What is Fiqh?

Muslims talk a lot about fiqh and I came across some old notes, which may be beneficial.  I hope to break these notes into a series of posts, so as not to burden the reader.

The word fiqh can be found in hadith for example:

“If Allah wishes to benefit someone, He will grant him Fiqh in religion…” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Here the word fiqh is used in its linguistic sense i.e. understanding.  So the meaning of the above hadith is that, If Allah wishes to benefit someone, He will grant him understanding in religion.

The meaning of fiqh evolved and in today’s parlance when we speak about fiqh we tend to mean the technical meaning i.e. the science of legal rulings as deduced from evidence found in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

This is more of a mouthful and itself needs to be broken down, but in a nutshell fiqh is to do with Islamic law (legal rulings).  So a study of fiqh is a study of Islamic legal rulings.

These legal rulings tend to be broken down into two main categories:

(1) Fiqh of Worship / Fiqh al-Ibadaat

(2) Fiqh of Interactions / Fiqh al-Mu’amalaat

Fiqh of worship

Fiqh of worship concerns our interaction with Allah i.e. how to have a proper relationship with Allah.  Legal rulings under this category will usually include the following:

  1. Purification i.e. what types of water you can use to purify, when you need to make wudu, how to perform wudu, what invalidates your wudu, when you need to make ghusl, how to perform ghusl, what invalidates your ghusl, when you can make tayammum, menstruation…
  2. Prayer i.e. who needs to pray, when you need to pray, how to pray, what invalidates your prayer, what are sunnah prayers, obscure prayers such as prayer of fear, eclipse prayer, how to pray when travelling, the funeral prayer…
  3. Fasting i.e. who needs to fast, when you need to fast, how to fast, what invalidates your fast, sunnah fasts…
  4. Zakat i.e. who needs to pay zakat, when you need to pay zakat, who you can pay zakat to, how you can pay your zakat…
  5. Hajj i.e. who needs to perform hajj, how to perform hajj, how to sacrifice animals, what animals are halal…

As you can see – given our only purpose on this earth is to worship Allah – it is of the utmost importance to not only learn these chapters of fiqh but vitally important to continue to revise, lest a situation occur and you don’t know what to do in that situation.  We will look in part 2 how to go about studying fiqh, but know that matters concerning purification, prayer etc are individually obligatory knowledge and if you have had the time and opportunity to study ,but have not done so you are sinful for making errors in your worship.

Fiqh of interaction

The second category of fiqh is how to properly interact with people.  Our religion is on two axis, the is our interaction with Allah and the x axis is our interaction with the creation of Allah.  Both are important and have obligations.

Among the chapters found in books of fiqh relating to interactions would be:

  1. Marriage
  2. Divorce
  3. Trade
  4. Lost items
  5. Contracts
  6. Oaths and vows

These are obligatory when required i.e. before getting married you should have studied the legal rulings related to marriage and divorce, before entering into trade you should have studied the legal rulings related to trade etc.

Without this knowledge of fiqh, a person is liable to make mistakes both in his interactions with Allah and then with his interactions with others.  These mistakes can lead to a person being sinful which can jeopardise their route to heaven. 

Future posts will discuss:

  • From where Fiqh is derived
  • The reasons for schools of Islamic law (madhabs)
  • The four main schools of Islamic law
  • Whether we should follow a school of Islamic law
  • How we go about studying fiqh
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