Usul-Al-Fiqh : The methodology of study of fiqh

Usul is the plural of the word asl which means, roots, establishment. Usul-al-fiqh is an Islamic jurisprudence term that describes the whole sum of methodologies used to bring proofs of every Islamic decision, conclusion for laws that has a place in Islamic fiqh.

It is important to stress that fiqh doesn’t mean “law” only. Some sources considers Islamic fiqh as Islamic law, however this term is not sufficient to explain fiqh. Islamic law is a branch of fiqh. The details about how Muslims perform their religious exercises like salah or ablution are also matters of fiqh. Since fiqh is such a broad concept and such an immensely deep discipline, methodology to reach conclusions regarding Islamic fiqh is also important.

When Prophet Muhammad(saw) was among the sahaba, there was only one method of fiqh, by simple asking him on any subject. When he passed away the sahaba were consulted on every matter. Since most of the sahaba were close to him, knew the reasons of revelations of most of suras in Quran or listed to “tafsirs” or suras directly from Prophet(saw) himself or knew about the circumstances of certain hadith, why, where and when Prophet(saw) expressed them, they didn’t have trouble reaching conclusion regarding matters of fiqh.

Followers of sahaba, tabeen, followed the same principles. However, centuries after centuries, Islamic faith expanded naturally to different parts of the world. Not only problems of “translation” of certain fiqh matters into other languages arose but the necessity to have “written” observations of Islamic laws and rules became essential.

Therefore, by time, a study of “methodology” of fiqh itself became a separate discipline, something related to fiqh but studied independently.  Imam Shafi is considered to be the first aleem who is the founder of “Usul-Al-Fiqh”. His work “Ar-Risale” is considered to be one of the fundamentals of Islamic fiqh.

The scholar who is working in the field of methodology of Fiqh is like the one who is working on the schematics or blueprints of “fiqh”. The Faqeeh is the scholar who executes such laws and rules according to Islamic fiqh. Usul-Al-Fiqh is like the field of epistemology in the field of philosophy. If philosophy is after “knowledge”, epistemology questions and discusses the sources leading to that knowledge. Fiqh is after Islamic jurisprudence, tries to reach the best possible ruling according to Islamic law. Usul-Al-Fiqh discusses the methodology of such assertions and ruling, which is a discipline on it own.




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