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Legal Theory & Jurisprudence

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Islamic law (sharīʿah)


By reviewing the entire body of Islamic law (sharīʿah), scholars were able to identify five main values that its rulings, taken as a whole, aim to preserve. These are called the Objectives of Islamic Law; they are those elements without which both worldly and religious life would become disordered and incomplete. They are, in order of priority:


  1. Religion
  2. Life
  3. Intellect
  4. Family
  5. Wealth (or Property)


Islamic law, both as a whole and in individual rulings, supports and protects, primarily, our relationship with God. Its next priority is to support and nurture conditions conducive to life, and to protect life from harm and senseless loss. The third objective is to create an environment conducive to the use and development of the intellect, which results from protecting the mind from harm, whether material or psychological. After that, the preservation of lineage and family is prioritized as the fourth objective. The last objective is to protect people’s personal assets, for such protection is necessary for a healthy society.


Islamic jurisprudence is a documented code containing the injunctions of revelation.

It is drawn from four main sources:

  1. The Quran. The direct word of God is the first source of Islamic teachings. When it comes to deducing the law from the Quran, specialized training in various disciplines is required.
  2. The Sunna, or Prophetic way: Muhammad, peace be upon him, is unanimously accepted as the perfect interpretation of the Quran. The second primary source of rulings in Islamic jurisprudence is therefore based on his statements, actions, approvals, and disapprovals, and it is used by scholars as an explanation and commentary of the Quran, and thus of the religion itself. The primary source of understanding the Prophetic Way is through the body of narrations (ḥadīths) about Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Each narration has been evaluated as to its level of reliability based on a thorough examination of the narrators within the chains of transmission of the narration.
  3. Consensus of qualified jurists on a particular issue.
  4. Analogical legal reasoning, used to apply established rulings to a new circumstance, or one that has not been explicitly mentioned in the primary sources, by identifying the underlying reason for the established ruling and investigating if the same reason also exists in the new circumstance.

The scholarly principles and methods of understanding the main sources of Islamic Law are embodied in a legal school of thought. Four main juristic schools are still followed today. The schools of law all agree on the primary sources of law, differing mainly in their analysis and utilization. As a result, all the schools agree on the essential issues and differ only on finer details that are secondary in nature.

Through scholarly approaches and an unbroken chain of transmission, the Islamic sciences, including the Quran, Sunnah and Jurisprudence, have been preserved throughout the ages and remain a living guide that encompasses every facet of life, imbuing even the seemingly mundane with a deeper significance.


In an ever-changing world, with new questions arising that require answers from scholars of religion, the role of the scholars has been to present questions to the sacred law to see if there is a specific reference to the issue at hand, or to exercise analogical reasoning (Qiyas) as per the injunctions of the sacred law. Considerations such as a particular circumstance, necessity and custom are also taken into account by the jurist. Adaptability applies to rulings of Islamic law to the extent that the above considerations are applicable to a particular ruling.