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Closing Remarks on How Responsibility Augments Maqasid-based Fiqh*

Of the intrusions of an invasive modernity, imported Western legal systems were the most threatening projectile. With a gaping wound that Islamic jurisprudence has been slowly and painfully healing around, Western legal philosophy has become a de facto graft in the Muslim tradition. Via retrospective justification posed as pre-description, modern Islamic legal methodology originating from the nahDah of Muhammad Abdu and Rashid Rida (1865‒1935) has developed today into what has been described as a dominantly utilitarian methodology. By rendering legal reasoning to a practice increasingly sensitive to social needs and necessities, at the expense of a traditional commitment to literal dictates of revelation, the Abdu-Rida synthesis has developed to a current divine-intent/human-needs (maqasid/maslahah) based-fiqh freed from the restrictions of medieval tradition and caught in a commitment to natural law.”

Responsibility enters with the potential to augment and correct this effectively utilitarian fiqh and correct its path. Left to its current state of development, the Abdu-Rida synthesis remains deficient in that it lacks any objective criteria by which the validity of a human need or necessity is to be judged. Responsibility does not provide such criteria. Rather, it competes forcefully in the domain of subjectivity. By appealing to the material and spiritual welfare of future generations and the necessity of a sustainable fiqh and, more importantly, the fear and trembling that comes with a personal commitment to God, responsibility acts to keep a check on a benefits-based fiqh.

The Arab Spring coincides with Islamic political parties coming closer to bringing an Islamic society into light and meeting the dictates of Islam. At the same time, the methodological vehicle adopted (and by which they became compatible with the political zeitgeist) is committed to successfully meeting the needs of society. At this junction, Soren Kierkegaard (1813‒1855) comes to mind with his philosophy of responsibility. I share with him an analogous fear that religious utilitarianism will make being Muslim easy, “with the danger that easiness would become so great, that it would become all too easy.” Out of love for humankind, one hopes that responsibility would make difficulties everywhere!

*From “Articulating “Responsibility” as a Prerequisite for the Arab Spring”
Ahmed Elewa, The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 29:3, pp 42-58 (2012)

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