To speak in God’s name

To speak in God’s name

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In this program, we shall be looking at the
care, caution and concern scholars had when speaking in God’s name. When issues came to
declaring things as obligatory (“fard” or “wajib,” or regarding certain things as “haram”
(prohibited), scholars understood by saying something was obligatory according to Islamic law, it usually meant there was a sin attached to not doing it. And “haram”
(a prohibition) implied there was a sin for committing it. The moment one is attributing
a sin to something, it implies that God is going to punish. No one has the right to say
God would punish you for committing or omitting a particular action or deed, without the prerequisite
certainty from the Qur’an or from the Sunnah. One had to be certain, both in the meaning
of the text and in the authenticity of the text, that certainly God was going to punish
a particular action. So therefore, it would be regarded as prohibited if committed, or
if it was obligatory it would be prohibited to omit. In other words, an obligation to
act. So to speak in God’s name was a very important area that scholars were very apprehensive
of. And the reason is because to make haram what Allah has already made halal was considered
an act of “shirk” [equating God’s status with another], an act of blasphemy. It was an act
of giving oneself the status of being the Lawgiver. No one competes with Allah. We do
not make obligatory what Allah has not made obligatory. We do not prohibit what Allah
has not prohibited. And so, when it comes to the sin of association with Allah as lawgivers,
scholars were very wary, and therefore became very careful and set up elaborate systems
and procedures to increase the certainty with which they would require evidence that something
was prohibited or obligatory. Scholars understood that they were to submit to the will of God
as revealed through His Prophet, and that Muslims were instructed to submit to the will of God
– not to the will or the whims of a scholar. And so part of the purpose of usul al-fiqh
and maqasid was to help maximise and measure the level of certainty with which a scholar
could say this is what God’s will is on this topic. Scholars were also afraid of deviation
and heresy or bid’a; of blameworthy innovations in the religion, changing the religion but
doing it in the name of God. And so, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) described
such innovations (or heretical, blameworthy innovations) as a form of misguidance – he
says, “kullu bid’atin dalalah,” (every heresy, or such innovation, is misguidance), and such
misguidance leads to hell – scholars tended to be careful when they were saying things
so that they didn’t attribute a lie to God; that no one was lying in God’s name or saying
this is God’s position when that really wasn’t God’s position. In the search for certainty
regarding God’s will, to find out whether from the Qur’an or from the Sunnah, the position
of God or the intent of the Prophet (peace be upon him) – whether it was to make something
obligatory or just recommended, merely permissible, or discouraged, or whether something was actually
prohibited. There was the need to be certain regarding two very important issues – the
authenticity of text and the meaning and implications of that text. It was important that people
were sure that a prescription was actually from the Prophet or from Allah. They also
wanted to be sure that the prescription was clearly understood and not open to alternative
meanings. Scholars wanted to be sure that the meanings they had really represented the
understanding that was intended by the Lawgiver, and so in an attempt to maximise the certainty
with which they interpreted texts, they tried to look elsewhere – looking at the practice
of the Sahaba [Companions of the Prophet], looking at the objectives and intents of the
law, and various other ways of reaching a greater level of certainty regarding what
the will of God actually was. So they were afraid of speaking in God’s name and they
put up a system to ensure that they did not make prohibitions where the law had not really
prohibited, or created obligations where the law did not warrant such.

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