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The Irrevocability of Islamic Law

By: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba'i

What is your opinion regarding the question of reform in Islamic law? If you consider reform possible, shouldn’t religious authorities take the lead? Or are they waiting for the reform to happen and then to passively acquiesce?

I have given a thorough explanation regarding this question in previous chapters, thus I will only briefly summarize what I have said there. The shari‘ah, the irrevocable law from God, is timeless. Religious authorities have no right to take the lead or to follow others. In this regard, God speaks the following words to the Noble Prophet: “Had We not fortified you, certainly you might have inclined toward [the pagans] a bit. Then We would have surely made you taste a double punishment in this life and a double punishment after death, and then you would have not found for yourself any helper against Us.” Surah Isra’ 17:74-75

The Qur’an and the Sunnah: The only Sources of Islamic Doctrine

Do you have absolute faith in every Islamic doctrine and rule? Do you ever consider the possibility that they may be invalid?

Any doctrine or rule that is not derived from the Qur’an or the Sunnah is unwarranted. The articles of the shari‘ah, however, are beyond doubt. They are based on definitive sources. Thus it is impermissible to violate them on the pretext of their being doubtful.

Explaining a Saying of Imam ‘Ali

There is a saying of Imam ‘Ali to the effect that we should not be Muslim on account of our parents’ being Muslim. We should believe only that which we can reasonably accept. Considering this saying, don’t you think that every individual should be allowed to accept those Islamic principles that he finds reasonable and put aside those of which he is not convinced?

The saying in question is in reference to the principal religious doctrines, which one must accept through rational reasoning. It does not pertain to religious law, which the believer must accept on faith; he cannot select certain rules and reject others. All legal systems require this cohesion, and so it is not peculiar to Islam. When an authority enforces a law, it is taken for granted that all the rules included are binding. Allowing people to select from the rules those they find desirable will inevitably lead to the dissolution of law. Thus, even so-called democratic constitutions do not permit such freedom.
Furthermore, when one affirms Islam’s principal doctrines, one is implicitly agreeing that all Islamic rules are from God, and He is unerring. The purpose of the rules He has established is to secure the true interests of humankind. The acknowledgment of this truth will lead to unquestioning faith, even in relation to the rules whose logic one is ignorant of.

Islam, the True Religion from God

Following on the previous question, the saying could also be read to indicate that every individual is free to choose the religion he finds agreeable?

Religion, in general, consists of a belief system regarding the world and the human being and a set of practices whose function is to ensure the conformity of the believer’s conduct with the belief system. Religion is not a diversion that one could choose whimsically. It is, rather, a truth to which one must conform, though voluntarily. To make this tangible, let me cite an analogy.
It is a matter of fact that the Sun is the luminous source that enlightens the day. Are we free to express every illusion that may pass our mind regarding the Sun as a scientific theory? Obviously, we have no such liberty. The correct approach is to acknowledge the truth and make our life conform to it. Thus, if the saying in question, coming from a religious authority of Islam, really meant that people were free to choose whichever religion they pleased, it would have been a sign that Islam was a false religion.
The Qur’an as the authoritative source of Islamic doctrine says the following in regard to this question: “Indeed with God, the [true] religion is Islam…” Surah Al ‘Imran 3:19
“Should anyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter…” Surah Al ‘Imran 3:85
From the various religions that exist around the world, Islam grants recognition only to three: Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. But what this recognition means—as may be inferred from the Qur’an—is that their adherents may maintain their religion in an Islamic state without being forced to convert to Islam, not that these religions are valid.

The Crescent as the Symbol of Islam

Why does the crescent represent Islam?

In Islam there is no such symbol as the crescent. The star and the crescent came into widespread use as the symbol of Islam following the Crusades to oppose the Christian symbol of the Cross, and the flags of most Muslim countries now incorporate this symbol.

Voyage to the Moon from the Perspective of Islam

What is your opinion concerning the voyage to the moon, which will be possible for humankind in the near future?

There is not a particular Islamic point of view concerning the voyage to the moon. What can, however, be said in this regard is that in Islam the planets and stars, with the amazing order that governs their motion, are viewed as evidence of the One, Wise God, who has created everything there is in the universe for the sake of the human being.

The Role of Arabic Language in Islamic Culture

Why has Arabic been placed among the requirements of faith such that Muslims are obliged to recite the Qur’an, the prayers and other rituals in Arabic?

The reason Muslims are obliged to learn the Qur’an in its original language is that the Qur’an is a miracle in its literature as well as in its meaning. Moreover, Islam requires that the words of the prayer be uttered in Arabic. In addition, the main sources of Islam—the Qur’an and the hadiths passed down from the Prophet and the Imams—are in Arabic. It is the combination of these factors that give Arabic the special status it enjoys among Muslims.

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