Lecture delivered to 1st year medical students at Kuantan, Pahang on July 19thth 1997 by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. Deputy Dean for Research and Post-graduate Affairs, Kulliyah of Medicine IIUM




Nature: practical guide, rational, miracle

Revelation: bits and pieces, occasion of revelation

Collection and preservation

Organisation: surats, madanese & makkan



Definition of hadith and sunnat, the difference between the two

Structure of a hadith: sanad & matn

2.3 Sunnat as a source of legislation

2.4 Hadith nabawi & hadith qudsi

2.5 Collection of hadith



Ilm al tafsir: definition, history, sources, classification (mathur, ra’ay, ilmi)

3.2 Qur’anic sciences: asbab al nuzul, ijaz, naasikh, ahkam, ta’wil, taarikh, iraab, qiraat



Classification of the sciences: riwayat al hadith & dirayat al hadith

Critique of hadith

Criteria for accepting a report (khabar)

Classification of hadith





Historical evolution








Fiqh: definition, importance, scope, schools, geographical distribution,

Usul al fiqh: definition, sources, subject matter, benefits

Ijtihad: closure and non-closure, modes

Analogy: definition, types, mechanism




Definition of the Qur’an: The defining characteristics of the Qur’an are: it is Allah’s words revealed to Muhammad (PBUH) in the Arabic language, transmitted to us in continuity, written in the mushaf, its recitation is worship, it commences with surat al fatihat and ends with surat al nas (‘kalaam al llaah al munazzal ala sayyidina Muhammad (SAW) bi al lafdh al ‘arabi al manquul ilaina bi al tawaatir al maktuub bi al masahif al muta’abbadu bi tilaawatihi al mu’ujiz bi aqsar surat minhu al mabdu bi surat al fatihat al makhtuum bi surat al naas).


Practical guide: According to Muhammad Iqbal the Qur’an is a book that emphasizes deed rather than idea.  The Qur’an is a practical work-plan and a guide for the individual, the family and the society. Each verse has a practical implications. Verses on historical events are in the Qur’an for the instruction of the living and not just providing historical information. Verses of legal rulings (ayat al ahkam) regulate the daily lives of individuals and communities. Many verses deal with the universe (ayat kawniyyat) and are a basis for developments in science and technology. Other verses are for moral guidance or teaching the upright aqidat.


Rational Approach (al istidlaal al aqli): The Qur’an uses rational approaches that are akin to scientific enquiry. Examples of the Qur’an and rationalism are: similarity (tashabuhu & imtithaal), specialization (tajzi’at), generalization followed by particularization (ta’amiim & takhsiis), definition (ta’areef), apposition (muqabalat), examples and similitudes (amthaal), stories (qisas), argument and debate (jadal & munadharat), and induction (istiqra)


The miraculous nature of the Qur’an (i’jaz an Qur’an): The Qur’an is an intellectual, scientific and linguistic miracle. Deep study reveals to an open and incisive mind that this is not a product of the human mind. It defies and challenges human intellect. The Qur’an will continue as a standing miracle and challenge down the centuries to the last day.


The revelation of the Qur’an (nuzul al Qur’an): The Qur’an was revealed in bits and pieces (nuzuul al Qur’an munajjaman). The great wisdom behind this was to make sure that the first Muslims learned the teachings of the Qur’an in a practical context so that their understanding of the message would be perfect and thus ensure correct transmission to the later generations. Each verse was therefore revealed to coincide with an occasion to which it was related.


The collection of the Qur’an (jam’u al Qur’an): The companions of the prophet learned the Qur’an by heart. People in that simple society were largely illiterate had good memory because their minds were not crowded with other extraneous information as is found in more complex societies. Some companions who were literate wrote the Qur’an down. The prophet had official scribes who wrote down every verse as soon as it was revealed. They also noted its location by chapter and position in the chapter. Writing of hadith at the time of the prophet was discouraged for fear of  confusion with the Qur’an. The prophet recited the Qur’an often so that the companions could learn and remember. He used to sit down on occasions and listen to their recitation to make sure they were reciting correctly. Abubakr collected all writings of the Qur’an that had been made at the time of the prophet and kept them safely. It was the third Khalifah Othman bin Affan who undertook the major task of collating all the existing writings into one standard volume written in the Quraishi dialect. This volume known as mushaf Othmani is what is read today throughout the Muslim world. The original style of writing has been preserved as much as possible and it differs from that of modern Arabic in some details. The earliest mushafs were written without dots on letters which could cause confusion between some letters like ‘b’ and ‘t’; it was Yusuf bin al Hajjaj al Thaqafi who introduced the dots. The Qur’an unlike common Arabic text has vowels to make sure there are no mistakes in reading. There are also many marks and instructions that guide the reader. The prophet read the Qur’an in 7 different ways (qira’at al Qur’an ‘ala al ahruf al sab’a). All are valid and have been preserved. They differ in the enunciation of some letters and words. The Qur’an can be recited as tartiil or as tajwid.. The former is straightforward whereas the latter involves using a more pleasant voice. There are special rules for tajwid (ahkam al tajwid). In addition to the written mushaf there are thousands of Muslims who have learned the Qur’an by heart and this will continue until the last day (yawm al qiyamat). The Qur’an enjoys the distinction among all revelations of being the only scripture that has been preserved in its original form and has been transmitted in an unbroken chain (manqul bi al tawatir) until the present day.


The concept of occasion of revelation (sabab al nuzuul): Proper understanding and interpretation of a verse requires knowing the circumstances of its revelation. The Qur’an was revealed in a dynamically changing society. The verses revealed related to events actually taking place. Thus the present order of the verses is different from the chronological order in which they were revealed. Arranging the verses in their chronological order is like writing the history of the Islamic dawa during the 23 years during which the Qur’an was revealed.


Chapters and sections of the Qur’an: The Qur’an is divided into 114 chapters each called a surat. The first surat is al fatihat also called the opening or mother of the book. The remaining surats are arranged in roughly a descending order on the basis of their length. Surat al Baqarat is the longest surat and it follows surat al fatiha. The last surat, al nas, is one of the shortest. Each surat starts with the basmalah except surat al baraa. There have been many misleading writings on the mathematical order or patterns in the Qur’an. These serve no useful purpose and they distract from understanding the message being revealed in the verses.

Madanese and Makkan chapters: The verses and chapters revealed in Makka differ in many ways from those revealed in Madina. This reflects the historical experiences. Muslims in Makka were weak and their main concern was to call others to the din, to preserve and strengthen their aqidat. Muslims in Madina were strong and were building a state. The Makkan verses are short, poetic, and powerful. They deal mostly with issues of aqidat. Verses revealed in Madina are longer and deal with details of societal organisation.


Definition of  sciences of the Qur’an (uluum al Qur’an): Qur’anic sciences deal with general matters relating to the revelation, arrangement, collection, writing, recitation, interpretation, miracles, and abrogation of the Qur’an (al mabaahith al kulliyat allati tata’allaqu bi al Qur’an al karim min nahiyat nuzuulihi, wa tartibihi, wa jamuhu, wa kitaabatuhu, wa qiraatuhu, wa tafsiiruhu, wa ijazuhu, wa nasikhuhu wa mansuukhukhu).


Listing of uluum al Qur’an: The main Qur’anic sciences are: science of interpretation (‘ilm tafsir al Qur’an), science of the circumstances of revelation (‘ilm asbaab al nuzuul), science of the miracles of the Qur’an (‘ilm i’ijaz al Qur’an), science of the abrogating and abrogated verses in the Qur’an (‘ilm naasikh al Qur’an wa mansuukhuhu), science of the legal rulings in the Qur’an (‘ilm ahkaam al Qur’an), science of the excellence of the Qur’an (‘ilm fadhail al Qur’an), science of elucidating the complex in the Qur’an (‘ilm ta’wiil mushkil al Qur’an), science of the clear and allegorical verses in the Qur’an (‘ilm al muhkam wa al mutashhabih), science of the history of the writing of the Qur’an (‘ilm taarikh al Qur’an wa tadwwinuhu wa naskhihi wa kuttabihi wa rasmihi), science of the grammar of the Qur’an (‘ilm i’iraab al Qur’an), and science of different readings of the Qur’an (‘ilm al Qira’aat). These sciences are inter-related and share the characteristic of being methodological in approach.


Definition of ‘ilm al tafsir: ‘Ilm tafsir al Qur’an was defined by Zarkashi as the science that deals with elucidating the intended meaning by Allah in the Qur’an to the best of human capacity (‘ilm yubhathu fiihi ‘an ahwaal al Qur’an al Majeed min haithu dalaalatihi ‘ala muraad al llah ta’ala bi qadr al taqat al bashariyyat). ‘Ilm tafsir al Qur’an is the most important of the ‘uluum al Qur’an. The major issue in tafsir is to reconcile the holiness of the text with the humanness of the interpreter (mufassir), who being human has limitations and weaknesses and may make mistakes in the interpretation of the text. The tafsir of clear verses (ayat muhakamat) is easier and more straightforward than that of allegorical verses (ayat mutashabihat).  A clear verse (ayat muhakkamat) is defined as one whose literal meaning is the same as the actual meaning, is clear, and is not possibly abrogated (‘al dalaalat al dhaahiru alladhi la yatahammalu al naskh’) (p 55 3:7…22:52). The allegorical verse is defined as one that whose actual meaning can not be elucidated from its literal meaning and can not be understood in isolation without interpretation (ma lam yutalaqqa ma’anhu min lafdhihi, wa la yastaqillu bi nafsihi bal yahtaaju ila bayaan’).


History of ‘ilm al tafsir: The evolution of tafsir went through many stages: The prophet’s tafsir was to explain the details and explain the meaning. A big portion of tafsir was through the actions of the prophet because his life was a reflection of the Qur’an. The tafsir of sahabat was either trasmitted from the prophet (naqli) or was based on their own judgment (ijtihadi). The most famous mufassiriin among the companions were according to al Suyuti: Abubakr, Omar, Othman, Ali, Ibn Mas’ud, Ibn Abbaas, Ubayy bin Ka’ab, Zayd bin Thabit, Abu Musa al Ash’ari, and Abdullah bin al Zubayr (Hadidi 1983). The discipline of tafsir grew when differences started to appear and there was a need to look for solutions to the problems that arose in the community. Tafsir remains a dynamic and growing discipline to our day because the Qur’an is a continuing challenge and every generation understands it in its own way.


Sources of tafsir: There are 2 primary sources of tafsir: the Qur’an and the sunnat. The Qur’an explains itself. Sunnat explains the Qur’an. Ijtihad and inference (istinbaat) are additional sources of tafsir. The Qur’an can explain itself because of its internal unity such that one part can elaborate and not contradict another. Methods of the Qur’an interpreting itself (tafsir al Qur’an bi al Qur’an) include:  a detailed verse interpreting a brief concise verse (sharh al mujaz bi al mubassat),  an open verse being interpreted by a restrictive one (sharh al mutlaq bi al muqayyad), the general being interpreted by the specific (sharh al aam bi al mukhassas), reconciling what are apparently different assertions (al jamu bayn ma yatawahhamu annahu mukhtalif) (Hadid 1983). Methods of the sunnat interpreting the Qur’an (tafsir al Qur’an bi al sunnat) include: explaining the general, clarifying the complicated (mushkil), making the general particular, restricting the open (mutlaq), explaining terrminology (lafdh), explaining abrogation (naskh), and emphasizing Qur’anic legal rulings (hukm) (Hadid 1983).


Disciplines that assist tafsir: the science of linguistics (‘ilm al lugha wa al nahawu wa al saraf), science of Qur’anic readings (ilm al qiraat), theology (‘ilm usul al ddiin), science of the principles of jurispudence (ilm usul al fiqh), and the science of the occasions of revelation (‘ilm asbaab al nuzuul). There are disciplines not yet described today that will push ‘ilm al tafsir to new heights of achievement in the future.


Methods of tafsir: Each mufassir uses a different methodology. It is worth studying the methodology before reading the tafsir. Two famous mufassirin like Ibn Abbas and al Tabari had different approaches. The tafsir methodology of Ibn Abbas, the father of tafsir, included: use of sabab al nuzuul (occasion, time, place), identifying the abrogating (naasikh) and abrogated (mansuukh) verses, use of poetry to understand meanings of Arabic words and expressions, using the Qur’an to interpret itself (tafsir al Qur’an bi al Qur’an), and considering the personal and human dimension.  Al Tabari’s tafsir methodology included: using precedence (tafsir bi al mathuur), interpreting stories using evidence (tafsir al qisas bi al hujjat),  refusal of rationalist interpretation (tafsir bi al ray), literal interpretation of the text (tafsir al nass dhahiriyat), and use of linguistic tools.


Classification of ‘ilm al tafsir: Tafsir can be classified in several ways

  • by approach: linguistic, literal
  • by source: Qur’an, sunnat, ijtihad, inference (isitinbat)
  • by method: precedence (tafsir bi al mathur),  ration/reason (tafsir bi al ra’ay)
  • by subject matter (tafsir mawdhu’i): terms and words (tafsir bi al alfadh & al kalimaat),  jurispudence (tafsir fiqhi), sufi (tafsir sufi), philosophy (tafsir falsafi), science (tafsir ‘ilmi), linguistics (tafsir lughawi), literature (tafsir adabi), social (tafsir ijtimae), empiricism (tafsir tajriibi),  and sectarian (tafsir aqdi) such as sunnite or shiite.

Interpretation by precedent (tafsir bi al ma’athuur): tafsir bi al mathuur refers to interpretations that are from the Qur’an, the sunnat, the companions and the followers. The three most important authors of tafsir bi al ma’athur were: Muhammad bin Jariir bin Yaziid bin Kathir Abu Ja’afar al Tabari (224 - 310 AH), Ismail bin Omar bin Kathiir al Qurashi al Basrawi al Dimashqi (701 - 774 AH), Abd al Rahman bin Abi Bakr bin Muhamad bin Sabiq al Ddiin al Khudhairi al Suyuuti (849 - 911 AH).


Tafsiir based on rationality / opinion (tafsir bi al ra’ayi) uses ijtihad. It can be praiseworthy (mahmuud), or blameworthy (madhmuum). The praiseworthy uses opinion that is guided by valid general principles from the Qur’an and sunnat. The blameworthy is based purely on rational reasoning and could lead to wrong conclusions. The main field of tafsir bi al ra’ay are the allegorical verses. Tafsir bi al ra’ay has been controversial throughout the ages because of its use reason and rationality. Ibn Taymiyyat considered tafsir bi al ra’ay forbidden (haraam). There are supporters and opponents of tafsir bi al ra’ay in the ancient and modern periods. The balanced view is that use of reason or rationality within limits is not bad. These limits should be defined by the general principles and fundamentals of the creed (aqidat) and the purposes of the law (maqasid al shariat)


Interpretation based on empirical science (Tafsir ‘ilmi): Tafsir ‘ilmi is empirical and scientitifc; it is related to empirical sciences (uluum kawniyyat) and the miraculous nature of the Qur’an (ijaz al Qur’an). A main assertion of tafsir ilmi is that there is no contradiction between science and the Qur’an. Tafsir ilmi is defined as the intellectual effort of the interpreter to discover the link between the verses of the Holy Qur’an dealing with the empirical world on one hand and the discoveries of empirical science on the other hand such that the miraculous nature of the Qur’an is exposed; this proves that the Qur’an is indeed a word of Allah and is suitable for every place and every time ( Ijtihad al mufassir fi kashf al silat bayn ayaat al Qur’an al kareem al kawniyyat wa muktashafaat al ilm al tajriibi ala wajh yadh’hiru bi ijaz li al Qur’an yadullu ala masdarihi wa salahiyatihi li kulli zamaan wa makaan (Rumi pt 3, p 549, 1987). Examples of tafsir ilmi is finding scientific explanations for Qur’anic verses on creation of everything from water, prohibition of coitus during menstruation(haidh), and exemption from salat and saum during menstruation. In both ancient and modern times tafsir ‘ilmi has had proponents and opponents. Ancient supporters of tafsir ‘ilmi: al Ghazzali (d. 505 AH), al Fakhr al Razi (d. 606 AH), al Zarkashi (d. 794 AH), Ibn Abi Fadl al Mursi, and al Suyuti (d. 911 AH). Ancient opponents of tafsir ‘ilmi: al Shatibi (d. 790), and Ibn Hayyaan al Andalusi (d. 745 AH). Modern supporters of tafsir ‘ilmi: Abd Rahman al Kawakibi (in tabaiu al istibdaad wa masariu al istibaad), Muhammad Abduh, Abd al Hamid bin Badees (in: tafsir Ibn Badees: majalis al tadhakkur min kalaam al hakiim al khabiir), Muhammad Mutawalli Sha’araawi, Hasan al Banna, al Tantawi (in: al jawahor fi tafsir al Qur’an al karim), Abdul Aziz Ismail (in: al islam wa al tibb al hadith), Hanafi Ahmad (in: al tafsiir al ilmi li al ayaat al kawniyyat fi al Qur’an), Muhammad Bakhiit al Mutie (in: tanbiihu al ‘uquul al insaniyyat lima fi ayat al Qur’an min al ‘uluum al kawniyyat), Mustafa Maraghi, Muhammad Abdullah Darraaz (in: madkhal ila al Qur’an al kareem), Wahidu al ddiin Khan (in: al Islam yatahadda), Mustafa Sadiq al  Rafie (in: ‘ijaz al Qur’an wa al balaghat al nabawiyyat), Muhammad Ahmad al Ghamrawi, Muhammad jamaluddin alfandi (in: al Qur’an wa al ‘ilm), and Muhammad al Tahir bin Ashour (in: al Tahriir wa al tanwiir). Modern opposers of tafsir ‘ilmi: Mahmud Shaltuut, Amin al Kholi, Abbas al Aqaad, Syed Qutb, Muhammad Rashid Ridha, Abbas Mahmoud al Akkad, Muhammad Izzat, Muhammad Abd al Rahiim al Zarqani (in: manahil al irfaan fi uluum al Qur’an)


The concept of ta’awiil: The concept of ta’awil can be used in a positive sense or in a negative one. In the positive sense it is similar to tafsir but there are technical differences that experts can explain. In a negative sense it can be used to refer to attempts to interpret the holy text to support pre-conceived views or personal or parochial interests. The Qur’an talked about ta’awil (p 221 4:59…18:82, p 221 3:7).


The concept of abrogation (naskh): This has already been discussed at length before in the unit on methodology.


Israiliyaat in tafsir: Some mufassirin have borrowed from judaic folklore to provide details about some Qur’anic stories. This reflects misunderstanding of the purposes of the Qur’an. The stories told by the Qur’an are for moral teaching of the living; they have no historical value since the Qur’an is not a text-book of history. The Qur’an therefore did not tell all the details of each story and the prophet did likewise not feel the need to do so. Recourse to israiliyaat is an attempt to get the historical details complete which is unnecessary.


Indexation of the Qur’an: All down the centuries students of the Qur’an have always wanted to index it so that it is easier to look for verses relevant to a certain subject or topic. Several indices were published and more will continue to be published. Since the Qur’an is a living miracle, new developments in knowledge always lead to new insights in its interpretation. It is therefore inevitable that the indices are reviewed regularly.



Definition of hadith: the term hadith has a wider scope that the term sunnat. Hadith includes even rulings that were abrogated. It embraces personal human attributes of the prophet (sifaat khilqiyyat), his food habits and preferences,  his health conditions, his illness and medical treatment. Hadith can be words of the prophets (qawl al rasul), actions (fi’ilu al rasul), or tacit approval (iqrar) of actions performed in front of him or which he knew about and he did not indicate disapproval. Hadith also embraces the words and actions of the companions of the prophet and the general events and phenomena that occurred during the period of prophethood (‘ahd al risalat) and the era immediately after it.


Definition of sunnat: Sunnat is a type of hadith but is restricted to words, actions, and tacit approval of the prophet (PBUH) from the start of the revelation to his death (ma sadara ani al rasuuli min qawli, aw fi’ili, aw iqrar min mabdai al wahy hatta wafaatihi). There is a difference between sunnat that is a basis for law (sunnat tashri) and that which is not  (sunnat ghair tashrei). The former is part of revelation and is legally binding. The latter is not legally binding on all people all the time. It is however recommended to follow sunnat ghair tashrei as much as practicable because all what the prophet did or said in guidance to the good and the moral. Another reason for following sunnat ghair tashrei is that the demarcation from sunnat tashrei may not be clear and it is better to err on the right that on the wrong.


Structure of hadith: A hadith consists of 2 main parts: the chain of transmitters (sanad) and the text (matn).


Hadith methodology: Hadith methodology is from the Qur’an. What has been discussed previously about Qur’anic methodology applies to hadith as well.


Difference between hadith and Qur’an transmission: Both Qur’an and hadith are revelations. The former is recitable revelation (wahy matluw) and the latter is non-recitable revelation (wahy ghair matluw). The Qur’an is direct speech of Allah. The meaning of the hadith is from Allah but the words are those of the prophet (PBUH). In some hadiths the meaning is from the prophet but the words are those of the narrators. Hadiths, unlike Qur’an, were not all transmitted as in continuity and by many people (mutawaatir).


Sunnat as a source of law (hujjiyat al sunnat): Sunnat is the second source of legislation in Islam after the Qur’an. The Qur’an itself referred to this. We can also reach a similar conclusion by considering that the words and actions of the prophet were needed to interpret the Qur’an and that was the purpose for sending a human messenger. As discussed before Allah had the power to reveal His message to humans in some other way.


Methods of hadith transmission: Hadith scholars are very particular about the method of transmission to ensure accuracy. The reporter can listen to the Sheikh reading the hadith (qiraat al Sheikh alayhi). The reporter can read a hadith to the Sheikh who either approves by saying yes or just keeps quiet signifying consent (an yaqra ala al sheikh fayaqulu na’am aw yaskut). The sheikh can after a period of teaching give the reporter a written or oral authorisation to report hadith from the sheikh (al ijaazat). The sheikh can give a written document to the reporter and tell him to report its contents (al munawalat: khudh hadha al kitaab fa a’rwiihi anni). The reporter can report a hadith by meaning or can use the exact words he heard. The following words used in hadith reporting: haddathana, akhbarana, anba’ana.


Hadith nabawi and hadith Qudsi: Hadith nabawi is part of unrecitable revelation (wahy ghair matlu’). The content and meaning are from Allah (SWT) but unlike the Qur’an, the sentence structure, language and words used are from the prophet (PBUH). Unlike the Qur’an the reporting of hadith from the prophet by the companions and the followers was partly by meaning; in some cases it was not the exact words or linguistic expressions that the prophet used. Hadith qudsi is similar to the Qur’an in that the language and words are directly from Allah (SWT) and all the prophet did was to convey them. There are very few hadith qudsi.


History of the collection and writing of hadith: Hadith was not written down during the era of the prophet (PBUH) and the 4 companions. Reporting of hadith was limited. The few written  hadiths at the time of the prophet and the 4 rightly-guided khulafa were the exception and not the rule. Writing of hadith was actively discouraged for fear of confusion with the Qur’an. Omar Ibn Abd al Aziz was the first to order systematic collection and the writing of hadith (Sadi 1408 AH, p 67). Systematic efforts of hadith collection became necessary during the great fitna due to death of many narrators and the appearance of hadith fabrication to justify partisan stands. Most of hadith collection was in the era of the followers of the followers (tabiu al tabiin). That is why most hadith narration chains include a follower who heard the hadith from the companion.


Different methodologies of hadith collectors:. The collectors of hadith each developed a methodology. Those with the most rigorous methodology have the most authoritative collections. However too rigorous criteria for hadith acceptance left out many authentic hadiths that other collectors with less rigorous criteria have preserved for us. The methodology of Imaam Malik in al muwatta was characterised by the following: reliance only on trusted narrators, use of mubalaghaat (using the formula the ‘report reached us’ ablaghana), use of  mursalaat (     ), use of athaar that stopped at tabiin and tabiu al tabiin, mixing  hadith and fiqh al hadith. The method of Bukhari in his sahih was very rigorous. He searched widely for hadith and accepted only the most authentic. He accepted only 4000 out of 600,000 hadiths collected. He reported one hadith using several chains of transmitters as further proof of authenticity.


Reporting of hadith by companions: The number of hadith reported from different companions vary; some repprted heavily, some reported only a few whereas some have no hadith reported from them at all. The older companions who died earlier reported relatively few hadith; this is because they died before great interest in reporting hadith arose. Those who stayed close to the prophet all the time like Abu Hurairat and Ibn Abbas reported more hadith than others.


Scholars of hadith have used several terms to refer to hadith collections. The most authentic are referred to as sahih for example sahih al Bukhari and sahih Muslim. Other terms used are: musnad, sunan, jami’u.


The major collectors of hadith famous throughout the Muslim world are indicated below. The name of their collection and the number of hadith are also shown:

Malik (d. 179 AH): al Muwatta (……hadith);


al Bukhari (d. 256 AH): Sahiih al Bukhari  2761 hadith (no repetition) selected from 600,000;

Muslim (d. 261 AH): Sahiih Muslim- 4000 hadiths (no repetitions) selected from 300,000;

al Tarmidhi (d.   ); al Jamiu al Sahiih;

Abu Daud (d. 275 AH): Sunan Abu Daud  4800 hadiths;

Al Nisae (d. 303 AH): Sunan al Nisae;

Ibn Majah (d. 273 AH): Sunan Ibn Majah;

Ahmad (d. 241 AH): Musnad Ahmad;

Ibn al Athiir (d.  ); Jamiu al Usuul;

Al Hakim (d. 405 AH): al Mustadrak;

al Haythami (d. 807 AH): Majmau al Zawaid;

al Nawawi (d. 767 AH): Riyaadh al Saalihiin;

al Mundhiri (d. 656 AH): al Targhiib wa al Tarhiib;

Ibn Abi Shaybat (d.   ): Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybat;

al Daarimi (d. 255 AH): Sunan al Daarimi;

al Suyuuti (d. 911 AH): al Jamiu al Kabiir;

al Bayhaqi (d. 458 AH): al Sunan al Kubra;

al Tabrani (d. 360 AH): al Mu’jam al kabiir;

al Tirmidhi (d. 279 AH): al Jamiu al sahiih


Some were primary collectors like Bukhari and Muslim. Some of the later collectors like Imam al Nawawi put together their collections from hadiths already reported in the primary collections.


Definition of hadith sciences (uluum al hadith): al Suyuuti defined ‘ilm al hadith as the science of the principles by which the status of the chain of transmitters (sanad) and the text (matn) are ascertained (;ilm bi qawannin yu’urafu biha ahwaal al sanad wa al matn’). The main aim of hadith sciences is to make sure that transmission of information (naql) is correct.

Classification of ulum al hadith: ‘Uluum al hadith are classified into 2 broad categories: sciences of transmission of hadith (‘uluum riwayat al hadith) and sciences of understanding hadith (uluum dirayat al hadith). There are many sub-disciplines under each of the 2 categories above.


Science of critique of hadith (‘ilm naqd al hadith) involves critiquing the internal structure of the hadith and its meaning. The hadith can be critiqued as text (matn) or chain of transmission (sanad). Critique of text (matn) involves identifying defects (‘illat), establishing if the text is different from the report of other trustworthy narrators, and finding problems in the text itself such as logical inconsistencies. Hadith scholars have over the centuries developed criteria that can enable them distinguish an authentic from an unauthentic hadith or to grade it. In order to deal with false positive and false negative, criteria are set in such a way that it is easier to reject a true hadith than accept a false one. These same criteria are employed to grade a particular hadith text according to degree of its authenticity. The criteria for accepting a hadith are more stringent than laws of evidence in court.


The criteria for accepting a report (khabar): Criteria used in relation to any report fall under three categories: personal integrity of the narrator, mental and intellectual capacity of the narrator, and the integrity of the chain of transmitters (ittisal al sanad). The term adalat al rawi is used to refer to the integrity of the narrator. He or she must be a Muslim, adult, not a sinner (fasiq), and has social respectability (muru’at). This personal integrity can be nullified by: disbelief (kufr), minority report, sinning (fisq), innovations in religion (bid’a), lying in ordinary conversation, getting reward from reporting hadiths, fanaticism about a madhhab or a sect. The narrator must have dhabt which includes: good memory, being careful, no experiencing of illusions, and not reporting what is radically different from the trustworthy reporters.


Classification of hadith: hadith can be classified by sanad, number of narrators, or grade of authenticity. There is no unanimity of classification among hadith scholars but the differences are relatively minor.


Hadith can be classified according to sanad as: muttasil, munqatiu, mursal, mu’udhal, mudlas, mawquuf, marfuu’. Each of these terms has a technical definition used by hadith scholars.


Hadith can be classified according to number of narrators as: famous (mashhur), reported by an overwhelming number of narrators (mutawatir), or reported by a single narrator (hadith al ahad).. The number of narrators reporting the same hadith indicates authenticity. It is most unlikely that a large number of people who do not live together can concur in error. Hadith reported by a single narrator (hadith al ahad) should always be suspected and should never be accepted in fundamental matters like aqidat.


A hadith can be classified as: authentic (sahih), good (hasan), weak (dhaif), different from others in text and chain of transmission (shaadh), has a hidden reason for not being sahih even if it is apparently correct (mu’allal).



‘Ilm al sirat involves study of the life of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), his personality, his attributes, all his behaviour in private and in public, his methodology in Islamic work, his leadership and management, and all his interactions with his companions and others in the society. The lives of the companions are sometimes included within ‘ilm al sirat because they reflect the training of the prophet (PBUH).


Because of its religious importance ‘ilm al sirat is studied separately from history (’ilm al tarikh). ‘Ilm al sirat is also separate from ‘uluum al hadith because unlike the latter it employs a less rigorous methodology in collecting, analyzing, and accepting information.


Understanding of sirat (fiqh al sirat) is very important because the life of the prophet was the human and practical manifestation of the teachings of the Qur’an. Aisha said that the Qur’an was the prophet’s character (kaana khulquhu al Qur’an). We study sirat even today to learn lessons on how to build our own civilisation and our own society. Study of the sirat enables us also to understand many verses of the Qur’an. It is also useful in elucidating some matters in Islamic law.


Since the biography of the prophet is so well documented and in detail, it is further proof of the authenticity of the prophet; he lived a very transparent life that all could see and yet no negative report about his character has been made even by his enemies. Study of sirat also shows the humanness of the prophet. His greatness is enhanced when his character and achievements are set against the background that he was a normal human being like all his followers.


The sources of ‘ilm al sirat are: the Holy Qur’an, books of hadith, Arab poetry of that time, and special books of sirat that were written. The Qur’an is a continuous record and commentry on the major events during the 23 years of prophethood. Books of hadith record words and actions of the prophet (PBUH) and his closest companions.


The main scholars of ilm al sirat in the ancient period were: Muhamad Ibn Ishaq (d. 151 AH), Muhammad bin Omar al Waqidi (d. 207 AH), Abd al Malik bin Hisham (d. 213 AH), Muhammad bin Sa’ad (d. 230 AH), Ali bin al Hasan ‘ibn asakir’ (d. 571 AH). The early books of sirat were descriptive with their main aim being to preserve the facts for posterity. The early writers concentrated on the military expeditions and at one time the term maghazi was used as a synonym for sirat. The writings also high-lighted the actions of the prophet (PBUH) but put less emphasis on those of his companions and other events in the general society.

The main authors of ‘ilm al sirat in the modern period are: Muhammad Heykal (d.  ), al Mubarakpuri (b. 1942 CE), Abul Hasan al Nadawi (b.   ), and Mahmud al ‘Akkad (d.  ). Some characteristics distinguish the modern writers from the ancient ones. The modern writers are more analytical. They comment on the social, political, and religious significance of the events they report. Some even go ahead to relate the events in sirat to the experiences of contemporary dawah movements. The modern approach provides a wider context for a fuller understanding of the biography of the prophet.



‘Ilm usul al ddiin has also been named ‘ilm al tauhid, ‘ilm al kalaam, & ‘ilm al aqidat. It was defined by al Suyuti as the science that deals with obligatory matters of the creed (‘ilm yabhathu ‘amma yajibu I’itiqadihi).


The Islamic creed is characterised by simplicity (basaatat), realism (waqi’iyyat), tolerance (tasaamuhu), and a humane approach (insaniyat). During the era of the prophet (PBUH) matters of ‘aqidat were explained and were understood in very simple terms. There was no need for a special discipline to study ‘aqidat. However soon after the start of the great fitnat the need for a special discipline became necessary. There were a lot of confusing discussions about khilafat and pre-destination (qadar). The khawarij and mu’tazilat were instrumental in provoking these discussions. Allah’s attributes (sifat Allah) and the fate of those who commit major sins became controversial intellectual issues. Contact of Muslims with the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantine, and Persia introduced many philosophical ideas. Greek logic became popular and Muslim scholars resorted to a deep study of usul al ddiin to be able to respond to those intellectual challenges.


Among the famous scholars in usul al ddiin were: Ahmad bin Muhammad Abu Ja’afar al Tahawi (d. 321 AH), Ali bin Ismail Abu al Hasan al Ash’ari (d. 324 AH), Muhamad bin Muhammad al Maturdi (d. 333 AH), Muhammad bin al Tayyib Abu Bakr al Baqillani (d. 403 AH), Abdul Qadir al Baghdadi (d. 429 AH), Abd al Malik bin Abd Allah Imaam al Haramain al Juwayni (d. 478 AH), Muhammad bin Muhammad Abu Hamid al Ghazzali (d. 505 AH), Muhammad bin Omar al Fakhr al Razi (d. 606 AH), and Muhammad Ibn Abd al Wahhab (d. 1206 AH).


The main issue emphasised in ‘ulum usul al diin is the one-ness of Allah (tauhid), avoiding shirk in its major and minor manifestations, and rejection of any innovations in religion that affect the basic aqidat. In most cases there is a need to correct and remind because many Muslims have unconsciously followed practices that are not accepted in Islam. Many are just plain ignorance. Some are due to syncretism, an attempt to combine Islam with some other practices or beliefs current in the society. Yet many others are just pure superstition. 



Importance of fiqh: Fiqh being the academic study of the Islamic legal system is a very important subject. Islamic law regulates the private and public life of Muslims as individuals, families and communities. It has also greatly influenced the intellectual and psycho-emotional development of Muslims to the extent that it is true to say that fiqh is the most powerful single change agent in Muslim communities.


Definition of fiqh: There are several definitions of fiqh. Abu Hanifa defined fiqh as knowldge of an individual of his rights and obligations (ma’arifat al nafs ma laha wa ma alayha). Al Shafei defined fiqh as the knowledge of legal rules pertaining to conduct that have been derived from their specific evidences, Nyazee p. 22 (‘al ‘ilm bi al ahkaam al shar’iyyat al ‘amaliyyat al muktasab bin adillatiha al tafsiiliyyat’). Ibn Qudama defined fiqh as knowledge of the legal rulings on actions whether they are permitted or prohibited and whether they are valid or not (al ‘ilm bi ahkaam al af’al al shar’iyyat ka al hall wa al hurmat wa al sihat wa al fasaad)..


The scope of fiqh: Islam is a complete way of life covering all aspects and details of the life of the individual and the community. In the same way the law of Islam is comprehensive. Fiqh therefore covers the following fields: physical acts of worship (ibadat), civil transactions (muamalaat madaniyyat), personal laws (ahwaal shakhsiyyat), criminal rulings (ahkaam jina’iyyat), judicial rulings (ahkam qadha’iyyat), constitutional rulings (ahkaam dasturiyyat), international rulings (ahkaam dawliyyat), and economic rulings (ahkaam iqtisadiyyat).


Schools of fiqh:  Many schools of fiqh (madhahib fiqhiyyat) arose but only 4 of them survived and spread widely. The founders did not plan to establish a school. The schools were named after them after their death. Each school is not uniform; there are variations attributed to the various disciples of the founder. The hanafi school was initiated by Abu Hanifa Ibn al Nu’umaan bin Thabit (d. 150 AH). He was severe in criteria for accepting hadith. He used qiyaas and istihsaan widely. He used general principles in specific cases. The Maliki school was initiated by Imaam Malik bin Anas al Asbahi (d. 179 AH). He relied on Qur’an, sunnat, consensus (ijmau), analogy (qiyaas), the practice of the Madanese (‘amal ahl al madinat), the opinions of the companions (qawl al sahabat),  istihsaan, istislaah, and sadd al dharaei. The Shafei school was initiated by Muhammad bin Idris al Qurashi (d. 204 AH). He relied on Qur’an, sunnat, ijma, & qiyaas. He did not accept the opinions of  companions, istihsaan, masaalih mursalat, and the practice of the Madanese. The Hanbali school was initiated by Ahmad bin Hanbal Abu Abd Allah al Shaybani (d. 241 AH). He relied on Qur’an, sunnat, opinion of companions, ijma, qiyaas, istihsaan, istishaab, masalih mursalat ,& sadd al dharaei


Geographical distribution of the schools of fiqh: The Maliki school is most popular in North-west and West Africa. The Hanbali school is most popular in the Arabian peninsula. The Hanafi school is most popular in Turkey, Central Asia, and South Asia. The Shafei school is most popular in parts of Iraq, parts of Yaman, East Africa, and South-east Asia.


Basis for different schools of fiqh: All the schools are valid and all are based on authentic practice of the prophet. The un-initiated may wonder why different practices can be tolerated in the same religion. The existence and acceptance of these differences is one of the miracles of Islam and the proof that it is a religion for all times and all places. The prophet in his words and actions provided several alternatives for a valid action in order to give latitude to the followers even in generations yet unborn to choose the alternative most suited to their circumstances. Some of the differences among the schools of fiqh are just choice of a different alternative from among many that are valid. There are matters that were not given in detail in the text as a mercy for the believers so that they may have some latitude in interpretation. Each school made its own interpretation of such situations but whatever interpretation is adopted, it falls within the general framework of Islamic principles. We can therefore look at the different schools as systematizing the wide zone of tolerance and flexibility that Islamic practice provides. It is therefore futile to argue what school is valid or what is better than the other.

Definition of usul al fiqh: Usul al fiqh is the basic framework or methodology that jurists use to deduce objective and logical conclusions in the form of legal rulings (istinbat al ahkam) from the basic sources of Qur’an and sunnat. Usul al fiqh is analogous to logic in philosophy in being a methodology of analysis to reach a conclusion. Imaam al Shafei is credited with founding the discipline of usul al fiqh which he defined in his book al Risalat as knowledge of the legal rulings as derived from their specific evidence (‘ al ‘ilm  bi al ahkaam al shar’iyyat al muktasab min adillatiha al tafsiiliyyat). al Qadh’i al Baydh’awi defined ‘ilm usul al fiqh as knowledge of the evidence of  fiqh in general and how to use the evidence and the circumstances of the user (ma’arifat dalaa’il al fiqh’ ijmaalan wa kayfiyat al istifadat minh’a wa h’aal al mustafiid’). Ibn Kh’uldun defined ‘ilm usul al fiqh as dealing with evidence of shariat and how legal rulings are derived from them (h’uwa fi al adillat al sh’ar’iyyat min h’ayth’u tu’ukhadh’ minh’a al ahkaam’). A general definition of ilm al usul is principles by the use of which the mujtahid arrves at legal rules through specific evidence Nyazee p 29 ( ‘al qawaid allati yatawasalu biha al mujtahid ila ahkaam al shariat al amaliyyat min adillatiha al tafsiliyyat). Usul al fiqh deals with the general principles and not the details (min hayth al jumlat la min hayth al tafsiil)


Sources of ‘ilm al usuul al fiqh:  Qur’an, sunnat, ‘ilm al kalaam, ilm al lughat, & ahkaam shariat. The Qur’an is mainly a source of methdology. The sunnat is a corpus of legal rulings and practice from which methodological principles can be derived. In its historical evolution, ilm usul al fiqh, like many other Islamic sciences was influenced by Greek deductive logic either directly or through Greek impact on ‘ilm al kalam.There is therefore a need to Islamise some of the current concepts in this discipline. ‘Ilm usul al fiqh is very particular in its definitions and terminology which requires a good grounding in the Arabic language. The many legal rulings over the past 14 centuries continue to provide a methodological framework that is a continuous methodological inspiration for students and practitioners of usul al fiqh.


The subject matter of ‘ilm al usuul: Usul al fiqh does not deal with the legal rulings themselves; that is the concern of fiqh. Usul al fiqh deals with the methodology of analysing evidences (adillat) in order to derive rulings or conclusions. It is a methodological discipline par excellence. ‘ilm usul al fiqh deals with all sources of law as basic evidence. The sources of law (in order of importance) that are unanimously accepted : Qur’an, Sunnat, Ijma, qiyaas, Ijma and qiyaas operate together. Scholars are not unanimous about all the following as secondary sources of law: istihsaan, maslahat mursalat, istishab, ‘urf, & sadd al dharaei. The evidence may absent, incomplete or weak. There may be a need for combining weak evidences from more than one source to reach a conclusion.


The benefits of ilm al usul: Usul al fiqh provides a methodological guideline for the mujtahid so that he can pursue his analysis in a systematic and tried way. It also lends credibility to the conclusions of the mujtahid because people will know that he followed an established methodology and was not following his personal whims or fancies. Thus usul al fiqh helps people trust the conclusions of the mujtahid.


Rationalists (ahl al ra’ay) and traditionalists (ahl al hadith): There is a division among scholars of usul al fiqh that also mirrors the dichotomy in tafsir: rationalists (ahl al raay) and traditionalists (ahl al hadith) . The former rely a lot on reason while the latter rely more on tradition. One of the motivations for the rise of usul al fiqh was to close the gap between the school of traditionalists and the rationalists by providing them with a common methodological framework. The two schools appeared in the second century of hijra. The former was in Hejaz and relied on riwayat and athar in explanation of the nass. The latter arose in Iraq and relied mainly on ijtihad.


Importance of terminology: Because of the reliance on text, the use of exact language and definition of terms is very important. Fiqh requires exact language as science requires mathematics for exactitude. The need for exact definitions makes usul al fiqh a difficult subject to study. Sometimes too much concern with exactitude in terminology constrains imagination and intellectual exploration that could open up new areas of thought.


Use of general principles: Sophisticated methods have enabled usul scholars to derive conclusions even where there is no textual evidence. They rely on general paradigms that are developed from situations with textual evidence and are used where there is no evidence.


Closure of the gate of ijtihad: The oft-repeated statement about the closure of the door of ijtihad needs to be revisited. Ijtihad was never closed completely. At some time in the history of the ummat ijtihad relating to aqidat and fundamentals of the religion was discouraged because of fear of confusion at a time of intellectual ferment when new ideas and philosophies some contradictory to Islam invaded the ummat starting in the 3rd century AH. The political circumstances did not allow the few authentic scholars the opportunity to expose and fight those ideas and philosophies. The practical alternative was to discourage ijtihad on the basic issues of aqidat for fear that ignorant people may be misled and mislead others. Ijtihad in other matters was not closed. There were just few new challenges requiring fresh ijtihad since the physical, social, and political life of the ummat declined and stagnated over a period of about 10 centuries. Even in this period of decline whenever the need arose there were individuals and groups who could stand up and make fresh ijtihad; Ahmad Ibn Taymoyat is a very good example. Ijtihad is being revived in our times because of the new challenges that we are facing and because of the general phenomenon of revival.


Modes of ijtihad:  Nyazee described 3 modes of ijtihad: (a) literal which stays close to the text (nass) (b) Analogy (ijtihad qiyaasi) is used to extend the law to situations not covered by the text (c) general principles of the law (maqasid al shariat) are used when neither literal nor ijtihad qiyasi can apply. The maqasid mode of ijtihad is nearest the spirit of empirical science and research. It involves applying a general law or theory to a particular cause or situation.


Analogy (qiyaas): al Shafei was the first to write about qiyaas in his book al risalat. Qiyaas was defined by al Baaqillaani, al Razi, and al Juwayni as the assignment of a legal ruling (hukm) of one problem to another problem about which the law is silent; the assignment being based on the resemblance between the 2 problems or an underlying cause, ‘illat (‘haml ma’alum ala maaluum fi ithbaat hukm lahuma aw nafyihi anhuma bi amr jamei baynahuma min ithbaat hukm aw sifat aw nafyihima’). The term qiyaas has been used to refer to both qiyaas mantiqi, a type of deductive logic, and qiyaas usuuli, a type of inductive logic. Abu Muhammad Ali Bin Ahmad bin Hazm (d. 465 AH) accepted qiyaas mantiqi and refused qiyaas usuuli. Taqiu al Ddiin Ahmad ibn Taymiyyat (d. 728 AH) considered only qiyaas usuuli. Abu Hamid al Ghazzali (d. 505 AH) combined the two. The balanced view is to consider qiyas usuli in most matters use qiyas mantiqi in a few cases where it is relevant. In most cases both are used in sequence. Qiyaas is considered a valid source of legal rulings (hujjat) by the majority of scholars. The basic support for qiyaas is the famous hadith of Muadh bin Jabal when sent to Yaman by the Prophet (PBUH).  Four types of qiyaas can be identified depending on the method used: based on an underlying common cause (qiyaas al ‘illat), based on similarity (qiyaas al shubhat), based on meaning (qiyaas al ma’ana), and based on evidence (qiyaas al dalaalat). The pillars of qiyaas are: al asl, al far’u, hukm al asl, and ‘illat (legal cause). Asl is the first problem for which a ruling exists. Al far’u is the second problem for which no ruling is known. Hukm al asl is the ruling for the first problem. ‘Illat is the legal cause or logical link between the first problem and its ruling. The same link is used to apply the ruling of the first problem to the second problem.


Illat operates under qiyaas but because of its theoretical importance we decided to discuss it separately here. A very good reference was a published doctoral thesis at Azhar by Abd al Hakiim Abd al Rahman Al Sa’adi in 1986. Illat is the underlying explanation of a matter. In this it is very similar to the causal laws and the theories that are the object of empirical scientific research. It could be said that the purpose of science is to discover the ‘illat or underlying explanation in order to generalize. ‘Illat differs from sabab, shart, hikmat, and ‘alamat. Sabab is the cause on the basis of which a primary rule or hukm taklifi is invoked or is established. Shart refers to facts or actions that must take place before the cause can take effect and invoke the related hukm. Hikmat is the wisdom behind the illat

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule July 1997