The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

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  • The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

  • Fiqh of Virtues of Shari'ah

    There is another kind of Fiqh that is classified under the desired Civilized Fiqh which Imam Al-Raghib Al-Asfahani called in his superb book "The Means to the Virtus of the Shari `ah", (Al-Zari`ah Ila Makirm Al-Shari'ah). [Note: Revised and edited by Abu Al-Yazid Al-'Agmi and published by Dar Al-Wafa', Egypt.] This book deals with Civilized Fiqh. In it, he illustrated the difference between the rules of Shari `ah in which scholars are interested. "Virtue" means values and morals.  

    In his preface, he stated that absolute virtue means all or most of the adjectives that can be attributed to Allah, Exalted is He, such as: Wisdom, generosity, knowledge, patience, forgiveness, justice, mercy... etc., bearing in mind, that when these adjectives are attributed to Allah, they transcend their worldly meaning and soar to the apex of perfection. He said that if man was able to be virtuous then he would be worthy of Allah's description of him as His "Successor" when he says:  

    "I will create a vicegerent on earth" (2:30)  

    "And make you inheritors in the earth; that so He may see how ye act." (7:129)


    "It is He Who hath made you the inheritors of the earth: He has raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He has given." (6:165)

    Al-Raghib pointed out that the vicegerency in the earth that Allah, the Lord of Power and Majesty, has bestowed on man, assumes a higher position than slavery to Allah. As the Prayer will not be accepted without purification of the body, similarly the vicegerency of man on the earth is not attainable without the purification of the soul. [Note: Introduction of "Al-zari`ah", p. 58-59]

    However, I do not agree with Al-Raghib's (May Allah be pleased with him) opinion that the vicegerency of Allahis a higher position than slavery to Allah. Both vicegerency and slavery are of the same position, for the believer is the vicegerent of Allah and, at the same time, His slave. For instance, Allah says to David: "O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth: so judge thou between men in truth (and justice)." (38:26)

    And to His Prophet, "And remember Our servant David, the man of strength ! (in repentance) to Allah." (38:17)

    Thus David (Peace be upon him) is both Allah's vicegerent and slave Allah says: "To David We bestowed Solomon (for son), how excellent is the servant! Ever did he return (to Us in repentance)" (38:30)

    Allah calls him "Servant" notwithstanding his unique kind of dominion. Allah has described the master of His creatures and the last of the prophets as His slave saying:

    "Praise be to Allah, Who has sent to His servant the Book." (18:1)

    "Glory to (Allah), Who did take His servant for a  journey by night," (17:1)


    "So did (Allah) convey the Revelation to His servant (conveyed) what He (meant) to convey!" (53:10)  

    I also disagree with Al-Raghib's opinion that virtue perse is voluntary and additional. Virtue is not absolute but rather than the unlawful (Haraiti), being dutiful and being good and obedient to one's parents are obligatory virtues whereas, avoiding the doubtful and prohibited, being overdutiful and preferring others above oneself are voluntary and additional virtues.  


    A. Why Was the Human Being Preferred Above Allah's Creatures?

    Among the most interesting things that Imam Al-Raghib wrote about the Fiqh of Virtues or Civilized Fiqh, was his theory of Allah's Preference of man above all animals and the reasons behind this I will quote him:

    "Although man, as a human being, is already the best of creatures yet his superiority depends on cherishing and developing what made him a human being in the first place namely, true and illuminating knowledge. This preference depends on his adherence and steadfastness to knowledge. Therefore, the saying goes that men are the product of what they can do best, namely, they are the outcome of what they know of the fields of knowledge and what they do of good deeds. They used to say; well done, if someone gained knowledge and did good deeds.  

    Al-Raghib continued:  

    "There are three sides of man. One that resembles plants, in that he needs nourishment and can produce offspring. The second resembles animals, in that he feels and moves. The third, resembles a picture hung on the wall when seen in silhouette. He added:

    "The ability to speak and express himself: is his unique privilege for a human being without a tongue is like a neglected animal or dumb picture! For the human being is similar to an angel in mastering knowledge, pronunciation and understanding whereas, he is similar to an animal in his need for food and sex. On the one hand, if man consecrated his energy and life to developing his mental and spiritual abilities through knowledge and doing good, he would be raised to the ranks of angels and be called an angel and a scholar, as Allah said: "No mortal is he! This is none other than a noble angel!" (12:31)

    On the other hand, if man concentrated all his time and energy on saturating his lust, eroticism, and gluttony, he will be lowered to the ranks of the beasts and become as malicious as a bull, as gluttonous as a swine, as weak as a dog, as spiteful as a camel, as haughty as a tiger, as a sly as a fox or a mixture of all these and turn into a rebellious Satan. Allah stresses this meaning when He says: 

    "Those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshiped Evil (Tagut) " (5:60)

    Many people look like human beings on the surface, yet on unveiling them, we will find out that in reality, they are no more than animals. Allah described the people who have no understanding as: 

    "They are only like cattle; nay, they are farther astray from the way." (25:44)  

    "For the worst of beasts in Allah's sight are the deaf and the dumb, those who understand not." (8:22)

    Thus, Allah emphasized the fact that those who disbelieved and did not take advantage of the power Allah bestowed on them are the most vile of beasts. He also says: 

    "The parable of those who reject faith is as if one were to shout like a goat-herd, to things that listen to nothing but calls and cries: deaf, dumb, and blind. They are void of wisdom." (2:171)

    Here, Allah likens the wise man of the disbelievers to the one who calls out to the sheep. Thus, the disbelievers are lowered to the ranks of animals because they are incapable of understanding anything that one tells them." [Note: "A `-Zari`ah Ila Makan'm Al-Shari `ah ", "Means to the Virtues of Shari `ah , revised and edited by Abu Al-Yazid Al-`Agmi, p.86, 87]


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