Essay Example on Usul al-fiqh has existed by virtue of necessity for as long as fiqh has


Islam , Legislation


Religion , Law






Arguably usul al-fiqh has existed by virtue of necessity for as long as fiqh has. There can be no fiqh in the absence of its related sources and derivational methodologies. The relationship between these distinct disciplines is comparable to that of grammar and language with usul setting out standard criteria for the correct deduction of rules of fiqh from its sources. Thus both disciplines have accompanied one another by necessity from the outset Kamali 1991. However, the codification of fiqh preceded that of usul. In the early Islamic era, there was not an impetus to codify usul al-fiqh. Whilst the Prophet may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him was alive he provided guidance and solutions to problems through divine revelation and direct rulings. Following his death when novel situations presented themselves the companions performed ijtihaad with reference to the divine sources without a pressing need to explicitly detail their methodology. Their authoritativeness in this respect can be attributed to their exalted position as the direct recipients of prophetic teachings which cultivated within them a unique intimacy to the sources and intrinsic mastery of derivation. Their successors. Tabi un was able to similarly carry out ijtihaad without prompting a need to explicate their methodology Nadwi 1999. During and following the latter period of this generation however, the expansion of the territorial domain of Islam gave rise to new challenges. The mixing of Arabs and non-Arabs diluted the Arabic language new realities requiring the exercise of ijtihaad increased and there was the emergence of increasing variance and disputation in juristic thought. The divergent legal opinions could be traced geographically as a result of the scattered dissemination of Ahadith and legal judgments of the companions.

Consequently, differences arose between the jurists fuqaha of Kufah Iraq and Hijaz culminating in the formation of two distinct camps the traditionalists. Ahl al Hadith and the rationalists ahl al ra i Wael The ahl al-hadith who were located predominantly in Hijaz had an aversion to straying from textual evidence and contempt toward deriving law through the application of legal reasoning. Ra i Some of the reasons put forward for this include the great number of hadith known to them and their inheritance of the fear the Sahaba had for contradicting the letter of the source texts. The ahlul Ra I emanating from Kufa and Basra were inclined toward recourse to reason in extrapolating law in the absence of unambiguous text. Reason would even be accorded legal preference when in conflict with the texts al Alwani 2003. These two groups were not entirely diametrically opposed however as there existed a spectrum of approaches with certain factions within each group allowing for some level of co-existence. With the multiplicity of approaches came the sense that a criteria needed to be set for regulating usul al fiqh.

 The climate was ripe for establishing a coherent body of guidelines to which jurists could turn to as a reference Kamali 1991. Imaam Abu Yusuf and Imaam Hasan al Shaybani the students of Imaam Abu Hanifa are reputed to be the first to write books codifying the science of usul al fiqh Nadwi 1999. This is also claimed of the Shi a scholar Imaam Ja afar al Sadiq but none of their books have reached us. It is accepted by the scholars that Imaam shafi was the first to establish an overridingly authoritative framework synthesizing the two dominant approaches in to a coherent system of principles and maxims. Having studied under scholars of both schools he was aptly positioned to offer a critical evaluation of each philosophy.

His work included the defense al Hujjah and critique al Ikhtilaf Ma a Malik of Imaam Maalik's legal opinions and on Imaam Abu Hanifa's work, he observed an overemphasis on particular details of a case without due regard for basic legal principles al Alwani 2003. It is within this context that Imaam Shafi wrote his seminal work al Risala expounding the foundational principles and methodology by which fiqh was to be determined. It represented the dominant study of the field of usul al fiqh and sparked numerous commentaries, criticisms and elaborations from within the scholarly community. The writings on the topic generally fell in to two categories. What followed was the institutionalization of the dominant schools of thought. Contrary to the culture of independent thinking and rigorous debate on new issues that characterized the first three centuries of Islam, the jurists of this era were immersed in elaborations on the works of their predecessors. Whilst this had a catalytic affect on the flourishing of usl al fiqh as an academic discipline its application through ijtihad waned. At the beginning of the third century a prevalent opinion surfaced that the early predecessors had exhausted the production of fiqh from the sources and there no longer existed the scope or need to exercise independent judgment. This is widely referred to as the closure of the gate of ijtihad. As opposed to reacting to the changes in social economic and political realities, there was a sustained period of stagnation wherein a culture of imitation and following precedent taqlid prevailed. This continued for around nine centuries and witnessed the decline and eventual downfall of both the Abbasid and Ottoman Empires. All the while Europe was on the ascendancy expanding their military and political reach and establishing their colonial domination of Muslim. lands Kamali 2000 https acc teachmideast org texts php module_id 2 reading_id 210 print.

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