The aim of this research is to critically analyze the philosophical and value framework of contemporary technology and develop an alternative Islamic ethical framework of technology on the basis of the theory of the objectives (maqāṣid) of the Sharia. The objectives of the Sharia are an important part of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and Islamic legal philosophy (uṣūl al-fiqh). These objectives represent paradigmatic values which help to understand and synthesize different aspects of Islam into a way of life (dīn). The field of the objectives of the Sharia was developed to elucidate the deeper meanings, intentions and wisdom that underlie individual and social practices that are commanded and prohibited by God. Contemporary Muslim scholars have added new objectives to the classically developed five-fold list, e.g., the preservation of pure natural disposition (fiṭra), true faith, human dignity and rights, the oneness of God (tawḥīd), moral values, purification of the soul (tazkiya), the development of human civilization and so on. The extension in the list of objectives reflects contemporary efforts to read the objectives for a contemporary social-cultural reality. Commensurate to the comprehensiveness of the Sharia or the Islamic worldview, the wide arena of modern technology cannot be left outside the purview of Islamic values and goals. Contemporary technology is characterized by specific objectives, values, demands and a vision of its own. Understanding and evaluating modern technology from within the Islamic value framework is therefore the project of this thesis. This study of objectives is meant to provide a methodological framework for assessing modern technology. It will widen the scope of the objectives to bring the study of the objectives into dialogue with the contemporary discourse on technology, ethical values and social progress.
To draw the outlines of an objectives oriented Islamic ethical theory of technological progress, I have argued that the cultural contours existent in the present technological paradigm must be replaced by an Islamic worldview. Too much optimism in the potential of modern technology, as expressed by contemporary Islamic scholars and jurists who consider it to be value free, goes against the intellectual understanding and social experience of modern technology. A religious perspective adopted for the assessment of modern technology, which is the project of this thesis, challenges all forms of simplistic progressivism with regards to modern technology. If the classical understanding of human good (maṣlaḥa) comprising of the objectives (maqāṣid) is applied without an appreciation of contemporary cultural reality, the rulings and verdicts based on the objectives’ reasoning could prove contrary to the original objectives. The objectives, interpreted for the contemporary context, can act as the Islamic ethical standard or framework for evaluating technological progress. If we take social values, ethical choices and beliefs about progress as informing technological design and development then, in an Islamic context, the Islamic objectives could determine the ethical values that should inform technological innovation and design and the ends they ought to serve. It is the introduction of this dimension to the discourse on objectives that is needed to assess the contemporary technological culture and develop an alternative framework. In this thesis, I seek to introduce this dimension and contribute to the ongoing discourse on contemporary applications of the objectives’ framework.