The sources of Islamic law are used by Islamic Scholars to explain and clarify the Shari’ah. There are four Islamic sources of law which are accepted universally by all Muslims, which include Qur’an, Sunnah, Ijma’ (Consensus) and Qiyas (analogy).
In any particular case when something needs a legal ruling, but that has not been clearly addressed in Qur’an and Sunnah, then Muslim scholars may use Ijma’ (consensus) to decide new case law.
The spread of Islam outside Arabia complicated the sources as the sources available out of Madina were not as reliable as in Madina, for this reason the jurists had to turn to Qiyas (analogy) as the fourth source of islamic law.1
Say, obey Allah and the Messenger; and, if you turn away, Allah does not like those who reject. (Q.3:32.)
About the holy Qur’an ALLAH swears in the Qur’an that
“It is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds”. (56:80)
The Qur’an is the first and most important source of Islamic law. Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the direct words of Allah (SWT), as revealed to Muhammad (SAW). All sources of Islamic law must be in essential agreement with the Qur’an. The Qur’an was written and preserved during the life of Muhammad (SAW), and compiled soon after the death of Muhammad (SAW).
The idea of the holy Qur’an may not be completely understood and the ambiguity may remain, As the Qur’an was revealed over a period of twenty three years in relation to particular events and it is explained in the holy Qur’an as follows:
And those who disbelieve say: “Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him all at once?” Thus (it is sent down in parts), that we may strengthen your heart thereby. And we have revealed it to you gradually, in stages. (25:32)2
It may be understood as to give the believers an opportunity to reflect and memorize, to give the believers enough time to spread the words and follow the injunctions, to allow for a progression in legislation until it reached perfection.2
Secondaly as there is the nass of the Qur’an, meaning, in this instance, an unambiguous text or judgment, then there is the overt or general meaning of the Qur’an, then there is the dalil of the Qur’an by which is meant a particular type of implication, there is the mafhum of the Qur’an and there is the shabah or likeness of the Qur’an, which refers to when the reason for a particular judgment is indicated.3
When the Qur’an itself does not speak directly or in detail about a certain subject, Muslims only then turn to alternative sources of Islamic law.
Obey Allah and the Messenger that hopefully you will receive mercy. (Q.3:132.)
“I left two things among you. You shall not go astray so long as you hold
on to them: the Book of Allah & my Sunnah.”
“Indeed I was given this Qur’an and something similar to it (Sunnah).”2
The Sunnah is the next important source, and it is the traditions or known practices of the Prophet Muhammad, the words, actions, silent assertions of him and acknowledgments of statements and activities many of which have been recorded in the volumes of Hadith literature.
“You have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern of conduct for anyone whose hope is in God and the Final Day” (33:21).
A famous hadith of ‘A’isha where she describes the Prophet by saying, “His behaviour was the Qur’an”; or, as it has also been translated, “He was the Qur’an walking”. 3
During his lifetime, Muhammad (SAW) made it clear that his traditions along with the Qur’an should be followed after his death. Muslims consider the Sunnah to be essential supplements to and clarifications of the Qur’an. Muslims believe that they can look at the way of life, or Sunnah, of Muhammad (SAW) and his companions to discover what to imitate and what to avoid as there are no specific Qur’anic rules on many religious and practical matters.
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Much of the Sunnah is recorded in the Hadith. Initially, Muhammad (SAW) had instructed his followers to distribute his sayings orally and not to write his acts, so they may not confuse it with the Qur’an. As long as he was alive, any doubtful record could be confirmed as true or false by asking him. His death, however, gave rise to confusion over Muhammad’s (SAW) conduct. For this purpose Hadith were established and for authenticity, the science of hadith is established.
It is reported that the first Muslim Caliphs have issued instructions to their deputies and judges around the state in which they asked them to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet whenever they could not find the answer in the Qur’an. Those who follow the Qur’an but reject the Sunnah are not actually following the Qur’an in the first place. 2
As very few details are given in the Qur’an about how to do the prayer or pay zakat but nevertheless, plentiful details are provided in Sunnah of how the Prophet carried out these obligations. The Sunnah can thus clarify details of what is stated generally in the Qur’an.
In situations when Muslims have not been able to find a specific legal ruling in the Qur’an or Sunnah, the consensus of the community is sought or at least the consensus of the legal scholars within the community. Ijma’ represents the unanimous agreement of Muslims on a regulation or law at any given time.
Al-Shafi’i third source, after Qur’an and Sunnah, was Ijma’. Al-Shafai,s Ijma’ was to be an Ijma’ of all the Muslims or, at least, all the learned ones amongst them.3
It was never used within the Prophet’s time because there was no need. Majority of Muslim jurists accept the Ijma’ as a universal consensus, while other jurists accept it as a valid concept in a relative sense, not as factual evidence. This is because we cannot be sure that any Ijma’ after the sahaba,s time included all the Ulama or not. The only Ijma’a which they accept as a factual evidence is the Ijma’ of the Sahaba before they were dispersed.
Ijma’ ensures the correct interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah, enhances the authority of rules that are of speculative origin and represents an authority of its own right once it is established.2
The doctrine of the Hanbali school is that Ijma’ is binding only when it is a consensus of the entire Muslim community. In the Hanbali view the only real Ijma’ which occurred other than agreement on religious belief was when the infant Muslim community elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph following the death of the Holy Prophet. The view of the other three schools of Sunni Islam is not so confined. As Ijma’ represents the truth, since God would not allow His followers to err collectively, so once a certain legal principle and interpretation has been established by the consensus of the jurists it cannot be repealed or deviated from. 4
QIYAS (ANALOGICAL DEDUCTION)
The fourth universally accepted source of Islamic law is qiyas (analogy). This is often the case when a general principle can be applied to new situations. Unlike the other three sources, which are based more or less directly on the divine commandments, qiyas depends on the judgment of man. Qiyas represents the attempt to deduce, from earlier decisions, a rule that could be applied to a case not directly covered by either the Qur’an or the Sunnah. 4
The general principle behind the process of qiyas is based on the understanding that every legal injunction guarantees a beneficial and welfare satisfying objective. Thus, if the cause of an injunction can be deduced from the primary sources, then analogical deduction can be applied to cases with similar causes.
Qiyas is the most lively part of Usool Al-Fiqh which makes the Shari’ah so alive and contemporary.2
Qiyas is applied in cases such as in case of alcohol, because the Qur’an clearly explains the reason that consumption of alcohol is prohibited (because it makes the user lose control of his actions), an analogy can be drawn to drugs which induce the same affect. But because the Qur’an does not specifically state the reason why pork is prohibited, Muslims cannot justify banning another meat product with a similar cholesterol level, etc. 1
Qiyas constitutes firstly of Asl. The original case on which a ruling is given,Secondly Far the new case on which a ruling is needed, thirdly Illah the effective cause which is an attribute of the Asl and is found to be common to the original and the new case, Fourthly Hukm. The rule governing the original case which is to be extended to the new case. i.e. in the case of wines and narcotic drugs asl is drinking wine, far is taking narcotic drugs, illah is intoxicating effect and hukm for this is the prohibition2
It should be kept in mind that asl must be constituted in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and asl may not be constituted by a former Qiyas.2
Diversity of opinion exists and existed since the beginning of Islamic Era. The debate continues on the sources of Islamic law, and there is no unanimous agreement on these sources. Even Prophet Muhammad was thought to have said “difference of opinion among my community is a sign of the bounty of God.” 1
We should pray Allah (SWT) guide us to the straight path and keep connected to that right path the path of those whom ALLAH (SWT) has favored, with guidance. Aameen
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