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

Worn-out books at rest,
The library's quiet depth,
Wisdom held in dust.

In our love for the written word, we joyfully traverse the vast landscapes of literature, exploring the diverse genres that have woven themselves into the very fabric of our literary DNA. The passion for historical narratives and written accounts was cultivated during our educational journey, as we engaged with the timeless classics within the domain of our native language.

Yet, amid this love affair with literature, there exists a linguistic gap—a formidable barrier that separates us from the richness of the Arabic language and, consequently, the books written in it. This literary void is evident, particularly when we set our sights on Islamic literature, especially on topics like fiqh, tafseer, and hadith.

Driven by a commitment to bridge this literary gap, we aim to highlight well known books in the field of usul al-fiqh in this part of the series.

Different Approaches In Books On Usul Al-Fiqh

The approach of scholars, in writing their works on the foundations of Usul Al-Fiqh, is primarily based on three distinct approaches, with a fourth emerging as a fusion of the first three.

  1. Manhaj of Ahlul Hadith:
    Scholars following the Manhaj of Ahlul Hadith adhere to an approach where Usul is independently derived from the Quran and Sunnah. This methodology is characterized by the direct extraction of principles without reference to established fiqh positions. The emphasis lies on deriving Usul principles from the primary sources, prioritizing the authority of Quranic verses and authentic hadiths.
  2. Manhaj of Mutakallimeen:
    The Manhaj of Mutakallimeen, or the People of Kalam, represents a philosophical approach to Usul Al-Fiqh. Scholars following this approach prioritize logical reasoning and principles derived from Greek philosophy. While these principles aim for logical coherence, they sometimes depart from a direct reliance on Quranic and hadith sources.
  3. Manhaj of Ahlul Rai:
    The Manhaj of Ahlul Rai is grounded in the established positions of a particular madhhab (school of thought). Usul Al-Fiqh is articulated to defend and align with the official positions of the madhhab. The scholars of this approach derive principles from the fiqh positions of their predecessors, shaping Usul to harmonize with the already established rulings.
  4. Mix of Mutakallimeen and Ahlul Rai:
    The fourth approach emerges as a synthesis of the Manhaj of Mutakallimeen and Ahlul Rai. Scholars attempting to reconcile both methodologies draw on logical principles from Mutakallimeen and fiqh examples from Ahlul Rai. This blended approach seeks to benefit from the strengths of both perspectives.

An Example Of The Use Of Usool To Defend Madhab Against Hadith

In utilizing Usool to defend Madhab, Abul Hasan Karkhi (d. 390H), a renowned Hanafi Faqih, mentioned two fundamental rules in his book Usool al-Karkhi,

الأصل أن كل آية تخالف قول أصحابنا فإنها تحمل على النسخ أو على الترجيح، والأولى أن تحمل على التأويل من جهة التوفيق

Rule 1: The Asl is that any verse that contradicts the opinion of our colleagues either implies abrogation or requires Tarjeeh (preference), and it is better for it to be interpreted in a way that reconciles different views. (Usool al-Karkhi p. 11) 

Rule 2: The Asl is that every report which opposes the views of our colleagues is held to be abrogated, or opposed by that which is similar to it, whereby another evidence was consulted or one of the many modes of preferring one narration over the other were used. Or reconciliation was resorted to, and all of this is done in accordance to what the evidence points to. If there is an indication of abrogation then that is what is resorted to; similarly, if there is denotation of something else,  then that is what we rule with. (Usool al-Karkhi p. 11) 

Permissibility of performing sunnah prayer after the Fard prayer in Fajr salah

Al-Nasafi explains the application of these Usool rules through an example concerning the permissibility of performing sunnah (voluntary) prayer after the Fard (obligatory) prayer in Fajr, but before sunrise.

Al-Nasafi explains above rule: He said: from among that is what al-Shaafiʿī says concerning the permissibility of performing the voluntary dawn prayers after the obligatory dawn prayer before sunrise. This view is owing to what ʿĪsā reports: ‘The Prophet (ﷺ) saw me pray the two units after the obligatory prayer. He said: “What are they?” I said: “they were the two [voluntary] units of the dawn (fajr) prayer which I was performing.” So he remained silent.’ I say: this is abrogated owing to what has come from the Prophet (ﷺ) that he said: ‘There is no prayer to be done after the dawn prayer until the sun rises, and no prayer after the mid-day (ʿaṣr) prayer until the sun sets.’ (Usool al-Karkhi with Sharh of Nasafi) 

Issues with this statement:

  1. Questioning Abrogation: Knowing that the hadith is authentic, it's important to question the basis of the claim for declaring abrogation, as asserted by Nasafi following al-Karkhi's guidelines to defend his Madhab.
  2. No Clear Proof: The Hadith referred to by Nasafi doesn't seem to explicitly show any signs that it abrogates the previous Hadith.
  3. Approval of our Prophet (ﷺ): When the Prophet (ﷺ) observed a companion performing two units of prayer after obligatory prayers, and inquired by asking "What are they?" This suggests an existing understanding among companions that there's no established prayer after Fajr. The Prophet's silence in response to this scenario can be construed as tacit approval or permissibility of praying missed two units of Sunnah before Fajr.

First book on Usool ul-Fiqh ( Ar-Risalah by Imam Ash-Shafi'i)

Imam Al-Shafi'i's Ar-Risalah is a foundational work that has made a notable impact on Islamic Fiqh. This text, serving as an introduction to Usool al-Fiqh and Usool al-Hadith, explores Shariah principles. It provides insights into the acceptance of narrations, the importance of consensus (Ijmaa), and the comprehension of Nasikh and Mansookh.

The method of presentation in Ar-Risalah mirrors a conversational style, similar to a dialogic method, addressing different questions about Fiqh. This book has stood the test of time and continues to be a valuable reference for Fiqh scholars and Muhaddithin (Hadith Scholars).

Why was this book written?

The book "Ar-Risalah" by Imam Al-Shafi'i was written in response to a letter from the great hadith scholar Abdul Rahman Ibn Mahdi.

During Abdurrahman Mahdi's visit to Basra, Iraq, a period coinciding with Imam Shafi residing in Baghdad, a noticeable clash of legal methodologies emerged. Imam Shafi adhered to the Madhab of Ahlul Hadith, emphasizing the application of hadith in jurisprudence, while the prevalent and dominant approach in Iraq was the Madhab of Ahl ul Ray, emphasizing reliance on personal opinion.

The distinct practices of Abdurrahman Mahdi, a student of renowned scholars such as Imam Malik, Sufyan At Thawree, and Sufyan ibn Uyainah, caught the attention of the people in Basra. Acting strictly on hadith, he demonstrated practices that seemed unusual to the locals, such as omitting ablution after hijamah (cupping therapy). Perceiving the need for clarity and guidance, Abdurrahman Mahdi wrote a letter to Imam Shafi, who was known for his expertise in Islamic sciences, requesting a comprehensive answer on the principles of religion, hadith, fiqh, and other related disciplines. (Introduction to al-Risalah p 11)

Harith an Nakkal delivered this letter to Imam Shafi, catalyzing a response in the form of the composition of Kitab Ar Risalah. This seminal work addressed the requested topics and established foundational principles for the comprehension and application of Islam.

It is noteworthy that Imam Shafi revisited Kitab Ar Risalah during his later years in Egypt. Rabi ibn Sulayman, who accompanied him during this period, narrated the revised version of the book.

Ismaaeel Ibn Yahyaa al-Muzanee, also known as Imam Muzni, a prominent student of Imam Shafi and the author of Sharhus-Sunnah, revised the book 500 times and said each time he read it, he found new benefits in it. (مناقب الإمام الشافعي؛ لابن حجر (150))

History of this book

The consensus among authorities affirms that al-Shafi'i authored two treatises on jurisprudence, both identified as al-Risala, with the earlier version composed in 'Iraq and the latter in Egypt.

Ibn Hajar attests to Ahmad b. Hanbal's possession of copies of both the old and new al-Risala, considering them distinct works (Ibn Hajar in Tawali al-Ta'sees, p. 77). The old al-Risala is characterized as a comprehensive work wherein Shafi'i systematically expounded on the Qur'an, encompassing its general and specific rules, as well as its abrogating and abrogated revelations. It also purportedly addressed the sunnah as a legal authority, with some authorities asserting its coverage of ijma (consensus) and qiyas (analogy).

However, due to the absence of the complete text of the old al-Risala, except for possibly a few excerpts found in subsequent works, precise delineation of its scope and arguments remains challenging. Nonetheless, accounts from authorities familiar with both versions suggest the superiority of the new al-Risala (Manaqib al-Shafi by Ibn Abee Haatim p 60).

The new al-Risala, reflective of al-Shafi'i's mature deliberations following his settlement in Egypt, delves into the entirety of legal sources as reconstructed in his later years. Internal evidence attests not only to its composition in Egypt, with cross-references to books written or dictated by al-Shafi'i post-settlement, but also indicates that the current form of the new al-Risala was either written or revised toward the end of the author's life. Consequently, it serves as a manifestation of his advanced legal reflections during the pinnacle of his career as a prominent jurist.

Details about this book

This book is structured into comprehensive chapters. The text begins with "Al-Bayan," focusing on explicit declaration of legal and doctrinal principles, followed by a dedicated section on legal knowledge, elucidating sources and methods of legal reasoning. Emphasizing the obligation of accepting the Hadith of the Prophet, the text explores the significance of adhering to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

Within the thematic divisions, the chapter addressing "Abrogation of Hukm'' delves into the intricate concept of Nasikh Mansookh. Nasikh refers to the abrogating verse or ruling, while Mansookh denotes the abrogated one. This principle acknowledges that certain Quranic verses or prophetic Ahadith may supersede or modify earlier ones, recognizing the evolving nature of divine guidance.

The authority of Khabar Wahid is another crucial aspect explored in Al-Risalah. The chapter on Khabar Ahad addresses this topic, emphasizing its evidentiary value. In understanding the authority of Khabar Wahid, al-Imam al-Shafi underscores the importance of scrutinizing the chain of narration (isnad) and the integrity of narrators (adalah). The meticulous examination of these factors ensures the reliability and authenticity of singular narrations, allowing them to be considered as valid legal proofs.

Topics such as Sunnah, Ijma (consensus), and Qiyas (analogy) are discussed, along with Istihsan (juristic preference) and Ikhtilaf (disagreement). These chapters collectively provide a systematic framework for understanding Islamic jurisprudence and legal principles within the Ahlul Hadith school of thought.

As we've seen in the previous blogs, the presence of contrasting madhab, namely Ahlul Hadith and Ahl ul Ray, during this period led to the development of the science of Usul-Al-Fiqh.

It's important to note that Ar-Risalah follows the approach of Ahlul Hadith, not just the Shafi'i school. This highlights its broad relevance and importance in scholarly circles.

Praise for the book

  • Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal not only agreed with al-Risalah of al-Shafi'i but also praised it. (Al-Jarh wa Tadeel 7/204)
  • Imam Abdur Rahman bin Mahdi expressed his liking for the book. (Al-Tuyuriyyat of Abu Tahir as-Silafi 2/761)
  • Imam Ishaq bin Rahaway concurred with al-Risalah of al-Shafi'i. (Al-Jarh wa Tadeel 7/204)

Famous Books on Usool ul-Fiqh

1) Manhaj Ahlul Hadith

1) Ar-Risalah by Imam Shafiee (d. 205 H)

2) Al-Madkhal by al-Bayhaqi (d.458 H)
Al-Madhkal, a work by al-Bayhaqi, underwent a significant editorial process, initially published by Dr. Zia ur-Rahman Azami. However, the first publication was incomplete, leaving gaps in the scholarly understanding of the text. The comprehensive and unabridged version of Al-Madhkal was subsequently published by Muhammad Awwamah, consolidating the various fragments into a single volume. This meticulous editorial effort aimed to provide scholars and researchers with a more complete and accurate rendition of al-Bayhaqi's Al-Madhkal. Awwamah's edition sought to address the deficiencies of the initial publication by Azami, ensuring that the scholarly community had access to the entirety of the work in a consolidated and cohesive form.

Al-Madkhal, authored by al-Bayhaqi, bears resemblance to al-Risalah of al-Shafi in its comprehensive exploration of Usool ul-Fiqh and Usool ul-Hadith. A notable aspect of al-Madkhal is its dedicated section elucidating the obligations upon a Mujtahid. Parallel to al-Shafi's emphasis on the authority of Khabar Wahid, al-Bayhaqi expounds upon this concept within the context of jurisprudential discussions. Within the structure of al-Madkhal, readers encounter chapters addressing fundamental principles such as Ijmaa (consensus), Ijtihaad (independent reasoning), Qiyaas (analogical reasoning), Nasikh Mansookh (abrogation), and Taqleed (blind following) etc. These chapters serve to provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the intricacies of Islamic legal theory and methodology.

3) Al-Ikhkaam fee Usool al-Ahkam by Ibn Hazm (d. 456 H)
"Al-Ihkaam fee Usool al-Ahkaam" by Imam Ibn Hazm is a comprehensive work on Usool ul-Fiqh, encompassing eight parts and published in two volumes with the Tahqeeq of Ahmad Shakir. An alternative publication by Sami al-Arabi is available in five volumes.

The introductory section of the book delves into the theme of the foolishness and lack of intellect among those who follow falsehood, even if they find pleasure in worldly pursuits. Chapter three of the book is dedicated to exploring the concepts of justness in debate, as well as the obligation of engaging in debate and argumentation.

In chapter eleven, Imam Ibn Hazm addresses the issue of the Kufr (disbelief) of those who reject the scripture in favor of Taqlid (imitation), Qiyas (analogical reasoning), and speculation. Chapter 31 is dedicated to discussions on what a Faqeeh (jurisprudent) must know and who is authorized to give Fatawa (legal opinions) and judge between people. It highlights the importance of knowledge and expertise in fulfilling these roles.

Notably, Ibn Hazm rejects Qiyas, and chapters 38 and 39 delve extensively into this doctrinal stance, providing a nuanced examination of the issue. For further insights into the life and ideas of Imam Ibn Hazm, the book "Ibn Hazm: The Life and Ideas of the Spanish Genius" is recommended for a more comprehensive understanding of the scholar and his contributions to Islamic jurisprudence.

You can download the book Ibn Hazm: The Life and Ideas of the Spanish Genius for free on our website

4) Al-Faqeeh wal Mutafaqqih by Khateeb al- Baghdadi (d.463 H)
"Al-Faqeeh Wa al-Mutafaqqih," authored by Imam Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi, is published in two volumes with the Tahqeeq of Adil bin Yusuf. It stands as a seminal work within the realm of jurisprudence. This significant literary contribution is structured into four comprehensive sections, each delineating crucial aspects of Islamic jurisprudence and scholarly pursuits.

The inaugural section of the book delves into an exploration of the merits inherent in the study of jurisprudence and the acquisition of its profound knowledge. Imam Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi meticulously elucidates the importance of understanding the foundational principles that underpin the field, setting the stage for a comprehensive discourse.

Moving on to the second section, the author provides a succinct yet insightful overview of jurisprudence, expounding on its multifaceted principles. This section serves as a foundational framework, offering readers a nuanced understanding of the key tenets that govern Islamic jurisprudence.

The third section of the book is dedicated to the intricate concepts of debates and objections within the realm of jurisprudence, along with a meticulous examination of their respective rulings. Imam Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi engages with these aspects, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics and implications of debates within the context of Islamic legal discourse.

In the final section, the esteemed author delves into the topic of ijtihad, shedding light on its significance and the merits associated with scholars and jurists who engage in this intellectual endeavor. The conclusive chapters of the book are adorned with advice directed specifically to the community of Hadith and, by extension, to a broader audience. Imam Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi imparts wisdom and counsel, encapsulating the essence of his scholarly insights.

5) Jami Bayan al-Ilm by Ibn Abdul Barr (second half) (d.463 H)

6) Qawatih al-Adillah by as-Samani (refutation of Taqweem al-Adillah of al-Dabusi) (d.489 H)
Imam Abu al-Muzaffar al-Samani's "Qawatih al-Adillah," comprising two volumes with annotations by Muhammad Hasan al-Shafi, serves as a scholarly cornerstone in Islamic jurisprudence. The book, crafted as a refutation of al-Dabusi's "Taqweem al-Adillah," commences with introductory chapters, paving the way for a thorough examination of the nuances surrounding "Amr" (command) and "Nahi" (negation).

Al-Samani delves into the intricacies of Usool ul-Fiqh, addressing pivotal concepts such as Ijmaa and Qiyaas, thereby establishing a robust foundation for legal reasoning. A focal point of the work is the exploration of the authority of Khabar Wahid, with the author staunchly defending the obligation to follow Khabar Wahid and refuting dissenting perspectives. Through systematic engagement, al-Samani critically evaluates opposing views, offering a scholarly discourse that blends traditional Islamic scholarship with analytical precision.

"Qawatih al-Adillah" stands as a testament to the enduring relevance of classical Islamic scholarship in addressing complex legal and theological issues within the Islamic jurisprudential framework.

7) Alam al-Muwaqqieen by Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751 H)
The work "Alam al-Muwaqqieen" holds significant scholarly importance and is published in many editions. One famous edition comprising 6 volumes is by Dar Alam Fawaaid with the Tahqeeq conducted by Uzair Shams, Ajmal Islahi, and Ali al-Imran. Another edition consists of 7 volumes, with the seventh serving as an index, with tahqeeq of Mashoor Hasan al-Salman.

Ibn Qayyim engages in a comprehensive discourse within the pages of "Alam al-Muwaqqieen," particularly delving into the intricate subjects of taqleed (blind following) and Ijtihaad (independent legal reasoning). Notably, he extensively references and quotes his esteemed teacher, Ibn Taymiyyah, dedicating a significant portion of the work to the elucidation of Ibn Taymiyyah's perspectives.

In the domain of Qiyas (analogical reasoning), Ibn Qayyim takes the remarkable step of quoting the entire book of Ibn Taymiyyah in the course of his exploration. Beyond these legal and jurisprudential discussions, Ibn Qayyim's work spans a wide array of Islamic sciences. He addresses matters pertaining to Uloom al-Hadith (the sciences of Hadith), Uloom al-Quran (the sciences of the Quran), Maqasid al-Shareeah (objectives of Islamic law), and Qawaid al-Fiqhiyyah (legal maxims). In each of these domains, Ibn Qayyim presents a meticulous examination of the relevant issues, drawing upon a rich tapestry of Islamic scholarship.

Furthermore, "Alam al-Muwaqqieen" provides insights into the debates among scholars concerning Usool al-Fiqh (foundations of Islamic jurisprudence). Ibn Qayyim not only outlines the differing opinions but also engages with the arguments presented by scholars who contested each other on various issues related to Usool al-Fiqh. In essence, Ibn Qayyim's scholarly endeavor in "Alam al-Muwaqqieen" reflects a profound commitment to academic rigor and intellectual exploration, contributing significantly to the understanding of Islamic jurisprudence and related disciplines. The inclusion of multiple critical editions with diverse perspectives enhances the scholarly value of this work, making it a cornerstone for those engaged in the study of Islamic legal theory and jurisprudence.

Other books by later scholars 

  1. Irshaad al-Fuhool by al-Shawkani (d. 1250)
  2. Mukhtasar al-Usool by Shah Ismail Dehlawi (d. 1246)
  3. Husool al-Ma’mool by Sideeq Hasan Khan (d. 1307)
  4. Bughyatul Fuhool by Muhammad Gondalwi
  5. Nukhbatul Usool Talkhees Irshaad al-Fuhool by Abdul Mannan Noorpuri 

2) Manhaj Ahlur Ray

  1. Al-Fusool fil Usool Abu Bakr Al-Razi Al-Jassas (d. 370 H)
  2. Taqweem al-Adillah by Al-Dabusi (d.430 H)
  3. Al-Mabsoot by Al-Sarkhasi (d.490 H)
    "Al-Mabsoot" authored by Shamsuddeen al-Sarkhasi is a seminal work in Hanafi Usool al-Fiqh, comprising 30 volumes. Notably, al-Sarkhasi dictated the content to his students while incarcerated, demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to scholarship despite the constraints of imprisonment, wherein he lacked conventional writing materials. The text extensively discusses issues of Usool al-Fiqh in Hanafi Madhab and aLeo addresses Ikhtilaaf, exploring divergences in accordance with the Methodology of Imam Shafi. Furthermore, "Al-Mabsoot" is meticulously crafted within the methodological framework of Ahlur Ray, solidifying its significance within the academic discourse of Hanafi Madhab. 
  4. Kanz al-Usool by al-Bazdawi (d.482 H)
  5. Meezan al-Usool by Alauddin Samarqandi (he mentions Manhaj of Ahlul Hadith and Manhaj Mutakallimeen as their counterparts) (d.539 H)

3) Manhaj Mutakallimeen

  1. Al-Mutamad by Abul Hasan al-Basari al-Mutazili (d.436 H)
  2. Al-Burhaan fee Usool al-Fiqh by Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwaynee (d.487 H)
  3. Al-Mustasfa by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d.505 H)
  4. Al-Mahsool by Fakhruddin al-Raazi (d.606 H)
  5. Al-Ikhkaam fee Usool al-Ahkam by al-Aamidi (d.713 H)

Two famous Mukhtasarat based on above books 

  1. Rawdatun Naadhir (based on al-Mustasfa) by Ibn Qudamah (d.620 H)
  2. Mukhtasar al-Usool by Ibn Hajib al-Maliki (based on al-Ihkaam)

4) Manhaj Mutakallimeen + Ahlur Ray

  1. Badee’un Nidham by Imam As-Sa’ati (mixture of Usool Bazdawi and Ihkaam of Aamidi) 
  2. Tanqeeh Al-Usool by Sadrush Shareeah (d. 747 H)
  3. Jam’ul Jawaami: Tajuddin As-Subki (d. 771 H) 
  4. At-Tahreer: Abil Humam Al-Hanafi (d.861 H) 
  5. Musallam Ath-thuboot: Muhibullah Bihari (d.1119 H)
  6. Fawatih Ar-Rahamoot (commentary on Musallam Ath-thuboot): Abdul Ali Bahr al-Uloom Ibn Nidhamuddin (d.1225)

5) Some good books on Usool ul-Fiqh by Contemporary authors

  1. Muaalim Usool ul-Fiqh inda Ahlus Sunnah by Al-Jeezani 
  2. Talkhees al-Usool and Tayseer al-Usool by al-Zahidi
  3. Tasheel al-Wusool ila Fahm ilm al-Usool by al-Abbad, Atiyyah Salim, Hamood Uqla. Reviewed by al-Afifi 


This concludes our short deep dive into listing the various known books on Usul al-Fiqh. InshaAllah, our next post will delve into what Hukm means, and we will slowly start understanding this subject in detail.

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