Imam al-Shatibi*: The Shari‘ah is Allah’s Best Blessing and Gift to Us

shatibi muwafaqat

“All praise is for Allah, who rescued us from the darkness of ignorance through the illumination of knowledge, and through it He granted us the discernment to avoid falling into erroneous deception. He laid down for us in the sharīa of Muhammad a lofty standard and a manifest guide. This was the best of His abundant blessings that He showered on us and the best of His venerable gifts that He bestowed on us.

We were, before the shining forth of this light, acting haphazardly with our reason pursuing our interests in an unbalanced way. This was due to reason’s weakness in bearing the burden of these interests as well as its involvement with the pressing demands of desire arising within the self, which oscillates equally between these two ends. Thus, we kept placing poison on our ailments in place of medicine, seeking recovery in vain, like a person clutching at water. We continued to float between these two ends in a sea of doubt and greed, groping in our ignorance for a guiding evidence in a jet-black night, desiring results from sterile comparisons, seeking the symptoms of health in an ailing body, and walking prostrate in the belief that we were on the right path. All this continued till such time that pure compulsion appeared in divine decrees themselves. Coerced hands were raised towards the One and Only Subduer and the expectations of those in need were redirected towards Him. When the tongues of circumstances expressed true affirmation and the rule of compulsion was established in the objects of deeds, we recognised the Beneficent Lord and His tremendous kindness, and He showed great kindness to us out of His all embracing favour, for we could not have found a solution without His help nor would we have been guided on our own to the right way. He deemed the excuse of our inability acceptable, creating a hope of forgiveness for our mistakes prior to the sending of Messengers. Allah, the Glorious, has said, “Nor would We visit with Our Wrath until We had sent a messenger (to give warning) [Qur’an 17:15].”

 

He then sent Prophets, peace be upon them, to different nations, each speaking to them in their own tongue, whether Arab or non-Arab, so as to elaborate for them the path of truth for nations in order that they may hold themselves back from the paths to hell.

He made our group, the last yet the foremost, exclusive through the last brick of the hierarchy of the Prophets and the concluding musk perfuming the message (misk al-khitām), Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah. He was an overflowing blessing, a widespread mercy, a far-reaching unlettered wisdom, and a pure Hashimite flower. He sent him to us as a witness, a giver of good news, a warner inviting to God with His permission, and a brilliant lamp. He revealed to him His clear Book in Arabic, a Book that distinguished between doubt and conviction, and which is not affected by falsehood either from the front or from behind. He (the Messenger) elaborated its text in unequivocal terms and expounded its complete message adequately. He (God) enhanced it with the perfume of praise for the Prophet and described him through a unique aroma for He deemed praise for all his morals and traits an attribute of the Qur’an. This way the Prophet (pbuh) became the elaboration of the Qur’an through his words, deeds, and abstentions. The day appeared bright for those with eyes, and guidance was distinguished from guile in the light of the sun without cloud and haze.”

*Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Musa bin Muhammad al-Lakhmi al-Shatibi (d. 790 H/1388 CE) was among the greatest scholars of al-Andalus. He studied with the renowned scholars of Granada and gained expertise in Qur’anic exegesis (tafsīr), Hadith, jurisprudence (fiqh), the principles of Islamic law (usūl al-fiqh) as well as Arabic language and grammar. He also wrote treatises on medicine and history.

[Imam al-Shatibi, Al-Muwafaqāt fī Usūl al-Sharī‘a, English translation The Reconciliation of the Fundamentals of Islamic Law, Professor Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Garnet Publishing, Reading, 2011, pp. xxvii to xxviii]

Hat tip for reference: Sidi Ayaz

Ibn Hajar on Obeying and Disobeying those in Authority

kuranThe following is from the translated meaning of the Qur’an (4:59):

“O Believers, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you are [in truth] believers in Allah and the Last Day.” [Rendered by Shaykh Gibril Haddad]

The above verse is cited by Imam Bukhārī in his Ṣaḥīḥ as the heading of the first chapter of Kitāb al-Aḥkām (Book of Judgments). Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī says in his commentary of this section of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī:

‘The subtlety of repeating the verb for the Prophet – upon him blessings and peace – in Obey Allah and obey the Messenger but not for and those in command among you – although the one being obeyed in reality is Allah – is that the sources by which one determines one’s legal responsibility are the Qur’ān and the Sunna. It is as if Allah Most High were saying: “Obey Allah in whatever He textually stipulates for you in the Qur’ān and obey the Messenger in whatever he elucidates from the Qur’ān for you and textually stipulates in the Sunna,” or “Obey Allah in all He commands you in the revelation instituted for worship-through-recitation, and obey the Messenger in all he commands you in the revelation that is other than the Qur’ān.” Al-Ṭībī said (d. 743/1342): “He repeated the verb and obey the Messenger as a sign that the Prophet – upon him blessings and peace – is obeyed independently, but he did not repeat it for and those of you who are in authority as a sign that some of them do not have to be obeyed. Then He expounded this by saying and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, as if saying: if they do not act according to right, then do not obey them, and refer to whatever you differed about to the judgment of Allah and His Messenger.” ’

[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), translated in Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’ān (IEQ) by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Sherwood Park and Seattle, Centre for Islamic Sciences, vol. 1 p. 279. For brief biographical details of Ibn Ḥajar, see the previous post on this blog entitled Ibn Hajar on Arab Rulers]

 

Post Script

The meaning of those in authority among you is elaborated by al-Bayḍāwī (d. 684/1286) in his tafsīr (commentary) of 4:59: “it comprises caliphs, judges, and military commanders … as long as they stand for truth” [see IEQ, p. 278].

Also, Ibn Kathīr cites the following in his tafsīr of the verse in question:

“Umm al-Ḥusayn said that she heard the Messenger of Allah giving a speech during the Farewell Ḥajj, in which he said:

‘Even if a slave was appointed over you, and he rules you with Allah’s Book, then listen to him and obey him.’ [related in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim].” (Ibn Kathīr, vol. 2, p. 497)