In the foregoing chapters we said that all the Prophets who have appeared from time to time propagated Islam, that is a belief in God with all His attributes, faith in the Day of Judgement and faith in the Prophets and the Books; they asked people to live a life of obedience and submission to their Lord. This is what constitutes al-Din and it was common to the teachings of all the Prophets.
Apart from this Din there is the Shari’ah, the detailed code of conduct or the canons comprising ways and modes of worship, standards of morals and life and laws that allow and proscribe, that judge between right and wrong. Such canon law has undergone amendments from time to time and though each Prophet had the same Din, he brought with him a different Shari’ah to suit the conditions of his own people and time. This process ended with the advent of Muhammad, the last Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), who brought with him the final code which was to apply to all mankind for all times to come. Din has undergone no change, but all the previous Shari’ahs stand abrogated because of the comprehensive Shari’ah that Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) brought with him. This is the climax of the great process of training that was started at the dawn of the human era.
The Sources of Shari’ah
We draw upon two major sources to learn about the Shari’ah of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Qur’an is a divine revelation – each and every word of it is from Allah. The Hadith is a collection of the instructions issued or the memoirs of the last Prophet’s conduct and behaviour, as preserved by those who were present in his company or those to whom these were handed down by the first witnesses.
These were later sifted and collected by divines and compiled in the form of books among which the collections made by Malik, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’I and Ibn Majah are considered to be the most authentic.
Detailed law derived from the Qur’an and the Hadith covering the myriads of problems that arise in the course of man’s life have been compiled by some of the leading legislators of the past. The Muslims should forever be grateful to those men of learning and vision who devoted their lives to gaining a mastery of the Qur’an and the Hadith, and who made it easy for every Muslim to fashion his everyday affairs according to the requirements of the Shari’ah. It is due to them alone that Muslims all over the world can follow the Shari’ah easily even though their attainments in religion are never such that they could themselves give a correct and authentic interpretation of the Qur’an or the Hadith.
Although in the beginning many religious leaders applied themselves to the task, only four major schools of thought remain. They are:
- Fiqh Hanafi: – This is the Fiqh compiled by Abu Hanifa Nu’man bin Thabit with the assistance and co-operation of Abu Yusuf Muhammad, Zufar and others, all of whom had high religious attainments to their credit. This is known as the Hanafi School of Fiqh.
- Fiqh Maliki: This Fiqh was derived by Malik bin Anas Asbahi.
- Fiqh Shafi’i: Founded by Muhammad bin ldris al-Shafi’i.
- Fiqh Hanbali: Founded by Ahmad bin Hanbal.
All of these were given their final form within two hundred years of the time of the Prophet. The differences that appear in the four schools are but the natural outcome of the fact that truth is many-sided. When different persons employ themselves in interpreting a given event, they come out with different explanations according to their own lights. What gives these various schools of thought the authenticity that is associated with them is the unimpeachable integrity of their respective founders and the authenticity of the method they adopted. That is why all Muslims, whatever school they may belong to, regard all the four schools of thought as correct and true. Even so one can normally follow only one of them in one’s life.
Fiqh deals with observable conduct, the fulfiling of a duty to the letter. That concerning itself with the spirit of conduct is known as Tasawwuf. For example, when we say our prayers, Fiqh will judge us only by the fulfilment of the outward requirements such as ablution, facing towards the Ka’bah and the timing and the number of Rakaahs. Tasawwuf will judge our prayers by our concentration and devotion and by their effect on our morals and manners. An ‘Ibadah devoid of spirit, though correct in procedure, is like a man handsome in appearance but lacking in character and an ‘Ibadah full of spirit but defective in execution is like a man noble in character but deformed in appearance.
The above example makes clear the relation between Fiqh and Tasawwuf. But it is to the misfortune of the Muslims that as they sank in knowledge and character with the passage of time, they also succumbed to the misguided philosophies of nations which were then dominant, partook of them and patched Islam with their perverted dogmas.
They polluted the pure spring of Islamic Tasawwuf with absurdities that could not be justified by any stretch of the imagination on the basis of the Qur’an and the Hadith. Gradually a section of Muslims appeared who thought and proclaimed themselves immune to and above the requirements of the Shari’ah. These people are totally ignorant of Islam, for Islam cannot admit of Tasawwuf that takes liberties with the Shari’ah. No Sufi has the right to transgress the limits of the Shari’ah or treat lightly primary obligations (Fara’id) such as daily prayers, fasting, Zakah and the Hajj. Tasawwuf, in the true sense, is an intense love of Allah and Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and such love requires a strict obedience to their commands as embodied in the Book of God and the Sunnah of His Prophet. Anyone who deviates from the divine commands makes a false claim of his love for Allah and His Apostle.