Fiqh is Speculative

Fiqh is Speculative

A common question I often here from young zealous brothers who are newly seeking knowledge is “What is the correct opinion regarding xyz issue?” Today, I want to discuss why this question is wrong, what led to us having this incorrect approach to Fiqh, the correct approach to Fiqh, and why this matters.

I want to start with an issue that does not seem relevant here but is actually crucial for understanding why we approach Fiqh incorrectly in the modern era, and that is the school system. Now most of you already know that I am highly critical of the current school system and believe that it is greatly flawed. One of the biggest flaws of modern education is that it trains the human brain to assume that there is only one right answer on any issue. School forces young people to spend 13 years in a system in which every test and question has just one right answer. Often the system is so strict that even if you arrive at the correct answer through a creative or different approach, it is still graded wrong, because you have to give the exact answer with exact method that the teacher prescribed.

This trains the human mind to think in a very binary way, that for every issue, there is a right answer and a wrong answer. We then carry this mindset into our study of Fiqh which leads to a completely incorrect approach to Fiqh as a whole. Fiqh as a science has always been a field of probability, in which no matter what conclusion you come to, you accept the possibility that you could be wrong and someone else could be right. To appreciate Fiqh, we need to let go of this binary thinking and accept the idea of a spectrum of possibility correct opinions. It is this adjustment in mindset that many people find difficult to make.

You may find it difficult to reconcile between the fact that Islam is the true religion with very clear beliefs and primarily laws, and the fact that Fiqh is mostly speculative and probabilistic, but the Muslims of the past did not see this as a contradiction. A distinction needs to be made between that which is known of the religion by necessity and that which Allah has left open to interpretation as a Mercy to us. Things like the six pillars of faith, the five pillars of Islam, and the major sins are clear and agreed upon. These are the fundamentals that every Muslim must know and follow, and in which there is no room for differences of opinion.

However, Allah as a Mercy to us, did not make the entire religion so stringent. It is only a few issues in which things are this clear-cut and agreed upon. The bulk of Fiqh was left purposely open to interpretation for a number of reasons which include to make things easy for people, to accommodate a diversity of thought patterns and approaches, and to keep the law flexible and practical. Scholars of Fiqh have always viewed Fiqh as a Dhanni science meaning that Fiqh is probabilistic and speculative, and there is always a possibility that you are wrong. It is learning to accept that possibility that is crucial for become tolerant to other Fiqh opinions and learning to live in peace with Muslims that follow a different opinion from you.

Let us look at a contemporary issue as an example, the issue of smoking cigarettes and related tobacco products. My opinion is that smoking such products are haram because these things are dangerous for one’s wealth and cause millions of deaths every year. A Muslim should not purposely destroy their own body in this manner. However, I accept the possibility that my opinion could be wrong, and that another opinion may be correct. I know that many scholars consider smoking to be makruh which means it is disliked but not sinful and they have good reasoning behind their opinion too. So how do we live with this clear difference of opinion.

The first step is to accept that both opinions have the possibility of being correct so whichever opinion you believe is stronger, you follow that, but you cannot make this issue a big deal or force your opinion on others. If someone else is convinced of a different opinion from you, you have to let them follow that opinion and respect their decision. This means that when I teach or advice people, I will make my opinion clear, explain the reasoning behind it, and try to persuade them to follow it. But in my daily dealings with fellow Muslims, I will not enforce my opinions on others, treat them badly for following a different opinion, or make it a big deal.

This is why it is important for us to have the correct approach to Fiqh. When we accept that Fiqh is about following what is probably the strongest opinion while accepting that you could be wrong, you automatically become more tolerant of the diverse range of opinions that exist within mainstream Islam. You do not force your opinion on others, make differences of opinion a big deal, or break ties with other Muslims over these issues. Over time, you may learn to appreciate these differences more, enjoy the diversity that makes up the ummah, and marvel at the vast scholarship behind these various madhabs.

I will end with a beautiful quotation from the great Caliph Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (RA), when he was asked about why differences of opinion exist in such issues. He replied, “It pleases me that the companions disagreed on some matters because if not, then there would have only been one view, and this would be difficult on the people.” This should be our approach to dealing with differences in Fiqh, we must view them as a mercy from Allah and a gift from Allah that makes life easier for the believers.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
Regarding Exams and Fasting: An Invalid Qiyas

Regarding Exams and Fasting: An Invalid Qiyas

There has been some talk recently about “updating” Fiqh to include exams as a valid excuse to delay fasting. This talk has come primarily from the modernist/liberal school of thought. Their argument is that Muslims are backward and too literal in their thinking and need to update Fiqh for the times.

This argument is flawed in many ways. The analogy of exams being a type of difficulty that leads to concession is flawed. The idea that our Fiqh processes are outdated and backward is also flawed. To demonstrate this, let us take a look at the main Fiqh Maxim governing who can delay a fast.

The main Fiqh maxim regulating this ruling is al-Mashaqa Tajlibu al-Taysir which can be translated as “Extreme Difficulty causes relaxation of the Law”. This maxim is found in all four madhabs and is a point of consensus among Sunni Muslims. The maxim is simple, the Shariah has built-in processes of flexibility to handle extremely difficult situations.

However, the maxim cannot be applied based on whim and desire. There is a list of difficulties that cause relaxation of the law. This list is derived from the Quran and Sunnah.

Types of Difficulty

There are primarily seven things that can cause relaxation of a law:
1. Coercion i.e. being forced to do something
2. Travel as traveling is difficult as you are outside of your comfort zone dealing with many unpredictable variables
3. Disease/Sickness
4. Forgetfulness i.e. people are not held accountable for lapses in memory
5. Ignorance i.e. ignorance can work as an excuse is some situations6. A general calamity like a pandemic or drought
7. Lack of legal competence i.e. laws do not generally apply to children, extreme mental health cases, and people who are asleep.

All of the above categories are explicitly stated in either the Quran or Sunnah. The verse of fasting (2:185) mentions two of these sources of difficulty: travel and illness, making these the two primary valid reasons to delay a fast. Scholars have included other health risks in this as well like pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The category of extreme difficulty is generally restricted to these seven things, except in rare circumstances where something else rises to the level of extremity. even then, these new circumstances can often easily fit into one of these seven categories. For example, the current pandemic falls under category six, and tyrannic regimes may trigger category one.

A Clear Process

The relaxation of laws, however, cannot be done based on perceived difficulty or manageable difficult. The very concept of worship has some level of difficulty built into it to make it a means of purifying the soul and exerting effort in pleasing Allah. If we allow relaxing the laws for any difficulty, that would mean excusing Fajr because we are tired, missing Asr because we are working, or delaying fasting because it is a hot day.

Almost any law can be modified if the category of Mashaqa is left open-ended without any parameters. Thus, it is restricted to those things found in the Quran and Sunnah, which are summarized in the list above.

Exams are a general difficulty. There is no health risk for the average student, nor is there any coercion to break the fast. The only time a student would be allowed to break a fast is if it becomes a genuine health risk, eg: dehydration. In that case, they are doing it due to the reason mentioned in the Quran, not because of exams.

Our Shariah does not need reform. It already has a built-in system to update Fiqh as and when needed via the principles of Fiqh and Maxims of Fiqh. These are guided by the goals of the Shariah. All of these concepts are derived from the Quran and Sunnah and categorized and explained by our pious predecessors.


If any new verdict is to be passed on an issue, it must be done utilizing the proper methodology of ijtihad, and not simply because “I think” or “I feel” or any other weak reason. Fiqh is a system with its own methodology, parameters, and experts. If you are not a Mufti, leave it to the Muftis to work out these details utilizing the proper methodology.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
Living Fiqh: Do No Harm

Living Fiqh: Do No Harm

Fiqh refers to the understood and applied laws of Islam, as understood by any of the recognized schools of thought. Although Islamic Law was initially designed to assist Muslims in living an Islamic lifestyle. In later times, it devolved into a strict list of dos and don’ts without any understanding of the rationale and wisdom of these laws. In this series, we aim to revive an understanding of the law that focuses on the wisdom behind the law, so that Muslims can live their lives in an Islamic manner, understanding why the laws are the way they are.

Fiqh Principle #1: Do No Harm

Among the fundamental principles of Fiqh is the removal of harm. This has been worded in a variety of ways across a variety of books and fields of study. Some scholars word it as ‘al-arar Yuzāl‘ (harm must be eliminated),(Shahrul Hussain, p. 48) others prefer the hadith wording ‘Lā Ḍarar wa lā Ḍirār‘ (there should be no harm or return of harm), and while other scholars word it as ‘Dar’ al-Mafsadah‘ (the rejection of harm). (Ibn Ashur, p. 91) All three wordings indicate the same core principle; Muslims must live their lives in a way that is beneficial for humanity, and avoiding harming any creation without a legitimate reason.

The removal of harm is central to Islamic law. It is so important that Ibn Ashur listed it among the two main goals of the Shariah, along with the attainment of benefit. He stated that the laws of Islam as a whole revolve around either assisting us in gaining that which is beneficial for us, or protecting us from that which is harmful to us. In this way, half of our religion revolves around the removal of harm.

The principle is derived from various verses of the Quran, hadiths, as well as a deep understanding of the purpose behind various laws of Islam. The primary hadith upon which this principle is based is mentioned by al-Nawawi (RA) in his Forty Hadith collection. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Lā Ḍarar wa lā Ḍirār (There should be no harm or return of harm.)” (Nawawi, no. 32)

The core message of this hadith that Muslims should neither initiate harm to others, nor respond to others in a harmful manner that goes beyond the limits of justice. Retaliation within the limits of justice is allowed but not encouraged. For example, if someone is attacked, it is permitted to fight back or seek justice in court, but to forgive and overlook is better. However, it would not be permissible to go beyond the scope of justice by attacking the attacker’s family, harming the individual in a way worse than how they harmed you, or harming them more times than they harmed you. The Shariah seeks to limit harms, but also to balance this with a strong emphasis on justice.

How this manifests itself in the law

The primary way in which the removal of harm manifests itself in the law is through the prohibitions. By default, anything that Allah has prohibited is harmful to society. In most cases, the harm is clear and evident like in the case of alcohol and gambling. Sometimes the harm may be unknown but we still trust Allah’s perfect wisdom and follow the law without question. Many times the harms are only revealed later when it is too late to undo the harm.

A sad example of this is the rise in fornication and adultery rates in our era. the sexual revolution brought in a huge change in the way people approached sexual relations. The prohibition of fornication was not only shunned but ridiculed. People saw it as irrational, restricting fun, and an obstacle in the way of personal freedom. Blinded by their passions, a large segment of humanity began engaging in these major sins without fear or guilt. Unaware of the harms caused by this sin, the sins eventually became norms, habits, and lifestyles, and opened the doors to worse forms of immorality.

The harms of this revolution are clearer today after entire generations have grown up in such a culture. The spiraling divorce rate, rising rates of depression, suicide, broken families, spread of STDs, and rise in new forms of immorality are all directly linked to this new immorality-based lifestyle. The harms of these major sins is more evident today then it was twenty years ago, but still the march towards destruction continues as people ignore all these warning signs and remain focused on their base desires. The prohibition of fornication in Islam is rooted firmly in the prevention of harm to oneself and others, as fornication harms all of society, especially the individual who makes it a lifestyle.

How to live by this principle

The removal of harm is not just a Fiqh principle that guides our understanding of the prohibitions. It is really a way of life. A Muslim should consciously live his/her life in a way that minimizes harm and maximizes benefit to others. We must remain extra conscious about the effects and impact of our actions on others. This consciousness must guide all of our decisions.

Whether it is in our business dealings, family relationships, friendships, or online interactions, the avoidance of harm should play a central role in shaping the way we deal with other people. Living by this principle means living a lifestyle that is free from slander, backbiting, abuse, mockery, violence, betrayal, and every type of injustice. Any action that causes unjust harm to another has no place in the lifestyle of the believer.

The principles of Fiqh are more than just a list of dos and don’ts. They are essential guidelines for how we live our lives. By choosing to live consciously and to be aware of the impact of our actions on others, we can minimize our harm, maximize our productivity, and build a better case for ourselves for the day of judgment.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity
Fiqh of Fasting Summarized – Ramadan 2020

Fiqh of Fasting Summarized – Ramadan 2020

In this article, I have summarized the basic Fiqh of Fasting in an easy-to-read list. I have split the list into two parts. The first list features issues that are agreed upon between the madh’habs. the second list features issues of difference of opinion in which I just listed my opinion without going in detail.

Regarding the issues of difference of opinion, please follow your local scholars, and if you require detailed discussion, please post your questions in the comment section below.

The Agreed Upon Fiqh of Fasting

  1. Fasting means to avoid food, drink, and sexual intercourse from the beginning of the time of Fajr until the beginning of the time of Maghrib).
  2. Having the correct intention is crucial. Intention means that in your heart you recognize that you are fasting today for the sake of Allah. The intention should precede the fast and doesn’t need to be verbalized.
  3. The early morning meal before dawn is called Suhoor and it is Sunnah (recommended) to eat a light Suhoor.
  4. The meal for breaking the fast is called Iftaar and should be eaten as soon as the sun sets before praying Maghrib. It is also Sunnah.
  5. It is important to avoid all sins and bad manners while fasting. These things decrease the reward of fasting.
  6. If someone eats or drinks forgetfully while fasting, then the fast is still valid.
  7. But if someone has sexual intercourse forgetfully, the fast is broken.
  8. Eating, drinking, or having sexual intercourse purposely while fasting invalidates the fast. Speak to your local scholar about how to make up for them. (There is a difference of opinion on how to make up for it)
  9. Praying Taraweh is a Sunnah (recommended). Tarawih means to pray extra Salah in sets of two after Esha. Tarawih can be prayed any time between Esha and Fajr.
  10. It is Sunnah to eat dates and drink water for Suhoor and Iftaar.
  11. Overeating at Suhoor and Iftaar is Makruh (disliked).
  12. It is recommended to spend as much time as possible reciting Quran and praying at night during Ramadan.
  13. Women can’t fast during menstruation or post-natal periods and need to make up their fasts after Ramadan.
  14. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding also have concessions. Speak to your local scholar for details about this.
  15. Elderly and chronically ill people who can’t fast for health reasons need to pay Fidyah instead. Fidyah means to feed one poor person per fast.
  16. People who are sick or traveling are also excused from fasting and may make it up after Ramadan.

Some issues of difference of opinion

  1. There is no set number of Rakah for Taraweh. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray 11, and the Sahabah used to pray 23. (This number includes the Witr)
  2. It is best to pray Taraweh late at night during the last one-third of the night.
  3. It is better to pray Taraweh individually as this leads to better concentration and private conversation with Allah.
  4. If someone missed Suhoor, their fast is still valid because they went to sleep with the intention to fast the next day.
  5. Fidyah is only allowed in cases where there is no chance of making up the missed fast, eg: old age or chronic illness.
  6. There is more reward in delaying the fast when traveling or sick, than in fasting during these conditions.
  7. Completing the entire Quran in Taraweh is not Sunnah but it is a good deed.
  8. Dua can be made in any language during the Sajdah of Taraweh or the Qunoot. It does not need to be in Arabic.
  9. It is permissible to eat Suhoor until Fajr time begins. It is not Sunnah to stop eating five minutes before Fajr time sets in.
  10. It is not a sin to leave out the Taraweh. However, doing so robs one’s Ramadan of great rewards and benefits.
  11. It is permissible to hold the Mushaf (or mobile device) in the hand and read from it when praying Taraweh.
  12. A male child (seven or older) may lead adults in Taraweh Salah if the child meets the requirements for Imamat.
  13. Zakah al-Fitr is an obligation that must be paid before Eid Salah. It is, however, permissible to pay it in money. It is not necessary to pay it in food portions.

Please remember that these thirteen points are matters of difference of opinion. So please maintain the proper Islamic manners when dealing with these matters of difference of opinion. and Allah knows best what is the correct opinion.

I hope you found these lists beneficial. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
“Difficulty Causes Ease” and the case of the Coronavirus

“Difficulty Causes Ease” and the case of the Coronavirus

One of the five major maxims of Fiqh is “المشقة تجلب التيسير” which is usually translated as “Difficulty causes ease”. I prefer to translate it as “Extreme difficulty causes relaxation of the law” as that is more clear and precise. This maxim means that the laws of Islam are flexible enough to cater for difficult situations. The maxim is extracted from several rulings found in the Quran and Sunnah.

These include the permission to make Tayammum when water is not available or useable, the permission to consume Haram when there is a risk of life, and the permissibility to shorten and combine prayers when traveling. All of these rulings share one common theme; they are all examples of the law beings relaxed because of difficulty. This maxim is agreed upon by all four madhhabs, although they may differ in how to implement it.

Types of difficulty that cause the law to change

The scholars of Fiqh list seven types of difficulty (المشقة) that can cause the law to change. These causes are coercion, sickness, travel, forgetfulness, ignorance, lack of legal competence, and public affliction. There are examples of each of these in the Shariah. An example of coercion is that it is permissible to say words of Kufr to save one’s life. The examples of sickness are plenty which includes the allowance of Tayammum when using water is harmful and the permissibility to delay fasting when ill in Ramadan. Likewise, the examples of travel are clear i.e. delaying fasting or shortening prayers while traveling.

Ignorance and forgetfulness are a bit different. This simply means that Allah forgives anything that is done out of forgetfulness or genuine ignorance. Similarly, we should go easy on people who are genuinely ignorant or made a mistake. Lack of legal competence falls into the same category. For example, children are not responsible to obey the laws of the Shariah until they hit puberty, so we should go easy on them and be gentle with their mistakes.

It is the final type of difficulty, public/common affliction that concerns us here. The Shariah allows for the relaxation of several laws when the health, lives, wealth or general well-being of the community is at risk. There are two examples of this from the reign of Umar bin al-Khattab. During the plague that afflicted al-Shaam, the Muslims isolated themselves in the mountains to prevent it from spreading. Then when a drought hit Arabia, Umar suspended the law of amputating the hands of thieves due to mass starvation. In both cases, the well-being of the community was given preference over individual laws of the Shariah.

The types of Ease

As the scholars divided difficulty into seven categories, they did the same for the types of changes that can occur to the laws. The first type of change is that the laws can be omitted, like when Umar suspended the amputation of the hands of thieves. A change could also mean a decrease is what is expected like the reduction of the number of Rakah to pray when traveling. Or it could refer to delaying an act of worship or doing it earlier than usually allowed, like combining Dhuhr with Asr in one time when traveling.

Laws can also be replaced or substituted with others, like replacing Wudhu with Tayammum when water is not available, or replacing fasting in Ramadan with Fidya for the chronically ill. Laws can also be changed to accommodate the hardship like praying Salah al-Khawf during times of civil unrest or war. Finally, the haram can become permissible at times of necessity, depending on the level of prohibition and the level of necessity. Each of these seven types of changes can be found in the Shariah and in practice throughout our history.

The Coronavirus and the application of this maxim

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the globe, we are entering perhaps for the first time in decades, a situation of public affliction on a global scale. This means that scholars around the world need to consider what kind of Taysir (Relaxation) can be done to the laws of Islam in order to stop the spread of this virus and to save the lives of the believers.

It is my opinion that the following changes take place in the law during this time of crisis. Note that these changes apply only to countries that are afflicted, and the changes will be rolled back when the crisis is over.

The changes are:
1. The suspension of congregational prayer until it is over, with the exception of small congregations in the home.
2. The obligation to pray Jum’ah falls away, and it becomes permissible to pray Dhuhr at home.
3. Masjids and other places of mass gatherings should be closed if possible. If not possible, then measures should be taken to prevent the spread of the virus in our places of gathering.
4. Weddings should be delayed, a small nikah will suffice to avoid large gatherings.
5. If someone passes away from the virus, then Ghusl may not be possible, Janazahs may be limited to ten people, the family will not get to attend the funeral and people will not be allowed to visit the family.
6. Taraweh should be prayed at home with one’s family. Likewise, Iftar should take place at home with the family.
7. If necessary, Eid prayer should be canceled completely.
8. Avoid leaving the home except for necessities. The best usage of our time now is to be at home worshipping Allah and asking for His Divine Assistance.

None of these changes should be a source of happiness for the believer. It should hurt our hearts that we are unable to pray in congregation, attend Islamic gatherings, or enjoy the atmosphere of the Masjid. This is a test from Allah, and these changes to the law are for the protection of human life, which is one of the fundamental goals of the Shariah.

Remember; to stay home is Fiqh and to feel bad about it is Imaan.

May Allah protect us all and help us through this difficult trial.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam