Hawzah News Agency – The mystery of the perpetuity of the Islamic Shari'a is hidden in two things: First, this Shari'a is the most complete plan for securing the natural and spiritual needs of man according to divine guidance; nothing more complete than Islam can be conceived of.
Second, in the realm of practical rulings, Islam offers a range of comprehensive principles and universal norms capable of responding to the most diverse needs of man. Clear testimony to this is found in the fact that the schools of fiqh (jurisprudence) have been able to respond creatively to the practical legal needs of different Muslim societies over the course of fourteen centuries; and, to this day, no matter has arisen that Islamic fiqh has been incapable of resolving. In this achievement, the following elements have been important and effective:
1. Intellectual self-evidence. In those legal areas where it has competence, intellectual reasoning forms one of the means by which the obligations of man can be deduced throughout his life.
2. Discerning between degrees of importance in cases of conflicting demands. We know that the legal rulings of Islam arise out of a series of existential properties inherent in the nature of things—properties that are either wholesome or corrupting, substantially or accidentally—some of which are grasped by the intellect, others being indicated by revealed law. In cases where conflicting interests arise, the faqih (jurist) can, by means of exploring these essential properties, resolve the difficulty by giving priority to that which is most important.
3. Keeping open the 'door' of ijtihad. To keep this 'door' of independent reasoning open for the Muslim umma—which is one of the distinguishing and honourable features of Shi'ism— is itself one of the factors which guarantee the finality of the religion of Islam, in that a vibrant and permanent ijtihåd is capable of judging and resolving new problems and events, always in accordance with universal Islamic principles.
4. Secondary rulings. In Islamic Shari'a, there are, in addition to its primary rulings, a series of secondary rulings capable of resolving many problems. For example, when the application of a given ruling becomes the source of hardship and injury for some, a principle such as the rule of prohibiting hardship or loss can assist the Shari'a in breaking through apparent dead ends (taking due account of the conditions laid down by fiqh).
The Qur'an affirms:
... and He hath not laid upon you in religion any hardship. (Sura al- hajj, XXII: 78)
The Prophet also declared: '[There should be] no injury; and nobody should injure.' The school which upholds and applies these two principles and their like will never find itself confounded in a juristic dead-end.
Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, London • New York 2003.