In the following essay, al-Ghazâlî’s theory of dharûrîyyât (essentials), ĥâjîyyât (needs) and taĥsînîyyât (embellishments) will be discussed. Firstly, these terms will be explained in detail, focusing on what al-Ghazâlî meant by these terms and how al-Ghazâlî saw the usage of these terms in jurisprudence. Secondly, practical examples will be cited of classical issues where these terms were applied to. Thirdly, an area of contemporary jurisprudence will be touched upon where these terms can be applied and justified as appropriate. Finally, a summary of the essay will be given as a conclusion.

Explanation of the terms

Maqâŝid al-Sharîáh (objectives of Sharia) was first used in the juristic writings of Abû Ábd Allâh al-Ĥakîm al-Tirmidhî (d.932). Thereafter,  the distinguished jurist and theologian, Imâm al-Ĥaramayn al-juwaynî (d.1085) repeatedly referred to it in his books and was perhaps the first individual to categorise the Maqâŝid into the three categories of dharûrîyyât, ĥâjîyyât, taĥsînîyyât (essentials, needs and embellishments). This categorisation has since gained overall acceptance. Imâm al-Ĥaramayn al-juwaynî made it clear that the Prophet’s Companions demonstrated a great degree of awareness regarding the objectives of Sharia (Maqâŝid al-Sharîáh) and claimed that one who fails to reflect on the Maqâŝid would presumably lack understanding of Sharia. Imâm al-Ĥaramayn al-juwaynî’s concepts were then further developed by his outstanding pupil, Abû Ĥâmid al-Ghazâlî (d.932), who wrote the books Shifâ al-Ghalîl and al-Mustaŝfâ, in which he elaborated on public interest (maŝlaĥah) and it was public interest (maŝlaĥah) that was the foundation of al-Ghazâlîs work. Although al-Ghazâlî was critical of maŝlaĥah as a proof itself, where from a theological point of view, al-Ghazâlî rejected the concept of maŝlaĥah in terms of human value and he subjected it to scrutiny. However, he validated it, if it upheld the maqâŝid of Sharia. (Masud 1995 : 142) (Kamali 2008:125)


One of the principal objectives of Sharia is the recognition of benefit to the people relating to their affairs whether in this world or the hereafter. The Sharia in its entirety purposes to secure a benefit for the people or safeguard them against corruption and evil. Hence, Scholars unanimously agree that the rulings of Sharia seek to secure genuine benefit and all of the commands of Sharia aim at recognising benefits. Furthermore, all of its prohibitions are in place to avoid corruption and evil. As such, the obligatory, praiseworthy and permissible (wâjib, mandûb and mubâĥ) aim at recognizing benefits and the reprehensible (makrûh) and the forbidden (ĥarâm) aim at avoiding corruption and evil. (Kamali 2008:32, 33)


Al-Ghazâlî (1970 : 286,287) defines maŝlaĥah in his al-Mustaŝfâ. He mentions that maŝlaĥah in essence is a demonstration for pursuing something useful or eradicating something harmful. He further on explains that what is meant by maŝlaĥah is the preservation of the objective of the law consisting of five things: preservation of religion, preservation of life, preservation of intellect, preservation of linage and preservation of property. Maŝlaĥah is what satisfies the preservation of these five principles. In contrast whatever does not preserve these five principles is harmful and its removal is maŝlaĥah.

Al-Ghazâlî (1970 : 284-290) further elucidates that maŝlaĥah according to his definition explained above, is then categorised into the following three categories. First, that maŝlaĥah which has textual evidence in support of its deliberation. This first category is correct and can be the root for qiyâs (analogy). Second, that maŝlaĥah which is rejected due to textual evidence and hence is forbidden. Third is that maŝlaĥah where there is no textual evidence in favour or against it. Therefore, this third category needs further deliberation. Thus the measure of maŝlaĥah in this third category is additionally examined from the perspective of its effectiveness. Three ranks of maŝlaĥah are derived from this approach; dharûrat (essential), ĥâjat (need) and taĥsînîyyat (embellishment). The preservation of the aforementioned five principles falls in the rank of dharûrat, which is the strongest type of maŝlaĥah. The second rank contains those maŝâliĥ (public interests) which are not in essence indispensable, but are required to generally realise the maŝâliĥ (public interests). The third rank is that which only exists for the enhancement of things and nothing to do with the aforesaid. (Masud 1995 : 139)

Upon conclusion of the above, the maqâŝid are classified into three categories of benefits: dharûrîyyât (essentials) ĥâjîyyât (needs) and taĥsînîyyât (embellishments).

1) Dharûrîyyât (essentials) are benefits which life depends on and without it life would lead to total disruption and chaos. These are the five principles:

  1. a) Preservation of life
  2. b) Preservation of faith
  3. c) Preservation of intellect
  4. d) Preservation of property
  5. e) Preservation of lineage


2) Ĥâjîyyât(needs) matches the dharûrîyyât but unlike the dharûrîyyât the ĥâjîyyât only causes great hardship.

3) Taĥsînîyyât (embellishments) only refers to things that embellish human life.

In light of the above, the entire range of maqâŝid with maŝâliĥ have been classified into three categories in descending order of significance: the dharûrîyyât (the essentials), the ĥâjîyyât (the needs) and the taĥsînîyyât (the desirable or the embellishments). Al-Ghazâlî explained that from the maqâŝid themselves, the Sharia sought five objectives, namely those of preservation of life, faith, intellect, property and lineage. These were to be safeguarded as a matter of outright priority. (Kamali 2008:125)


Bear in mind that the maqâŝid generally stem from ĥudûd (punishments). In other words, prohibitions suggest the maqâŝid in a negative sense that the purpose of a prohibition is to quash and prevent evil that the text has considered (Kamali 2009:13).The preservation of religion (din) is induced from jihâd in defence of doctrine. The preservation of intellect/mind (áql) is induced from alcohol and intoxication. The preservation of life (nafs) is induced from the prohibition of murder. The preservation of property/wealth (mâl) is a protection of ownership deduced from the prohibition of theft, cheating, and other financial crimes. The preservation of lineage/honour (ìrdh) is for the protection of family and marriage deduced from the prohibition of fornication and generally whatever destroys families. (Feisal:2015)


Practical examples of classical issues these terms were applied to

The Sharia encourages that the benefits of this world are hand in hand with those of the hereafter. The benefits are generally divided into three types, namely the essentials (dharûrîyyât), the needs (hajiyyat) and the embellishments (taĥsînîyyât). The Sharia in all of its parts aims at the realization of one or the other of these benefits. (kamali, 2008:34)

Dharûrîyyât (the essentials):

The dharûrîyyât (the essentials) which are the principal values of life, faith, intellect, property and lineage must be protected at all measures with the goal of safeguarding them, either individually or by government authorities. (kamali, 2008:34,35)

Dharûrîyyât (the essentials) consists of all actions and things that are considered as complete necessities to the survival and spiritual well-being of individuals at the basic minimum for a suitable level of living. Dharûrîyyât (the essentials) include the capability to carry out the five pillars of Islam, protection of life, confirming adequate availability of food, clothing and shelter etc.

Some scholars argue that though the five dharûrîyyât (preservation of life, faith, intellect, property and lineage) are essential for human welfare, however, the essentials are not confined to these five; henceforth, they have suggested further dharûrîyyât, such as, freedom and protection of the environment, equality etc.

Al-Ghazâlî (1970:294-295) explains a surprising example in his al-mustaŝfâ. He mentions that if a group of unbelievers happen to protect themselves by using a group of Muslim captives as shields, then attacking this group of unbelievers’ means attacking the shields, which inevitably means killing innocent Muslims. This is a case regarding which no textual evidence is found. The scenario is very subtle because if the Muslims withhold their attack on the group of unbelievers, the unbelievers will surely progress and conquer Islamic territory. It is permissible to put forth the argument in this case that regardless of the Muslims attacking the unbelievers, those Muslims that are being used as shields are unsafe and their lives are at risk because if the unbelievers are not attacked, they will conquer Islamic territory and defeat the rest of the Muslims. In such a scenario, it is compulsory to protect the entire Muslim community even if it is at the expense of the Muslims being used as shields. This example consists of preserving one of the five dharûrîyyât i.e. preservation of life, hence, acceptable. Furthermore, it is certainly known that adopting this will safeguard the lives of the Muslims. Moreover, it also takes into concern the entire community and not just part of it.

Ĥâjîyyât (the needs):

An example for ĥâjîyyât is to ban profiteering (iĥtikâr). Profiteering is also known as hoarding which is the prohibited practice of buying essential commodities, such as food and storing it in hope of inflation in price and as soon as the price inflates and that essential commodity is scarcely found elsewhere, selling that commodity at a ridiculous price. This practice will inevitably cause hardship to the masses hence is banned. (Kamali:2008)

The concessions Sharia has granted relating to worship such as shortening the ŝalâh and not fasting for the sick and traveller, can also be classified as ĥâjîyyât because if these concessions were not granted then it would indeed cause hardship (Kamali:2008). In many areas of compulsory worship, the Sharia has allowed such concessions, where the benefit being derived is from the permission granted to lessen a compulsory action or accommodate a temporary incapability to perform such action. This is to prevent hardship.

Analogy prohibits the contract of salam. Salam is a contract where one pays in advance and receives the currently non-existing food items at a later date. Analogy prohibits this due to the delay in the exchange of the non-existing food items. However, there is a prophetic narration where the Prophet Muĥammad (peace and blessings be upon him) made an exemption for salam and permitted it. This is another example of an exception being made on the basis of preventing harm on the premise of ĥâjîyyât. Just like Salam, analogy prohibits istiŝnâ’á, which is a manufacturing contract with advance payment. Analogy prohibits it on the same basis of salam like mentioned above. However, according to the Ĥanafî school of thought it is permitted due to consensus (ìjmâ’á). Yet again another example of an exception due to ĥâjîyyât.

Taĥsînîyyât (the desirable or the embellishments):

The embellishments denote interests whose realization leads to improvement and the achievement of that which is desired. The embellishments seek to achieve enhancement and a degree of perfection in the customs and conduct of the people, such as purity and avoiding overindulgence (kamali, 2008:34). The Sharia hence encourages purity of the body and clothing for the purposes of worship and commends the wearing of perfume when attending the jumuáh (Friday congregational) prayer.  Likewise, excluding the compulsory charity (zakât), Sharia encourages giving in charity (voluntary), and also recommends voluntary prayers and voluntary fasting.

A small example demonstrating all three (dharûrîyyât, ĥâjîyyât, taĥsînîyyât) is food. Whereas having enough food to survive living, falls under necessities (dharûrîyyât), having sufficient nutritious food falls under needs (ĥâjîyyât) and having delicious food falls under enrichment (taĥsînîyyât).

An area of contemporary jurisprudence where these terms can be applied

Car insurance (conventional) is a good example where maqâŝid and its terms are very helpful. From an Islamic point of view, car insurance (conventional) is in principle impermissible because it consists of multiple defective and impermissible elements such as gambling (qimâr) and uncertainty (gharar). This is because initially the car owner loses out by paying the insurance company for nothing. However, if an accident occurs and it is serious and costs more than what the car owner (customer) has paid, then the insurance company will lose out. In contrast, if there is a minor accident and the insurance company only has to pay out less than what the customer initially paid or there is no accident at all, then the insurance company will be the one gaining and the customer will be the one losing out. So it’s a game of chances hence the element of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam. Furthermore, this creates ambiguity because there is no assurance whether the car owner (customer) will gain anything because he doesn’t know whether he will have an accident. Likewise, the insurance company doesn’t know if it will have to pay out more than it gained from the customer depending on the nature of the accident and the Prophet Muĥammad (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade ambiguous transactions. However, having a car insured is a legal requirement in many countries, including the UK. Hence, it would be illegal to drive a car without insurance and one’s right to drive a car is dependent upon an insurance policy.  Looking at this from a maqâŝid perspective, it will not fall under the category of dharûrîyyât (the essentials) because driving a car is not a benefit which life depends on and without it life would not lead to total disruption and chaos and none of the five principles; preservation of life, preservation of faith, preservation of intellect, preservation of property and preservation of lineage would be affected. However, driving a car is a necessity and making it impermissible due to car insurance being impermissible would cause great hardship for people, hence getting car insurance would be permissible under ĥâjîyyât (the needs).  Consequently, insurance is a necessity to obtain one’s lawful right, henceforth in this right permitted.



Upon conclusion, al-Ghazâlî’s theory of dharûrîyyât (necessities) ĥâjîyyât (needs) and taĥsînîyyât (embellishments) has become clear, where dharûrîyyât (necessities) are benefits which life depends on and without it life would lead to total disruption and chaos. These are the five principles; preservation of life, preservation of faith, preservation of Intellect, preservation of property and preservation of lineage. Ĥâjîyyât (needs) matches the dharûrîyyât but unlike the dharûrîyyât, the ĥâjîyyât only causes great hardship. Taĥsînîyyât (embellishments) refers to things that enhance human life. Classical and contemporary examples were also cited where these terms were and are applied. Furthermore, it was also made clear that although al-Ghazâlî was critical and had reservations regarding maŝlaĥah from a theological point of view, he validated it from a maqâŝid point of view.

The maqâŝid are undeniably fixed in the textual commands of the Qur’ân and Sunnah, but they look mainly at the over-all objectives and philosophy of these commands, often afar from the precisions of the text. There is not much focus on the specific words of the text as is on the aim, objective and purpose that is promoted and maintained. By comparison to Islamic jurisprudence, the maqâŝid of Sharia are not loaded with methodological procedures and literal analyses of the text. The maqâŝid assimilates a grade of consideration and flexibility into the understanding of Sharia that is in many ways exceptional and goes above the changes of time and condition. maqâŝid tends to offer organised and appropriate access to Sharia. In contrast, other important principles of Islamic jurisprudence seem to be loaded with tough conditions that might seem to create a degree of resentment. It is significant to recognise the general summary of the objectives of the Sharia and having sufficient knowledge of the maqâŝid consequently provides the student of Sharia with vision and equips him with a theoretical framework in which the endeavour to gain in depth knowledge of its numerous principles can be more purposeful and interesting.(Kamali 2008: 139)


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