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Conflict of Rights; Principles for Reference By Ibn Taymiyyah

 Excerpt from:Public Duties in Islam: The Institution of the Hisba By Ibn Taymiya , translated by Muhtar Holland, Islamic Foundation UK

Pages 80 - 81 (1992 Edition)

Conflict of Rights; Principles for Reference

    I have discussed elsewhere the question of armed struggle against the leaders. The whole matter comes under this general rule: whenever there is conflict between benefits or disadvantages, between the good and the bad, it is best to prefer what is best on balance. for, since command and prohibition imply the attainment of benefit and the rejection of what is corrupt, one must examine the other side of the coin. If a command would result in more loss than gain, or it would lead to more harm than it prevented, then it should not be given: more than that, it would be unlawful in the latter case. However the weighing up of the benefits and disadvantages must be done with the scales of the sacred law. And when the person makes the assessment he should do so on the basis of authoritative sources without deviating from them. Otherwise he will make a personal judgment based on knowledge of similar and analogues cases, but the texts will seldom prove insufficient for one who is well versed in them and the interpretation of them.

    Thus if an individual or a group should be faced with a problem in deciding between a right and a wrong, or even to do both or  to do neither, it is not permissible for them to either command or forbid without first making a thorough investigation. Then, if the right is preponderant it should be commanded, even if it entails a lesser wrong. But a wrong should not be forbidden if to do so it entails the loss of a greater right. Indeed such prohibition comes into the category of obstructing the way of God and attempting to prevent obedience to Him and His Messenger and the performance of good deeds. On the other hand, if the wrong is predominant it should be forbidden, even if this entails the loss of a lesser right, for to command that right with the preponderance of wrong it involves would be tantamount to ordering a wrong and promoting disobedience to God and His Messenger. If right and wrong are equally balanced and inseparable, neither is to be commanded and neither to be forbidden.

    Sometimes it is beneficial to command, sometimes to forbid. At other times, where right and wrong are mutually inextricable, it is not beneficial either to command or to forbid. It all depends on the nature of specific cases as they arise.

    In equivocal cases the believer must seek clarification until the truth becomes clear to him. For he may not embark upon an act of obedience without knowledge and intention, while if he leaves it undone he is a sinner, since it is sinful to ignore a necessary duty. It is also sinful to do what has been prohibited, however. The implications of all this is far reaching and there is neither power nor strength except with God. 

    Under this category is the concession made by the Prophet, on him be peace, to leading hypocrites and reprobates like 'Abdullah ibn Ubay in view of their numerous support. For to have penalized him in some way  for his wrong conduct would have entailed the loss of a greater good, through the fury and chauvinisms of  his tribesmen and through the aversion people would have felt on hearing that Muhammad was  killing his Companions. 4 

Excerpt from:Public Duties in Islam: The Institution of the Hisba By  Ibn Taymiya , translated by Muhtar Holland, The Islamic Foundation UK


 4 . In the incident known as "The Lie" (al-ifk) 'Abdullah ibn Ubay and others accused the Prophet's wife A'isha of infidelity, One of the Companions called for his head to be cut off, but Sa'd ibn Ubada- despite his piety - rallied to the defense of his fellow tribesman.

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It is the beginning which should be supervised carefully, for a child is a creature whose essence is receptive to both good and evil: it is only its parents who cause it to be disposed to one or the other. As the Prophet said, ‘Every child is born with the sound natural disposition [fitra]: it is only his parents who make of him a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian’.

 <read Full Article An Exposition of the Way in which Young Children should be Disciplined...  >
  Source: Al-Ghazali on Disciplining the Soul & on Breaking the Two Desires (Ihya’`Ulum al-Din)