by Saadia Gani
“This (the Quran) is a Book which we have sent down to you (O Prophet) so that, with their Lord’s permission, you may bring mankind from the depth of darkness into light, the path of Almighty, the praiseworthy one.“Surah Ibrahim, 14:1
The Quran contains solutions to all the darkness of humanity: social, moral, intellectual, economic, environmental, psychological, in any form that they may manifest. The challenge for the Muslim community is to interpret and convey the message of the Quran and the Sunnah as a beacon of light in the world and to freely offer its philosophy, worldview, and its solutions with confidence and clarity.
The world currently faces a crisis of the failure of a western liberalist human rights system. Poverty, exploitation, morbid consumerism, and a breakdown of moral values are the hallmarks of the status quo. The height of the collapse of morality being the current genocide that is unfolding in Gaza.
This is coupled with a rise of right-wing politics which is dividing and destroying peaceful co-existence within communities, and humanity is slipping into rapid decline. The genocide that is unfolding in Gaza is a culmination of the crisis facing the ummah as well where disunity and complicity with the West have diluted the strength and influence that we should display in our actions and policies. Allah warns in the Qur’an (Surah Al-Rum, 30:41) that “Corruption appeared on the land and sea because of what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste some of what they have done.”
One of the purposes of the Quran is to guide humanity out of darkness and into the light (Al-Qur’an, 2:257, 5:16, 14:1, 14:5, 33:43, 57:9, 65:11), and to unite it around tawhid (oneness of God) despite all the differences that exist among different nations and tribes (Al-Qur’an, 49:13, 35:28). This is an area that should be addressed by the advocates of the Maqasid methodology. The methodology promotes this vision via renewed and more focused study of the revelation. For this vision to work and to result in the emergence of a new order of things, there needs to be a philosophy that replaces the old. This has not occurred, and hence we see the consequences of the retention of the status quo of the western liberalist philosophy in our global landscape.
Moreover, the Maqasid methodology, which is the contemporary vision of the traditional thinking based on the direct study of the Qur’an and Sunnah, needs to be activated to progressively move society from limited modes of thinking to a more comprehensive and purposeful one. The methodology is envisioned to initiate the process of lifting Islamic scholarship from its stagnation and marginalisation in many fields of knowledge in our contemporary reality. The Maqasid methodology is based on the Qur’anic logic of connectivity, wholism and emergence, and is aimed at positively affecting the belief system and the worldview of humanity.
Using the Maqasid methodology, we can assert and define the contours of the purposes, values, and Quranic worldview so that we can define our Islamic religious and moral identity to the ummah and humanity at large without the barriers of imitation (taqlid), partialism (tajzi), apologism (tabrir), and contradiction (tanaqud), which have been identified by the methodology as the major flaws of the current Islamic scholarship.
Clarifying the Islamic philosophy and worldview
According to Abu Sulayman, every cultural system is founded upon an underlying philosophy that creates a worldview, which is translated into action by means of a particular way of thinking or mindset (“The Quranic worldview: A springboard for cultural reform,” 2011). Abu Sulayman writes that the fruits of a particular cultural system and its contribution to society and mankind at large are determined by the clarity of the systems underlying their way of thinking. Hence there is a need to clarify the Quranic worldview so it can be meaningfully referred to by all scholars when deliberating on how to create a just society and rectify the current malaises that face humanity.
Abu Sulayman laments at how, over centuries, the Quranic worldview of the earlier generations lost its influence, effectiveness, and dynamism to the point where the current Muslim community has become weak, passive, and persecuted. He critiques that it has emerged as part of reactive theory that consists of intimidation, reminiscence, allegations, dreams, and illusion. Accordingly, currently, Muslims are engaging in a kind of self-negation as opposed to self-affirmation.
He explains how this worldview would hamper the constructive pursuit of knowledge and inspiration that the Quran advocates through the laws of the universe, for stewardship of the earth’s resources, and for the improvement of human culture and civilisation.
Fortunately, the Maqasid methodology has identified the need to create a robust and genuine worldview that recognises the universal laws of connectivity, wholism, and purposefulness. The methodology offers a reconstruction of the Islamic approach to contemporary questions and phenomena in all fields of human endeavour based on a new articulation of the Quranic worldview.
Abu Sulayman correctly identifies the pitfalls of cultural systems as being marked by ambiguity and inconsistency. We have seen this happen with Maqasid Al-Shari’ah over the years, where despite attempts to capture the essence of Maqasid, it has remained elusive and unable to be concretised into an interpretative tool for the Quran and Sunnah that is clear, harmonious, and coherent. The challenge for contemporary Maqasid scholarship must continue to honour its original legacy of breaking the mould of imitation and the arduous commitment to the truth while remaining critical and cognisant of contemporary needs in all fields of knowledge.
Effects of colonialism on Islamic scholarship and the Quranic worldview
According to V.Y. Mudimbe, the process of colonisation imposed a colonising structure on its subjects which completely subsumed the physical, human, spiritual, and intellectual aspects of the subject’s space and its inhabitants (“The invention of Africa: Gnosis, philosophy, and the order of knowledge,” 1988). In this manner, it not only colonised the land but the minds of its inhabitants through the gradual imposition of its philosophy and its accompanying worldview.
According to K. Siddiqui, Islam must now generate a global intellectual revolution capable of overcoming the colonial legacy, including the scientific and philosophical pretensions of the West (“Stages of Islamic Revolution,” 1996). However, he argues that the potential for such a revolution depends on one’s view of history and the current historical situation.
This is where the Maqasid methodology can play a pivotal role. Jasser Auda explains how the historical situation facing Muslims demands that scholars should turn their attention to the formulation of the underlying principles and structural forms of the Prophetic method and wisdom. Siddiqui affirms the Sīrah as the unopened treasure chest of Islam and its revealed paradigm. And that the path to the treasure house of Islam lies in the exploration and development of a whole new literature that is based on the Book of Allah through a process of abstraction and conceptualisation. Auda advocates that this requires a renewal of scholarship that uses the Qur’an and Sunnah to generate new knowledge that helps solve contemporary challenges.
The article(blog) postulates that the Maqasid methodology is poised to spearhead such efforts. This is in line with Siddiqui’s conviction that Islam will always retain within itself the power of reassertion, regeneration, and recreation of its institutions, culture, civilisation, and worldview.
Auda’s Maqasid Methodology engages in studying lived reality through integrating a complex web of interconnectivity, utilising concepts, objectives, values, commands, universal laws, groups, and proofs to generate a worldview that shifts the perception of present reality in a paradigmatic way. According to Auda, this process enables Islamic scholarship to create a worldview that profoundly alters the perception of current reality in a paradigmatic manner.
The time has come to assert the Islamic worldview and its philosophy, centrality, relevance, and intellectual productivity within our global setting. This article (blog) invites the engagement and collaboration of a vibrant Islamic scholarship fuelled by the Maqasid methodology, mandated to foster dynamic engagement with the Quran and Sunnah that will continually evolve to address the multi-faceted challenges facing the ummah and humanity at large.
- AbdulHamid A. AbuSulayman, The Qur’anic Worldview: A springboard for cultural reform (London: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2011)
- J. Auda, Re-Envisioning Islamic Scholarship: Maqasid Methodology as a New Approach” (London: Claritas Books, 2021)
- V.Y Mudimbe, The invention of Africa: Gnosis, philosophy, and the order of knowledge (US: Indiana University Press, 1988)
- K. Siddiqui, Stages of Islamic Revolution (London: The Open Press, 1996)