Fiqh Is Life, and Life Is Islam

By Kavakci, Yusuf Z. | Islamic Horizons, January/February 2008 | Go to article overview

Fiqh Is Life, and Life Is Islam


Kavakci, Yusuf Z., Islamic Horizons


Do Muslims really comprehend the centrality of fiqh in their lives? BY YUSUF Z. KAVAKCI

All of us face ethical issues at work and at home. For example, physicians have to know what is allowed (halal) and what is necessary (darurah); architects must be able to determine the qiblah, preserve energy, and ensure privacy; fashion designers must create modest (in Islamic terms) clothes for Muslims; and businessmen and women need to ensure that their businesses, incomes, and dealings with customers are halal.

What Is Fiqh? Fiqh, defined as the science of rules and regulations (ahkam) drawn from the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the hadiths), covers a person's entire life as he/she moves from conception (on the part of one's parents) to death (e.g., one's last will and testament and the laws of inheritance). Therefore, it is never irrelevant to our fives. Rather, it makes our lives Islamic, rewarding, and religious in character.

Muslims must follow these rules and regulations, for their functioning as His vicegerents necessitates this. Islam's creed ('aqidah) gives us pure belief, but fiqh causes us live by Islam's rules and maintain our pure belief. In other words, the creed is the inner part of anything that we do, and fiqh governs its undertaking.

In the early days of Islam, these comprised one unit, known as al-fiqh al-akbar, as in the case of Abu Hanifah. But due to his work, fiqh gradually became an independent science that developed its own literature, mainly beginning with ritual purity and then moving on to all acts of worship, marriage and divorce, transactions and relations, legal punishments for crimes, and ending with one's last will and testament and the codification thereof, as is the case in the Justinianus Digesta and the Novellae.

Abu Hanifah, who taught and expanded the field of fiqh, drew directly from the Qur'an and Sunnah when undertaking ijtihad (independent effort) to answer the people's questions and present appropriate fatwas. He was helped by two of his students, Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, who transcribed his lectures. These lectures then became the core of fiqhi literature upon which future generations of Muslim jurists would comment and expound. These efforts resulted in fiqhi notes and annotations that made the texts easy for later generations to understand and apply.

The Qur'an and the Sunnah are sources, but it is not easy for the average Muslim to understand and apply them correcdy. Contrary to present-day claims that such literature (e.g., commentaries, explanations of the hadiths, dictionaries, and such specialized fields as asbab al-nuzul [the reason for the verse's revelation] and naskh [abrogation]) is not needed, this is clearly not the case, because contemporary Arabic differs significanuy from the Arabic of the Prophet [palla. Allah 'alayhi wa sallam) and the Companions (radiy Allah 'ahnum).

If Islamic scholars had not developed fiqh in this way, perhaps all of today's Muslims would be facing the same challenges now confronting the Hindus and Buddhists: difficulties in understanding their scriptures (written in "dead" languages).

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