The way to Interpret the Quran & Sunnah


Beliefs & Practices, Chapter 06, Islam & Modernism / Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Who should be competent to interpret and explain the Quran and Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) and to deduce various injunctions for problems arising in new circumstances? What are the conditions and requirements necessary for this job? We find the answers to these questions in an authentic Tradition reported by Hadhrat Ali in which he said:

“I said, “O messenger of Allah! If we are confronted with a problem which has not been described in the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions, with no injunctions in favor or against it, what am I to do in such a situation?” He said: “Take advice of the jurists and faithful worshippers and do not employ your individual opinion”.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has explicitly stated in this narration that two conditions must be fulfilled by a person who wants to deduce laws and injunctions from the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions. Firstly; he must be a jurist and secondly, he must be a devotee to worship. The importance of the first condition is obvious because objectives of the Qur’an and traditions can be well conceived only by those who possess vast and deep knowledge, who are fully aware of the rules laid down by the earlier jurists and who have spent their lives in understanding the intentions of divine laws. Similarly, the Prophet has made it a condition for him to be a devotee and faithful, that is, he must have devoted himself to the practices of these laws. Anyone who can not make distinction between permissible and forbidden in practical life and whose every day practices are in contrast of these laws can not comprehend the intentions of Islam. Deduction of the laws is, in fact, the “Search for the Truth”, and the Qur’an states that Allah bestows the faculty of cognizance of the truth to the one who confides in it in his practical life. It is said:
(If you fear Allah He will give you the power of discrimination between truth and falsehood).

This verse has clearly stated that “Fear of Allah” is the primary condition for a sense of discrimination between right and wrong. It is quite obvious from the above verse of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition that a religious and juristic solution can best be found by a person who is a “jurist” and a “devotee” (or “Muttaqi”, that is, the one who abstains from evil for fear of Allah).

Lately Mufti Muhammad Shafi, Grand Mufti of Pakistan and President, Darul-Ulum, Karachi had summarized the same thing in the following words:

“The method of solving the problems not mentioned in the Book and the traditions is the joint consultation of jurists and devoted scholars of Islam. Imposing the personal and individual opinion on the Muslims is forbidden.”

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