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History And Need For Ilm-Ul-Usul.

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Allah (SWT) created mankind and gave him an intellect. Man has been left free to choose his own goal, his own way of life, which will either take him towards the right path, the path of obedience towards Allah (SWT) or the path of wretchedness, the path of disobedience and sinning towards Allah (SWT).

Allah (SWT) has sent down a set of laws “Shariah” for mankind to follow. Submission is unconditional obedience to Allah (SWT) and it is one’s duty to follow the Islamic Laws.

A Believer of Allah (SWT) submitting himself to the religion of Allah (SWT) Islam knows that for every action done by him in this world, he is accountable to his Creator. A slave of Allah (SWT) should, therefore, understand the laws of Islam (Shariah) in order to lead a life accordingly, which is acceptable to his Creator. He should, therefore, be able to in his personal practical life as well as with his relation to others have knowledge of the Islamic laws to be able to know what one has to do and not to do in any circumstance he is put in.

Now to be able to have knowledge of all this one needs to have complete acquaintance of the Islamic Laws. One has to know what satisfies Allah (SWT) and what brings about his discontent. Had the laws of Islam been clear and easy to understand, as to what is obligatory, forbidden and permissible it would have been very easy for one to lead his life as he deemed fit for him.

It is very difficult for a layman to make a decision based on the understanding of Islamic Law. Sometimes the laws appear to be complicated and we need guidance in such cases. During the times of the Holy Prophet (SAW) people living in close proximity used to hear the laws directly from the Holy Prophet (SAW) and fully understand their texts. The Holy Prophet (SAW)’s family and companions observed him. They shared with others exactly what they had seen in the Holy Prophet (SAW)’s words and behaviour. For example how he performed ablutions, how he prayed and how he performed other acts of worship. If they had any queries, they did not have to question the law as it was coming directly from the Holy Prophet (SAW) on whose truthfulness one had no doubt.

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All of these details were passed on and recorded to be referred to in future legal rulings.

Those living during the lives of our Aimmah (AS) had the same opportunity also. From the time of the first Imam Ali (AS) until the death of the eleventh Imam Hasan Al-Askari (AS) their followers received guidance directly from the Imams. They had their doubts clarified and there was no need to question their texts as these were transmitted from the Holy Prophet (SAW) directly person to person, (one Imam to the next Imam) and there was no doubt about the transmission.

Then during the period of the lesser occultation, Ghaibat-e-Sughra, of the twelfth Imam (atfs) he himself successively appointed four representatives (Naib-e-khaas) who acted as the link between the Imam (atfs) and his followers. However, after the great occultation, Ghaibate-e- Kubra of our present Imam (atfs), we needed people who were knowledgeable to guide the Ummah as naturally an ordinary person who does not have deep knowledge whether a particular act is obligatory, forbidden or permissible according to the Shariah, cannot be sure as to how to practice or adopt that particular act.

For this reason, it was necessary to set up a science to derive laws using the process of logic and reasoning which would apply to different fields of knowledge. These laws have to be derived by the jurists. A jurist is known as a MUJTAHID. He is a person who is an expert on Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh). He is also called a FAQIH. A Mujtahid endeavours to find out a rule of law for every occasion and every incident in life. This process is called IJTIHAD. The one who follows the jurist, a Mujtahid, is known as a MUQALLID. Thus the science of the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence ILM UL USUL was born.

So we have the Shariah, the Divine Law, whose source is the HOLY QURAN and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW), his traditions and practices according to the Holy Qur’an.

We then have the science of jurisprudence, Ilm-ul-fiqh, the theory, which was founded to establish the religious boundaries by evidence and argument and we have the science of the principles of jurisprudence Ilm ul Usul, the application of logic to these theories (acts), by way of scrutinising and deriving the shariah laws.

Let us say, for instance, the question of immersing the head in water during fasting, is it permissible or forbidden?

The answer here would be in the affirmative because the text has been narrated by reliable and trustworthy narrators. However, it is upon the jurists to find out whether these texts are from reliable and trustworthy narrators. This method is known as Hujiyya tul Khabar.

In case of some other questions to get a practical answer the need of Ilm ul Usul are studied in the process of deriving or deducting the law. The case has to be studied , particular elements are studied, applying logic, scrutinising meticulously, looking at the narrations which are connected with that problem, understanding the texts thereby obtaining an answer for that particular question.

In a way we see that both Ilm ul fiqh and Ilm ul Usul are interconnected in the process of deduction or deriving Shariah laws.

In conclusion, the way I have understood it is that deriving rules from Shariah laws is known as Ilm ul Usul and acting upon it, applying it in our lives is known as Ilm ul fiqh.

Reference:

A short history of Ilm ul Usul by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr..

Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr

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