THIS refers to Asghar Ali Engineer’s article ‘Is Sharia immutable?’ (Feb 1). Perhaps, what causes the misunderstanding is that people consider it synonymous with Islamic law. Sharia is not Islamic law.
Sharia is principles of justice and fairness that are established in the Holy Quran, and all laws must be in accordance with these principles to be legitimate.
Islamic law is derived from these principles and is constantly evolving and this is where ijtihad is applied by recognised and qualified scholars.
How Sharia principles are interpreted and applied are human endeavours called Fiqh. Fiqh is not immutable as is obvious from its development over 14 centuries. To present Sharia and Fiqh as one and the same is problematic and also inaccurate.
The understanding of Sharia principles continues to evolve as does human understanding and knowledge. However the spirit of Quranic principles are for all times.
This is the reason we are able to distinguish a just legal ruling from an unjust one and can challenge any ruling that contradicts or contravenes Sharia principles of justice.
This is the safeguard that protects ordinary Muslims from religious tyranny.
President, Islamic Social Services Assoc.,