaami, pp. 6-7; Hujiyyah al-Masaalih al-Mursalah, pp. 5-6; ibn Ashoor, Maqaasid al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 74.

57 Al-Takaaful al-Ijtimaa’ee fi al-Islaam wa Atharuhu fi Mana’ al-Jareemah wa al-Wiqaayah minhaa, pp. 94-05.

58 Ibid., p. 95.

59 In the book Mushkilaat al-Shabaab al-Jinsiyyah wa al-Aatifiyyah fi Dhau al-Shareeah al-Islaamiyyah, p. 33, it states that the newspaper al-Jamhooriyyah al-Misriyyah published an article on 24 Rabi’ al-Akhar 1377 A.H. entitled, “The Council of English Churches Agree that Homosexuality is a Sanctioned Practice.” The newspaper stated, “After an intense debate, the Council of English Churches agreed on the recommendation that was presented to it by a governmental body considering homosexual acts between consenting adults to be legal with no punishment from the law. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Naishur [?], was the leader of the wing to support this recommendation which was approved in the Church Council by a majority vote of 155 to 138.”

60 Majmoo al-Fataawaa, vol. 11, pp. 344-345.

61 Majmoo Fataawaa ibn Taimiyyah, vol. 19, pp. 99-100. Also see Muhammad Bakheet al-Muti’ee’s excellent passage in his footnotes to Nihaayah al-Sool, vol. 4, p. 57.

62 Al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, p. 48.

63 Miftaah Daar al-Saadah, vol. 2, pp. 117-118.

64 Al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, p. 37.

65 And it is confirmed by many proofs. Al-Shaatibi himself mentions them in al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, p. 168f.

66 This is a fascinating and beneficial issue concerning which noteworthy passages may be found. See al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, pp. 25-26; Al-Izz ibn Abdul-Salaam, Qawaaid al-Ahkaam, vol. 1, pp. 5-6, 12-13; Majmoo Fatawaa ibn Taimiyyah, vol. 19, p. 298; Miftaah Daar al-Saadah, vol. 2, p. 14.

67 Al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, pp. 38-40.



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