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The Concept of “Renewal” in Islaam

By ash-Shaykh ‘Abdur-Rahmaan as-Sudays 10 Safar 1440h

Indeed, all praise is due to Allaah. We praise Him, seek His assistance, ask His forgiveness, and repent to Him. Allaah is perfect in every way, and I praise Him for His all-encompassing blessings and indisputable evidences.

O Allaah, You deserve endless praise, for both the apparent and inconspicuous blessings You bestow upon us. We implore You to grant continuous commendation and protection to Your final Messenger.

I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allaah alone, without any partner. He blessed us with the brilliant directives of Islaam, whose radiance shines throughout all of creation. I further bear witness that our Prophet Muhammad is Allaah’s worshipping servant and Messenger. He clarified the major landmarks of advancing civilization. O Allaah, grant Your never-ending commendation and protection to him, as well as to his esteemed family, noble Companions, and all who follow their path.

Servants of Allaah, you must observe Taqwa of Allaah. Doing that provides you with the best provision for life in this world and in the hereafter. “If people obey Allaah, obey His Messenger, have reverential fear of Allaah, and observe Taqwa of Allaah, they are the ones who will achieve true success.” (Soorah an-Noor (24):52)

If you depart without the provision of Taqwa and, after passing away, you encounter those who had that provision, You will regret not having been like them and not making the preparations they made.

Dear Muslims, there is a reality attested to by deeply rooted civilizations which no discerning person can be oblivious to: the reality that the brilliant teachings of Islaam wiped away darkness from our world by way of the justice and mercy that emanate from them. They uprooted oppression and planted compassion. They are noble directives distinguished by comprehensiveness and completion. They set all matters of this world and the hereafter for the people. That is because the directives of Islaam do not come from any source besides Allaah and His Messenger (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection). This is a major foundational principle of the religion. Allaah, the Most Exalted, told His Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection),

“We have put you upon a clear path as it relates to the directives and religion We prescribed. Thus, you must adhere to that path and you must not follow the disobedient inclinations of those who have no knowledge of the truth.” Soorah al-Jaathiyah (45):18.

Dear Muslims, the brilliant directives we have in Islaam abound with beneficial principles and comprehensive objectives in all matters, whether religious or mundane. Islaam’s directives comprise texts, objectives, principles, and rationales that fill our world with justice, wisdom, ease, and mercy. Islaam’s directives also thoroughly address how independent reasoning can be used to deduce rulings pertaining to unprecedented matters. As a result, those rulings can be clearly defined, and permissible can be distinguished from impermissible, all by way of precise guidelines and established foundations which the scholars of Islaam have followed. Their approach has played a very significant role in bringing about what is advantageous for individuals and entire societies, as well as in arriving at the truth when dealing with unprecedented circumstances.

The directives of Islaam – collectively referred to in Arabic as the Sharee‘ah – are not stagnated, rigid, or obsolete. On the contrary, they adapt and are flexible. They are not at odds with modernity and taking advantage of contemporary developments, tools, and technologies. The directives of Islaam strike sound balance between constants and variables, as well as between roots and modernity.
The term “renewal” is one which captivates. However, making it reality requires uniquely enlightened minds which are skilled at deducing rulings from the texts of Islaam, addressing subsidiary issues which branch off from main ones, referring those subsidiary issues back to applicable comprehensive principles, recognizing the foundations of Islaam’s laws, and giving consideration to their objectives in order to arrive at the correct ruling about any issue. Aboo Daawood and al-Haakim collected a hadeeth with a saheeh chain of narration in which Allaah’s Messenger (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) said, “Every hundred years, Allaah will certainly send for this Ummah people who renew elements of its religion.” Sunan Abee Daawood (4291).

Dear people of eemaan, renewal in the context of Islaam’s directives has well-defined guidelines.

[1] One of them is that renewal must not contradict any text from the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and must not oppose any of the religion’s objectives. Islaam’s directives cannot remain intact unless its texts are preserved and its objectives are given proper consideration. The purpose for which Islaam’s directives have been prescribed is to fulfil the religion’s objectives so as to bring about what is in the best interests of Allaah’s servants.

Al-Imaam at-Taahir ibn ‘Aashoor (may Allaah have mercy upon him) commented that the purpose of directives being prescribed in Islaam is to maintain order in our world, and regulate people’s actions in a manner that would prevent them from harming or ruining one another. Al-Muwaafaqaat (1/537).

He also mentioned that the overall objective of Islaam’s directives is to maintain the order of our Ummah and ensure the continued wellbeing of communities, by ensuring the continued wellbeing of those in charge of communities – namely, human beings.

[2] Another important guideline which applies to renewal is that those involved are to be reliable individuals of authority who are known for their knowledge and understanding. Complying with Islaam’s teachings and objectives requires well-grounded scholars since they are people who are endowed with enlightened minds, thorough insight, and sound reasoning. They are the ones who have in-depth knowledge of foundations and principles, and they consider matters using the standards provided by Islaam’s noble teachings.

[3] A further guideline for renewal is that it take place in the realm of tools, means, matters which are subsidiary, and other similar areas. Among the distinguishing features of Islaam’s teachings are that they are flexible enough to apply in all times and places, and that they give consideration to circumstances, variables, and environments. This necessitates that they accommodate developments which take place.

[4] An additional guideline is that renewal must aim to achieve what Islaam considers a legitimate benefit, or avert a harm that is definite or will most likely occur. The teachings of Islaam were revealed to bring about all that is best for the livelihood of people in this world and the hereafter. This is why the Companions strove to deduce rulings concerning unprecedented issues they had to deal with, and those rulings were based on bringing about the greatest good. Examples of this include compiling the Qur’aan into a standard mus-haf, keeping official government records, holding a manufacturer accountable if materials he takes from others become damaged in his possession, and so on. These rulings were deduced in line with the spirit of Islaam’s teachings, and giving consideration to their objectives. Thus, it can be clearly understood that renewal does not take place based on people’s own desires, inclinations, or opinions.

[5] Another guideline is that when deducing rulings, correct understandings must be safeguarded from incorrect ones – those which oppose the understanding of our righteous Salaf (the foremost generations of Islaam). Concepts and understandings must be examined carefully, and precedence is to be given to the ones which have the most conformity with the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Values should also be examined in light of their advantages and harms, and that examination is to be done in light of Islaam’s teachings, not merely people’s own inclinations. Al-Imaam ash-Shaatibee (may Allaah have mercy upon him) commented that the only one who has total knowledge of the advantages people require for their lives to be set in order is the One who created those advantages and put them in place. The knowledge that people have about them is partial, and what people do not grasp about those advantages is greater than what they are aware of. There are many times when people make careful plans yet they do not work out completely, and may not even come to fruition to begin with. With that being the case, we must realize that referring back to what Allaah Himself prescribed for us is the way to produce what is of greatest advantage to us.

In addition, dear Ummah of Islaam, when dealing with issues about which scholars have differed, an individual must not rush to disapprove of those who hold a view different from the one he holds. Some of the established principles in Islaam are: that those who hold differing points of view in issues about which there is legitimate scholarly difference are not to be censured; that a fatwaa can differ based on time, place, circumstances, customs, and individuals; and that the ruling issued by an authority is accepted in settling differences since it is issued while giving consideration to the greatest overall good.

Dear people of eemaan, after keeping these important guidelines in mind, it is necessary to remember that the brilliant civilization of Islaam made contributions of major significance to human progress and innovation. It is also necessary for the leaders, scholars, and thinkers of our Ummah to be encouraged to agree on common areas in which renewal of religious matters can take place while also preserving the religion’s established foundations. A well-planned course must be devised to protect our Ummah from turmoil, treat its problems, and save the lives of its people by eliminating the causes behind the turmoil which exists in some regions of the Ummah. Those causes include sectarianism and partisanship, and they have led to strife, instability, conflicts, and wars.

The directives of Islaam are ones of guidance, righteousness, moderation, mercy, tolerance, security, stability, prosperity, and peace. Allaah said, “This is My straight path, so follow it and do not follow the other divergent paths, as they will lead you astray from Allaah’s path. This is what Allaah has commanded you in order for you to attain Taqwa.”

We beseech our Guardian Lord to protect our Muslim Ummah from the schemes of every enemy. Our Lord indeed hears all, and answers prayers. I say this much and I ask Allaah, the Greatest and Most Majestic, to forgive me and all of you. Thus, ask His forgiveness and repent to Him. He most certainly accepts repentance and bestows His mercy.


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