Search WWW Search

Shah Waliullah (RA) [1702-1763]

This brings us to a brief treatment of Shah Waliullah as a more recent Islamic religious scholar (mutakallimun) of lofty stature. Shah Waliullah carried the traditions of Al-Ghazzali and Imam Shatibi in combining the essential of Shari'ah, its understanding, development and interpretation to the issues and problems of life. He like Al-Ghazzali took deep stock of Akhira as the explaining point of the relationship between worldly existence and the Hereafter in a meaningful way. Shari'ah to Waliullah is seen as a natural urge of humanity that had to occur in history out of Divine Will as Allah is to protect his creatures, human and others, both in this life and from the limitless punishment of Hell. Through Shari'ah, Allah is likewise to reward the worldly actions of individuals with limitless rewards in the Hereafter and thus the developmental process of the Islamic society was to take its explanation from the Reality of Hereafter. This in itself was a natural consequence of great utility for responsible life in this world.

In his socioeconomic thought, Shah Waliullah attached great importance to the reign of Ijtehad, without which he found new knowledge of understanding the Qur'an, Sunnah and thriving on Shari'ah, to be impossible. Thus, Waliullah introduced a dynamically new way of understanding the Qur'an. That was to make interpretive investigation of the verses in a fashion that must be independent of all commentaries and should naturally invoke the reason to Allah's Greatness manifested in the Ayaths of the Qur'an under study. The sciences of the Qur'an, namely, the science of injunction (Ahkam), the science of disputation (of the polytheists), the science of Divine favours, the science of particular events that Allah had decreed, and the science of Hereafter, were to be studied in an wholistic way to understand the totality of Qur'an for its significance to life.(Al-Fauz al-Kabir Fi Usul al-Tafsir) Thus, like Imam Ghazzali, Waliullah was a sufi who believed on the individual capacity for self-annihilation for the achievement of the greatest feat in life as ordained by Shari'ah. Waliullah also believed that since human knowledge must remain imperfect in life, it was impossible to attain perfect equilibrium in the socioeconomic systems. Hence, he advocated the pursuit of excellence with the conscious knowledge of improvement in perpetuity. He thus believed that many of the Signs of Allah can be humanly comprehended through deeply pious efforts.

Unlike Al-Ghazzali, Ibn Taimiyyah and Ibn Khaldun, Waliullah believed in revolution against the corrupt rulers for the sake of attaining peave and justice and the ultimate reign of Shari'ah in the coming international order of Islam. Thus many of his writings not only invoked Jihad in the Muslims to establish such an order, but they also pointed vehemently at the corrupt Muslim rulers, sects and groups in society. His philosophy was polar to the other Islamic scholars who had imitated the Greeks in their understanding of Qur'anic science.

Waliullah's concept of historicism was based on a movement of society towards an incomplete equilibrium in this life, but nonetheless a sure movement, this being better than inaction, and it being the design of the Divine Laws for human betterment. Thereby, as long as the Shari'ah was instilled in the hearts and minds of individuals and society, no higher organic growth of society was capable of destroying the inner strength of this order. Such an equilibrating concept of historical movement and the possibility for moral permanence found in it on the basis of Shari'ah, was a perspective that was polar to the empirical historicism of Ibn Khaldun. Shari'ah in its living and actional form became the Idea of Qur'anic historicism to Shah Waliullah as was the Spirit of Freedom the Idea to Hegel in his Germanic understanding of Occidentalism. In this sense, Shah Waliullah can be said to have added a vision to the study of history from a dynamic politico-economic perspective that was left out by Ibn Khaldun. Besides Waliullah's Hujjat Allah Baligah, by transcending the limits of the self to the society as a whole and making the five Qur'anic sciences as the universal in this historical order, had a relevance beyond Ghazzali's Ihya and the limited function of Ibn Taimiyyah's Hisba to market regulation alone.

In conclusion we note that the process of Islamic political thought has experienced a diversity of development between the ways that the religious scholars (mutakallimun) looked at it and the ways that the rationalists looked at it. Between these the dividing and discerning line of explanation was the Shari'ah. When Shari'ah was looked at, developed, applied and extended as a total way of life interconnecting the religious, philosophical, scientific phenomena with economy, science and institution, Islamic political thought became enriched by its inherent interactive, integrative and dynamic model of Divine Unity. This was seen to be the case of the models presented by Imam Ghazzali in respect to the relationship of this world with Hereafter; by Ibn Taimiyyah in respect to market, institution and social justice; by Shah Waliullah in terms of extending the Imam Ghazzali legacy to the social sphere of human action very much like Ibn Taimiyyah but more as a sociologist and historiographer than as an economist. In all of these thoughts the essence of Divine Laws, knowledge and the relationship of the world to the essentially moral and knowledge foundation of Akhira and Tawhid were invoked. Shari'ah was then treated as the natural result of this epistemology of Unity carried through the life of the Prophet (Risalah), interpreted, applied and extended to varied issues and problems of life through authentic human discursions (Ijtehad).

In the field of historicism and epistemology which play singularly important roles in the development of the theory of Islamic political economy, the viewpoint was different between the mutakallimun and the rationalists. The mutakallimun configured a continuously equilibrating model -- incompletely equilibrating for Shah Waliullah and attained equilibrium state for Ghazzali -- of historical evolution under the guidance of the Divine Laws (Shari'ah) irrespective of the state of human advancement, from the primitive levels to the highest material levels. This was so possible as the model of socioeconomic development presented and possible under the Shari'ah-driven model was based on the assumptions and characteristics of a dynamic basic needs model. Markets, institutions, technology, production, factor markets, pricing, resource utilization and distribution were then all determined under this perspective of socioeconomic development. The tacit implication in the Shari'ah model of socioeconomic development was that by a visible and conducive interrelationship between markets and institutions including governments, it was always possible to grear the Ummah along the trajectories of the dynamic basic needs regime of transformation. Knowledge would play the fundamental role in all these and epistemological invocation to derive fundamental human laws to manage, regulate and instill change in this order was possible because of their Shari'ah leaning in the discursive Ijtehadi frame. The Ummah could grow to its highest level of material advancement along the dynamic basic needs path of socioeconomic development. This was the argument presented by Shah Waliullah in his visionary expectation of the future Ummah as an internationalizing force.

The rationalists gave a different interpretation to historicism, change, reality and methods. They were basically a mix of Hellenic dialecticians and Islamic scholars. The blending between them was neither possible nor feasible. Greek philosophy of history and change was based in the open-ended domain of rationalist inquiry, in which God became a numinous reality. This is particularly to be found in Aristotle thought that God was not an active force but an attractive force. God is seen not to cause movement of the world of itself but to present Himself passively as the cause of the matter's acting. Matter was essential for action in Greek cosmology. History, socio-economic and socio-political change, science and institutionalism were all premised on the essence of materiality, while the concept of morality became relative to the same extent that matter and human perceptions according to matter were rationalistic creations. Evolutionary phenomena was then the cause and effect within the material world, given the changing dimensions of morality and ethics, while God remained teleological and thus numinous from the world.

The Muslim rationalist approach to historicism working within the cosmological orientation of Greek thought, did not focus on Shari'ah. Their connection with the Qur'an and Sunnah as the epistemological premise of Islamic thought, was peripheral. Their materialistic limitations to historical and scientific interpretations, left their findings to be empirical in nature, or otherwise metaphysical in substance. Here we find the empiricist historiography of Ibn Khaldun, the teleological ideas relating to metaphysics, cosmology and society of Farabi (The Perfect State), Ibn Rushd (Tahafat ul Tahafat), and the pantheistic epistemology of Ibn Sina (active and passive reason).

With the severance of historiography from Shari'ah centricity, it was also impossible methodologically for the rationalists to provide the interactive-integrative-evolutionary core to the process of knowledge-induced worlds. This is the natural consequence of the axiom to hold materiality as the agent of change and God to be existential in the Divine domain. In such a perspective borrowed from the Greeks and brought to a height by the Mutazzilites only to be rejected by Islamic scholasticism, mater and spirit (i.e. ethics and economy) become competing ends. Hence an early kind of neoclassical marginalist substitution results, inspite of the fact that the concept of unity in systems prevailed for all times among all scholars since the Greeks, but not so methodologically.

In the framework of historiography, Islamic political economy as a methodological discipline of unifying systems, deriving its epistemology from the Divine Premise of Unity of God as the primal epistemology and externalizing this to the Process of Unification in the world through knowledge flows, can hardly be said to be substantively derivable from the rationalist doctrines. The development of Islamic political economy comes close to the ideas of the mutakallimun but taken up in an essentially crearive evolutionary frame that need not assume the existence of Fana or self-annihilation as substantive requirements of the Islamic process of change to a better state. Besides, the relationship between Tawhid, World and Akhira is a two-way relationbship, which has profound mathematical and methodological, hence institutional consequences for the socio-scientific order. These are substantive developments and conceptualizations in Islamic political economy beyond what was given by the mutakallimun. Islamic history and its philosophy at the end becomes differentiated from Qur'anic historicism. In the former, empirical grounds and human frailities have marked the process of change and narrations, but not universalities. History in this sense is cyclical and evolutionary with certain degree of predictions as inferred from past human behaviour and societal changes. In the Qur'anic concept of history, change is neither linear nor repetitive with regularities, although cycles remain. But the amplitudes of such cycles and their frequencies of occurrence depends upon the determinism of the Divine Core and how it is utilized by the human order to externalize to the socio-scientific world. Material events of historical narrations are then the result of the primordial Divine dialectics of determinism.

Qur'an has thus inscribed in Universal History and Process the indelible IDEA of Reality, that applies to all contexts of life in the Muslim and the Other sense, without exception and void. Such an IDEA of the most irreducible Reality was termed as the Universal Soul in unity of being with Allah as the uncreated essence of Oneness, by Shah Waliullah, Ibn al-Arabi and Mujadid al-Fatahani. Hence, whether the Muslims after the Prophet and the Pious Caliphs have or have not lived up to the ideals of the Qur'an is a relative matter in the eyes of the Qur'anic Judgement of Reality. That Reality is evanescent and everlasting as the IDEA, the determinism. It invokes creation every moment through the Divine action in the material order, thus causing the knowledge-based universe to arise in the interactive-integrative-evolutionary sense. Whereas, the empirical interpretation of history and the materialistic determinism of historicism by the rationalists are simply narration of recorded events with a rationalistic and hence conditional inference.

Islamic political economy premised as it deeply is on the epistemology of Unity and Unification of Knowledge through the interactive-integrative-evolutionary model of unified reality takes stock of the Qur'anic world view and not of the empirical viewpoint left by the historians. It thus configures a normative and positivistic world of socio-scientific action and response that is substantively different from Ibn Khaldun's, Al-Tabari's, Hegel's, Marx's, Schumpeter's and others.


Source: Taken (with Thanks) from

  This site requires:- Macromedia's Flash 7 Player & 1024x768 Screen Resolution  
Copyright 2005-2006 Central-Mosque All rights reserved. Comments and suggestions to