Muslim Law and
"Roots of Law" ("Usul al-fiqh") in order of importance
according to the formulation of Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi (d. 819):
Qiyas is a the only accepted formIjtihad: independent decision making.
- 1. The Qur'an. Not primarily a legal work (contrast to Jewish
Torah, etc.), but contains rules on several topics, including:
- Matters of faith: Prohibition of idolatry.
- Ritual laws: Dietary regulations (pork, wine).
- Ethical rules: Gambling, fraud, perjury, slander, etc.
- Family Law: Divorce, remarriage, inheritance, status of women, limit on number of wives, etc.
- Civil and Criminal laws.
- 2. The Sunna [custom, practice] of the prophet:
Recorded in Hadith [reports]: Huge literature on many topics,
not all of it reliable. Attempts to collect the reliable traditions in
authoritative collections by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, etc. (9th
Includes traditions about what the Prophet
Main criterion of authenticity: Accuracy of "chain of tradition,"
Narrators were evaluated for their trustworthiness.
Afterwards the hadiths were judged according to their content (e.g., whether they conformed to the Qur'an, or were logically plausible.
Hadith traditions were classified as
- sound (sahih)
- good (hasan)
- weak (daif)
- 3. Ijma`: Consensus of Muslim community (Umma):
"Truly my umma will never agree together on an error."
Originally applied to consensus of the community as a whole, later limited to the
- 4. Qiyas: Analogy.
personal opinionjurist preference
The latter are no longer in force among Sunnis:
"The gates of ijtihad are closed."
However it is still practiced by the Shi`ites, for whom the authority of the Imam replaces Ijma' and Qiyas.
(Attempts to reopen "gates of Ijtihad" to modernize the religion).
Schools ("madhahib") of Sunni jurisprudence:
Four main schools of interpretation, usually determined by country.
All are considered legitimate by the others.
Shi'ites have their own schools, notably the Ja'fari.
Some Institutions for the Administration of Justice
- Ulama: Scholars in charge of the theoretical interpretation of the Sharia'a.
- Qadi: Local judge appointed by government of Caliph
- Mufti: Consultant who produced written opinions on legal questions .
- Muhtasib: Supervisor of public morals and religious observance.
- Mazalim: Courts for grievances or appeals.
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