Principles for the non-Mujtahid.

The following is a translation (ongoing) of the book: القواعد الأصولية الفقهيةالمتعلقة بالمسلم غير المجتهد written by Sheikh Sa’ad ash-Shithree.

The page will be updated on a daily basis during Ramadhan 2011, insha’allah.

All praise is due to Allah (swt) and may the peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah.

There is no doubt that knowledge of usul al fiqh is from the branches of shar’i knowledge by which a person is rewarded for learning if done for the sake of Allah. This reward is not confined to those mujtahideen who learn this science rather it includes those who learn it from amongst the non-mujtahideen as well. It is popular amongst many scholars that knowledge of usul al fiqh is from the communal obligations[1] whereby it becomes binding upon the entire ummah to put forward someone who would learn this knowledge. This is in order that there will be from this ummah mujtahideen who can deduce shar’i rulings from the detailed evidences so that people can adopt their verdicts.

One who observes the particulars of this knowledge will find they are of two types in relation to this Ummah:

  1. Matters that help a person attain the level of ijtihad. These are matters that every mujtahid is required to know in order to extract rulings from their evidences. As for the layman, then he will not benefit from knowing these matters whilst he remains to be a layman even though they can assist him in reaching the level of ijtihad on condition he completes and perfects the studying of usul as well as having knowledge of the detailed shar’i evidences. This type of learning is considered to be from the communal obligations.
  2. Fundamental matters (masaa’il usuliyyah) that every layman needs. This knowledge is considered to be from the individual obligations by which it becomes binding upon every individual to learn due to the need he has to act upon such knowledge.


However, due to the fact that many scholars ofusul have chosen to show a certain degree of evasion from the last category I have decided to clarify these issues so that laymen can learn and act upon them.

Muslims in the West are in need of learning these issues just like any other Muslim. However, their need is greater due to the scarcity of scholars that they have. This becomes especially apparent to the one who looks into the their affairs and is aware of their strangeness and needs by living amongst non-Muslims and adhering to their systems. Thus the importance of this topic should now be apparent.

I have divided this research into the following sections: an introduction, prelude and three main chapters.

This is the introduction where I have spoken about the importance of the topic as well as the outline of this research.

The prelude will discuss the general benefits for the layman who learns usul.

The first chapter will discuss the fundamental principles that are a must for a layman to know when faced a situation (naazilah). This chapter will have three parts:

  1. The ruling of doing an act whilst not knowing its ruling.
  2. The reason for legal responsibility.
  3. The manner of obtaining a ruling.

The second chapter will discuss the fundamental principles that a layman must learn with regard to seeking a fatwa (istiftaa’). This chapter will have eleven parts:

  1. The etiquettes of the layman with the mufti.
  2. Who is entitled to be asked by the layman.
  3. The binding nature of the fatwa of a mujtahid for a layman if he acts upon it.
  4. The layman being aware of when the mujtahid he initially asked changes his opinion.
  5. What the layman should do when there is a difference of opinion amongst those who give fatwa.
  6. Who should the layman ask when there are a variety of opinions.
  7. What the layman should do when the layman does not find a mujtahid.
  8. Blindly following someone known to be lax in issuing verdicts.
  9. Following the easier opinion.

10. The layman following a school of thought.

11. Repeating asking for a fatwa every time the matter re-occurs.

Chapter three will discuss other fundamental issues that have a direct relationship with the layman. This chapter will also have eleven parts:

  1. The intending meaning of shar’i rulings that are mentioned in fatwa.
  2. The relationship that a layman has with the Qur’anic styles of recitation.
  3. Actions of the Prophet.
  4. The layman issuing verdicts.
  5. Rulings concerning the extended obligations for the layman.
  6. The communal obligation.
  7. Cutting off an act of worship after beginning it.
  8. Non-Muslims and Legal responsibility of subsidiary matters.
  9. The layman interpreting the Qur’an.

10. The layman relaying prophetic traditions through meaning.

11. Juristic maxims that the layman can benefit from immediately.

I have endeavoured whilst writing this paper to make it suitable for non-Mujtahid; by avoiding matters that the scholars have differed and there be no benefit in mentioning. I have also attempted to write for the contemporary reader as well. I have given references for all the issues discussed.

And finally, I ask that Allah grants us all tawfeeq and His assistance.


The Benefits of Learning general Usul al Fiqh For the Layman

Since it is incumbent upon the layman to learn some of the fundamental usuli principles it should be known that this entails great benefits. From amongst them:

  1. The knowledge of usul is a shar’i knowledge and therefore the reward for seeking sacred knowledge can be obtained with a sound intention.
  2. The knowledge of usul can help to qualify a person to extract/obtain shar’i rulings and thus rise from the level of a layman to the level of the mujtahid.
  3. The knowledge of usul gives a person the ability to understand shar’i texts.
  4. The knowledge of usul clarifies the technical terms that the scholars use in their verdicts and works.
  5. The knowledge of usul enables a person to be more precise with their choice of words thus one will use the exact words that convey the intended meaning.
  6. The knowledge of usul gives a layman a sense of confidence in the validity of the ijtihad of the mujtahid who he follows.
  7. The knowledge of usul clarifies how one should pose questions to the scholars and also clarifies who is entitled to be asked.[2]

Chapter One

  1. 1.    The ruling of doing an act whilst not knowing its ruling.

The scholars have determined that it is obligatory upon a person to know the ruling of every action before they do it in order to be sure that it is not prohibited. A consensus has been mentioned about the prohibition of doing an action whilst not knowing its ruling.[3]

It was reported that Umar bin al Khattab (ra) would not permit anyone who did not know the rulings of buying and selling to trade in the market. He used to say: “No one should trade in our markets unless he has learnt the fiqh of the religion (tafaqqaha fid-deen).”[4]

The scholars have also mentioned that if a particular country did not have a mufti and it was not possible for the layman to consult mujtahideen; it becomes obligatory upon him to make hijrah and it is not permissible for him to remain in such a country.[5]

However, in reality this issue does not apply to today’s circumstances due to the widespread availability of modern means of communication.

  1. 2.    The reason why the mukallaf[6] adheres to shar’i rulings.

It is from the mercy of Allah (swt) to His servants that He has made the application of shar’i rulings a means to obtain the benefit & welfare of creation in both the dunya and the hereafter. Thus, it is considered that the shar’i rulings are mu’allalah[7]for the welfare of creation as an act of generosity from Allah and as an act of mercy for his servants.

The specific reason behind an action could sometimes be apparent to the mukallaf whereas at times it could be obscure or sometimes unknown to him. [8]

It is important to note however, that it is not befitting for the mukallaf to implement a ruling with the sole intention of attaining a worldly gain from it. Rather it is imperative that he intends by that action to please Allah (swt) and to obtain reward in the hereafter.

Thus if a person intended by an action worldly gains only, he will not deserve any reward in the hereafter[9]as Allah said:

Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornments – We fully repay them for their deeds therein, and they therein will not be deprived. Those are the ones for whom there is not in the Hereafter but the Fire. And lost is what they did therein, and worthless is what they used to do.”(11:15-16).

“Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished.” (17:18).

If a person purely intends by his action worldly gains, he will fall into one of two categories:

  1.       I.     Either the action is a type of worship that can only be considered an act of worship like prayer for example. In this case the action will be invalid and will not be legally recognised.
  2.     II.     Or the action could be considered to be an act of worship or other than that such as providing for one’s family, keeping family ties and leaving prohibited matters. In this case the action will be valid (saheeh) by which the obligation is fulfilled and the sin removed. However he will not deserve the reward for that in the hereafter.



[1] Al Musawwadah p.571, Sifah al Fatwa wal Mufti wal Mustafti p.14, al Mahsul 1/54, Sharh Kawkab al Muneer  1/47, Usul al Fiqh (al Bahsheen) p.130.

[2] To see further benefits refer to the book: Diraasat fi Muqaddimaat ‘ilm Usul al Fiqh p.162 & Usul al Fiqh, al Bahseen. P.128.

[3] Kashshaf al Qinaa’ 3/135, Matalib Uli an-Nuhaa 3/3, Hashiyah ar-Rawdh al Murbi’ 4/325.

[4] Tirmidhi, 487.

[5] Al Musawwadah p.550, al Majmoo’ 1/94, Mudhakkirah fi ‘ilm al Usul p.4.

[6] Someone who is legally responsible. (T).

[7] A ruling where its specific reason is intelligible. (T).

[8] Qawaa’id al Ahkaam 1/43

[9] Tayseer al ‘Azeez al Hameed 475, Fath al Majeed 333.

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