A mutlaq (lit. unconditional) verse is one that is absolute in its scope, not limited to what is applies. It differs from the aam in that the aam applies to all members that are included in its meanings simultaneously without exception, whereas the mutlaq can only apply to one member of its meaning. In other words, aam applies to all members of a specific set, whereas mutlaq only applies to any one member of that set. An example of a mutlaq verse is,"... (the penalty fordhihar) is the freeing of a slave." (Q58[Mujadila]:3) The condition or quality of the slave has not been specified, so the verse is mutlaq. Since only one slave must be freed, it is not aam; had it applied to all slaves, then it would be aam.

The muqayyad (lit. qualified) occurs when a mutlaq is specified by an adjective. For example, the word houseis mutlaq, but a two-story houseis muqayyad, since there is a condtion attached to the house. An example in the Quran is where Allaah states: "Whoever kills a believer unintentionally must free a believing slave.. " (Q4[Nisaa]:92). This verse is muqayyad since it specifies that in this case the slave must be a Muslim.

These categories are also used in interpreting the text and deducing laws. In particular, when one ruling appears in mutlaq form, and a similar ruling for another case in muqayyad, is the mutlaq ruling affected by the muqayyad one? For example, with regards to the penalty for dhihaar, does the slave that is freed have to be a Muslim, since the exact same ruling (that of freeing a slave), when mentioned in the context of the penalty for involuntary manslaughter, is muqayyad that the slave must be a Muslim? So, does the muqayyad ruling concerning involuntary manslaughter affect the mutlaq ruling regarding dhihaar? According to the majority (the Shafiees, Maalikees and Hambalees), in this case the mutlaq is affected by the muqayyad, and the slave that is freed in the case of dhihaar must be a Muslim. According to the Hanafees, on the other hand, the mutlaq is not affected by the muqayyad in this case, and it is allowed to free a non-Muslim slave in the case of dhihaar.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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