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Maqāṣid al-Sharī‘a in Contemporary Shī‘ī Jurisprudence

This article will examine the question of maqasid al-sharī‘a and maṣlaḥa in Shī‘īsm. Before that, the writer will preface his discussion with a review of reformation in Shī‘ī Islam.

In recent times, there has been a growing awareness of the need to apply the concept of maqāṣid al-sharī‘a (aims or objectives of Islamic law) in the derivation of juridical rulings. This need has been felt most acutely among those who advocate revisiting or reinterpreting the sharī‘a (Islamic moral-legal law). Interest in the concept of maqāṣid al-sharī‘a seems to have been ignited because many Muslim thinkers see it as a hermeneutical tool that can be deployed to solve some of the major social and political challenges facing the contemporary Muslim world. This chapter explores the role and the significance of the concept of maqāṣid al-sharī‘a as a legal cum hermeneutical tool in modern Shī‘ī legal thought. It will also explore the current discourse on reformation in Shī‘ī circles.

There has been much debate in Muslim circles regarding the question of reformation in the Muslim world. More specifically, questions that have been posed include: how can a religion, which is believed to be immutable and constant, regulate and serve the needs of a changing community? How can a legal system that was formulated over a thousand years ago respond to the requirements of twenty-first century Muslims? Is there a need for reformation in Islam? If so, where should it begin and in which direction should it proceed? These are some of the most challenging questions facing contemporary scholars of Islam. This paper will examine the question of maqasid al-sharī‘a and maṣlaḥa in Shī‘ī sm. Before that, I will preface my discussion with a review of reformation in Shī‘ī Islam.

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