In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,
In this topic of Usul-al-Fiqh, 1000 parts? Not yet! So don't fret :)

After taking you through an exciting journey through the historic landscape of usul-al-fiqh in our last two articles, we can practically sense either the lingering echoes of your excitement or, perhaps, a state of perplexity. Undoubtedly, our previous exploration inundated you with a wave of unfamiliar terms. Hence, beginning with this article, we aim to address it directly by delving into the first and most pertinent question: What is fiqh?

What is FIQH?

Linguistically, Fiqh, derived from the Arabic word "Fahm," meaning understanding, refers to a profound and detailed comprehension, particularly in the context of Islamic jurisprudence. However, Fiqh is more detailed than Fahm, signifying a deep understanding. For instance, when Musa (Moses) prays for Allah to grant him understanding (Fiqh) in his speech, it emphasizes a deep comprehension of divine guidance.

يَفْقَهُوا۟ قَوْلِى

"So people may understand my speech" (Quran 20:28)

مَنْ يُرِدْ اللَّهُ بِهِ خَيْرًا يُفَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ

"To whomever Allah wills goodness, He grants him understanding of the religion." (Bukhari & Muslim)

Legislatively, the term Fiqh was historically used more broadly by scholars, encompassing various aspects of religion, including Aqeedah (belief), Adab (manners), Malahim (military engagements), Fitan (trials and tribulations), and more. However, in contemporary times, scholars have specifically defined Fiqh as the understanding of Ahkam Al-Sharia, which are the legal rulings and practical regulations of Islamic law. This includes detailed knowledge of acts of worship (Ibadah) such as Salah and Zakat, with a focus on Al-Amaliyah, the practical application of these rulings. The latest scholars emphasize that Fiqh should strictly pertain to Ahkam Al-Sharia, excluding beliefs (Aqeedah) or other non-legal issues.

What is USUL?

Usul” is the plural of the word “Asl” and linguistically it means whatever can have something else built upon it, and from that we have the “asl” (foundation) of a wall which is in essence its base; likewise, the foundation of a tree which has many branches sprotuing form it. As Allah, The Most High says:

See you not how Allâh sets forth a parable? A goodly word as a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the sky (i.e. very high)). (Quran, 14:24)

In the technical and juristic sense (Istilah), Asl has several distinct meanings:

  1. Dalil (Evidence): In some instances, Asl is used interchangeably with "Dalil," signifying evidence. For example, when discussing legal matters, scholars may refer to Asl as the evidence supporting a particular point, such as the consensus (Ijma) of Muslims.
  2. Rajih (Correct or Strongest Position): Asl can also mean the correct position or the strongest opinion on a matter. For instance, when debating the preference of Hadith over Qiyas (we'll explain Qiyas later), the Asl may be considered as the correct position favoring Hadith.
  3. Qaida (Continuous Principle): Another interpretation of Usul is as a continuous principle, such as the established rule that eating the meat of a dead animal is generally Haram (prohibited). However, in specific situations of necessity, deviations from this principle may be allowed.
  4. Istishaab (Default Position): Asl can be associated with the default position or original stance (mustashab) on an issue. For example, there is a qaidah that states

    a) الأصل في الأشياء الإباحة (The default position regarding things is that it is permissible (halal) unless there is evidence proving otherwise):
    This principle means that, in general, everything is considered permissible unless there is evidence indicating its prohibition.

    b) الأصل في العبادات المنع (The default position regarding worship (Ibadaat) is that it is prohibited):
    This principle implies that any act of worship is considered prohibited unless there is clear evidence from the Quran or Sunnah allowing it.
  5. Another interpretation of Usul is as a continuous principle, such as the established rule that eating the meat of a dead animal is generally Haram (Asl)

What is USUL-Al-Fiqh?

Usul Al-Fiqh, when combining the terms "usul" (fundamentals) and "fiqh" (understanding), refers to the science of understanding the general evidences in Islamic jurisprudence. The primary focus of Usul Al-Fiqh is on comprehending the sources of fiqh and how to extract legal rulings by studying the words and implications of these sources. It involves a detailed examination of the Quranic verses and Hadiths to derive legal principles and guidelines.

In contrast to fiqh, which deals with specific evidences and detailed commands related to practices like prayer (Salah) and purification (Taharah), Usul Al-Fiqh focuses on general evidences applicable to various issues. For example, it delves into understanding commands (amr) in the Quran, such as those related to obligations like Salah, Zakah, or keeping promises. The study of Usul Al-Fiqh involves determining the general principles and guidelines from these commands that can be applied across different contexts.

What is QAWAID-Al-Fiqh?

Linguistically, the term "Qawaid" is derived from the Arabic root "Qa'ada," which means "to sit" or "to establish." In a linguistic sense, "Qawaid" refers to foundational or fundamental principles that form the basis of a system or discipline.

Legislatively, In the context of Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), "Qawaid" refers to legal maxims or principles that are derived from the sources of Islamic law, such as the Qur'an, Sunnah and consensus (ijma). These legal maxims serve as general guidelines for deducing specific legal rulings in various situations.

There are some well known Qawaids, few of them being:

  1. Acts are judged by the intention behind them (Al-Umur be maqâsidihâ)
  2. Certainty is not overruled by doubt (Al-yaqîn lâ yazûl be ash-shakk)
  3. Hardship Brings Forth Ease (Al-mashaqqah tajleb at-tiysîr)
  4. There is to be no harm, and no reciprocating harm, or harm must be eliminated (Lâ darar wa lâ dirâr) Or (Ad-darar yuzal)
  5. Custom is the basis of judgement (Al-âdah muhakkamah)

Hold on a moment; our intended focus was on Usul al-Fiqh, yet we now find ourselves entangled in the terminology of Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, and Qawaid al-Fiqhiyyah. While these terms may sound alike, the question arises: What exactly sets them apart?

Difference between FIQH And USUL-AL-FIQH

Let's break down the differences between Fiqh and Usul Al-Fiqh in simpler terms:

Fiqh is the practical guidebook of Islamic rulings. It's the how-to manual that gives us specific rules for daily life issues. Think of it as a detailed book that tells us what actions are allowed or not allowed, what we must do, and what we should avoid in different situations.

  • Nature: Fiqh deals with specific and detailed evidences (adillah tafsiliyya).
  • Focus: It provides specific rulings on particular issues within Islamic jurisprudence, such as rituals, transactions, and other aspects of daily life.
  • Example: In Fiqh, you have detailed evidence about specific actions, like the obligations in Salah or the prohibitions related to consuming pork.

Usul Al-Fiqh:
Usul Al-Fiqh, on the other hand, is like the toolkit that helps scholars figure out the rules in the guidebook. It's the foundation of Islamic law, showing us the principles and methods to understand and extract these rules from the Quran and Hadith.

  • Nature: Usul Al-Fiqh deals with general and overarching evidences (adillah ijmaaliyya).
  • Focus: It focuses on the principles and methodologies of deriving legal rulings from the Quran and Hadith, providing a broader understanding of the sources of Islamic law.

Example: Usul Al-Fiqh is concerned with general principles, such as understanding the concept of obligation (amr) from a command like "Wa Akeem-us-Salah," and how to apply such general evidence to various issues, not limited to specific actions or topics.


  • Fiqh provides specific details about actions, obligations, and prohibitions.
  • Usul Al-Fiqh provides the methodology and principles to understand and derive these details from general evidences found in the Quran and Hadith.
  • While Fiqh deals with specific issues like the permissibility or impermissibility of particular acts, Usul Al-Fiqh deals with broader principles that can be applied to various issues.

Usool ul-Fiqh vs Qawaid al-Fiqhiyyah

Now, let's explore the difference between Usool ul-Fiqh and Qawaid al-Fiqhiyyah.

Usool al-Fiqh focuses on the methodology of deriving legal rulings. It deals with understanding the meanings and implications of commands and prohibitions.

On the flip side, a Qaida (or maxim, plural, Qawaid) represents principles drawn from the Quran and Sunnah. These principles can be thought of as extrapolations of legal issues that are similar to each other. In simpler terms, Usool al-Fiqh guides how we approach and understand Islamic law, while Qawaid al-Fiqhiyyah provides general principles derived from Islamic sources to address similar legal issues. The differences between the two are highlighted below.

Aspect Usul al-Fiqh Qawaid al-Fiqh
Definition Methodology of deriving legal rulings from Quran and Hadith Maxims or principles of fiqh derived from Quran and Sunnah
Nature Not evidence; a methodology for extraction Can be used as evidence in itself
Example Derivation of Salah obligation from Quranic command ("Establish prayer" (Quran 2:43) - Amr (Command)) Principle: "Certainty is not invalidated by doubt"


This concludes our brief exploration of the definition of Usul al-Fiqh. InshaAllah, our next post will delve into some well-known books on Usul al-Fiqh. Post that, we will look into what Hukm means, inshaAllah.

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