Fundamentally, both approaches are necessary in tandem. The bottom-up evolution of muslim practices in the social sphere is a necessary and inevitable outgrowth of human society. Muslims are men and women, not robots. And yet there is a need for a corrective action from the top to ensure that the organic growth of culture does not transgress across the lines defined by Deen and Sharia. The key to reconciling these seeming opposite forces is to acknowledge reason and choice; the muslim must choose for themselves who they accept as their authority, and must respect that choice made by other muslims.
In the sixth ayat (verse) of Surat al Kafirun (109:6), the Qur’an gives words to the muslim to speak to the unbelievers: “To you be your way, and me mine.” The primary audience here is those who do not believe in Islam. But there’s a philosophy therein which applies equally well to intra-muslim debates. We can disagree about the validity of mawlid, ziyarat, moonsighting, etc. But we must remember that ultimately, Islam is about our personal relationship to Allah, and no one else’s. And Allah knows best.
Related: the issue of forbidden acts versus acts not exxpressly permitted is akin in some ways to the debate over implied powers and the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution and the “Elastic Clause“. These are invariably legalistic debates by their very nature, reliant on source texts and exegesis of Founders’/Creator’s intent.
To read more from Aziz, visit his blog City of Brass