Muslim Law and Jurisprudence

Important Concepts:

Shari`a ["The way"]: The body and content of Islamic law.

Fiqh: The study, or science, of Islamic jurisprudence.

Sources of Law (in order of importance).

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, 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 century).

Main criterion of authenticity: Accuracy of "chain of tradition," Isnad.

3. Ijma`: Consensus of Muslim community (Umma):

"Truly my umma will never agree together on an error."

Originally applied to the community as a whole, later limited to the specialists (`Ulama).

4. Qiyas: Analogy.

Ijtihad: Independent decision making.

No longer in force among Sunnis. Still practiced by Shi`ites.

(Attempts to reopen "gates of Ijtihad" to modernize thr religion).

Schools ("madhahib") of Sunni jurisprudence:

Four main schools of interpretation, usually determined by country.

All are considered legitimate by the others.

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