Utilitarianism in Classic Islamic Jurisprudence
Hazim H. Alnemari

Islamic jurisprudence has developed a special utilitarian method for both understanding Shari’a and applying it in unprecedented situations. The concept of Maslaha is the cornerstone of Islamic legal philosophy for three reasons: (1) the close link between Maslaha and religious Islamic texts, (2) the methodology of categorizing Maslaha is one of the main subjects of Usoul al-Figh, and (3) it greatly affects Islamic law rulings and reasoning. Classic Muslim jurists have divided Maslaha up based both on its role in society and its relation to the religious texts (the Qur’an and Sunnah). Per the first standard, Maslaha are divided into three categories: necessities, needs, and embellishments. Per the second standard, Maslaha are also divided into three categories: ones that the Qur’an or Sunnah explicitly consider, ones that they explicitly dismiss or cancel, and ones that they do not mention at all. The method of considering Maslaha in decision making can be summarized into two steps: first is that Maslaha should promote one or all of the five goals of Shari’a. Second, Maslaha should not cause the loss of a bigger utility or result in great harm. The case of theft at the time of Umar ibn Al-Khattāb and his decision provide both an example that shows Maslaha in governmental and judicial practice and a principle in Islamic jurisprudence that can be used as a benchmark for future cases.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jisc.v5n1a1