Is it possible to divide Islam into immutable matters and variables?
Praise be to Allaah.
Praise be to Allaah, and blessings and peace be upon the Messenger of Allaah, his family and companions, and those who follow him.
Recently we have started to hear people saying that Islam can be divided into immutable matters and variables. But as far as we know these phrases were never used by any of the scholars, because the religion of Allaah is all immutable. The Messenger of Allaah SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not die until Allaah had completed the religion through him and had established the rulings. So it cannot be altered or changed until Allaah inherits the earth and everyone on it. No one after the Prophet SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has the authority to alter or change anything. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion”
The religion, with its concessions and definitive rulings, has been established and after the death of the Prophet SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) it cannot be altered; nothing can be added or taken away:
“Falsehood cannot come to it from before it or behind it, (it is) sent down by the All-Wise, Worthy of all praise (Allaah)”
[Fussilat 41:42 – interpretation of the meaning]
These words – immutable matters and variables – which trip off the tongues of some seekers of knowledge may be abused by those who follow their whims and desires who may try to change some rulings which do not suit their wishes and desires. Allaah says concerning this (interpretation of the meaning):
“And if the truth had been in accordance with their desires, verily, the heavens and the earth, and whosoever is therein would have been corrupted!”
If these words which some students say may be interpreted in any correct way, they would mean the ijtihaad of the scholars with regard to matters concerning which no text has been narrated. For the opinion of the mujtahid may change from time to time, according to the evidence that is available to him and depending on the circumstances. ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said, when his ijtihaad differed concerning matters of inheritance, “At that time, that was our decision, and this time this is our decision.” The ijtihaad of the mujtahid is no more than his opinion, which cannot be said to be the ruling of Allaah; rather it may coincide with the ruling of Allaah or it may go against it. The opinion of everyone except the Messenger of Allaah SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) may be accepted or rejected. The opinions of the mujtahids cannot be divided into immutable matters and variables because they are all open to being changed if it is proven that they go against sound evidence. But the rulings of Allaah and His religion cannot be changed or altered. So the seekers of knowledge must be cautious in their speech and not say anything which opens the way for those who follow their whims and desires and who promote false arguments, because they (seekers of knowledge) are speaking with the words of the scholars and what they say may be taken as evidence concerning matters of religion. May Allaah grant us all knowledge and help us to do righteous deeds. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions.
Shaykh Saalih ibn Fawzaan al-Fawzaan, member of the Council of Senior Scholars and of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas.