Usul in Islamic Sciences

The Institute of Islamic Thought has chosen the topics of method and maqasid as the primary research area. Because, considering its formation process and historical development, methodological science is not just science that explains and grounds the production method of fiqh rules. The fiqh method is an important discipline that determines the limits of legitimacy in the production of religious knowledge and it provides a basis for the philosophical thoughts expressed by the Muslims in the field of law and morality. In addition, the controlling function of the methodology remains important. First of all, the methodology science did not emerge as a discipline aiming to produce fiqh. It is a reality that the codification of the methodology rules comes after the fiqh, and the first competent works on this science is produced at the beginning of the 4th century. However, this does not mean that there was no notion of methodology in minds before. In the first three centuries, the fiqh judgments that emerged with the ijtihad activities have later been systematized in the methodology literature and obtained through methodological rules that gained a more technical dimension.

Due to its framework-setting, rule-setting and controlling functions, the fiqh method established a legitimacy ground for the data that is not only obtained with fiqh but also with the other religious sciences. In a way, it determined the limits of speaking in the name of religion. The methodological rules have always been benefited for understanding the Qur'an and sunnah and for interpreting the verses and hadiths. Likewise, the rules of procedure were always used in the evaluation of the religious texts (nass) used in theological matters in terms of certainty and indication. Therefore, an assessment that is not approved by the methodological rules, which became the common reference point for Muslims, has not been considered legitimate.

The methodology science has tried to draw a framework on how human mind can act freely in obtaining religious judgments and interpreting the religious texts. At this point, there are those who set the boundaries narrowly, as well as those who keep it wide while taking into account the nature of mankind, language and religious texts. Consequently, we can not talk of a single line in the tradition but perhaps a framework that includes much more different approaches.

Due to the ijtihad calls, which increased its effectiveness in the Islamic world after the late 19th century, the fiqh method is attempted to be used for the solution of new issues. This perspective, which tends to interpret the methodology as a method of direct judgment from the religious texts, could not reach the projected results due to the expectation, which was not compatible with the purpose of the establishment of the fiqh method. In order to achieve these results, attempts to renew the knowledge of fiqh method, in other words, to make it a methodology that can bring solutions to the issues, have been brought to the agenda.

The modernization process of the Islamic world affected many fields and caused important problems in terms of religious thought. The primary problem has been the attempt to control the enormous and unstoppable process of change as far as possible and to manage and direct it on a legitimate basis according to the facts of Islam. In this context, the demands for change in this field have unavoidably been brought to the agenda due to the changes in the social environment in which the significant numbered fiqh provisions have emerged.

In this context, one of the priorities was the idea of using the fiqh method as a methodology suitable for obtaining new judgments. However, as it is stated above, the mainstream line of the fiqh method, which constitutes the theory of the doctrine and whose function is to control and frame in the historical process, was not suitable for creating a methodology capable of forming the desired renewal. In this context, the concepts of the “Maslahat” of the Malikis and “İstihsan” of the Hanafis, which were found to be more favorable and prominent to realize the renewal, was regarded as controversial or denied originals by the main streams of the fiqh method (Al-Shafi‘I and Al-Ash'ari). It is precisely for this reason that the need for renewal in the methodology is often mentioned. Because this is not realized, the issues that were deemed suitable to supply that with a pragmatic attitude were brought forward since the targeted ones were concrete solutions.

The views of Necmettin Tûfî, who envisaged putting maslahat before the religious texts as the most general purpose of Ash'ari, attracted great interest in the Islamic world for the first time in this period. Customs and general norms, which could not find solid ground in the system of the classical method, were brought to the agenda as a source of obtaining judgment by the movement of mecelle (civil code). It was stated that the classical method should be used in worship issues and a new discipline under the name of the ijtimai fiqh method was proposed to be established. However, these were the offers that were only able to ensure that some unpredictable changes were placed on a legally legitimate ground for the fiqh method. On the other hand, there was a concrete reality demonstrated by these offers. Fiqh method, with its controlling structure throughout its history, has been effective in Islamic societies and fiqh contemplation and it has performed a function limiting the concept of “Rey”, which was used relatively freely by the Companions and next generation religious scholars.

When these searches started within the method did not yield any results, out-of-method searches began. The system of fifteen-centuries of evidence and hierarchy of Islam has opened to discussion. Irrationality prevailed in religious thought. In this context, for example, neo-Salafism, which ignores the philosophy of methodology, criticizes wisdom, comparison (kıyas), and juristic preference (istihsan), reads religious texts as legal texts by regrading oracles (revelations) to linguistic texts, bases only on the literal and apparent interpretation of the religious texts, interprets sunnah only as a prepared and lived form, has been an irrational quest. Likewise, the thesis of historiography, which reads the revelation as a product of the culture it addresses, is an attempt to get out of methodology. Unfortunately, countless irregular attempts in the Islamic world have been making an appearance with different religious conceptions. Therefore, the question of “How should the methodology science be today?” is an important issue to consider.

First of all, the following issue should be emphasized. The apparent meanings of the religious texts were understood by the Messenger of Allah and the Companions, and with the language-related rules of the methodology science, and it was preserved with all its possible differences (the apparent, religious text, reality, and metaphor, etc.). The apparent and invisible tendencies, which pushed the relevant framework, are disallowed and the points of alliance and disputes related to understanding the religious texts have been established. Today, trying to impose different meanings to religious texts by being influenced by the understanding of the age, without considering this framework and forcing the possibilities of the language has a kind of batinism character besides its scientific inconsistency. On the other hand, the insights that seek the meaning of Ash'ari only in the literal sense of the wordings, that ignore the comparison and representation of the language and that neglect the context and reason for the revelation (nüzul) and emergence (vürûd), act outside the framework pictured by the method. Consequently, the statement and comparison parts of the ijtihads of the fiqh method are not sufficient to respond to current issues, and the improvements in the istislah ijtihad become necessary within the light of the maqasid idea. Not following this path and trying to impose different meanings to religious texts than they actually mean, reveals the problems we have pointed out before. Yet, the guiding character of the fiqh method shows itself here and it does not approve such naive interpretations. However, if the method is desired to be transformed into a contemporary methodology, “maqasid” should be readdressed as a science.