WHAT IS FIQH IN ISLAM?

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What is fiqh in Islam? What is the definition of the science of fiqh? What is literal definition of the word fiqh? Here’s answer…

  • Literal definition of the word fiqh

The Arabic word fiqh (الفِقْهُ) literally means, “to understand in depth, to grasp, and to comprehend”. In the Qur’an, it and its derivatives are mentioned in twenty places. In these verses, the meaning of the word fiqh is utilized as “deep understanding” and “comprehension” corresponding to its literal meaning.[1]

In addition to the above-mentioned literal meanings, the word fiqh is used in the sense of comprehending the subtleties of matters that are directly related to religion. Some of the hadiths that consist of the word fiqh are as follows:

  • “A person who says the following demonstrates religious comprehension (fiqh), regarding matters that he does not know, “I do not know, but Allah knows best.”[2]
  • “Keeping the prayer long and sermon short is one of the signs of a person’s religious comprehension (fiqh).”[3]
  • Once, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) warned Abdullah b. ‘Amr for his excessive recitation of the Qur’an and said, “… do not finish reciting it in less than three days otherwise you will not comprehend (fiqh) the Qur’an.”[4]

The term faqih is used for the person who is engaged in the the science of fiqh and its plural form is fuqaha.

  • II. Terminological definition of the term Fiqh
“Fiqh is the knowledge of a person concerning what is good and bad for him (pertaining to actions and behaviors, and the rulings about them.)”

There are three important terminological definitions of the word fiqh, briefly known as “knowing religious rulings along with their proofs”:

1- Imam Abu Hanifa defines fiqh as follows:

الِفقْهُ مَعْرِفَةُ النَّفْسِ مَا لَهَا وَ مَا عَلَيْهَا

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Allah’s Messenger Muhammad – peace and blessings  be upon him- said:

 “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of religion.” This hadith shows how important and a respectful task a deeper religious understanding and fiqh is in the presence of Allah.

“Fiqh is the knowledge of a person pertaining to the rulings of what is good and bad for him.”

2- The definitions made by Imam Shafi’i is as follows:

الِفقْهُ العِلْمُ بِالْاَحْكاَمِ الشَّرْعِيَّةِ الْعَمَلِيَّةِ مِنْ اَدِلَّتِهاَ التَّفْصِيلِيَّةِ

“Fiqh is the knowledge of religious-practical rulings deduced from the detailed sources.”

3- According to the first article of Majalla, which is a legal code prepared in the Ottoman Empire as a result of many years of labor, the term fiqh is defined as follows:

The science of fiqh is the knowledge about the religious-practical matter s.”


B. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SCIENCE OF FIQH

Fiqh is a science that teaches us what things religion requires us to do and what we are not allowed to do. It is for this reason that fiqh is considered the most important science among all Islamic sciences as it is directly related to the daily life of a Muslim and his/her conduct.

The Prophet (pbuh) informed and commanded us to learn the rulings pertaining to these matters and study them well:

 “Before you are appointed to the administration of a task, understand the religion well.”[1]

The Companions, who comprehended the importance and need for fiqh, would sit together at night and discuss the topics related to fiqh.[2] Abu Darda, a notable Companion of the Prophet, said the following: “In my opinion, spending one hour studying fiqh is better than spending a whole night engaged in acts of worship without studying fiqh.”

Therefore, an individual should know thoroughly the religious-practical (fiqh) matters related to his life. Caliph Ali (r.a.) pointed out the importance of fiqh in trade as follows: “One who does trade without having knowledge in fiqh is prone to falling into riba (interest).”[3]

LET US REFLECT

Caliph Umar (r.a.) highlighted the necessity to prefer persons with knowledge of fiqh when appointing governors: “Whosoever appoints someone as a leader for their people because of his knowledge in fiqh, he will be of great benefit for himself and for his people as well. Whoever gets appointed without knowledge in fiqh, he will lead both himself and his people to destruction.” (al-Darimi I, 79)

Ponder about Umar (r.a.)’s statement about the importance of fiqh.

C. THE SUBJECT AND AIM OF THE SCIENCE OF FIQH

THE SUBJECTS OF FIQH
‘IBADAT

(Acts of Worship)

MU’AMALAT

(Daily Transactions)

‘UQUBAT

(Crimes and Punishments)

Taharah (Purification), Wudu’ (minor ablution), Ghusl (major ablution), Tayammum (dry ablution), Salat (Ritual Prayer), Sawm (Fasting), I’tikaf (Seclusion), Zakat (Almsgiving), Fitra (Almsgiving), Qurban (sacrifice), Hajj (Pilgrimage), ‘Umrah (minor pilgrimage), Kaffarah (expiation), Vow, Oath Munakahat (marriage), Mufaraqat (divorce), Faraid (inheritance), Wasiyyah (wills), trade, Rent, partnership, trials (judicial proceeding), Testimony, Siyar (Law of Nations), Law of War and Peace Violations, Qisas (retaliation), Diyyah (blood money), Hudud (Punishments), Theft, Drinking alcohol, Zina (adultery), Apostasy

 

  • I. The Subject of the Science of Fiqh

The science of fiqh teaches the rules pertaining to the actions of a legally liable believer. The main subjects of the science of fiqh are as follows:

  1. The relationship between people and Allah (‘Ibadat or Acts of Worship): This main branch of fiqh is related to the acts of worship. In this regard, there are about one hundred and forty verses in the Qur’an. It consists of the following subjects:
  2. Issues related to Purification (Taharah): Physical and spiritual impurities, Major and minor ablution, tayammum, issues related to women’s special states, etc.
  3. Physical acts of worship: Salah (ritual prayer), Sawm (fasting), I’tikaf (retreat in a mosque during the month of Ramadan).
  4. Financial Acts of worship: Zakat (almsgiving), Fitrah (almsgiving paid in Ramadan), Qurban (animal sacrifice).
  5. Physical and Financial acts of worship: Hajj and ‘Umrah (major and minor pilgrimage)
  6. Kaffarah (Expiations): Killing a person accidentally, expiations for fasting, zihar, breaking an oath, to get hair shaved while being in the state of ihram
  7. Vows and Oaths: Making a vow, types of oath etc.
  8. Relations with other people (Mu’amalat – or transactions): This main branch is related to social life. In this matter, there are about seventy-five verses in the Qur’an. It consists of the following subjects:
  9. Rulings related to family (Munakahat [marriage], Mufaraqat [divorce]): Rulings regarding engagement and marriage, Marriage law, divorce, nafaqa (Alimony), ‘iddah (women’s waiting period before a new marriage), mahr (dowry) etc.
  10. Rulings regarding inheritance and wills (Faraid and wasiyyah): the ceremonies related to the dead, leaving a bequest, etc.
  11. Rulings related to financial matters: Buying-selling, rent, corporation, surety bond, money order, etc., rahn (security) etc.
  12. Rulings regarding the relations between the nations (Siyar): Principles of war, peace, rights of non-muslims in Muslim countries etc.
  13. Rules related to sanctions (‘Uqubat): This main branch is about crimes and punishment in this World. There are about fifty verses in the Qur’an on this subject. It consists of the following subjects:
  14. Crimes and Punishments of murder or injury (Jinayat): Qisas (retaliation), diyyah (blood money) etc.
  15. Had punishments: Punishments for theft, adultery, consuming alcohol, apostasy etc.
  • II. The Aim of the Science of Fiqh

The particular aim of fiqh is to teach the relevant religious rulings to people, along with their sources. As for its general aim, it is to teach Muslims their religious obligations, and to inform them of what leads to happiness both in this World and in the Hereafter.

D. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SCIENCE OF FIQH

The science of fiqh has many special characteristics. The most significant of them are:

  1. Its source is the Revelation (wahy): The Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah are the main sources of fiqh. In cases, whose rulings are not clearly defined in the Qur’an or Sunnah, Muslim jurists determine the ruling for the case in question by making an analogy to similar cases found in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
  2. It encompasses all aspects of life: The religion revealed by Allah Almighty encompasses all aspects of human life. People have responsibilities towards themselves, their families, their environment, and their Creator. Fiqh is the science that teaches them about those rights and responsibilities. It also defines the principles of administering a nation and defines how such relations should be with other nations. Therefore, fiqh is a very comprehensive Islamic science.
  3. It has connections with ethics: The rulings established by fiqh are in accordance with Islamic morals and ethics. Fiqh diligently aims to protect much needed virtues such as honesty, righteousness, justice, rights of others etc.
  4. It aims for the welfare of both individuals and society as a whole: Fiqh observes not only the common benefits of Muslim society but also the benefits of individuals as well. It pays attention not to restrict the individual freedom provided that it does not conflict with the public good.
  5. Its rulings are appropriate to be applied at all times: Fiqh gives the authority to qualified Muslim jurists to issue rulings for newly emerged problems based on arising circumstances. Thus, fiqh can produce rulings that are applicable at all times and in all circumstances.
USUL AL-FIQH
FURU’ AL-FIQH
 MAIN BRANCHES OF THE SCIENCE OF FIQH

E. MAIN BRANCHES OF THE SCIENCE OF FIQH

There are two main branches of the science of fiqh:

  1. FURU’ AL-FIQH: It is the branch of fiqh that explains the practical rulings of Islam such as rulings related to ritual prayer, fasting, obligatory alms, sacrifice, marriage, divorce, etc. together with their proofs from the sources.
  2. USUL AL-FIQH: It is the branch of fiqh that shows the methods of deduction of religious rulings presented by Furu’ al-fiqh, explains the general principles, provides information about the schools of Islamic law, and teaches how to evaluate the incidents from a different perspective.

F. FIQH, SHARI’A AND ISLAMIC LAW

Fiqh, Shari’a and Islamic law are concepts that have similar meanings and are at times used interchangeably. However, there are actually some nuances between their meanings.

Fiqh refers to the knowledge dimension of religion related to practices, and provides mostly information about the acts of individuals. Fiqh is accepted as a science, and issues related to the individual’s relationship with his Creator, especially the acts of worship, are examined in the courses of fiqh.

Shari’a refers to the practical dimension of religion. It is used as synonymous with the term fiqh. The term “shari’a” used in the Qur’an and Sunnah refers to the rulings of Allah, and the mundane, social and governmental dimension of divine order. Allah Almighty commands us in the Qur’an to follow the shari’a as follows, And, finally, [O Muhammad,] We have set you on a shari’a by which the purpose [of faith]may be fulfilled: so follow you this [shari’a], and follow not the likes and dislikes of those who do not know [the truth].” (al-Jasiya, 45: 18)

The Holy Qur’an frequently mentions the shari’as of earlier prophets, such as “the Shari’a of Moses” (al-Maida, 5: 48, 49, al-Shura, 42: 13, 21).

The term shar’i often used in connection with the term fiqh means religious. While the term tashri’ means establishing a shari’a and promulgating a law, the word mashru’  coming from the same root denotes the things that are suitable and in accordance with the shari’a, and the law. Moreover, Shari’ means the law maker, which is a term used for Allah Almighty as the One who send the law, and His Messenger who delivers the shari’a to the people.

Islamic Law is the science that deals with the dimension of law related to the state. Today, this term is also used as synonymous to fiqh. In the courses of Islamic law taught at universities, the fact is conveyed of how Muslims can attain happiness and lead peaceful and tranquil life when the Muslim state acts carefully in applying the shar’i principles. In such courses, comparisons with other legal systems also take place.

INFORMATION BOX

Some rulings of fiqh are unalterable. These are called ta’abbudi rulings. The rulings are clearly expressed in the verses of the Qur’an and authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Fasting in the month of Ramadan is an example of this type of rulings.

Some other rulings may change in accordance with the change of time and circumstances. These are called ahkam ijtihadi (ijtihadi rulings). Calling adhan from a minaret can be given as an example of this type of rulings.

 

G. THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE SCIENCE OF FIQH WITH OTHER SCIENCES

  1. The relationship of fiqh with the science of Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir): The science of Qur’anic exegesis examines the Holy Qur’an, explains the meanings of the verses, and deals with the occasions of the revelation of the verses. The information and interpretations provided by the science of Qur’anic exegesis are very important in defining the rulings in fiqh.
  2. The relationship of fiqh with the science of Hadith: The science of Hadith examines the sayings, actions and tacit approvals of our Prophet (pbuh). It establishes the authenticity of the hadiths and the characteristics of the narrators of the hadiths. When a legal ruling is needed to be established, Muslim jurists first check the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). Hadiths play a determinative role in the issuance of legal rulings.
  3. The relationship of fiqh with the science of Siyar: Siyar is the study of our Prophet (pbuh)’s life, character, behaviors, state administration, battles, and reactions in the face of events. When fiqh needs to issue rulings for new cases, it also benefits from the data provided by study of siyar. Since the Sunnah is the second source of fiqh, it can be learned from both the hadiths and the siyar.
  4. Other sciences from which the science of Fiqh benefits: The science of fiqh also benefits, whenever necessary, from the history of Islam, the history of sects in Islam, the study of Islamic creed, and Sufism.

When the ruling of a case is needed to be deduced from the sources, it is also necessary to have knowledge about the worldly sciences related to the case in question. This is because the science of fiqh benefits from other scholarly fields such as sociology, psychology, medicine, biology, geography, history, literature, and language. We would like to present the following information as an example for the relationship between fiqh and such sciences:

The relationship of fiqh with Philosophy and Logic: In order to prove the validity of its rulings and explain their justifications, the science of fiqh offers some explanations. When dong this, fiqh benefits from the methods of philosophy and logic. Even though when issuing his legal views it is the main sources that a Muslim jurist examines first, he also employs his independent reasoning, logic and constructs analogies.

The relationship of fiqh with Sociology: Sociology is the science that deals with society and its customs and traditions. Fiqh also accepts social practices, customs and traditions as a valid source for determining rulings.

The relationship of fiqh with Psychology: When the science of fiqh looks for the ruling of an action of a person, it pays attention to the psychological state of that person. For example, fiqh teaches that a person is not deemed responsible for oaths that he took when he was so angry that he did not know what he was saying.

The relationship of fiqh with Language: In order to be able to deduce rulings from verses, one should know Arabic proficiently, because Arabic is the language of the Qur’an.

When one does not know these scholarly fields related to the case in question well enough, one cannot determine its legal ruling. Without knowledge of the historical development of a case, geographical location, a person’s biological development, or the meaning of a word, it would not be possible to issue a ruling about it.

[1] Al-Bukhari, Ilm 15; al-Darimi I, 79

[2] Al-Darimi, I, 149-150

[3] Ali b. Abu Talib, Nahj al-Balagha No: 447, III,259


FIQH, SHARI’A AND ISLAMIC LAW

Fiqh, Shari’a and Islamic law are concepts that have similar meanings and are at times used interchangeably. However, there are actually some nuances between their meanings.

Fiqh refers to the knowledge dimension of religion related to practices, and provides mostly information about the acts of individuals. Fiqh is accepted as a science, and issues related to the individual’s relationship with his Creator, especially the acts of worship, are examined in the courses of fiqh.

Shari’a refers to the practical dimension of religion. It is used as synonymous with the term fiqh. The term “shari’a” used in the Qur’an and Sunnah refers to the rulings of Allah, and the mundane, social and governmental dimension of divine order. Allah Almighty commands us in the Qur’an to follow the shari’a as follows, And, finally, [O Muhammad,] We have set you on a shari’a by which the purpose [of faith]may be fulfilled: so follow you this [shari’a], and follow not the likes and dislikes of those who do not know [the truth].” (al-Jasiya, 45: 18)

The Holy Qur’an frequently mentions the shari’as of earlier prophets, such as “the Shari’a of Moses” (al-Maida, 5: 48, 49, al-Shura, 42: 13, 21).

The term shar’i often used in connection with the term fiqh means religious. While the term tashri’ means establishing a shari’a and promulgating a law, the word mashru’  coming from the same root denotes the things that are suitable and in accordance with the shari’a, and the law. Moreover, Shari’ means the law maker, which is a term used for Allah Almighty as the One who send the law, and His Messenger who delivers the shari’a to the people.

Islamic Law is the science that deals with the dimension of law related to the state. Today, this term is also used as synonymous to fiqh. In the courses of Islamic law taught at universities, the fact is conveyed of how Muslims can attain happiness and lead peaceful and tranquil life when the Muslim state acts carefully in applying the shar’i principles. In such courses, comparisons with other legal systems also take place.

INFORMATION BOX

Some rulings of fiqh are unalterable. These are called ta’abbudi rulings. The rulings are clearly expressed in the verses of the Qur’an and authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Fasting in the month of Ramadan is an example of this type of rulings.

Some other rulings may change in accordance with the change of time and circumstances. These are called ahkam ijtihadi (ijtihadi rulings). Calling adhan from a minaret can be given as an example of this type of rulings.


Source:
Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

[1] See for examples: al-Nisa, 4; 78; al-Anfal, 8; 65; al-Tawba 9; 87, al-Hashr, 59; 13; al-Isra, 17; 44

[2] Muslim, Munafiqun, 40

[3] Muslim, Jum’a, 47

[4] Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad X, 55

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