Commentary on Irshad al-Fusuk uka tahqiq al-haqq min 'ilm al-usul by Al-Shawkani

Essay, 2014

10 Pages, Grade: 1,7


The text “Irshād al-Fuhūl ila tahqïq al-haqq min llm al-uşor is written by Muhammad 'Aiï b. Muhammad Al-Shawkāhī. He is a SunnT legal scholar, writer and teacher from Yemen,[1] who lived from 1760 until 1839.[2] Al-Shawkāhī is seen as one of the most influential modern Islamic jurists, which is supported by the qualification of him as 'mudjaddiď or 'regenerator' by RashTd Rida.[3] Al-Shawkāhī achieved a good reputation by working on defining requirements to attain the different status as a jurist.[4] He is described as “an ardent opponent on the restrictions of ijmāand known “for his support for the greater use of the ijtihaď[5] This text fits in his released literature about the requirements of attaining different levels of legal scholarship. Roughly translated, the title means: “Guideline for the experts to achieve the truth in the science of the principles of the law“. Al-Shawkāhī gives in his text basic conditions, which are required to be a mujtahid.

In my opinion a mujtahid is a Muslim jurist, who has the ability to perform ijtihād. Al-Shawkāhī specifies what a mujtahid is in paragraph two. In his opinion, a mujtahid must try to acquire an opinion of a legal rule and have the ability to derive legal rules by working with the legal sources. Obligatory for this are adulthood and sanity. After this section, he starts listing the conditions, but obviously, adulthood and sanity are also requirements to be a mujtahid. The difference to the following conditions is, that this inherent quality can not be changed by the prospective mujtahid in contrast to the following acquirable conditions.

The first acquirable condition is that a mujtahid must know the primary texts of Islamic Law.[6] Al-Shawkāhī builds up a progressive reasoning starting from the general point that a mujtahid does not have to know all of the Quran and the Sunnah and goes on to discuss what is necessary to know. He disagrees with the legal scholars Ghazāfī and Ibn al-'Arabī, criticising that 500 verses of the Quran are too little knowledge.[7] Al-Shawkāhī asserts that a mujtahid with good understanding of the texts can extract legal rules from more than 500 verses by working on implications or consequences mentioned in the texts. He suggests that these scholars are referring simply to verses which can be directly derived from the texts.[8] In paragraph 3.4, he mentions the opinion of Abū Manşür, who says that it is necessary to know what relates to a legal rule and not the story itself. Al-Shawkāhī does not seem to be convinced by this very general statement.

Consequently, Al-Shawkāhī attempts to evaluate the knowledge through a number of hadrth and starts arguing with opinions of jurists in paragraph four. He begins with the opinion of some jurists who say that knowledge of 500 hadiths would be enough to become a mujtahid. He reject this vehemently, saying that there are thousands of hadiths including a legal rule. Evidently, Al- ShawkänT argues with the balance between existing hadiths and the quantity of knowing 500 hadiths. In his opinion, a mujtahid must know more than 500. As a result of this approach, he starts giving opinions of higher requirements. He cites Ibn al-'Arabī, who said that 3000 hadlths are necessary and Abū Bakr al- DarTr, who was told by Ahmad b. Hanbal that 500,000 hadlths are required.[9] He adds a statement of one of the followers saying that this only applies on the very best jurists and cited Hanbal, who said that there are 1,200 hadrths applicable for the derivation of legal rules.[10] By counter-arguing Ahmad b. Hanbals opinion through the relativistic statement of one of his followers, Al- ShawkänT shows his negative stance on the number of 500,000 hadlths. Consequently, he moves on to a more abstract approach, saying that it is no condition to know all hadlths literally. Instead, a mujtahid must be able to gain access to a source of all the hadlths relating to a rule, and then perform ijtihād by referring to them. All the mentioned scholars agree on this idea.[11] In dispute is the source itself. AI-GhazälT mentions in this context the Sunan of Abū Däwüd,[12] which is seen as inadequate by other legal scholars. Reasons for that are due to their opinion, missing important hadlths and contained faults in this Sunan. AI-ShawkänT prefers in this dispute also a general approach rather than following one particular opinion. In his conclusion in paragraph 4.7, he says that a mujtahid must be able to assess the trustworthiness and evidence of hadrths to filter. He develops this point to the quality of assessment. In his opinion, an important condition of being a mujtahid is to check the isnād intensely. Al- ShawkänT also concludes, in retrospect of the mentioned debates, that it is more significant for a mujtahid to evaluate the importance of a hadith rather than the ability to memorise all of them. In his concluding opinion on this first condition, AI-ShawkänT shows his opposing attitude on the restriction of ijtihād. He underlines that some requirements of legal scholars are exaggerated and argues for a less strict approach, which would open the door to become a mujtahid for a wider circle of jurists.

After the knowledge of the primary texts of Islamic Law, AI-ShawkänT mentions the second condition in paragraph five. In his view, a mujtahid “must know the questions regarding ijmā‘".''3 Ijmā‘, which means consensus, is the third source of Islamic Law.[13] [14] He does not clarify which questions in connection to ijmā‘ he thinks of. He only gives the reader the reason why, saying that a mujtahid must know them to ensure that no given fatwa contradicts to the consensus. He adds that there is little decided by consensus that should concern the performer of ijtihād, he simplifies the complexity of ijmā‘ through limiting it to few cases. These cases must be known by a mujtahid. Regarding the above mentioned function, it is possible to reason that AI-ShawkänT also thinks of questions about how ijmā‘ could be achieved. In my opinion, his second condition includes the knowledge about juristic disagreements, concerning for instance, the questions about which legal scholars should be involved in the consensus geographically and by differing between certain degrees. Furthermore, these debates include, for example, questions about changing disagreements to ijmā‘, how the scholars should express their agreement and if ijmā‘ is binding cross-generational.[15] AI-ShawkänT requires that a mujtahid must know about these questions. He does not postulate a particular view on the questions and consequently, every view is acceptable.

His third condition is sufficient knowledge of the Arabic language.[16] A mujtahid must be so proficient in his handling of the language that he is able to understand and interpret texts of the Quran and the Sunnah. By means of this ability, he must be skilled to extract legal rules from the texts. Al-Shawkāhī takes, again, a moderate approach by excluding the knowledge of the texts by heart and saying that abiding by the positions of the great scholars is an adequate way. This decreases the mental work of prospective mujtahids.

The knowledge of usûl al-fiqh is the fourth condition a mujtahid must control.[17] Al-Shawkāhī points out the importance of this capability by calling it “the tent of ijtihād” and an “art”. The cause of this is that usûl al-fiqh is the basis of building a fatwa and thus he “must have mastery over it”.[18] Consequently, a mujtahid is able to clarify disagreements and make conclusions about them. Furthermore, Al-Shawkāhī supports his argument with opinions of two jurists, who agree on the importance of usûl al-fiqh. It is clear, that Al-Shawkāhī does not condone another view on the significance of usûl al-fiqh to a mujtahid.

The fifth condition to be a mujtahid concerns abrogation. To avoid the creation of a fatwa on the basis of evidence which has been abrogated, it is obviously necessary to know which verses can be used to compose one. This knowledge is compulsory to avoid failures.

In his last paragraphs, Al-Shawkāhī mentions disputed conditions, where legal scholars do not agree if these conditions are a requirement for becoming a mujtahid. One of these conditions relates to the inclusion of rational indicators in the wisdom of a legal scholar.[19] Al-Shawkānī militates against the inclusion. It would comprise the indicators of reason in the performance of ijtihād. He does not agree with that, because reason is not part of ijtihād, in his opinion. This discussion is dominated by the definition of ijtihād. Due to different interpretations, some jurists include indicators of reason like al-Ghazāfī and al- RäzT, and some only see the indicators of law included. Al-Shawkānī follows the latter opinion. Astonishing is the fact that Al-Shawkānī disagrees primarily with the great scholar al-Ghazālī in his reasoning after he has supported some of his arguments with al-GhazälTs statements. That shows clearly, that Al-Shawkānī does not feel obliged to follow one opinion through his reasoning.

Moreover, Al-Shawkānī adds to the discussion, that a mujtahid must know the principles of religion.[20] Without clarifying which opinion he prefers, he mentions only the position of al-Āmidī in detail. Consequently, it seems that Al- ShawkänT follows al-AmidTs position which says that a “mujtahid must know necessary truths of religion”, but not in every detail. Repeatedly, Al-Shawkānī shows his attitude to a moderate approach for the conditions.

Al-Shawkānī goes on to the question how detailed the knowledge of law should be.[21] Some jurists like al-Ghazālī and Abū Mansur say that it is a requirement to know the details of law before one can become a mujtahid. Again Al-Shawkānī disputes the position of al-Ghazāfī by giving a challenging


[1] J Jansen, “Al-Shawkānī, Muhammad b. 'Air, Encyclopaedia of Islam: Second Edition, IX, p.378

[2] G Kramer, “Islam and the Muslim world: Political Islam”, in Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, V0I.2, p.536

[3] J Jansen, loc. cit, p.378

[4] В Haykel “Revival and Reform in Islam: The Legacy of Muhammad al-Shawkani" (2003), p.76-7

[5] K Vikor, 'Between God and the Sultan: A History of Islamic Law' (2005), p.123

[6] Al-Shawkānī, “Irshād al-Fuhūl ilā tahqîq al-haqq min 'ilm al-uşor (Cairo: Dār al-lslām, 1418/1998), 2 vols. Vol. 2, para.3

[7] Al-Shawkānī, loc. cit., para. 3.1

[8] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 3.2

[9] Al-Shawkānī, loc. cit., para. 4.1

[10] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 4.2

[11] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 4.3-4.6

[12] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 4.4

[13] Al-Shawkānī, loc. cit, para. 5

[14] K Vikor, loc. cit, p.78

[15] K A EI Fadl, 'Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority, and Women' (2001), p.64

[16] Al-Shawkānī, loc. cit., para. 6

[17] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 7

[18] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 7

[19] Al-Shawkānī, loc. cit., para. 9

[20] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 10

[21] Al-Shawkānī loc. cit, para. 11

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Commentary on Irshad al-Fusuk uka tahqiq al-haqq min 'ilm al-usul by Al-Shawkani
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Islamic Law, Irshād al-Fuṣūl ilā tahqīq al-ḥaqq min ʿilm al-uṣūl by Al-Shawkānī, Muhammad Al-Shawkᾱnῑ
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Peter Krause (Author), 2014, Commentary on Irshad al-Fusuk uka tahqiq al-haqq min 'ilm al-usul by Al-Shawkani, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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