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Working in the public interest.


The legal term maslaha means 'the common good,' or, 'in the public interest.' The famed jurist and philosopher al-Ghazali (d. 1111) defined maslaha just under a thousand years ago:


"What we mean by maslaha is the preservation of the objective [maqasid] of the Law [shar], which consists of five things: the protection of religion, life, intellect, lineage, and property. Whatever ensures the protection of these five principles [usul] is maslaha; whatever goes against their protection is mafsada, and to avoid it is maslaha."[1]


In the last few centuries, academics such as Tariq Ramadan and ulama such as Abdal-Hakim Murad have brought the word back into prominence by using it as a way of understanding Islam in a modern-day setting.


Murad has written that Muslims have a duty to act, out of maslaha, in accordance with all legal frameworks, as long as those frameworks are just and concerned with the moral good. He employs the concept when encouraging Muslims in the UK to see Islamic law and British common law not as alternatives to one another, but as covering largely similar ground. Both are ultimately concerned with the same objectives (maqasid): "the right to life, mind, religion, lineage, and honour."[2]


[1] Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, Al-mustafa min ilm ll-usul, Muthanna. 1970


[2] Abdal-Hakim Murad, 'Muslim loyalty and belonging: Some reflections on the psychosocial background,' 2003

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