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Differences between the Jurisprudence of the Balance and the Jurisprudence of Prioritization

The jurisprudence of comparison and prioritization is based on consideration of various rulings and opposite concepts, with the purpose of comparison and contrast. Accordingly, more appropriate rulings are prioritized and less harmful consequences are chosen.

On the jurisprudence of prioritization, Sheikh al-Qaradawi says, “The jurisprudence of prioritization is based on the fact that Islamic jurisprudence views values, rulings, acts, and duties as having various degrees, and that people fall into various categories."[1] Therefore, according to the jurisprudence of prioritization, we need to compare benefits of various courses of action to each other, their harms to each other, and benefits to harms. When deciding courses of action and Islamic rulings, priority should be given to quality over quantity, and to knowledge and independent reasoning over conventions and traditions.103

The jurisprudence of the balance, however, is focused on identifying the criterion appropriate for every aspect of Islamic jurisprudence. Although various aspects of Islamic jurisprudence have various criteria, they are based on common conceptions and principles. This is similar to genetic fingerprinting; every individual has unique genes, yet he has some genetic characteristics shared by the members of his family or tribe.

However, the jurisprudence of prioritization and comparison is part of the more general system of the jurisprudence of the balance and helps scholars to have a better understanding of this system.

Differences between the Jurisprudence of the Balance and the Jurisprudence of Objectives of Islamic Law

It is well known that the study of the objectives of Islamic law means understanding the purposes of Islamic rulings so as to benefit mankind in the worldly life and the hereafter.[2] In other words, all Islamic rulings have logical justifications and fulfill larger objectives. Imam Aljuwaini said,

“Those who do not understand the objectives of commands and decrees lack a proper understanding of Islamic jurisprudence. Lack of awareness of these objectives, which are the essence of commands and decrees, is a major cause of dispute between religious schools of jurisprudence. Moreover, the companions of the Prophet ﷺ focused on fulfilling these objectives. They focused on the benefits and gains from Islamic jurisprudence and encouraged people to derive benefits from Islamic jurisprudence. The companions of the Prophet ﷺ used to derive new meanings and benefits from the sources of Islamic jurisprudence, with the purpose of applying them to issues which were not clearly settled by religious texts, provided that these rulings did not violate the fundamentals of Islamic law.[3]

The objectives of Islamic law fall into three categories: essentials, needs, and improvements.[4]

The difference between the jurisprudence of the balance and the jurisprudence of objectives is that the former seeks to set standards and measurements for all jurisprudential rulings, aspects, and issues. The jurisprudence of objectives, however, is indispensable. It helps to identify various degrees of benefits and harms for which the jurisprudence of the balance sets proper standards and measurements.

The Balance and Its Indicators

There are indicators into the unseen, which give us an idea of what constitutes goodness, evil, truth, and falsehood. An indicator is a piece of information that helps us understand these concepts. It helps us apprehend things by the senses and comprehend abstract concepts, so that they can be recognized by sound reason.

For example, there are indicators for recognizing doubtful matters. The Prophet ﷺ referred to such matters as he said, “And in between them are the things doubtful which many people do not know. So he who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honor blameless.”[5] Therefore we need to have indicators to recognize and guard against doubtful matters. Such indicators are essential for setting the standards of the balance.

For another example, Allah gives an indication to what the standard in the jurisprudence of the balance would be with the verse and they rejected them, although their souls were certain of them﴿ (Holy Quran 27: 14). When the unbelievers denied all evidence that proved they were wrong, the Almighty gave them the opportunity to adopt a standard that relates to pure nature: being afraid of Allah’s retribution as He asked them to resort to invoking His curse on the liars, as demonstrated in the verse And if anyone disputes with you about him, after the knowledge that has come to you, say, ‘Come, let us call our children and your children, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, and let us invoke the curse of Allah on the liars’.﴿ (Holy Quran 3: 61).



[1] Fiqh al-Awlawiyyat (On the Jurisprudence of Prioritization), Wahba, p.9.

[2] For more details, see Al-Muwafaqaat fi Usul al-Sharia by al-Shatibi, Maqasid al-Shari’ah al-Islamiyyah (Purposes of Islamic Law) by sheikh Ibn Ashur, Nazariyyat al-Maqasid ‘inda al-Imam al-Shatibi by Dr. Ahmad al-Raysuni, Rabat, 1411 H, p.12, Maqasid al-Shari’a ‘inda al-Imam al-Izz (Izz ad-Din ibn Abd al-Salam’s View on the Purposes of Islamic Law) by Dr. Omar ibn Saleh, Dar al-Nafa’is, Jordan, page 92.

[3] See: Identifying the Sources of Islamic Jurisprudence (vol.1, pp.2,295, 313, 789, 803, 804, 1230, 1221). See also Dr. Omar ibn Saleh: Ibid., p.113.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Agreed upon.



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