Issues in jurisprudence

What is jurisprudence

Jurisprudence is the process of reasoning to derive laws from its “roots.” The roots include the Quran, tradition, majority view and reasoning.

These “roots” are not equally authoritative. In traditional jurisprudence the Quran is the highest authority, followed by tradition, majority view and reason.

This ranking or hierarchy is not always maintained. There is a trend to treat tradition and revelation as equally authoritative. This is evident in referring to tradition and revelation as “primary” sources.

By describing both as “primary” sources, the fact that the Quran is the first root of law may be lost on the reader.

The view that the Quran and tradition are equally authoritative is reinforced in the popular mind by the view that “in the shariah” the Quran and tradition stand on “the same footing,” or that a report of multiple reporters is “equal” to a verse of the Quran. The view that the Quran and sunna are “equally” authoritative is also reinforced by the perception that the “sunna is a part of the Quran.”

An example of tradition acquiring a rank even higher than revelation is provided by the view that tradition may “abrogate” revelation. It is hard to see how statements of this kind may be reconciled with the principle of tawhid.

The incorporation of tradition as a root of the law was enabled by designating tradition as revelation, although not quite on par with the revelation of the Quran.

The reason for having to elevate tradition to the ran of revelation may be found in al-Maida, verses 44, 45, and 47 which state that whoever judges by something other than what God revealed is a disbeliever, a wrongdoer or a rebel.

Issues in jurisprudence are due to problematic assumptions that were incorporated for different reasons into the methodology of  jurisprudence. To resolve these issues, it is necessary to address these assumptions.  Among these assumptions are the following:

  1. Tradition is a form of revelation
  2. Tradition is followed in preference to reason
  3. Tradition is needed to understand revelation
  4. Tradition may abrogate revelation

The combined effect of these assumption was to make way for tradition as a source of law, and also as a means for “understanding” revelation.

Tradition is a form of revelation

If tradition were to be used as a root of the law, it had to have the rank of revelation. Otherwise verses 44, 45 and 47 would make it impossible to “judge” by tradition.

Tradition was identified as revelation by asserting that revelation takes two forms: “manifest” and “internal.” The Quran would be an example for the former while tradition would be an example of the latter.

In other words, jurists have enabled tradition to become a root of the law by redefining revelation as it is understood in the Quran. This imparted to revelation a broader meaning than it has in the Quran.

The problem with identifying tradition as a form of revelation, however, is that the Quran does not distinguish between two modes of revelation. .

Tradition is followed in preference to reason

The view that reason is subordinate to tradition is problematic because it justifies blind following of tradition and a belittling of reason.

The view that tradition has to be followed even if it is against reason is hardly consistent with the Quran, according to which God commands what is reasonable. Moreover, it can be used to justify blind following.

Tradition is needed to understand revelation

It appears that reason was not alone in being subordinated to tradition. Revelation was treated similarly.

The subordination of revelation to tradition took place by asserting that tradition judges revelation in  that revelation had to be “explained” by tradition.

[Disclaimer: Readers are advised to check the veracity of the statements made in this post for themselves. If any reader finds an error in this post, kindly inform me].

Tradition may abrogate revelation

The elevation of tradition above revelation is apparent in the theory of abrogation of revelation by tradition. Only a higher authority may abrogate a lesser authority.

The fact that tradition is deemed capable of abrogating revelation indicates that tradition is deemed to be an authority higher than revelation. It is hard to see how the theory of the abrogation of revelation may be reconciled with the view that God is the highest authority.

[Disclaimer: Readers are advised to check the veracity of the statements made in this post for themselves. If any reader finds an error in this post, kindly inform me].

Author: Abdul Karim Abdullah

Writer and editor

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