‘Al-Maslahah’ – a little known goal of the Shari’ah.

Maslahah is the idea of the public good or the general welfare as an important goal of God’s law. The article below is from The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World by Jonathan A.C. Brown. It interests me as it is relevant to the debates (and clashes) I have had with a number of Muslims about how to respond to violent extremists and their supporters in London. Maslahah – being mindful of the public good (and avoiding manifest harm) requires Muslims to look beyond their own interests as a group to the wider interests of the community.

St Thomas Aquinas said that the first principle of natural law is that good is to be promoted and evil (harm) is to be suppressed. This is substantially the same as this key principle in Islamic law. Also he identified the goals of natural law as nearly the same as Al-Ghazali’s maqasid.

This overlap doesn’t strike me as a coincidence since Aquinas cites Ibn Rushd and Al-Ghazali in his Summa (in other contexts) so he had read their works extensively.

Categories: Dr Jonathan Brown, Islam, Sharia

3 replies

  1. This principle is found in the Qur’an:

    ‘O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted’ – 4:135

  2. This is a well known & established principle in Islamic law and isn’t to be seen as limited to a specific strain of Islam. In Salafism, the technical term ‘Muslaha mursilah’ is used – that is, general or public interest/welfare.

    Notably, Shamsi refers to this same principle with regard to Freedom of Speech and its use by extremists and thus its harm on the wider society.


    (minute 10:57)

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