Thursday 20th of January 2022
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The Discussion of Negative Imperatives (naw ahi)

The Discussion of Negative Imperatives (naw ahi)

The Arabic word nawahi is the plural of nahy which means to stop or prevent, and is the opposite of amr, the imperative. If in English we say, "Do not drink alcohol," this is a negative imperative in English and in Arabic a nahy. Both in the Book and in the Sunnah there are many phrases which are negative imperatives.

Similar questions arise on this subject to those we saw on the subject of the imperative. Is the negative imperative testimony for the object of the verb being forbidden (haram) or for it being undesirable (makruh) but not forbidden (haram)? Likewise, does the negative imperative testify permanency, i.e. that the action of the verb must never be done, or that it is only to be refrained from during a temporary period?

These are questions the answers to which are provided by the study of Principles.

Discussion of Generalities and Particularities (aam wa khas)

In the civil and penal laws of human society, we notice that a general and common law exists which applies to all, and we then notice that there also exists another law related to a group of individuals from that society; a law that is opposed to the common and general law.

In such instances, what is to be done? Must the two laws be received as being self-contradicting? Or, since one of the two laws, compared to the other, is general while the other is particular, is the particular law to be received as an exception to the general law?

For example, we are told in the Quran that divorced women must wait after their divorce for three monthly periods, and after that term they are free to remarry. In reliable Traditions, however, we are told that if a woman is married by a man, and before marital relations (i.e. sexual intercourse) occurs between them, the woman is divorced, it is not necessary for the woman to observe the term.

What are we to do here? Are we to consider this Tradition to be opposed to the Quran and therefore reject it and disregard it just as we have been instructed? Or are we to consider that, on the contrary, this Tradition, in reality, expounds the Quranic ayah for us, that it has the rank of an exception in certain of the particular circumstances, and that the Quran is in no way contradicted by it.

It is the second view that is the correct and valid one of course, for man is used to having a law introduced in the general form and then having the exceptions explained. Man is not used to having the exceptions explained before the law is introduced, and the Quran has addressed human beings on the basis of the terms and language of mankind. In another place the Quran itself has counted the Traditions of the Prophet as being reliable. "What the Prophet gives you, take! And what he has prohibited you, avoid!" (59:8). In these types of circumstances, we receive particularities as having the rank of exceptions to generalities.

Unconditional (mutlaq) and Conditional (muqayyad)

The question of conditional and unconditional is similar to the question of generality and particularity, but generality and particularity are relevant to what the law applies to, while conditional and unconditional are relevant to the different circumstances and qualities of the law itself. The general and particular are relevant to an order that generally covers all the different forms of that which the law applies to, some of which, due to a particular reason, are exempt from that generality. The question of unconditional and conditional, however, is related to the essence and nature pertaining to the duty which the duty-bound must perform. If that essence and nature pertaining to the duty has no particular condition then it is unconditional, and if it has a particular condition, it is conditional .

For example, in the example which we previously quoted, the Holy Prophet was commanded that at the time of taking the zakat from the Muslims he was to supplicate for them. This instruction, as regard whether the Prophet was to supplicate for them loudly or quietly, for example, or whether he was to supplicate for them in company or when alone, is unconditional.

Now I wish to say that if we have no other proof or reason provided by the Quran or reliable Traditions making one of the two above-mentioned conditions, we act according to the unconditional meaning of the ayah. That is, we are free to perform the command in whatever fashion we like. If, however, we are provided with an authentic proof telling us, for example, that the supplication is to be unconditional to the conditional, which means that we are to consider the unconditional sentence to be given a condition by the conditional sentence, and we then interpret the unconditional as the conditional .

The Discussion of the Tacit (mafahim)

The tacit in the terminology of the study of Principles is the opposite of spoken. Imagine that someone says, "Come with me to my house and I will give you such and such a book." This sentence, in reality, is a sentence taking the place of the following two sentences: First, "If you come with me to my house I will give you that book", and second, "If you do not come with me to my house I will not give you that book".

So here there are two connections: the affirmative and the negative. The affirmative connection is between accompanying and giving, and exists in the substance of the sentence and it is uttered. For this reason it is called the spoken. The negative connection on the other hand is not uttered, but from the sentence it is naturally understood. This is why it is called tacit or, more literally, the understood.

In the discussion on the Single Report we saw how the 'usuliyyin have realised the binding testimony of the Single Report, when the narrators are all just from the holy ayah of the Quran which tells us, "If there comes to you a wicked man with news, examine. "

This realisation is from the tacit meaning of the ayah. The words of the ayah only tells us that we are not to put into effect the news of the unjust without investigation, while the tacit meaning of the ayah is that we are not to put into effect the news he gives us, but we are to put into effect the news given to us by someone who is just.

The Abstract (mujmal) and the Clear (mubayyan)

The discussion of the abstract and the clear does not have so much importance. It simply means that sometimes a phrase in the language of the Holy Prophet is ambiguous for us and its meaning unclear, like the word ghena (music), while in another proof from the Quran or the Sunnah there exists its explanation. In such cases the ambiquity of the abstract is cancelled by the clear.

The Abrogator (nasekh) and the Abrogated (mansukh)

Sometimes in the Quran and the Sunnah we come across an instruction that was temporary, meaning that after a time a different instruction was given, which has, to use a phrase, cancelled the first instruction.

For example, the Holy Quran first tells us that if women having husbands commit adultery they are to be confined to their houses until they die or until God established some other way for them. Then the way that God established for them was the general instruction that if a man having a wife or a woman having a husband commits adultery, they are to be executed.

Or, for example, at first the instruction was revealed that in the holy month of Ramazan, even at night, men must not have intercourse with their wives. This rule was then cancelled and permission was given.

It is essential for a jurisprudent to distinguish the abrogator and the abrogated. On the issue of abrogation many questions are raised which are reflected on and discussed in the study of Principles. 

Lesson Six: Consensus and Reasoning


As we saw in the second lesson, one of the primal sources of jurisprudence is consensus. In the study of Principles, the questions of the binding testimony of consensus, the proofs of it being a binding testimony, and the pursuing of the method by which proofs are benefitted from it, are all subjects of debate.

One of the topical points related to consensus is as to the nature of the proof's being binding. The 'ulema of our Sunni brothers claim that the Holy Prophet has told us, "My nation will not (all) consent to a mistake". Basing their view on this, they say that if the Muslim nation find the same point of view on an issue, that view is clearly the correct one.

According to this Tradition, the members of the Muslim nation are ruled in total as having the same status as a Prophet and being faultlessly free from error. The speech of the whole nation has the same rank as the speech of a Prophet, and all the nation, at the moment of finding the same view, are faultless, i.e. immaculate.

According to this view of the Sunni 'ulema, since the whole nation is infallible, whenever such an agreed view occurs, it is as if divine inspiration has been revealed to the Holy Prophet.

Shi'ites, however, in the first place, do not count such a Tradition as being definately from the Prophet. Secondly, they agree that it is impossible for all the members of the whole nation to stray and to err, but the reason for this is that the leader of that nation, the Prophet or Imam, is a person who is infallible and immaculate. That the whole Muslim nation cannot err is because one particular member of the Muslim nation cannot err, not because from a group of people who are fallible, an infallible is formed. Thirdly, that which is called consensus in the books of jurisprudence and theology (kalam) is not the consensus of the whole nation. It is simply the consensus of a group, the group of managers or supervisors-i.e. the 'ulema- of the nation. Furthermore, it is not even the consensus of all the 'ulema of the nation, but the consensus of the 'ulema from one sect from amongst the nation.

Here is where the Shi'ites do not maintain the same principle of consensus that the Sunni 'ulema maintain. Shi'ites maintain the binding testimony of consensus only in as far as it is the means of discovering the Sunnah.

In the thinking of the Shi'ites, whenever there is no proof in the Book and the Sunnah about a certain subject, suppose, but it is known that the general body of the Muslims, or a numerous group of the companions of the Prophet, or those companions of an Imam who did nothing except in accordance to the divine instructions, all used to act in a particular way, then we realise that in those times there existed an instruction of the Sunnah which we are unaware of.

Acquired Consensus and Narrated Consensus

Consensus, whether that which our Sunni brothers have accepted or that which Shi'ites consider valid, is of two types: acquired and narrated. Acquired consensus means the consensus, the knowledge of which the mujtahid has himself directly acquired as the result of minute research into history and the views and opinions of the companions of God's Prophet or of the companions of the Imams, or of the people close to the time of the Imams. [8]

Narrated consensus is the consensus about which the mujtahid has no direct information, but which has been related by others. Acquired consensus, of course, is a binding testimony, but narrated consensus, if certitude is not obtained from the narrator by which it is narrated, is not relied upon. Therefore, the Single Report of consensus does not constitute a binding testimony, even though, as we have seen, the narrated Single Report of the Sunnah does, provided the chain of narrators meets the conditions.


Reasoning is one of the four sources of jurisprudence. What is meant is that sometimes we discover a law of the Shari'ah by the proof of reason. That is by means of the deduction and logic of reason we discover that in a certain instance a certain necessary law or prohibitive law exists, or we discover what type of law it is and what type it is not.

The binding testimony of reason is proved by the law of reason ("the sun is shining, hence the proof of the sun" - meaning that with the existence of reason no other proof is needed), and also by the confirmation of the Shari'ah. Essentially we are sure of the Shari'ah, and of the principle of beliefs of religion, by means of reason. How could it be that in the view of the Shari'ah reason is not to be considered as binding?!

The issues of the Principles related to reason are in two parts. One part relates to the inner meaning or philosophy of the commandments. The other part is related to the requirements of the commands.

Let us begin with the first part. One of the obvious elements of Islam, especially in the view of the Shi'ites, is that the Shari'ah of Islam exists in accordance to what comprises the best interests of human beings and their worst interests. That is, each command (amr) of the Shari'ah is due to the necessity of meeting the best interests of human beings and each prohibition (nahy) of the Shari'ah arises from the necessity of abstaining from their worst interests, i.e. the things that corrupt them.

Almighty God, in order to inform them as to what comprises their best interests, in which lies their happiness and prosperity, has made a chain of commands obligatory (wajib) or desirable (mutahab) for them. And so as to keep human beings away from all that which corrupts them, He prohibits them from those things. If the best interests and forms of corruption did not exist, neither command nor prohibition would exist. If the reasoning of human beings became aware of those best interests and those forms of corruption, they are such that it would devise the same laws that have been introduced in the Shari'ah.

This is why the practioners of the Principles, and also the mutakalimin, consider that, because the laws of the Shari'ah accord to and are centred on the wisdom of what is best and worst for human beings-and it makes no difference whether those best and worst interests are relevant to the body or the soul, to the individual or the society, to the temporary life or the eternal -wherever laws of reason exist, so the corresponding laws of the Shari'ah also exist, and wherever there exists no law of reason, there exists no law of the Shari'ah.

Thus, if we suppose that in some case no law of the Shari'ah has been communicated to us, particularly by means of narration, but reasoning absolutely traces with certitude the particular wisdom of the other judgments of the Shari'ah, then it automatically discovers the law of the Shari'ah in this case too. In such instance reasoning forms a chain of logic: First, in such and such a case, there exists such and such a best interest which must necessarily be met. Second, wherever there exists a best interest that must necessarily be met, the Legislator of Islam is definitely not indifferent, rather He commands the meeting of that best interest. Third, so, in the quoted instances, the law of the Shari'ah is that the best interests be met.

For example, in the time and place of the Holy Prophet there was no opium or addiction to opium, and we, in the narrated testimonies of the Quran and the Sunnah and consensus, have no testimonies particular to opium one way or the other, yet due to the obvious proofs of experiencing opium addiction, its corruption has been experienced. Thus, with our reasoning and knowledge, and on the basis of "a form of corruption which is essentially to be avoided", and because we know that a thing which is harmful for human beings and a corruption of them is forbidden in the view of the Shari'ah, we have realised that the law about opium is that addiction to opium is forbidden .

Similarly, if it becomes established that smoking tobacco definitely causes cancer, a mujtahid, according to the judgment of reasoning will establish the law that smoking is forbidden according to the Divine Law.

The 'usuliyyin and the mutakalimin call reason and the Shari'ah inseparable from each other. They say that whatever law is established by reason is also established by the Shari'ah.

However, this of course is provided that reasoning traces in an absolute, certain and doubtless way those best interests which must be attended to and those worst interests or forms of corruption that must be shunned. If not, the name reasoning cannot be given to the use of opinion, guesswork and conjecture. Analogy for this very factor is void for it is more opinion and imagination rather than reasoning and certitude.

On the other hand, when reasoning plays no part in the forming of a law and we only see that such and such a law has been introduced in the Shari'ah, we know that our best interests were definitely involved, for otherwise the law would not have been made. Therefore, reason, in the same way as it realises the law of the Shari'ah by realising the best interests of human beings, similarly realises the best interests of human beings by realising the law of the Shari 'ah .

Therefore, in the same way it is said that whatever is a law of reason is a law of the Shari'ah, it also said that whatever is a law of the Shari'ah is a law of reason.

Let us now discuss the second part, the requirements of the commands. We know that whatever law made by whatever sane law-maker possessing intellect naturally has a chain of essentials that must be judged according to reason to see if, for example, that particular law necessitates a certain other law, or if it necessitates the negation of a certain other law.

For example, if a command is made, such as the hajj and the form of worship to be performed there- and the hajj necessitates a chain of preparations, amongst them acquiring a passport, buying a ticket, vaccinations, and currency changing; does the law of the hajj being obligatory require these preparations to be obligatory as well, or does it not?

The same question can apply to the things that are forbidden. Does the rule of a thing being forbidden demand that its preparations also be forbidden?

Another issue. At one time a person is not able to do two things that are obligatory for him to do because they must be done separately. Like at the same time it is obligatory to pray one's obligatory ritual prayers, it is also obligatory, assuming it has become unclean by blood, urine, etc., to clean the mosque. So the performing of one of these two duties demands the neglect of the other. Now, does one command necessitate andcontain the prohibition of the other? Do both the commands include this prohibition?

If two things are obligatory for us while it is not possible for us to perform both of them at once, so that we have no option but to choose only one of them, then if one of the two is more important, we must definitely perform that one.

Which brings us to another issue. Is our duty in regards to the important altogether lapsed by our duty in regards to the more important or not? For example, two men are in danger of their lives and it is only within our means to save one of them, and one of them is a good Muslim who works for others while the other is a corrupt man who only troubles others, but whose life, all the same, is still sacred.

Naturally, we must save the Muslim who is good and who helps others whose life is more valuable to society than the life of the other. That is, to save him is more important while to save the life of the other is important.

In the above mentioned examples, it is reasoning with its precise calculations which clarifies our specific duties, and in the study of Principles these issues and issues like these are all discussed and the way of properly determining the answers is learned.

From what has been stated from the fourth lesson to here it has become clear that the issues of Principle are all divided into two parts, the "Principles of Deducing" and the "Principles of Application". Likewise, the Principles of Deducing-are in turn divided into two parts; the Narrated and the Reasoned. The Narrated are relevant to all the discussions focused on the Book, the Sunnah, and consensus, while the Reasoned part is related to reason. 

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