(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=f!=void 0?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(f==void 0)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=e>0?new b(e):new b;window.jstiming={Timer:b,load:p};if(a){var c=a.navigationStart;c>0&&e>=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; c>0&&e>=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.chrome.csi().startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a==null&&window.gtbExternal&&(a=window.gtbExternal.pageT()),a==null&&window.external&&(a=window.external.pageT,d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.external.startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a&&(window.jstiming.pt=a)}catch(g){}})();window.tickAboveFold=function(b){var a=0;if(b.offsetParent){do a+=b.offsetTop;while(b=b.offsetParent)}b=a;b<=750&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Assessing Maqasid Syariah Operationally

 Assessing Maqasid Syariah Operationally

M. Bakri Musa


There was an on-line presentation recently at the International Islamic University Malaysia on reforming Maqasid Syariah. The speaker droned on and on but in the end said nothing on how to make it more responsive to the needs of contemporary ummah. He was more into displaying his eloquence in Arabic and memorization of those ancient moldy texts. That is par for the course for most Islamic discourses these days.


            Maqasid Syariah means doing good for oneself, family, and community. Syariah is derived from the Qur’an, with its central imperative of enjoining good and forbidding evil. Ancient scholars had done an excellent job translating those divine dictates into practical guides. With that they ushered in Islam’s Golden Age. Alas today the ummah is but a faint shadow of its former glory, pathetically behind many societies.


            Muslims today look longingly to the past for inspiration to guide us forward. Prodigious intellectual efforts are expended on deciphering those ancient edicts. The results? We are still behind and getting worse, content reveling in those long-gone glories.


            We should be learning from and emulating successful contemporary societies. The ancients did just that with classical Greece, and then went on to make their own seminal contributions. That is the Islamic past we should follow.


            Our present-day Greece equivalent would be the West and also now fast-rising China. Not too long ago Mao’s China was but Hell on earth. That should inspire today’s Muslims. Study, emulate, and later exceed the old as well as the not-so-old masters. Only then could we become credible critics of the West, as China is now. Success is the best credibility marker.


            Maqasid should be evaluated operationally, that is, on its success (or lack of) in preserving and enhancing life, faith, wealth, health, and progeny.


            Consider killing. It is bad; hence the Qur’an forbidding it. However, could killing Hitler and Pol Pot be a meritorious deed? That is far from ethical relativism, for had both been killed early, millions would have been saved, thus fulfilling the first objective of Maqasid.


            Maqasid acknowledges differences in circumstances, as with an emergency, time of need, or during abundance. Malaysia today is not desperate or at war, and our basic needs have been met, though not quite at the abundance level. As such our Maqasid Syariah should be different from the ancients or today’s Yemenis.


            Despite the frenzy of reforming Maqasid as well as the equally futile Islamization-of-economics fad, there are minimal studies comparing the equity and efficacy of taxes based on income, the capitalist option, versus assets, the basis of zakat (Muslim tithe).


            Likewise with borrowing. During the Prophet’s era that was between individuals; today, between corporations, or individuals and corporations. If you fail to repay your loan during the Prophet’s time, that was a sure path towards enslavement not only for yourself but also your family and possibly generations to come. Today if the bank were to repossess your home for non-repayment of your mortgage, and if it were to sell the property at a price over what you owed, the bank would have to refund the excess to you. Nor would you be responsible if there were to be a deficit. Mortgages are non-recourse loans. Further, borrowers of ‘non-halal’ loans are protected by bankruptcy laws and from aggressive debt collectors. With ‘halal’ Islamic mortgages, you would still owe the balance and you would not be protected by consumer borrowing laws.


            Mortgages enable millions to own homes. That is good, for families as well as communities; and as such, Syariah-compliant.


            When you borrow money and repay the same amount later, you have not fully repaid it. A dollar today is not of the same value as that of a year hence or before. Consider the ringgit during the Asian economic contagion. More dramatic, the banana currency at the end of the Japanese Occupation. In between, the sure subtle erosion of inflation. 


            Then there is the lender’s lost opportunity cost. He could have used that money to invest in the stock market or enjoy a vacation in Bali. The Qur’an does not compel anyone to lend, nor is lending considered a meritorious deed. The lender is doing it out of trust and the goodness of his heart, as well as to earn a profit on his capital. In the old village when you return a pot of rice that you had earlier borrowed, you would add something extra like a pineapple as a show of gratitude. Interest is but goodwill monetized. 


            Interest is the cost of renting capital, no different as with renting a car. Comparable concept. Mortgages enable millions to own homes; loans, to attend colleges.


            A man once complained to the Prophet, s.a.w., that a neighbor from whom the man had earlier borrowed dates had demanded more in repayment, being that the borrowed dates were from an earlier harvest, thus scarce and of prime quality. The repaid fruits were later in the season, thus plentiful and cheaper. The Prophet, s.a.w, decreed that the excess demanded by the lender was not ribaa (interest) rather compensation for the earlier dates’ scarcity and better quality. The Prophet, s.a.w, intuitively appreciated the difference between nominal versus real value.


            Likewise, insurance is considered haram by Maqasid Syariah; the uncertainties equated with gambling. Nothing in this world is certain except death. The uncertainty there is with the timing; hence the need to protect your loved ones. Insurance is but a mutual-help arrangement where you get to define what and how much protection you need by paying accordingly and prospectively. During the Prophet’s time they had a comparable concept of mutual help, as when one of their caravans was robbed. Even banks have depositors’ insurance to bolster public confidence and prevent bank runs.


            Show me a backward country and I will show you one without efficient financial intermediaries. The velocity of money (how fast it exchanges hands) is a measure of an economy’s vigor. As for zakat, you first must have the wealth; thus its pursuits fulfil Maqasid.


            Reformers of Maqasid should focus on improving the present system, be it Western capitalism or its current equally successful Chinese or Swedish variants. Aping the ancients and reciting what they wrote would not do it. Qur’an is Allah’s words, immutable; Syariah, the work of man, thus modifiable. Maqasid should be judged not on its fidelity to ancient proscriptions but on whether it delivers. That should be the only criterion.


Post a Comment

<< Home