Roots of the law


The Quran, understood by Muslims to be the word of God, is the first root of the law. The Quran teaches first and foremost monotheism, the Day of Judgment, the need to develop God-consciousness, to act with justice, and the responsibility to abide by the word of God. In addition, the Quran teaches ethics, and provides detailed information on inheritance and other issues.  The Quran contains a few legal rulings, forbidding killing, adultery, theft and slanderous accusation.

Prophetic traditions

The prophetic traditions constitute the second root of the law. They are understood to be subordinate to the Quran. There are several reasons for this.

First, prophetic traditions are reports by different narrators. They were compiled two hundred years after the demise of the prophet.

Second, the majority of the traditions (ahadith) are paraphrases of the words of the prophet. Just ten traditions are known to be verbatim, literally the words of the prophet.

Third, there is a lack of consensus about whether the prophet permitted the compilations of his sayings. There is evidence, ironically in the compilations themselves, that at least initially he forbade it, for fear that the words the Quran might be mixed up with his words. There appears to be a dearth of evidence that he relaxed the prohibition.

Fourth, the vast majority of the traditions are solitary, meaning that they are supported by just a single chain of narration. A few jurists feel that single-chain narrations should not be used as a root of the law. According to them, only traditions with multiple lines of narration should be used as roots of the law.

The reason for this was that the reliability of traditions with at least four separate chains of narration was deemed to be higher than that of solitary traditions. 

Fifth, different denominations appear to have different compilations of traditions.

Sixth, there was widespread forgery of traditions taking place at the time. Many traditions were fabricated to support either one or another of several competing parties.

Seventh, the process of verifying the authenticity of the narrations did not pay enough attention to the meaning (matn) of the tradition, and was excessively concerned with the reliability of the narrators.

Eighth, the traditions appear to have left out statements about the intellect and justice, thereby appearing to be excessively focused on formalities.

Ninth, a few traditions appear to depart from the teaching of the Quran on various subjects, such as apostasy.

Jurists generally agree that if a tradition is authentic and agrees with the Quran, relying on it should be acceptable.

[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].

Blocking the means

This root of the law rests on the assumption that an act may be designated as illegal if its use may facilitate another illegal act. In other words, television could be made illegal because it television might facilitate watching pornographic movies.

The principle rests on the assumption that the means to an end takes on the value of the end. If the end is illegal, so are the means to it.

What is rarely acknowledged is that a particular means may be used to arrive at different ends, where a few may be illegal but others may be legal.

Moreover, what is rarely highlighted is that equating the value of the means with the value of the end also works in reverse: when the value of the end is legal, the means also becomes legal.

If the means takes on the value of the end, then committing mass murder to achieve a caliphate is justified because the end is desirable. The principle is Machiavellian, as it conveys the notion that the end justifies the means.

This “principle” imparts the view that what makes an act legal or otherwise is whether it “leads to” a legal result or not. Thus, this root of the law should be re-examined.

[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].