The Five Laws

There are five types of laws (ahkam):

  1. Obligatory (w"jib).
  2. Forbidden (9ar"m).
  3. Recommended (musta9abb).
  4. Reprehensible/Discouraged (makrY9).
  5. Neutral (mub"9).

Obligatory acts are those which Islam has made compulsory such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, and struggle. Forbidden acts are those which Islam prevents such as drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, dealing in usury, and adultery. Recommended acts are those which Islam encourages with permissibility of not doing them such as daily optional prayers (na filah, pl. nawa fil), recommended charity, and fulfilling other people’s needs.

Reprehensible acts are those which Islam discourages without making them forbidden such as divorce. Neutral acts are those the doing of which or not doing are considered equal in the view of Islam such as the drinking of water.

Sources of Islamic Law

The Sh:!a believe that the sources from which Islamic law is derived are four in number and are:

  1. The Holy Qur’"n.

  2. The Traditions (sunnah). These are the sayings, actions and ratifications of the Messenger of Alla>h Mu9ammad (N) as well as that of the infallible Imams of his household (Ahl al-Bayt) (a.s.).

  3. Consensus (ijm"!).36

  4. Reason. It is related that ‘Alla>h has two proofs [over mankind] – an outward proof which is the prophets, and in inward proof which is reason.’37

Therefore, the Sh:!a take their legislation from the Holy Qur’"n and the traditions of the Messenger (N) and his pure household (a.s.) acting upon the tradition of the ‘two weighty things’.38 They also consider these four to be the source of Islamic legislation and that no individual or group may legislate a law which goes against them as any other legislation is false. Almighty Alla>h has said: eAnd whoever does not rule by what Alla>h has revealed, then they are the unbelieversf39.

A great deal in the way of Qur’"nic exegesis, jurisprudence, traditions, information about the beginning of creation and the end of time, fundamentals and branches of the religion and other branches of knowledge have been related from the Prophet Mu9ammad (N) and his household (a.s.). The scholar Mu9ammad B"qir al-Majlis: collected a large amount of these traditions in over 100 volumes and named the book Bi9"r al-Anw"r (Oceans of Lights). In these traditions there is enough to grant the Muslims, indeed the whole of humanity happiness in this world and the next.

Governance in Islam

The Sh:!a believe that there are two aspects to ruling in the view of Islam:

  1. A permanent aspect concerned with the ‘ruler’ and the ‘law.’ Thus the ruler must be male, a believer, of pure birth (not illegitimate), and a jurist. The law must be derived from the four sources of legislation.

  2. A developing aspect concerned with the way in which the Islamic Law is implemented. This aspect is subject to independent legal judgement and it is the responsibility of the jurist-consults/authorities to make their views known in this aspect according to stipulated legal checks and balances.

Power in Islam

The Sh:!a also believe that holy struggle (jih"d) is a kifa>’ie (common) obligation whereas defence is an ‘ayni (individual) obligation40. Hence, it is mandatory for the Islamic state to prepare the requisite number of Muslims by the ways mentioned in Islamic law so that it may have a preventative force which will protect them and their interests wherever they are.

This power is not solely confined to military power but includes intellectual, economic and industrial power so that the prophetic tradition ‘Islam is above all and none shall be above it’41 may be realised.

Sources of Public Wealth

The Sh:!a believe that the sources of public wealth are the khums (tithes), zak"h (obligatory alms), jizyah (tax paid by non-Muslims living under the protection of the muslim state), khar"j (tax paid on certain categoriesof land), tij"rah (trading), and such like. This wealth is spent in ensuring the public good and preventing individual hardship so that under the reign of the Islamic government no public good is left neglected and no one suffers from poverty or that his/her essential needs are not met.

The Sh:!a also believe that Islam allows private ownership on condition that the wealth is obtained legally and that the owner pays his dues on it. Under no circumstances is the wealth of the people to be usurped. At the same time, Islam protects the rights of the worker and the farmer as well as those of the employer and landlord so that there is no inflation or no feudal system, and no ‘cheap/free labour’ or oppression.

Islamic Freedom

The Sh:!a believe that freedom is one of the fundamental goals of Islam; for Alla>h sent his noble Prophet Mu9ammad (N) to: ePut off their heavy burdens and the fetters that were upon themf42 The Muslim then has full freedom to express his/her opinion in speech and in writing as well as full freedom in his/her social contracts, to travel, to marry, and to trade.

This wide scale freedom which Islam gives to its people prepares the practical and psychological climate for success in its efforts so that the Islamic society grows and flourishes. For this Islam, firstly, combats the four causes of backwardness which are:

  1. Ignorance. Islam works to make education general by making learning compulsory as in the tradition: ‘The seeking of knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman.’43 Islam also encourages the learning of different sciences as in the tradition: ‘If the people knew the benefits of seeking knowledge they would seek it even by crossing the seas and shedding one’s blood.’44 Also amongst many other traditions it is said that: ‘The Angels lower their wings to the seeker of knowledge [in humility before them].’45

  2. Poverty. Islam prohibits idleness, prevents unemployment, and encourages those who are able to work to do so and makes the State responsible for those who are incapable of work.

  3. Illness. In Islamic Law there are many laws which are there to prevent and cure many diseases. Furthermore Islam actively promotes medicine to be widely available. In the traditions: ‘Knowledge is of two types – knowledge of religion and knowledge of bodies (i.e. medicine).’

  4. Vice. Islam bases society in a way that no-one is forced to commit vices and puts in place preventative punishments – under stipulated conditions – for those who do.

Secondly, Islam works to promote peace and stability so that there is an environment for the flourishing of industry, trade, agriculture, and construction.

Islam also frees up all powers & energies to take part in encouraging growth: it frees up human potential since it makes marriage easy and prohibits adultery, it strengthens the pillars of the family and encourages a high birth rate so that the Islamic nation may be the largest as well as the most powerful. It also sets free the potentials of land and water for ‘the land belongs to Alla>h and whoever develops it’46, and water belongs to whoever stakes it off and uses it, and any Muslim can develop or plant what land he/she is able to.

Islam also frees up the potentials of labour since there should be no borders between Islamic lands and all of Islamic lands are a wide area for the use of all Muslims, and any Muslim may travel and work and live anywhere he/she wishes.

All Muslims are also brothers in Alla>h. Hence there are no sectarianism, tribalism, nationalism, or racism in Islam. These are the bare bones of the ideas of the Sh:!a in a number of fields and these are the bases upon which the Muslim entity was raised when it was raised high and touched the clouds and was so wide that the clouds did not encompass it.

3. The Islamic System in the View of the Shi!a

The Sh:!a believe that the Islamic system consists of the laws which regulate the life of a person from before birth until after death. They also regulate society and strive to develop the land and advance life and bring about the happiness of mankind in this life and the next. These laws are such as the laws of selling, renting, trade, politics, economics, the army, the State, agriculture, construction, mortgages, travel, residency, security, marriage, divorce, the judiciary, testaments, reparations, inheritance, etc.

To show the comprehensiveness of Islam and that it answers every need of mankind and society we have selected from the Holy Qur’"n and the traditions some texts which show the broad lines of Islamic thought in all areas of life:

  1. Doctrine. Almighty Allah has said in the Qur’"n: eSay: We believe in Alla>h and what He has revealed to us and what He revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lordf47.
  2. Worship. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Qur’"n: eAnd I did not create mankind and the Jinn except that they may worship Mef48.

  3. Education. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAre they equal? – Those who know and those who do not knowf49. Also, in the traditions: ‘The seeking of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim man and woman.’50.

  4. Equality – No racial discrimination. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eThe most honourable of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious of youf51. Also, in the traditions:

‘People are equal like the tooth of a comb’52.

  1. Peace. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eO you who believe, enter into peace one and allf53.

  2. Honour. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd we have honoured the sons of Adam and have borne him in the land and in the sea and we have sustained them with the good thingsf54.

  3. Trade. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eO you who believe, do not eat up your wealth amongst yourselves unjustly, but it should be trade by mutual consent amongst yourselvesf55.

  4. Politics. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd their affairs are [decided by] mutual consultation amongst themselvesf56.

And in the hadith, “[The Almighty] made ye [the Ahl al-Bayt] the leaders of the people”.57

  1. The Army and Power. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd prepare for them what you can in the way of forcef58.

  2. The Conquest of Space. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eO you the Jinn and mankind, if you are able to penetrate the realms of the heavens and the earth then do so. You will not do so without authorityf59. Also in the traditions: ‘If knowledge was to be found in the Pleiades men would attain it.’60, and in another tradition: ‘I am more knowledgeable about the ways of the heavens than the ways of the earth.’61

  3. Love. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Qur’"n: eAnd He has placed between you love and mercyf62.

  4. Freedom. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n in description of the Prophet (N): eAnd he puts off their heavy burdens and the fetters that were upon themf63. Also, in the traditions: ‘Do not be the slave of another when Alla>h has made you free.’64 Also, there is the Islamic principle [which is derived from the prophetic hadith]: ‘people have authority over their wealth and their selves.’65

  5. Combatting Crime. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd do not transgressf66 He has also said: eAnd whoever transgresses thereafter will have a painful tormentf67. He has also said: eVerily the punishment of those who make war on Alla>h and His Prophet and strive to make corruption in the land is that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut offf68.

  6. Cleanliness. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eVerily Alla>h loves those who repent and He loves those who purify themselvesf69. In the traditions: ‘Cleanliness is a part of faith.’70

  7. Beauty. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: ePut on your finery at every prayer placef71. And in the traditions: ‘Alla>h is beautiful and loves beauty.’72

  8. Health. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd eat and drink but do not be excessivef73. In the traditions: ‘Fast and be healthy.’74, ‘Make the pilgrimage and be healthy.’75, and ‘Travel and be healthy.’76

  9. Making use of the potentialities of the universe. Almighty Allah has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd He has made subject to you the sun and the moon, contatnt in their courses, and he has made subject to you the night and the day g and He has given you all that you asked of Himf77.

  10. Reconciliation. Almighty Allah has said in the Holy Qur’"n:

eAnd reconciliation is bestf78. He has also said: eAnd if two groups of believers fight then make peace between themf79. He has also said: eIf the two of them seek to put things to rights then Allah will bring accord between themf80.

  1. Co-operation. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd co-operate in righteousness and pietyf81.

  2. Unity. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd this is your nation – a single nationf82. He has also said: eAnd be not disunitedf83. He has also said: eAnd do not dispute amongst yourselves lest you fail and your power will gof84.

  3. Work. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd say: actf85. Also, in the traditions: ‘One who toils to support his dependants is like one who engages in holy struggle in the way of Allah.’86

  4. Virtue and good morals. Almighty Alla>h has said of the Prophet (N) in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd he purifies you and teaches you the book and wisdomf87. The Almighty also said regarding the Prophet (N): eAnd indeed you have sublime moralsf88. Also, in the traditions related from the Prophet (N): ‘I was sent to perfect the noblest of morals.’89

  5. Tranquillity and the absence of anxiety. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eIndeed it is through the remembrance of Alla>h that the hearts find tranquillityf90. He has also said: eAnd whoever believes in Alla>h, He will guide his heartf91. 24. Justice. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd if you speak then be justf92 He has also said: eAnd stand upright in equityf93. He has also said: eVerily Alla>h orders justice and benefactionf94.

  6. Responsibility and social vigilance. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eLet there be of you a nation which invites to what is best, and orders good and forbids evilf95.

  7. Progress. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eRace towards the good thingsf96. Also, in the traditions: ‘Whoever has two days the same is a loser.’97

  8. Seeking the middle course in all things. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd in this way we made you a nation of the middlef98.

  9. Riches. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd if only the people of the towns had faith and piety we would open upon them blessings from the heavens and the earthf99. In the traditions: ‘How excellent a helper in religion is independence.’100

  10. Social Responsibility. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd know that whatever you gain one fifth of it belongs to Alla>hf101. He also has said: eVerily charity is for the poor and the indigent . . .f102.

  11. Ease and Tolerance. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd for you to forgive is closer to pietyf103 He has also said: eAllah desires for ye ease and He does not desire hardship for yef104.

  12. Civilisation. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eHe raised you up from the earth and let you dwell thereinf105. He has also said: eAnd We made from you peoples and tribes so that you may know one anotherf106. Also, in the traditions: ‘Seek knowledge, for if you do not you will be nought but uncivil desertdwellers.’

  13. Life . . . with all that is meant by the word ‘life’. Almighty Allah has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eO you who believe, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to what will give you lifef108.

  14. This world and the hearafter. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eAnd of them there are those who say: O Our Lord, give us in this world good and in the next world goodf109. In the traditions: ‘Work for your worldly life as if you will live forever; and work for your afterlife as if you will die tomorrow.’110 34. A law for everything. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n: eToday I have completed for ye your religion and perfected my blessings upon yef111. He has also said: eAnd We sent down upon you the book as an explanation of everythingf112. 35. Manufacture. In the book nahj al-bal"ghah related from Imam !Al: (a.s.): ‘And have concern for the merchants and craftsmen and give them good counsel.’113 !Al: (a.s.) also said:

‘There is no basis to society without merchants and craftsmen.’114 36. Agriculture. In the traditions it is said: ‘The farmers are Alla>h’s treasures in the earth.’115 37. Development. Also in the book nahj al-bal"ghah: ‘And let your concern for developing the land be more far reaching than your concern for extracting the land tax.’116 38. Organisation. In the traditions: ‘I urge you by Alla>h to organise your affairs.’117

  1. Empathy between the government (the legal authorities) and the people. Almighty Allah has said in the Holy Qur’"n:

eObey Alla>h and obey the Messenger and those in authority over youf118. In the book nahj al-bal"ghah: ‘Let your heart feel mercy for your subordinates.’119

  1. Lastly . . . universality. Almighty Alla>h has said in the Holy Qur’"n regarding the Prophet (N): eAnd We sent you not but as a mercy to the worldsf120. He also said: eAnd We sent you not but as a bearer of good news and a warner for all the peoplef121. In the traditions: ‘The people are of two types – either your brother in religion or your equal in creation.’122

Thus the Sh:!a are the practical and authentic expression of the way of Islam as put forward by the Prophet (N) and his pure household (a.s.). They are the practical form of all that is mentioned in the Holy Qur’"n and the traditions.