- Examine the Prophetic origins, historic development, and systematic refinement of the 4 legal schools
- Understand how to determine divine intent (learning what Allah Most High wants from his creation through “indicator” (adilla shariya), and how we recognize these indicators
- Understand the origins of scholarly disagreement
- Understand why both modernists and extremists alike are mistaken in their approach
- Strengthen one’s religious commitment in the face of modern anti-religious pressures and, in particular, Islamophobia
- Realize why the best option to implement Islam in your life is to follow one of the four schools of law
- See why it isn’t as simple as "just the Qur’an and Sunna
About the Course
The first part of this course will examine the foundation of the legal schools through an historical analysis of Islamic law in the era of the Prophet, the rightly guided caliphs, the tabi'in, and the great imams. Lessons will identify examples that show the probabilistic nature of Islamic law, explain how differences of opinion are a source of mercy, and demonstrate why ijtihad is a complicated process. These lessons will help you understand that the fiqh of the four schools is of prophetic origin and was the direction in which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, encouraged his followers to proceed.
The second part of the course will provide a hands-on demonstration of how a legal school is formed and refined over time, using the example of the Hanafi school. You will see how a school of law started with the imam, how it developed into a sophisticated system, and how its process of refinement is still happening. Finally, you will see how the fiqh of the schools of law can be used to solve modern-day cases.
The third part of the course will focus on Legal Methodology (usul al-fiqh). The focus shall not be on the rules of interpreting law from the primary texts, rather the focus shall be on the more fundamental theoretical part of legal methodology, which builds on theology to create a logical structure of our religion—namely, what are and are not the sources of law, and how we know that the source in question accurately indicates God’s intent.
The third part starts off by examining the meaning of morality and the role of reason in determining divine intent. It then moves on to unpack the theoretical underpinnings of the four agreed-upon sources of Sunni Islam—the Quran, the Sunna, ijma` (scholarly consensus), and qiyas (analogy). Students will understand why these sources are important and how to use them.
The course concludes with a rigorous discussion of the concepts of ijtihad (scholarly interpretation) and taqlid (following scholarship), and briefly looking at sources of law that are differed-upon: such as companion positions, the agreement of the people of Medina, and juristic preference (istihsan).
This course will serve as an introduction to a more detailed look at legal methodology in the course The Waraqat Explained.
Part 1: The foundation of the legal schools
- Week 1
- I. Fiqh in the Prophetic era
- II. Fiqh in the era of the rightly guided caliphs
- Week 2
- III. Fiqh in the era of the tabi'in
- IV. Fiqh in the era of the great imams
- Week 3
- IV. (Continued) Fiqh in the era of the great imams
Part 2: The development of the legal schools with a focus on the Hanafi and Shafi’i schools
- Week 4
- I. The history and development of the Hanafi school
- II: The history and development of the Shafi’i school
- Week 5 Answering Common Questions
- II. The types of scholars and books, and service to the school
- III. Can this "old" fiqh be used in the modern context?
Part 3: The sources of Islamic Law
- Week 6
- Reason, Revelation, and Morality – The search for God’s Law; The mind as a source of law
- Week 7
- The Quran and the Sunna: indicators of Divine Law
- Week 8
- Scholarly Consensus (ijma`)
- Week 9
- Analogy (qiyas)
- Week 10
- Differed-Upon Proofs & Scholarly Interpretation (ijtihad) and Following Scholarship (taqlid)
This course consists of both pre-recorded lessons and weekly live sessions, in which case studies will be used. Students shall sit for a Mid-Term and a Final Examination and Ustadh Farid shall hold weekly office hours where students can consult with him one-on-one. Students are highly encouraged to post their questions in the Forum over the course of the week, which are answered during the Live Sessions.
Weekly Time Commitment
The course requires an estimated 2 hours per week outside of the Live Sessions
There is no required text for this course – simply show up to the Live sessions!
Suggested readings in English include:
- The Four Imams: Their Lives, Works and Schools of Thought by Muhammad Abu Zahra, translated by Aisha Bewley
- Understanding the Four Madhhabs: Facts about Ijtihad and Taqlid by Abdal Hakim Murad
- Abu Hanifa: His Life, Legal Method and Legacy by Mohammad Akram Nadwi
- The Four Imams and their Schools by Dr. Gibril Haddad
No background required: all are welcome!
Do you have unanswered questions regarding the schools of Islamic Law and the discipline of fiqh?
Have you ever wondered if the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, intended Islam to develop different schools of law? Why have differences of opinion existed and can they can ever go away? How about ijtihad, striving to reach one’s own rulings, is this something for everyone? What’s better—to follow the opinion of the founder of a legal school or a scholar that came after him? And can "old" fiqh be used in a modern context?
Why is this knowledge imperative to correctly positioning Islam in the present world?
The world has changed more in the last two hundred years than it has in the previous two thousand. Worldliness has grown and shouldered aside religion. Scholars of every religion have been fighting a rearguard battle in the face of modernity and forging a role for religion in the age of reason.
Every religion has succumbed to the pressures of modernity and turned into something very different from what it was two hundred years ago, perhaps with the sole exception of Islam.
Publicly visible Muslim responses to the pressures of modernity however have spanned the entire spectrum between compromising modernist responses to irrational extremist responses. These different shades have been based on insufficient religious training.
How does a Muslim know where his religion stands in the modern context?
The real Muslim response, is a properly informed re-statement of what our scholars have been saying for the past 1400 years, particularly what they have said in the discipline of legal methodology (usul al-fiqh). Someone who understands the theoretical bases of Legal Methodology, the logical structure our entire religion is based on, knows exactly where they stand with respect to everything – with respect to the bases of all knowledge and events in this temporal realm. This logical structure is what gives the ultimate context to all knowledge and events in our lives. Someone who doesn’t understand this structure will not know where they stand with respect to anything.
What shall I know coming out of this course?
At the end of this course, you will realize why the best option to implement Islam in your life is to follow one of the four schools of law. You will gain a historical appreciation of Islamic law and a deeper insight into legal discussions to help you realize that it isn't as simple as "just the Qur’an and Sunna." This conviction in the Sunni approach to law will leave you with an overall peace in your heart with the details of the religion. Furthermore you will leave with a thorough understanding of how to discover what exactly Allah Most High wants of us.
The student will also be prepared for the next level course in practical legal methodology, LMT201: The Waraqat Explained, which focuses on how to interact with the primary sources to derive rulings.