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Extension of the concept to all instances

The skeptics also ask the following questions: if holding religious ceremonies and honoring the signs of Allah has been entrusted to people to decide, what difference is there with the different topics and instances of the shari‘ah?

We know that common sense and wisdom do not have any right to interfere in instances such as prayer, fasting, hajj, zakat, khums, and other similar instances. We know that no group of people can set up conditions and limitations for themselves regarding these topics. How then could Allah entrust the issue of deciding about religious ceremonies to common sense and wisdom, and yet forbid it from interfering in the above-mentioned instances?


The difference here lies in the restriction of certain instances; that is to say, one must differentiate between ‘the reality of the shari‘ah’ and its lexical meaning. In instances where the subject is the reality of the shari‘ah, the law of restriction to certain instances applies in full. This is opposed to instances where Allah has intervened in their subjects and meanings and has determined that the meaning of a particular word has to depend on its literal meaning.

It is in such instances where Allah puts the instance and meaning to general application in its entirety when He legislates and makes a law applicable. For example, when Allah commanded us to be kind and beneficent to our parents, he did not place the reality of the shari‘ah in this instance. He did not fix specifications or details regarding its exact performance.

Therefore, that which is incumbent upon man is to do anything which is an instance of kindness and altruism to his parents. Allah has not placed limitations on this instance and has left it to retain its literal meaning.

This is opposed to those instances that Allah has categorized as part of ‘the reality of the shari‘ah’ like the five daily prayers, hajj, fasting and other issues that pertain to submission and servitude [‘ubudiyyah]. These are instances where we can not of our own accord add limits and conditions, but have to follow the limits and conditions which Allah has placed on them up to the Day of Resurrection.

However, as regards details which are outside the essence of that action, we are at liberty to do as we wish, like when deciding in which place we would like to perform our prayers, unless we know that there is a particular prohibition on a particular place. In Islamic jurisprudence, this is called ‘reasonable and logical choosing’ [takhyir-e ‘aqli].

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"