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Sources of Islamic Law
by Shah Abdul HANNAN
Advisor, Witness-Pioneer


Social Laws in Islam is a collection of several radio talks broadcast in the external service of Radio Bangladesh by Mr. Shah Abdul Hannan, presently Chairman National Board of Revenue and Secretary, Internal Resources Division, Ministry of Finance, Government of Bangladesh. He is also one of the Advisers of Bangladesh Institute of Islamic Thought (BIIT) and has been associated with and contributing to various other social, cultural and research organizations.

The content of the book deals with the answers of the questions which we face in our day-to-day life. The answers are presented in concise and simple form. The problems and the issues that have been discussed relate to familial and social issues like marriage, divorce rights and duties of spouses etc. and economic matters like trade, business and profession as well as service-condition. The book, we expect, will be of immense interest to the general readers. We will deem our efforts a success if the book helps the readers in eradicating their day-to-day problems.

Allah Hafez

M. Zohurul Islam FCA
Secretary General, BIIT.

Sources of Islamic Law

Islam has given the most comprehensive legal system to mankind. Islamic law covers all aspects of life. Islam has its own personal, civil, criminal, mercantile, evidence, constitutional and international law.

Islamic law has been defined as the body of rules of conduct revealed by Allah (SWT) to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) whereby the people are directed to lead their life in this world. Islamic law has, therefore, not been given by any ruler. It is given by Allah. Islamic law remains valid whether recognised by the State or not.

The basic source of Islamic law is Divine Revelation. This has been given to mankind by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in two forms. One is the direct word of Allah (SWT), the Quran and the other is the Sunnah or the teachings of the Prophet (Sm). The Prophet Sm) always acted according to the instructions of Allah (SWT).

The Quran is the primary source containing all the fundamental directives and instructions of Allah. Herein are to be found not only directives relating individual conduct but also principles relating to all the aspects of social and cultural life of human being.

The Quran is the last and complete edition of Divine Guidance and this is the only book of Allah which has not been distorted.

The Quran is not only a book of law. The main purpose of Quran is to awaken in man the higher consciousness of his relation with Allah and the universe. However, in the Quran there are at least five hundred verses which possess definite legal elements. The scholars of Islam have developed a complete science of interpretation of the Quranic verses which can be seen in any book of Islamic jurisprudence.

The Sunnah is the second source of Islamic law. Sunnah is an Arabic word which means "Method". It was applied by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a legal term to represent what he said, did and agreed to. Its authority is derived from the text of the Quran. The Quran says,

"For you the life of the Prophet is a model of behaviour" (Al-Quran 33:21)

Many of books of traditions were compiled by the companions of the Prophet Sm). These were later on incorporated in the great collections of Hadith (i.e. traditions) of Bukhari, Muslim etc. The collectors of the traditions adopted a very scientific system in collection the Traditions. They did not record any tradition except with the chain of narrators. Every tradition gives the names of the last narrator of the tradition from whom he learnt the tradition and so on back to the Prophet or Companion of the Prophet. The Sunnah which is established through reliable narrators is fully dependable as legal element.

The Quran and Sunnah are complementary. The meaning of the Quran is general in nature, the Sunnah makes it specific and particular. The Sunnah explains the instructions of the Quran. The Quranic injunction is sometimes implicit, the Sunnah makes it explicit by providing essential ingredients and details.

The Quran and the Sunnah are the primary sources of Islamic law. Ijma (that is consensus of opinion of scholars) are Qiyas (that is laws derived through analogical deduction) are the secondary or dependent sources of Islamic law or Shariah.

Ijma and Qiyas derive their value or authority from the Quran and the Sunnah. Therefore, they are called dependent sources.

Ijma or the consensus of scholars signifies the importance of delegated legislation to the Muslim community. The Muslim society requires such a rule making power to meet the practical problems for the implementation of Islamic Shariah (Islamic Law). Ijma has been technically defined as the consensus of the jurists of a certain period over a religious matter. Ijma is considered a sufficient evidence for action because the Prophet if Islam said, "Muslim will never agreee on a wrong matter." As such the agreement of the scholars of Islam on any religious matter is a source of law in Islam (Ref: Principles of Islamic Jurispredence by M. Hashim Kamali).

Qiyas is the fourth important source of Islamic law. Qiyas means analogy. Qiyas or analogy is resorted to in respect of problems about which there is no specific provision in the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet. In such issues, the scholars have derived law through analogical deductionon the basis of the provisions of the Quran and the Sunnah on some similar situation. The scholars have developed detailed principles of analogical deductions or Qiyas in the books of Islamic jurisprudence.

Qiyas is a kind of Ijtihad. The Prophet has permitted Ijtihad which literally means 'to exert'. Technically it means to exert with a view to form an independent judgement on a legal issue. Ijtihad is the Islamic method of facing the new situations and problems in the light of the general principles of the book of Allah SWT), the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet or the Sunnah.

Apart from Qiyas, there are other methods of Ijtihad such as Istihsan (that is the juristic preference from different interpretations) and Masalaha (that is moral consideration).

In addition to the above sources, the practices of the Khulafa-e-Rashidun (the first four rulers of Islam), the decisions of the judges and the customs of the people are also considered sources of Islamic law in matters which are not spelled out in the Quran and the Sunnah.

For the complete chapters of the book:



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