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Juristic Principles
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


In the guidance received from God through His Messengers, the primary status is occupied by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. I have explained the principles which every student should keep in mind in order to understand them in the preamble “Fundamental Principles” of my treatise Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction.1 A summary of these principles can be seen under the same title in my book Maqamat.2 Other than these two sources, if anything can become a secondary means of understanding the guidance of God, it is ijtihad. From it, besides many other things, we also try to understand directives that are not directly covered in these two sources but are actually the application of what is found in them and are left to the opinion and comprehension of people. Qiyas (analogy) is one form of ijtihad. The word used for it by the Qur’an is istinbat (inference). The content of this inference is called fiqh (jurisprudence). A large part of it can be classified as Fiqh al-nabi. The remaining content consists of the ijtihad done by scholars and jurists. I use principles of jurisprudence (Usul al-fiqh) to understand and interpret this content. These principles are as follows:

1. Every opinion about religion will be formed to fulfil the objective which according to the Qur’an is the objective of religion. In my opinion, this objective is the purification of the concepts and practices related to all matters of a person’s individual and collective life. In understanding the Hadith literature related to this content and in accepting or rejecting every opinion or ijtihad, this objective must be kept in mind as the fundamental principle.

2. What is implied by the Qur’an and Sunnah in this sphere of juristic principles is not only the directives themselves but also the underlying reason of these directives and those general principles on which the shari‘ah of God is based. This is regardless of whether these principles are covered by the sources of religion or are determined through induction. An example of the first category is the statement: “God has allowed all pure and wholesome things and prohibited all impure and unwholesome things.” An example of the second category is: “All worship rituals are symbolic expressions of a person’s relationship with God.”

3. Fiqh is entirely a corollary of these directives and general principles. It must remain a corollary in all circumstances. If it exceeds this status and takes their place or modifies their purport and impacts them, it will necessarily be rejected.

4. Every directive of religion has its essence. It is also called meaning and underlying cause (‘illah). Whether a directive should be applicable to new situations or should be considered as an exception or a concession, the decision will be taken on the basis of this essence.

5. The methods of reasoning adopted in juristic principles are three:

i. Deducing a principle from its corollary because if the corollary exists, the principle must also exist.

ii. Deducing a corollary from a principle because a principle encompasses a corollary. Thus if the principle is deliberated upon, it will apply to all the corollaries it encompasses. It is for this reason that a principle is called a principle and corollary is called a corollary.

iii. Deducing a corollary from another corollary. The method for this would be to validate the principle. Thus a corollary will first lead to its principle; then the principle will lead to all its corollaries.

6. The Prophet’s juristic understandings (fiqh al-nabi) have an extra-ordinary status in this discipline. They have mostly been transmitted through hadith narratives. In order to exercise caution in attributing them to Prophet Muhammad (sws), they should only be accepted when in the term of the hadith scholars, they are at least of the hasan category. If weak narratives are reported through many variants, they can however be cited in support of administrative decisions, as a further means of satisfaction. The reason for this is that in such matters, the real basis of reasoning is universally acknowledged concepts derived from sense and reason. What should be done if the prescribed procedure of divorce is not followed? Whatever is said in response to this question, it would be of the category of an administrative decision. Thus if a weak narrative supports this decision, it will certainly be a means of giving further satisfaction. The divorce given by Rukanah ibn ‘Abd Yazid is an example of this decision. It is in this capacity that I have cited these narratives recorded by Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi and Musnad Ahmad in the chapter Qanun-i mu‘asharat (the social shari‘ah) of my book Mizan. I have specified in a relevant footnote that though these narratives are weak as far as their chains of narration are concerned, yet if all of them are collated, this weakness is dispelled.


(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem from Maqamat)



1. Its Urdu name is Mizan.

2. The translated article in English has been published in Selected Essays of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi.


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