This is from the Muttaqun OnLine Islamic Dictionary, and because of its importance.  I felt it needed a page of its own.  Below this is more information on Fiqh from an article.

The meaning of the word fiqh is understanding, comprehension, knowledge and jurisprudence in Islam.  A jurist is a Faqeeh (pl. Fuqahaa) who is an expert in matters of Islamic legal matters.

A Faqeeh is to pass verdicts within the rules of the Islamic Law namely Shari'ah.

The most famous scholars of Fiqh in the history of Muslims are the founders of the four schools of thought in Islam:  Imam Malik, Imam Ash-Safi'i, Imam Abu Hanifah, and Imam Ahmad Hanabli.

Anything or action in Islam falls within the following five categories of fiqh:

  1. Fardh (Must):  This category is a must for the Muslim to do such as the five daily prayers.  doing the Fardh counts as a good deed, and not doing it is considered a bad deed or a sin.  It is also called (Wajib) except for Imam Abu Hanifah who makes Wajib a separate category between the Fardh and the Mubah.
  2. Mandub (Recommended):  This category is recommended for the Muslim to do such as extra prayers after Zuhr and Maghrib.  Doing the Mandub counts as a good deed and not doing it does not count as a bad deed or sin.
  3. Mubah (Allowed):  This category is left undecided and left for the person, such as eating apples or oranges.  doing or not doing the Mubah does not count as a good or bad deed.  Intention of the person can change Mubah to Fardh, Madub, Makruh or Haram.  Other things could also change the status of the Mubah.  For example, any Mubah becomes Haram if it is proven harmful and any necessary thing to fulfill a Fardh is a Fardh too.
  4. Makruh (Hated):  This category is a detested and hated such as growing fingernails or sleeping on the stomach.  Not doing the Makruh counts as a good deed and doing it does not count as a bad deed.
  5. Haram (Prohibited):  This category is prohibited for the Muslim to do such as stealing and lying.  Doing the Haram counts a bad deed and not doing it counts as a good deed.

"Fiqh literally means, the true understanding of what is intended.  An example of this usage can be found in the Prophet Muhammad's [saaws] statement?  "To whosoever Allah wished good, he gives Fiqh (true understanding) of deen".  Technically however, fiqh refers to the science of deducing Islamic Laws form evidence found in the sources of Islamic law.  By extension it also means the body of Islamic laws so deduced." -Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips in:  'The Evolution of Fiqh'


  Introductory Materials
       An Essay Concerning Usul ul-Fiqh
  Author: Sheikh ’Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Naasir as-Sa’dee
  Source: Risaalah Lateefah Jaami’ah fee Usoolil-Fiqhil-Muhimmah

  All praise belongs to Allah. So we praise Him for what He possess from His beautiful Names and
  lofty and perfect Attributes; and for His Judgment and Decree which encompasses everything in
  existence; and for His Divinely Prescribed Laws which encompass every field of legislation; and His
  Judgment concerning rewards for the doers of good, and punishments for the criminals.
  I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone, who has no partner in His
  Names. Attributes or Judgment. And I testify that Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger; who
  clarified the Judgment and the rulings, made clear the halaal (lawful) and the haram (prohibited),
  and established the fundamentals and expounded upon them - until the Religion was completed
  and established firmly. O Allah extol and send the blessings of peace upon Muhammad, and upon
  his family, his Companions and those that follow them, particularly the Scholars.
  To proceed: This is a brief essay concerning usoolul-fiqh (fundamentals of jurisprudence),
  uncomplicated in wording, clear in meaning, and useful in learning its rulings for whosoever
  contemplates its meanings. We ask Allah that He benefits both its compiler and its reader. Indeed
  He is the Most Generous.
  it is the science concerning the comprehensive evidences of fiqh. Since fiqh consist of either [i]
  masaa‘il (issues) concerning which the ruling by one of the five rulings is sought, or [ii] it is
  the dalaa‘il (evidences) employed in extracting and determining these masaa‘il
  (issues). So fiqh is actually knowledge of the masaa‘il (issues) and the dalaa‘il
  These dalaa‘il (evidences) are of two types:-
  [i]: Comprehensive evidences that encompass every ruling - from the beginning to the end of fiqh -
  of a single kind; such as our saying: “al-amr lil-wujoob (a command is indicative of an
  obligation).” Or: “an-nahee lit-tahreem (a forbiddance is indicative of a
  prohibition).” And other similar evidences. So these are part of usoolul-fiqh.
  [ii]:Detailed evidences that are to be understood in the light of the comprehensive evidences. So
  when such is completed, then the ahkaam (rulings) can be resolved.
  Thus, the ahkaam (rulings) are in need of their detailed evidences, and the detailed evidences are
  themselves in need of comprehensive evidences. So by this, we recognize the need and the
  necessity of knowing usoolul-fiqh, and that it aids in the understanding of fiqh itself, and that it is
  the foundations for deducing and making ijtihaad in the ahkaam (rulings).
  The ahkaam (rulings) upon which fiqh revolve are five:-
  [1]: Waajib (obligation): that for which the one who performs it is rewarded, whilst the one who
  abandons it is punished.
  [2]: Haram (prohibition): this is the opposite of an obligation.
  [3]: Masnoon (recommended): that for which the one who performs it is rewarded, whilst the one
  who leaves it is not punished.
  [4]: Makrooh (detested): this is the opposite of a recommendation.
  [5]: Mubaah (permissible): this is where both (its doing or leaving) are equivalent.
  Those rulings which are waajib (obligatory) are divided into two categories: fard ’ayn
  (individual obligation), the doing of which is sought from every mukallaf (morally responsible),
  baaligh (mature) ’aaqil (sane) person. The majority of the Sharee’ah rulings enter into
  this category. The second is fard kifaayah (collective obligation), the performance of which is sought
  from the morally responsible collectively, but not from every individual specifically; such as the
  learning of the various branches of useful knowledge and useful industries; the Adhan; the
  commanding of good and forbidding of evil; and other similar matters.
  These five rulings differ widely in accordance with its state, its levels and its effects.
  Thus, whatever is of pure or of overwhelming maslah (benefit), then the Shaari’ (Lawgiver)
  has commanded its performance with either an obligation or a recommendation. Whatever is of
  pure, or of overwhelming mafsadah (harm), then the Lawgiver has stopped its doing with either an
  absolute prohibition or dislike. So this asl (fundamental principle) encompasses all matters
  commanded of prohibited by the Lawgiver.
As for those matters which the Lawgiver has permitted and allowed, then at times they lead to that
  which is good, and so are joined to those matters which have been commanded; and at other
  times they lead to that which is evil, and so are joined to those matters which are prohibited. So
  this is a great asl that: “al-wasaa‘ilu lahaa ahkaamul-maqaasid (the means take on the same ruling
  as their aims).”
  From this we learn that: “maa yatimmul-waajib illaa bihi fahuwa waajib (whatever is required to fulfill
  an obligation is itself an obligation).” Likewise, whatever is required to fufill a rmasnoon
  (recommendation) is itself recommended. Whatever leads to the establishment of a haram
  (prohibition) is itself prohibited. And whatever leads to the establishment of a makrooh (detested
  act) is itself detested.
  The adillah (evidences) that fiqh is derived from are four:-
  The Book and the Sunnah, and these two are the foundation by which the mukallafoon (the morally
  responsible) are addressed, and upon which is built their Religion. Then ijmaa’ (consensus) and
  al-qiyaasus-saheeh (sound and correct analogy), these two are derived from the Book and the
  Sunnah. So fiqh - in its entirety - does not leave the realms of these four usool (fundamentals).
  The majority of the important ahkaam (rulings) are indicated to by these four adillah (evidences).
  They are indicated to by the nusoos (texts) from the Book and the Sunnah; and the Scholars have
  ijmaa’ (consensus) about them, and they are indicated to by qiyaasus-saheeh (sound and correct
  analogy); because of what they entail of benefit, if it is a command; or what they contain of harm, if
  it is a forbiddance. Very few of the ahkaam have been differed over by the Scholars. In such cases
  the closest of them to the truth is the one who correctly refers back to these four usool.
  As for the Book:
  It is al-Qur‘aanul-’Adheem (the Great Qur'an), the Kalaam (Speech) of the Lord of the worlds, which
  was sent down by the Trustworthy Spirit upon the heart of Muhammad the Messenger of Allah
  sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam, that he may be from the warners to the whole of mankind - in the clear
  arabic tongue - regarding all that they stand in need of with regards to what benefits them
  concerning their Religion and their world. The Book of Allah is that which is recited by the tongues,
  written in the masaahif (copies), and preserved in the hearts; regarding which: “No falsehood can
  approach from before or from behind it, it was sent down from the All-Wise, the One deserving
  of all praise.”[Soorah Fussilat 41:42].
  As for the Sunnah:
  It is the Prophet sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam’s aqwaal (sayings), af’aal (actions), and his taqreer (tacit
  approvals) of the sayings and actions of others.
  The ahkaamush-shar’iyyah (Shari'ah rulings) are sometimes taken from a definite text of the Book
  and the Sunnah; which is defined as that text possessing a clear meaning, which may not have any
  other meaning, except that single meaning. Sometimes it is taken from the dhaahir (apparent)
  meaning; which is defined as that which is indicative of the meaning, in a general manner, both
  through wording and meaning. Sometimes it is taken from the mantooq (explicit meaning); which is
  defined as being that which is indicative of the ruling due to the wording of the text. Sometimes the
  ahkaamush-shar’iyyah is taken from the mafhoom (implied meaning); which is defined as that which
  is indicative of the ruling due to being in agreement with the text; in cases where the mafhoom is
  equal to, or stronger than the mantooq. Or by divergent meaning if the mafhoom differs from the
  mantooq in its ruling; whereas the mantooq is linked to a wasf (attribute) or a shart (condition), in
  the absence of which the ruling differs.
  The dalaalah (indications) in the Book and the Sunnah are of three kinds:-
  [i] Dalaalah Mutaabiqah: this is where we apply the word to indicate all of its meanings. [ii]
  Dalaalah Tadammun: when we employ the wording to indicate one of its meaning. [iii] Dalaalah
  Iltizaam: where we employ the wording of the Book and the Sunnah to indicate the meaning which
  is a necessary consequence of it; and which follows on and completes it; and what the matter
  being judged with or being informed of cannot come about, except by it.
  The asl (fundamental principle) concerning commands in the Book and the Sunnah is that they are
  indicatie of a wujoob (obligation), except if there is an evidence to indicate to it being mustahabb
  (recommended) of mubaah (permissible) The asl concerning prohibitions is that they are indicative of
  tahreem (forbiddance), except if there is an evidence indicating it being makrooh (hated).
  The asl governing kalaam (speech) is that it is to be taken upon its haqeeqah (literal sense). So it is
  not to be turned away from it to its majaaz (figurative meaning) - if we accept this - except when it
  is impossible to employ its haqeeqah (literal meaning)
  (literal meanings) are of three types: [i] shar’iyyah (that which is defined by the Shari'ah), [ii]
  lughawiyyah (that which is defined by language) and [iii] ’urfiyyah (that which is defined by
  customary usage).
  So whatever ruling the Shaari’ (Lawgiver) has defined, then it is obligatory to return it to the
  Shari'ah definition. However, what the Lawgiver has ruled, but not defined, sufficing by its
  apparent linguistic meaning, then it is obligatory to return it to its linguistic meaning. But whatever
  has not been defined, neither in the Shari'ah, nor in the language; then it is obligatory to refer it
  back to the habits of the people, and their customary usage. The Shaari’ (Lwgiver) may clearly
  specify to return these matters to ’urf (customary usage); such as commanding the good, living well
  with one’s wife, and other similar matters.
  So memories these usool concerning which the faqeeh stands in need of in all his dealings of fiqh.
  From the texts of the Book and the Sunnah are those which are ’aam (general); which is defined as
  that word which is inclusive of many ajnaas (categories), anwaa’ (types) and afraad (individuals).
  This majority of the texts are of this nature. Other texts are khaass (specific), and are indicative of
  only some categories, types and individuals. Thus, if there does not exist any contradiction
  between the ’aam and the khaass texts, then each of them are independently acted upon.
  However, if a contradiction is presumed, then the ’aam is specified and delineated by the khaas.
  From the texts are the mutlaq (absolute) and the muqayyad (restricted) ones. It is restricted by a
  description or a reliable restriction. Thus, the mutlaq is restricted and qualified by the muqayyad.
  And from the texts are the mujmal (comprehensive) and mubayyan (explicit). Whatever the
  Lawgiver has made comprehensive in one place, yet made it explicit in another, then it is obligatory
  to return to what the Lawgiver made mubayyan (explicit). Many of the rulings in the Qur'an are
  mujmal (comprehensive) in nature, but have been explicitly explained in the Sunnah. So it is
  obligatory to return to the bayaan (explicit clarification) of the Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa
  sallam, since he is the clear explainer from Allah.
  Similar to this are the texts that are muhkam (equivocal and singular in meaning) and those that
  are mutashaabih (unequivocal and open to more than one meaning). It is obligatory to understand
  the mutashaabih in the light of those texts that are muhkam.
  Amongst the texts are the naasikh (abrogating) and the mansookh (abrogated) The abrogated
  texts in the Qur'an and the Sunnah are few in number. Whenever there is the possibility of
  harmonizing two texts, with the possibility of each one being acted upon in its own particular
  circumstance, then it is obligatory to do so. One may not turn to abrogation, except with a text from  the Lawgiver, or an apparent contradiction between two authentic texts concerning which there is  no possible way to resolve this contradiction such that each text is acted upon in its own particular  circumstance. in this case, the later text abrogates the earlier one. However, if it is impossible to  determine which is the earlier text and which is the later, we then turn to other means of tarjeeh  (preferring one text over another). For example, when there is an (apparent) contradiction between
  the Prophet sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam’s statement and his action, then precedence is given to his
  saying. This is because his statement represents either a command or a prohibition to his Ummah,
  whereas his action is, in this case, interpreted to be something particular to him alone. So the
  khasaa‘is (particular and unique rulings) pertaining to the Prophet sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam are
  actually based upon this asl (fundamental principle).


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