Category Archives: Usool ul-Fiqh

The science of deriving Islamic law (shari’ah) in its totality. Ahkam, usool codes, etc. all backed by Qur’an and Sunnah. Honouring different opinions.

Understanding Culture vs. Religion


As we continue our foray into Medini seerah, we notice that Medinah, at the time of hijrah, was divided culturally. It contained three distinct groups: Al-Aws, Al-Khazraj, and the Jews. All three held roughly equal power, with no one being significantly stronger than the other; Medinah had no clear leader who all the groups answered to.

Medinah was not only multi-cultural, but multi-religious! Which brings us to an important discussion: what is the difference between culture and religion, and how do we find a balance bewteen the two?

First, definitions: culture consists of normal actions that people do. For example, it includes the way people in a certain country dress, or what foods they commonly eat.

Religion, in contrast, consists of divine acts of worship from Allah (directly, in the Qur’an) or rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam). Religion, or deen, makes up an encompassing way of life.

Consider, now, the rulings on these two facets. In religious actions, the default ruling is that they are haram, until they are proven acceptable by the shari’ah. This is based on the famous hadith of rasulullah, collected by Imam Nawawi in his famous 40:

مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ مِنْهُ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ

He who innovates things in our affairs for which there is no valid (reason) (commits sin) and these are to be rejected. (Saheeh Muslim)

For culture — normal, every-day actions — the default is that it’s permissible. To support this, rasulullah said:

لا طَاعَةَ لِمَخْلُوقٍ فِي مَعْصِيَةِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

There is no obedience to a created being if it involves disobedience of the Creator. (Ahmed, Haakim)

What kind of proof suffices to prove that an action is imperissble? Mainly two:

  • It doesn’t contradict a muhkam (clear, unambiguous) verse — not a verse that is open for interpretation and difference of opinion; and:
  • It doesn’t contradict any saheeh hadith from the sunnah of rasulullah.

Action Item: Read about natural and religious actions. Acquire a habit of changing your intentions so that you can get rewarded for normal, cultural, every-day actions (like eating and sleeping)!


  • AlKauther: The Victorious One. Taught by Shaykh Alaa Syed. University of Toronto, Toronto, May 2012.
  • AlMaghrib: Code of Scholars. Taught by Muhammad Alshareef. University of Toronto, Toronto, August 2005.
  • AlMaghrib: Light of Guidance. Taught by Yasir Qadhi. University of Toronto, Toronto, May 2006.

Ikhtilaf – I

In the previous post, we introduced the topic of Differences of Opinions. We listed the four ways of categorizing these differences. In this post, we will look at the first category: Differences due to interpretation of word meanings and grammatical constructions.

Within this category, we have several sub categories:

Shared literal meanings/Equivocality/Homonym (Ishtirak):

An example of this would be the word “qur” which means menses as well as the time of purity between menses. This word occurs in 2:228. The scholars thus arrived at two different rulings for the waiting period of divorce. According to those who considered  Qur’ to be the period of purity, the divorce becomes finalized as soon as her third menses have started, while according to those who viewed Qur’ as the actual menses, it is not finalized until her third menses have ended. You can read the details here.

Another example, would be the use of word “nakaha” in surah al-Nisa, verse 4:22, which reads “and marry not women whom your fathers have married”.  Can you find how the word “nakaha” is interpreted differently and the different rulings from it. Post in comments!

Literal and figurative meanings:

An example of this would be the word “lams” that occurs in 4:43. The word is literally used to indicate touching by the hand or the coming in contact of two objects, and figuratively to indicate intimate relation. Hence scholars differed in their interpertation of what does it mean that ablution is nullified on “touching” women as per the verse. Some scholars took the literal meaning while others took figurative meaning. Read the details of the issue here.

Sometimes, the switch between literal and figurative meaning results  from an implied omission or addition (example) of words.

Grammatical meanings:

Certain grammatical constructions may have more than one possible meaning. An example of this would be the verse of whudoo in Surah Maida, where Allah describes washing of hands as “wash your faces and your forearms to( illa ) the elbows”. The word illa in this context, could mean upto and not including elbows or it could include the elbows.  See the details here

These then are the different examples for this category. In the upcoming post, we will Inshallah look at the differences occurring due to hadith narrations.

Action Item:

Find more examples for each category listed above. Post in the comments


May Allah make this series beneficial for us.


Mcdonald, KFC, Moon Sighting…

Muslims, living in the Muslim Countries, generally tend to have limited exposure to Fiqh and its rulings. There is usually one dominant madhab and that’s all people know about. Rarely, if ever, people are exposed to other madahibs. However, the situation for many of us living in west, like Canada, is quite different.

Because of the diversity of muslims, from various countries, cultures and backgrounds, we are exposed to many madhabs. We find many different opinions on a given issue. We see people praying little differently in mosque. When Ramadhan comes, the whole moon sighting debate starts and not to mention the zabiha meat issues.

The question then arises, why do scholars differ? This then would be the topic of these series of posts Inshallah. So let’s get started.  To make it easy for us to understand these difference, scholars usually divide the reasons of differences into various categories and aspects. Here is one such categorization. The differences exists, due to:

  1. Interpretation of word meanings and grammatical constructions
  2. Hadith narrations
  3. Admissibility  of  certain principles
  4. Methods of Qiyas

In the next few posts, we will look at each category one by one.

Action Item:

  1. To get the feeling of some of these difference, skim though some of the fiqh issues in the following books:
  2. Post in the comments, evidences that show that the differences of opinions existed in the time of the Messenger (SAW) and that the differences are inherently bad or evil. (Hint: there is a post on this website, that talks about this)


  • The Evolution of Fiqh by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips

May Allah make this series beneficial for us.


Which Ramadan Opinion Do I Pick?


Sight the moon, and if you cannot, then count the days …

Ramadan is coming, alhamdulillah. Ramadan, a time when all the shayateen are chained up, as the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

Narrated Abu Huraira (radiallahu ‘anhu): Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.”[Saheeh Bukhari, volume 3, book 31, #123]

Ramadan, when people fast all day and pray all night. Ramadan, when we all reach new levels of eman and ihsaan.

Ramadan, a time when, if you live in a country in a western society (like the US, Canada, UK, etc.), there are as many opinions are there are masjids.

So when is Ramadan starting? Why are there so many opinions? How do we pick one–the right one?

Let’s first see why different opinions exist, and whether this is acceptable or not.

The Origin of Difference of Opinion

Difference of opinion existed at the time of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) too. We have lots of narrations about companions differing. For example, this hadith about the battle of Al-Ahzaab:

Narrated Ibn Umar (radiallahu ‘anhumaa): On the day of Al-Ahzab (i.e. Clans) the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “None of you Muslims) should offer the ‘Asr prayer but at Banu Quraiza’s place.” The ‘Asr prayer became due for some of them on the way. Some of those said, “We will not offer it till we reach it, the place of Banu Quraiza,” while some others said, “No, we will pray at this spot, for the Prophet did not mean that for us.” Later on It was mentioned to the Prophet and he did not berate any of the two groups. [Saheeh Bukhari, volume 5, book 59, #445]

Notice, they had the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) with them to make a final decision. And he would. And nobody could question it after that. In this case, he didn’t berate either group.

So difference of opinion is not inherently evil. In fact, in Usool-ul-Fiqh, they quote a hadith:

Narrated ‘Amr bin Al-‘Aas (radiallahu ‘anhu): That he heard Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) saying, “If a judge (aka mujtahid) gives a verdict according to the best of his knowledge and his verdict is correct (i.e. agrees with Allah and His Messenger’s verdict) he will receive a double reward, and if he gives a verdict according to the best of his knowledge and his verdict is wrong, (i.e. against that of Allah and His Apostle) even then he will get a reward .” [Saheeh Bukhari: volume 9, book 2, #450, and Saheeh Muslim: book 18, #4261]

“For the mujtahid (who’s qualified to make ijtihaad) who makes ijtihaad, and comes up with the right answer, he gets two rewards. And for the qualified mujtahid who makes ijtihaad and comes up with the wrong answer, he gets one reward..”

Not nothing. Not one punishment. One reward. BUT! Provided he’s a qualified mujtahid. Imam Shafi’ee has a long list of qualifications for what exactly that means. Bottom line, it doesn’t mean you, or your brothers/sisters/aunts/uncles/grandparents/kittens.

So the gem is, accept difference of opinion. Don’t force people into one opinion. Respect it. And don’t act like everybody is going to Hellfire just becuase they started Ramadan one day after/before you did.

The Methodology for Knowing When Ramadan Starts

Are there opinions about when Ramadan starts? You bet there are. They all stem primarily from one hadith of Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam):

Abu Huraira (radiallahu ‘anhu) reported Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) as saying: Whenever you sight the new moon (of the month of Ramadan) observe fast. and when you sight it (the new moon of Shawwal) break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then observe fast for thirty days. [Saheeh Muslim, book 6, #2378]

This hadith lays out clearly what we should do. Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: sight the moon. That means, physically, sight the moon. With your eyes.

Wait. Your eyes, or the eyes of the guy “down under” in Australia? Check out this ayah:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَى وَالْفُرْقَانِ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَى مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

Translation: The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. [Surah Baqarah, verse 185]

Notice here, as shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimahullah) points out in his fatwa, the verse is conditional–fast if you see it. Notice also, the hadith we quoted earlier–whoever sees the moon should fast. Again, a condition. The condition, then, is valid for whoever it applies to–meaning if YOU see the moon, then YOU fast.

This is, Allahu ‘alam, the strongest opinion; that fasting is city-based, or region-based. So in fiqh, you’ll read about “horizons.” That’s the translation; it means one place where all the people fast the same fast. Usually, in Muslim countries, the whole country fasts together.

And if you can’t sight the moon? It’s cloudy? Then you count 30 days. And by count, some people say, calculate. Count means, you know all Islamic months are 29 or 30 days; so you can count the days of Sha’ban. If they’re 30, then today’s the first of Ramadan. Or if they’re 29, it could be 30th Sha’ban, or 1st Ramadan.

Ok, so we know that ikhtilaf is ok. And we know the proper method; and we know that, even if the proper method is followed, different opinions can be followed. So …

But What Did They do Before?

Wait. You might say, “hey, we used to have an Islamic state, and a real khalifah. How did they decide when to fast?”

The answer is simple. The khalifah calls all the scholars and advisors around. He says, “tell me which opinion you think is the best.” So one says “moon-sighting!” the other says, “no, not that! Calculating!” “No, not that! …” and so on.

And they debate. And it goes back and forth.

And then the khalifah says, “ok, let me think.” He thinks. He considers the evidence. And he says: “For this year, we’re going with this opinion.” [Mentioned by Muhammad Alshareef in Rizq Management]

And it’s decided. And if you start a masjid across the street on a different opinion, you can be whipped. It’s a serious matter. Don’t go against the ummah. [Mentioned in Rizq Management]

As for us, today? We should be like the people before, and acceede to authority once a decision is made.

So Whose Opinion Should we Follow?

Well, there is no khalifah. And as we said, there can be multiple correct opinions. So which do you choose? Who do you follow?

Shaykh Muhammad Alshareef was asked precisely this. And his response was, find a masjid you trust with people of knowledge and taqwa, and follow them. Leave them the difficult, complex, brain-exploding task of looking at different opinions and evidence and choosing what to do.

Why a masjid you trust? Because Allah says, in the Qur’an: “Ask the people of knowledge.” And taqwa is often the fruit of knowledge. So find a masjid where the imam has knowledge, someone you trust, someone who you believe has taqwa, and run with it.

Because, remember, you’re not a mujtahid. Don’t even try to figure out all the opinions. Just make it easy.

And, a final tip: Try and get your family on board with the same opinion. Do this by buying them into the knowledge of the masjid. Or, if you’re The Authority in your house, explain to them why it’s important to be together, take their opinions, and pick a masjid. Together. It’ll be really a sad ‘Eid if half the family has Eid while the other half is fasting.

And finally, what if you’re given two or more equally-trustworthy choices to pick from? How do you choose? At the end, you have to make a decision. So try:

  • Consensus: Go with what the majority of people in your city are doing.
  • Consult: Ask your family members who they want to go with. Most likely they have some preference. If you really are ok with either option, this will probably decide it.
  • Make Istikhara: Allah will not let you down. If you make istikhara, you will never regret your decision insha’Allah.
  • Make du’a: Nothing beats sincere, heartfelt du’a as a means of achieving goals.

We ask Allah to make easy this often tumultuous and emotional time, and to help our ummah understand and implement “unity” in the way that we fast–allahumma ameen.


  • Muhammad Alshareef. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Rizq Management. University of Toronto, Toronto. June 2006

Local or International Sighting?

As yet another Ramadan comes, the question arises? should we follow the opinion of the local moonsighting, or the international moonsighting? Great arguments erupt, people insulting each other left and right, breaking ties, breaking families …

Brothers and sisters, ya Muslims, WAKE UP!! Realize that all the opinions which are backed by the scholars are correct!

What? All of them?

Yes. all of them.

How does that work? In Islam, we have scholars (‘ulama), and we have people who have the knowledge and tools and responsibility to give fatwa (mujtahidoon). For us, the ignorant lay-people, we don’t have the tools or knowledge; we are sinful if we try and make fatwa out of ignorance (even if we’re right–the way a random guy off the street is still liable to be hauled into jail for doing brain surgery, even if he succeeded).

Islamically, the scholars are the ones who determine what exactly Allah wants from us. They wade neck-deep into books and books of Qur’an, tafseer, ahadith, opinions of companions and tabieen, rulings of previous scholars, consensuses of the ummah, and so on. More importantly, they are the ones who determine which opinions are acceptable.

And it’s a tough job. At the end of it, you’re saying, “Allah wants this.” That’s a big statement to make! Don’t take it lightly!

So what about the moonfighting issue? What have the scholars said?

According to the scholars, there are multiple correct opinions about when to start Ramadan. Not just one. More than one. And they all have legitimate proofs.

What are some of the opinions that have scholarly backing?

  • Local moonsighting is correct.
  • International moonsighting is correct.
  • Calculating the dates is correct.

So what does this mean for you and me? What are we supposed to do, if every opinion has some legitimacy?

  • Find people of knowledge and Taqwa, and follow them. Let them do the hard work of determining what’s the best opinion each year, and follow it. Trust them. They have more knowledge, and they have taqwa of Allah; they won’t try and follow their desires.
  • Accept that (almost) every opinion has legitimate scholarly backing. This means that, if someone follows an opinion that’s not yours (and who are you, anyway?):
    • They’re not kaafir
    • They’re not faasiq
    • They’re not sinners
    • Their fast is not invalidated; it’s legitimate.
    • They’re not doing anything haraam
    • They should NOT break their fast and make it up
  • Follow the majority. If 80% of the massajid in your area follow one opinion, and just two or three masjids follow a different opinion, don’t be those two or three masjids.
  • Relax! Chill out! Don’t get so stressed! Take an opinion and run with it; don’t cause stress to yourself, your family, your relatives, your friends. Chill!

And this difference-of-opinion thing? Islamically, with an issue, two people (who have the knowledge and tools and responsibility) make fatwa; the one who’s wrong? He gets one rewards, subhanallah! Not sin! Reward! Why? Because he had the tools and knowledge, and he did his best; even if he’s wrong, he gets reward! And the one who’s right? He gets two rewards!

So RELAX! Enjoy Ramadan! It’s a time of ibadah, a time to turn over a new leaf, a time to pick up new good habits and drop some old bad ones.

Ramadan Mubarak to you and your families!


Muhammad Alshareef. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Rizq Management. University of Toronto, Toronto. June 2006.

Muhammad Alshareef. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Code of Scholars. University of Toronto, Toronto. August 2005.


Understanding Fiqh: Sources of Islamic Law (Pt.7)

Bismillah walhamdolilah wasalatu wasalam ‘ala Rasool Allah

Asalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu,

To continue, last post we discussed the details of the sunnah. We explained how the sunnah is comprised of the saying and actions of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam along with his tacit approvals and that which he left given the need. We also summarized how the sunnah came to explain the Qur’an by detailing rulings which were very general in the Qur’an, by limited what seemed absolute, by affirming what Allah said in the Qur’an, and by bringing rulings which are not directly found in the Qur’an.

This post, I want to quickly touch upon some aspects of the Prophets ijtihaad (reasoned decision) and how he trained his Companions radhiAllah anhum to do as well. We will be discussing this in further detail as we progress in this series, however it is a good time to introduce the concept so we can be ready for it when we talk about it later.

Umm Salamah reported that the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam said:

“I am only a human being, and you bring you disputes to me. Perhaps some of you are more eloquent in their plea than others, and I judge in their favor according to what I hear from them. So, whatever I rule in anyone’s favor which belongs to his brother, he should not take any of it, because I have only granted him a piece of Hell” [Sahih Sunan Abi Dawood]

These decisions were made, based on the Prophet’s own reasoned decision. This personal reasoning represented great training for the Companions radhiAllah anhum in regards to the application of the Sharee’ah.

Ali ibn abi Talib radhiAllah anhu said:

“Allah’s Messenger sent me to Yemen as a judge, so I asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! You are sending me and I am young, and I have no knowledge of giving judgment?’ He replied, ‘Allah will guide your heart and keep your tongue firm (attached to the truth). When two litigants sit before you, do not decide until you have heard what the other has to say the way you heard the first, for it is more suitable for the correct judgment to become clear to you.'” [Sahih Sunan Abi Dawood]

It is also important to note, that ijtihaad is the process of arriving at a reasoned decision to suit new circumstances.We see from the above examples the manner in which the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam trained his Companions radhiAllah anhum in practicing ijtihaad.

This marks the completion of the first stage. A quick summary: Islamic law in the early periods was based upon two primary sources: Qur’an and Sunnah. The basis of the legislations found in the Qur’an and Sunnah is to bring about human reform, to wipe out the evils and make abundant the good. In order to achieve this goal of human reform, laws were enacted which consisted of four principles:

  1. Removal of Difficulties – e.g. The Prophet always chose the easy path, given that the other path was not prohibited.
  2. Removal of Religious Obligations – Allah mentions the prohibited things specifically and the permissions generally to make clear the ease. E.g. animals
  3. Realization of Public Welfare – Laws were enacted to suit circumstances and as conditions changed so did the laws. E.g. the widows mourning period
  4. Realization of Universal Justice – the laws enacted are not for a particular people but for all of mankind. E.g. The Prophet would have cut his own daughters hand off if she stole.

This period marked the beginning of the evolution of fiqh and was the period in which the science of deducing laws from the Qur’an and Sunnah were laid out for the Companions radhiAllah anhum. Next we will begin talking about the second stage, which revolved around the time of the Righteous Caliphs radhiAllah anhum (632 – 661 CE).


Understanding Fiqh: Sources of Islamic Law (Pt. 6)

Bismillah walhamdolilah wasalatu wasalam ‘ala Rasool Allah

Asalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu,

Continuing in our talks about the science of fiqh, today we will look at the sources of Islamic Law.

As we know the sources of Islamic Law depend on two core sources: al-Qur’an and as-Sunnah. These two sources are the basis of which our religion is based upon. One without the under is not Islam, for verily they both go hand in hand. To understand the Qur’an as a source of Islamic Law is not difficult, thus we will not spend time on analyzing that aspect. However, understanding the Sunnah as a source of Islamic Law is one which requires a bit of analysis.

Truly, the status of the Sunnah is in high ranks within Islam. Unfortunately in our times, this important source of Islamic Law is not giving the importance it deserves. In the times which we live in, the Sunnah of our beloved Rasool sallalahu alayhi wasalam is pushed to the side. Many a people neglect to follow aspects of the sunnah, saying “O its only sunnah”. O my beloved brothers and sisters in Islam! Know that the sunnah is a source of guidance and holds great authority in our religion. Without it, we are like those who are lost in the desert without a guide.

The term Sunnah refers to four aspects within the life of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam:

  1. Actions – For example, how the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam prayed.
  2. Sayings/Commands – For example, the Prophet’s saying: “Deeds are judged by intentions”
  3. Tacit Approvals – For example, the Prophet refusing to eat a kind of desert lizard (personal choice) but allowed his companions to eat it.
  4. That which he left given the need – For example, normally for every salat their is a call to prayer (adzaan). However, for the Eid salat there is no call to prayer. Even though the need may have been present the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam did not command for the adzaan to be given for Eid salat. Therefore, it is sunnah to leave the adzaan for Eid salat.

The sunnah can be broken down into the above four broad categories and as Muslims, as believers in Allah azza wa jal, we must follow the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam because Allah says:

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَى

He does not speak from his desires. Verily, it is inspiration which has been revealed. [Suyrah Najm V.3-4]

Allah also says, making very clear the status of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلاً

O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination [Surah Nisa V.59]

Allah makes clear that the believer is one who obeys Allah and obeys the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam. And truly, who would be able to practice Islam without the guidance of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam?

The sunnah is intended to explain the Qur’an. This can be broken down further into four categories:

  1. Sunnah details the summarized – For example, Allah tells us throughout the Qur’an to establish the prayers. We know the value of prayer within our life, we know it to be the second pilliar of Islam. However, if the believers were not required to follow the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam then how would we know how to establish the prayer?
  2. Sunnah limits the absolute – We know that the Islamic punishment, under an Islamic system and state, for thievery to have his/her hands cut off. However, the arabic word ‘hand’ could literally mean from shoulders down, or from the elbows down, or even from the wrist down. However, the sunnah makes clear that the understanding is from the wrists down.
  3. Sunnah affirms the Qur’an – For example, drinking alcohol is prohibited in the religion of Islam as per the words of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala found in the Qur’an. This fact is also affirmed by many ahadeeth of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi waslam.
  4. Sunnah brings rulings not found in the Qur’an – For example, Allah says in the Qur’an that He has made lawful for the believers all good and pure things and forbade for them the bad and evil things. Therefore, whatever is generally good and pure, Allah has made lawful for us. However, an exclusion to this is eating the flesh of domesticated donkeys because it is impure as is mentioned in statements of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam (Sahih Bukhari). Thus, the sunnah brought a ruling not directly stated in the Qur’an

Understanding Fiqh: Foundation Stage (Pt.5)

So far, we have come to realize that Allah azza wa jal revealed the Qur’an to reform human conditions; to take people out of ignorance and darkness and into light. To carry out this purpose laws had to be enacted to make sure the system of Islaam was established perfectly and correctly. Last article we talked about two of the four basic principles relating to Qur’anic revelation. We will continue with the last two now.

3) The Realization of Public Welfare

It is essential to talk about something known as naskh (abrogation) in the Qur’an. Relating to certain issues, verses have been abrogated by Allah to manifest the human welfare conditions in Islamic legislation. Allah azza wa jal may have prescribed certain laws which were suitable to a people at a time of its enactment. However, its suitibility may later dissapear and thus require abrogation.

For example, in regards to the issue of mourning periods:

Initially, the mourning period for a widow was one year and the husband had to include in his will provisions for maintenence and housing for the year. She was unable to leave the house and was unable to get re-married during that year. However, later the waiting period was reduced to four months and ten days and the bequest was cancelled.

Why did it change?

It was the custom of the Arabs at the time to confine widows and prevent them from getting re-married for indefinite periods of time (unfortunately this practice still occurs in parts of the world). And during this time they were obliged to wear the worst of clothes. If the waiting period had been reduced to four months and ten days and the permission to leave the house was granted from the get go the Arabs would have found it difficult and and hesitated accepting it. But in the perfect wisdom of Allah, He revealed laws knowing the conditions of the people and thus making it easier for them to adapt to the Islamic system of life. Thus, we see that naskh contained in it great consideration for human conditions and their welfare.

Even though abrogation ended with the death of our beloved sallalahu alayhi wasalam, legislative consideration of human welfare still existed afterwards because Islamic laws were enacted for reasons which were often mentioned to the Companions radhiAllah anhum.

For example, Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun [Surah Baqarah V. 18]

The concept of abrogation is also evident in the sunnah of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam, for example with the prohibition of visiting grave yards. The Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam said:

“I had forbidden you from visiting graveyards, however, permission has been given to me to visit the grave of my mother. So, visit them, for they do remind one of the next life” [Sahih Muslim]

4) The Realization of Universal Justice

The laws Allah revealed to mankind are general and they are for all of mankind; no distinction between one group or another. Justice is for everyone and it is the job of a true Muslim to provide justice to all people, no matter who they are or what group they belong to.

Of the most beautiful examples of true Islamic justice is found in the seerah of Rasool Allah sallalalahu alayhi wasalam. A women from a very powerful tribe had stolen jewelry and she confessed when the news was brought to the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam. Her tribesmen wasnted to save her from the punishment and from the shame of having the Islamic punishment applied for stealing, so they asked Usaamah ibn Zayd radhiAllah anhu to intercede on her behalf. Usaamah approached the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam to intercede, however upon hearing the words of Usaamah he got very angry and said:

“Do you dare to intercede in one of Allah’s fixed punishements?” Rasool Allah sallalahu alayhi wasalam then gathered the people together and delivered a sermon in which he said: “The people before you were destroyed because they let the nobles fo when they stone, but applied Allah’s punishments on the weak. By Allah! if my own daughter Faatimah stole I would cut off her hand” [Sahih Muslim]

SubhanAllah. Look at the justice of our beloved sallalahu alayhi wasalam. We know that he spoke the truth and was not amongst the liars (far away is he from the claims the ignorant make against him) and for him to take that oath is a sign of true Islamic justice, no matter who it is.

Fundamental Fiqh Principles

From the above conditions, scholars have deduced two fundamental fiqh principles:

“If the benefit for which the law was enacted is continuous, then the law is continuous; but if it changed due to a chance in circumstances, the law must also change”
“Precedence is given to the general welfare over the individual welfare, and to the prevention of greater harm over a small one”

However, it is not the place of a layman to decipher if the benefit is still present or if circumstances have changed. This is the place of a scholar and we consult them and take advice from them because surely they are the inheritors of the prophets, we are not.

To conclude this section, Allah revealed verses of the Qur’an taking into consideration four basic principles: to removal of unneccessary difficulties, to reduce the number religious obligations, the realization of public welfare, and the realization of universal justice.


Understanding Fiqh: Foundation Stage (Pt.4)

As we discussed in the last post, the method of legislation was primarily through the questioning of the Companions radhiAllah anhum to which Allah revealed verses to answer their inquiries or the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam answered them.

Its important to make clear here that the Prophet sallalalahu alayhi wasalam did not speak from his own desires; meaning, that which he answered was a type of revelation and not just from his whims and desires. This is proven in the statement of Allah:

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَى

Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired [ Surah Najm V.3,4]

The Basis of Legislation

The Qur’an was revealed to reform the human conditions of the Arabian Peninusla and ultimately the entire world. Thus, when Islam came it rejected all the evil which was present in the society and accepted all the good. Hence, we see that when Islam came it removed everything which was harmful to society as a whole; for example: fornication, riba (interest), alcohol, etc.

Allah says:

يَأْمُرُهُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَآئِثَ

Who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil [Surah A’raaf V.157]

And so the legislation found in the Qur’an and Sunnah are just enjoining that which is good  and forbidding what is wrong  for entire societies and individuals. This was the reformation that Allah and His Messenger sallalahu alayhi wasalam were calling for and to do this laws had to be enacted.

The basis of Qur’anic revelations lies in four basic principles:

1) The Removal of Difficulty

The system of Islam was revealed for the benefit of man and society. Thus, Allah revealed this system to  remove many of the unneccessary difficulties that plagued the societies then and now.

Allah says:

يُرِيدُ اللّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلاَ يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship [Surah Baqarah V.185]

وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ

He has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty [Surah Hajj V. 78]

2) The Removal of Religious Obligations

Following up from the first point; if Allah wants to make things easy for us, a natural consequence is then a limited amount of religious obligations. Its funny, many us have this notion that there is so much that Allah has forbidden and very little that He has allowed. This is a very false notion once you look into it a bit deeper.  In the Qur’an when Allah prohibits, He prohibits specifically, naming and listing the cases because of how few they are in number. However, in the case of permissions, He gives permission generally because of huge amount of thins which have been made permissible for us.

For example, Allah says:

حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالْدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللّهِ بِهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ

Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah , and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns… [Surah Maa’idah V.3]

The prohibitions are listed. However, in the case of permissions, Allah says:

الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ حِلٌّ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلُّ لَّهُمْ

This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them… [Surah Maa’idah V.5]

As we mentioned already, laws are general in nature and thus do not contain maany details and specifications. This is to place ease for the people and to remove the difficulty. This principle is shown in the following statement of Allah azza wa jal:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَسْأَلُواْ عَنْ أَشْيَاء إِن تُبْدَ لَكُمْ تَسُؤْكُمْ وَإِن تَسْأَلُواْ عَنْهَا حِينَ يُنَزَّلُ الْقُرْآنُ تُبْدَ لَكُمْ عَفَا اللّهُ عَنْهَا وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ

O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if you ask about them while the Quran is being revealed, they will be made plain to you. Allah has forgiven that, and Allah is Oft­Forgiving, Most Forbearing [Surah Maa’idah V. 104]

We see that Allah has made certain things plain and general for ease. However, we have people who like to go deeper into the generalities and make things difficult upon themselves. One of these incidents is found in the seerah of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam when a few companions kept questioning him about whether Hajj was cumpulsory every year. He, sallalahu alayhi wasalam, said:

“If I said yes, it would have have become compulsory. Leave me alone concerning things which I have left upto you, for certainly those before you were destroed because of their many unncessary questions and their arguments and disagreements with their prophets.” [Sahih Muslim]

And so we come to know from the above that Allah legislated laws to remove unneccessary difficulties from society and this also meant difficulties in relation to religious duties.

The 3rd and 4th principle will be discussed in part 5.


Understanding Fiqh: Foundation Stage (Pt.3)

As per the last discussion, the Foundational stages of Fiqh are characterized by the Prophethood of our beloved Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam. It is in the life time of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam that rules, which would govern fiqh for generations to come, were established. These rules were established via the statements of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala found in the Qur’an and also the Sunnah of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam.

The Method of Legislation

The Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam over a period of 23 years. Now, one may think to him/herself: Why wasn’t it just sent completely once? There are many benefits to why Allah azza wa jal chose to reveal the Qur’an in a gradual manner, which is a topic for another article, however some of the benefits relating to the evolution of fiqh are:

  1. To achieve gradation in the enactment of laws – If all the laws were brought down at once to the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam and the Companions radhiAllah anhum it would have been difficult
  2. To make it easily acceptable – If the laws were revealed all at once, the Arab customs would come into a directl clash with that of Islam. Thus, to make it easier upon the people it was revealed over 23 years.
  3. To make it easier to learn and understand – They were witness to the revelation of the Qur’an and thus understood the reasons and context under which it was revealed, making it easier to implement properly

Thus, keeping these benefits in tact we see that sections of the Qur’an were generally revealed to solve problems which confronted the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam and the Companions radhiAllah anhum.

There are a number of examples which can be found throughout the Qur’an:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ قِتَالٍ فِيهِ قُلْ قِتَالٌ فِيهِ كَبِيرٌ وَصَدٌّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَكُفْرٌ بِهِ وَالْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَإِخْرَاجُ أَهْلِهِ مِنْهُ أَكْبَرُ عِندَ اللّهِ

They ask you about the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-îaram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah [Surah Baqarah V.217]

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ كَذَلِكَ يُبيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought. [Surah Baqarah V.219]

The same is also true regarding the Sunnah. The Companions radhiAllah anhum would go to the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam with questions and he would answer them.