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Islamic Q and A ( 26 Aug 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

What Is the Significance of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and Faqih (Islamic Jurist) For the Muslim Community?

By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam

27 August 2019

Fiqh refers to Islamic Jurisprudence. It is the understanding or explanation of the Islamic Shariah in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. There are four popular schools of jurisprudence, namely, Hanafi, Shafei, Hambali and Maliki. Fiqh plays an eminent role in the life or every Muslim and therefore its significance and excellence in understanding the Islamic Religion (Din) has been clearly mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah.

Imam Abu Hanifa defined Fiqh as, “A person’s knowledge of his rights and duties”. This definition is taken to be very wide and includes elements that are also the part of the subject of Kalam, the tenets of faith (Aqaid). This definition was made to mean al-Fiqh al-Akbar or Fiqh in its wider sense. When Mu’tazilah introduced the subject of Kalam during the time of al-Mamun, the term Fiqh was restricted to the corpus of Islam law alone. Today the same restricted meaning is used among the scholars.

Imam Shafei is reported to have used the term ‘Fiqh’ in a very narrow technical sense as “It is the knowledge of the Sharia Ahkam (legal rules) pertaining to conduct, that have been derived from their specific evidences”.

In its broader sense, the term ‘Fiqh’ includes proper understanding of the Din (Religion) related to all sorts of knowledge. 

Understanding and intellect are great blessings of Allah. In order to understand the Quran, Sunnah, the Islamic secrets and laws mentioned therein, it is necessary for a Muslim to be blessed with these divine favours.

God Almighty says,

“And among His signs is that He shows you the lightning, instilling fear and hope, and sends down water from the sky, so revives the earth after its death; Indeed in that are signs for a people of intellect.” (30:24)

In another Quranic Ayat, He says,

“Indeed in this are signs for the people who ponder”. (30:21)

God Almighty says,

“If We had sent down this Qur'an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah. And We illustrate such examples for people, for them to ponder”. (59:21)

God Almighty says,

 “Indeed We have explained Our verses in detail for people of understanding.” (6:98)

The afore-mentioned verses of the Quran prove the point that to attain proper understanding and knowledge of the Din (Religion of Islam), a person needs to be blessed with intellect and ability to understand. It is these people who are blessed with the knowledge of Din, Fiqh and at the same time with the special blessings of Allah. The Quran clearly states that the knowledgeable and the ignorant are not alike.

God Almighty says, 

“Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" surely it is the people of understanding who recognize the guidance” (39:9)

God Almighty says, “And he, who has been blessed with wisdom, has surely been blessed with great virtue” (2:269)

Wherever the word ‘Hikmah’ (wisdom), according to Mufassirin (commentators of the Quran) has been mentioned in the Quran, it refers to the knowledge of Fiqh. The significance of Fiqh of Din also appears from the following verse;

“And it is not for the believers to go forth all at once; then why should a delegation not come forth from every grouping, so that they may attain the understanding of the religion (Liyatafaqqahu Fid Din) and warn their people when they return to them, in the hope that they might remain guarded.” (9:122)

Syed Naeemuddin Muradabadi says in his tafsir of this verse, “it is not necessary for every individual to become an Aalim or Faqih. However, every person needs to gain sufficient knowledge so that he is able to differentiate between what is lawful and what is unlawful and know what Fard (obligatory) is and what Wajib (compulsory) is. To attain this much of knowledge is Fard-e-Ain upon every Muslim and to attain more than that is Fard-e-Kifayah. It is mentioned in a Hadith that it is Fard upon every Muslim to attain knowledge of Din” (Tafsir Khazainul Irfan)

The person who acquires knowledge of Fiqh is called Faqih (jurist). In a hadith reported by Hazrat Muawiyah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If Allah wills to bestow someone with special virtue; He makes him a Faqih of the Religion (Din).” (Bukhari, Muslim, Mishkat)

In another hadith reported by Hazrat Abu Hurairah, the Prophet said, “Those who were good in the days of ignorance are also good in Islam, if they have proper understanding (Fiqh) of the Religion” (Bukhari, Muslim). This means that according the Prophet, one of the best qualities in a person is for him to have knowledge of Fiqh.

Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) made this Dua for Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas, “O Allah! Make him a Faqih of the Religion” (Bukhari)

Hazrat Ibn Abbas says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “One Faqih is more superior over Shaytan than a thousand worshippers” (Tirmidhi, Mishkat). The reason for this is that due to knowledge and proper understanding of Din which Allah has blessed him with, he is capable of recognizing and avoiding the traps of Shaytan. Thus he is also able to assist others to be saved from the traps and deception of Shaytan.

To understand the significance of Fiqh and Faqih, this example of Ilm al-Hadith (knowledge of Hadith) can be presented. There are two things that are essential in the subject of Hadith. First it is necessary to know the authenticity of Isnad (chain of narration) and the second to know correct meaning, application and understanding of the Hadith. The work of Muhaddatheen was confined to memorizing and preserving the words and chain of narration of a hadith, while the work of Faqih (jurist) was to attain its proper understanding and wisdom, in addition to having sufficient expertise and proficiency in the subject of Hadith. The following incident refers to significance and excellence of Faqih.

Hazrat Khateeb Baghdadi reports that a group of Muhaddatheen were present when a woman who used to bathe deceased females came forth and asked a question, “Can a menstruating woman give Ghusl (bathing) to a deceased female or not?”

There were a number of distinguished Muhaddatheen but none of them were able to answer her immediately. At that time, Imam Abu Thaur who was a Muhadith as well as a Faqih passed by. The woman approached him and asked the same question. He replied saying “Yes a menstruating female can give Ghusl to a deceased female”. The reason, he said, is that once the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Hazrat Aisha, “your menstruation is not in your hand”. It is also mentioned in the hadith that Hazrat Aisha, while being in the state of menstruation, used to sprinkle water in the Prophet’s hair and comb his hair. So if in such a condition, water can be sprinkled into the head of a living person, then why can a deceased not be given Ghusl?

When the Muhaddatheen heard this answer of Imam Abu Thaur, they started discussing the chain of narration of this hadith, mentioning its narrators and how it was narrated. When the woman heard this, she said, “Where were you all this while”? She tried to say that if that were the case, then why did they not answer?” (Tarikh Baghdad vol. 6, p.67)       

From the above discussion, it becomes clear that learning the meaning of any Quranic verse or Ahadith is not enough. What is necessarily important for us is to attain Fiqh of Quran and Ahadith without which we sometimes make such an interpretation which goes against the spirit and objective of Islam. Thus significance of Fiqh and Faqih in our life is evident. Fiqh guides us to proper understanding of Din and enables us to save others from wrong understanding of Islam. In recent times, it is Fiqh or Faqih that can make a significant role in bringing the Muslim community to the path of success, peace and prosperity.    

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