Virtues of Basic Knowledge of Fiqh and Shariah

Iyad Hilal

One of the important causes of Muslims deterioration is the lack of knowledge of even the simple and basic laws
of Islam. Even those who have read books of collections of Ahaadith and have studied the Quran extensively are
ignorant of many fundamental Aqaid {canons} of Islam. In this section our intention is to aquaint our readers with
the basic Islamic Laws because the correctness of our deeds does depend upon knowledge and understanding of
these laws.

The term FIQH means knowledge of all the Islamic Laws {Shari'ah}. It also means the Knowledge of the sources
from where the Islamic Laws {Shari'ah} have been extracted.

The term SHARI'AH means all of the Islamic Laws. For a practicing Muslim it is also necessary to understand that there are 4 basic sources that the Shari'ah is derived. {1} The Holy Quran {2} Sunnah {3} Ij'ma {consensus} of the Companions {Sahabah} may Allah be pleased with them all. {4} Qiyas {Analogical deduction}. These laws are not just laws limited to areas covering marriage or divorce; rather, the Islamic laws cover every action performed by an individual or a society. The term is also a synonym for Fiqh. This particular issue shall deal with a disturbing trend among Muslims in considering the 4 Madhahib { Maaliki, Hanifi, Shafai, Hambali} as a source of disunity among Muslims. They are claiming that Taqleed {following a Mujtahid's Ijtehad without comprehending the Daleel (evidence)} is not necessary; {by not following the 4 Madhahib} claims are made, we shall recapture Muslim Unity. Our duty is to present to our readers matters & Dalail {evidence} according to the Shari'ah and leave you to decide merits & demerits of this new movement. In order to first understand and follow this very important issue we need to understand the meaning of the word "Ijtehad" & "Mujtahed".

Meaning of Ijtihad.

Ijtihad is derived from the root word Jahada. Linguistically, it means striving or self exertion in any activity which
entails any measure of hardship. As a juristic term, Ijtihad means exhausting all of one's efforts in studying a problem
thoroughly and seeking a solution for it from the sources of the Shariah.

A person who performs Ijtihad is a Mujtahid; whereas, a person who knows the rules of Shariah in detail, but is unable
to extract rules directly from their sources, is not a Mujtahid but rather a Faqih, Mufti, or a Qaadi.

The text of Quran and Sunnah which are Qatai (conclusive) in meaning provide only one understanding. Any ljtihad on
these types of text will render only one meaning. The texts related to issues such as Riba or murder are clear in their
prohibition of these things. No Mujtahid can claim that Riba or murder is allowed because the text only offers one

The issues related to the Aqeedah (belief) are based on AdiUa Qataiya (decisive evidences) and there is only one correct understanding for it, not several. Thus, no Mujtahid can deduce another Aqeedah (belief) of Islaam. There is only one correct view in regards to these matters and anyone who differs from it is a Kafir.

8.1 Qualifications for performing Ijtihad

The Mujtahid must be a Muslim male or female of sound mind who has attained a high level of intellectual competence.

    Since the text of the Quraan and Sunnah were revealed in the Arabic language, ljtihad can only be performed based
    on the Arabic text. One must have knowledge of the Arabic language to the extent that it enables a correct
    understanding of the Quran and the Sunnah. A complete command in Arabic is not a requirement for some kinds of
    Mujtahideen, but the Mujtahid must, at least, know the fine points of the language related to the subject at hand. He
    must also be able to comprehend the sources accurately and deduce the rule from them.

    The Mujtahid also needs to be knowledgeable of the Quran, the Makki and the Madini contents of the Quraan, the
    occasion of their revelation (Asbab al Nuzul) and must have a full grasp of the legal contents of the Quraan, but not
    necessarily of the narratives and parables of the Quran and its passages relating to the Hereafter. The knowledge of
    the Ayat ul Ahkam (verses regarding rules) includes knowledge of the related commentaries (Tafsir) with special
    reference to the Sunnah and the views of the Sahabah (raa) related to the subject at hand.

    The Mujtahid must possess an adequate knowledge of the Sunnah, especially the part relating to his Ijtihad and be
    familiar with the rulings of the Sunnah. The Mujtahid must also know the incidents of abrogation in the Sunnah and
    the reliability of the narrators of the Hadith.

    He must have knowledge of Usul al Fiqh so that he will be acquainted with the procedures for extracting the rulings
    from the text and the implications.

    The Mujtahid should be aware of the different opinions of different Mujtahideen, if any exists. It is essential for the
    Mujtahid to be familiar with the Daleels of other Mujtahideen, on a particular issue as well as how the other
    Mujtahid understood the Daleel and the issue.

    Finally, he must have a comprehensive knowledge of the issue on which Ijtihad is being performed. To extract any
    ruling one has to understand the subject thoroughly. If the Mujtahid doesn't understand the issue, he is not allowed
    to do Ijtihad regardless of where he lives. To understand the issue, the Mujtahid can go to experts. For instance,
    there might be a issue in genetic engineering. To understand the process of genetic engineering, the Mujtahid can go
    to a expert in this field. Therefore, these criteria are enough to qualify one to do Ijtihad, and it is incorrect to say
    that each issue requires the Mujtahid to reside in that environment. The Mujtahid can reside anywhere and do
    Ijtihad as long as he is familiar with the issue being dealt with. If the Mujtahid is not familiar with the issue, he is
    not allowed to do Ijtihad, even if the issue occurs in the same environment that the Mujtahid is residing in.

(Studies in Usul ul Fiqh, Iyad Hilal Pg. 72 through 74)

So far by the Grace of Allaah ,we have understood the meaning of Fiqh and Shar'iah. We have also understood the important word Ijtihad which means to exert exhaustive efforts in studying problems and seeking solutions for them from the sources of Shar'iah. We also learnt that the person who performs Ijtihad is a Mujtahid, and the great qualifications required to do Ijtihad. We discussed that even a common Muslim can act as a Mujtahid and that it is unnecessary for a common Muslim to follow any School of Shar'iah whatsoever. We shall let an extract of the excellent book "Studies in Usul Ul Fiqh" by Iyad Hilal explain matters clearly for our esteemed readers of "Virtues of Islamic Life." {The following is from chapter 10 Pg. 124}

Do we need a new School or Madhab?

Some claim that it is mandatory to adhere to one Imam or one school of Fiqh. This is completely wrong since we are ordered to follow Islam and not one specific human being. And the person who meets the requirements of Ijtihad does not have to adhere to one specific school of thought. Even if some one is not a Mujtahid, he does not have to follow one specific school. Rather each individual is ordered to follow the Shar'iah which is extracted or deduced by Mujtahids. Consequently, this point was emphasized by each of the scholars and Imams.

On the other hand, the claim that we need a new school of Fiqh due to the current situation of the Muslim Ummah is unfounded. Since what is really needed is the application of Islam in a comprehensive way, and not just to develop another school among the already existing schools of Fiqh. There are however, two factors that must be kept in mind.

1. New problems emerging daily, in every era and every generation, and that

2. The ummah is ordered to follow the divine rule to solve any problem.

These two factors require, therefore that every generation of Muslim Ummah must have at least one Mujtahid amongst them in order to address the newly arising problems. In order to deduce the Hukm Sharii, this Mujtahid does not have to discuss old problems since they are already addressed.  Therefore, in this regard, the need is for Mujtahids to meet the requirements of Ijtihad, in order to address new problems and not necessarily form a new school of thought.

However, the presence of vast numbers of Mujtahids among the Ummah to find solutions to newly arising problems was greatly reduced when the doors of Ijtihad were closed. This tragic event took place after the sacking of
Baghdad in the Seventh Century Hijri.

While Mujtahids are essential in every age to interpret the established laws, it is totally unnecessary and redundant to even think of starting a new Madhab:

"Thus the newly arising problems were not being solved through the Shariah.

The closing of the doors of Ijtihad resulted in the development of various philosophies concerning the status of the Ummah in its adherence to Islam. These philosophies can be summarized as follows:

  1.Some people started issuing opinions concerning the new problems, from their own minds, without any Daleel or specific methodology of conducting Ijtihad.
  2.Others prematurely jumped to answers without acquiring the necessary prerequisites for Ijtihad, claiming that Ijtihad should not be closed and that the current situation provided everyone with the chance to perform Ijtihad.
  3.Others began undermining Ijtihad, claiming that every issue is debatable and therefore it is up to the individual to pick and choose whatever is most  convenient.

All of these claims mentioned above are invalid because they caused Muslims to start taking their desires, wishes, intellect, or someone else's intellect as a reference, while we are ordered to take Islam as the one and only reference.

The doors of Ijtihad should not have been closed because without Ijtihad new problems would not be addressed by the Hukm Sharii. Yet, at the same time the doors of Ijtihad should not be flung open without any restrictions, controls, or requirements. There are actually many requirements to be met in order to meet the qualifications of a Mujtahid, including sincerity, and justice".

D) Others began taking advantage of the existence of the many schools of thought by shopping around for the most convenient opinion and compiling strange verdicts of each Mujtahid. These people went to each Madhab
separating the lawful opinions from the unlawful things of the Madhab. They took the lawful verdicts, leaving the unlawful, until ending up with a new Madhab where everything is lawful and nothing is unlawful. This action is a major deviation from Islam.

  1.Others claim that having different Madhab is wrong and that we need to  reunify all of the Madhabs and come under one single Madhab, completely free from sectarianism and firmly based on sound scholarship.  This, they claim, would be the prerequisite toward reunification of the Ummah and then after this, would we look toward establishing the
Khilafah. The presence of the many Madhaib was not in itself an objective.The objective is to understand the rules in
order to execute them. The understanding of the text leads to different opinions, which leads to different Madhabs. Due to reasons listed in section 9.3 (The Reason for Differences of Opinion Among the Mujtahideen), there exists legitimate differences amongst Mujtahideen.  Trying to eliminate the possibilities of having more than one understanding goes against the nature of Islam, and the nature of human beings, which Allaah  created.

Those calling for this single Madhab are in fact adding a new Madhab to the already existing ones. This is due to the fact that a person might disagree with this new Madhab, for valid reasons, and would finally adhere to his understanding. It should be understood that sovereignty belongs to the Islamic legislative sources, which came from the Wahiy.
If everyone keeps this idea in mind and is ready to abandon his own opinion in order to adopt an opinion based on the Daleel, the problems would be eliminated.

If we study the numerous examples during the era of the Sahabah (RA)  we  can find that in the days of Abu Bakr (RA), there were differences among the Sahabah (RA) . However, none of them postponed working for the Khalifah until all opinions were melted into one single opinion.  Actually they realized that, what was needed more than anything else,
even more than the immediate burial of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihee wa salam), was to elect a Khalifah who would take care of their affairs by implementing all of Islam, thus establishing an environment in which the society would be able to cope with any issue that it is faced with.

Similarly, what is needed presently is this same authority which establishes and implements Islam. However, as long as the Ummah is preoccupied with calls such as working to unite under one new Madhab, which is a call to keep and prolong the rule of Taghoot, the Ummah will continue to be disunited, misdirected, with its problems continuously
multiplying. With no mechanism to solve its problem, the Ummah will continue to be manipulated by those who rule
over it with the rules of Kufr.


Taqleed linguistically means to follow others without thinking. As a juristic term it means to follow a Mujtahid's
Ijtihad without comprehending the Daleel (evidence). In other words, the Muqallid (a person who practices Taqleed) may or may not know the Daleel. In addition, one may not know the reason for using the Daleel even though they know the Daleel (evidence).

    There are two types of Muqalid:

A. Muttabi'a is the follower who acquaints himself with the Daleel (evidence) used by the Mujtahid to arrive at
the Ahkam but he does not have to comprehend the reason for using the specific Daleel.

B. Ammi is one who follows a Mujtahid's Ijtihad without asking for a Daleel.

    11.1 Daleel (evidence) for performing Taqleed:

We have not sent before thee but men whom We reveal to them. So ask the people of knowledge if you know
not.' (An-Nahal: 43)

This Ayah was revealed in response to the disbeliever's argument that Muhammad (sallallahu alaihee wa salam) was a human, but the meaning is general in the Arabic language; the meaning is that Allah  orders those who do not know to ask those who know. Hence, Taqleed only in the Hukm Sharii is allowed for every Muslim. This understanding is further
supported in the next paragraph by the incident narrated by Jabir (RA).

Jabir (RA) has narrated that one man suffered a wound to his head.  Whilst sleeping he had a wet dream. He asked the companions if he could make Tayamumm. They said that he had no excuse for not performing Ghusl. After performing Ghusl the man died. When the Prophet (sallallahu alaihee wa salam) was informed of the incident he (sallallahu alaihee wa salam) said:

"Verily it was enough for him to do Tayamumm, to place a piece of cloth on his head, which he should then wipe
(Mas'h) and then for him to wash the rest of his body." He (sallallahu alaihee wa salam) then said: "They (the companions) should ask if they do not know."
(Abu Dawood, Maja, Ahmad)

Thus, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihee wa salam) made it very clear to the companions that they should ask about the ruling if they are not aware of it.

11.2 Muslims Must Ask for Daleel

Having given the Daleel for the permissibility of practicing Taqleed in Islam, it is crucial to point out that the
follower must, when an issue confronts him, ask about its Hukm (rule) and Daleel. Our worship includes the pursuit of
knowledge. As slaves of Allah, we must know Allah's  rule for every action we perform. Narrated by Abdullah bin Amr: I heard the Prophet (sallallahu alaihee wa salam) say,

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihee wa salam) said "Allah does not remove the 'Ilm after it was given to you, rather the 'Ilm would be removed with the death of the Ulema. Then some people, who are ignorant, will start giving their Ra'ee based on their desires and they are misled and will lead the Ummah astray." {Bukhari & Ahmad}

For Muslims to avoid the consequence of this Hadith, they must ask for a Daleel before performing Taqleed.

11.3 Taqleed is not practiced in the Aqeedah {Belief}

It should be clear that the subject of Taqleed is limited to the Hukm {rule} and does not include the Aqeedah
{Belief}. It is forbidden to make Taqleed in the creed, i.e. Aqeedah.  Allah  say's.

"And if they said to them follow what Allah  has revealed, they said but we follow what our fore fathers
left for us. Even if their fathers understood not, and were not guided."
{Al - Baqarah: 170}

Previously evidence {Daleel} was produced about Taqleed {following The Shariah} of any one of the 4 Imaams without comprehending the evidence. One evidence was from The Holy Quran Surrah "An Nahal No.43 and the other was from the Saheeh Hadeeth from the collection of Abu Dawood, Maja and Ahmad}. Please note that the 4 Madhahib of Imam Abu Haneefah, Imam Shafa'ee, Imam Maalik, and Imam Ahmad Bin Hambal {May Allah bless them all} are all Haq {correct} and the 'Ulama {scholars} of Ahli Sunnah Waljama'ah all over the world for the past 1,200 years are in total agreement with this. It is Inshaallah Ta'la perfectly legitimate for an ordinary Muslim, any were in the world to follow The Shariah of any one of these great Imams and hewill be on his  way to Paradise. Please also make a note our beloved readers, that  following any one of the 4 great Imams does not mean we are not obeying Allah Ta'la or not following The Beloved of Allah Hadrat Muhammad (sallallahu alaihee wa salam). We follow the Shariah of the 4 Imams, which was derived and extracted from the Quran and Sunnah, at great pains and life time devotion by these gifted Imams; which means the Shariah teaches and shows us exactly how to obey Allah Almighty and obey and follow His Beloved, Muhammad (sallallahu alaihee wa salam). Of course scholars can willingly look for dalaail {evidence} as much as they want to and they will find plenty of Dalaail, in the detailed works of all the above Imams; actually it was their main purpose in life to compile a formidable collection of Dalaail for every conclusion they arrived at.

Source: Studies in Usual Ul Fiqh
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