Legal Reasoning in Islam

Sheikh Google can be a very poor writer of Islamic legal reasoning. Too often, when you want to look up what some are saying about the Islamic perspective of this, that, or the other, you’ll see the following format:

– Praise and thanks to Allah and blessings on the Prophet

– The author presents the question or issue

– The author’s conclusive answer to the question or issue

– The author’s insistence that the answer to the question is perfectly clear and obvious from an Islamic point of view

– The author’s continued insistence that the author’s conclusion is the obvious answer

– The author’s insistence that to see otherwise is ridiculous

– Repeat the last three steps

– Re-state the conclusion

Unfortunately, when looking for legal reasoning, stating that the answer is obvious, or clear, or otherwise simple, is a pretty clear indicator that the author is not about to provide much of a thorough, in-depth, or nuanced explanation. Personally, it lets me quickly disregard whoever the author is because they write as if they are on a bully pulpit rather than writing persuasively (aside from, “duh, it’s obvious”). Basically, it’s either this way or the highway; no grey area, it’s completely black or white. Furthermore, you have a serious problem for thinking otherwise.

This is sad because if you can approach and talk to decently educated imams and scholars today then they’ll be able to summarize the various points of view for many subjects. Imam Maliki says this, however, Imam Hanbali says that. Some held a consensus. Some disagree. Some were in a majority and others were in a minority. But none of the old-school great scholars would throw stones because of the other’s logic or legal reasoning. Nor did they claim to know for certain that their point of view was the point of view. There are historical accounts that they honored each other’s legal opinions and intellect.

Another group to watch out for are the ones who do nothing but respond to other imams, sheikhs, or whoever by countering or negating whatever their opinion was. This group is easy to identify because:

– their entire piece is about how so-and-so is wrong

– they don’t produce work proactively, instead they react to someone else’s work

There’s a saying in Arabic about these kind of people who are always negative and disagreeing; that if they had no one else around them to disagree with, they’ll disagree with their own feet.

My purpose with this post is to help Muslims, and people in general, discern among these authors. I learn far more from classes, seminars, and a well-versed imam far more than finding nuanced Islamic writing or videos online. This is important to keep in mind when the non-practicing or somewhat isolated Muslim is looking for Islamic guidance online. Chances are you’ll likely run into an opinion, which may be valid, but will unfortunately bill itself as the only valid opinion.


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