A Study in the Philosophy of Islamic Rites

A Study in the Philosophy of Islamic Rites

es enjoy an important role in Islam. Their injunctions represent an important part of jurisprudence and a worshipping conduct which formulates a noticeable phenomenon in the daily life of the pious. The system of rites in Islamic jurisprudence represents one of its static facets which cannot be affected by the general trend of life or […]

  • Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr
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    es enjoy an important role in Islam. Their injunctions represent an important part of jurisprudence and a worshipping conduct which formulates a noticeable phenomenon in the daily life of the pious. The system of rites in Islamic jurisprudence represents one of its static facets which cannot be affected by the general trend of life or the circumstances of civil progress in man's life except by a small portion, contrary to other judicial aspects which are flexible and dynamic. The method of application and utilization of these judicial aspects is affected by the circumstances pertaining to civil progress in man's life, such as the system of deals and contracts. In the sphere of worship, the man of the age of electricity and space prays, fasts, and performs the pilgrimage just as his ancestor from the age of the stone mill used to pray. fast. and perform the pilgrimage . It is true, however, that in the civil aspect of getting prepared to perform a rite. this person may differ from that: for this travels to his place of pilgrimage in a plane, while that used to travel with a camel caravan. And when this covers his body-while saying his prayers or during other occasions-with clothes manufactured by machines, that covered his body with clothes he hand-sewed. But the general formula of worship, as well as its method and legislation, is the same. The necessity of its application has never suffered any change, nor has its legislating value been affected or shaken by the continuous growth of man's control over nature and his own means of living. This means that Islamic Sharia (Jurisprudence) has not prescribed prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, and other Islamic rites temporarily, or as a juridical formula limited to conditions such Sharia lived in its early epochs of history. Rather, it enjoined these rites on man while he uses atomic energy to mobilize the engine, just as it has enjoined them on man while ploughing his field with a hand plough. Thus do we derive the deduction that the system of rites deals with the permanent needs in the life of man, for whom they are created, and which remain the same inspite of the continuous progress in man's life-style. This is so because the application of a fixed prescription requires a fixed need. Hence, this question comes up: Is there really a fixed need in the life of man ever since jurisprudence started its cultivating role, remaining as such until today, so that we may interpret-in the light of its stability-the stability of the formulae whereby jurisprudence has treated and satisfied this same need, so that in the end we can explain the stability of worship in its positive role in man's life? It may seem, at first look, that to suggest such a fixed need of this sort is not acceptable, that it does not coincide with the reality of man's life when we compare today's man with the man of the future. We certainly find man getting continuously further-in the method, nature of problems, and factors of progress of his own life-from the circumstances of the tribal society, his pagan problems, worries, limited aspirations, and the method of treating and organizing these needs, wherein appeared the concluding jurisprudence. Therefore, how can rites-in their own particular juristic system-perform a real role in this field which is contemporary to man's life-span, inspite of the vast progress in means and methods of living? If rites such as prayers, ablution, ceremonial washing (ghusul), and fasting had been useful during some stage in the life of the bedouin man- taking part in cultivating his behaviour; his practical commitment to clean his body and keep it from excessive eating and drinking- these same goals, by the same token, are achieved by modern man through the very nature of his civilized life and the norms of social living. So, it would seem that these rites are no longer a necessary need as they used to be once upon a time, nor have they retained a role in building man's civilization or solving his sophisticated problems ! But this theory is wrong. The social progress in means and tools- for example, in the plough changing in man's hand to a steam or electric machine-imposes a change in man's relationship to nature and to whatever material forms it takes. Take agriculture, for example, which represents a relationship between the land and the farmer; it develops materially in form and context according to the norm of development described above. As regarding worship, the latter is not a relationship between man and nature, so that it would be affected by such sort of development or progress. Rather, it is a relationship between man and his Lord. This relationship has a spiritual role which directs man's relationship to his brother man. In both cases. However, we find that humanity historically, lives with a certain number of fixed needs faced equally by the man of the age of oil (i.e:, animal oil used for lighting) as well as that of the age of electricity. The system of rites in Islam is the fixed solution for the fixed needs of this sort, and for problems whose nature is not sequential; instead, they are problems which face man during his individual, social and cultural build-up. Such a solution, called "rites," is still alive in its objectives until today, becoming an essential condition for man to overcome his problems and succeed in practicing his civilized vocations..... Source alhassanain.com

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