Before delving into the topic at hand, it is important to clarify a few basic principles that are used to formulate opinions mentioned in this article. Indeed, it is impossible to delve into the area of fiqh and not make mistakes. However, qualified scholars or students of knowledge who are sincere, follow the general principles, and struggle to find the right answer, will be rewarded even if the final conclusion is wrong. If they later discover or are made aware of a mistake, though, they must immediately publicly retract the earlier mistaken position and state clearly the corrected view.
Amr ibn al-As (ra) narrated that he heard the Prophet (pbuh) say: “If a judge passes judgment, having striven to reach a decision, and he gets it right, he will have two rewards. If he passes judgment, having striven to reach a decision, and he gets it wrong, he will have one reward.” (Muslim)
This is why it is not permissible to blindly follow anyone other than the Prophet (pbuh), especially when one knows that the person he or she is following is wrong. Every scholar makes mistakes, so one should try to follow the best opinion on an issue and not cling to the view of one’s madhab (school of juristic thought) or shaykh (teacher or scholar).
Of course, it is permissible to follow the ruling of a scholar that you trust in an area where you lack knowledge, until you become knowledgeable enough to decide for yourself. This is why it is not permissible for anybody to blindly follow anyone unless you are totally ignorant about the subject. Best way is to research the discussed issues further if one feels the mentioned evidence is not strong enough.
Sources of Islamic law
The agreed-upon sources of Islamic law are as follows, in the order presented:
1) The Qur’an
2) The Sunnah (the practice and collected sayings of Prophet Muhammad)
The Qur’an and Sunnah go hand in hand. The Sunnah explains the general rulings in the Qur’an, thus making them specific. It must be noted that, in Islamic law, the Sunnah is regarded as having weight equal to the Qur ‘an since both are Allah’s revelation; as such, any ruling mentioned in either must be submitted to and obeyed by all the Muslims.
In Sharia (Islamic law), the Sunnah complements the Qur’an and cannot be used as a replacement for the Qur’an. Similarly, deriving a verdict by referring to the words of the Qur’an without cross-checking it by reference to the explanation of the Qur’an through authentic hadiths (statements or action of Prophet Muhammad that were remembered and recorded by his Companions and followers) is wrong. We mention this because, with regard to many issues, the argument of some ignorant people is: “But it is just a hadith; it does not appear in the Qur’an.” This argument is baseless in Islam, as Allah has commanded us:
“… And whatever the Messenger has given you – take; and what he has forbidden you – refrain from…” [Qur ‘an 59: 7]
3) Ijma’ (scholarly consensus)
Any issue upon which the scholars among the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) agreed is binding upon us. They lived with the Prophet (pbuh) and understood Islam best, so if they agreed upon a ruling, it has to be correct. This is supported by the following hadith:
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “My nation will not unite on misguidance …” (Recorded by Ibn Majah and at- Tabarani with a sound chain of narrators)
4) Qiyas (analogy)
If a ruling cannot be deduced from the aforementioned three sources, Islam has allowed deduction based on the principles extracted from these same sources. An example of this would be the prohibition of smoking cigarettes. There is no Qur’anic verse or hadith that states that smoking is prohibited. However, Allah tells us:
“… do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction …” (Qur’an 2: 195)
Also, there are many hadiths that instruct the Muslims to avoid all those things which might harm them. Considering these, and the fact that smoking is extremely harmful and a cause of cancer and death, scholars have deduced that smoking cigarettes is prohibited.
These are the four agreed-upon sources of Islamic law. Of course, there are many other sources, but the scholars differ in the acceptability of their usage, so we shall stick to these four.
Some Basic Principles of Fiqh
There are certain basic principles that are used when deducing Islamic rulings; We will mention here only few of them.
It is important, however, to first make a distinction between Sharia and fiqh, both of which are often translated into English as ‘Islamic law’. Sharia refers to the main body of laws clearly mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah, which are fixed and agreed upon. These laws are unchangeable because the nature of human beings is constant. Hence, the basic duties of a human will never change. Laws that fall into this category include the command to fulfill the five pillars of Islam and the prohibition of fornication, adultery and homosexuality.
Fiqh refers to secondary laws for which Allah, in His infinite mercy, has left only general guidelines. Scholars differ regarding these laws; they are quite flexible and can change according to circumstances. The wisdom behind this is to ensure that, through fiqh, Islam remains flexible and applicable in all eras and cultures.
Islam recognizes that even though humans do not change, their cultures, circumstances and technological levels do change. Hence, Allah has left these areas with general guidelines which we operate under. It is these guidelines that the scholars refer to as the principles of fiqh. Some of the principles that concern us here are as follows:
l. The general principle in Islam regarding the things of this world (including entertainment) is that everything is halal (permitted according to Islamic law) unless proven haram (forbidden according to Islamic law). Regarding acts of worship, it is the opposite; everything is bid’ah (undesirable innovation) and haram unless proven to be permissible. Based on this principle, one must bear in mind that a form of entertainment can be declared prohibited only if there is substantial evidence from the Qur’an or Sunnah.
There are many proofs from which this principle has been deduced, including the following explicit hadith:
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “The lawful is that which Allah has made lawful for you, and the prohibited is that which is prohibited in His Book; that concerning which He is silent, He has permitted as a mercy to you.” (Bukhari, Ibn Majah and at-Tirmidhi)
By default, every worldly action is permissible unless one finds sufficient evidence to prove that it is prohibited.
2. Anything that distracts a person from his or her religious duties is haram. Using this principle, playing soccer is considered halal, but if it leads a person to miss the prayers, dress in an unsuitable manner or use offensive language, it becomes haram for that individual. This is an example of how a fiqh ruling can vary from person to person.
A proof of this is in a chapter in the Qur’an called at Takathur (Rivalry in worldly increase): “Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you, until you visit the graveyards.” (Qur’an 102: 1-2)
Ibn Qayyim points out that Allah uses the word ‘divert’ and not ‘busy’ because it is possible for a person to be busy with the world but still remember Allah. However, when the permissible things of this world become a distraction from Allah, they become haram, and this verse applies to such a situation.
3. There are five categories of actions according to fiqh. These are: Fard (compulsory), Sunnah (recommended), mubah (permissible), makrooh (disliked) and haram (prohibited). We will, therefore, attempt to place each form of entertainment into one of these categories. A person only falls into sin by doing something that is haram or neglecting something that is Fardh.
4. The Sharia aims to preserve five things: Religion (meaning Islam), life, intellect, the human race and the economy. Any form of entertainment that affects any of these in a negative manner would generally be categorized as haram. On the other hand, if it benefits any of them, then it would be categorized as sunnah as long as it has no traces of haram.
5. Anything without value or benefit is regarded as a waste of time. Such a thing is not haram in itself; however, it can become haram if one indulges in it excessively. Generally, things that waste time are regarded as makrooh.
6. Scholars sometimes extract multiple rulings from one hadith. Therefore, some hadiths are quoted more than once in this book, when they are relevant to more than one topic.
There are many other principles and important issues that one should learn concerning the nature and history of fiqh. We shall, inshallah, bring more articles on this subject in future.
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