Significance of the Jurisprudence of the Balance in Jurisprudential Knowledge: The Key to Understanding Islamic Law
The jurisprudence of the balance is a major, rather than minor, field of jurisprudential knowledge. This is because it sets criteria for interpretation, independent reasoning, and derivation. It also complements the field of the principles of jurisprudence, yet it does not provide general jurisprudential rules, as is the case with analogical deduction and preferability. It is a set of criteria for accurate understanding, proper derivation, and disciplined independent reasoning regarding all major jurisprudential issues. Accordingly, it relates to the field of the principles of jurisprudence in that it sets bases for general rules of independent reasoning. Thus, it is the key to reliable evidence and is indispensable to Mujtahids. it is the key to all keys of evidence that relates to independent reasoning. If the jurisprudence of the balance is ignored, there will not be proper understanding of Islamic law, which entails serious consequences, as explained above.
The jurisprudence of the balance is different from analogical deduction, preferability, unspecified public interests, and prohibition of evasive legal devices, as they include controversial issues. However, the jurisprudence of the balance is aimed at setting criteria for every aspect of Islamic law and identifying the appropriate measure of every topic, or general ruling, in relation to other topics and rulings. It also provides comparisons with the purpose of setting the basis of disciplined jurisprudence that coordinates with divine purposes, sound reason, and pure nature. It is, indeed, a principle that is well defined by the Quran and the Sunnah, so it shouldn’t be doubted.
The jurisprudence of the balance may relate to the field of contradiction of evidence and preference more than other fields because it focuses on solving the problems of apparent contradiction of meanings in texts through concordance or preference.
Unfortunately, principles of jurisprudence specialists have approached the jurisprudence of the balance as a theoretical field. Thus, they failed to set accurate criteria. They have also dedicated themselves to studying apparent contradictions between texts and reasoning and apparent contradiction of meanings in texts, with the result of ignoring the jurisprudence of the balance. In his Dar’ Taarud al-Aql wa al-Naql (Averting the Conflict between Reason and Religious Tradition), Ibn Taymiyyah warned them against this, saying, “Knowledge about the purposes of Islamic law supports the jurisprudence of the balance and helps to develop and apply it most accurately."
The Requirements of the Jurisprudence of the Balance
The jurisprudence of the balance requires good knowledge about linguistics, the principles of jurisprudence, exegesis, Hadiths, and Quranic and Sunnah sciences. Those who intend to specialize in the jurisprudence of the balance need to have a pure, natural disposition, great insight, real talent, enlightened wisdom, patience, and the ability to consider texts carefully. They should also be open to new ideas and accept ideas by all scholars, even by those who are their contemporaries. They should be impartial as they consider people’s opinions and use honesty as a criterion for evaluating people. Accordingly, they should abide by the truth, rather than be fanatical about the truthfulness of certain people. Those who possess such attributes are the ones of sound reason and great insight, who can comprehend and apply the jurisprudence of the balance.
The Jurisprudence of the Balance as a Means to Resolve Disputes over the Principles of Jurisprudence
Those who understand the jurisprudence of the balance well would not disagree on the principles and the interpretation of clear texts, as a result of agreeing on basic measures. As is the case with scales used for measuring weight, the criteria of the jurisprudence of the balance save people from disputes over religious matters. For example, it is well known that the scale of devotions is based on authentic textual evidence. Religious observances are to be performed according to authentic texts that explain exactly how they must be performed. Accordingly, performing religious observances without supporting evidence is a heretical act. Thus, there should be no disagreement about innovations in religious principles, regarding religious observances, that lack evidence.
However, Muslim scholars may disagree on some details, such as whether changing the traditional means of performing religious observances is a heretical act. Another example is whether celebrating the birth of the Prophet ﷺ, without doing prohibited acts, is an act of devotion or just a means of da’wah (Islamic propagation).
These minor differences of opinion are tolerated, for they do not involve principles, but rather they are related to matters of independent reasoning.
On the other hand, the scale of interactions, including all types of human activities, political issues, and business deals, is based on the fact that they are worldly issues that are not related to mere acts of devotion. Thus, they are considered permissible acts by default, unless there is evidence for prohibition. That is why innovation in such worldly affairs is not only permissible, but also preferable. Accordingly, business contracts and political affairs are permissible, except for special cases that are prohibited by a clear text from the Quran or Sunnah. However, the permissibility of any ritual act of devotion requires special evidence.
When applied properly, the jurisprudence of the balance helps to resolve disputes over principles and avoid disagreements on matters of independent reasoning, as it establishes a set of criteria and measures to be adopted.
 It can be likened to the master key that a hotelier uses to unlock all the doors in a hotel, while every guest has a personal key to the room he stays in.
 For more details, see the chapter on Contradiction of Evidence and Preference, Contradiction and Preference by Sheikh Abd al-Latif al-Barzenji, Iraqi Ministry of Religious Endowments. See also Averting the Conflict between Reason and Religious Tradition, investigated by Muhammad Rashad Salim, Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University, Riyadh, 1399 Hijri. He explains the methodology of the principles of jurisprudence specialists, who dedicate themselves to theory only; “They say that if there is contradiction between logical evidence and textual evidence, we cannot come up with coordinated meanings, as they are contradictory ideas. We cannot also reject both types of evidence because the mind is the criterion used for assessing textual meanings...”