Islamic Legal System

Islamic legal system being most successful and time tested for over 1400 hundred years by different nations of different times and places, deals with every conceivable relationship human beings can establish. These relations are regulated by laws revealed to subjects by The Creator. Interpretation performed by jurists, of sacred scriptures of Islam particularly the Quran and Hadith, reveal these laws that deal with the operation of rules protecting the rights of the subject and impose obligations upon them. Human understanding of Islamic divine laws i.e. Sharia is called Fiqh.

Prophet Muhammad PBUH introduced Islamic culture through his practical example of good moral character and reputation reflecting truth worthiness, reliability, and honesty. This culture provided detailed rulings regarding the subject’s moral conduct. Followers were given an identity of “Muslim” through it, in a way that no other culture or legal system could ever provide

Why do other systems appear to be Strong and Successful?

Major world legal systems provide rulings and provisions whose application, today, influenced and extended far beyond the confines intended at those times when they were introduced. These systems have been subjected to amendments regarding the conduct of man, customs, and moralities. Whether these major world legal systems are practically more efficient than the Islamic legal system or they have been exaggerated to an extent where they must not be placed? The answer lies in the fact that only the time-testing factor is not sufficient to evaluate the effectiveness. Actually, in the west, the Islamic legal system has not been given a fair share of attention by law students of comparative studies. The language barrier and lack of interest may be the known reasons for this biased behavior of comparative legal jurists. As language is considered the heart within the body of culture, It has been proved a difficult task for a researcher to understand the underlying motives and features of rulings or laws of Islamic culture without getting grammatical perfection in the language in which it is revealed i.e. Arabic.

Compatibility of Islamic Laws and Modern Issues

Sharia in the modern age is like a body having the ability to regenerate. If any of its parts or organs gets cut off, the central life-giving core can regenerate that lost part. In the same manner, whenever certain issues appeared that had not been addressed by definitive rulings, jurists used legal reasoning to find the solutions that could be placed in a position compatible with such modern issues. The lawgiver has provided us with legal rulings formulated in such a way that they become permanently valid and whenever there is a need to address new issues, legal reasoning and juristic interpretations make the way to expand the application of these rulings.

Understanding the concept of Fiqh

Fiqh is divided into four parts. The first is Mubahis-e-Hukm which deals with the nature of ruling i.e. whether the act to do or omit is binding or non-binding. Then comes Masadir Sharia which deals with sources of Hukm (ruling) from where it is derived.

Thirdly, a person who is to derive divine laws from Quran and Sunnah must have excellence in the Arabic language. Lastly, Ijtihad (legal reasoning) and Taqlid come where jurists through reasoning derive new laws where there is a need.

To understand better let’s have an illustration.

Ruling: Draw water out of the well through a bucket

Hukm: To draw water out of well

Masadir : The well from where water is drawn i.e. source

Qawaid e Arabi: The bucket that is used to draw water out

Ijtihad: The person who draws water out of the well is called Mujtahid and this whole process is called Ijtihad.

How Islamic Laws are derived?

Quran and Sunnah have been considered primary sources of Islamic laws that are given in the form of definitive rulings in these two sources which must be implemented in the actual form as they are. In certain circumstances where primary sources don’t provide satisfactory rulings according to modern needs, secondary sources are used. These secondary sources include

  • Ijma (Consensus of scholars)
  • Qiyas (Reasoning by analogy)
  • Istihsan (Juristic preference)
  • Istishab (Presumption of continuity)
  • Masalah-Mursalah (Extended analogy)
  • Sadd-al-dhariah (Blocking the lawful means to an unlawful end)
  • Qawl-al-Sahabi (Opinion of a companion)
  • Earlier scriptures may be used.
  • Customs if support certain rulings, must be used as a source.

Schools of Thought and Legal Reasoning (ijtihad) Methodology

Hanafi, Maliki, Shafie’e, and Hanbali are four Sunni schools of thought. All these schools have enumerated the above-mentioned sources at places according to their understanding of the derivation of laws. All these schools of thought have placed Quran and Sunnah Mutawatir i.e. primary sources at 1st and 2nd place respectively so Quran and Sunnah Mutawatir are given first and second priority by all schools of thought including Shia while secondary sources sequence is quite different other than Qiyas which has been placed at 5th place by all four scholars. Sunnah Ahad has been given 6th, 4th and 3rd positions in Hanfi and Maliki, Shafie’e, and Hanbali respectively. This little change in the sequence of Sunnah Ahad has been the prominent reason for different points of view by these schools of thought regarding certain aspects. The one who gives utmost priority to Sunnah Ahad after primary sources rules following it i.e. Hanbali while Imam Malik who prefers Amal-al-Medina (the practice of people of Medina) derives ruling following these practices even if Sunnah Ahad says otherwise because Amal al Medina is considered more authentic source by him. Imam Shafie’e gave the utmost priority to Ijma after Quran and Sunnah Mutawatir. Imam Abu Hanifa placed istihsan and Ijma after Quran and Sunnah Mutawatir.


Divine Islamic laws are given by the Creator in the best version that meets the needs of human beings of all ages and places. These laws have been given in such a way that they are perfectly valid when they are applicable. In cases where there is a need to address new issues, these laws have the flexibility to extend their application according to modern needs through legal reasoning by jurists.

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