If you are at point A and you want to reach point B, what route should you take? As depicted in the images above, you have six options i.e. image 1, image 2, image 3, image 4, image 5, or image 6. Even without the images, the question is a no-brainer. With images, there is almost nil possibility of a mistaken choice. Everyone with a semblance of common sense would opt for the straightest and shortest route possible which is depicted in the first image. If you consider point A the stage in which humans find themselves and point B as ultimate success in the truest sense of the term then the first image is the pictorial meaning of Shari’ah and all other pictures indicate the intricate, bewildering, difficult, convoluted, tortuous, dangerous, and obviously ridiculous paths that humans have chalked out for themselves in order to attain success. Success – the way to which was so straightforward and accessible for mankind – seems to be a mirage due to their intellectual blunders and practical misadventures that are in fact way more horrifying than the ways illustrated in the images 2 to 6.
However, there is a twist… a very important one indeed! In pictures, the artist has at least depicted these awfully convoluted paths to actually end up at the destination; but in reality, they are a bridge to nowhere, leading men astray and never guiding towards the truth and salvation. In other words, those who chose to tread these paths never reach the coveted point B even if they possess infinite resources in terms of talents, speed or time.
The word Shari’ah literally means the path. Linguists have explained that the word implies the path that leads to the water source with certainty. Water is life. Availability and access to water had been a decisive factor in foundations of settlements and civilisations. People, from their homes, would daily go to the water sources be it natural fountains, wells or rivers. Many routes would emerge. But, over time, more and more people would opt for the easiest and shortest of the routes. The small trail, with more and more use, would become a ‘highway’. Treading this path would guarantee the access to water source successfully, securely and efficiently. From this emanates the meaning of correct and optimal path leading to the destination.
What water is for physical life… values are for the spiritual life… and hence,
The term Shari’ah, implies the way-of-life treading through which a person can reach the ultimate success. This way-of-life leaves none of the fundamental questions unanswered and does not leave humankind in the desert of life to fend for themselves. On the other hand, unlike various manmade totalitarian systems, it does not stifle mankind into pejorative capitulation where there is no independence and free choice whatsoever. This is analogous to a well-maintained traffic system where one is free to drive subject to the necessary restrictions related to speed, lane, licence, and signals, etc. for one’s own as well as collective good.
Allah – our Creator and Sustainer – has revealed Shari’ah as His Guidance for humankind. It has been revealed to the gems of mankind (i.e. prophets) umpteenth of times and has finally been revealed to the last Messenger of Allah i.e. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in its complete and perfect form. This is the shortest, straightest, and broadest highway that leads towards the truth and salvation… rest of the ways that men have concocted lead to nowhere but ultimate regret.
In short, Shari’ah refers to the sum total of Islamic laws and includes the Qur’ān, Sunnah, Ijma, and Qiyas. The Qur’ān is not only a religious text or sacred scripture; it is the revealed word of Allah. Sunnah comprises the teachings, traditions, actions and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Ijma is the consensus of the jurists (of a particular period). And Qiyas is (reasoning by) analogy. However, it must be known that there can be no Ijma or Ijtihad/Qiyas against the Qur’ān and Sunnah as the Qur’ān and Sunnah are the actual sources of Shari’ah while Ijma and Qiyas are derivative sources – through which laws are discovered (not made). For example, the Qur’ān and Sunnah clearly forbid alcohol due to its intoxicating traits… now a jurist would find the intoxicating effects in the cocaine and extend the ruling of forbiddance to the drug as well. Ijma and Qiyas/Ijtihad also tell us the importance of reason, freedom, and delegated legislation in Islam.
May Allah bestow upon us the wisdom and courage to discard the baffling mazes and guide us to the straight path, illuminated by Shari’ah, which leads to the Truth and Salvation! Ameen.