Subsequent to the crystallization of the legal schools, Muslim jurists felt the need to consolidate the massive corpus of legal opinion in order to aid students and practitioners of the law. The result was legal maxims (qawā'id fiqhiyya), concise theoretical statements that captured the objectives of the Sharia. An example is al-darar yuzāl ("Harm must be removed"), which is based on the hadith lā darar wa-lā dirār. This article analyzes the role of legal maxims in Yūsuf al-Qaradā wī's (b. 1926 in Egypt) jurisprudence and fatwas, as found in his numerous books and articles. Its preliminary assumption is that Qaradā wī uses legal maxims to control and systematize the use of considerations of public welfare (maslaha), especially in the field of "the jurisprudence of reality" (fiqh al-wāqi'). Because this fiqh deals mainly with political topics on which there are hardly any guidelines in scripture, and stems therefore from mostly nontextual benefits (masālih mursala), it is an area vulnerable to undisciplined use of utilitarian considerations by jurists. Legal maxims then come in handy when weighing the relevant benefit and harm related to each topic.
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