An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh)

An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh)


In a literal sense, the term “Fiqh”  is an Arabic terminology which means “deep understanding”  or “full comprehension”. Technically, it refers to a branch of Islamic Sciences which focuses on the extraction of Islamic laws from detailed Islamic sources. Thus, the term “Fiqh” is technically translated in English as Islamic Jurisprudence.

The Significance of Fiqh

According to Hadith, if we do not acquire knowledge of Fiqh, we may die as the biggest ignorant. Islam reminds us that our real life is the life hereafter, which is forever. Our present life on this earth is short, temporary and a trial period for the next permanent (real) life. This life is transit to our ultimate destination: Heaven or Hell. This present life is a trial period to judge who obeys the orders of Allah and who does not.

According to the Hadith of Imam Ali (PBUH), anyone who follows Islam without the knowledge of Fiqh is on the right path but is going in the wrong direction. In Islam, a lack of knowledge of Fiqh (shariah) is not an excuse for not following the Islamic tenets correctly. Lack of knowledge of Fiqh about a good deed can sometimes lead to punishment (Torment) instead of reward (Divine Blessing) from Allah even though the intention may initially be good.

There are many examples of this. A story of a wife, who after the death of her husband, donated all his property and wealth to the poor, but she earned Hellfire because she did not know the rules of Fiqh that after the husband’s death, his property and wealth must be distributed to heirs according to the Islamic laws of inheritance.

According to Fiqh, the wife gets a stipulated portion of the husband’s property and wealth (one-fourth if there was no child and one-eighth with at least a child). After the husband’s death, she cannot even spend his money on his children unless the husband has made her his wali (guardian) during his lifetime or through a will. Writing of Will (Wasiyah) is very important for people in Islamic Fiqh.

Meanwhile, Islam expects every Muslim to either become a Mujtahid (1) or do taqlid (i.e., imitation) of the highest ranking Mujtahid (i.e., a Marja) (2). Hence Taqlid is obligatory for every Muslim who cannot attain the level of Ijtihad (i.e., the ability to extract religious laws from their sources). A Mujtahid writes a book of ahkam (Islamic Laws), which is used by his followers (Muqallideen) to know his religious verdicts (Fatwas) about different issues.

The Sources of Fiqh

There are two main sources of knowledge of Fiqh:

  1. The Holy Qur’an
  2. The Traditions (Sunnah)

Holy Qur’an is the word of Allah as revealed to Holy Prophet (PBUHH) and it is available in a single book form. The Sunnah on the other hand means the sayings, actions and silent approval of the Holy Prophet (PBUHH) and the Holy Imams (PBUtH). The literature of Hadith is scattered in different books written over different times and there are over 6000 Quranic verses and around 70,000 hadiths (Sunnah).

Both the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah have equal status as far as the obligatory acts are concerned. If one obligation is mentioned in Sunnah only, it has the same weight as one obligation mentioned in the Quran only.

Types of Islamic rulings

Islamic rulings are two types:
A. Hukm al- Takleefi: These are the rulings that are directly connected to the actions of a matured Muslim (i.e., a Mukallaf). These are five: Wajib-Obligatory-, Haram-Forbidden-, Mustahab-Suererogatory-, Makrooh- Detestable and Mubah-

B. Hukm al- Wad’i: These are the rulings that are not directly connected to the actions of a matured Muslim (i.e., a Mukallaf). For example, purification (Taharat).


The Essentials of Religion

The essentials of religion are those things on which all Muslims agree as established commandments of Islam including, Salat (ritual Prayers), Sawm (Fasting), Hajj (Pilgrimage to Kaaba), Hijab, the finality of Prophethood etc.

For example, Qadiyanis are considered infidel because they do not believe in the finality of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUHH), while all Muslims agree on Prophet Muhammad (PBUHH) to be the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers of Allah.

Four Conditions of religious obligations

Furu-ul-Deen (i.e., the branches of religion) are obligatory (wajib) on every Muslim who has the following 4 conditions:

  1. Being alive: Religious obligations are meant for one who is alive. Thus, there’s no obligatory practice on a dead person.
  2. Being Mature: Someone who has attained puberty stage in accordance with Islamic directives. Thus, there’s no obligation on a child.
  3. Being Sane: Religious obligations are someone who is intellectually okay. Thus, the insane person has no religious obligation.
  4. Being Free-willed: There are religious obligations on someone who is free, not under compulsion. Thus, a compelled person has no religious obligation.

Important Notes:

– From Fiqh’s point of view, a girl becomes mature at the age of 9 Islamic years even if her monthly period has not started. A boy becomes mature at the age of 15 Islamic years or at an earlier age if he starts discharging semen or pubic hairs appear below his navel.

– If an immature child offers Salat, Sawm etc, he/she will get the reward for these acts, if he is of such age that he/she can distinguish good from bad or right from wrong (Mumaiyez in Arabic).

– It is obligatory for the guardian to stop immature children from certain major haram things, which include Wine, Pork, Haram Meat, Music, and Stealing.




1) A Mujtahid is a learned person and an expert in Islamic jurisprudence who has acquired thorough knowledge and understanding of the Quran and the Hadith.

2) A Marja is a Mujtahid who is the most knowledgeable among all Mujtahids and he is followed by common people.

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