What is Fiqh?
Linguistically, fiqh means understanding, comprehension,
faqaaha : to
have knowledge, especially legal knowledge, to teach, to study the fiqh, to apply oneself to the
acquisiton of knowledge, to get a clear picture.
juristic(al), relating to jurisprudence in Islam.
fuqaha') : legist, jurisprudent, expert of fiqh.
Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic).
In early days of
Islam, it was rare for the term fiqh to be taken
to mean Islamic Jurisprudence. The term more extensively used
then was fahm or "comprehension" of the predetermined
purpose and wisdom of the command of God. In more complex issues
that involved closer examination, some would use instead of the
term fiqh, or "understanding".  In his book, Al-Muqaddimah,
Ibn Khaldun presented his definition of fiqh in more detail.
Fiqh is the knowledge of God's
rule, ahkam, regarding the behavior and actions of adult
individuals, be they obligatory, forbidden, recommended,
abhorrent or permissible. These rules are received from the
Quran and the Sunnah and the means God has established to
ascertain them. The formulation and articulation of these
rules, using those means, is what is referred to as fiqh.
Al Alwani (1988,
p.33) classified fiqh into three categories:
Wahi: the Quran and Sunnah
tajarub wa al a’raf wa al masalih: experience, tradition,
and public good.
Personally obligatory, communally obligatory
NP: not punished
P: not rewarded
NP: not punished
P: not punished
Read more on
Fiqh us-Sunnah by Sayyid Sabiq.
Fiqh and Fatwas.
According to Five Islamic Schools: Ja'afari,
Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali
The term fuqaha,
jurists or fiqh practitioners was also uncommon in
the early days of Islam. To differentiate them from their
uneducated or illiterate colleagues, the Prophet's companions
who committed themselves to deduction and the analysis of
religious rules were identified as "student" or "readers."
Then the lands of Islam expanded
and illiteracy among the Arabs receded due to the spread of
literacy. The practice of deduction took hold, fiqh
flourished and became a vocation and a science. Thus,
"readers" and "students" became jurists, or
term 'usul al-fiqh' is a composition of two words.
The first word is translated as 'principles' and the second one
can be translated as 'jurisprudence'.
This branch of knowledge discusses the
sources of the science of jurisprudence itself and does not deal
with the topics of Islamic worship, rituals or transactions
which are the subject matter of the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).
The sources of
Islamic law, or usul al-fiqh in Islamic legal terminology, are
divided into two categories  :
(the text) i.e., the Quran and the Sunnah.
judgment in several forms e.g., ijma’ (the consensus of
the fuqaha’) and qiyas (analogical reasoning).
theoretically, there are two kinds of issues in the Shariah, as
indicated in al Nadi’s writing :
qat’iyat or definitive-conclusive rules (i.e., rules
that are certain and not changeable in Islam, for example, times of
prayer, fasting, alms-giving etc)
dhanniyat or issues that allow for thought and speculation
(i.e., issues that are open to ijtihad and that change
with time and place - especially those pertaining to
interpersonal relationships). Such interpersonal
relationships include the relation between governments
and peoples; therefore, ijtihad or the extrapolation of
legal principles is admissible, if not encouraged.
Usul al fiqh
according to The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam
(Glasse 1989, p.
Literally roots of
jurisprudence. The bases of Islamic law. Among the Sunnis these
are: the Koran, the Sunna (acts and statements of the Prophet),
al qiyas (analogy), and al-ijma (popular consensus or
agreement). Al ijtihad (effort) is the extrapolation from these
principles to specific cases.
Some of the more
articulate definitions provided by Masud  says;
Usul al fiqh is the
formal science in which Muslim jurists have dealt with legal
theories, the principles and interpretations of legal texts,
methods of reasoning and of deduction of rules and other such
Read more on Usul
USUL AL FIQH AL ISLAMI. Source Methodology in Islamic
Jurisprudence:Methodology for Research and Knowledge
by Taha Jabir Al 'Alwani.
Usul al-Fiqh by Shah Abdul Hannan.
On the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence
Theoretical Fiqh - irrelevant?
Though varied and
rich, the volumes of theoretical fiqh bequeathed to us dealing
with relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were closely
associated with the historic circumstances in which it was
developed. It, therefore, is part of its own time and space and
none of it can be applied to other substantially different
situations. I can only be considered as a precedent to be
examined, noted and studied in order to discern the principles
upon which it was based and which guided our predecessors to
produce it. As a precedent, this wealth of jurisprudence is of
value to today’s jurists to provide them with the skills and
methods to respond to the needs of the times. The aim should not
be to apply the old fatwas literally, but to use them as a
guide, learning how to obtain the original principles, the
“roots” or usul, from which earlier jurists derived and
jurists bequeathed to us a golden rule which supports this
approach. It states: the changing of rulings should not be
censured by the change of time. Many jurists, such as Imam al-Shafi’e
and others, were flexible with certain rulings and opinions,
changing them according to the realities of a particular
situation or specific reason which arose as they moved from one
country to another, or when certain conditions pertaining to the
earlier situation had changed, or simply because times had
changed. Several innovative jurists indicated that their
differences with their own teachers over certain issues were
simply due to “the changing of times and situations, rather than
to new evidence or reasoning.”
A study of cases
dealt with by the Prophet’s contemporaries and their followers
clearly shows that they had understood very well the specific
purpose, wisdom, reasons and causes underlying the Shari’ah. The
study, interpretation, comprehension and application of all
religious text should take place within the framework of the
purposes and reasons of the Shari’ah and their underlying
wisdom. Insistence on mere linguistic or literal interpretation
would not relieve jurists from their responsibility until the
ultimate objectives of the Shari’ah are served. The need to go
beyond the limited fiqh inherited from past generations remains
strong for several reasons, some of which relate to methodology
and others to the ultimate objectives(maqasid) of the Islamic