Bismillah walhamdolilah wasalatu wasalam ‘ala Rasool Allah

Asalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu,

To continue, last post we discussed the details of the sunnah. We explained how the sunnah is comprised of the saying and actions of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam along with his tacit approvals and that which he left given the need. We also summarized how the sunnah came to explain the Qur’an by detailing rulings which were very general in the Qur’an, by limited what seemed absolute, by affirming what Allah said in the Qur’an, and by bringing rulings which are not directly found in the Qur’an.

This post, I want to quickly touch upon some aspects of the Prophets ijtihaad (reasoned decision) and how he trained his Companions radhiAllah anhum to do as well. We will be discussing this in further detail as we progress in this series, however it is a good time to introduce the concept so we can be ready for it when we talk about it later.

Umm Salamah reported that the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam said:

“I am only a human being, and you bring you disputes to me. Perhaps some of you are more eloquent in their plea than others, and I judge in their favor according to what I hear from them. So, whatever I rule in anyone’s favor which belongs to his brother, he should not take any of it, because I have only granted him a piece of Hell” [Sahih Sunan Abi Dawood]

These decisions were made, based on the Prophet’s own reasoned decision. This personal reasoning represented great training for the Companions radhiAllah anhum in regards to the application of the Sharee’ah.

Ali ibn abi Talib radhiAllah anhu said:

“Allah’s Messenger sent me to Yemen as a judge, so I asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! You are sending me and I am young, and I have no knowledge of giving judgment?’ He replied, ‘Allah will guide your heart and keep your tongue firm (attached to the truth). When two litigants sit before you, do not decide until you have heard what the other has to say the way you heard the first, for it is more suitable for the correct judgment to become clear to you.’” [Sahih Sunan Abi Dawood]

It is also important to note, that ijtihaad is the process of arriving at a reasoned decision to suit new circumstances.We see from the above examples the manner in which the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasalam trained his Companions radhiAllah anhum in practicing ijtihaad.

This marks the completion of the first stage. A quick summary: Islamic law in the early periods was based upon two primary sources: Qur’an and Sunnah. The basis of the legislations found in the Qur’an and Sunnah is to bring about human reform, to wipe out the evils and make abundant the good. In order to achieve this goal of human reform, laws were enacted which consisted of four principles:

  1. Removal of Difficulties – e.g. The Prophet always chose the easy path, given that the other path was not prohibited.
  2. Removal of Religious Obligations – Allah mentions the prohibited things specifically and the permissions generally to make clear the ease. E.g. animals
  3. Realization of Public Welfare – Laws were enacted to suit circumstances and as conditions changed so did the laws. E.g. the widows mourning period
  4. Realization of Universal Justice – the laws enacted are not for a particular people but for all of mankind. E.g. The Prophet would have cut his own daughters hand off if she stole.

This period marked the beginning of the evolution of fiqh and was the period in which the science of deducing laws from the Qur’an and Sunnah were laid out for the Companions radhiAllah anhum. Next we will begin talking about the second stage, which revolved around the time of the Righteous Caliphs radhiAllah anhum (632 – 661 CE).