Mohammad Hashim Kamali

This essay provides a brief introduction to legal maxims, an evidently important chapter of the juristic literature
of  Islam,  that  is  particularly  useful  in  depicting  a  general  picture  of  the  nature,  goals  and  objectives  of  the
Shari‘ah. Yet,  for  reasons  that will presently be explained,  legal maxims  represent a  latent development  in  the
history of Islamic legal thought. A brief explanation of the background history of legal maxims will be followed
by a discussion of developments in three other related areas. We will discuss briefly the dawabit (lit. controlling
rules), which are abstractions of the rules of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) on specific themes. We will then move
onto a discussion of the nazariyyah al-fiqhiyyah, or the general theories of fiqh, which attempt to embrace a wider
scope. The final area of interest in this connection is the furuq, or the distinctions and contrasts, which may be
said  to  be  a  comparative  study  of  the  similarities  and  differences  of  the  legal maxims  and  the  substantive
themes with which they are concerned.

Legal maxims (qawa‘id al-kulliyah al-fiqhiyyah) are theoretical abstractions, usually in the form of short epithetical
statements,  that  are  expressive, often  in  a  few words, of  the  goals  and objectives of  the Shari‘ah. This  is  so
much  so  that many ‘ulama  (scholars)  have  treated  them  as  a  branch  of  the  maqasid  (goals  and  objectives)
literature. The legal maxims of fiqh are statements of principles that are derived from the detailed reading of the
rules  of  fiqh  on  various  themes.  The  fiqh  has  generally  been  developed  by  individual  jurists  in  relation  to
particular  themes  and  issues  in  the  course of history  and differs,  in  this  sense,  from modern  statutory  rules
which are concise and devoid of detail. The detailed expositions of  fiqh enabled  the  jurists, at a  later stage of
development, to reduce them into abstract statements of principles. Legal maxims represent, in many ways, the
apex of cumulative progress, which could not have been expected to take place at the formative stages of the
development of fiqh. The actual wordings of the maxims are occasionally taken from the Qur’an or Ahadith but
are  more  often  the  work  of  leading  jurists  and  mujtahids  that  have  subsequently  been  refined  by  others
throughout the ages. It has often been a matter of currency and usage that the wordings of certain maxims are
taken to greater refinement and perfection.

The science of legal maxims is different from the science of usul al-fiqh (methodology in Islamic jurisprudence)
in that the maxims are based on the fiqh itself. Usul al-fiqh is concerned with the methodology of legal reasoning
and  the  rules of  interpretation,  the meaning and  implication of commands and prohibitions, and so  forth. A
maxim is defined as “a general rule which applies to all of its related particulars”.
1 A legal maxim is reflective of
a consolidated reading of the fiqh and it is in this sense different from what is known as ad-dabitah (a controller)
which is somewhat limited in scope and controls the particulars of a single theme or chapter of fiqh. Dabitah is
thus confined to individual topics such as cleanliness (taharah), maintenance (nafaqh), paternity and fosterage (ar-
ridaa’), and as such does not apply to other subjects. An example of a dabitah is the statement: “Marriage does
not carry suspension”; and with reference  to cleanliness: “When  the water reaches two feet,  it does not carry
2 An  example  of  a  legal maxim  is  the  statement:  “The  affairs  of  the  imam  concerning  his  people  are
judged by reference to maslahah” (Amr al-Imami fi shu’un ar-ra‘iyyati manutun bil-maslahah). The theme here is more
general without  any  specification of  the  affairs of  the people or  the  activities of  the  imam. Having drawn  a The Association of Muslim Lawyers
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distinction between dabitah and qa‘idah, we note, however, that  legal maxims also vary concerning  the  level of
abstraction and the scope that they cover. Some legal maxims are of general application, whereas others might
apply  to  a  particular  area  of  fiqh,  such  as  ‘ibadah (worship), mu‘amalah (transactions), contracts,  litigation  and
court proceedings. Some of the more specific maxims may qualify as a dabitah rather than as a maxim proper, as
the distinction between  them  is not always clear and  regularly observed.  Ibn  Juzay al-Maliki’s, Al-Qawanin al-
Fiqhiyyah has identified and discussed a large number of dawabit in relation to particular themes and chapters of

The most comprehensive and broadly based of  all maxims  are known  as  “al-qawa‘id al-fiqhiyyah al-asliyyah”, or
the normative  legal maxims, and they apply to the entire range of fiqh without any specification. The madhahib
are generally in agreement over them. Maxims such as “Harm must be eliminated” (Ad-dararu yuzal) and “Acts
are judged by the intention behind them” (Al-umuru bi-maqasidiha) belong to this category of maxims.

The early ‘ulama have singled out about five of  these  to say  that  they grasp between  them  the essence of  the
Shari‘ah  as  a whole,  and  the  rest  are  simply  an  elaboration of  these. The other  three of  the normative  legal
maxims are:
–  “Certainty is not overruled by doubt” (Al-yaqinu la yazulu bish-shakk).
–   “Hardship begets facility” (Al-mashaqqatu tujlab at-taysir).
–   “Custom is the basis of judgement” (Al-‘addatu muhakkamatun)

The first of these has been supplemented by a number of other maxims such as “The norm (of Shari‘ah) is that
of  non-liability”  (Al-aslu  baraa’ah  ad-dhimmah).  This  is  an  equivalent  to  what  is  generally  known  as  the
presumption of innocence, although the maxim is perhaps more general. The primary expression implies that it
relates  principally  to  criminal  procedure,  whereas  the  non-liability maxim  extends  to  civil  litigation  and  to
religious matters generally. The normative state, or the state of certainty for that matter, is that people are not
liable, unless it is proven that they are, and until this proof is forthcoming, to attribute guilt to anyone is treated
as  doubtful.  Certainty  can,  in  other  words,  only  be  overruled  by  certainty,  not  by  doubt.  Another
supplementary maxim  here  is  the  norm  that  presumes  the  continued  validity  of  the  status quo ante, until we
know there is a change. “The norm is that the status quo remains as it was before” (Al-aslu baqaa’u ma kaana ‘ala
ma kaana) unless  it  is proven  to have changed. An example of  this  is  the wife’s right  to maintenance  that  the
Shari‘ah  has  determined; when  she  claims  that  her  husband  failed  to maintain  her,  her  claim will  command
credibility. For the norm here is her continued entitlement to maintenance for as long as she remains married
to him. Similarly when one of the contracting parties claims that the contract was concluded under duress and
the other denies this, this later claim will be upheld because the absence of duress is the normal state or status
quo, which can only be rebutted by evidence.
3 According to yet another maxim, “The norm in regard to things
is  that of permissibility”  (Al-aslu fil-ashyaa’ al-Ibahah). Permissibility  in other words  is  the natural state and will
therefore prevail until  there  is evidence  to warrant a departure  from  that position. This maxim  is based on a
general reading of the relevant evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Thus when we read in the Qur’an that God
“has created all that is in the earth for your benefit”  (2:29),  and  also  the hadith  that  states:  “whatever God has made
halal is halal and whatever He has rendered as haram is haram, and all that over which He has remained silent is
forgiven”, the conclusion is drawn that we are allowed to utilise the resources of the earth for our benefit, and
that unless something is specifically declared forbidden, it is presumed to be permissible.

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It  is stated  in the Mejelle that legal maxims are designed to facilitate a better understanding of the Shari‘ah and
the  judge may not base his  judgement on  them unless  the maxim  in question  is derived  from  the Qur’an or
Ahadith or supported by other evidence.
4 This is in contrast, however, with the view of Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi
who  held  that  a  judicial  decision  is  reversible  if  it  violates  a  generally  accepted  maxim.
5  The  ‘ulama  have
generally  considered  the maxims  of  fiqh  to  be  significantly  conducive  to  ijtihad,  and  they may  naturally  be
utilised  by  the  mujtahid  and  judge  as  persuasive  evidence.  It  is  just  that  they  are  broad  guidelines,  whereas
judicial orders need  to be founded  in specific evidence  that  is directly relevant  to  the subject of adjudication.
Since most of  the  legal maxims are expounded  in the form of generalised statements, they hardly apply  in an
exclusive sense and often admit exceptions and particularisation. Instances of this had often been noted by the
jurists,  especially  in  cases when  a particular  legal maxim had  failed  to  apply  to  a  situation  that  evidently  fell
within its ambit. They then attempted to formulate a subsidiary maxim to cover that particular case.

Legal maxims were developed gradually and the history of their development in a general sense is parallel with
that  of  the  fiqh  itself. More  specifically,  however,  these were  developed mainly  during  the  era  of  imitation
(taqlid), as they are in the nature of extraction (takhrij) of guidelines from the detailed literature of fiqh that were
contributed during  the  first  three centuries of  Islamic  scholarship, known  as  the  era of  ijtihad.
6 Some of  the The Association of Muslim Lawyers
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most  important of  the maxims are basically a  reiteration of either  the Qur’an or  the Ahadith. One of  the  five
maxims noted above has been derived from the hadith that “harm may neither be inflicted nor reciprocated in
(la  darara wa  la dirara  fil-Islam). Some  of  the  variant  renderings  of  the maxim Ad-dararu  yuzal  read  as
follows: “Harm must be eliminated but not by means of another harm”  (Ad-dararu yuzalu wa lakin la bi-darar);
and “Harm  is not eliminated by another harm”  (Ad-dararu la yuzalu bid-darar). The hadith under discussion has
provided the basis of numerous other maxims on the subject of darar, including for example, “A specific harm
is tolerated  in order to prevent a more general one” (Yutahammal ad-darar al-khaas li-daf’al-darar al ‘aam), “Harm
is eliminated to the extent that is possible”(Ad-dararu yudfa‘u bi-qadr al-imkaan) and “A greater harm is eliminated
by means of a lesser harm” (Yuzal ad-darar al-ashaddu bid-darar al-akhaff).

A practical manifestation of  the maxim “Harm must be eliminated”  is  the validation of  the option of defect
(khiyar al-‘ayb) in Islamic law, which is designed to protect the buyer against harm. Thus when A buys a car and
then discovers  that  it  is  substantially defective, he has  the option  to  revoke  the contract. For  there  is a  legal
presumption under the Shari‘ah that the buyer concluded the contract on condition that the object of sale was
not defective.

The hadith under discussion has also been used as a basic authority for a number of legal maxims on the subject
of necessity (darurah), and I refer here to only two. The first of these proclaims: “Necessity makes the unlawful
lawful”(Ad-daruratu tubiyh al-mahzurah). It  is on  this basis  that  the  jurists validate demolition of  an  intervening
house  to  prevent  the  spread  of  fire  to  adjacent  buildings,  just  as  they  validate  dumping  of  the  cargo  of  an
overloaded ship  to prevent the danger  (or darar) to the  life of  its passengers. The second maxim on necessity
declares: “Necessity is measured in accordance with its true proportions” (Ad-daruratu tuqdaru bi-qadriha). Thus,
if the court orders the sale of assets of a negligent debtor to pay his creditors, it must begin with the sale of his
movable goods if this would suffice to clear the debt, before selling his real property.

The maxim “Hardship begets facility” is, in turn, a rewording of the Qur’anic verses that state: “God intends for
you ease and He does not intend to put you in hardship”  (2:185),  and “God does not intend to inflict hardship on you”  (5:6),
purporting to a theme that also occurs in a number of ahadith. The jurists have used this evidence in support of
the many concessions that are granted to the disabled and the sick  in the sphere of religious duties as well as
civil  transactions. With  reference  to  the option of  stipulation  (khiyaar ash-shart),  for  example,  there  is  a hadith
that validates such an option for  three days,  that  is,  if  the buyer wishes  to reserve for himself  this amount of
time before ratifying a sale. The jurists have then reasoned that this period may be extended to weeks or even
months depending on  the  type of goods  that  are bought and  the need of  the buyer who may need a  longer
period for investigation.

The maxim “Acts are  judged by  the  intention behind  them”  is also a  rephrasing of  the  renowned hadith  that
states:  “Acts  are valued  in  accordance with  their underlying  intention” (Innama al-a‘maalu bin-niyyah). This  is  a
comprehensive  maxim  that  has  implications  that  the  ‘ulama  have  discussed  in  various  areas,  including
devotional matters,  commercial  transactions  and  crimes. The  element  of  intent  often  plays  a  crucial  role  in
differentiating, for example, a murder from erroneous killing, theft from inculpable appropriation of property,
and the figurative words that a husband may utter to conclude the occurrence or otherwise of a divorce.

The maxim “Custom is the basis of judgement” is again based on a statement of the Companion, Abdullah ibn
Mas‘ud,  that  “what  the Muslims  deem  to  be  good  is  good  in  the  eyes  of God”.  The  court  is  accordingly
authorised  to base  its  judgement on  custom  in matters  that  are not  regulated by  the  text, provided  that  the
custom at issue is current, predominant among people, and is not in conflict with the principles of the Shari‘ah.
Several  other  subsidiary  maxims  have  been  derived  from  this,  including  the  one  that  proclaims:  “What  is
determined by custom  is  tantamount to a contractual stipulation”  (Al-ma‘rufu ‘urfan kal-mashrutu shartan). Thus,
when the contract does not regulate a matter that is otherwise regulated by custom, the customary rule would
be presumed to apply. Similarly when someone rents a car, he should use it according to what is customary and
familiar, a condition that is presumed to apply even if not stated in the contract.

The maxim  “Profit  follows  responsibility”  (Al-kharaju bid-daman)  is  a  direct  rendering of  a hadith  in  identical
words.  Thus,  the  yields  of  trees,  animals,  etc.,  belong  to  those  who  are  responsible  for  their  upkeep  and
maintenance.  Suppose  that A buys  a machine which  yields profit, where A  then  returns  the machine  to  the
seller, does A have to return the profit he made with that machine to the seller? By applying the  legal maxim
before us, we say that A may keep the profit as the machine was his responsibility during the interval just as he
would have been responsible for its destruction and loss before returning it to the seller.
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The maxim “(A ruling of) Ijtihad is not reversed by  its equivalent”
(Al-ijtihadu la yunqadu bi-mithlih) has,  in turn,
been attributed to a statement of the Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab which is also upheld by the consensus of the
Companions. Suppose that a judge has adjudicated a dispute on the basis of his own ijtihad, in the absence of a
clear  text  to  determine  the  issue,  and  then  he  retires.  If  another  judge, whether of  the  same  rank or  at  the
appellate  level,  looks  into  the case and his  ijtihad leads him  to a different conclusion on  the same  issue,  then
provided  that  the  initial decision does not violate any of  the  rules  that govern  the propriety of ijtihad, a mere
difference of opinion on the part of the new judge, or a similar ijtihad that he might have attempted, does not
affect the authority of the initial ijtihad. This is so because one ruling of ijtihad is not reversible by another ruling
of ijtihad.

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Historically, the Hanafi  jurists were the first to formulate  legal maxims. An early Iraqi  jurist, Sufyan  ibn Tahir
ad-Dabbas, collated the first seventeen maxims, and Abul Hassan al-Karkhi (d.340) increased this to thirty-nine.
Some  of  the  early maxims  that  were  compiled  include  the  following:  “The  norm  is  that  the  affairs  of  the
Muslims are presumed to be upright and good unless  the opposite emerges  to be the case”. This means  that
acts,  transactions  and  relations  among  people  should  not  be  given  a  negative  interpretation  that  verges  on
suspicion and mistrust, unless there is evidence to suggest the opposite. Another maxim states: “Question and
answer proceed on that which is widespread and common and not on what is unfamiliar and rare”. Again, if we
were to  interpret a speech and enquire  into  its  implications, we should proceed on what would be commonly
understood as opposed to what might be said to be a rare understanding and interpretation. We read in another
maxim:  “Prevention  of  evil  takes  priority  over  the  attraction  of  benefit”  (Dur’  al-masaalihi  awla min  jalb  al-
manaafi‘). The earliest collections of maxims also included the five leading maxims that were discussed above.
One of the early collections was that of al-Karkhi, which was not very highly refined as it included statements
that  were  expressive  of  an  idea  but  not  necessarily  in  the  eloquent  style  that  is  typically  associated  with
10 Many scholars from various schools added  to  these over time and  the total number of qawa‘id and
dawabit eventually exceeded  twelve hundred. After  the Hanafis,  the Shafi‘is,  then  the Hanbalis, and  following
them  the Malikis  –  as  az-Zarqa has noted  –  added  their contributions  to  the  literature on  legal maxims. The
leading Shafi‘i scholar,  ‘Izz ad-Din  ‘Abd as-Salam’s  (d. 660H), Qawa‘id al-Ahkam fi Masalih al-Anam is noted as
one of  the  salient  contributions  to  this  field,  as  is  ‘Abd  ar-Rahman  ibn Rajab  al-Hanbali’s  (d.795) work Al-
Qawa‘id. Both have been highly acclaimed. Yet  in terms of conciseness and style, the Mejelle collection, written
in the 1870s, represents the most advanced stage in the compilation of legal maxims.

The development of this branch of fiqh is in many ways related to the general awareness of the ‘ulama that the
fiqh  literature  is of a piecemeal and fragmented style, which, somewhat  like Roman  juristic writings,  is on  the
whole issue-oriented and short of theoretical exposition of the governing principles. This is, in turn, attributed
to  the history of  the development of  fiqh, where private  jurists made  their contributions  independent of  any
government  and  institutions  that might have exerted  an unifying  influence. They often wrote  in  response  to
issues  as  and  when  encountered,  and  we  consequently  note  that  theoretical  abstraction  was  not  a  well-
developed feature of their work. The legal maxims filled that gap to some extent and provided a set of general
guidelines  for  an otherwise diverse discipline  that  combined  an  impressive variety of  schools  and  influences
into its fold.

Islamic jurisprudence is also textualist, in that it is guided by the textual injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah. In
developing  the  law,  the  jurists have shown a tendency  to confine the range of their expectations to the given
terms of the text. Theoretical generalisations of ideas were viewed with caution vis-à-vis the overriding authority
of  the  text and attention was focused on  the correct  interpretation of the  text rather than developing general

Questions are being asked to this day whether Islamic law has a constitutional theory, a theory of contract, or a
theory of ownership. It is only in recent times that Muslim scholars began to write concise and self-contained
expositions of the law in these areas, as I shall presently explain.

A  genre  of  literature  known  as  al-ashbah wan-naza’ir  (similitude  and  resemblance),  that was  devoted  to  legal
maxims,  emerged  in  the writings  of  the  ‘ulama well  after  the  formation of  the madhahib. The  term  evidently
originated  in  the famous  letter of  the Caliph  ‘Umar al-Khattab, addressed to a  judge, Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari of
Basrah, in which he was instructed to “ascertain similitudes and resemblances and adduce matters analogous in
giving judgement”. Later, Taj ad-Din as-Subki, who wrote a most important work on legal maxims, chose the
term ‘al-ashbah wan-naza’ir’  as  the  title  of  his  book.  Jalal  ad-Din  as-Suyuti  (d.911)  and  Zayn  al-‘Abidin  Ibn
Nujayam al-Hanafi (d.972) also wrote works that closely resemble one another, both bearing the title Al-Ashbah
wan-Naza’ir. They relied mainly on as-Subki’s writings, with certain modifications that were reflective, perhaps, The Association of Muslim Lawyers
Page 5 of 7
of  their respective scholastic orientations. As-Suyuti often  identified the source evidence from which maxims
were derived and added  illustrations and analysis. Some of  the  leading maxims  that As-Suyuti recorded were:
“Private  authority  is  stronger  than  public  authority”  (Al-wilayah  al-khaasah  aqwa  min  al-wilaayah  al-‘aammah),
which means that the authority, for example, of the parent and guardian over the child, is stronger than that of
the ruler and  the  judge; “No speech  is attributed to one who has remained silent”  (La yunsabu lis-saakiti qawl);
and  “The  attachment  follows  the  principal”  (At-taabi‘u  taabi‘), which  obviously means,  in  reference  to,  for
example, contracts  and  transactions,  that  things  that belong  to one  another may not be  separated. Thus,  for
example, one  should not  sell  a  yet-to-be-born  animal  separately  from  it’s mother, or  a  living  room  separate
from the house.

Ibn Nujaym divided  the  legal maxims  into  two normative categories:  leading maxims and subsidiary maxims.
He only placed six under the former and seventeen under  the  latter, but discussed a number of others  in his
detailed elaboration and analysis. The sixth leading maxim of Ibn Nujaym, that he added to the familiar five, as
noted above, states: “No spiritual reward accrues without  intention”
(La thawaaba illa bin-niyyah), which  is why
the ritual prayer, and most other acts of devotion, are preceded by a statement of intention (niyyah). The twelfth
century author, Abu Sa‘id al-Khadimi compiled 154 maxims in his work entitled Majma‘ al-Haqaa’iq.

Despite the general tendency  in  legal maxims to be  inter-scholastic,  jurists and schools are not unanimous on
all  of  the maxims  and  there  are  some  on which  the  madhahib have  disagreed.
13 The  difference  between  the
schools  in  this area  is, however, not very wide. The Ja‘fari School of the Shi‘ah have  their own collections of
legal maxims, but  apart  from  some differences  in  style,  the  thematic  arrangement  in  their  collections  closely
resembles  those  of  their  Sunni  counterparts.  The  first  Shi‘i  work  on maxims  was  that  of  ‘Allamah  al-Hilli
(d.726H) entitled Al-Qawa‘id, followed by ash-Shahid al-Awwal Jamal al-Din al-‘Amili’s (d. 786) Al-Qawa‘id wal-
Fawa’id that contained over  three hundred maxims,  and many more works  that elaborated  and enhanced  the
earlier ones. The more recent work of Muhammad al-Husayn Kashif al-Ghita’, bearing the title Tahrir al-Mujalla,
is an abridgement and commentary of  the  first ninety-nine articles of  the Ottoman Mejelle. He selected  forty-
five  as  being  the most  important  in  the  range,  and  the  rest  he  found  to  be overlapping  and  convergent  or
obscure,  but  he  added  eighty-two  others  to make  up  a  total  of  one  hundred  and  twenty-seven maxims  of
current application and relevance, especially to transactions and contracts. However, al-Ghita’ went on to say
that “if we were to recount all the maxims that are referred to in the various chapters of fiqh, we can add up to
five hundred more”.

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Two other  related developments  that are of  interest have  taken  two different directions. One of  these  is  the
furuq literature, which as the word indicates, highlights differences between similar concepts or those that have
an aspect in common. The attempt to highlight the differences also extended to the maxims themselves, in that
the furuq literature specified the differences between some of the maxims that resembled one another but could
be  subtly  distinguished  in  some  respect.  The Maliki  jurist  Shihab  ad-Din  al-Qarafi’s  Kitab  al-Furuq  (in  four
volumes) discusses  five hundred and  forty-eight maxims, and  two hundred and seventy-four distinctions and
differences (furuq) between similar themes and ideas. Occasionally the word qa‘idah is used in reference to what
is a dabitah or even a specific ruling of fiqh. Examples of  the  furuq  include the distinctions between hire (ijara’)
and  sale,  between  custody  (hadanah)  and  guardianship  (wilayah),  between  testimony  (shahadah)  and  narration
(riwayah),  and  between  verbal  custom  (al-‘urf  al-qawali)  and  actual  custom  (al-‘urf  al-fi‘li).  These  are  often
expressed in rule-like statements that generally resemble dabitah in their application to specific themes only, but
are  named  al-furuq as  they  usually  compare  similar  themes  and  highlight  the  differences  between  them. Al-
Qarafi’s approach represented a new development  in  the qawa‘id literature. He also discussed  legal maxims  in
his other works, narnely, Ad-Dhakhirah and  (more  specifically) Al-Ihkamu fi Tamyiz al-Fatawa ‘anil-Ahkam. The
title  itself  is,  it  may  be  noted,  a  furuq  oriented  title  referring  to  differences  between  fatawa  and  judicial
15 Ibn ash-Shat Qasim bin  ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari’s (d.723) work, Idrar ash-Shuruq ‘ala Anwar al-Furuq is
also a work on furuq, and smaller works of a similar kind were also written by some Shafi‘i scholars.

The next development that may briefly be explained is relatively recent and appears in the modern writings of
fiqh under the general designation of an-nazariyyah al-fiqhiyyah, or legal theories of fiqh. Nazariyyah in this context
implies  a  self-contained  and  comprehensive  treatment of  an  important  area of  law,  such  as nazariyyah al-‘aqd
(theory of contract), nazariyyah al-milkiyyah (theory of ownership), nazariyyah ad-darurah (theory of necessity) and
so forth. This level of theoretical development marks a departure from the earlier style of juristic writing in fiqh
literature where topics are poorly classified and themes pertaining to a particular area are scattered in different
places. The  nazariyyah literature  seeks  to overcome  that  and offers  systematic  treatment of  its  subject matter
that aims to be self-contained and convenient to use.
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The  nazariyyah  literature  draws  upon  the  combined  resources  of  fiqh  in  all  areas,  including  the  qawa‘id,  the
dawabit and the furuq. Yet the nazariyyah are usually not expected to reproduce the detailed formulation of these
related branches,  as  theory  oriented works  generally  seek  to  be  concise,  clear  of  repetition  and  unnecessary
detail. The nazariyyah also incorporate new methods of research and writing, which are more effective and less

The nazariyyah literature  is not merely confined to  improved methods and forms of writing but often seeks to
advance some of the substantive aspects of the fiqh doctrines. With regard to the law of contract for example,
‘Abd ar-Razzaq as-Sanhuri has observed that the fiqh literature in this area is focused on the detailed exposition
of a number of nominate contracts and  treats each contract separately. The Hanafi  jurist, al-Kasani, has  thus
dealt with nineteen nominate contracts, many of which have aspects in common and, of course, they also differ
in  other  respects. A  perusal  of  the  relevant  literature  on  fiqh  contracts, As-Sanhuri  notes,  leaves  the  reader
askance  as  to:  (a) whether  these  could  all be  consolidated  in order  to highlight  the  features  they  all have  in
common; (b) whether the fiqh validates contracts other than these; and (c) whether the fiqh recognises the basic
freedom of contract, merely on the basis of an agreement that does not violate morality and public interest?17
Questions of  this nature  are  likely  to  receive  a better  response  from  the nazariyyah literature, which  is better
consolidated and expressive of the common aspects of contracts.

The nazariyyah literature  is not entirely without precedent  in the world of  fiqh. With reference to the theory of
contract,  for  example,  we  may  note  that  significant  progress  had  been  made  by  the  Hanbali  ‘ulama,  Ibn
Taymiyyah  (d.728H)  and  his  disciple,  Ibn  al-Qayyim  al-Jawziyyah,  whose  contributions  are  widely
acknowledged. Ibn Taymiyyah effectively departed from the earlier strictures over the nominate contracts and
advanced a convincing discourse, through his own reading of the source evidence, that contracts need not be
confined to a particular prototype or number. The essence of all contracts is manifested in the agreement of the
contracting parties, who may create new contracts, within or outside the ones that are already known, provided
that they serve to realise a lawful benefit and do not violate public policy and morals. It may be noted, however,
that  Ibn Taymiyyah’s  contribution  to  the  theory  of  contract  represented  a  rather  latent  development  and  a
departure in many ways from the majority position on this theme. This is why As-Sanhuri’s critique may still be
considered relevant. Considerable progress has also been made, in the sphere of nazariyyah literature, not only in
As-Sanhuri’s own writings, but by numerous other scholars, both Arab and non-Arab, who have written widely
on contracts and other major themes of fiqh.

We  also note  in  this  context,  the  emergence of  the  encyclopaedias of  fiqh in  the  latter part of  the  twentieth
century. This marks a milestone of development and succeeds in producing consolidated and reliable works of
reference on fiqh, and these efforts are still continuing. Yet, as a distinctive genre of fiqh literature, legal maxims
are  likely  to  remain  an  influential  area  of  the  legacy  of  fiqh. This  is  perhaps  borne  out  by  the  fact  that  the
Turkish ‘ulama who drafted the Ottoman Mejelle articles in 1850, decided to begin their impressive and, in many
ways, original work on the Islamic law of transactions with a collection of the most important of these maxims.

Mohammad Hashim  Kamali  is  Professor  of  Law  at  the  International  Islamic University, Malaysia. He  is  author  of
numerous  articles  published  in  learned  journals  and many  works,  including  Principles  of  Islamic  Jurisprudence, Punishment  in
Islamic Law and Freedom of Expression in Islam.

1  Cf. Mahmassani, Subhi, Falasafat at-Tashri‘ fil-Islam: The Philosophy of Jurisprudence in Islam, Eng. Trans. Farhat I. Ziadeh, E.J. Brill,
Lieden  1961,  p.  151;  Az-Zarqa’,  Shaykh  Muhammad,  Sharh  al-Qawa‘id  al-Fiqhiyyah,  3rd  ed.,  Dar  al-Qalam,  Damascus
1414/1993, p. 33.
2  Cf. As-Sabuni, ‘Abd ar-Rahman, et al, Al-Madkhal al-Fiqhi wa Tarik at-Tashri’ al-Islami, Maktabah Wahbah, Cairo 1402/1982, p.
3  Ibid., p. 407.
4  Cf. Mahmassani, ibid, p. 152; Az-Zarqa’, ibid, p. 34.
Al-Qarafi, Shihab ad-Din, Kitab al-Furuq, Matha’ah Dar al-Ihya al-Kutub al-‘Arabiyyah, Cairo 1346H, Vol. IV, p. 40; see also
‘Atiyyah, Jamal ad-Din, At-Tanzir al-Fiqhi, Doha 1407/1987, p. 208.
6  Cf. As-Sabuni, ibid., p. 398.
7  Ibid., p. 380.

8  Ibid., p. 400.
9  Cf. ‘Attiyah, ibid., p. 81; As-Sabuni, ibid., p. 387
10  See for details Az-Zarqa’, ibid., pp. 38-39.
11  Ibid., p. 43.
12  Cf. Az-Zarqa’, ibid., pp. 39-40.
13  Cf. Abu  Sulayman,  ‘Abd  al-Wahhab, “An-Nazariyyah wal-Qawa‘id  fil-Fiqh al-Islami”  in Mujallah  Jamai‘ah al-Malik  ‘Abdal-‘Aziz,
No.2, May 1978, p. 53. The Association of Muslim Lawyers
Page 7 of 7
14  Kashif al-Ghita’, Muhammad al-Hussain, Tahrir al-Mujallah, p. 63; ‘Attiyah, ibid., p. 75; As-Sabuni, ibid., p. 395.
15  Cf. Az-Zarqa’, ibid., pp. 42-43; As-Sabuni, ibid., p. 393.
16  See for further details ‘Attiyah, ibid., pp. 131-132.
17  As-Sanhuri, ‘Abd ar-Razzaq, Masadir al-Haqq fil-Fiqh al-Islami, Ma‘had al-Buhuth wad-Dirasah al-‘Arabivyah, Cairo 1967, Vol. I,
p. 78; see also As-Sabuni, ibid., p. 380. 

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