1 Feb

by Ng Boon Ka 2008

Many a time scholars have resorted to the literal interpretation of the texts without piercing through the ‘veil’ to look behind the intended meaning and the associated context as they presumably take a conservative stance for fear of unjustifiable innovation (bidah). Howbeit, this fear itself is unjustified as not all modern innovations are contradictory to the Prophetic practice (sunnah) in toto. It is, therefore, in this predicament that the revivalism of the maqasid al-Shariah particularly in wealth is pertinent in our contemporary world. Maqasid al-Shariah can be aptly described by the succinct words of Prof. M.H. Kamali as a science of the Shariah in its own right which is largely concerned with the philosophy of the law, its outlook and objectives, rather than the formulation of its specific text.

The dual nature of al-maqasid in terms of ibqa (preservation) and hifz (protection) was discussed by Al-Ghazali in his Jawahir al-Quran. It is opined that the preservation of wealth can be metaphorically described as having its roots in the availability of wealth (essentials / daruriyyah), its branches in wealth circulation (complementariness / hajiyyah), and its blossoming fruits in the investment and growth of wealth (embellishment / tahsiniyyah). With regard to wealth protection, the growth of wealth would be superfluous akin to building a ship under the basement if there is no safeguard of its ownership and transmission (or inheritance).

Given that juristic differences (ikhtilaf) are blessings, al-maqasid approach plays an inspiring role to cherry-pick the preferred opinions amid jurisprudential disagreements. In other words, al-maqasid can provide an end which may accommodate different means (views). As time and circumstances have changed since the Prophetic era, to remain stagnant for fear of deviation would present a simplistic view of things. While al-maqasid is stable, the means are adaptable to time and space. Hence, with al-maqasid, the need for the furtherance of traditional legal rules governing Islamic financial products and activities can be pragmatically appraised.

Fresh air must be breathed into the body of the Shariah to revitalise the significance of al-maqasid in catapulting the Islamic wealth to its highest apogee, both in quantity and in quality. While opening more gates to achieve al-maqasid is a virtue, the development of wealth in Islamic finance should heed to the gradual and systematic nature of the Quranic revelation (tanjim). In fact, the growth of Islamic finance is a means of preaching (da’wah) to achieve the higher objective of Islamic monotheism and an end to improvise the livelihood of all mankind. That said, the Islamic objective of wealth which is allegorically acknowledged as the ‘last jewel of the Shariah crown’ (wealth being ranked the ‘lowest’ among the five objectives, i.e. religion, life, intellect, lineage, and wealth) should neither be achieved in isolation nor overlooked by the pursuit of other higher objectives.

This article was published in Berita Kijang of Bank Negara Malaysia in 2008.


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