Foundations of Usool
by Ibn Uthayman
All praise is due to Allah; we praise Him; seek His help and forgiveness; we repent to him; we seek refuge with Allah from the evils of ourselves and the evils of our actions. For whosoever Allah guides none can misguide and whosoever He misguides none can guide, I bear witness that there is no true god but Allah alone with no partner and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, his family, his companions, and those who follow them until the Day of Judgment.
To proceed, this is a brief treatise in the principles of jurisprudence that I have written in accordance to the prescribed curriculum for the third year of high school in the institutes of Islamic Knowledge and I have called it “The Foundations of the Knowledge of Usui”.
I ask Allah to make our actions purely for Allah and beneficial to the slaves of Allah; He is ever close, the Responder.
The definition of Usui ul-Fiqh is understood in two ways:
Firsdy with regards to the first component ‘Usui 3 and the second ‘Fiqh’.
‘Usui’ is the plural of the word ‘asF and it means whatever can have something else built upon it; from that we have the ‘asl’ (foundation) of a wall which is in essence its base; likewise, the foundation of a tree which has many branches sprouting from it. As Allah the Most High says:
‘Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky?’ (14:24)
c Fiqh\ linguistically means understanding, as is the case in the statement of Allah the Most High:
4 And untie the knot from my tongue. So that they may understand my speech/ (20:27-28)
And its use in the science of jurisprudence is: knowledge of the r ulin gs of the Shariah along with their specific evidences.
The meaning of the word ma rifah’ is knowledge and conjecture; because rulings of fiqh can be perceived with certainty or speculation, as is the case in many issues of fiqh 1
The meaning of the words legal rulings’ (al-ahkam asshar’iyyah) is: rulings derived from the legislation, such as the obligatory or prohibitive nature of something, so from this is excluded rulings based on intellect; such as the knowledge that the whole of something is always bigger than any individual part, also general rulings like rain falling during a clear wintery night.
The meaning of the word: ‘process’ (al-‘amaleyyah) is whatever is not connected to beliefs, such as the prayer and zakat, so from this we can exclude all those things which are connected with beliefs; such as Tawhid and knowing the
names and attributes of Allah, so none of these things are called fiqh in jurisprudence.
The meaning of the words: ‘specific evidences’ (al-adillah at-tafslleyah) is: evidences of fiqh that are coupled with detailed matters of fiqh, so from this (definition) we can exclude Usui ul-Fiqh itself, because its scope is limited to the general evidences of fiqh. Secondly, with regards to it being a label for this particular science, then it is defined as: a knowledge where the evidences of fiqh are determined in general and how they are to be benefitted from and the condition of the beneficiary.
The meaning of the word ‘generality’ (al-ijmaliyyah) is: general rules, such as the saying: commanding indicates obligation and forbidding indicates prohibition, and good health requires [that whatever has to be implemented] be implemented.
So from this [definition], we can exclude specific evidences, as they are not mentioned in Usui ul-Fiqh except by way of giving an example for the rule.
The meaning of the words ‘and how to make full use of them’ (wa kayfiyat ul-istifadata minha) is: knowledge of how to allow the rulings to make full use of the evidences by studying the words and their implications, [distinguishing] the general from the specific, the restricted from the unrestricted and the abrogated from the abrogating and other than that; so by virtue of his insight the faqih can benefit from the evidences of fiqh and the rulings.