Mastering Usul Fiqh

(1.1) This review will highlight the path plotted by the Dars Nizami and the rationale therein for those wanting to master usul fiqh to understand the evidences presented and method of extraction used by the Ulama and especially the fuqaha.

(1.2) In proving matters of shariah, positive evidence is only accepted when deduced using usul fiqh from the usul shariah. Qawa’id and Maqasid of fiqh due to its fluid nature never form the basis of evidence in itself. Hence, the Dars Nizami focuses on usul to deduce evidence which gives consistent results in every circumstance and relegates Qawa’id and Maqasid to those pursuing specialism.

(1.3) There are four main areas of Usul Fiqh: (1) the sources of shariah, (2) the interpretation of the source (hermeneutics), (3) the ruling of law and (4) the jurist. It is the first two areas garners most of the focus whilst the latter two conclude and connect. Based on the focus different approaches arose.

(1.4) One approach is concerned more on the source of the shariah, hence there is an emphasis on aqidah and as such it is deemed the usul of the mutakallimin. This is an inductive approach and one adopted by the Shawafi’, Malikiyyah and Hanabilah. Another approach is concerned more on the interpretation of the source, hence there is an emphasis on traditions and past practices and as such it is deemed the usul of the muhaddithin. This is a deductive approach and one that is adopted by the Ahnaf. Both are praise worthy. There is a third approach which attempts to combine the approaches of the mutakallimin and muhaddithin; this is known as the way of the muta’akhkhirin.

(1.5) The Dars Nizami due to its Hanafi orientation proposes that one master the muhaddithin approach first, follow-up with the muta’khkhirin approach as it mixes the familiar with the unfamiliar and then one may wish to review the mutakallimin approach. This will provide mastery in all the approaches and insight into the evidences and the ensuing differences that arise.

Usul Muhaddithin (deductive approach)

(2.1) The muhaddithin approach involves forming principles through reviewing the normative practices and positions found in the hadith and athar. It starts from the concrete and leads to the abstract as such this method include a lot of examples. This is a deductive and bottom-up approach. This is the approach of the Ahnaf.

(2.2) To master the Ahnaf approach, one must have a firm knowledge of furu’ al-fiqh along with the normative juristic practices and positions of the prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them) especially those related to usul. Imam Abu Bakr Razi al-Jassas (d. 370) in Usul Jassasal-Fusul fi al-Usul (Usul Jassas) outlines many of the edicts used. However, the Dars Nizami includes Usul Sashi for the purpose of mastering the masa’il related to usul as it contains the central masa’il found in both the Hanafi and Shafi’i usul books .

(2.3) The Ahnaf have written on usul extensively. There are three works which capture the works of the earlier experts including al-Fusul fi al-Usul; (1) Usul Bazdawi (Kanz al-Wusul ila Ma’rifat al-Usul) of Fakhr al-Islam Bazdawi (d. 482), (2) Usul Sarakhsi (Tamhid Fusul fi al-Usul) of Shams al-A’immah Sarakhsi (d. 490) and (3) Taqwim al-Adillah of Allm. Dabbusi (d. 430).

(2.4) Usul Bazdawi and Sarakhsi cover the same content but have different approaches. Usul Sarakhsi focuses more on the examples and application of the usul whilst Usul Bazdawi focuses more on verifying the usul itself through evidences. Usul Bazdawi is differs from the mutakallimin approach in that it primarily uses textual evidence with scarce usage of kalam terminology to prove the usul. In a manner, it can be argued that Usul Sarakhsi establishes the reliability of the Ahnaf approach whilst Usul Bazdawi establishes the validity.

(2.5) Manar al-Anwar of Allm. Abu Barakat al-Nasafi (d. 710) combines these two works concisely and it has taken the status of being a matn of the Ahnaf approach.

(2.6) Manar takes the principles, structure and evidences presented in Usul Bazdawi and gives support to it with the examples stated in Usul al-Sarakhsi. It, along with its commentary Nur al-Anwar, lies at the heart of the Dars Nizami on teaching Usul; it summarises that which came before and opens the path to advancement as will be clarified shortly. Nur al-Anwar of Mulla Jiwan (d. 1130) clarifies the ambiguities in Manar succinctly and indicates towards topics to come in advanced works such as Tawdih and Talwih. Qamar al-Aqmar of Allm. Abd al-Halim Lacknawi (d. 1285) is an indispensable marginalia of Nur al-Anwar and adds to its depth even further with points from Musallam al-Thubut and Fawatih al-Rahmut.

(2.7) Muntakhab Husami (al-Mukhtasar fi Usul al-Fiqh) of Allm. Husam al-Din Akhsikathi (d. 644) is a great work to solidify that which was learnt thus far as it is written tighter than, albeit in a similar style to, Manar. Husami incorporate Tasis Nazar and Taqwim al-Adillah of Allm. Abu Zayd Dabbusi (d. 430) along with Usul Karkhi of Imam Abu Hasan al-Karkhi (d. 340) and al-Mu’tamad of Abu Hasayn al-Mu’tazili (d. 473). Imam Dabbusi’s work in particular review Qiyas in some depth, hence, the section on Qiyas of Husami is given particular attention.

(2.8) Usul Shashi, Manar with Nur al-Anwar and Husami should suffice for one to become firm on the usul of the Ahnaf. The first will cover the masa’il used in usul, the second will justify the principles with the masa’il and the third will solidify and support with reason. This is the Ahnaf way, which is naturally deductive. To advance one would study the usul of muta’akhkhirin which will open the door to the approach taken by the mutakkalimin which is inductive in nature.

Usul Mutakallimin (inductive approach)

(3.1) The mutakallimin approach involves establishing conceptual principles indicated in the sources and thereafter forming edicts thereof. Hence this approach starts from the abstract and leads to the concrete as such this method includes a lot of reasoning in justifying the usul. This is an inductive and a top-down approach. This is the approach developed by the Shawafi’ and adapted by the Malikiyyah and the Hanabila.

(3.2) There are two works which summarise the pathway to this approach; Muktasar Muntaha al-Usul wa al-Amal of Allm. Ibn Hajib Maliki (d. 642) and Minhaj al-Wusul of Qadi Baydawi Shafi’i (d. 685). Additionally, one may wish to also include Rawdat al-Nazir of Allm. Ibn Qudama Maqdisi Hanbali (d. 620). These summaries are compact and may be difficult for the uninitiated so one may first wish to read introductory texts such as Maraqi al-Sa’ud , Waraqat and Bulbul to get an overview of the Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali usul respectively.

(3.3) The first title, Muskhtasar Muntaha al-Usul, is the summary of the author’s work Muntaha al-Sul wa al-Amal fi ‘Ilm al-Usul wa al-Jadal which in turn is the summary of al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam by Allm. Sayf al-Din al-Amidi (d. 631). The second title, Minhaj al-Usul, is the summary of al-Hasil by Qadi Taj al-Din Armuwi (d. 656 ca) which in turn is the summary of al-Mahsul by Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi al-Shafi’i (d. 606). The summary of Imam Qarafi (d. 684) based on Mahsul entitled Tanqih al-Fusul is also of note.

(3.4) Ihkam and Mahsul are considered the standard text of this approach; most other works are in some way covered by these two. Both of these summarise all the four classical texts which form the basis of this method; Umad, Mu’tamad, Burhan, and Mustasfa. Umad is by Abd al-Jabbar Mu’tazili and its summary Mu’tamad is by his student Abu al-Husayn al-Mu’tazili. These are considered lower in standing compared to Burhan of Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni Shafi’i (d. 478), and Mustasfa by his student Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali Shafi’i (d. 505). Mustasfa is deemed the most prominent of these and Rawdhat al-Nazir is considered by many as its summary albeit with Hanbali edicts.

(3.5) Ihkam and Mahsul cover the same content but have different approaches. Ihkam focuses more on the edicts to verify and show the reliability of the usul as opposed to Mahsul which concentrates more on validating the usul itself through reason and argumentation. Hence, Ihkam is naturally preferred over Mahsul by the Ahnaf and the Malikiyyah due to their emphasis on reliability and normative practices.

Usul Muta’akhkhirin (hybrid approach)

(4.1) The usul of the muta’akhkirin involves combining the muhaddithin and mutakallimin approaches; hence forming a hybrid approach. This is invaluable for those wishing to traverse and gain an insight into the alternative approaches.

(4.2) The Ahnaf have generally chosen Ihkam over Mahsul to intersperse the fields due to Ihkam’s emphasis on edicts over theory which is consistent with the Ahnaf approach. In this respect, two works in particular are of note. (1) The first work is Badi’ al-Nizam of Allm. Sa’ati (d. 694) in which he used the principles stated in Ihkam with supporting points from Usul Bazdawi. (2) The second work is Tanqih and its commentary Tawdih by Sadr al-Shariah al-Asghar (d. 757) within which he combines Ihkam, Muntaha al-Sul with Usul Bazdawi at the core as well as the topics of Muntakhab Husami.

(4.2) Badi’ al-Nizam is easier for those wanting to transition into the hanafi discipline whilst Tanqih is easier for the hanafi wanting to learn the inductive approach (usul mutakallim). Hence, the Dars Nizami prioritises Tanqih with Tawdih in the curriculum along with its commentary entitled Talwih by Allm. Sa’d al-Din Taftazani al-Ash’ari (d. 791).

(4.3) Now that both sides are familiar with each other’s approach, the field expands exponentially. Two works in particular summarise the ensuing works. First is Jam’ al-Jawami’ by Allm. Taj al-Din al-Subki (d. 771) which summarises about a hundred books in the field. Second is al-Tahrir fi Usul al-Fiqh by Allm Ibn Humam Hanafi (d. 861) which also summarises a large corpus of works with a heavier emphasis on kalam not usually found in the Hanafi approach.

(4.4) The curriculum includes Musallam al-Thubut of Allm Muhib al-Din Abd al-Shukur Bihari (d. 1119) to cover this genre. Musallam al-Thubut combines Jami’ al-Jawami’ and Tahrir in clear and concise manner. Its commentary Fawatih al-Rahmut by Allm Abd al-Ali Lacknawi (d. 1225) is also recommended.

Mastering Usul

(5.1) To master usul for a person with a Hanafi background, one must first have a strong foundation in fiqh. Study Usul al-Shashi to get an in-depth understanding of the central masa’il covered in usul fiqh as well as an introduction to the core principles. Thereafter, read Manar al-Anwar along with Nur al-Anwar to understand the principles in detail along with the evidence which support and justify these rules as well as answers objections posited by the mutakillimin. This will make it easy to decipher the usul of Bazdawi, Sarakhsi, Jassas and make Talwih accessible. Now that a solid foundation in the Hanafi approach is developed, one should consolidate the learning with the reading of Husami with special attention on the Qiyas section; this will cover the topics in Taqwim al-Adillah, Tasis al-Nazar and Usul Karkhi. This should suffice for one to understand the Hanafi evidence and usul.

(5.2) To advance one should study Tawdih with Talwih. This will summarise the key mutakallimin works such as Ihkam and Muntaha al-Sul along with what was covered in Manar and Husami in addition to gaining the Ash’ari insight via Talwih. This should give one scope to understand most of the books of the other Mazahib. Follow up with the study of Musallam al-Thubut with Fawatih al-Rahmut; this will suffice to understand the works of the later works of the muta’akhkhirin including Jam’ al-Jawami’ and Tahrir.


Muhammad Saifur Rahman Nawhami
Newham, London, UK
9 Shawwal 1434
18 August 2013



Nawhami, Muhammad Saifur Rahman. (2013). Mastering Usul Fiqh. Islamic Studies Bulletin (DIBAJ), Number 2. Available at