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New Trends in Islamic Legal Theory: Maqāṣid al-Sharīʿa as a New Source of Law?

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The purposes of the law (maqāṣid al-sharīʿa) were traditionally tied to the definition of maṣlaḥa expounded by al-Ghazālī and employed in legal analogy (qiyās) and precepts (qawāʿid). This article addresses recent developments in the interpretation of the maqāṣid al-sharīʿa in the works of legal scholars promoting alternative interpretations, such as Ibn ʿĀshūr, Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, Aḥmad al-Khamlīshī, Yaḥyā Muḥammad, and Jamāl al-Dīn ʿAṭiyya. Several trends can be observed: rejecting the Ghazalian definition of essential necessities by enlarging their scope beyond five and including justice, freedom, and equality; refining the categories of the purposes and creating more nuanced hierarchies of maṣlaḥas; and expanding the application of the purposes of the law beyond the sphere of the law proper, thereby giving considerations of maṣlaḥa a proactive role in shaping society through public policies. It is suggested that new interpretations of the objectives of the sharīʿa also alter the traditional four sources of law theory (uṣūl al-fiqh).

Affiliations: 1: Georgetown University


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