What are Fiqh and Usool-ul-Fiqh disciplines?

I read a bit some of “Fiqh” books and frankly found them boring. I got lost between the various rulings on the same issue by different scholars.

Actually, I don’t quite understand what Fiqh is and how it is disciplined, if at all. And what is the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh?

The word Fiqh literally means “Getting the point!” Not all people who read a text or listen to a talk get the point of it. Worse yet, some may even get weird concepts from it.

In order for one to get the point, one needs to know how! That’s what the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction) comes in. It is logic applied to Islamic sources. What you are finding boring is comparative jurisprudence (Al-Fiqh al-Muqaaran).

Yes. There are schools of thought and then comes the exegesis. But the process, and I am a process person, loses its perspective. Minute replaces the objective.

What about women. Why do women not discuss Fiqh?

I think that women were generally not encouraged, or their contributions have not been publicized. But that wasn’t the case early on. Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her, was a consultant to many Sahaaba (Fellows of the Prophet, PBUH) on all issues, not just women’s issues. Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Imaam Maalik, among many others, had female teachers. See this post, for more examples.

Is Fiqh derived from the Hadeeths? Given that the Quran is Absolute.

Fiqh applies to both the Quran and the Hadeeth, because both are texts from which rulings may be derived. Usool-ul-Fiqh work the same way for both. Hadeeth involves an additional discipline: authentication.

While the Quran is absolute, it is revealed in a human language, and therefore may be interpreted in more than one way. If interested, check out this discussion about verse 3:7.

I read the Bukhaari and Muslim compilations of authentic hadeeths and I was impressed with the arduous work involved in authentication of the Hadeeth

Indeed, may God bless the scholars of Hadeeth who verified the integrity of every narrator in every narration! A huge body of investigative research.

25 Responses to “What are Fiqh and Usool-ul-Fiqh disciplines?”

  1. Aapa says:

    Foundations of deduction…not the stuff I slept through in college is it..

    john is man
    all men are illogical
    john is illogical

    what is Islamic deduction and how does it differ from the methodology of the Greeks.

    • noclash says:

      Uh Oh, I’m afraid it is the stuff you slept through in college!

      Usool-ul-Fiqh is an application of logic to Islamic sources: the texts of the Quran and the authentic Hadeeth, to deduce rulings and teachings. For instance, how do you know that a command is a mandate or a recommendation? Does the text apply to its context only, or is it a general teaching? How do you reconcile what seems to be a contradiction between two texts?

      The labor involved is called Ijtihaad. The consequences of proper analysis and improper analysis are huge; they affect people’s lives. That’s why I regard Usool-ul-Fiqh and the authentication of the Hadeeth as the two most important Islamic disciplines and that every Muslim, IMHO, should be adequately versed in them.

  2. Aapa says:

    We teach everyone the scientific method. What are the basic tools for Ijtihaad. How does one train a mind to think in the deductive method of the Quran. Am I on the right track.
    By the way when I listen to a scholar I am always amazed at the calmness in his voice and the ability to think so lucidly.

    If this was a course what would be the first assignment for a student on the syllabus.

    • noclash says:

      The basic tools of Ijtihaad are the basic tools of critical thinking, plus knowledge of the Quran, the Hadeeth and Arabic. To train the mind to the deductive method, it needs to get rid of Taqleed (blind following) and start thinking methodically, like a mathematician attempting to derive an equation or solve a geometric puzzle.

      I’d give kids in Usool-ul-Fiqh 101 class an assignment on the first day of class: a sheet of true-or-false quizzes. Their answers will reveal if they have been brainwashed, or are they still in possession of their God-given free intellect. As Einstein once said, “The process of education starts with de-education!”

  3. Aapa says:

    Could you give us an example of what you consider to be relevant questions on your T/F quiz. And what is the definition of brainwashed. How do we define God given free intellect.
    I am having images of Siddhartha going through the purification phase.

    • noclash says:

      The questions would not be much different from what one would get in a Logic & Critical Thinking class. For example,
      “Did you hear those lyrics? So profane! Obviously, music is haraam.”
      “Islam guarantees freedom of religion, therefore any religion you accept is fine with God.”
      “There is a lot of Fitna on Facebook; Muslims should not be on Facebook.”

      By brainwashed, I meant indoctrinated, unable to use his own judgment, repeats what he has been taught as if hypnotized.

      Siddhartha was going through the purification phase because he was in search of wisdom and explanation. Muslims have that already in the Quran. For Muslims to be purified, they need to honor the Quran by placing it higher than all. Too many Muslims, unfortunately, don’t.

      • Aapa says:

        The indoctrination process starts in preschool. How does one correct in your hypothetical Fiqh 101 class the systematic process of erroneous thought. What would be the remediation process? ( I am taking this seriously ).

        I am very familiar with the example questions. It is either or thinking. It can lead to major obstacles in daily life. It allows the personality to become very rigid; it stifles growth because the mind can not explore.

        • noclash says:

          I agree with you completely about the impact of education or lack thereof. The way to remedy indoctrination, IMHO, is to combine teaching of the established with encouragement of questioning, debates, critical thinking, research, exploration, experimentation and self discovery. Only then can a child be the free agent he or she was meant to be by God.

  4. Aapa says:

    Just so we are on the same page what exactly do you mean teaching of the established.
    We need a path to spiritual freedom. And how do we dispose of cultural clutter to teach the established. Yes, it seems I am asking for objectives.

    • noclash says:

      What I mean by “the established” is history, math, physics, language, etc. As for religion, it’s the Quran and the authentic hadeeth.

      Cultural clutter is hard to dispose of, but not impossible. Emphasizing what is based on the established in the religion is the best way I know of to do that. Kinda like when people ask, “Is this a bid`a (novelty) or it is Islam?” Much of the cultural clutter comes from inherited culture of each country, and from Taqleed (blind following).

  5. Aapa says:

    Define please what you mean as the labor involved specifically how do we refine our senses via the Holy Quran.

    • noclash says:

      The labor I refer to is mental, as in education and thinking. It takes effort to learn the disciplines needed, e.g., Arabic language and literature, Hadeeth authentication and logic. There is also self discipline: to align your thought process with the facts that you learned and not let emotions, ego, politics, or peers influence your deduction discipline. That effort, as I mentioned is called Ijtihaad, a word that shares root with Jihaad as both require exerting an effort that meets with resistance. The resistance can be from within or can be external.

      Commitment to that discipline to abide by the rules, and not the resistance, is what refines our senses as we embark on Ijtihaad. The Quran frequently guides us to this approach of seeking balance and fairness, even against our own inclinations.

  6. Aapa says:

    What is the primer text for the student of Fiqh. If I want to increase my understanding of the precepts of Islam, outside of the Holy Quran what would be the tool ( the abc ) of Fiqh. Is there a universal text amongst the different schools of thought.

    You use the work embark on Ijtihaad. Is it an obligation to fulfill as a Muslim? To exercise our minds.

    Resistance…is that a synonym for temptation.

    • noclash says:

      The first book I read on the subject is still the best book I read on the subject. It’s in Arabic and it’s called “علم أصول الفقه” (The science of Foundations of Deduction) by Abdul-Wahhaab Khallaaf. I don’t know if it’s been translated to English.

      Maybe I should write a book 🙂 How do you like this title: “Islamic Discipline of Foundations of Deduction”?

      There is an excellent book of comparative jurisprudence (also in Arabic) called “الفقه على المذاهب الأربعة” (Jurisprudence according to the four schools of thought). I’ll try to look to see if these books have been translated into English.

      Learning Ijtihaad is not an obligation in Islam, but it is an intellect building tool that no Muslim should be without IMHO. When somebody tells you “Verse V say X therefore Y,” you should at least be able to say, “How do you get from X to Y?” Without education, people are virtual slaves.

      By resistance, I meant all forces that drag a person away from the middle, straight path. Temptation is one of them, but also ego, resentment, peer pressure and so on.

  7. Aapa says:

    Try Joy of Fiqh….your title scares me..like my stat professors…once I raised my hand in a graduate class the professor asked when I got lost in the lecture I stated 45 minutes ago!!!!

    Please find a simple translation of the text.

    Please write a book.

    OK…We have understanding now.

    A knowledge of fiqh strengthens my faith. I can apply my faith to all aspects of my life. ..because it defines the path. Am I on the right track.

    Give me background of the four schools of discipline. And where do the Deobandi come in?

    There are many cobwebs that need to be dusted in mind.

    • noclash says:

      You are on the right track 🙂

      The differences between the four schools of thought are not theological or political; they are simply disagreements on interpreting evidence and disagreements of opinions that are formed for lack of evidence.

      I’m afraid I don’t know zip about the Deobandi school of thought. Perhaps other members do?

  8. Aapa says:

    Am I correct in understanding if the schools do not differ in theological nor political matters all schools are founded on the same knowledge?

    And could you give an example of this?

    • noclash says:

      They are founded on the same sources but differ in interpretation of evidence and in reasoning methodology.

      For example, Abu-Haneefa has seven categories of implications of commands, while all other have five. The five are: Fardh (Mandated), Mandoob (Recommended), Mubaah (Allowed), Makrooh (Discouraged) and Haraam (Forbidden). Abu-Haneefa adds two more: Waajib (Dutiful) and Makrooh Tahreeman (Disliked). For him if the evidence is certain in its occurrence (قطعي الورود) then an order is Fardh and a prohibition is Haraam. If the evidence, on the other hand, is uncertain in its occurrence (ظني الورود), such as Hadeeths that have not been ubiquitously narrated (غير متواتر) then an order is Waajib and a prohibition is Makrooh Tahreeman. For example: Abu-Haneefa ruled that establishing prayers is Fardh but reciting Al-Faatiha in the prayer is only Waajib. He ruled that committing adultery is Haraam but wearing silk for men is only disliked. Because of the degree of certainty of the evidence.

      BTW, the expression Abu-Haneefa uses for Makrooh is Makrooh Hatman (Decidely Discouraged) to differentiate it.

  9. Aapa says:

    Certain in its occurrence would be the actual ayats in the Quran and exact phrases from the hadeeths?
    And degree of certainty of the evidence would be the end result after the authentication procedure?

    • noclash says:

      “Certain in its occurrence” are the verses of the Quran as well as hadeeths that have been ubiquitously narrated, i.e., many narrators narrated it from many narrators from many narrators. The text (Matn) of a ubiquitous hadeeth does not have to be identical in all versions of it, but close enough.

      The degree of certainty refers to whether the hadeeth is ubiquitous or singular (حديث آحاد), meaning only a few, often only one narrator, have narrated it from a few from a few. A ubiquitous hadeeth is certain in its occurrence, but a singular hadeeth is not.

  10. Aapa says:

    Let me ask this..the oral tradition is very important in Islam..could we say the oral tradition conveys the tenets of Islam without corruption..or is that too great a leap?

    • noclash says:

      Not generally, no. The oral tradition was not sufficient for preserving the Quran. That is why the Prophet (PBUH) had 43 of his fellows write down the revelations as they were being revealed, then put them all in a specific order in the bound volume we all have today. He left one copy with his daughter Faatima and another copy with his wife Hafsa. Uthmaan ibn Affaan, may God have been pleased with him, made six more copies and sent one to each of the new countries that joined the Islamic state.

      The oral tradition was thought to be sufficient for the Hadeeth, until weak and fabricated hadeeths started to mushroom. That’s when Hadeeth authentication was launched in full force.

  11. Aapa says:


    We know salat is fard. The different schools would have differences of opinion on the rubrics of salat such as do we raise our arms or do we keep them at our sides.

    Am I getting it now?

    • noclash says:

      Yes, but the point is why there are differences. Those who accept one narration rule for what it says, while those who accept another narration rule for what it says. If both narrations are equally authentic, then what criterion does a scholar use to choose one over the other?

      IMHO, both are equally valid, if they are equally authentic and the degree of certainty of their occurrence is equal. When that happens, you know the prophet (PBUH) said or did both. They are two options.

  12. Aapa says:

    We have physical actions that have spiritual counteractions (?)..we need to be cognizant of our overt behavior because of the immediate and long term consequences of that behavior..pleasing Allah.

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