Fiqh is an Arabic word that means ‘deep understanding.’ But what is Fiqh in Islam? It can be translated to ‘jurisprudence’. It is to understand and interpret Islamic law based on the Quran and Hadith.

It is narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas: that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “For whomever Allah wants good, he gives him understanding (Fiqh) in the religion. (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2645, Book 41, Hadith 1)

Fiqh encompasses a comprehensive system of principles and rules derived from the Quran, the Hadith, consensus (ijma), analogical reasoning (qiyas), and independent reasoning (ijtihad).

Role of Fiqh in Islam

Fiqh provides clear guidance on how to lead a righteous and meaningful life based on Islamic teachings. It lays clear guidelines for Muslims on how to carry out Salah, pay Zakat, perform Hajj, etc., deal with family matters such as marriage and divorce, and conduct business and commerce fairly. It also guides on issues such as halal or haram food, the proper way to dress, and the rights and responsibilities of individuals.

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Muslims needed a way to interpret Allah’s سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى words correctly, and of his messenger and Fiqh was the solution. The words of the Prophet ﷺ were transferred from those closest to him, and his teachings and interpretations of the Quran were recorded and documented.

· Guidance for Personal Conduct

Fiqh provides guidelines for personal behavior, ethics, and morality based on Islamic teachings. It addresses what not to do during prayers and fasts, dishonesty, integrity, etc.

It is narrated by Anas عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ that the Prophet ﷺ passed by a fallen date and said, “Were it not for my doubt that this might have been given in charity, I would have eaten it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2055, Book 34, Hadith 9)

· Regulation of Worship (Ibadah)

Fiqh has also been used to detail the rituals and practices of Islamic worship, including the five daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, Hajj, and other smaller acts of worship. For example, for Zakat it is narrated by Abu Sa`id:

Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said,

“No Zakat is due on property mounting to less than five Uqiyas (of silver), and no Zakat is due on less than five camels, and there is no Zakat on less than five Wasqs.” (A Wasqs equals 60 Sa’s) & (1 Sa=3 K gms App.)

(Sahih al-Bukhari 1405, Book 24, Hadith 10)

· Family Law

Moreover, Fiqh addresses matters related to family life, marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance and provides a framework for family relationships and responsibilities. Regarding the inheritance of daughters, it is narrated by Saad bin Abi Waqqas عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ:

“I was stricken by an ailment that led me to the verge of death. The Prophet ﷺ came to visit me. I said, “O Allah’s Messenger ﷺ! I have much property and no heir except my single daughter. Shall I give two-thirds of my property in charity?” He said, “No.” I said, “Half of it?” He said, “No.” I said, “One-third of it?” He said, “You may do so…’’”

(Sahih al Bukhari 6733, book 85, hadith 10)

· Commercial Transactions (Muamalat)

Fiqh offers guidance on economic and business transactions, outlining the principles of fair trade, ethical business practices, and permissible financial transactions. An-Nu’man bin Bashir narrates it:

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Both legal and illegal things are obvious, and in between them are (suspicious) doubtful matters. So, whoever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may sin, will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal; and whoever indulges in these (suspicious) doubtful things bravely, is likely to commit what is clearly illegal. Sins are Allah’s Hima (i.e. private pasture) and whoever pastures (his sheep) near it, is likely to get in it at any moment.” (Sahih al Bukhari 2051, book 34, hadith 5)

· Criminal Law

Fiqh provides guidelines for criminal justice, including how to go about evidence and procedures for dealing with offenses. However, many modern legal systems in Muslim countries have practices that may or may not be based directly on traditional Fiqh.

For a long time in the Muslim world, the punishment for theft was according to this hadith;

‘A’isha reported: I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: The hand (of a thief) should not be cut off but for a quarter of a dinar and what is above that.”

(Sahih Muslim 1684d, book 29, hadith 4)

· Social Ethics

Fiqh addresses issues of social justice and communal welfare. It encourages Muslims to engage in acts of kindness, generosity, and social responsibility to build a cohesive and strong Muslim community.

The Prophet ﷺ said,” The Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. He does not wrong him, nor surrender him. Whoever fulfills the needs of his brother, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى will fulfill his needs.”

(Sahih al Bukhari, 2442, book 46, hadith 3)

Principles of Fiqh (Usool-Al-Fiqh)

The principles of Fiqh deal with deriving laws from the Quran and Sunnah. To do this accurately, scholars should follow certain principles and regulations, something called Usool al-Fiqh. Generally, the study of Usool al-Fiqh includes the study of the following four main branches:

· Quran and Sunnah

The primary sources of Fiqh are the Quran and the Sunnah. Legal rulings are derived from these sources through careful interpretation and analysis. These two sources are the first things scholars turn to when a problem arises.

· Ijma (Consensus)

Ijma refers to the consensus of scholars on a particular legal issue. It is considered a source of authority where the scholars are unanimous. An example of Ijma is the agreement of scholars to forbid anyone to play the role of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ or other prophets in movies and TV shows or to portray them in animations.

· Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning)

Qiyas involves reasoning by analogy and applying established legal principles to new situations not explicitly addressed in the primary sources. An example of Qiyas is forbidding making vinegar from wine because of the hadith that Anas b. Malik said:

“Abu Talhah asked the prophet (ﷺ) about the orphans who had inherited wine. He replied: “Pour it out.” He asked: “May I not make vinegar of it?” He replied: “No.”

(Sunan Abi Dawud 3675, Book 27, Hadith 7)

· Ijtihad (Independent Reasoning)

Ijtihad is the process of independent legal reasoning conducted by qualified scholars. It is used when the primary sources do not clearly answer a particular issue. To solve a problem, scholars use their mental faculties to conclude.

Applications of Fiqh

The applications of Fiqh in Islam are numerous and cover all aspects of life, from personal hygiene and prayer to social justice and politics. Fiqh is a pathway to better the relationship between Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى and His servants and between humans in this world. Fiqh also deals with contemporary issues such as ethics, human rights, democracy, and globalization.

· Legal Rulings

Fiqh allows qualified scholars to issue legal opinions (fatwas) based on their understanding of Islamic law. Fatwas are legal rulings given by Islamic scholars. Fatwas can guide Muslims on specific issues that help them navigate various situations easily.

· Judicial Decisions

In some Muslim-majority countries, Fiqh may influence the legal system, especially in matters related to family law and personal status. A’isha reported: Hind, the daughter of ‘Utba, wife of Abu Sufyan, came to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ and said:

Abu Sufyan is a miserly person. He does not give adequate maintenance for me and my children, but (I am constrained) to take from his wealth (some part of it) without his knowledge. Is there any sin for me? Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: Take from his property what is customary which may suffice you and your children.”

(Sahih Muslim, 1714a, book 30, hadith 8)

Conclusion

In conclusion, Islam has different schools of thought, each with its approach to Fiqh. While the basic principles are shared, there can be differences in application. Modern scholars continue to engage in ijtihad to address contemporary issues while trying to uphold the basic principles of Fiqh.