The specific MaS corollaries that capture a clear spiritual and religious dimension could not be mapped to the SDGs that are faith-neutral, rooted in materialistic as well as moral considerations, and are mostly borne out of repeated market failures to address societal concerns.

The Islamic vision of development has its origins in the Quran and the Sunnah. In the Islamic worldview, the narrative that captures the benefits of development is falah. There are a multitude of references in the holy Quran to terms, such as, falah or fawz.[1] Humans must strive towards falah, which implies the well-being of people on the planet and of the planet itself. The inclusiveness of the notion of falah is clear from the Quranic reference to the mission of the Prophet as a mercy (rahmah) for the universe or the creation (alameen).

“We have not sent you but as a Mercy to the worlds” (Al-Qur’an, 21:107)

Rahmah (mercy) is all-encompassing. The scholarly consensus on rahmah or mercy or compassion being the ultimate goal of Shariah is also built on the Qur’an’s characterization of itself as “a healing to the ailments of the hearts” and “a guidance and mercy” for the believers and mankind.[2] This ultimate goal manifests itself in several ways in the Quran, which are deemed to be among the higher goals of Shariah.

From a legalistic and operational point of view, the all-important goals of rahmah (mercy or compassion) and falah (well-being) manifest in the realization of maslahah (benefits) and prevention of mafsadah (harm) for the people and the planet.

From a legalistic and operational point of view, the all-important goals of rahmah (mercy or compassion) and falah (well-being) manifest in the realization of maslahah (benefits) and prevention of mafsadah (harm) for the people and the planet. The twin narratives maslahah and mafsadah are essentially alternative dimensions of the same objective.

Another manifestation of rehmah or mercy is adl (qist) or justice and fairness.[3]

“We sent Our Messengers and revealed through them the Book and the Balance so that Justice may be established amongst mankind” (Al-Qur’an, 57:25).

Adl or justice is fundamental to Shariah that seeks to ensure balance and to establish an equilibrium between rights and obligations, so as to eliminate all excesses and disparities, in all spheres of life. Shariah justifies jihad[4] as a way to fight zulm (injustice) and qisas[5] (just retaliation) to ensure fairness. To fight gross economic imbalance, Shariah rationalizes the institution of zakat (compulsory annual levy on the rich) thus: “in order that wealth may not circulate only amongst the rich” (Al-Quran 59:7).

From a development perspective, any discrimination in opportunities related to work, livelihood, education, health care etc. based on race, religion, color, gender vitiates against the notion of adl or justice and fairness. From a financial perspective, the presence of a riba, gharar, rishwa, ghubn and other avenues of unjust enrichment and market manipulation (e.g. monopolies) are incompatible with adl.

Tahdhib al-Fard (Educating the Individual) is another higher level goal of the Shari’ah.[6] Inculcating the fear and consciousness of the Creator (taqwa), right moral values (akhlaq), purity of intentions (ikhlas), exhorting the performance of prayer (salat)[7] and engagement in acts of charity and benevolence (sadaqa) all transform an individual into a trust-worthy agent. With this are benefits both for the individual and for the society that s/he is part of.

There are numerous instances where the Qur’an and the Sunnah clearly express the goals, justification and benefits contained in their commands, exhortations, encouragements, discouragements and prohibitions. The benefits are indirectly inferred in case of others. Arguably, the goals of adl (justice and fairness) and tahdhib-al-fard (educating the individual) are also discussed in the context of individual and social benefits (or, preventing individual and social harm) and are thus, manifestations of maslahah. Maslahah then becomes the overarching operational goal of the Shariah that is also measurable. In other words, the Maqasid of Shariah (MaS) are about the realization of benefits (maslahah) and prevention of harm (mafsadah) that will lead to well-being (falah) for the people on the planet.

Maqasid (Goals): Primary & Derivative

Recent scholarly work elaborates on the Islamic vision of development by expanding the framework of Maqasid-al-Shariah (MaS). The framework of the objectives (Maqasid) of Shariah (MaS) outlines five dimensions that Shariah seeks to protect and nurture: faith (deen), the human self (nafs), intellect (aql), posterity (nasl) and wealth (maal).[8] These may be considered as the primary goals or maqasid (al-asliyyah) aimed at ensuring human well-being.

There are however, several other goals indicated by the Qur’an and the Sunnah that are deemed imperative for realization of the primary goals. These may be referred to as their corollaries (tabi‘ah). Given the legal maxim that “something without which an obligation cannot be fulfilled is also obligatory”, the corollaries are equally important as the primary ones. The non-fulfilment of either or both may lead to serious consequences for the people and the planet. Further, given the holistic nature of the overall framework, any observed divergence of views among scholars regarding the order of the maqasid reflecting their relative importance is largely irrelevant. It is also noteworth that in a dynamic world, the relative importance of corollaries may undergo changes over time, requiring suitable modifications in the overall framework.

Scholars have also suggested additions and alterations to the existing five maqasid from time to time. An example of such addition is the protection of al-’ird (honour). It essentially follows from the right that Shariah gives an individual against slander[9] No less significant contribution is this regard was by the famous scholar Ibn Taimiyyah who developed the maqasid as an open-ended list of values that would now include (a) fulfilment of contracts, (b) preservation of the ties of kinship and (c) respect for the rights of one’s neighbors (d) love of God (e) sincerity (f) trustworthiness and (g) moral purity. A similar approach was followed by contemporary jurist Al-Qaradawi who further extended the list of the maqasid to include human dignity, freedom, social welfare and human fraternity among the higher maqasid of the Shari’ah. Kamali proposed to add economic development and the development of science and technology to the list as these are critically important in determining the standing of the Muslims in the global community. Among contemporary Islamic economists, Chapra (2008) provides an extensive discussion of the five original maqasid along with a comprehensive list of corollaries or sub-goals.

Mapping SDGs against MaS Corollaries

A review of Chapra (2008) throws up a comprehensive list of 39 corollaries to the five maqasid. With this list we revert back to our earlier question. To what extent are the SDGs convergent with the Islamic vision of development? We seek to provide a quick mapping below of the SDGs against the five primary maqasid as well as their respective corollaries.

A few quick observations are in order. A comparison between goals that have divinity attached to them, derived from revealed moral principles and that are based on faith and religion on one hand (e.g. the MaS), and goals that are set by UN, a global body representing societies with diverse religions and cultures (e.g. the SDG) is bound to throw up some areas of misalignment. Out of a total 39 corollaries as per Dr Chapra’s framework, 10 could not be mapped to any of the SDGs. The reasons are not too far to seek. All the 10 corollaries capture a clear spiritual and religious dimension and therefore, could not be linked to the SDGs that are faith-neutral, rooted in materialistic as well as moral considerations, and are mostly borne out of repeated market failures to address societal concerns. Most of the higher goals of Shariah – adl (justice and fairness), honor and dignity, freedom of enterprise, expression, and from fear, strife, corruption (good governance) are captured in just one SDG, i.e. SDG16, and to some extent in SDG5 focusing on women empowerment. The alignment is better with a direct mapping between MaS and SDGs in the context of economic needs, such as, income and livelihoods, work, food, water and sanitation, shelter, healthcare, education. Education has a broader connotation in the context of MaS as it includes moral, spiritual and religious education in addition to education and skills to make an agent economically productive.

To be Continued


[1] According to Chapra (2008), the word falah and its derivatives have been used 40 times in the Qur’an. The word, fawz, which is a synonym of falah has also been used 29 times along with its derivatives.
[2] Al-Qur’an (10:57)
[3] According to Kamali, justice as a value is mentioned in the Qur’anfifty-three times in all.
[4] “Permission is granted to those who fight because they have been wronged” (Al-Quran 22:39)
[5] “And in the Law of Qisas there is life for you, O people of understanding” (2:179)
[6] Kamali suggests that in order of priority, it may even ought to be placed before Maslahah and ’Adl.
[7] “Truly, Salah restrains promiscuity and evil” (29:45).
[8] as originally postulated by Al-Ghazali, and later by Al-Shatibi
[9] Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi added this sixth goal to the original five.

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