Book Review: Fiqh al-Imam

Fiqh al Imam

Title: Fiqh al-Imam : Key proofs in Hanafi fiqh, on taqlid and the Hanafi interpretation of the Prophetic statement “Pray as you have observed me pray”
Publisher: White Thread Press 2004 (Previously published in 1993 & 2003)
Author: Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf

Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf has studied in England, India, South Africa and Syria under a number of traditional scholars. He received formal authorizations [ijazat] from his teachers in the major Islamic sciences, including a specialization in the science of answering legal questions [ifta’]. Mufti Abdur-Rahman has also completed a Masters and PhD in Islamic Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, England. In the introduction of this book, it states that the first edition of this book was published in 1996 when Mufti Abdur-Rahman was in his fifth year of study in Bury, North England. A detailed biography may be found here:

The aim of this book is to present the reader with a practical understanding of following a school of thought (taqlid) and Hanafi proofs and evidences for certain aspects of the prayer that have been a source of confusion among the Muslim population. The back cover of the book offers a summary to the reader:

The first part of this book seeks to clarify certain aspects of taqlid that have been misunderstood and gravely distorted. It sheds light on the necessity of taqlid, its history, and its role in today’s world. The second part includes several chapters devoted to issues regarding prayer [salat] according to the Hanafi school of law. Through illustrative examples and detailed discussions, the chapters on prayer sufficiently demonstrate the sophisticated legal philosophy employed by the Hanafi school (and, indeed, all the madhabs) in their derivation of legal rulings from the source texts of Islam.

Although this book is a Hanafi based commentary, the introduction by Mufti Abdur-Rahman states:

It must be remembered that the intent of this work has not been to, in any way, discredit the opinions of any of the other three traditional schools of jurisprudence (Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali). Each of the four schools has its sources in the Qur’an and hadith, and they differ only in the interpretation, application, and scholarly analysis of those sources. Therefore, it is very possible that if one finds the arguments and evidences presented in the works on Hanafi jurisprudence to be strong and convincing, he may feel the same way when reading literature from the other three schools. It is for this reason that the great Imams had a deep and mutual respect for one another’s legal positions. Consequently, accepting as valid the opinions of all four legal schools would become a cornerstone of Sunni jurisprudence. However, the etiquette that was and still observed by each of the four schools is:

Our opinion is correct with the possibility of being incorrect, and their opinion is incorrect with the possibility of being correct.

Hence, the scholars of one school do not criticize the scholars of another school, but rather understand that each is following an interpretation of the same sources of Shari’a (the Quran and hadith) as propounded by their Imams – all of whom possessed the ability to infer rulings directly from the Quran and the hadiths of the Messenger (peace be upon him).

There are two parts to the book. The first part discusses taqlid (following a school of law), its definition and its necessity. Evidences from hadiths which support taqlid are presented and commented on. The evils of discarding taqlid are discussed, the issues of following an Imam, and then the concept of following one particular Imam. Part one then moves on to describing the qualities of Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa, his rank as a Tabi’i (Follower – as one who saw the Prophet’s Companions), his rank as a hadith master and as mujtahid (independently capable of deriving juridical rulings). The last section of part one describes the companion ‘Abdullah Ibn Masud, his rank, his virtues, his knowledge of the Qur’an. This is important because many of his narrations for the basis of numerous opinions in the Hanafi school. This is followed by a fascinating chapter titled, ‘The True Position According to Allah’.

The second part includes detail discussions, proofs, and the analysis of counter arguments, followed by a conclusion on each aspect of the prayer. The second part discussed the following aspects of the prayer: The Distance Between the Feet, The Position of the Hands, Reciting Behind the Imam, The Issue of Amin (loud or silent), Raising the Hands for Ruku, Tawarruk or Iftirash (the method of sitting during prayer), The Sunnah Prayer of Fajr, How many Rak’ats of Witr, Prayer After Asr, Prayer During the Friday Sermon, The Number of Rak’ats in Tarawih and lastly, Combining Two Prayers (during travel).

The uniqueness of this book is that during the discussions the author points out many principals of hadith (usul al-hadith) and principals of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) leaving the reader with greater understanding and appreciation of the methodology of how rulings are derived. An understanding is gained regarding why certain evidences and hadiths are accepted and followed while others are not. For example in the chapter of Prayer During the Friday Sermon the book states:

One of the principals of hadith [usul al-hadith] is that any narration supported by the constant practice of the Companions and Followers will acquire enough strength to be used as evidence. This means that the message of the above hadith, despite the criticism leveled at its chain, can be accepted. The fact that there are many other rigorously authenticated [sahih] hadiths that relay the same message as the above hadith makes it even more legitimate to use as proof.

Mufti Abdur-Rahman also explains historical realities when relevant, for example in the chapter, Raising the Hands for Ruku, it states:

The whole debate concerning “raising the hands” revolves around two points. The first is regarding the differences found in the hadiths pertaining to this issue, and the second is regarding the differences found in the practice of the people of the three great cities of Islam during the first century A.H. – Makka, Madina, and Kufa.

Imam Malik based his opinion on the conduct [ta’amul] of the people of Madina, who did not observe the practice of raising the hands. Hence, he was of the opinion that one should not raise the hands anywhere after the opening takbir. It states in al-Mudawwana:

Imam Malik said, “I do not consider the raising of the hands to be part of any takbir of the prayer, neither of any descending or ascending motion, except at the beginning of prayer.” Ibn al-Qasim states, “Raising the hands [at any other point] was considered a weak practice according to Imam Malik” (al-Mudawanna al-kubra 1:71).

This is Imam Malik sitting the capital of Islam at the time, the city of Madina, where the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and the rightly guided Caliphs [Khulafa’ rashidun] had resided, stating that raf’ al-yadayn was a weak practice.

The opinions of Imam Shafi’i, on the other hand, were usually based on the fiqh of Makka. Hence, he preferred the raising of the hands, as it was the practice of most of the inhabitants of Makka in accordance with the teachings of ‘Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr (may Allah be pleased with him).

Other than these two cities, the most significant center of Islamic learning was Kufa. ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) had sent ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) to Kufa as its teacher, in addition to approximately fifteen hundred other Companions who had taken up residence there. ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) had transferred the center of the Islamic caliphate to Kufa as well, where he took up residence. Hence the people of Kufa, based on the teachings of Ibn Mas’ud and ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with them both) did not practice raising of the hands.

In the conclusion of this chapter it states:

To expound further, the Hanafis do acknowledge that the Messenger (peace be upon him) raised his hands at various instances in the salat that are outlined in the hadiths; however, they recognize this as a temporary practice.

A detailed table of contents, an excerpt and further details and videos on the book can be accessed here:

May Allah increase us all in knowledge and proper comportment when dealing with those who differ with us in juristic understandings and may He unite our hearts. May Allah increase Mufti Abdur-Rahman and accept his works and facilitate his continuing efforts in producing Islamic books in the English language. Ameen.

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