Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence

Chapter 0: Introduction

Section 1 - Defininig Ilm Al Usul

Ilm al Usul lit refers to the science of foundations in relation to jurisprudence (fiqh). Fiqh (lit. 'deep understanding') is understood to refer to the science that studies the practical (far'i) religious (shar'i) rulings (ahkam). Religious (shar'i) implies the exclusion of rational (aqli) sources, and practical (far'i) implies the exclusion of doctrinal (i'tiqadi) rulings (ie we are concerned with non-theological discussions).

Definition: The discipline which discusses the general rules used for the process of deriving jurisprudential rulings from their sources.

Subject: That which can be used as a proof (hujjah) in the practice of jurisprudence and the process of deriving rulings.
Note: Not all evidences are hujjah, eg natural sciences or mathematical proofs do not constitute jurisprudential proofs

Purpose: To provide jurists with the tools necessary to derive religious laws from their sources.

Section 2 - Subdivisions Within The Principles of Jurisprudence

1- Lexical Discussions: How words signify meaning - apparent meanings vs implied meanings.
example: the apparent meaning of the imperative form (sighat al-amr) being an obligation (wujub)

2- Rational Discussions: Rational Laws which have a bearing on the process of deriving jurisprudential rulings
example: Does the obligation to perform an act entail the obligation to the preliminary (
muqaddimah) of that act

3- Discussions of Proofs and Indications: What entails a proof (hujjah)
example: Is a solitary narration (
khabar wahid) considered a hujjah?

4- Discussions on Procedural Principles: What recourse is available for a jurist in the absence of evidence for a religious ruling

Section 3 - Designation (Wad)

Definition: Placing a word opposite a meaning and specifying that it signifies that meaning
Intentional Designation (wad ta'yini): The word and its meaning are connected by a specification which is intentional
Spontaneous Designation (wad ta'ayyuni): The word and its meaning are connected by a repeated use of a word
Note: Intentional Designation excludes Spontaneous Designation, whereas Spontaneous Designation encompasses both types

Kinds of Designation:

  1. A Specific Designation for a Specific (khass) Subject - (eg Proper Names ("Brian") - a specific meaning and a specific word)

  2. A Specific Designation for a General (amm) Subject - A specific meaning with a word which refers to it and other things (considered impossible / does not exist)

  3. A General Designation for a Specific (khass) Subject - Typically refer to particles and prepositions (eg "morning" being specific and "from" being general)

  4. A General Designation for a General (amm) Subject - (eg Species Names ("Human") - a general meaning for a general word)

A Specific Designation has a particular (juz'i) meaning
A General Designation has a universal (
kulli) meaning

In Summary: General Designations can refer to specific and general subjects simultaneously, whereas Specific Designations can only refer to specific subjects
(General Designations can reflect their own reality and other realities, whereas Specific Designations cannot combine their own realities and other realities)

Classifying Designation According to the Kind of Word Being Designated

Note: the previous section classified designations from the perspective of a word's meaning (ma'na). Designations can also be classified according to whether or not the designated word (al lafz al mawdu) is individual (shakhsi) or categorical (naw'i)