The Difference Between illat & hikmat, Shari’ah Ruling Always Depends on illat (Basic or Legal Cause) By Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani

COMPILER NOTE: illat and hikmat are the basic and important elements of Islamic Shari’ah rulings. Modern enlightened people do not differentiate between these two which leads to many misunderstandings. we are presenting some important points of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi regarding illat & hikmat. For a better understanding of Maulana Thanwi’s explanation It is important to have prior knowledge of a few basic points which will facilitate in comprehending this article correctly:

  • The illat (Legal or Basic cause) is the basic feature of a transaction without which the relevant law cannot be applied to it, or on which the application of the law depends.
  • The Hikmat (wisdom) is the wisdom and the philosophy behind the law taken into account by the legislator while framing the law or the benefit intended to be drawn by its enforcement. the principle is that the application of a law depends on the illat, and not on the hikmat. In other words, if the illat (the basic feature of the transaction) is present in a particular situation while the hikmat (the wisdom) is not visualized, the law will still be applicable. This principle is recognized in secular law also.
  • Example: When the red light is on, every car has to stop regardless of whether there is traffic or not. Here the illat is the red light while the hikmat is the prevention of accidents. Now we are looking at the points explained by maulana Thanwi:

The difference between illat and hikmat

Nowadays there is a disease prevalent amongst the masses that they seek the illat (Basic or legal cause) of the rulings, and when they fail in finding any illat then they concur that the hikmat (wisdom) is the illat and they present it as an answer.

Reality of the illat (legal or basic cause): Whereas the reality of the illat is That upon which the ruling is based,

Reality of Hikmat (Wisdom): and the reality of hikmat is: That which is based on the ruling.

The pinpointing of the hikmat, since it is mostly not mentioned in nas (Text of Quran & Sunnah), and is extracted and deduced by Qiyas (Analogical deduction). And there is a possibility of an innovated hikmat (wisdom) being of a doubtful nature, hence this would result in casting doubts in the divine laws. [Dawat Abdiyat, page 66, vol. 19]

An illat (Basic or legal cause) is defined as that upon which the ruling is based and hikmat (wisdom) is itself based on the ruling, hence there is a noted difference between the two. [Dawat Abdiyat, page 100, vol. 5]

The clear distinction between illat and hikmat with examples

Together with any Sharih ruling, if any advantage is stated, then it will either be the illat or the hikmat. The existence and nonexistence of the ruling is centered around the illat, but not around the hikmat. That is, if the hikmat has to be altered, then it will not affect the ruling. The proper understanding of this is the specialty of the scholars well-grounded in knowledge (Rasikhen fil ilm). Therefore, in the ruling regarding the beard and mustache, Prophet (S.A.W) mentioned the part, “to oppose the Mushrikeen” as a hikmat, and not as an illat.

The basis of this prohibition is the altering of the natural state of man, and not (merely and only) to oppose the non-believers. The proof of this lies in the fact that in other Ahadith where this ruling came, it appeared in general, like, “Prophet (S.A.W) has cursed the Mukhanniseen amongst the men.”

An example of this will be if some Ruler has to instruct his people not to create commotion and disorder like such and such nation (i.e. the reason for not creating disorder is to oppose that nation), and then if perchance that other nation abandons their usual trait (and come onto order and peace), does that mean that this opposition must still be in force (and now this Ruler’s people must become tumultuous and disorderly)? [Imdadul Fatawa, page 222, vol. 4]

In the Quran, wherever a laam ghaayat appears, it is not to show an illat, but rather a hikmat. The object is that this effect is consequential to this ruling. It does not mean that the ruling is based on this. [Anfas isa, page 417, vol. 2]

The hikmat (wisdom) that has come in the Qur’an & Hadith is also not the basis of the ruling

  • 1. The refutation and answer to those people who base acts of Ibadaat (Worship) on innovated advantages, can be found in the praise Allah lauds on Hadhrat Abu Bakr (R.A) when he bought Hadhrat Bilaal (R.A) and freed him,

وما لأحد عنده من نعمة تجزى الا ابتغاء وجه ربه الاعلى

 “And have in his mind no favor from anyone for which a reward is expected in return, Except only the desire to seek the Countenance of his Rabb, the Most High.”

In this, the reason for the negation and exclusion of his actions is based on the words, “seek the Countenance of his Rabb”, whereas there was also the one advantage of sympathy for fellow beings.

  • 2. On the other hand, another great harm is that if worldly advantages are found from some other avenue and Islam is made subservient to this, i.e. Islam is no longer looked upon with reliance and confidence because the worldly objective then will now become the real purpose, then this will result in Islam being ignored and people will seek out and look upon other ways, means and objectives.
  • 3. Thirdly, these advantages which are estimates and conjectures, can very easily (be shown to be) doubtful and if they are ever (proven to be) doubtful and uncertain, then the Shariah ruling will also be regarded as such, because they have based and regarded the ruling of the Shariah to be on this (innovated advantage).

A ruling is not based nor dependant on its hikmat, neither is it (the rulings) existence and execution dependant on the hikmat. For example, the raml in tawaf had a certain hikmat behind it, but this was not the basis for this ruling. [Bawadir, page 177, vol. 2]

The preferred view regarding research into the underlying wisdom of shariah rulings

There is no doubt that the establishment and proof of the basis of Shariah rulings lay in the Shari nusoos (Quran & Sunnah). Nevertheless, there is also no doubt that similarly, notwithstanding this, there are many advantages and mysteries underlying these rulings. But the foundations and essence of the rulings are not based on these. But these have the benefit that they create more reliance and comfort in the rulings. Although the Rasikheen and their likes do not require or depend on these factors, nevertheless, weaklings (like us) take comfort from them. The mysteries and benefits of the various rulings are frequently discussed by great Ulama, the likes of Imam Ghazali, Khattabi, Ibn Abdus Salam, (R.A), etc. [Bawadirun Nawadir, page 105]

If any hikmat of a ruling is realized, then this should not be understood as being the crux of the ruling. If this is adhered to them there is no harm in studying the hikmats. [Anfas isa, page 417, vol. 3]

A safe path to adopt would be to say that there are most certainly many wisdoms in the various rulings, but to be specific and list all of them because Allah has not done so, is not appropriate for us to do also. Our subservience is to the decrees of Allah, whether we know the underlying wisdom or not. If there was any need to research these, then the Companions (R.A) were more worthy of doing it than us. [Dawat Abdiyat, page 67-9, vol. 19]

It is not obligatory to follow the wisdom of the Shari’ah rules. However, there are some amongst them, which are also indicated in the Quran & Sunnah. In such cases, it would be permissible to accept them. If they are contrary to the Quran & Sunnah, then it is necessary to refute them. If they neither have any effect on the Quran & Sunnah nor are they contrary to them, then there is scope in adopting either path (i.e. one may accept or refuse them). [Bawadirun Nawadir, page 771, vol. 2]

Who has the right to extract an illat (Basic or Legal cause) and on what occasions?

Every person does not have the right to discuss illats. Only the Mujtahid (knowledgeable) has this right, and even he does not have the right to do this on just any occasion. He is only allowed to do this when the occasion arises and where there is a need to apply such a ruling. As for those acts of Ibaadat (worship), where Ijtihad (Intellectual effort) is not occasioned, then he has no right to make Ijtihad. This is the reason why the Fuqaha (Jurisprudents) have not discussed illats with regard to Salat, Zakat, fasting, and Hajj. Since they are acts which are Fardh, they are clear-cut and absolute. [Anfaas isa, page 417]

I had written to them asking what right they have in extracting illats for Shariah rulings. If such things are done, then Halal will no longer remain Halal and Haram no longer Haram, because every person will extract an illat to suit him, be it Halal or Haram. If for example, someone says that the illat for the Hurmat (prohibition) of adultery is the confusion in lineage, which means that if many men fornicate with one woman and she conceives, then it will be possible that every one of those men walls lay claim to the child (claiming that his lineage applies). There is a real fear of arguments and fights which this will result in. or it is also possible that each one of them refutes fatherhood, then all this will result in great difficulty and strife for the woman and child.

And then I ask you, what if someone devises a plan for the woman not to conceive. Or a person seeks a woman who is barren, or he finds such a group of women from whom there is no fear of fighting and arguments regarding parenthood of the possible offspring. Then in all these cases, fornication will be (Allah forbid!) permissible, because the illat (which was ‘extracted’) is no more present. What confusion will reign thereafter! Will such reasoning ever make fornication Halaal? Never! [Hasnul Azeez, page 99]

It is improper to discuss the illats of the various Shariah laws with the masses

The discussion on illats should never be made in front of the public, in fact, the codes of law should be adhered to, otherwise, there is a great fear of mischief. If for example, a judge orders the punishment of a criminal, and the punishment is meted out instantly. Now, this criminal cannot, in fact, it would not be proper for him to ask the illat (reason) for the prescribed punishment. If he does, then he will be chastised and told that we do not make the laws, we merely implement them, regardless of whether we are aware of the illat or not.

Is this then the justice, that we blindly and readily accept the rulings of a worldly ruler or governor, and we will never question him, whereas we have thousands of objections to Shariah laws. This makes it apparent that we do not hold the Shariah in as much esteem as we do worldly Rulers. [Dawat Abdiyat, page 138, vol. 12]

If the ruler or governor issues an instruction, then the illat (reason) for this ruling can never be asked of him, because the rulers enjoy status and proof is not asked of them. Therefore, when Allah issues a decree and the illat is asked for that, then a grave doubt regarding that person’s respect and awe for Allah arises. The crux of the matter is that as a subject, to ask for the illat of the decree is nothing other than foolish and absurd. Yes, to ask it as a learner, who desires this knowledge to further his understanding, it will be in order, but that only applies to the student of Deen. Consider this, that when a law is proclaimed then no one asks for the illat. What a shame that the Ulama (Shariah Scholars) are regarded as even more contemptible than a sweeper or scavenger. The Ulama are in reality the conveyors of the Message, they do not formulate the laws. Therefore, if asking them for the illats (to the various Shariah laws) is not plain stupidity, then what else is it?


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