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Loosening and binding

August 20, 2016




One of the arch-rules (qawā`id) of the Mālikiyyah, which had its genesis in the works penned by experts of Islamic politics (siyāsah shar`iyyah) says:

“Wherever the need arises, the people of loosening and binding step into the shoes of the political ruler (imām) and his deputy.”

The term “people of loosening and binding” (Ahl al-hall wa’l-‘aqd), i.e. the influential people who dispose of and preside over matters in the socio-political arena, was first coined by Imām Abu’l-Hasan al-Ash`arī in Al-Ibānah ‘an Usūl ad-Diyānah, by the Iraqi Judge Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī in Tamhīd al-Awā’il wa-Talkhīs ad-Dalā’il, and later by his co-national, the polymath Abu’l-Hasan al-Māwardī, in his seminal political treatise Al-Ahkām as-Sultāniyyah wa al-Wilāyāt ad-Dīniyyah, for it to be subsequently adopted, on a widespread basis, by devotees of siyāsah shar`iyyah, fiqh, usūl and ‘aqīdah (where many a political issue is dealt with, due to their relation to fundamental topics, such as the Sunni-Shī`ī split).

Similar terms are, inter alia, “Ahl al-ikhtiyār” (the people of choice) and “Ah lar-Ra’y and Tadbīr” (the people of informed opinion and management of affairs).


Where there is a political leader, the matter will take its course accordingly, along those specific lines.

Here in the West, however, that is not the case, so the aforementioned qā`idah (arch-rule) applies.

In Ghiyāth al-Umam, the Imām of the Haramayn, Abu’l-Ma`ālī al-Juwaynī, addressed the issue of what to do in the absence of a political leader, because of death, captivity, relinquishment of the judgments of the Law, etc.

In that case, he explained, the people of knowledge would fill the position, becoming the leaders of the believing slaves. If unity could be achieved around one man, that would be ideal, otherwise, every locality would follow its own savant.

Other writers correctly included the chiefs and influential notables (wujūh) of a place and the leading spokespersons of its inhabitants (zu`amā’) within the definitional compass of people of loosening and binding.

Importantly, the fact that no leader is there, whether as a result of temporary absence or non-existence at source, does not extinguish the obligations of leaders and leadership: they are just transposed to their legitimate substitutes.

In his exegetical masterwork on āyāt of judgment, Ahkām al-Qur’ān, the Sevillan Judge Abū Bakr b. al-‘Arabī al-Ma`āfirī stressed that the sound interpretation of Sūrah an-Nisā’: 59 was that the expression ūlū al-amr encompassed both political leaders (umarā’) and savants (‘ulamā’). 



What we have in the West is:

·        The laceration of the Islamic community into followers of the tradition and modernists (a term that includes of course Ikhwanis, Salafis, Perennialists and Seculars/Liberals). In the short-term this breach will not be repaired.

·        The Modernists, empowered by petrodollars and the like, have set up their own nuclei of power and influence that seek to steer their followers, e.g. the Islamic Council of Europe. They are extraneous to us and we are extraneous to them, given the radical dissimilarity of vision.

·        Followers of the tradition are definable as mainstream Sunni Muslims that, like their successful predecessors for twelve centuries and more, followed one of the four madhāhib, the ‘aqīdah of al-Ash`arī or al-Mātūrīdī and Junaydī (i.e. Islamic) Sufism.

·        There are huge numbers of followers of this receding but capillary mainstream soundness, but they lack any unified leadership of loosening and binding. They are fragmented into several groupings, many of which engage in goodness and contribute to the preservation of the traditional way, and thus disperse their potential for political compactness.

·        More than a mere new “society of scholars/theologians” is needed, though savants will of course play a crucial role among other influential wheelsmen.

·        It is therefore essential to establish a pilot group of traditional Sunnis eager to transcend the said atomization, forget about their differences, emphasize their cementing bonds and act as people of loosening and binding for the whole spectrum of mainstream Muslims in the West, regardless of their madhhab and tarīqah affiliation.

·        Alternatively, we should try and set it up, as an example for the rest, within the Mālikī camp specifically.


We therefore call any interested person in the West, broadly understood, to lend attention and constructively respond to this proposal.



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