1. Shafi’i’s contribution led the way in building the entire legal system of the Shari‘ah. Discuss his role in the development of the Islamic scholarship, particularly his contribution to the Islamic Legal Theory (usul-al-fiqh) and the Prophetic Tradition of Muhammad (hadith).
Shafi’i’s contribution to the legal system or Islamic Legal Theory was monumental within building the foundations of Islamic law and was even solid and loose enough at the same time for other schools to use his principles. He emphasized being able to combine both God’s revealed word and human reasoning to ultimately contribute to the Islamic legal system of Shari’ah. He emphasized that the Islamic law can be derived from the Quran, Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, consensus among the Muslim community, and analogical deduction (Qiyas). This was all compiled in Al-Risala and was meant to give a clear way to create Islamic law. This was accepted by all following scholars of Islamic law. Other schools even worked within the framework provided by Shafi’i.
2. Discuss the Sunni-Shi‘i origin of the ideal Islamic polity and their conception of leadership. What were their arguments for their stands and how the discussion affected the division between these two major branches in Islamic Tradition?
The ideal Islamic polity would have been a unified one but throughout Islamic history there as been incredible tension between two different believing parties about how they should be lead. Originally the Sunni-Shi’I split because of their disagreement about who should be the leader and successor of Muhammed. The Shia believed that the authority should go to a direct relative of Muhammad and the Shia felt that it should go to the most eligible person within the community who has displayed that they are able to best lead the community. Ultimately the Sunni’s prevailed and Abu Bakr becomes caliph, until many years later when war split the Muslim community and they were never to reunite.
3. The Sufis honored the Qur’an as enshrining God’s message to Muhammad; but rather than devote themselves to the letter of its words, they hoped in some measure to repeat in their own lives something of experiences that presumable Muhammad must have gone through in receiving the various portions of the words of God. What were these experiences that the Sufis endeavored to repeat in their lives on the Path?
The Sufi experience was drenched in mysticism. The Sufi believer desired experience over doctrine. The Sufi seeks to heighten their inner world, intuition, and realization that may sound similar to other eastern mysticism movements like Hinduism or Buddhism or even the modern new age movement. This inner awakened conscious also serves as a teacher along with sacred texts. The Sufis endeavor to become a person who has become drenched in truth and to live out the message of Muhammad genuinely and not just perform a law. They seek to have God involved in every part of their life and circumstances. To have God inform all of their actions and to live a sincere life inwardly and outwardly. These were the experiences the Sufis endeavored to repeat in their lives on the Path.
4. The Islamic Law (shari‘a) is considered to be a sacred law in the Islamic tradition. It is also sometimes misunderstood by Muslims and non-Muslims as well, and at times creates some controversies. How do you understand this law by considering its main sources? Considering its broad scope, is this a divine law, or it is interpretation of the religious scholars (ulama)? Explain how to distinct this relation between sacred and human understanding of the shari‘a.
Considering the main sources of Shari’a law I see it as a reconciliation between Islamic doctrine and a political system that worked at a specific time and region. It helped govern and organize a community and at the heart of this law (or the moral consciousness of this law) was the Quran. I believe that in its broad scope, it has divine elements, but is ultimately the interpretation of religious scholars. At the very heart of Islamic teaching a man is born with an inner code that understands the way he must live. This stated within the Quran. The law that was written in light of this and the doctrines were then a careful consideration by Islamic scholars or better yet a reconciliation between the heart of the Quran and a religious system that would work for their people. I do not believe it was divinely revealed but that it was carefully studied and weighed by learned men for their community. In order to make this distinction one must be convinced in his or her mind that the people who handled the creation of the law where not hearing directly from God as a prophet would but using their talents in reasoning to create it (and depending on how you believe that talent for reasoning could be a gifting from God to create the law although I am still convinced it was not a prophetic gifting but a “mind” gifting so to speak).
5. Discuss the concept of Messianism in Islam with the focus on Sachedina’s writings. What were the arguments of those who maintained the idea of Messianism and what were their differences? Why such notion becomes an important part of their religious beliefs?
Much like the Christians and Jews, the Muslims are waiting for a Messianic figure to come. They believe a Mahdi will arise to stand up against secular forces and establish a social transformation which will bring everything on earth in divine order Sunni Muslims would say that messianic beliefs are not essential to Islam and Shi’a’s would disagree. Some variations of belief occur in that there will be a false messiah and the Mahdi will return with Jesus and defeat him. These were the two ideas that were argued and different scholars had trouble either defending or negating when studying scriptures. Jesus proves as a difficult to pin figure when it comes to messianic roles and Islam but it is agreed there will definitely be a type of Messiah. This notion is important to the entire system of belief because it gives the Muslim an understanding of what is to come on this earth (in the future). It is a prophecy that foretells future events that can help inform how they live now.