Sources of Islamic Law
Islam has given the most comprehensive legal
system to mankind. Islamic law covers all aspects of life. Islam
has its own personal, civil, criminal, mercantile, evidence,
constitutional and international law.
Islamic law has been defined as the body of
rules of conduct revealed by Allah (SWT) to His Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) whereby the people are directed to lead their
life in this world. Islamic law has, therefore, not been given by
any ruler. It is given by Allah. Islamic law remains valid whether
recognised by the State or not.
The basic source of Islamic law is Divine
Revelation. This has been given to mankind by the Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) in two forms. One is the direct word of Allah
(SWT), the Quran and the other is the Sunnah or the teachings of
the Prophet (Sm). The Prophet Sm) always acted according to the
instructions of Allah (SWT).
The Quran is the primary source containing all
the fundamental directives and instructions of Allah. Herein are
to be found not only directives relating individual conduct but
also principles relating to all the aspects of social and cultural
life of human being.
The Quran is the last and complete edition of
Divine Guidance and this is the only book of Allah which has not
The Quran is not only a book of law. The main
purpose of Quran is to awaken in man the higher consciousness of
his relation with Allah and the universe. However, in the Quran
there are at least five hundred verses which possess definite
legal elements. The scholars of Islam have developed a complete
science of interpretation of the Quranic verses which can be seen
in any book of Islamic jurisprudence.
The Sunnah is the second source of Islamic law.
Sunnah is an Arabic word which means "Method". It was applied by
the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a legal term to
represent what he said, did and agreed to. Its authority is
derived from the text of the Quran. The Quran says,
"For you the life of
the Prophet is a model of behaviour"
Many of books of traditions were compiled by the
companions of the Prophet Sm). These were later on incorporated in
the great collections of Hadith (i.e. traditions) of Bukhari,
Muslim etc. The collectors of the traditions adopted a very
scientific system in collection the Traditions. They did not
record any tradition except with the chain of narrators. Every
tradition gives the names of the last narrator of the tradition
from whom he learnt the tradition and so on back to the Prophet or
Companion of the Prophet. The Sunnah which is established through
reliable narrators is fully dependable as legal element.
The Quran and Sunnah are complementary. The
meaning of the Quran is general in nature, the Sunnah makes it
specific and particular. The Sunnah explains the instructions of
the Quran. The Quranic injunction is sometimes implicit, the
Sunnah makes it explicit by providing essential ingredients and
The Quran and the Sunnah are the primary sources
of Islamic law. Ijma (that is consensus of opinion of scholars)
are Qiyas (that is laws derived through analogical deduction) are
the secondary or dependent sources of Islamic law or Shariah.
Ijma and Qiyas derive their value or authority
from the Quran and the Sunnah. Therefore, they are called
Ijma or the consensus of scholars signifies the
importance of delegated legislation to the Muslim community. The
Muslim society requires such a rule making power to meet the
practical problems for the implementation of Islamic Shariah
(Islamic Law). Ijma has been technically defined as the consensus
of the jurists of a certain period over a religious matter. Ijma
is considered a sufficient evidence for action because the Prophet
if Islam said, "Muslim will never agreee on a wrong matter." As
such the agreement of the scholars of Islam on any religious
matter is a source of law in Islam (Ref: Principles of Islamic
Jurispredence by M. Hashim Kamali).
Qiyas is the fourth important source of Islamic
law. Qiyas means analogy. Qiyas or analogy is resorted to in
respect of problems about which there is no specific provision in
the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet. In such issues, the
scholars have derived law through analogical deductionon the basis
of the provisions of the Quran and the Sunnah on some similar
situation. The scholars have developed detailed principles of
analogical deductions or Qiyas in the books of Islamic
Qiyas is a kind of Ijtihad. The Prophet has
permitted Ijtihad which literally means 'to exert'. Technically it
means to exert with a view to form an independent judgement on a
legal issue. Ijtihad is the Islamic method of facing the new
situations and problems in the light of the general principles of
the book of Allah SWT), the Quran and the traditions of the
Prophet or the Sunnah.
Apart from Qiyas, there are other methods of
Ijtihad such as Istihsan (that is the juristic preference from
different interpretations) and Masalaha (that is moral
In addition to the above sources, the practices
of the Khulafa-e-Rashidun (the first four rulers of Islam), the
decisions of the judges and the customs of the people are also
considered sources of Islamic law in matters which are not spelled
out in the Quran and the Sunnah.