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Principles of Fiqh: Its Meanings & Benefits

The principles [usul] of Islamic Jurisprudence [fiqh] deals with the derivation of rulings [ahkam] relating to all matters of worship [‘ibadah], dealings [mu’amalat] or any type of act conducted in this life from the Qur’an and the Sunnah of His Messenger, peace be upon him. In order to do this accurately, a scholar must strictly adhere to certain principles and regulations: a science termed Usul al-Fiqh (the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence). Generally, the study of Usul al-Fiqh incorporates the study of the following four main branches: i) Islamic sources (or evidences) on which all of the ahkam have been based. These are texts of the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah as well as the consensus of the Companions [Sahabah]. This also includes the discussion of proof [adillah], their types and their authority. Some of these adillah are Qiyas, Istihsan, ‘Urf, al-Masalih al-Mursalah, etc ii) rulings and what they mean, their types, what affects them, how they can be applied, and the conditions relating to their use. The types of ahkam refer to obligations [wajib], prohibitions [haram], recommendations (mustahabb), objectionables [makruh] and the sanctioned [mubah] (iii) principles or rules available to the scholars to deduct and deduce ahkam based on the adillah aforementioned and (iv) qualifications and conditions required of the jurists [fuqaha] responsible for the correct application of Usul al-Fiqh. This is sometimes referred to as the conditions of ijtihad.

In his famous book Kashf al-Thunun, the scholar Hajji Khalifah explains that all Islamic ahkam are based on the noble Qur’an and blessed Sunnah, the consensus of the scholars and Qiyas which can be explained as either the ‘comparison with a similar situation where there is an existing law’ or derivation of a ruling using similar logic. All laws explain permissibility of certain actions or behaviours. The support for all laws is derived from the general approach of Islam in all issues whether great or small, therefore, all laws can be traced to major or minor issues. {quotes}Typically, all derived rulings are classified and recorded in order to be able to return to them if a similar situation arises.{/quotes}

The first person who explicitly brought these points to discussion and wrote about them in an academic manner was the learned Imam Shafi’i. By looking at the basis of this science, it becomes apparent how important it is for the study of religion and how we are in need of it, especially today. The science of Usul al-Fiqh helps us to better understand religion. Allah has revealed the Qur’an and Sunnah in order to guide us all through our daily lives as well as to the path that will lead to eternal happiness. Despite the fact that Allah preserved the two Islamic sources of authority from any tampering and falsification, at times people have gone astray because of their misunderstanding of certain verses or ahadith. For example, there is an authentic hadith which states, ‘Whoever dies while he believes that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah will enter paradise.’ Another hadith states, ‘Whoever bears witness that Muhammad is his Messenger will not enter Hell.’ Both of these ahadith are authentic and well supported in the Sunnah. However, some have misinterpreted these ahadith to mean that one’s behaviour and actions are irrelevant and that entry into paradise is guaranteed simply with correct creed. Such grave misinterpretations occur of many other verses and ahadith by people who take the wrong approach to the Shari’ah.

We must keep two fundamental laws in mind with regard to the issue of religion; all laws must be derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah; and the texts of both must be understood correctly based on the premises defined by the scholars. The science of Islamic jurisprudence, as well as deriving laws, is built on a profoundly exhaustive understanding of Qur’anic verses and ahadith. If the people who are misled by the previous ahadith were to make use of the writings of the science of Islamic jurisprudence, they would know that other ahadith compliment the former set of ahadith and further explain them. For example, in response to the rejecters who told the Prophet (peace be upon him) that simply uttering the shahadah (proclamation of faith) without believing in it would allow one to enter into paradise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘One has to say it and have no doubt in his heart about it.’

The science of Usul al-Fiqh elucidates that some ahadith are general and others are specific, some ahadith abrogate, while other ahadith have been abrogated and are no longer referred to as conclusive proof for the establishment of ahkam. The science also explains the exact meanings of certain language usages and styles, the context of certain verses and ahadith, as well as how the Qur’an relates to the Sunnah. All of this helps us to truly understand the Qur’an and Sunnah. Observing the rules of how laws are supported will most certainly protect us from being misled by superficial understandings of the religion. Since the advent of Islam until today, different groups have emerged who misinterpret the meaning of certain parts of the religion because they do not fully understand them and so deviate as a result. Scholars have continuously warned of the danger of such acts. Ibn al-Ma’in said, ‘Literally understanding the words of a hadith or depending on your interpretation will give you incomplete knowledge.’ {quotes}One must look at how verses are supported, and what context and occasion they relate to.{/quotes}

Thus, one of the important uses of the science of Islamic jurisprudence is to help us understand the scriptures of our religion.

Usul al-Fiqh also shows us the path to correct worship. One may argue that this is the main purpose of the science: arriving at the rules which will guide us to happiness in this life and the next. This is important for both the scholars who are qualified to derive the rules and devout Muslims who care to understand the reasoning behind what is either permitted or prohibited in Islam. A basic understanding of the science of Usul al-Fiqh allows the believer a deeper appreciation of the religion and will no doubt reflect upon his manner of worship and his devotion to Allah the Most High. This is from among the reasons as to why this science is one of the noblest disciplines of study.

The science of Usul al-Fiqh provides balanced and moderate views. It provides us with criteria to assess all matters related to religion, enabling us to decide whether certain behaviour or actions are extreme, lenient, whether it is well-supported or whether it is at all part of religion. We are also able to understand how close or distant something is to the rules of the religion based on how much support it has from the scholars, allowing us to take a correct stand. Many groups are extreme in their views, insisting that they solely hold the correct view and all others are outside the boundaries of Islam. Other groups take a converse approach and overlook many of the important Islamic rules and behaviour, considering them peripheral to the essence of Islam. {quotes}The science of Usul al-Fiqh allows us to correctly prioritise all matters and come out with moderate and correct views that do not go against our religion.{/quotes}

A recurrent example of the danger of abandoning the laws of this science occurs today. Many men of religion have issued rulings [fatawa] allowing Muslims to have financial dealings with banks that define interest rates, with the excuse that this is today’s necessities about which we can do nothing. Others have given outrageous flexibility to Muslims living in the West, ruling that the five daily prayers can be offered simultaneously. Many well meaning people hear such fatawa and take them to be correct, following them without any contest. Usul al-Fiqh would enable us to correctly define what necessity is and prevent us from falling into such dangerous pitfalls.

The science of jurisprudence allows us to find a correct model to follow. Armed with the correct tools and procedures for assessment support and rules, we would be able to decide which models of behaviour to follow. This applies to scholars and generally all Muslims who wish to take the correct path. The previously discussed dangers of following sporadic rulings take place because people do not know how to assess conflicting opinions. Thus they fall prey to all manner of views that seem to originate from a religious source.

The science of jurisprudence also allows us to distinguish between what is authentically from the blessed Prophet and what is just meaningless innovation. Many people who feel they are devoted to religion, particularly those who are young, assume that all authentic ahadith are a Sunnah, which should be followed and anything besides that is an innovation that should be disregarded. This has led them to go against other agreed upon areas of the Sunnah, the result being that different groups with conflicting views have formed and created much confusion. These groups have even gone further to denounce all those who do not accept their understanding of the Sunnah. Other equally mistaken groups depend on what they take to be common sense and reject certain ahadith and rules, claiming that they do not make sense, such as the issues of physical Jihad, slavery and other issues. In effect, all of these are the bitter outcomes of abandoning the rules of such as important science.

Most people need Usul al-Fiqh in order to understand how to formulate questions related to religious issues as well as knowing who to ask these questions. Many people today hold the position of issuing religious rules such as a mufti, though they are not qualified to do so. {quotes}Some of us assume that anybody who is gifted at reciting the holy Qur’an, delivering the sermon [khutbah] on Friday, or somebody who seems to be particularly knowledgeable is the right person to be asked about Islamic rulings on certain matters.{/quotes}

We may see someone as flexible and ask their opinion, thereafter seeking an opinion from somebody else on the same subject, and then consequently feel lost between the two. This science enables people to assess the opinions and views of those those that are questioned, and make a proper selection of who to ask. Fundamental principles of this science should be basic to the learning of one’s religion for it qualifies the person to learn and practice their deen in the correct way.

There are several other uses and needs for Usul al-Fiqh. It enables us to assess the knowledge of different scholars and understand their different areas of expertise. Grouping all individuals in the field of religion into one blurs the different areas of study and results in great confusion when we have to decide on whom to ask about specific topics. Studying Usul al-Fiqh will enable us to distinguish between the scholars of language, hadith, Qur’an, Islamic history and all the other fields of religious interest. Turning to unqualified people for advice may give them the impression that they are knowledgeable in all fields, which may result in ascribing responsibility and authority to scholars who hold neither of the two in that respective field. Once we are aware of the basics of this science, we will be able to control such matters and respond appropriately to such confusion. Another useful outcome of studying this science is that we will be able to comprehend issues of religion faster and thus learn more. We will also learn the methods of accurate expression, organised thought, logical argument and strong support. We will also understand the importance of open-mindedness toward those who hold opposing views as long as they are well supported.

 

 

Notes:
Source: www.islam21c.com

About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

23 comments

  1. as salaam alaykum,

    I just saw your article and I have a few questions.

    Is it a necessity for a person to learn usul al fiqh in order to follow the religion properly?
    Like, would it be impossible for a person to read quran and hadith and follow whatever he/she reads?

    Did the Prophet (s) teach usul al fiqh or is this something the scholars introduced?

    I do not actually understand this. It is not possible for every muslim to study usul al fiqh or find scholars. Some of us do not have that ability.

  2. Refutations
    Assalamu Alaykum,

    Just a q for MN and muslim, why is it so necessary that you have to try and refute eachother? Can’t an article, that doesn’t really have anything grossly wrong with it, be left alone?

    If you think it’s missing something, write your own and I’m sure i21c would post it up if its any good. Otherwise, have a bit of husn udh dhann for eachother and spare us the refutations please.

  3. SubhaanAllah!
    Everyone seems to be a scholar these days. Perhaps we should learn the deen from the brothers who have posted replies as opposed to Sheikh Haitham??
    Ridiculous!

  4. Understanding
    The Messenger of Allah(SAW) said:
    Whoever Allah wants good for, he gives him understanding of the Deen – May Allah give us all understanding of the Deen.

  5. Response to MN and AM – part 2
    Also, first the article quotes:

    In ‘Kashf al-Thunun, the scholar Hajji Khalifah explains that all Islamic ahkam are based on the noble Qur’an and blessed Sunnah, the consensus of the scholars and Qiyas which can be explained as either the ‘comparison with a similar situation where there is an existing law’ or derivation of a ruling using similar logic’.

    Then it goes on to quote:

    “Ibn al-Ma’in said, ‘Literally understanding the words of a hadith or depending on your interpretation will give you incomplete knowledge.’ “

    Perhaps unintentionally, this promotes the false notion that everyone who advocates the emphasis on the revelation is a literalist. We know that the literalists were only those who denied Qiyas and were also not considered to be from the Sunni Jurists in the end due to this since it goes against what the companions were upon. Those who profess views such as :

    ‘‘correct understanding and stances are taken when reference is made to the complete revelation together and not isolated portions of it as the article indicates with the example of the testification of faith. Also, it can be strongly argued that the approach of the companions was exactly this; inter-textual reading of the complete sources at hand and then the use of analogy of (should be if) the explicit answer to the problem was not found in the reading of the sources’

    are surely not deserving of the literalist label. Rather it would seem that the above methodology is what we both agree upon when it comes to deriving Ahkam. You would like to call it Usul al-Fiqh in a literal sense yet I would disagree since Usul al-Fiqh has a different connotation and carries a different meaning to what you intend, rather I would refer to it as the foundation in understanding the religion; Usul Fahm ad-din.

  6. Response to MN and AM – part 1
    Bros AM and MN,

    If its not from the divine then its from the creation, there is no third category. I have never said that everything in the books of Usul is based on other than the revelation but there is a lot that is thus its masters such as al-Ghazzali, al-Juwainiy and al-Razi, may Allah have mercy on them, went astray on fundamental issues.

    I previously mentioned (in my second e-mail), ‘If you are using Usul al-Fiqh to refer to correct understanding of the revelation then in actual fact you are not referring to the science itself at all, since in the science there is that which is sound and that which is incorrect’.

    At that time, MN, you did not comment on this nor accept it. I’m glad now you have come to such a conclusion from which we can agree rather than disagree. The discussion was clearly never about whether there was a prescribed method for deriving ahkam at all, clearly there is as I previously said (in my first e-mail),

    ‘correct understanding and stances are taken when reference is made to the complete revelation together and not isolated portions of it as the article indicates with the example of the testification of faith. Also, it can be strongly argued that the approach of the companions was exactly this; inter-textual reading of the complete sources at hand and then the use of analogy of (should be if) the explicit answer to the problem was not found in the reading of the sources’.

    MN: ‘Please keep in mind that throughout the discussion I have used the term usul al-fiqh, not as a ‘school’ but as a method (ie. I have used the term usul al-fiqh in its literal sense), and thus it seems to me that you have no qualm with the idea of ‘principles of extracting ahkaam (Usul al-fiqh)’ but the method in which it is done’.

    Bros, the discussion was on the article. The article makes reference throughout to ‘the science of Usul al-Fiqh’. A science is a codified entity. Thus, the article is not referring to what you call the literal sense of usul al-fiqh but rather what is present in the books of Usul currently. If it referred to a method, it would say the scientific method as is said about science and scientific methodology.

    ‘we are in agreement (I assume) that principles are needed (which should be stipulated by Qur’an,sunnah and fahm as-salaf) by which to deduce Ahkaam. In the case of the deduction of ahkaam without these principles in place, the one deducing laws may make grave errors due to his/her lack of knowledge concerning how nusoos should be used and applied’.

    Yes we are but the article you have been defending says:

    ‘We must keep two fundamental laws in mind with regard to the issue of religion; all laws must be derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah; and the texts of both must be understood correctly based on the premises defined by the scholars’.

    Note the use of ‘premises defined by the scholars’, it leaves the reader with the notion that these premises in Usul al-Fiqh are all correct and regulate the revelation. Scholars is not confined to the companions either but taking this statement along with ‘the science of Usul al-Fiqh’ opens the methodology (of understanding the religion) up to everything the scholars have said in the books of Usul al-Fiqh whether it agrees or contradicts the companions. The article does not convey the weighing up of what scholars have said to the methodology Allah prescribed for us to understand the revelation. It rather promotes the science of Usul (what is prescribed in the books) as the (correct infallible) methodology.

  7. Point 2
    Brother Muslim,

    Your 2nd point seems to be rather contradictory, in that you say that ‘methods for deriving ahkam are not dependent on the principles in the books of a science’ which I assume you mean usul al-fiqh, but that ‘principles stipulated in the revelation and the approach of the companions are what should be the focus’. However, as Am questioned, if the fundamentals of fiqh (usul al-fiqh)are NOT based on the Qur’an and sunnah, then what are they based on? Please keep in mind that throughout the discussion I have used the term usul al-fiqh, not as a ‘school’ but as a method (ie. I have used the term usul al-fiqh in its literal sense), and thus it seems to me that you have no qualm with the idea of ‘principles of extracting ahkaam (Usul al-fiqh)’ but the method in which it is done. This is a different subject in and of itself and thus one in which we need not delve. But for the moment we are in agreement (I assume) that principles are needed (which should be stipulated by Qur’an,sunnah and fahm as-salaf) by which to deduce Ahkaam. In the case of the deduction of ahkaam without these principles in place, the one deducing laws may make grave errors due to his/her lack of knowledge concerning how nusoos should be used and applied.

  8. MN = Maajid Nawaz? ex-HT

  9. Brother muslim,

    Your point 2 seems quite confusing, and is at the heart of the apparent disagreement here. Are you implying that the principles of the books of usul are not derived from principles in revelation and the approach the sahabah took to deriving rulings?

    Where else are they derived from if not from the revelation and sahabah?

  10. Brother Rashid,

    As for 1:
    The point was, one can make Ijtihad without knowing the principles as they are detailed in the books of Usul and obviously rejecting those that contradict and oppose the revelation.

    2:
    The whole discussion has been about the fact that the methods for deriving ahkam are not dependent on the principles in the books of a science which contains benefit and harm, but rather the principles stipulated in the revelation and the approach of the companions are what should be the focus.

  11. ‘If one had the understanding of Umar yet knew nothing of the principles layed down in the books of Usul could he make Ijtihad?’

    1.But does anyone have that type of understanding?
    2.Even though usool al fiqh did’nt exist during Omar’s time a science, I’m sure he was aware of methods to be used when deriving ahkaam.

  12. Brother MN,

    ‘My main disagreement to your argument is the view that fundamentals are not needed in order to formulate fiqh’

    This is not what I stated at all. What I in fact was saying was that these fundamentals are looking at all the revelation when dealing with any issue and all the sayings of the companions. This is the fundamental approach of the companions especially Abu Bakr and Umar whom the the Messenger specifically ordered us to follow. Also, this approach is the judge over the current premises of Usul al-Fiqh and the framework within which Usul al-Fiqh must operate so that it supports the truth. Your statement, ‘usul al fiqh exists in an attempt to maintain a standard (true to say by a scholars opinion) according to the Qur’an and sunnah’ shows that you actually agree with me in this.

    ‘It seems to me that you have not understood either my point or the point of Shaikh Haitham, Usul al fiqh is not meant to replace the Qur’an or sunnah in ANY WAY. I am not even saying that it is needed to understand the Qur’an – my point is that in order to FORMULATE fiqh one needs to work to specific principles which are based on the Qur’an and sunnah’.

    I disagree, in the article it is clearly stated, ‘The science of jurisprudence allows us to find a correct model to follow’, thus, the governor according to the article is Usul and not the entire revelation as a whole understood through the interpretation of the companions. This is one example and the article throughout seems to promote this view.

    Umar’s Ijtihad was based on a comprehensive and complete reading and understanding of the texts in their relevant contexts and then analogy based upon this where necessary. An undisputable fundamental, we don’t need Usul to know this but explicit narrations dictate it to us do they not?

    ‘As for usul al fiqh being difficult for certain students to grasp, I don’t think this qualifies as a valid reason to demote the science.’

    The point was, because the deen is for all; the learned and the nomad, fundamentals core to understanding the religion must be within the capacity of all. This is not the case with Usul.

    ‘a balanced approah – focus on the Qur’an and sunnah, but when studying fiqh (in relation to the Qur’an and sunnah), take into consideration certain fundamentals’.

    Thus, focus is on the revelation as a judge over what the sciences produce? These fundamentals are they from the Quran, Sunnah and companions or are they from another source?

    The article does not seem to show this balance but from what I understood from it there was a over glorification and praise of a science and neglect of the falsehood that exists within the science as it is today such that one could easily think that current Usul governs the revelation and not the other way round (revelation in a complete sense).

    It was surprising for me to find such an article from Shaikh Haitham because I know his veneration of the Book and Sunnah and that he does put principles to the revelation test as a principle. The qualm is with what was presented in this article and the manner in which it was written.

  13. Brother Muslim,

    It seems that we are neither on the same page nor have we understood each others argument correctly. If this is due to me than I apologise, and any comments made where not intended to abuse my brothers.

    My main disagreement to your argument is the view that fundamentals are not needed in order to formulate fiqh (if this is indeed what you were saying). Of course many scholars from different sects have attempted to define their own fundamentals which we as ahlus sunnah have rejected, thus I named Ash Shafi’i as he has set an acceptable standard within ahlus sunnah. The people of knowledge do indeed make mistakes and for that reason we follow what is correct and pass by that which is doubtful. However, going back to my point, usul al fiqh exists in an attempt to maintain a standard (true to say by a scholars opinion) according to the Qur’an and sunnah.

    Brother it seems to me that you have not understood either my point or the point of Shaikh Haitham, Usul al fiqh is not meant to replace the Qur’an or sunnah in ANY WAY. I am not even saying that it is needed to understand the Qur’an – my point is that in order to FORMULATE fiqh one needs to work to specific principles which are based on the Qur’an and sunnah. As for Umar bin Khattab, he did’nt necessarily use usul al fiqh in its contemporary sense, but certainly undertook ijhtihad according to certain principles. As for usul al fiqh being difficult for certain students to grasp, I don’t think this qualifies as a valid reason to demote the science.

    I understand your qualm in reference to too much importance being placed on Islamic sciences, often to the detriment of one’s focus on knowledge of the Qur’an and sunnah. But this is a problem two ways – either too much focus is on the science, or none at all which leads to a fatwa fest. The best way inshallah (which I believe Shaikh Haitham in discussing) is to have a balanced approah – focus on the Qur’an and sunnah, but when studying fiqh (in relation to the Qur’an and sunnah), take into consideration certain fundamentals.

    And Allah knows best

  14. Part 2

    Brother MN,

    My statement, ‘Developing the skills in supporting opinions with evidence can be learnt through Usul al-Fiqh and also through other more general sciences such as critical thinking’ qualifies itself; skills in supporting opinions with evidence is a task similar in all sciences and Usul al-Fiqh specifies it to Islam. Al-Shafi, rahimahullah, the great scholar of immense intellect not only used these skills in religion but in poetry, puzzles and general speech.

    Your statement, ‘Scholars of the highest eminence such as Imam Ash Shaafi’i and many others wrote books on usul al fiqh, yet according to you anyone who has studied critical thinking can do the trick! I bet Ash Shafi’i wished somebody had told him that before he wrote Ar-Risaalah!’ although witty and humorous is not what I said, meant or even implied. Let me lay it clarify so you don’t misunderstand again:
    Usul al-Fiqh is the use of the skill in supporting opinions with evidence specifically in Islam. It is the refinement of these process within the Islamic context.

    Your presumptions on my Usul are exactly that, presumptions. Perhaps the one who only has an inclining of Usul will state that concerning the one who has some depth, and perhaps the wise one will make the same comment of one who is ignorant. Who is who is for Allah to judge. My concern is the truth and not to prove my depth and lack there of. If I am mistaken correct me, and if I am right accept it, don’t abuse your brothers when trying to correct them when their only desire is to reach the truth. Never would I dream of disrespecting the scholars of Islam, yet the truth is more beloved.

    ‘And ask the people of remembrance (exegetes have stated this means knowledge) if you do not know’. Haafidh Ibn Hajar Al Asqalaani et al stated that ‘Ahl azh zhikr’ in this verse refers to the scholars of Islam, specifically those individuals able to exercise Ijhtihad. And as we know, in order to exercise Ijhtihad one must be proficient in usul al-fiqh as well as a number of other sciences.’

    People of knowledge in the verse does not mean those who know the principles of what is termed Usul al-Fiqh today, rather it refers to those who understand the revelation like the companions did. If one had the understanding of Umar yet knew nothing of the principles layed down in the books of Usul could he make Ijtihad? Would he be from Ahl al-Dhikr?

    Again the revelation in its entirety is the solution and not a science which contains premises which are true and those which are false is the answer. Not a simple reading, rather an inter-textual and comprehensive one that accounts for the differences held by the companions and those that are similar in nature and basis. This was the approach taken by al-Shafi, he tried to simplify it with principles for the ummah, yet the science is not as Shafi left it nor as he intended it to be.

    Your statement: ‘The drive should be on learning the revelation; Quran, Sunnah and the sayings and understanding of the companions rather than any secondary science.’ And I believe this is an extremely dangerous view’ worries me. This is what all that emanates from the scholars is subject to as revealed by Allah; ‘If they believe as you (the Prophet and his companions) believe then they are rightly guided’ [al-Baqarah: 137]. This does not disregard scholarship nor expertise but rather provides a measure by which to evaluate what is said against that which Allah has ordered to accept without question. No-one after the companions and no science that contradicts what they have said is pleasing to Allah, He is the One who is pleased with their understanding and application of the religion and He is the One who made it an authority over all else. So to please Him is to accept the authority that He Himself has appointed.

  15. Part 1

    Brother MN,

    The purpose of Usul al-Fiqh is to create a paradigm within which the revelation should be understood. Thus, the science will affect the revelation completely as it will sway it one way or another, if the premises that the science sets forth are true then the whole science will aid the truth, if not then the science will force the revelation to submit to falsehood. Thus, if Usul al-Fiqh is the paradigm from which we view the revelation it becomes more powerful than the revelation itself since the paradigm dictates what the revelation means and not the other way round.

    Imam Shafi (rahimahullah) layed down, to the best of his knowledge, a paradigm which conformed to the entire revelation, accepting everything authentic that he knew of and thus tried to set out guidelines so that those who came after him could follow the method employed by the companions in understanding and applying the revelation.

    As the science of Usul al-Fiqh developed prominent masters of this science; due to their adopting a particular ideology in understanding the revelation; Mutazili, Ashari etc refined this science to interpret the revelation in accordance to this doctrine; whether it be in the issues of creed or jurisprudence the underlying principles of doctrines foreign to Islam were maintained and thus affected the approach to all rulings derived rulings from the revelation e.g al-Ghazali and al-Razi. Thus rulings and interpretations of Islam were reached which are not as the article states concerning rulings based on Usul al-Fiqh: ‘balanced and moderate’ rather they were erroneous and foreign to Islam; especially in the matters of faith. Can a science that allows you to reinterpret the revelation on issues pertaining to the foundations of faith incorrectly, truly be as the article states, salvation from ‘Conflicting views and extremities’. Can such a science then comprehensively distinguish between ‘what is authentically from the blessed Prophet and what is just meaningless innovation’ as the article posits? Can it truly then be so important that after learning it matters of confusion will controlled and responded to appropriately as the article sates? If masters of the science died recanting what they had espoused throughout their lives, surely it looks as if such a conclusion at the least is doubtful e.g. al-Ghazzali and al-Razi.

    This science and its regulations were never a requisite and endorsed science for all Muslims in the early years of Islam. Many students in the Islamic universities of the world today find the science difficult and beyond them.

    The true fundamentals in understanding the religion are taken from explicit and unequivocal references in the revelation and not from much of the mental gymnastics that is involved in this science; some of which is beneficial and some of which is erroneous and even blameworthy i.e. ilm al-kalaam.

    If you are using Usul al-Fiqh to refer to correct understanding of the revelation then in actual fact you are not referring to the science itself at all, since in the science there is that which is sound and that which is incorrect. One realizes the correctness of the principles within this science when they contradict that which is in the revelation. If you, however, use the principles to govern the revelation then obviously this will never occur.

  16. PLease
    I think it is unfortunate that Shaykh Haytham does not teach more clases more often. We could all benefit from his vast knowledge.

  17. Wrong argument in the wrong place
    I very nicely written radd (refutation) by MN!!

  18. In defence of Usul Al-Fiqh Part 2
    You also state that ‘The drive should be on learning the revelation; Quran, Sunnah and the sayings and understanding of the companions rather than any secondary science.’ And I believe this is an extremely dangerous view. The Qur’an and Sunnah are the sources of authority in Islam and are the primary sources of authority in shari’ah, and therefore, no one contradicts the fact that we should strive to acquaint ourselves with the revelations. However, the purpose of studying the Qur’an and Sunnah in any depth is in order to understand them (fiqh) and apply them in everyday life. Should we then randomly apply them or apply them in the way the salaf did? To learn the science of usul al-fiqh is to correctly understand how to apply the Qur’an and Sunnah as the salaf did, instead of formulating half thought out and contradictory ideas which will only bring about harm. The abandonment of usul al-fiqh by many groups has led to much confusion as the sheikh states ‘Many people who feel they are devoted to religion, particularly those who are young, assume that all authentic ahadith are a Sunnah, which should be followed and anything besides that is an innovation that should be disregarded. This has led them to go against other agreed upon areas of the Sunnah, the result being that different groups with conflicting views have formed and created much confusion. These groups have even gone further to denounce all those who do not accept their understanding of the Sunnah.’ We see this problem among many people who claim to only follow the Qur’an and Sunnah. As a result, they quote random verses and hadith unknowing that these specific verses or traditions were abrogated. Additionally, they fight against those who follow schools of thought and cling to certain scholars, yet they hypocritically do the same.

    Another problem which has arisen among some extreme sects is that they repeatedly chant ‘Qur’an and sunnah’ like a mantra, but now nothing about both. Their rigid dogmatism forces them to disavow anybody who does not follow their points of fiqh, although what is meant by following the salaf as saalih unilaterally is in terms of aqidah (creed). The salaf as saalih differed in their opinions in relation to fiqh as is evident when looking at differences between Al-Awza’ee, Malik ibn Anas, Ath-Thawree, Laith ibn Sa’ad and others – indeed even the sahabah differed in fiqhi issues.

    As with any piece of writing, please evaluate it on the premise it is written, in this circumstance it was written to discuss the science of usul al-fiqh and its benefits. The article (which I believe is self evident) was not written to discuss the position the Qur’an and Sunnah holds (although Sh. Haitham does mention this) nor to relegate the importance of scripture. And even when scripture is referred to, it is in the light of usul al-fiqh. Similarly if an article is written which discusses Mustalah al Hadith, you would evaluate it as a paper which explores the science of authentificating prophetic tradition and not something which is attempting to relegate the status of understanding the blessed ahaadeeth. In effect, we should not confuse the matter being discussed.

    I apologise for the length of the comment
    Wa Jazakallahu khair

  19. In defence of Usul Al-Fiqh Part 1
    Brother Muslim,

    I believe that either you have not understood the shaikh’s point or you have not understood the purpose of usul al fiqh.

    You wrote ‘The article paints the picture that the solution to all the misunderstandings and ideological and judicial problems can be solved with a greater understanding of and adherence to the science of Usul al-Fiqh.’ No it doesn’t. The main address of the article is not ‘misunderstandings and ideological and judicial problems’ but as the title suggests – it discusses the science of usul al-fiqh in relation to its meanings and benefits, and consequently one of the benefits of this science is that it aids in clarifying misunderstandings and problems.

    You go on further to write: ‘The basis of the religion is not this science but rather the revelation; Quran and Sunnah, and as the two order with the following of the companions in their approach and understanding, to and of, the religion then this can be counted as the correct approach and understanding of the sources…The science of usul al-Fiqh requires the revelation and without it becomes futile…Usul al-Fiqh is not a judge over the revelation so should not be treated as such…’. Your opinions reveal your underlying implications that sh. Haitham has offered usul al-fiqh as a more important section of study than the Qur’an and the sunnah, yet you have disregarded his point that ‘Allah has revealed the Qur’an and Sunnah in order to guide us all through our daily lives as well as to the path that will lead to eternal happiness. Despite the fact that Allah preserved the two Islamic sources of authority from any tampering and falsification, at times people have gone astray because of their misunderstanding of certain verses or ahadith.’ Thus he is not implying that the science is more important than the Qur’an, but that attempting to formulate Islamic law (shari’ah) can be problematic without knowledge of certain principles.

    This point in itself refutes many aspects of your argument and it lays a number of premises:
    1.Although this article has been posted to be read by everybody, by implication it is directed at those individuals who attempt to become overnight faqeeh’s (jurists) who assume a basic reading and understanding of the Qur’an and sunnah is sufficient to formulate one’s own fiqh.
    2.Although the general message, wisdom and guidance of the Qur’an can be understood by all, deeper understandings of the shari’ah are usually held by the scholars, not ‘the Bedouin of the desert and the greatest intellectual in existence’. Allah states in the Qur’an: ‘And ask the people of remembrance (exegetes have stated this means knowledge) if you do not know’. Haafidh Ibn Hajar Al Asqalaani et al stated that ‘Ahl azh zhikr’ in this verse refers to the scholars of Islam, specifically those individuals able to exercise Ijhtihad. And as we know, in order to exercise Ijhtihad one must be proficient in usul al-fiqh as well as a number of other sciences.
    3.The fact that you said ‘Developing the skills in supporting opinions with evidence can be learnt through Usul al-Fiqh and also through other more general sciences such as critical thinking’ displays a lack of understanding on your part in regards to the principles of fiqh. Scholars of the highest eminence such as Imam Ash Shaafi’i and many others wrote books on usul al fiqh, yet according to you anyone who has studied critical thinking can do the trick! I bet Ash Shafi’i wished somebody had told him that before he wrote Ar-Risaalah!

  20. Firstly we pray that Allah rewards the sheikh for his efforts and grants him the best of what he intended with these words.

    The article paints the picture that the solution to all the misunderstandings and ideological and judicial problems can be solved with a greater understanding of and adherence to the science of Usul al-Fiqh. This science however is not a perfect one and is subject to change and refinement. The basis of the religion is not this science but rather the revelation; Quran and Sunnah, and as the two order with the following of the companions in their approach and understanding, to and of, the religion then this can be counted as the correct approach and understanding of the sources. As for all the sciences like usul al-Fiqh they are principles derived from an inter-textual reading of the sources to provide guidelines in a particular area of Islamic knowledge. These principles themselves require justification from the sources of Islam and must not contradict any part of those sources since they are not of the same calibre and strength of the sources themselves.

    The science of usul al-Fiqh requires the revelation and without it becomes futile. The revelation however, due to the fact it is for the Bedouin of the desert and the greatest intellectual in existence, is in need of nothing else. Rather, correct understanding and stances are taken when reference is made to the complete revelation together and not isolated portions of it as the article indicates with the example of the testification of faith. Also, it can be strongly argued that the approach of the companions was exactly this; inter-textual reading of the complete sources at hand and then the use of analogy of the explicit answer to the problem was not found in the reading of the sources.

    Detecting erroneous rulings, edicts and opinions relies on a thorough investigation of the revelations reference to the issue at hand first and foremost. Most people, especially in the west, in the midst of communication technologies and research facilities in all fields, stems from not a lack of knowledge in Usul al-Fiqh, but rather the lack of striving, within ones capabilities, to ascertain the truth and rather relying upon what sounds good and is pleasing and easy to do.

    Developing the skills in supporting opinions with evidence can be learnt through Usul al-Fiqh and also through other more general sciences such as critical thinking. The revelation however has no substitute, equivalent or similar.

    The drive should be on learning the revelation; Quran, Sunnah and the sayings and understanding of the companions rather than any secondary science. This is the first step to be capable of analyzing the validity of sayings and practices. Unfortunately as we all know mere familiarity with the sources is a rare thing today let alone learning them.

    It is known that using Usul does not prevent from erroneous and misguided opinions; especially when the reference point is not the actual text of the revelation but rather a premise such as, rational thought and logic takes precedence of textual references or the presumed spirit of the law takes precedence over the actual textual wording.

    Usul al-Fiqh is not a judge over the revelation so should not be treated as such. It can be helpful to those who have a comprehensive grasp of the revelation of the sources first and foremost. To connect the people to a science such as this before a comprehensive familiarity with the revelation opens the door to even more misunderstandings and confusion. Yet with this tool the confusion can be even more deeply ingrained and more difficult to treat.

  21. Insightful
    Jazakallahu khairan ya sheikh. An insightful article.

  22. does shaykh Haitham al haddad teach usul alfiqh anywhere in london?

  23. mashallah, the fawaa’id are amazing

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