From Al-Fiqh al-Manhajī ʿalā Madhhab al-Imam Ash-Shāfiʿī
By Sheikhs Muṣṭafā Al-Khin, Muṣṭafā Al-Bughā and ʿAlī Ash-Sharbajī
Stairs leading to the minaret of Imam ash-Shāfiʿī’s Masjid, Cairo
On defining the science of fiqh, its sources and some of its terminology:
The meaning of fiqh:
Indeed, fiqh has two meanings; a linguistic meaning and a terminological meaning.
The Exalted One has said, “What is the matter with these people, they barely understand [yafqahūn] a single word?” [Sūrat An-Nisāʾ 4: 78] The Exalted One has also said, “But you do not understand [tafqahūn] their glorification…” [Sūrat Al-Isrāʾ 17:44]
The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Indeed, the length of a man’s prayer and the shortness of his speech is a sign of his fiqh.” (Related by Muslim: 869) i.e. a sign of his understanding.
As for the terminological meaning, then fiqh refers to two matters:
The first is knowledge of the rulings of the Revealed Law that are attached to the actions and statements of those legally responsible and are taken from their detailed proofs, which are the texts from the Qurʾān and Sunnah and what branches out from them, such as consensus and personal reasoning.
An example of this is our knowledge that the intention for wuḍūʾ is obligatory based on his statement, may Allah bless him and grant him peace: “Indeed actions are by intentions.” (Related by Al-Bukhārī: 1; Muslim: 1907)
Another example is the intention from the night before being a condition for the validity of one’s fast, which is based on his statement, may Allah bless him and grant him peace: “Whoever does not have the intention to fast from before dawn has no fast.” (Related by Al-Bayhaqī: 4/202, and Ad-Dāraquṭnī: 2/172, and he said, ‘It’s narrators are trustworthy.’)
Our knowledge that Salāt Al-Witr is recommended is based on the ḥadīth of the Bedouin who asked the prophet about the obligations. Then, after that, he said, ‘Is there anything else that I am obliged to do?’ He said “No, except that one does it voluntarily.” (Related by Al-Bukhārī: 1792 and Muslim: 11)
Another example is prayer being disliked after ʿAṣr, which is based on his prohibition, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, of prayer after ʿAṣr until the sun has set. (Related by Al-Bukhārī: 561 and Muslim: 827)
Wiping only some of the head in wuḍūʾ being obligatory is based on Allah’s statement: “And wipe your heads.” [Sūrat Al-Māʾida 5:6] Therefore, our knowledge of these legal rulings is called fiqh in the terminological sense.
The second is the rulings of the Revealed Law themselves, and it is based on this that we say, ‘I have studied fiqh and learnt it.’ This means that you have studied the juristic rulings of the Revealed Law that are found in the books of fiqh, and these rulings are derived from the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the consensus of the scholars of the Muslims and their personal reasoning.
Examples of this would include the rulings of wuḍūʾ, the rulings of prayer, the rulings of buying and selling, the rulings of marriage and suckling, war and jihād and so on.
These rulings of the Revealed Law themselves are called fiqh in the terminological sense.
The difference between the two meanings is that the first refers to knowledge of the rulings while the second refers to the actual rulings of the Revealed Law.
How fiqh is connected to the Islamic creed
One of the particularities of Islamic fiqh - which, as we have said, is legal rulings that regulate the actions and statements of those who are legally responsible - is that it is firmly attached to faith in Allah the Exalted and fastened to the pillars of the Islamic creed, especially the creed of faith in the Last Day.
That is because the creed of faith in Allah the Exalted is that which makes the Muslim adhere to the rulings of the Religion and drives him towards applying them willingly and voluntarily.
It is also because whoever does not believe in Allah the Exalted is not bound by prayer and fasting and is not concerned with whether his actions are lawful or unlawful. Thus, adhering to the rulings of the Revealed Law is only a branch of having faith in the One Who sent them down and legislated them for His slaves.
The examples in the Noble Qurʾān that clarify this connection are many indeed. It will suffice us to mention some of them in order to see the extent of this connection between rulings and faith and between the Revealed Law and creed:
1) Indeed Allah, Mighty and Majestic, commanded purification and made it from the necessities of faith in Him, Glorified and Exalted, when he said. “O you who believe! When you stand up for the prayer wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows...” [Sūrat Al-Māʾida 5:6]
2) Allah mentioned prayer and Zakāt and joined between them and faith in the Last Day. The Exalted One has said, “Those who establish the prayer, pay the Zakāt and are certain of the Hereafter.” [Sūrat An-Naml 27:3]
3) Allah made the fasting that leads to taqwā obligatory and connected it to faith. The Exalted One has said, “O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before that you may achieve taqwā.” [Sūrat Al-Baqara 2:183]
4) Allah the Exalted mentioned the praiseworthy attributes that the Muslim is adorned with and He attached that to faith in Him the Exalted and that which merits entry into Paradise. He has said: “It is the believers who are successful: those who are humble in their prayer; those who turn away from worthless talk; those who pay the Zakāt; those who guard their private parts – except from their wives or those whom they own as slaves, in which case they are not blameworthy; but those who desire anything more than that are people who have gone beyond the limits – those who honour their trusts and their contracts; those who safeguard their prayer: such people are the inheritors of Firdaws, remaining forever therein.” [Sūrat Al Muʾminūn 23:1-11]
5) Allah the Exalted commanded that women be treated well and He paved the way for that by calling on the people who are legally responsible. The Exalted One has said, “O you believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by force. Nor may you treat them harshly so that you can make off with part of what you have given them unless they commit an act of flagrant indecency. Live together with them correctly and courteously. If you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good.” [Sūrat An-Nisāʾ 4:19]
6) He commanded the divorced woman to wait for three periods and not to conceal what is in her womb if she is pregnant, and He connected this to faith in Allah and the Last Day. The Exalted One has said, “Divorced women should wait by themselves for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day.” [Sūrat Al-Baqara 2:228]
7) Allah, Glorified and Exalted, commanded the avoidance of wine, gambling, idols and divining arrows after calling the believers with the description of faith, informing them that avoiding these things is connected to having sincere faith. The Exalted One has said, “O you who believe! Wine, gambling, idols and divining arrows are only filth from the handiwork of Satan. Avoid them completely so that hopefully you will be successful.” [Sūrat Al-Māʾida 5:90]
8) Allah, Glorified and Exalted, has declared usurious gain unlawful and He has joined between leaving it off and the verification of one’s taqwā and faith. The Exalted One has said, “O you who believe! Do not consume usurious gain, multiplied and then re-multiplied. Have taqwā of Allah so that you may be successful.” [Sūrat Āl ʿImrān 3:130] He has also said, “O you who believe! Have taqwā of Allah and leave off whatever remains of usurious gain if you are believers.” [Sūrat Al-Baqara 2:278]
9) Allah has encouraged action and He has surrounded it with the awareness of divine observation and responsibility. The Exalted One has said, “Act, for Allah will see your actions and so will His Messenger and the believers. You will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the Visible and He will inform you regarding what you did.” [Sūrat At-Tawba 9:105]
Thus, whenever you find a ruling of the Dīn in the Qurʾān, it is always connected to faith in Allah and to the pillars of the Islamic creed, and this is how Islamic fiqh acquires its religious sanctity. It has spiritual authority because it is the rulings of the Revealed Law, which have been issued from Allah the Exalted, necessitating obedience to Him and pleasing Him. In going against them, there is the danger of His wrath and displeasure. These are not secular laws, to which one’s conscience feels no attachment nor does one connect them to one’s Creator. The Exalted One has said, “No, by your Lord, they do not believe until they make you their judge in what they differ over and then they do not find any resistance within themselves to what you decide and they submit themselves completely.” [Sūrat An-Nisāʾ 4:65]
 (tn): i.e. understanding
 (tn) i.e. he understood/he understands
 (tn): Ar. ash-Sharīʿah
 (tn): Ar. mukallaf
 (tn): Ar. ijmāʿ
 (tn): Ar. ijtihād
 (tn): Ar. thiqāt
 (tn): Ar. al-farāʾiḍ
 (tn): Ar. makrūh
 (tn): Ar. fiqhī
 (tn): Ar. as-Ṣalāt
 (tn): i.e. the evidences that they are derived from
 (tn): Ar. al-īmān
 (tn): Ar. ad-Dīn
 (tn): Ar. ḥalāl
 (tn): Ar. ḥarām
 (tn): i.e. awe or fear of Allah which inspires a person to be on guard against sinful actions and eager to partake in actions that please Him
 (tn): Ar. Al-laghw, which refers to that which is false and to words and actions that have no benefit.
 (tn): i.e. from the unlawful, especially fornication.
 (tn): Imam Ibn Kathīr says in his commentary of this āya, ‘It has been affirmed in the two Ṣaḥīḥ collections [i.e. Al-Bukhārī and Muslim] that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “When you ask Allah for Paradise, ask Him for Firdaws, for indeed it is the highest part of Paradise and the middlemost part of Paradise. From it the rivers of Paradise pour forth and above it is the Throne [ʿArsh] of the All-Merciful [Ar-Raḥmān].”’ [Tafsīr Al-Qurʾān Al-ʿAẓīm (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 1423/2002), v.3, p.1981]
 (tn): Ar. wa la taʿḍilūhunna, i.e. do not prevent them from getting married.
 (tn): Ar. fāḥisha, i.e. bad character, recalcitrance (nushūz) or fornication.
 (tn): which, in the Shāfiʿī school, is three periods of purity between menstrual cycles.
 (tn): Ar. ar-ribā