This article does not delve into, nor attempt to adjudicate, contemporary or classical competing claims to Sunni orthodoxy between different theological approaches (e.g., kalām
), spiritual approaches (e.g., sufism
), or jurisprudential approaches (e.g., madhhabism
Some material in this section has been previously posted by the author on spiritualperception.org, and is presented here in an adapted and modified form with greater detail.
Not only is intentionalism the most sensible way of viewing human communication (Martin Montminy, Context and communication: a defense of intentionalism, Journal of Pragmatics
, 42 (2010): 2910-18), but it is the only theologically coherent way of viewing revelation—as a message that God sent to humanity intended to serve as guidance. After all, the very first description the Qurʾan provides of itself is “a guidance to those with taqwá
(God-consciousness)” (Qurʾan 2:2).
In this context, post-modernism refers to the philosophical movement that has created an epistemology that countenances no such thing as objective truth, drawing upon Immanuel Kant’s critique of reason, Hegel’s phenomenological prioritization of the subject, Jacques Derrida’s deconstructionist shift from authorial intent, and Foucault’s description of historical meta-narratives.
Although a critical analysis of progressivism is beyond the scope of this article, such methodologies suffer from arbitrary judgments about the constitutive elements of the allegedly universal (though inevitably westernized) moral philosophy, hermeneutical indeterminacy whereby any conceivable concocted reinterpretation can be justified, and finally, a failure to find any theological or rational justification as to why it should be taken as more authoritative than the traditional faith of fourteen centuries of scholarship upheld by 1.8 billion Muslims who revere God’s revelation and His Prophet ﷺ.
In his work Iʿlām al-Muwaqqiʿīn ʿan Rabb al-ʿĀlamīn
, Ibn al-Qayyim uses the exegesis of several verses from the Qur’an to establish the need to follow the companions, including that God praises those who follow them for guidance (9:100); He commands following those who are guided (36:21) and affirms this for the companions (3:103; 47:5-6, 16-17, 29:69; 42:13); the Prophet ﷺ and those who follow him are upon basīrah
(spiritual perception) in their call to God (12:108) and answering the callers is required (46:31); they are those chosen by God (27:51, 35:32, 22:78) and possessors of knowledge (58:11) and virtue (3:110) and certitude and patience (32:24), the balanced nation (2:143), and the truthful whom we must join (9:119). See Ibn al-Qayyim, ed. Mashūr Ḥasan Āl Salmān, Iʿlām al-Muwaqqiʿīn,
Dammam: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi 2002, vol. 5, pp. 556-74.
The usage of the term became commonplace in the early community for the majority to self-identify in contradistinction to other early groups and identify accurate sources of knowledge (See Introduction to Saḥīḥ Muslim
). The attribution of this term to the Prophet’s companion Ibn Abbas is not authentic (see editor’s annotation in Ibn al-Qayyim, Iʿlām al-Muwaqqiʿīn
, vol. 2, p. 475).
In Saḥīḥ Bukhārī
, the preeminent canonical work of Hadith for Sunni Muslims, Imam al-Bukhārī (d. 256 AH) titled one of his chapters, “Chapter concerning God’s saying ‘And thus have we made you a balanced nation’ and what the Prophet commanded with respect to adhering to the mainstream community (al-jama’ah
), and they are the people of knowledge.” Saḥīḥ Bukhārī 7311
, Kitāb al-Iʿtisām bil-Kitāb wal-Sunnah
. The extension to include those who follow the scholarly community can be seen as a logical consequence. Abu Isḥāq al-Shāṭibī (d. 790 AH) writes, “Concerning this view, the jamāʿah
includes the mujtahids
and scholars of the ummah
along with the people of the Shari’ah
(religious law) acting upon it, and those besides them who follow them are included in it as well.” al-Shāṭibī, al-Iʿtisām
, Maktabah al-Tawheed, vol. 3, p. 302.
10 Sunan Ibn Mājah
. Although the chain of transmission for this narration is weak, the meaning has been upheld as authentic within the Muslim tradition due to supporting evidence. As for the statement of Ibn Mas’ūd “The Jamāʿah
is what agrees with the truth, even if you are alone” (al-Lālikāʿī, Sharh Uṣūl Iʿtiqād Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamāʿah
, no. 160), it is best understood by a similar statement from Nuʿaym ibn Ḥammād, “If the Jamāʿah
becomes corrupt, then follow what the Jamāʿah
was upon before it was corrupt even if you are alone” (See Ibn al-Qayyim, Ighāthah al-Lahfān
, Mecca: Dar Alam al-Fawa’id 2011, p. 115). This maintains the authority of the mainstream understanding of the Islamic tradition.
See footnote 77 below on the discussion of competing claims about who does and does not belong to mainstream Sunnism. A commitment to the Sunnah entails agreed-upon sources (such as the corpus of authentic hadith encompassed by six works: Bukhārī
, Abū Dāwūd
, Ibn Mājah
in addition to those found in ancillary collections), a recognition of the significance of four famous schools of jurisprudence (Ḥanafī, Shafiʿī, Mālikī, Ḥanbalī), a reliance on transmission from the early Muslim community in Qur’anic exegesis (as in the tafsīr
works of Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, al-Baghawī, al-Qurṭubī, and Ibn Kathīr), as well as certain universally recognized creedal statements (e.g., ʿAqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwīyah
with certain nuances). That which is subject to debate is beyond the scope of this introductory article.
, vol. 5, p. 131.
The Arabic phrase used here, maʿlūm min al-dīn bi-ḍarūrah
(i.e., those things that are known by necessity to be a part of the religion of Islam) is mentioned ubiquitously by Muslim scholars and includes matters such as the core beliefs (belief in God, the Angels, the Books, the Messengers, the Day of Judgment, Paradise and Hell, Divine decree), well-known major sins (like the fact that alcohol and adultery are forbidden), widely-known practices (like the fact that fasting and prayer are obligations), and so on.
Zuḥaylī, Taghayyur al-Ijtihād
, Dar al-Maktabi Damascus: 2000, p. 17. It is common to find classical jurists of each school mentioning this point. For instance, the Ḥanafi jurist Ibn Nujaym (d. 970 AH) writes, “The ruling based on ijtihād
is determined by the most probable interpretation while acknowledging the possibility of error. Therefore, ijtihād
does not apply in qati’yyat
and in that which requires certain faith from the core tenets of the religion (uṣūl al-dīn
)” (Ibn Nujaym, Fatḥ al-Ghaffār
, Beirut DKI 2001, p. 391).
An oft-repeated though somewhat inaccurate statement is that difference of opinion is tolerated in matters of fiqh
and not in matters of ʿaqīdah
. What should be said is that difference of opinion is tolerated in subsidiary issues and dhanniyat
and not in major issues and qaṭʿīyat
. There are some subsidiary issues even in ʿaqīdah
that the companions differed over; e.g., whether the Prophet ﷺ saw Allah during the ascension, whether wailing over the grave affects the deceased, etc. There are numerous legitimate theological differences that later Muslim scholars discussed and debated concerning every article of faith. These include what is the first thing God created, what is the greatest name (ism al-aʿdham
) of God, what is the distinction between a Prophet and a Messenger, how many times will the horn be blown on the day of judgment, can the dead hear, does the ḥawḍ
come before or after the ṣirāṭ
Ibn Taymīyah, Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá
, al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa' lil-Taba'a wal-Nashr, 1998, vol. 30, p. 79.
Ismāʿīl al-ʿAjlūnī (d. 1163 AH), Kashf al-Khafāʾ
, Maktabah Ilm al-Hadith, vol. 1, p. 80.
Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Jāmiʿ Bayān al-ʿIlm wa Faḍlihī,
p. 784, #1467.
Ibn Abī Khaythamah (d. 279 AH), Tārikh al-Kabīr
, Faruq al-Hadithīyah 2004, vol. 1, p. 306.
See the discussion of the Shafiʿī jurist Badr al-Dīn al-Zarkashī (d. 794 AH) in Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ
, Kuwait: Dar al-Safwah 1992, vol. 6, p. 309, and the Mālikī jurist Aḥmad al-Wansharīsī (d. 914 AH), Kitāb al-Miʿyār
, Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami1981, vol. 10, pp. 78-80.
See Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār
, Riyadh: Dar Alam al-Kutub 2003, vol. 9, p. 214.
Ibn al-Najjār. Sharḥ al-Kawkab al-Munīr
, Saudi Ministry of Awqaf 1993, vol. 4, p. 544. Discussed in al-Ashqar, Manhaj al-Iftāʾ ʿinda Ibn al-Qayyim
, Amman: Dar al-Nafaes 2004, pp. 146-47.
al-Māwardī, Aḥkām al-Sulṭānīya
, Ed. Nabil ʿAbd al-Rahmān, Beirut: Dar al-Arqam nd, p. 327. Although al-Suyūṭī argued that al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī did narrate from ʿAlī, the majority of Hadith scholars believed that he did not narrate from him although he did see him before the ʿAlī left Madinah. See al-Suyūṭī, al-Ḥāwī lil-Fatwá
, DKI 2000, vol 2, p 96.
Al-Ṭabarānī, Muʿjam al-Awsaṭ
3:118, authenticated in Saḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ
There are 12 to 15 (depending on categorization) fundamental sciences of the Arabic language. These include grammar (النحو), morphology (الصرف), semantics (المعاني), lexicon (اللغة), derivatives (الاشتقاق), metaphorical speech (البيان), composition (الإنشاء), prosody (العروض), rhyme (القافية), writing (الخط), literature (الآداب), phonetics (الأصوات), etc.
This entails a deep familiarity not only with the hadith corpus (which includes the six canonical works: Saḥīḥ Bukhārī, Saḥīḥ Muslim, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Sunan al-Nasāʾī, Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī, Sunan Ibn Mājah
, as well as major ancillary works including Musnad Aḥmad, Sunan al-Dāraquṭnī, Sunan al-Dārimī, Sunan al-Bayḥaqī, Saḥīḥ Ibn Khuzaymah, Saḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān, Mustadrak al-Ḥākim, Musnad al-Bazzār,
etc) but also a sound knowledge of the principles of evaluation and classification of Hadith (muṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadīth
Essential fields of study related to the Qur’an include exegesis (tafsīr
) and principles of exegesis (uṣūl al-tafsīr
), abrogation (naskh
), reasons for revelation (asbāb al-nuzūl
), correct pronunciation in recitation (ʿilm al-tajwīd
), history of preservation; more specialized study includes alternate canonical readings (qiraʾāt
), variant readings (shādh qiraʾāt
), linguistic eloquence (balāghah
), Qur’anic orthography and textual composition (ʿilm rasm al-muṣḥaf
), and so on.
al-Shawkānī, Irshād al-Fuḥūl ilā ʿIlm al-Uṣūl
, Riyadh: Dar al-Fadeelah 2000, vol. 2, pp. 1102-05.
, vol. 5, pp. 43-45. Ibn al-Najjār, Sharḥ al-Kawkab al-Munīr
, vol. 4, p. 473. Ibn Taymīyah, Majmuʿ al-Fatāwá
, vol. 20, pp. 112-3.
Al-Dardīrī, Takhrīj Aḥādīth al-Mudawwanah
, Doctoral dissertation, Umm al-Qura University, 1983, p. 61.
There are many nuances to how consensus is interpreted between the different schools of Islamic law; for instance, refer to Ali, Abdullah bin Hamid. “Scholarly consensus: Ijma‘: between use and misuse,” Journal of Islamic Law and Culture
12, no. 2 (2010): 92-113.
For an extensive study on the influence of these different epistemic tools on the juristic opinions, refer to the contemporary Syrian scholar Mustafa Dib al-Bugha’s Athar al-Addilah al-Mukhtalaf fihā fil Fiqh al-Islāmī
(Damascus: Dar Imam al-Bukhari 1993). Note that the distinction between agreed-upon and differed-upon sources is not a sharp bifurcation as there are differed-upon aspects of the agreed-upon sources (like how to define consensus) and agreed-upon concepts from the disagreed-upon sources (like using different terms to indicate the consideration of public benefit within legal theory). The above presentation is consistent with how this material is typically introduced in basic manuals.
al-Kalwadhani (d. 510 AH), al-Tamhīd fi Uṣūl al-Fiqh
. Makkah: Markaz al-Bahth al-ʿIlmi wa Ihyāʾ at-Turāth al-Islāmī 1985, vol. 3, pp. 280-81.
Al-Bayḍāwī, Anwār al-Tanzīl wa Asrār al-Taʾwīl
, Beirut: Dar Ihya Turath al-Arabi 2012, vol. 3, p. 10.
One is not required to delve into nuanced discussions over the correct interpretation of the wording of particular hadith, or the opinion of a particular classical jurist, in order to condemn the actions of ISIS as morally abhorrent. Doing this would be akin to a judge encountering a criminal charged with murder, rape, and theft and choosing to sentence them instead on the basis of a traffic violation. When the actions are so grossly antithetical to the values of Islam, this is self-evident and in need of no further discussion.
is a scholar of Hadith while a faqīh
is a scholar of jurisprudence.
ʿIzz ibn ʿAbd al-Salām, al-Qawāʿid al-Aḥkām fī Maṣāliḥ al-Anām
, Dar al-Qalam, p. 14.
Op cit, p. 7. al-Izz also mentioned that analysis of harms and benefits in this dunya
is by logical necessity (ḍarūrāt
), experience (tajārib
), custom (ʿādāt
), and reasonable considerations (ẓunūn al-muʿtabarāt
), p. 13. It is important to recognize, however, that empirical measures do have limitations— the history of the medical community’s perception of alcohol’s perceived harm or benefit has drastically changed from advocating moderate alcohol consumption for alleged health benefits to now recognizing that even moderate consumption is harmful (Millwood, Iona Y et al. “Conventional and genetic evidence on alcohol and vascular disease aetiology: a prospective study of 500 000 men and women in China,” The Lancet
, Volume 393, Issue 10183 (2019): 1831-42). Of course, the Qur’an states that the harms of alcohol outweigh its benefits (Qur’an 2:219).
Al-Būṭī, Muḥammad Saʿīd Ramaḍān. Ḍawābiṭ al-Maṣlaḥah fi al-Sharīʿah al-Islāmīyah,
Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risala, 1982, p. 57.
“Is something good because God commanded it, or did God command it because it was good?” is a question famously posed as Euthyphro’s dilemma (See Islamic theology and Euthyphro’s dilemma in In Pursuit of Conviction II: Humanity Needs God
). For an overview of how the various theological perspectives impacted discussions on maslahah
, see Johnston, David. “A turn in the epistemology and hermeneutics of twentieth-century uṣūl al-fiqh.” Islamic Law and Society
11, no. 2 (2004): 233-82.
Ahmad Syukri Shaleh. Ibn Taymīyah’s concept of istiḥsān
: An Understanding of legal reasoning in Islamic Jurisprudence. Master’s Dissertation, McGill University 1995, p. 85. He cites the legal maxim, “al-aṣl fi’l-ʿuqūd jamī’uha huwa al-ʿadl
” (the basic rule in every contract is justice).
Ibn al-Qayyim. Iʿlām al-Muwaqqiʿīn
, Dammam: Dar ibn al-Jawzi 2002, vol. 4, p. 337. This should not be confused with the eccentric view ascribed to Najm al-Dīn al-Ṭūfī (d. 716 AH) that maṣlaḥah
can override textual proofs; rather texts subject to interpretation must be understood in consonance with fundamental teachings established by other scriptural texts. See Musṭạfá Zayd, al-Masḷaḥa fī al-Tashrīʿ al-Islāmī
, Cairo: Dar al-Fikr al-Arabi 1964, p. 233. It has also been argued that this ascription is a misreading of what al-Ṭūfī was actually suggesting, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Dirāsah fī Fiqh Maqāṣid al-Sharīʿah
, Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq 2006, p. 111.
Once certain theological or conceptual foundations are established in Islam, they are employed to interpret various individual texts. For instance, God’s perfection, omniscience, and omnipotence are established concepts that are used to understand individual verses and hadith in a manner consistent with those theological foundations. For instance, Qur’an 29:3 cannot be interpreted in a way that compromises God’s foreknowledge; see Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī
, Dar Hijr 2001, vol. 18, p. 357. Similarly, the Islamic value system is deployed in juristic reasoning via legal maxims (qawāʾid fiqhiyyah
) and objectives of Islamic law (maqāṣid al-sharīʿah
Salmān al-ʿAwdah, Kayfa nakhtalif
, Riyadh: Mu’assasah Islam al-Yawm lil-Nashr 1433, pp. 85-86.
The order presented here is that of al-ʿAwnī, Ḥātim Sharīf. Ikhtilāf al-Muftiyīn
, Riyadh: Dar al-Somaie 2008, pp. 46-47. See also Abdul-Majid Susuh al-Sharafi, al-Ijtihād al-Jimāʿī fī tashrīʿ al-Islāmī
. Ri’asah al-Mahakim al-Shar’īyah al-Qatarīyah, Qatar 1997, pp. 63-70.
, Dar Ibn Affan, vol. 5, p. 210.
Of the famous proofs is that the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ considered the absence of birth defects in Romans and Persians who practiced intercourse during breastfeeding (Sunan Abi Dawud
). Refer also to Jaʿfar Sheikh Idris, Haqāʾiq ʿUlūm al-Tajribīyah…Haqāʾiq Shar`īyah
, November 12, 2012. Majallah al-Bayan
no. 149. Available online
. The author cites the aforementioned hadith after his comment, “There is a hadith which demonstrates the Prophet utilized as evidence empirical matters (haqāʾiq al-wāqiʿīyah
) in ascertaining religious rulings (al-masāʾil al-sharʿīyah
Ibn Ḥazm, al-Muḥallá
, DKI Beirut 2003, vol. 10, pp. 132-33.
Mustafa bin Shamsuddin. Athar al-Zamān fī Ijtihād al-Uṣūlī
, International Islamic University of Malaysia, p. 11.
Jackson, Sherman. On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī's Fayṣal al-Tafriqah bayna al-Islām wa al-Zandaqah
. Oxford University Press 2002, p. 6.
Al-Nawawi writes, “This is the case for those who deny anything from that which the Ummah has agreed upon from the knowledge of the religion when such knowledge is widely disseminated, like the five prayers, the fast of Ramadan, ghusl
, the prohibition of zinā
and alcohol and marriage of relatives, and similar rulings, except if someone is new to Islam,” Saḥīḥ Muslim bi-Sharḥ al-Nawawī
, Bayt al-Afkar al-Dawlīyah, p. 100. See also Ibn Taymīyah, Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá
, al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa' lil-Taba'a wal-Nashr, 1998, vol. 35, p. 101.
Ibn Taymīyah, Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá
, al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa' lil-Taba'a wal-Nashr, 1998, vol. 5, p. 306. Furthermore, Ibn Taymiyyah explained that if someone errs in the arcane philosophical debates in Islamic theology (e.g., the createdness of the actions of servants), this cannot nullify their faith and thus he ardently opposed recklessly excommunicating others from Ahl al-Qiblah
(those who face Makkah in prayers; i.e., the general Muslim populace). See Muhammad ʿUmmārah, Rafʿ al-Malām ʿan Shaykh al-Islām
, pp. 22-24.
For the interpretation and analysis of Ibn Taymīyah’s pertinent statements on this topic within the writings of the Najdi Salafi movement, refer to Abu Ala al-Rashid, Ḍawābiṭ al-Takfīr al-Muʿayyan ʿinda Shaykhay Ibn Taymīyah wa ibn ʿAbd al-Wahāb wa ʿUlamāʾ al-Daʿwah al-Iṣlāḥīyah
. Maktabah al-Rushd 2004, pp. 59-69. For a similar distinction regarding the excusability of misinterpretation in matters that are not known by necessity to be from the religion, refer to Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī (d. 1352 AH), Ikfār al-Mulḥidīn fi Ḍarūrīyāt al-Dīn
, Beirut: Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyyah, nd, pp. 118-19. A more detailed comparison of the various approaches to this subject is beyond the scope of this introductory article.
61 Saḥīḥ Bukhārī
. There are many interpretations of the precise meaning of this hadith, including inter alia
whether the sin of the unjustified takfīr
returns to the person, or the accusation of takfīr
since he has accused someone sound in faith like himself, or whether it is simply mentioned in this way as a deterrent. See al-Kandhalawi, Awjaz al-Masālik ilā Muwaṭṭa Mālik
, Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, vol. 17, pp. 448-50.
Al-Dhahabī (d. 748 AH), Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalāʾ
, Beirut: Bayt al-Afkar al-Dawliyah 2004, vol. 2, p. 2936. The Khawārij
were a heterodox sect and one of the earliest splinter factions in the history of the ummah
. They arose in opposition to the reconciliation attempts between ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib and Muʿāwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān, and they viewed the perpetrator of a sin to be a disbeliever.
, pp. 2216, 2638.
, p. 2151. The Murjiʾah
are a heterodox sect that viewed faith to be independent and invariant of one’s deeds such that they believed sins do not diminish one’s faith at all.
This position has been explained by the early hadith scholar Abū Isḥāq al-Jūzajānī (d. 259 AH) in Aḥwāl al-Rijāl
, (Beirut: Dar Mu’assasat al-Risalah nd), p. 32. For a full discussion of this topic and the various views, refer to Serdar Demirel, ʿUlūm al-Ḥadīth bayna Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamāʿah wa Shīʿah al-Imamīyah al-Ithna ‘asharīyah
. IIUM Press, 2009, pp. 172-73.
There is certainly another early trend that arose against “associating with the people of innovation (bidʿah
)”; however, this was in a particular context where boycotting certain fringe groups actually helped to reduce the prevalence of that innovation.
were one of the groups of kalām
(philosophical theology) who used Hellenistic philosophy to establish the doctrines of faith and called themselves Ahl al-Tawheed wa’l-Adl
(people of monotheism and justice), the former label referring to their rejection of any attributes for God and the latter to their rejection of divine predestination. The attitude of their various subgroups towards the Sunnah is discussed in Mustafa al-Siba’ee, The Sunnah and its Role in Islamic Legislation
, IIPH 2008, p. 191.
The historian Ibn Khaldūn (d. 807 AH) lists these as the foundational uṣūl al-fiqh
works for ṭarīqat al-mutakalimūn
(jurisprudence derived from theory) alongside Al-Juwaynī’s Burhān
, Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī’s al-Mustaṣfá.
These works were then drawn upon by al-Rāzī and al-Āmidī in their key works on the subject. As for ṭarīqat al-fuqahāʾ
(Ḥanafi method of theory derived from jurisprudence), he lists Abu Zayd al-Dabūsī’s Taqwīm al-Adillah
as the best of the early works; Ibn Khaldūn, Muqaddimat Ibn Khaldūn
, Dar Yarub, vol. 2, pp. 201-2. His characterization of a neat dichotomy between the two methods is, of course, somewhat of an oversimplification; see Correa, Dale J. Taking a Theological Turn in Legal Theory. In Locating the sharīʿa: legal fluidity in theory, history and practice
, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2019, p. 125.
Al-Jaṣṣāṣ was clearly influenced by the Muʿtazilah
; however, he also demonstrates some characteristics that aligned more with a traditionist disposition and this reiterates the complex theological picture in early Islamic history. See Bedir, Murteza. The Early Development of Hanafi Usul al-Fiqh
, p. 25.
Al-Dhahabī says about him, “He was of the oceans of knowledge (buḥūr al-ʿilm
).” Al-Dhahabi, Siyar
Hansu, Huseyin. “Notes on the Term Mutawatir and its Reception in Hadith Criticism.” Islamic Law and Society
16 (2009): 383-408. The term comes from the Muʿtazilī philosophical emphasis on developing an epistemological framework for certain knowledge.
First used by Abū ʿUthmān al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 255 AH) and Muḥammad ibn Yazīd al-Wāsiṭī (d. 306 AH), and later on adopted as a term by Sunni scholars to refer to the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. See Mustafa Dib al-Bugha and Muhyi al-Din Dib Mastu. al-Wādiḥ fī ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān
, Damascus: Dar al-’Ulum al-Insaniyyah, 1998, p. 177.
Of course, who is and who is not part of the Sunni tradition is another major point of considerable discussion and well beyond the scope of this article. From the Ashʿarī and Māturīdī schools of kalām
, there are those who do not view Salafīsm as valid and vice versa, while both sides ascribe to Sunnism. Meanwhile, some scholars from both sides have adopted more conciliatory stances. Some claim there is not one monolithic Sunni theological tradition but rather multiple theological traditions that claim to represent Sunni orthodoxy. There is a long history of polemical exchanges between these groups that continues until today. However, what remains inarguable is that the tradition that has been inherited (including the major works within the four schools of jurisprudence) contains the combined contribution of all these groups. Heterogeneous as the Sunni tradition might be, there are collectively held areas of agreement on all the fundamental doctrines (e.g.,ʿaqīdah al-taḥāwīyah
with certain nuances) and practices which represent the mainstream of Sunnism.
78 Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī
. There are many other verses, aḥadīth
, and incidents in the seerah
used to establish this concept.
When it is established that a recitation came from the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ, then there is no dispute over its correctness. Of course, during early Islam, there were differing recitations whose status was unclear and were consequently criticized that later were established as canonical and confirmed as sound. For a discussion of instances where the famous early mufassir
Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310 AH) critiqued certain readings, refer to Abdul-Fattah al-Shalabi, al-Ikhtiyār fī’l-Qiraʾāt
. Umm al-Qura University, Mecca 1996.
Scholars of jurisprudence frequently mention and reject the views of Abū ʿUthmān al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 255 AH) and ʿUbaydullah b. al-Ḥasan al-ʿAnbarī (d. 168 AH) that everyone who performs ijtihād
is right even in fundamental matters of theology. Abu’l-Maʿālī al-Juwaynī (d. 478 AH) notes that al-ʿAnbarī may have intended differing over more abstruse matters of theology, with which al-Juwayni still disagrees (al-Juwaynī, al-Burhān
, pp. 1316-18). Meanwhile, al-Shāṭibī affirms al-ʿAnbarī as one of the reliable narrators of Hadith (included by Imām Muslim) and suggests he was merely indicating that every view has a conceivable scriptural justification and that he later recanted his views (al-Shāṭibī, al-Iʿtisām
, vol. 1, pp. 250-52).
Even some jurisprudential differences may be considered ikhtilāf al-tanawwuʿ
(differences in variety) which express multiple acceptable options (e.g., repeated lines of the call to prayer), while others are ikhtilāf al-taḍād
(conflicting differences) and mutually exclusive (e.g., something being ḥalāl
See also Pedersen, Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding and Wright, Cory, “Pluralist Theories of Truth,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Online
Refer to al-Manṣūr billāh al-Qāsim (d. 393 AH), a Zaydī Muʿtazilī in his work, Kitāb al-Irshād ilá sabīl al-Rashād
, ed. Muḥammad Yahya Salim Azzan, Sana’ah: Dar al-Hikmah al-Yamanīyah 1996, p. 13.
Al-Ghazālī, al-Musṭaṣfá min ʿIlm al-Uṣūl
, ed Hamzah Zuhayr al-Hafidh, Madinah, vol. 4, pp. 50-53. Note that Al-Ghazālī in his other work al-Mankhūl
advocates a view that is more similar to the al-Ashbah
view explained later. See al-Ghazali, al-Mankhūl
. Ed. Muḥammad Ḥasan Hītū. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr 1998, p. 456.
ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn al-Samarqandī, who wrote his work on uṣūl al-fiqh
with the express intention of realigning Ḥanafī uṣūl
with Māturīdī theology, as opposed to Muʿtazilī theology, states that the view of Abu Manṣūr al-Māturīdī is that there is only one correct opinion; al-Samarqandī, Mizān al-Uṣūl fī Natāʾij al-ʿUqūl
, Doha: Awqaf Ministry 1997, p. 753. See also Aron Zysow’s discussion on Hanafi opposition to infallibilism in Aron Zysow, 'Mu'tazilism and Maturidism in Hanafi Legal Theory' in Bernard Weiss (ed), Studies in Islamic Legal Theor
y, Brill 2002, pp. 242-44.
Sayf al-Dīn al-Āmidī (d. 631 AH) in al-Iḥkām fī Uṣūl al-Aḥkām
, Riyadh: Dar Sumayʿi, 2003, vol. 4, pp. 221-22.
Shihāb al-Dīn al-Qarāfī (d. 684 AH) in Nafāʾis al-Uṣūl fī Sharḥ al-Uṣūl
, Mecca 1990, vol. 9, pp. 3876-77.
Al-Zarkashī. Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ
, (Dar al-Safwah 1992) vol. 6, pp. 243-44. Scholars also frequently mention that the only dissenting voices—Bishr al-Marīsī (d. 218 AH) and Abu Bakr al-Aṣamm (d. 240 AH)—held the heterodox view that the scholar with the wrong answer was sinful.
Al-Nasafī, Kashf al-Asrār
, Beirut: DKI 2015, vol. 2, p. 301.
For more discussion refer to Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr al-Malikī in Jāmiʿ Bayān al-ʿIlm wa Faḍlihī
, (Dar ibn al-Jawzi 1994) vol. 2, p. 885, Ibn Taymīyah in Majmūʿ al-Fatāwa
, vol. 20, pp. 19-22, and al-Sighnaqi (d. 714 AH) in al-Kāfī Sharḥ al-Bazdawī
(Riyadh 2001), pp. 1837-39.
Al-Sarakhsī, Uṣūl al-Sarakhsī
, Beirut: DKI 1993, vol. 2, p. 14.
Kamal al-Din ibn Imam al-Kamilīyah (d. 874 AH), Taysīr al-Wuṣūl ilā Minhāj al-Uṣūl min al-Manqūl wal-Maʿqūl
, ed. Abdul Fattah Ahmad Qutub al-Dakhmisi. Cairo: Faruq al-Hadithīyah 2002, vol. 6, p. 312.
al-Qāsim, Al-Manṣūr billāh. Kitāb al-Irshād ilā sabīl al-Rashād
, ed. Muḥammad Yahya Salim Azzan, Sana’ah: Dar al-Hikmah al-Yamanīyah 1996, p. 13.
See also Al-Rāzi’s discussion where he argues that al-Ashbah
logically necessitates the same result as the mukhaṭṭiʾah
- al-Rāzi, al-Maḥṣūl
, vol. 6, p. 62. Also, Abu Yaʿqūb al-Jurjāni al-Ḥanafī (d. 522 AH) in Khazānat al-Akmal fī Furūʿ al-Fiqh al-Ḥanafī,
Beirut: DKI 2015, vol. 4, p. 123.
Emon, Anver. “To most likely know the law: Objectivity, authority and interpretation in Islamic law,” Hebraic Political Studies
4, no. 4 (2009): 439.
, Dar Ibn Affan, vol. 2, p. 520.
For a discussion of fatwá
(which is a ruling applied to a particular situation) versus ḥukm
(which is the ruling abstracted from scripture itself) and why it is more appropriate to describe change in the former than the latter, refer to ʿAbd al-Ḥakīm al-Ramīlī, Taghayyur al-Fatwá fil-Fiqh al-Islāmī
, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah 2016, p. 34.
Muṣṭafá al-Zarqāʾ, al-Madkhal al-Fiqhī al-ʿĀm
, Dar al-Qalam 2004, vol. 1, p. 153.
Ibn Taymīyah, Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá
, al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa' lil-Taba'a wal-Nashr 1998, vol. 11, pp. 145-47.
Wael Hallaq, Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law
, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press 2001, p. 180.
ʿAbd al-Ḥakīm al-Ramīlī, Taghayyur al-Fatwá fil-Fiqh al-Islāmī
. Zuḥaylī, Taghayyur al-Ijtihād
, Damascus: Dar al-Maktabi 2000, p. 31. This terminology is also subject to some discussion, as others argue that, in reality, it is a new fatwá
that has been rendered as opposed to changing the old fatwá
In the course of his critique of those who elevate the principles of change (taghayyur
), facilitation (taysīr
), and public benefit (maṣlaḥah
) to the level of a new uṣūl al-fiqh
methodology altogether, Jamaal Zarabozo writes, “Each one of these principles may have some validity on their own. However, once they are given undue emphasis and raised to be the main approaches of fiqh
, rather than simply tools to be used within the superstructure of fiqh
, the Shareeah evidences get distorted and the results can be devastating. Within this proposed approach, following fiqhi rukhsahs
and even invoking shaadh
views become commonplace tools of ijtihaad
.” Zarabozo, Principles of Fatwa-Making
, AMJA 15th annual Imams’ conference, p. 57. Available online
Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, al-Maḥṣūl
vol. 5, p. 207. Ibn al-Najjār, Sharḥ Kawkab al-Munīr
, vol. 4, p. 51.
Baroh, Umar Nuh. Qāʾidah al-Ḥukm Yadūr Maʿa ʿIllatihi Wujūdan wa ʿAdaman Dirāsah Taʾṣīlīyah Taṭbīqīyah
. Masters dissertation, Al-Madinah International University. nd.
al-Zarkashī (d. 794 AH). al-Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh.
Dar al-Safwah 1992,
vol. 5, pp. 262-63.
Umar F. Moghul, Approximating certainty in ratiocination: How to ascertain the ‘illah
(effective cause) in the Islamic legal system and how to determine the ratio decidendi
in the Anglo-American common law, 4 Journal of Islamic Law
125 (1999): 5. For a detailed discussion, see also Bernard G. Weiss, The Search for God's Law: Islamic Jurisprudence in the Writings of Sayf al-Dīn al-Āmidī
, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press 1992, pp. 585-624.
Shalabī, M. Taʿlīl al-Aḥkām
, dissertation, pp. 40-41.
See discussion in Moghul, Umar F. “Approximating certainty in ratiocination: How to ascertain the ‘illah
(effective cause) in the Islamic legal system and how to determine the ratio decidendi
in the Anglo-American common law.” 4 Journal of Islamic Law
125 (1999): 44-45.
, Beirut Dar al-Ma’rifah 1993, vol. 8, p. 178; al-Zayla’i (d. 743 AH) uses the phrase “la ikhtilāf ḥujjah wa burhān
” in Zaylaʿī, Tabyīn al-Ḥaqāʾiq sharḥ Kanz al-Daqāʾiq
. Bulaq: al-Matba'a al-Kubrā al-Amirīya 1896, vol. 43, p. 354.
See Ahmed al-Dawoody, The Islamic Law of War: Justifications and Regulation
s. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 171-73.
For an introductory discussion of Malthusian economics, refer to Clark, Gregory. A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
. Princeton University Press, 2007. In a forthcoming work, we explore the constituents of ‘Malthusian fiqh
’( i.e., juristic rulings predicated on realities governed by pre-industrial economic constraints).
Ibn al-Qayyim, Iʿlām al-Muwaqqiʿīn
, Dammam: Dar ibn al-Jawzi 2002, vol. 4, p. 470.
, Cairo: Dar Ibn Affan 1997, vol. 5, p. 177.
Kayadibi, Saim. Istihsan - The Doctrine of Juristic Preference in Islamic Law
, Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust 2010, pp. 128-85.
Muḥammad b Khalaf Wakee’ (d. 306 AH), Akhbar al-Qudat
, Cairo: Matbat al-Istiqama 1947, vol. 1, p. 341.
The Ḥanafī jurist Ibn ʿĀbidīn dedicated a separate work on this subject entitled Nashr al-'urf fi bina ba'd al-ahkam 'ala al-'urf
. As well, Ibn Taymīyah has extensive discussions on the topic; see Mishʿal bin Ḥamūd, al-Masāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah al-Mabniyyah ʿala al-ʿUrf ʿinda Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyah
. Doctoral dissertation. Umm al-Qura University, 2011.
Taqi Uthmani. Uṣūl al-Iftāʾ
, pp. 254-64.
For instance, Sunan al-Nasāʾī
Wael Hallaq explains:
If the Prophetic tradition dictated measurement by weight for certain commodities, and by volume for others, it was merely because it was the custom to do so at the time of the Prophet. Had custom been different, it is entirely conceivable that the Prophetic tradition might have permitted the sale of gold by volume, and that of barley by weight. Therefore, Ibn Abidin concludes, “If custom undergoes change, then the legal norm (Hukm) must change too. In taking changing and unprecedented custom into consideration there is no violation of the texts; in fact, if anything, such consideration constitutes adherence to [the imperatives of] the texts.” Hallaq, Authority, continuity, and change in Islamic law, pp. 225-26.
This is the position of the Ḥanafī school, in addition to many early jurists including Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, Ṭāwūs ibn Kaysān, ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, Isḥāq ibn Rāhawayh, Sufyān al-Thawrī, Abū Thawr, al-Awzāʿī, and al-Bukhārī. The opposing view of the Ḥanbalī, Shāfiʿī, and Mālikī jurists did not permit payment in money in lieu of grain, although some jurists from these schools did permit it such as the Mālikī jurist Ibn Ḥabīb, the Shāfiʿī jurist al-Ramlī and from the Ḥanbalīs, Ibn Taymīyyah. See Riḍā ʿAbd al-Majīd al-Mutawallī, Jawāz Ikhrāj al-Qīmah fī Zakāt al-Fiṭr
. Majallah al-Azhar. June 2017, pp. 1827-30, online
. The Ḥanafīs even stated that money was preferable because it was of greater benefit in alleviating the needs of the poor, and Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi maintained that the Prophet only mentioned barley and wheat because “trade at that time in Madinah was conducted with them” (al-Sarakhsī, al-Mabṣūṭ
, vol. 3, pp. 106-7). Similarly, in his treatise on the subject, Aḥmad al-Ghumārī argued that the Prophetic instruction to give in grain was based on what was easiest for the Arabs and Bedouins of that time (al-Ghumārī, Taḥqīq al-ʿAmal fī Ikhrāj Zakāt al-Fiṭr bil-Māl
, p. 61).
Reported from Mujāhid in Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Jāmiʿ Bayān al-ʿIlm
, pp. 925-26. It is often also quoted from Imam Mālik. Note also the clarification that the one whose views are taken into consideration in the first place is the one duly qualified to examine the views of scholars and their evidence.
Amjad Mohammed, Muslims in Non-Muslim Lands - a Legal study with applications
, p. 33.
For instance, consider the example of someone who does not believe that every Prophet will have a ḥawḍ
(cistern) on the Day of Judgment. If this person arrived at this viewpoint because they followed those scholars who argued that the hadith on this subject (Tirmidhi 2631
) is inauthentic, they are entirely within the correct methodology and hold a valid opinion. If on the other hand, they reject hadith wholesale and only accept the Qur’an as a source of legislation, their opinion is invalid, even though it is the very same opinion.
Anver Emon, pp. 417-19. Stare decisis
is the legal principle whereby courts must judge according to precedent based on the historical judgments of previous courts.
Abū’l-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī, Risālah ila Ahl al-Thaghar
, Madina: Maktabat al-ʿUlūm wal-Ḥikam 1992, p. 174.
Ibn Taymīyah, Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá
, vol. 21, p. 166.
Hoover, Jon. “Perpetual creativity in the perfection of God: Ibn Taymīya's hadith commentary on God's creation of this world,” Journal of Islamic Studies
15, no. 3 (2004): 287-329.
Ibn al-Qayyim, Badāʾiʿ al-Fawāʾid,
Mecca: Dar Alam al-Fawa’id 2008, vol. 3, p. 1271.
ʿAbd al-Majīd Susuh al-Sharafī, al-Ijtihād al-Jimāʿī fi tashrīʿ al-Islāmī
. Ri’asah al-Mahakim al-Shar’īyah al-Qatarīyah, Qatar 1997, p. 115.
For a detailed contemporary dissertation on the subject of ‘image-making,’ refer to Aḥkām at-Taṣwīr fīl-Fiqh al-Islāmī
by Muhammad bin Ahmad Wasil, Masters thesis, Riyadh: al-Imam University, 1417 AH.
Muṣṭafá al-Zarqāʾ. Fatāwá Muṣṭafá al-Zarqāʾ
. Damascus: Dar al-Qalam 2010, p. 357.
There is greater flexibility in the furūʿ
than in the uṣūl
. Arguing that the ṣaḥābah
did not have a good understanding of prophethood or monotheism or the ethical precepts of Islam is not reasonable. On the other hand, how we interpret isolated texts related to a particular eschatological phenomenon by default has always been subject to far more diverse interpretations because the style of prophecies is never as explicit as religious instruction for daily practice but rather is intended to provoke contemplation and spiritual self-rectification (e.g., the phrase “when a slave girl gives birth to her master”).
The contemporary Qur’anic scholar Sh. Musāʿid al-Ṭayyār lists the following three conditions: 1. The opinion is sound in and of itself, 2. The opinion does not negate the views of the early Muslim community, 3. The opinion is a plausible reading of the scripture. Markaz al-Tafsīr
lecture 54:33, October 31, 2019, online
. See also Khalid al-Sabt, Qawāʿid al-Tafsīr
, Dar Ibn Affan, vol. 1, p. 203.
See for instance Taqi Uthmani, Takmilah Fatḥ al-Mulhim
, Beirut: Dar Ihya Turath al-Arabi 2006, vol. 12, pp. 153-55, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Approaching the Sunnah: Comprehension and Controversy
. International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) 2014, pp. 168-69.
Ibn Taymīyah, Darʾ Taʿāruḍ al-ʿAql wa al-Naql
, ed. M. Rashad Salim, Riyadh: al-Imam University 1991, vol. 8, pp. 427-29.
Grehan, James. “Smoking and “Early Modern” Sociability: The Great Tobacco Debate in the Ottoman Middle East (Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries).” The American Historical Review
111, no. 5 (December 2006): 1352–77.
There is a narration that would appear to suggest that humans have gradually been decreasing in stature from the height of sixty cubits; however, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī problematizes this interpretation with reference to empirical knowledge and archaeological data saying, “This is problematic on account of the remnants of the ancient nations like the houses of Thamūd
for their homes indicate that their stature was not extremely tall” (Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī
, Riyadh 2001, vol. 6, p. 423). Other scholars restricted it to mean that the excessive height was only in paradise, and since then humankind has been smaller in stature (Taqi Uthmani, Takmilah Fatḥ al-Mulhim
, vol. 12, pp. 157-58). Indeed, some narrations specify that Adam’s height in the Heavens
was 60 cubits, such as Saḥīḥ Bukhārī
See Yusuf, Hamza. “When does a human fetus become human?” 2018. Renovatio: The Journal of Zaytuna College
2, no. 1: 61. The author writes, “The argument that ensoulment occurs soon after 40 days ultimately proves far stronger than the traditional majority view that it occurs after 120 days, given what we know of embryogenesis today.” This is based on the meaning of the three Qur’anic words used for phases of embryological development and their correspondence with empirically discernible phases. For a similar discussion, see Demi̇rel, Serdar. 2014. Understanding the Spirit of Time and Interdisciplinary Perspective in the Interpretation of HadIth
. FSM İlmî Araştırmalar İnsan ve Toplum Bilimleri Dergisi, p. 126. Also see, Jamaal Zarabozo, Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi
, vol. 1, pp. 340-49.
As an example, the assumption that the spelling of ‘bi-āyātinā’
with a double ‘ي’ was an aberrant spelling found only in some ʿIraqī manuscripts was later corrected by al-Sakhāwī (d. 643 AH); see Ghanim Qadūrī al-Ḥamad, ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān bayn al-Maṣādir wa al-Maṣāḥif
, Riyadh: Tafsir Centre for Qur’anic Studies, 2018, pp. 48-49.
Muṣṭafá al-Zarqāʾ, al-Madkhal al-Fiqhī al-ʿĀm
, vol. 2, pp. 941-42.
Al-Zabīdī, M. Itḥāf al-Sādat al-Muttaqīn bi Sharḥ Iḥyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn
. Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmīyah. vol.1, p. 501.