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What is the need for Fiqh (Jurisprudence) & the Fuqahaa (Jurists)?


Fiqh and FuqahaaWHAT IS FIQH?

Generally a misconception exists that Fiqh is a science which is in contradiction to the science of Hadeeth. It is sometimes even alleged that if an individual follows Fiqh, he is opposing the Ahaadeeth of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). This then results in some even saying that Fiqh is mutable and can be changed. However, this is incorrect since Fiqh is not an innovation of latter times. Instead it is actually the explanation and application of the Ahaadeeth.

It is common knowledge to anyone who is familiar with the science of Hadeeth, that one will find apparently contradictory Ahaadeeth regarding a single situation. Some of the reasons for this apparent contradiction are that at times Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) issued a ruling but it was restricted to a specific situation, or this ruling was later abrogated by another verdict. Now if an individual wants to follow the Hadeeth directly, which of the Ahaadeeth will he follow? Therefore the only option that he has is to follow the Fiqh of a qualified Imaam which will show him the application of these apparently contradictory Ahaadeeth.

Let us take a simple practical example to illustrate this point. A person enters the Musjid and finds the Imaam in ruku`. Now, one Hadeeth commands him to join the Imaam in ruku` (Musannaf `Abdur Razzaaq, #3373). However if he joins the Imaam he will be contradicting another Hadeeth which says: “The Salaah of the one who does not recite Surah Faatihah is not accepted” (Bukhaari, #756). Both these Ahaadeeth seem to be contradicting each other. At this point this individual will be forced to refer to a Faqeeh who will explain to him the correct application of these Ahaadeeth. The Faqeeh will tell him that he should join the Imaam in ruku` and his Salaah is valid. He will further explain that the Hadeeth regarding the recitation of Surah Faatihah does not apply to him, rather it applies to an Imaam and a munfarid (a person offering Salaah by himself). As for a muqtadi (the one following an Imaam), the Hadeeth: “Whoever is following an Imaam, the recitation of his Imaam suffices on behalf of his recitation,” (Musannaf Ibnu Abi Shaibah, #3800) applies to him.

The above manner of reconciling between the Ahaadeeth and applying everything to its proper place is what is meant by the statement “Fiqh is the correct application of the Hadeeth”. It is for the very same reason that the great Muhaddith Abdullah bin Mubaarak (Rahmatullahi Alayhused to say: “Do not say: ‘This is the view of Abu Hanifah’. Rather say: ‘It is the explanation of the Hadeeth’.” (Manaaqibul Imaamil A`zam - `Ali Al-Qaari, Al- Jawaahirul Mudee’ah vol. 2, pg. 460)



The difference between a Muhaddith and a Faqeeh could be easily understood from the difference between a pharmacist and a doctor. The pharmacist may be an expert in the different types of medication, their properties, the different pharmaceutical companies that manufacture them, the alternatives, etc. However, he can only dispense medication and is not in the capacity to prescribe the appropriate medication for the specific illness. This is the work and duty of a doctor and physician.

Similarly, in the era of the Tabi'een and in the period that followed thereafter, there existed mainly two groups of Ulama. One group had dedicated themselves to the preservation, collating and memorisation of the text of the Ahaadeeth together with their different chains of transmission. They also studied and scrutinized each chain of narration and the life of each narrator. They were known as the Muhadditheen.

On the other hand, there were those who had devoted their lives to understand the correct meaning and intent of the Qur’aan and Hadeeth and deduce laws and injunctions from them. They were called the Fuqahaa.

Imaam A`mash (Rahmatullahi Alayh), the great expert of Qiraat and Hadeeth, explained this difference in his famous statement:

يا معشر الفقهاء ! أنتم الأطباء ونحن الصيادلة

“Oh Fuqahaa (jurists)! You are the physicians and we (the narrators of the Ahaadeeth) are the dispensers.”(Manaaqibul Imaamil A`zam - `Ali Al-Qaari, with Al- Jawaahirul Mudee’ah, vol. 2, pg. 484)

The difference between a Muhaddith and a Faqeeh has also been pointed out in the following Hadeeth:

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : نضر الله امرأ سمع منا حديثا فحفظه حتى يبلغه ، فرب حامل فقه إلى من هو أفقه منه ، ورب حامل فقه ليس بفقيه

(رواه أبو داود ، رقم : 3660)

Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “May Allah Ta`ala keep that person radiant who hears from us a statement and remembers it until he conveys it, since there are many people who convey Fiqh (by narrating the Hadeeth) to those who have greater understanding than themselves (the narrators), and many a person carries Fiqh but is not himself a Faqeeh (Jurist).”

The last two statements of this Hadeeth refer to a Muhaddith who merely carries the Ahaadeeth from which Fiqh is derived, and conveys it to the Faqeeh who deduces rulings from it.



From the above it is absolutely clear that the Fuqahaa were the ones who truly understood the essence of the Qur’aan and Hadeeth. They reached their conclusions after weighing the different arguments, understanding the contexts of the texts and following the correct procedures of giving preference to one narration over another. Therefore Imaam Tirmidhi (Rahmatullahi Alayh), the author of the famous compilation of Hadeeth, writes:

الفقهاء أعلم بمعاني الحديث

“The Fuqahaa are more knowledgeable about the meanings of the Ahaadeeth.”

Thus, we reach this conclusion that since the Fuqahaa have understood the correct meaning and intent of the Ahaadeeth, we are required to follow their explanation.



Failing to follow the Fuqahaa will result in serious problems. Hereunder are a few examples of the serious problems that can follow if one abandons the Fuqahaa.

  1. Moulana Sarfaraaz Khan (Rahmatullahi Alayh) writes: “I have a sincere Deeni conscious friend whose daughter-in-law claimed to follow the Hadeeth. She insisted that the Hadeeth of Saheeh Bukhaari only instructs one to throw three hands full of water over the head for a fardh (obligatory) ghusl and that there is no need to pour water over the entire body. This became such a serious problem that it led to divorce. The Hadeeth which she referred to does appear in Saheeh Bukhaari (#254) where Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said whilst indicating with both his hands: ‘I pour water over my head thrice.’ However, this is one portion of the Hadeeth. The detailed narration (#256) which appears in the very same chapter after a few lines explains the procedure, where it says that thereafter he (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) poured water over his entire body.” (Al Kalaamul Mufeed, pg. 219)
  2. A Hadeeth of Saheeh Bukhaari (#1863) states: “An Umrah in Ramadhaan equals to a Hajj with me (i.e. Rasulullah Sallahu Alayhi Wasallam)”. Similarly another Hadeeth states: “The one who performs Fajr Salaah in congregation and thereafter sits till sunrise remembering Allah Ta`ala and performs two rakaats of nafl Salaah, he would attain the reward of a complete Hajj and Umrah (Sunan Tirmidhi #586)”. If a person looks at the apparent meaning of these two Ahaadeeth without the medium of the Fuqahaa, he would conclude that there is no need for him to perform his Fardh Hajj, since he has already attained the reward of a complete Hajj and a Hajj with Rasulullah (Sallahu Alayhi Wasallam). If he refers to a Faqeeh, he would explain that these Ahaadeeth only refer to the reward of Hajj. However these actions do not absolve him from the obligation which still remains on him.
  3. Another real example of the above is: Once a man (who was going for Umrah) came to an `Aalim and said: “The Hadeeth says that one Salaah in Makkah Mukarramah equals one hundred thousand Salaah elsewhere (Sunan Ibni Majah #1406). So if I perform one qadhaa Salaah there, won’t it compensate for all my qadhaa Salaah?” The Aalim replied: “If your deduction is correct, then not only will it compensate for your past Salaahs, rather there will be no need for you to perform any more Salaah in the future as well”. Thereafter he explained to him that this only refers to the reward and not the obligation.

From these examples we understand that going directly to the Ahaadeeth without the medium of the Fuqahaa is detrimental to our Deen. In the first situation, the woman’s ghusl was incorrect. Hence none of her Salaahs would be accepted. In the second example, the person would have discarded the fifth pillar of Islaam. In the third situation the person would end up discarding Salaah completely. Therefore, subjecting ourselves to the Fuqahaa is a means of protecting and safeguarding our Deen, as the great Muhaddith Sufyaan bin `Uyaynah (Rahmatullahi Alayh) used to say:

التسليم للفقهاء سلامة في الدين

Submitting to the Fuqahaa is safety in Deen.” (Al- Jawaahirul Mudee’ah, vol. 1, pg. 166)

He also said:

الحديث مضلة إلا للفقهاء

A person can be misled due to misunderstanding the Hadeeth, except the Fuqahaa (i.e. The Fuqahaa are saved from going astray due to having the correct understanding).” (Atharul Hadeethish Shareef, pg. 63)



In conclusion, when such great experts and luminaries in the field of Hadeeth felt it imperative to follow an Imaam in Fiqh, then how can a layman who depends on a translation of Bukhaari or any other book of Hadeeth regard himself to be absolved of the responsibility of following an Imaam and a Mazhab?

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