Episode 27: Islamic Principles #2: Mercy
How can we make sense of Islam today? This is not only the name of this podcast, but a question that I’ve been obsessed with for decades. This series shares several first-principles that we need to keep in mind as we seek to answer this question. Some will seem basic (but need repeating) and others might be new. In both cases these meta-principles are essential tools to make sense of it all.
We have not sent you except as a mercy to mankind, 21:107
Indeed in the Messenger of God is a perfect example, 33:21
Hadith of 99 names, (Tirmidhi)
My Mercy precedes my wrath, (al-Dhahabi)
I made injustice haram, (Muslim)
I have been sent as a merciful gift, (Bayhaqi)
None of you truly believe until you love the Prophet more than your own self, (Bukhari)
First hadith (aka the hadith of mercy), (Tirmidhi) “go you are free” (Ibn Hisham’s Seera)
Imam Jazuli (d. 1465)
Understanding the Muslim Mind
If we could take all of Islamic intellectual history, what sort of patterns and principles could we deduce? More importantly, if we found someone who actually knew all this information, what would they look like, think like, talk like, etc.?
One of the unique features of Islam as an intellectual system is that it possesses a mechanism for renewal and revival within itself. This mechanism is the instrument of ijtihād- independent legal reasoning- that allows a trained and licensed jurist to develop new rulings and judgements for situations that are unprecedented, nuanced, and, in a way, of a troublesome nature. There is a lot of literature within Islamic legal tradition that explains the vast contours of ijtihād. Familiar discussions outline the common set of must-know legal rules and principles, interpretive tools used to unlock meanings within the primary texts, and auxiliary disciplines needed in order for one’s ijtihād to be effective and within the broad limits of orthodoxy. These are standard in any work that discuss the instrument of ijtihād. There are other discussions, however, that one comes across from time to time that shed a little more light on the phycology and mindset behind the person engaging in ijtihad, namely the mujtahid. One interesting description, courtesy of Imam Ghazali (d. 505/1111), is the need for the mujtahid to have vast amounts of creativity. The more creativity a mujtahid has, the more creative thinking they can bring to bear on a particular issue, the better they will be able to come up with right solutions and right answers; especially solutions that will last the test of time. To be creative in this context, therefore, is to think outside the box and dare to be innovative. It is to ask the right questions, not just memorize standard answers.MORE