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Islamic law is a set of rules and regulations derived from divinely inspired sources and represents Allah’s plan for the proper ordering of all human activities both worldly and religious.

The legislation of the Islamic law went through three phases, starting from the phase mostly described by the Jurists as the prophethood stage exemplified in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is about this stage that the holy Qur’an declared:

وَمَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمُ ٱلرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَىٰكُمْ عَنْهُ فَٱنتَهُوا۟ ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلْعِقَابِ

Whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it; and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it. And fear God. God is severe in punishment.”  (Al-Hashr: 7).

In this stage, issues concerning the Islamic faith (theology) were ambiguously spelt out stating their pillars and their nullifiers. Actions that reflect this creed were also clearly explained through the words of the holy Prophet, his actions and his endorsements all put together known as the Sunnah.

The above prophetic phase was succeeded by the khilafa Ar-Raashsidah stage. That is the stage that witnessed the governorship of the four guided caliphs chronologically known to be  1-Abubakar siddeeq, 2-Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab, 3-Uthman Ibn Affaan and 4-Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (May Allah be please with all of them). This stage continued till the middle of the 1st Hijri century and is regarded as the cradle for the birth of Islamic Law and Jurisprudence.

The third phase which shot up from the end of the era of the righteous caliphs from the middle of the first century till the beginning of the 2nd century witnessed the birth of codification of the main sources of Islamic law namely the Qur’an and the Sunna. The scholarly authorities of this stage are mostly the Taabi’uun (those who accompanied the sahaaba) and some few young companions (the sahaaba) of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Among the factors that necessitated the codification of Islamic law in this stage was because of the fast expansion of the Islamic state, the apprehension of arbitrary interpretations, heterodoxies and heresies. Consequently, it became absolutely necessary to compile the Islamic Law in a codified book form, classifying the laws and the byelaws and clarifying the topics and the problems, so that every literate Muslim may be able to know the law without taking the long, and, in most cases, impossible, route of going to the original sources, acquiring knowledge of a research-scholar level in the Qur’aan, the Hadith and Islamic history, in all its aspects, and attempting to discover every minute law and its deduction himself. Those distinguished scholars and spiritual luminaries of Islam who, by their great qualities of head and heart, deserved to be considered the true “successors of the Prophets”, in the words of the Hadith undertook this work of simplified and clear-cut presentation of the Islamic Law.

The two foremost Academies of islamic law Codification

Two main academic centers spearheaded the codification renaissance of the Islamic law. The Medinite scholar, the celebrated Imam, Malik Bin Anas, started his Academy at Medina, while, on the other hand, Imam Abu Hanifa Nu'man bin Thabit applied himself to the same work at Kufa.

The codification system of the Medinite Academy

Maulana Muhammaad Abdul Aleem Siddiqui, Al Qadri  said:“The system pursued at Imam Malik's Academy was that all the Islamic experts and scholars assembled there. There were no loudspeakers in those days. Hence, for the vast gathering, ten announcers had to be appointed during every discussion. The discussion used to commence each time with a statement from the Imam.  That was broadcast to the gathering by the announcers. Then the general debate would start. Each individual scholar presented his opinion on the problem and quoted from the Hadith literature in his support. Criticism and counter-criticism from all points of view would ultimately bring the assembly to favour and support a certain Hadith on a certain problem. Thereafter, the heading was fixed and the Hadith was entered under that heading. Thus came into existence the well-known book, called Muatta Imam Malik, which represents one of the attempts of the codification of Islamic Law”.(1)

The transfer of the Islamic capital from Madina during the Era of Ali Ibn Abi Taalib brought Kufa and Syria into great prominence. Islamic learning became gradually centralised in that area and the Islamic legal activity of the whole empire became focalized there. To those parts came the best Islamic legal brains and the greatest men of religious learning, not only to fill the various governmental offices but also to add lustre to the centre of the empire. This gave birth to a learning center that can best be described as the Kufa Academy led by Imam Abu Hanifa; the founder of the Hanafiya school of Islamic Jurisprudence representing the first school of scholarly and Jurisprudential interpretation of Islamic law, which emerged even before the Medinite Imam Maalik Academy

The codification system of the Kufa Academy

“The system adopted in the Academy was to first classify the verses of the Holy Qur‟aan under various topical headings and sub-headings. The whole Hadith literature was then taken up. Each Hadith was examined thoroughly from all points of view, employing historical criticism as well as logical criticism. Ultimately, the issue under investigation was clarified, the legal form of the problem was fixed up and the section of the law was entered in a classified form in the compilation. Musnad Imam A’zam and Muatta Imam Mohammad are the books which represent that attempt at legal codification, from the point of view of Traditionalists (Muhadditheen). They are actually books of Hadith arranged according to legal problems and giving the authority for each and every Tradition mentioned therein. It is well worth remembering that the Holy Qur‟aan describes Islam as Deen. This word is usually translated as “religion” in English for want of a better single word. The expression “Way of Life” denotes the meaning better. Now, Islam comprehends in itself two distinct elements, namely:

(1) teachings relating to faith and belief; (2) teachings concerning various forms of Islamic Action.

Those who attempted the classified codification of Islam took into consideration both of these elements. The first they described as Theology (Imaniyat) the second as Law. At the Academy of Imam Abu Hanifa, the compilation of the Islamic teachings falling under the first category was given the name of Fiqh-al-Akbar (or Higher Law), while the work falling in the second category has come to be described as Fiqh in the general sense.

In the Fiqh-al-Akbar, all the articles of Islamic belief have been given in logical arrangement, so that everyone who wants to know his Faith may refer to that handbook.

Discussions relating to the sources and the arguments have been left out there. This work was accomplished separately by other Imams who wrote volumes in support of Islamic metaphysics and controverted the false teachings of the adversaries among philosophers. They dealt with all those problems exhaustively, so much so that ultimately they succeeded in building up a whole new science, - the science of Dialectics or Kalam. The central figures, who engaged themselves in that work at the Academy of Imam Abu Hanifa were three, namely, Imam Abu Hanifa (President), and Imam Muhammad and Imam Abu Yusuf, as Scribes and Joint Secretaries. They were assisted and advised by nearly five hundred scholars of Islam, who were distinguished for their piety and learning.”(2)

It may be pointed out here that the function of Imam Abu Hanifa in that Academy was not that of a dictator. The method of work was not that he ordered a certain piece of law to be written down and it was written. It was not his personal opinion which guided the work. Nay, the method really was that the Book of God and the Holy Prophet‟s Sunnah were first investigated thoroughly for finding out the explicit ruling of Islam on a certain problem of law. The work of deducing the law was undertaken wherever the guidance was not explicit. In that case the scientific and objective and fixed Principles of Law were the guide, and not any subjective opinions or considerations. Every scholar had equal right to apply the Principles. There were full-fledged discussions, criticisms and counter-criticisms on every problem. The best and the most honest effort was made to come to a unanimous conclusion. If even then, there was any difference of opinion, the stand of Imam Abu Hanifa was preferred in some cases and the stand of Imam Muhammad and Imam Abu Yusuf in others. This was the democratic, honest and impartial method of codifying the Islamic Law by the Academy of Imam Abu Hanifa. This is the work which was performed by Imam Malik and his co-workers and pupils at Medina, and by Imam Abu Hanifa and his co-workers and pupils in Syria and Iraq. Later on, Imam Shafei and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal performed the same work with the same honesty and erudition. These great Imams rendered the fundamental service to Islam and left behind them a solid literature on Islamic Law, on which the mighty structure of Islamic administration was built. Muslims were the masters of their destinies for many centuries. During this long period, it was the work of these Imams which continued to feed Muslim progress and Islamic life, not only in rituals and matters of worship, but also in all the conceivable aspects of politics, economics, state-law, international law, etc. our whole past and present is a standing testimony to the consensus of Islamic learned opinion that truth is to be found in the four schools, i.e., Hanafi, Maliki, Ash-Shaafi’e and Hanbali, and whoso revolts against them actually revolts against the Book of Allah and the Sunnah.

This means, that in the fundamental exposition of the Islamic Law, these schools have accomplished what was humanly possible, from all aspects. The honest course for us is to follow that exposition in all the issues clarified therein. If, however, we are ever confronted with any issue, which comes into existence because of the growing complexity of human life, the course for us is, that those among us who are really capable of it because of their piety and sound learning, and not every Tom, Dick and Harry, should approach the Holy Qur‟aan and the Holy Prophet‟s Sunnah for light and should deduce the law from there, conforming all the time to the Islamically-based method followed and the path of investigation blazed by the great Imams.


1-THE HISTORY OF THE CODIFICATION OF ISLAMIC LAW By Maulana Muhammaad Abdul Aleem Siddiqui, Al Qadri)

2- pls. see above source



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