Understanding Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘ah A Contemporary Perspective by Mufsir bin Ali al-Qahtani (Herndon, VA and Surrey, UK: IIIT, 2015. 202 pages.)

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Tariq Al-Timimi

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Abstract

Musfir al-Qahtani’s translated book is a recent contribution on the contemporary
relevance of maqāṣid al-Sharī‘ah. After a lengthy introduction in which
he outlines some technical aspects of the subject, he turns to their relevance
for issuing fatwas (e.g., “cultural development,” “religious extremism,” and
“the Muslim mindset”) before rounding-off with what he calls the “goal
awareness crisis.” Helpfully, the reader is provided with a synopsis at the beginning
of every chapter.
The book is divided into five main chapters. The introduction seeks to establish
a definition for the maqāṣid al-Sharī‘ah while drawing attention to how
others have referred to them. The reader is then briefly presented with the textual
and “logical” (read: theological) arguments in favor of ta‘līl al-aḥkām (determining
the ratio decidendi of rulings), a fundamental query in the quest to
establish the field’s validity. Neither section is very detailed, and it soon becomes
clear that the author wrote this book for activists who want to understand
what the maqāṣid are and what relevance they hold for their cause.
Having established the proofs for the concept, al-Qahtani turns to the
maqāṣid’s meta-structure. There is nothing original in this chapter, as al-Izz
bin Abdussalam (d. 1262), al-Shatibi (d. 1388), Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 1350), and
the other usual figures are cited. It is much to the author’s credit, however,
that he refers (albeit once and almost just as a gesture) to Mustafa Shalabi (d.
1997), who has been largely overshadowed by other scholars despite his major
contributions to the field of Islamic law and legal theory, most notably in his
1944 Azhar ‘ālimīyah thesis Ta‘līl al-Aḥkām ...

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