The first international conference of the Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) was held in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday March 9th. 2013. The conference was entitled “Arts and Politics from an Islamic Perspective: Critical Questions” and was the first international conference organized by CILE, a member of Qatar Foundation. The one-day conference brought together scholars of Islamic jurisprudence, artists and politicians from around the world to discuss critical issues pertinent to today’s cultural and political spheres.

The Islamic world in general and the Arab world in particular, are trying to change the status quo.

We witnessed in the last two years a public uprising everywhere and a strong will for change.

A political revolution that removes a corrupt president or a tyrant government is good, but the real revolution that the Arab, Islamic and the whole world needs is a moral revolution!

Maqasid Al-Shariah is the methodology, philosophy and the system of values of this desired revolution.

Today’s world is suffering from acute crises in all aspects of human life. If we reflect upon these crises we will find them all to be moral crises, whether in the moral values or the moral practices. From the Quran (Corruption has spread in land and sea because of what people commit from evil. God will show them the consequences of their actions so they may repent.)

For example, political crises today are basically moral crises. Syria is an obvious example, and Palestine, Iraq, Burma, Bangladesh, Africa, and in the East and the West these are all moral crises in concept and practice. I’m very surprised of some people who have enough immorality to say that the State terrorism in Syria is justified on moral grounds on the base of the legitimacy of the State.

This simply means we have a moral and ethical problem here, not just in the practice but in the very concepts and definitions. And those who practice politics in the name of Islam (but in a Machiavellian way) also need an ethical and maqasidi approach to correct concepts and political practices which are claimed to be “Islamic”.

– And health crises – for a second example – are because of an unethical definition of medicine as a good that the rich buy and the poor by the millions die when they don’t afford a 2 or 3 dollar medicine. Giant pharmaceutical companies often have unethical practices and they manipulate scientific research to prove or disprove side effects of medicine, and immunization procedure and food. Cosmetic surgery that changes the creation of God – without any physical or psychological need – is now part of the medical profession, unfortunately.

– Education is also becoming a good rather than a right, the rich gets it and the poor doesn’t. It is now a usual scene in wars to bomb schools. And the digital divide is widening, and it is a moral rather than a technical issue, people who are not on-line in today’s world are increasingly in poverty and lack of education. Companies that monopolize what they call knowledge and inventions – which by the way are normally developed by geniuses in poor countries for very cheap labor – these companies billions are increasing of their power too.

Major international companies monopolize economies, while most people are under the poverty line

– And real and honest art is challenged by deconstructing art which is publicized by the entertainment industry and the celebrity culture that is corrupting youth in this world. Let alone the computer game industry which kills in the youth the feelings of mercy, gentleness and human social interaction. This is another major moral crisis and I am giving a few quick examples.

– In economy, this is more evident. Major economic crises killed many people, drove many out of their homes and put many people to poverty. These were caused by lack of ethics, according to everybody. Major international companies monopolize economies, while most people are under the poverty line. World economic summits are held without discussing ethics, even though every economic question is an ethical question. Usury, monopoly, corruption and the exploitation of the marginalized and children as cheap labor without giving them basic human needs – these are all ethical problems.

– And environmental crises are tied to the economic crises. Giant oil companies and countries produce radioactive waste and damage the environment in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Major economies exploit natural resources that are common to humanity such as air, water and minerals. Again world summits on environment don’t discuss ethics, justice or equity, let alone major companies and states that manipulate the climate and the soil structure.

And then when the soil can’t function properly, we have technology that manipulate genetics and make money by changing the genomes of humans, animals and plants. This is done without any ethical guidelines that observe human and animal rights. Animals are killed by the millions everyday in any country only for some people to become more obese. The poor animal dies for the human to eat a small piece or two of meat. And while some people are obese, some others are dying of hunger – and by the millions every year. We even had some people shouting “We want bread and water” in the Arab revolutions.

– And women are in a bad shape in all countries and cultures, east and west. Statistics everywhere show a wide gap between men and women in terms of education, health and income. Women today are objectified. You cannot buy a pen, a car or a piece of furniture without seeing a woman showing her ornaments advertising for it. Violence and marginalization are everywhere and take different forms in different cultures.

– The last of my examples and not least is media and journalism, which is a sad ethical crisis. I highly respect all ethical journalists including those who are here today, but I ask in general: Where is the truth? And where is the news? What we see in the media is a reality that is often not real and the news that we hear every day are usually the numbers of dead people in every country as we hear the numbers of temperatures in weather forecasts. Where is the news about our human civilization? Where are the success stories here and there? Is there anything else in the world other than killing and elections?

Objectives of Islamic Jurisprudence

In terms of definitions,Maqasid is the answer of the “Why” questions.

Maqasid Al-Shariah is endorsed by this center of ethics (CILE) in Qatar Foundation as a methodology to face these challenges and try to answer questions of ethics in all the above fields.

Maqasid, or objectives, of Islamic jurisprudence are the meanings and the moral ends that Islamic Jurisprudence attempts to achieve in people’s reality as God revealed them. And despite the fact that Maqasid branched from the Islamic Law, and is still studied under that discipline, it is now extending beyond the law to the wider scope of humanities and social sciences. Maqasid Al-Shariah could offer solutions in five areas which I will outline briefly: Definitions, Values, Priorities, Integration, Methods and Practices.

In terms of definitionsMaqasid is the answer of the “Why” questions. The great Islamic scholars of the past answered the question of “Why Shariah” by proposing the general objectives or Maqasid, such as the preservation and protection of faith, life, mind, dignity, offspring and wealth. And there are other questions of “why” in trade laws, such as transparency, avoiding usury and fairness, and the purposes of marriage, criminal punishments, judgeship … etc.

These chapters of the Islamic Law changed. Now we need Maqasid for medicine, politics, economics, education arts media, … etc. And that is what we are working on. If you ask why medicine, then this will convert the definition from being a business to being an ethical profession. The great objectives of Islamic Jurisprudence will correct the concept of medicine and medical practices. Then we ask why politics? Why the State? Why art? Why media? And thus we are able to correct the definitions.

In terms of valuesmaqasid presents a system of Islamic values and morals. “Good” in Islam is not separate from the values of truth, beauty and ethics. And the Islamic system of values is more sophisticated than all the other philosophical systems of values. It also prioritizes decisions as necessities, then needs and then luxuries, as well as differentiating between individuals and the public in terms of priorities between the urgent and the delayed.

And inside each category, such as necessities, there is a prioritization: life, then mind, then dignity, then wealth. And these priorities are necessary for making policy, laws and codes of practice. Setting priorities is an ethical decision in which decision-makers give priority to the most important first in order to get more attention, effort and budget. Thus goals are more important than means, fundamentals are more important than details, universals are more important than shapes and values are more important than selfish considerations.

Maqasid also pushes research in ethics towards integration and multi-dimensionality. There is no question of medicine or arts … etc that is not related somehow to politics, economics, environment, culture… etc. Maqasid are abstract values that are beyond disciplines. It expands them into a holistic methodology.

Maqasid finally are the proof of the perfection of this message from God that He revealed to His Messenger, and thus it pushes human consciousness towards God. And if we are closer to God, all our crises will be solved.