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ources of Islamic Law

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The goal of Islam is for the human to become a true servant of Allah SWT. Therefore, his source of
guidance and the foundations of his actions must be rooted in the revelation from God. Say, obey Allah
and the Messenger; and, if you turn away, Allah does not like those who reject. (Q.3:32.)
Obey Allah and the Messenger that hopefully you will receive mercy. (Q.3:132.)
O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and don't bring your actions to nought.
There are many other similar verses.
Likewise, we find all the prophets calling on their people to obey them: "Have fear of Allah and obey me"
(Q.3:50; Q.26:108, 110, 126, 131, 144, 150, 163, 179; Q.43:63).
How, then, do we know what the commands of Allah and His Prophet are, so that we can obey them?
There are four main sources of Islamic law:

The Holy Quran

Sunnah/Hadith of Prophet Muhammad
Ijma (Consensus of Islamic Scholars)
Qiyas (Analogy)

Each one of these sources is discussed in detail in the following pages.

Firstly, of course, we have the Qur'an, "a sending-down from the Lord of all the worlds" (Q.56:80), "which
no falsehood approaches, either from in front of it or from behind; a sending-down from [One] Wise and
Praiseworthy" (Q.41:42).
It is a plain statement to mankind, a guidance and instruction to those who fear God (3:138). God

revealed the Quran in Arabic through the Angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23
years. For ten years in Makkah and 13 years in Madina, the Quran taught the oneness of God and guided

believers to the path of morality and justice. It is the only Book of God which has not been distorted as
He Himself undertook its safety. As the Muslim community grew and its needs became more complex,
the Quran addressed those issues and tried to replace old tribal customs with more just reforms. For
example, the Quran outlawed prevalent customs such as idolatry, gambling, liquor, promiscuity,
unbridled polygamy, usury, etc. It also improved the status of women by proclaiming women's equality
to men and providing women with decreed rights in the areas of marriage, divorce and inheritance.
There are 55 alternative names or attributes of the Holy Quran some of which are: Al-Kitab, Al-Furqan,
Al-Noor etc.
The Holy Quran is divided into 30 parts (Juz). It has 114 surahs all of which start with Bismillah AlRahman Ar-Rehman. Al-Baqarah is the longest surah in the Quran whereas Al-Kawthar is the shortest
surah in the Quran. The total number of verses in the Holy Quran is 6,236.
Indeed, the Quran is miraculous in many ways. For example, the Arabs at the time of the Prophet

excelled in language. However, even though they greatly opposed the Prophet for many years, they
realized that they could not meet the eloquence of the Quran.

The shari'a, foundations of Islamic law, are derived from verses from the Quran. But, as with any
linguistic text, there are potential problems. It is necessary to determine, for instance, whether an
expression is to be taken generally, or whether there are exceptions to it. It may also be that an expression
which is unqualified in one part of the Qur'an is qualified elsewhere: should the first expression thus be
understood to be qualified in the same way? It may also be that there is a contradiction between two
judgments because one of them was revealed later and intended to supersede the other, although both
remain in the text. Similarly, it is often of importance when understanding the meaning of a passage to
know something about the circumstances in which it was revealed. This involves the knowledge of the
"circumstances of revelation", or asbab al-nuzul.

Furthermore, it goes without saying that all these issues of textual interpretation demand a firm
knowledge of the Arabic language.
The reality is that no other book has so far provided and interpreted laws in such definite and impartial
manner in which the Holy Quran has provided and interpreted the law. Due to these features and abovementioned ones, the Holy Quran is considered as first primary or fundamental source of Islamic Law.
Compilation of the Holy Quran:
Quran was revealed in the form of revelations to the Prophet from Allah SWT through Angel Gabriel.
After receiving the revelation, he would ask his literate companions to write it down and asked the scribe

to read it back to ensure that he had written it correctly. The revelations were written on pieces of leather,
stone tablets, bones of camels and palm tree leaves. Several copies of the Quran existed in this form at
that time but it was not complied in the form of a book. The Quranic verses were initially not arranged in
any proper order but towards the end of Prophets life, he informed the scribes of the real order of the
Quranic verses and chapters. These instructions were given to the Prophet by Allah through angel
Gabriel.The Quran was not compiled in a book form during the life of the Prophet.
At the time of the Prophets death, there was no official copy of the Quran and no one possessed a
complete written text. However, after the death of many of the memorizers of Quran in the battle of
Yamana, Hazrat Umar realized that those who had memorized the Quran would gradually die and this
might challenge the preservation of the word of Allah. Therefore, Hazrat Umar suggested to the caliph,
Hazrat Abu Bakr that he order a written copy of the Quran to be made. At first Hazrat Abu Bakr
hesitated because he did not want to take on a task which the Prophet himself had left undone. However,
Hazrat Umar went on insisting him until he finally agreed. Hazrat Abu Bakr then directed Zaid Bin
Sabit, Prophets chief scribe, to undertake this task. A commission was appointed, headed by Zaid Bin
Sabit which traced out and collected the chapters of Quran from every person who had it in their

possession. Zaid Bin Sabit even collected verses of the Quran written on stones, bones and palm
leaves. Yet, he was not content and verified all what they collected from other memorizers of the Quran
to ensure that the copy they made was flawless and Allahs word was preserved in its truest form.
In the Caliphate of Hazrat Usman, Islam expanded rapidly and many new areas were gained as
territories. These areas had different pronunciations and dialects. The issue was taken into consideration
and serious action was taken. Hazrat Usman acquired the Mushaf-e-Hufsa and told Zaid Bin Sabit and 3
other men to make a new copy following the dialect of Quraish, since the Quran was revealed in that
dialect. The Quran was read out loudly from the beginning to the end in the Prophets mosque from
these copies, so that not a shadow of doubt remained in the mind of Muslims regarding the changes
introduced. These copies were then dispatched to the capital of each province with instructions that
future copies must be based on them. All other copies were then burnt.

The Sunnah is the next important source, and is commonly defined as "the traditions and customs of

Muhammad "or "the words, actions and silent assertions of him ". It includes the everyday sayings
and utterances of Muhammad , his acts, his silent consent, and acknowledgments of statements and

activities. Sunnah is what was practiced by the Prophet and hadith is the records of what was said by
him .

Justification for using the Sunnah as a source of law can be found in the Qur'an. The Qur'an commands

Muslims to follow Muhammad . During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad made it clear that his
traditions (along with the Qur'an) should be followed after his death. \Islamic jurisprudence, the Qur'an
contains many rules for the behavior expected of Muslims but there are no specific Qur'anic rules on
many religious and practical matters. Muslims believe that they can look at the way of life, or Sunnah, of
Prophet Muhammad and his companions to discover what to imitate and what to avoid.

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). As the last messenger of God, Muhammad brought the Quranic teachings
to life through his interpretation and implementation as leader of the Muslim community. The message

in the Quran was then acted upon by the Messenger . There is the 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". This is the origin of our second source, the Sunnah.
Much of the Sunnah is recorded in the Hadith. Initially, Prophet Muhammad had instructed his
followers not to write down his acts, so they may not confuse it with the Qur'an. However, he did ask his

followers to disseminate his sayings orally. As long as he was alive, any doubtful record could be
confirmed as true or false by simply asking him. His death, however, gave rise to confusion over
Muhammad's conduct. Thus the Hadith were established.

The life and teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were fresh in the memory of his companions,
the sahabah RA, so they were not rushing to record everything they remembered. They wanted to ensure
their memory and narration of the Sunnah was correct and verifiable. Gradually a whole system for the

of hadith was

developed, the








Hadith are classified into three categories:

1. Indubitable (mutawatir), which are very widely known, and backed up by numerous references.
2. Widespread (mashhur), which are widely known, but backed up with few original references.

3. Isolated or Single (wahid), which are backed up by too few and often discontinuous references.
Several works containing collections of hadith were compiled. Each hadith was prefaced by a chain of
narrators, which is called al-isnad. This was the chain of people, through whom the hadith was
transmitted. The second part of the hadith isal-matn, the content, which reports the teaching of the
incident. In this way, hadith compilers provided not only the information they had received from or
about Muhammad (peace be upon him), but also described its authentic source.
The main divisions of hadith:
Scholars of hadith literature have divided the traditions into three categories, according to the degree of
their reliability. These categories were based on:

The perfection or imperfection of the chain of transmitters.


The freedom of the texts from any defects.

Acceptance of any hadith, was tracked by its narrator, from the companions (may Allah be pleased with
them), their followers (at-tabiun) and their successors (tabeie al-tabiun).
Types of Hadith:
(1) As-sahih, authentic hadith
The Tru ; this name is given to the "correct" hadith in which there is no weakness. Both its chain of
transmission (al-isnad) and the text (al-matn) are sound, and its text does not contradict any established
belief of Islam. It has no hidden defect.
(2) Al-hasan
The Good. It is like as- sahih tradition except for the fact that some of its narrators have been found to
have a weaker memory in comparison to the narrators of sahih hadith.
(3) Ad-daf
The Weak. This refers to that tradition in which there is some problem in either the chain of transmission,
in the proper understanding of the transmitter or in its content, which may be in disagreement with
Islamic beliefs and practices.
The resources include many things that he said, did, or agreed to -- and he lived his life according to the

Quran, putting the Quran into practice in his own life. During his lifetime, the Prophet's family and
companions observed him and shared with others exactly what they had seen in his words and
behaviors -- i.e. how he performed ablutions, how he prayed, and how he performed many other acts of

worship. People also asked the Prophet directly for rulings on various matters concerning personal
conduct, community and family relations, political matters, etc. which were addressed during the time of
the Prophet , decided by him, and recorded. The Sunnah can thus clarify details of what is stated

generally in the Quran. All of these details were passed on and recorded, to be referred to in future legal

The ijma', or consensus amongst Muslim jurists on a particular legal issue, constitutes the third source of
Islamic law. Muslim jurists provide many verses of the Qur'an that legitimize ijma' as a source of
legislation. Prophet Muhammad himself said:

"My followers will never agree upon an error or what is wrong."

Imam Al- ShafiI defines Ijma as, The adherence of the congregation of Muslims to the conclusion of a
given ruling pertaining tp what is permitted and what is forbidden after the passing away of Prophet
. The congregation of Muslims here refers to the experts of independent reasoning (ahl al-ijtihad)

and the legal answers in the obscure matters which require insight and investigation, as well as the
agreement of the Community of Muslims concerning what is obligatorily known of the religion with its
decisive proofs.
The Ijma acceptable to all Believers is that Quraan is the unchanged, undebatable word of Allah

SWT and Rasulullah is the Last Messenger of Allah SWT. This is the first type of Ijma, and it involves a
general agreement of all Muslims in matter of beliefs. The second category of Ijma particularly concerns
legal matters and can be defined as the agreement of a group of Muslims about an issue on which the
Quraan and Sunnah have not spoken a final word. Such types of Ijma are more localised, i.e., one school
of thought may adhere to it, whereas another may disagree on legal grounds. For example, the Hanbali,
Maaliki and Shafii schools of thought permit consumption of kosher meat, whereas the Hanafi school of
thought does not.
Ijma has been practised from the very early stages of Islam. At the instance of the Battle of Uhad, on

consensus of the general public, or the majority, Rasulullah decided that fighting takes place outside

the city, despite the fact that his personal opinion was otherwise. In Hazrat Umars RA era, the
congregation of Taraweeh prayers in Ramadan was restarted after consultation with many Sahaabah RA:
another example of Ijma. In the contemporary world, Ijma is practised at the instance of the sighting of
the moon for Ramadan, Eid or otherwise. The decision given by the Roiyat-e-Hilaal Committee of
Pakistan, which consists of scholars and legal experts (that whether or not has the moon been sighted), is
considered binding for all Muslims of the Pakistan region and they are obliged to observe all religious
rituals likewise.

It is clear that Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq, the great companion of Prophet Muhammad and first khalifa,
used to refer to the Quran to find answers. If ever he couldnt find the answer there, he would refer

to hadith. Then if the answer was not there either, he would gather the companions and by consensus
(ijma) and the matter would be decided.

Why do we need Ijma?

There has been a difference of opinion among Islamic Scholars as to the definition and binding authority
of Ijma. Ijma caters to two very important Islamic concerns, especially in todays age:
The need of the Muslims to know what the Islamic teachings on various matters are: The fundamental
Islamic teachings can be acquired from the Quran and Hadith by anyone whos been endowed with the
blessing of Iman. However the need for a consensus arises here because even Quranic verses and
Ahadith can be misinterpreted, no matter how clear they are, or they may be understood in more than
one manner. It can also be difficult to determine as to which verses and which Prophetic sayings are
applicable to a certain situation. And very importantly, it may not be certain whether some Ahadith are
applicable to a certain situation are authentic or not. Therefore in order to eradicate these ambiguities, it
is highly necessary to have conclusions reached upon unanimously by all members of the Muslim
The need to form an Islamic society capable of taking unified action when the need for such an action
rises: The Quran and Hadith may not be contain answers to questions asked a long period after the
revelation and so the people come up with their own different answers by analogy or by other
approaches. This is where the role of Ijma is of utmost importance, since today we are living in a world
1500 years away from the time of Prophet , and due to natural evolution and technological

advancements, we are faced with various questions every day that need to be answered in the light of
Islamic knowledge, and often a need is felt by Muslims for a collective, united action and in such cases,
differences in views can be crippling. Isjma ensures that by having conclusions unanimously reached by
all, not only the Muslims are saved from confusions but also that religious matters are not a source of
creating a divide among the Ummah. In todays world, where the Ummah is already disintegrating
based on the most minor of differences, the role that Ijma can play should not be underestimated.

This refers to taking an injunction that applies in one case and applying it in another because they share
a characteristic that is the effective cause of the injunction being applied in the first case. In Islamic
jurisprudence, Qiyas is a process of deduction by which the law of the text (Asl) is applied to cases,
which have not been covered clearly in the other three sources. Thus it is extended to cases or matters not
explicitly covered by the Quraan and Sunnah on the grounds of a material similarity in the nature of the
two cases. Juristic analogy ranks as the fourth source of Islamic legislation, though its effects are more
widespread and far-reaching than that of juristic consensus due to the fact that so many injunctions in
Islamic Law are based upon it. The reason for this is that the issues where consensus has taken place are
few, since there is no way that it could occur after the earliest eras of Islamic history. The reason for this is
that the scholars have become scattered all over the world and have not been able to engage in mutual
This is not the case for juristic analogy, because it does not require unanimous agreement. Quite the
contrary, each jurist uses analogy according to his own, personal reasoning for every new situation that
has not been previously addressed by the Quran, Sunnah, or consensus. It should not go unnoticed that
the Quran and Sunnah are necessarily limited in the number of issues that they can directly address. At
the same time, the number of new occurrences and expected future occurrences knows no limit. There is
no way for Islamic legal injunctions to be established for every new development and every possible
transaction except by way of applying the methods of reason, at the forefront of which is that of analogy.
Analogy is the most widely applied and versatile sources for extrapolating specific injunctions to deal
with new issues confronted by Islamic Law.
The foundation of qiyas was laid down by Hazrat Umar ibn Khattab RA, the second khalifa.
The sacred texts generally state the effective cause and the rationale for most of the injunctions that they
establish. This facilitates applying these injunctions in new but similar cases that make their appearance
in every age. The texts of the Quran are mostly of a general and universal nature, as we have seen. This
has opened the doors to analogous reasoning, allowing cases that the texts have not treated to be referred
back to those that the texts have dealt with decisively by applying the textually established injunctions
wherever their effective causes are evident.
The cases handled by way of analogy in Islamic Law are too numerous to count. The greater portion of
Islamic legislation is made up of these cases. Analogy continues to be used for every new issue that is not
directly addressed by the sacred texts. For example, the texts that deal with injunctions pertaining to an
agreement of sale are more than those that deal with a lease agreement. Consequently, the jurists, by way
of analogy, took many of the injunctions referring to sales and applied them to lease agreements due to
the fact leasing is essentially the sale of rights and benefits.

Likewise, the texts deal at length with the injunctions pertaining to the guardians of orphaned minors,
detailing their rights, responsibilities, and capabilities. The jurists, by way of analogy, applied the same
injunctions to the executors of endowments, due to the similarities in their duties. They also derived
many of the injunctions pertaining to endowments themselves from those that the texts had established
for bequests.
There are actually two conditions for qiyas:
1. The matter to be decided by qiyas has no specific ordinance for it in the Quran and hadith.
2. There must be something in common between the qiyas and what it is being applied to.
In cases when something needs a legal ruling, but has not been clearly addressed in the other sources,
judges may use analogy, reasoning, and legal precedent to decide new case law. This is often the case
when a general principle can be applied to new situations.
The justification for Qiyas is found in Surah al-Hashr, v. 9, where Allah SWT asks us to utilise our insight in
order to learn lessons: Then take admonition, O you with insight. Likewise, the justification is also
found in a Hadith. While dispatching Hazrat MuaadhRAbin Jabal as governor of Yemen, Rasulullah
asked him as to how he would judge the cases. His reply was, From the Book of God. The Prophet
asked him if he did not find a clear solution therein; he replied he would look to the Sunnah. The

Prophet further asked him that if he still found no answer from the Sunnah, what he would do. Upon

this, Hazrat MuaadhRA said that he would decide by exercising his own judgement. On this the Holy

Prophet was pleased and he prayed for Hazrat Muaadh RA. This shows Rasulullahs approval for
using Qiyas.