Lessons in Usool and Fiqh
takhreej by Yahya Ibraheem
The benefits of the study of Usul al Fiqh are many. From a study of Usul, we come to know the methods of interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah, all the secondary sources of Islamic law, the views on Usul of major scholars of the past and present, the rules of Qiyas and other methods of Ijtihad, the history of development of Islamic law and legal theory. All these make anybody who studies Usul cautious in approach to Islamic law. He develops respect for the methodology of past masters and becomes aware of the need to follow rules in the matters of deduction of new rules of Islamic law. The principal objective of Usul is to regulate Ijtihad and guide the jurist in his effort at deducing the law from the sources.
Primarily Usul al Fiqh deals with the sources or roots (Adillah) of Islamic law and the law itself. Usul al Fiqh (Usul is plural of Asl) the bases or roots of Islamic Law, expound the methods by which Fiqh (detail Islamic law) is derived from their sources. In this view, Usul is the methodology and the Fiqh is the product.
Historically, there have been two dominant paradigms in approaching usul al-fiqh:
The first approach involves discovering an Imam's principles by analyzing his legal decisions
The second approach involves setting down legal principles from which legal decisions are derived.
Both approaches prove the preponderance of their principles using Qur'an; sunnah; precedence from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), his Companions (Allah be pleased with them) and the righteous forbears; linguistics; and logical.
The first approach is known as the way of the fuqaha, and it is an approach popularized by the Hanafis.
The second approach is known as the way of the mutakallimin, and it was first systematically formulated by Imam al-Shafi`i but is also followed by the Malikis and Hanbalis.
There is a third approach that follows a path between the preceding two approaches.
In other words, Initially two approaches developed in the study of Usul, the theoretical and the deductive. The theoretical approach was developed by Imam Shafii who enacted a set of principles which should be followed in the formulation of Fiqh. On the other hand primarily the early and later Hanafi scholars looked into the details of law given in the Quran and Sunnah and derived legal rules or Usul principles therefrom. However, the later scholars combined the two approaches and presently the subject essentially follows the some format.
Anyone—regardless of their madhhab— who wishes to read usul al-fiqh should start with Al-Mahalli's commentary on Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi's Al-Qaraqat fi Usul al-Fiqh and then read the sections on usul in Ibn Badran's Al-Madkhal and Ibn Mubrid's book. Usul is not a difficult subject, but it is systematic and exact.
The founders of the four mathabs, Imams Abu Hanifa Al-Nu`man, Malik bin Anas, Muhammad bin Idris Al-Shadi`i, and Ahmad bin Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with them all), were not arbitrary in forming their legal opinions. Each one of these imams had a legal theory regarding legal sources of law, the principles for interpreting these sources, and an actual methodology for applying these principles.
The four schools agree on the use of Qur’an, hadith, scholarly consensus (ijma`), and analogical reasoning (qiyas). But even though the schools agree on the use of these four sources, there are slight differences in how each one is used. In addition, each school adds additional sources to this list.
This leads to the obvious conclusion that differences the usul lead to differences in the furu`.
It also leads to a less obvious conclusion that we cannot determine which opinion is strongest until we have determined which usul is strongest. This is not always a trivial task.
As for the usul of the Hanbali mathab, the basic list, since at least the times of Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziya, includes five:
An-Nass which includes the Qur’an and accounts from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that are rigorously- or well- authenticated (respectively: sahih, hasn)
A fatwa from one of the Companions when the other Companions (Allah be well pleased with them one and all) are not known to differ with it
When there is a difference of opinion between the Companions (Allah be well pleased with them one and all), then whichever one is closest to the Qur’an and sunna; if it was not clear which opinion was closest, then he would mention that there is a difference of opinion without being convinced [of the superiority of any particular one]
Hadiths that are mursal, where one of the tabi`in (someone who met at least one of the Companions (Allah be well pleased with them)) ascribes a hadith to the Prophet without mentioning the narrator(s) between himself and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace);
Hadiths which are weakly authenticated (da`if) when there is nothing to refute it, however there is disagreement concerning the meaning of “dha`if” here
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