Jurisprudence and the Balance in Linguistic and Technical Terms
The dictionary definition of jurisprudence – fiqh in Arabic – is understanding, but it must be accurate understanding, as accuracy is what distinguishes jurisprudence from general understanding. Accordingly, to say that the sky is up, and the ground is down is not an example of jurisprudence, but rather an example of common knowledge.
As a linguistic term, jurisprudence means accurately understanding religious and worldly matters, and the secrets of the universe. This is how this term is used in the Holy Quran, and this is how it was used at the time of Prophet Muhammed ﷺ and his companions. Islamic jurisprudence means knowledge of jurisprudential rulings that relate to transactions, devotions, modes of behavior, and manners. Islamic jurisprudence includes the jurisprudence of Sunnah, jurisprudence of reality, jurisprudence of the universe, jurisprudence of the truth about man’s being, jurisprudence of preferences, jurisprudence of comparisons, and jurisprudence of the balance.
The word Jurisprudence and its derivatives are used twenty times in the Holy Quran to refer to an accurate understanding of Allah’s unchanging decree, and of life, good deeds and bad deeds.
Allah says: Say: "It is He Who has the power to send forth chastisement upon you from above you, or from beneath your feet, or split you into hostile groups and make some of you taste one another’s violence. Behold, how We set forth Our signs in diverse forms, so that maybe they will understand the Truth”﴿ (Holy Quran 6: 65). In this verse I believe that the words That they may understand means understanding the signs, determining the reasons for calamities, and comprehending with Allah’s unchanging decrees regarding affliction. Some exegetes suggest that understand in this verse means learn a lesson, so that they may repent from and cease committing bad deeds.
Allah says: ﴾We have destined for Hell multitudes of jinn – demons and spirits – and humans. They have hearts with which they do not understand. They have eyes with which they do not see. They have ears with which they do not hear. These are like cattle. In fact, they are further astray. These are the heedless﴿ (Holy Quran 7: 179). In this holy verse, do not understand means they do not use their hearts to understand signs in the universe that are evidence for Allah’s existence and supremacy.
Allah says: ﴾O Prophet! Rouse the believers to battle. If there are twenty steadfast among you, they will defeat two hundred; and if there are a hundred of you, they will defeat a thousand of those who disbelieve because they are a people who do not understand﴿ (Holy Quran 9: 65﴿. The intended meaning of do not understand in this verse is that unbelievers do not understand Allah’s decrees regarding victory, nor do they realize that Allah supports those who love Him, and that the balance of moral power is superior to that of physical power.
Allah says: ﴾Those who stayed behind rejoiced at their staying behind the Messenger of Allah. And they hated to strive with their wealth and their lives in God’s way. And they said, “Do not venture out in the heat.” Say, “The Fire of Hell is much hotter.” If only they understood﴿ (Holy Quran 9: 81). This verse means if they only understood the truth about the Last Day, they would not have said what they said.
Allah says: ﴾They prefer to be with those who stay behind. Their hearts were sealed, so they do not understand﴿ (Holy Quran 9: 87﴿. This means they do not understand what they have to do to be among those who prosper. Had they understood that, they would not have stayed behind.
Allah says: ﴾Nor should the Believers all go forth together: if a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion, and admonish the people when they return to them, that thus they (may learn) to guard themselves (against evil)﴿ (Holy Quran 9: 122). Understanding here refers to knowledge of Islam as a religion, doctrine, and system, rather than knowledge of Islam as a set of rules for transactions only.
In short, jurisprudence in the Holy Quran means accurate understanding of Allah’s Book, His signs in the universe, and the unchanging systems of life.
In the Holy Sunnah, jurisprudence and its derivatives mean accurate and comprehensive understanding.
For example, the Prophet ﷺ said, “If Allah wants to do good to a person, He grants him understanding of the religion.”
He ﷺ also said in a prayer for Ibn Abbas, “Oh Allah! Make him comprehend the religion and teach him the interpretation (of the Holy Quran).”
The Prophet ﷺ also said, “Those who were the best in the pre-Islamic period of ignorance – Jahiliya – will be the best in Islam provided they comprehend religious knowledge.”
With an authentic chain of transmitters, al-Tirmidhi and al-Darimi narrated that Abu al- Darda said:
“We were with the Prophet ﷺ when he raised his sight to the sky and said: ‘This is the time when knowledge is to be taken from the people, until what remains of it shall not amount to anything.’ Then Ziyad bin Labid al-Ansari said: ‘How will it be taken from us while we recite the Quran. By Allah we recite it, and our women and children do recite it too?’ The Prophet ﷺ then said: ‘May you be bereaved of your mother O Ziyad! I used to consider you among the scholars of the people of Medina. The Torah and the Bible are with the Jews and Christians, but what do they avail them?’”
This hadith refers to the fact that a person who is versed in Islamic jurisprudence is the one who comprehends the minute details of matters.
Some later scholars of the followers of the companions of the Prophet said, “A scholar versed in Islamic jurisprudence is the one who renounces worldly pleasures, looks forward to the hereafter, is knowledgeable about religion, and exclusively dedicates himself to worshipping his Lord."
Mujahid said, “A person versed in Islamic jurisprudence is the one who fears Allah."
Ali bin Abi Talib said:
“A person truly versed in Islamic jurisprudence is the one who does not make people lose hope in Allah’s mercy, does not make it easy for them to disobey Allah and commit sins, does not make them feel secure from Allah’s retribution, and does not forsake the Holy Quran for anything. No good comes of worship if void of knowledge, no good comes of knowledge if void of understanding, and no good comes of reading if void of deep contemplation.”
Therefore, it can be concluded that jurisprudence, as a technical term, refers to all religious matters and Allah’s unchanging decrees in the universe.
Since the late third Hijri century, Islamic jurisprudence has become more limited in scope, so that it has focused solely on knowledge of jurisprudential rulings that relate to transactions that are based on detailed evidence. However, such rulings used to be no more than a branch of Islamic studies.
Jurisprudence is used in the Holy Quran to refer to accurate and comprehensive understanding of worldly and religious matters.
In this book, the term Islamic jurisprudence means deep, accurate, and comprehensive understanding of the balance in its past, present and future dimensions.