Fatawa >Preamble to the Science of Jurisprudence


Preamble to the Science of Jurisprudence  --- Obligation and its Requirements

Obligation and its Requirements                               


  1. Takleef (obligation to observe the precepts of religion) is a bestowal of grace by Allah, the Most High, on man, in that He has distinguished man from the rest of His creation by giving him the power of reasoning to control his needs and shoulder responsibility. If man appreciates this honor by obeying Allah, he will be rewarded. Should he fall foul of the rules and demonstrate disobedience, he will earn the wrath of Allah and His punishment, for he did not do himself any good, by encroaching upon Allah’s right, and not safeguarding the trust put in him,

"Surely We offered the trust to the heavens, the earth and the mountains, but they refused to be unfaithful to it and feared from it, and man has turned unfaithful to it; surely he is unjust, ignorant".(33/72).

it is obligatory, both by virtue of the shari’a law and logic, on the disobedient to repent for his transgression and turn to his Creator. If he does not take to penance, this will count as another act of disobedience. Repentance can be achieved by showing remorse for one’s trespasses, thus taking a decision to abstain from committing what is sinful in the future.

Requirements of Obligation

The following are the general requirements of obligation:

2. Adulthood (Buloogh): no one shall be obligated to observe the precepts of religion before he or she attains adulthood. Adulthood is determined by a legal criterion, the details of which will follow. A non-adult shall not be held accountable in the Hereafter. For example, if he or she were to lie or not hold prayer, they should not expect to be punished.

However, one should take note of the following:
3. a. This should not mean that the guardian abdicates his responsibility in shaping the behavior of the minor. It should be his duty to steer him in the right direction and punish him, if need be, when he deviates. He must guard against his falling victim to Allah’s wrath, when the time for obligating him with observing the precepts of religion comes. The more time and effort he puts in preparing him, using all means at his disposal, the better results he yields in making him closer to Allah, who said, "O you who believe! save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones; over it are angels stern and strong, they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them, and do as they are commanded".(6/66).

Should the guardian do what is required of him to make his offspring follow the right path, he cannot be culpable.

4. b. Relieving the minor from the responsibility in the other world should not mean that one should not appreciate his obedience, and subsequently the correctness of any acts of worship performed by him. It is mustahab for him to do what is expected of an adult, be they obligatory or voluntary acts of worship, provided that they do not adversely affect his well being. A seven-year old boy, for example, should become familiar with saying prayer. When he completes his ninth birthday, he should get to terms with observing fast, even if during part of the day, should he not be able to carry on because of thirst or hunger.

5. c. Although the guardian is not legally duty-bound, yet he is by no means completely exempt from some of the consequences of the minor’s actions, such as compensating other parties for the damage to their property. However, it is obligatory on him to come up with the compensation when the minor attains adulthood; this will further be discussed under the appropriate heading in this book.

6. Reason (Aql), in the sense that the mukallaf can use his reasoning capacity in such a way as to recognize the responsibility he is being charged with.
Thus, neither the mentally-retarded (majnoon), nor the feeble-minded (ablah), can be charged with Takleef.

7. If the mental situation of any person fluctuates between insanity and sanity, Takleef shall be remitted in the first situation; it is applicable in the second.

A person could be so mentally handicapped or feeble-minded that he may not be capable of discerning certain obligations. Yet, he may be able to discern others. For example, a person with a mental age of a child may not be able to understand the rituals of hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) and thus he cannot perform them. But, he could be fully aware of the fact that man cannot kill his fellow being. Imposition of obligations on such a person may be upheld in situations where he can comprehend the consequences of his actions; the opposite is true. 

8. Ability (qudrah). Allah, the Most High said,

"Allah does not impose upon any soul a duty, but to the extent of its ability".(2/286).
If it is not within anyone’s ability to fulfill the responsibility he is charged with, no recriminations shall ensue. That is, irrespective of the nature of the obligation, be it a command - such as in the case of an ill person who cannot offer prayer - or the inability of another person to steer clear from what Allah has ordained unlawful, such as a drowning person, who cannot extricate himself from the danger.

9. The worshipper may not be completely unable to carry out the obligation, but doing so may cost him his life. In this case, the obligation ceases to operate with a view to preserving one’s life, except in two instances:
a. When the conditions are right, there may be a case for jihad (lit. an effort or striving - a religious duty enjoined specially for fighting the infidels and repelling evil from Muslims); in this case it becomes obligatory.
b. When person is threatened with death, if they were not to kill another Muslim without lawful reason. In this case, they have to manifest obedience to Allah by not complying with the order, even if this leads to exposing their own life to the peril of death.

10. There may arise a situation where it is difficult for the mukallaf to make up his mind as to which of two concurrent obligations he should carry out first. As a result, he may fail to carry out either.
For example, a person may have to perform an obligatory prayer in the remaining short time, lest its prescribed time should elapse. It is within their ability and choice to do either at the expense of the other. Here, the obligation of the lesser importance should be abandoned. Very often, the mukallaf cannot determine the matter, only by having recourse to the marji’ to show him which course of action to adopt.

11. When an obligation becomes enforceable, there is no difference whether the mukallaf abdicate his responsibility towards obeying what Allah has ordained, or by embarking on an action he fully knows will contribute to disobedience.
For example, a person may postpone saying prayer, preferring to travel by rail. Here, he may know very well that this journey is going to diminish his ability to perform prayer. This too is a type of rebellion against Allah’s ordinance. It is therefore not permissible to embark on such ventures, unless in an emergency.

12. Being Muslim is one of the general conditions for Takleef to become operative. An unbeliever is therefore not expected to be charged with any type of religious duty. Should the unbeliever embrace Islam, he can start afresh with carrying out religious obligations, i.e. he need not perform, say, past prayers or fast by way of qadha’.

Adulthood and its Signs                                 

13. As has already been discussed, adulthood is one of the requirements of Takleef. Adulthood can be realized when any of the following features becomes all evident:
a. Secretion of semen, whether in one’s sleep or while awake, as a result of a sexual intercourse, or otherwise.
b. The appearance of pubic hair, of the rough type, not down.
c. completing fifteen lunar years of age for a male, and nine for a female as a matter of ihtiyat wujubi. It is preferable though that on his thirteenth birthday, a boy should be ready for Takleef; thus he should not take lightly any obligation imposed on an adult.

14. If in doubt as to whether or not they have attained adulthood, boys and girls should assume that they have not until they are satisfied that it is the case.

15. Doubt may creep into the mind of a person that they are not capable of obeying Allah, the Exalted. They should not assume that they are incapable; they must spare no effort to observe religious dictates until proven incapable.