The Shari`a ("way") is the sum total of God's unchanging will for
human behavior. The term is therefore used to designate Islamic law as a whole,
or as an abstraction.
Fiqh ("understanding") is the human endeavor to determine what God's
will is in any concrete situation. The term is therefore applied to the science
of law, and to the body of detailed regulations that make up actual statements
of Islamic law (its "branches" as opposed to its "roots").
Here is an outline of the topics discussed in one very typical short manual
of fiqh (by the Malikite scholar Ibn Abi Zayd):
- Belief, which receives only brief treatment, but is necessary for
obedience to be valid.
- Ritual law (`ibadat, literally acts of worship):
- purity: wudu' (ablution)
and ghusl (bathing)
- salah (prayer)
- sawm (fasting)
- zakah (alms tax), and the alternative jizya (poll
tax) for dhimmis (protected
- hajj (pilgrimage)
- Social law (mu`amalat, literally ways of treating one another):
- jihad (warfare)
- marriage and divorce
- commercial law (e.g. no interest)
- hudud (prescribed punishments) enforced by a qadi (judge)
- court procedures
- Personal conduct:
- grooming and dress
- food laws: halal and
- popular practices
A few important general concepts that are operative in fiqh are:
The opinions or statements
expressed herein should not be taken as a position of or endorsement by the
University of Oklahoma.