The importance of this book refers to the fact that this study establishes that Islamic law (Sharīʿah) frames and governs all areas of life. It asserts that the well-being of the human race is determined by applying the objectives (maqāṣid) of Islamic law, by rationalising its rulings (aḥkām) and allowing the application of juristic effort (ijtihād) and causation (taʿlīl) to rulings. Such effort is undertaken by those Muslim scholars qualified in applying juristic effort (al-mujtāhidūn); those who are well versed in the knowledge adequately of Sharīʿah sciences, and understand the divine wisdom behind the Revelation, regardless of changing times and circumstances that create new issues. In this way, Revelation provides a more beneficial and blissful existence for the human being in both this life and the Hereafter, without neglecting the needs of the present, and the developments in the future.
In this respect, Revelation retains perpetual relevance, as a discourse addressing the unchanging within the human being, in entity, essence, and innate essential needs. In fact, it emphasises the most significant invariable quality of Islamic law, namely the continuing relevance of its legislation, demonstrating compatibility with all times and places, to the end of time. This signifies that the principle (al-aṣl) of mandated accountability (al-taklīf) vis-à-vis its requirement and submission to its rulings is of permanent nature.
In evidencing this, the competent scholars of Islamic law have set about critically examining this quality. Hence, al-Imām al-Shāṭibī’s perspective on the legislative universals was one of depth, renewal (tajdīd), grounded proof, and constructed maxims. He described the Noble Qurʾān as “Islamic law’s universal and the religion’s substance”, and the legislative universal that is the Prophetic Sunnah as explanatory of the Qurʾān, in terms of either particularising (takhṣīṣ) or founding (taʾsīs) an independent legislative meaning. He also spoke of those universals deduced (mustaqraʾ) from the Qurʾān revealed in the Makkah phase, and those from the Qurʾān revealed in the Madinah phase of Islam, and derived from both, the higher objectives-based universals (al-kulliyāt al-maqāṣidiyyah al-kubrá). He also discussed what may be termed the additional legislative universals (al-kulliyāt al-tashrīʿiyyah al-iḍāfiyyah). In this respect, al-Imām al-Shāṭibī offered reflection and practised renewal, considering that the surmised (al-ẓanī) cannot be described as a universal, except through the preponderance of mutually combining and supporting instances, or advocated by an independent universal. Only then is the surmised granted the status and recognition of certainty (al-qaṭʿī). Hence, al-Imām al-Shāṭibīʿs discussion of universals arouses significant interest, and this study has embarked on solving its mystery, clarifying its intent and features, and explaining the approaches to its rulings.