Specificities meant for generalities

In a previous post, you mentioned the hadeeth which instructs us to make up for missed prayers by praying them later. Most scholars who read this hadeeth agreed that it is specific for unintentional missing of prayers, such as due to sleep or forgetfulness, and that it does not include intentional missing. That is why they have ruled that prayers intentionally missed cannot be compensated, but that the repenting Muslim should offer a lot of nawafil (extra) prayers and hope that God will forgive him. Isn’t it true that the hadeeth is specific?

Scholars of Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction) have noticed many examples in the Quran and the Hadeeth of statements using a specificity but whose coverage is clearly general. They coined this style خاص أريد به العموم (a specificity meant for generality). This Arabic style is an alternative way of quoting examples to illustrate a point which is general.

Let me give you an example. In verse 6:151, God says, “…and do not kill your children because of poverty; We provide for you and them.” Here God cites a specificity, namely, poverty, as the reason some people killed their children. Does that mean that killing one’s children for other reasons is OK? Obviously not. The reason given was only an example to illustrate the point that there is no cause for one to kill one’s children, as God is in control and provides.

One simple way to figure out if a specificity is meant for a generality is absence of the generality! And that is why the prayer expiation hadeeth was meant for generality, because we do not have any statement in the Quran or the Hadeeth that tells us what do with a person who purposely missed his prayers. It is that lack of direct evidence that forced scholars to conjure up an expiation. Some scholars even said that there is no expiation and that a man purposely neglecting his prayers is an apostate and must be killed! An opinion that is totally without merit.

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