The main source of the Islamic Law is the Holy Quran. The Law of the Quran is undoubtedly final and binding and nobody can challenge it because the Quranic injunctions are meant for all times and places.
A Quranic verse is categorized as legal when it contains a hukum or a command. The verses of the Quran which deal with legal or practical issues are known as Ayaat-al-Ahkam (legal verses). The command or hukum may be mentioned, in such verses, in a non-legal context too.
The Ayaat –al-Ahkaam can be grouped in 3 categories:
The Ahkaam I’tiqaadiyah or the verses which are related to faith/belief
The Ahkaam Akhlaaqiyah or the verses which are related to morality and
The Ahkaam Amalliyah or the verses which are related to practical legal rulings
The primary objective of the Islamic Law is mercy. Therefore, the fundamental tendency of the Quranic rulings was to favor the downtrodden and underprivileged sections of the society.
The second source of the Islamic Law is the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw), which comprises of his recommendations, practices and rulings. The conciseness of the Holy Quran on certain points is elaborated by the Sunnah. For instance, though the Holy Quran has commanded to give zakat but the details about zakat are found in the Sunnah.
There are some non-revealed sources of Islamic Law too, such as:
Ijtihad or juristic reasoning
Qiyas or analogical reasoning
Istehsan or juristic preference
Istislah or consideration of public interests
Ijma or a general consensus of the learned
Whatever be the non-revealed source of Islamic law, it will be taken as valid only if it is based on the Quran.
For instance, riba or interest has been strictly forbidden by the Quran. In the present times, there are many riba- based practices which are quite rampant in the society, namely-credit cards; loans taken on interest and insurance contracts. When a question arises in the mind of a Muslim about the lawfulness of a credit card, for example, it is the duty of a mufti to guide such a person in the light of the Quran and Sunnah and not according to the prevalent practices in the society. This is because the Quranic injunctions are unchallengeable, constant and are applicable in all times. They are not meant to be altered, adapted or modified to suit any change in the society.
Abd-al-Rahman-Ibn-abi-laila, a renowned Shariah scholar has said that, ‘I was able to meet 120 Sahabas (ra) who were asked some Shariah related questions, seeking a decree from them. Instead of delivering a ruling on the issues themselves they pointed towards other Sahabas (ra) (to deliver a ruling). They felt frightened that if in case their verdict was wrong then they would be held responsible for it before Allah (swt)’.
So even though the 120 Sahabas (ra) were brimming with Islamic knowledge and were qualified to issue a fatwa, yet they were hesitant to do so.
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