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Refuting the Claim that the Categorical Terms Used by the Scholars of Fiqh Are an Innovation

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

Defending the scholars, who have divided the religion into chapters such that each part of the legislation can be understood more comprehensively, and in doing so have not added anything to the religion.

[Q]: Some people have objected to the jurists regarding their usage of terms like: prerequisites, pillars, obligatory, compulsory, negators, preventers, and other similar terms [when discussing Islamic judicial issues]. They say: Where is the proof from the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah for the use of such terms? Did the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) ever say: The prerequisites of ṣalāh is such-and-such, and its pillars are such-and-such, and its obligatory aspects are such-and-such? If you say: Yes, then narrate that for us. If you say: No, then why have you innovated that which the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) never said?

[A]: This question actually proves the lack of understanding possessed by the one who has posed it, and that he is unable to differentiate between an end goal and that which represents a means to its attainment. When the scholars mention the prerequisites, pillars and obligatory aspects of a particular act, they are not adding to legislation. Rather, at the very most, they are gathering and organising what is proven by the legislation itself, to make it easier to encompass the contents of judicial sciences, which then aids in understanding it.

They have done so not to add to the legislation of Allāh, rather their goal is only to make it easier. The means utilised in the attainment of a goal should adopt the ruling of the goal itself. Just as Muslims—continually until today—build schools, compile books and reproduce them. In modern times, they print them in publishing houses. Could a person not similarly say: Why are you printing books when, at the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), they used to write by hand? Why are you taking part in an innovative matter?

We say: These are representative of a means which Allāh has made easy for His slaves. Such that their matters are made simpler and more expeditious. The scholars have not added a single thing to the legislation of Allāh. Rather, they have divided it into chapters and ordered it.

For example, the saying of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Allāh does not accept a ṣalāh except in a state of purity.” It may be understood from this ḥadīth that if a person was to perform ṣalāh while not in a state of purity, his ṣalāh would be considered invalid. Herego, purity is a prerequisite for the validity of ṣālāh. What is the difference between that and if I was to say: The validity of ṣalāh is limited by the prerequisite of purity. There is no ṣalāh for the one who does not purify himself.

Therefore, we say: There should be no objection to this practice employed by the jurists (رحمهم الله). Rather, this practice is among the acts we should be showing them gratitude with regards to. This is because it has aided and increased the ease with which the servants of Allāh understand His sharīʿah.

Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2:93-95
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: June 20, 2024
Edited: June 20, 2024

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