Al-Mahdi Institute : Education & Research

Sharīʿa responsibility; conditions and conflicts

The second AMI Contemporary Fiqhi Issues Workshop held on the 3rd to the 4th April 2014. The dominant fiqhi reading of Sharīʿa perceives a system of orthopraxic precepts (aḥkām) in the knowledge of God that regulate every aspect of the lives of humankind. The all inclusive scope of this regulative system is held to include personal and interpersonal realms as well as Human-Divine relations. Central to the fuqahā’s vision of this regulative system is a body of religious duties or responsibilities that apply to all who meet the inferred criteria for the endowment of such Sharīʿa responsibility. These conditions for Sharīʿa religious responsibility are listed to include considerations such as sanity, capacity, maturity and in some cases a prior acceptance of Islam- not withstanding the considerable intricacies of the debates in each case, generally speaking at least, those who do not meet the conditions are not deemed to bear Sharīʿa responsibilities.       

The basis and implications of the various conditions for religious responsibility have been subject to debate and discussion throughout much of the history of the traditional Muslim scholarly discipline of fiqh. Yet due to a multitude of factors the current circumstances in which Muslims find themselves raise many new questions in this regard. For instance, developments in medicine and psychology have revealed the complexity, diversity and prevalence of mental health issues in societies offering a new prism of analysis to the traditional criteria of sanity.  Modern notions of the inherent worth of autonomy and self determination resonate with the traditional conceptions of capacity as a criteria for religious responsibility, yet how such criteria may help negotiate challenges arising form fiqhi regulations apparently conflicting with the competing legal frameworks that Muslims find themselves in is still an open question. Prominent cases of such conflicts include situations where parents may assert the authority to marry off their daughters or where regulations require circumcision of male infant children. What’s more the traditional notion of maturity , which has been identified as being as early as nine years in girls and thirteen years in boys, is itself highly contentious when viewed in light of the changing sociological and legal considerations which inform the basis for considerations of the boundaries between childhood and adulthood adopted in most other normative frameworks throughout the world.

The workshop facilitated scholarly discussion directly addressing the questions surrounding the conditions of Sharīʿa responsibility and how these considerations impact the practice of fiqhi norms in the contemporary world. Contributors included; Dr Anicee Van England (SOAS, University of London), Prof. Hamid Mavani (Claremount Graduate University), Shaykh Komail Rajani (Al-Mustafa International University), Dr Ali-Reza Bhojani (Al-Mahdi Institute), Ayatollah Prof. Seyed M Muhaqiq Damad (Shahid Beheshti University), Prof. Haider Ala Hamoudi (University of Pittsburg), Dr Rahim Nobahar (Shahid Beheshti University), Dr Ali Fanaei (Al-Mahdi Institute), Prof. Michael Bohlander (University of Durham), Shaykh Arif Abdul Hussain (Al-Mahdi Institute), Prof. Seyed Fatemi (Al-Mahdi Institute) 


To view the workshop program click here,

To view images of the workshop click here

To view abstracts click here 

To view contributors bio data click here.