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Fiqh during the Prophet’s Lifetime

Wali Allah al-Dihlawi, in his treatise ‘al-Insaf fi bayan sabab al-ikhtilaf, wrote:

During his (S) lifetime fiqh was not written down, and searching for the rules then was not like the searching made nowadays by the fuqaha’, who do their utmost to manifest the arkan (cornerstones), provisions and norms, portray the images from their own invention, embarking then on talking about these imposed images, laying down limits for what is fit for being limited, confining what can be confined, and so on.

During his lifetime, the Messenger of Allah (S) used to perform ablution and the Companions would learn from him and imitate him, without his embarking on clarifying which part being rukn and which are being recommended. Also when he was performing prayers, they would observe his way of praying and follow his example in prayers,766 and the same is said in the case of doing the rites of hajj ((pilgrimage to God’s House).767 That was his way of teaching the legal rules to the Muslims, without manifesting for instance, the obligations of wudu’ to be six or four, or supposing that some one might take ablution without muwalat (consecutive order), so as to judge his wudu’ to be valid or invalid, and they were rarely inquiring him about such matters.

Ibn Abbas is reported to have said: I have never encountered people better than the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny) ... they have not asked about anything except thirteen issues till he passed away, all of which being stated in the Qur’an. Among them the following: “They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month,” and the verse: “They question thee (O Muhammad) concerning menstruation).” Then he (Ibn Abbas) said: They were not questioning but about things that avail them. Al-Qasim said: You are questioning with regard to things about which we never used to inquire, and searching for things that we were not seeking for ... I have never met people of easier conduct (sirah), or less strictness than the Sahabah.768

On the whole, such was his (S) noble habit, so each one of the Sahabah would take whatever he found easy to apply of his worship, verdicts (fatawa) and rules, which he learned by heart and comprehended, realizing for every one of them a certain aspect according to the evidences indicating it. Their main dependable criterion in this regard was only the inner consciousness and confidence,769 without paying attention to ways of inference, as the Arabs used to conceive the denotation of words among themselves.770


766. The Messenger of Allah said: Perform prayers in the way you saw me pray. It is unanimously concurred.

767. Muslim and Abu Dawud and al-Nasa'i reported from Jabir that the Messenger of Allah said: Take (learn) your rituals (manasik) from me.

768. This statement of Ibn Abbas was reported by Ibn Abd al-Barr in his Jami' bayan al-'ilm was fadlih (vol.II, p.141). It is also stated by al-Suyuti in al-Itqan, by saying: They are twelve questions. But al-Razi cited them with the expression: 14 letters, eight of them in Surat al-Baqarah, in the following way (1) And when My servants question thee concerning Me; (2) They ask thee (O Muhammad) of new moons; (3) They ask thee what they shall spend, (4) They question thee with regard to warfare in the sacred month; (5) They question thee about strong drink and games of chance; (6) And they question thee concerning orphans; (7) They question thee concerning menstruation, (8) And they question thee what they aught to spend. Say: That which is superfluous. And six others in other surahs: (9) They ask thee was is made lawful for them; (10) They ask thee of the (destined) Hour; (11) They ask thee of the spoils of war; (12) They are asking thee concerning the Spirit; (13) They will ask thee of Dhu al-Qarnayn; (14) They will ask thee of the mountains... and those who ask concerning the Spirit and Dhu al-Qarnayn are the polytheists of Makkah and the Jews, as mentioned in Asbab al-nuzul, not the Sahabah. Hence the cleared ones will be 12 questions, as stated by al-Suyuti.

769. The Messenger of Allah said to Wabisah, when asked him about the birr (godliness): Consult your heart...the godliness is that in which the soul and heart have confidence, and then what is woven in the soul and what falters inside the bosom, even if people consult you and give verdict to you. This hadith is reported by Ahmad al-Darimi.

770. Al-Risalah, pp.2, 3, Hujjat Allah of the author of al-Risalah, vol.I, pp.140, 141.

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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