shari`a / fiqh

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):

  1. Belief, which receives only brief treatment, but is necessary for obedience to be valid.
  2. Ritual law (`ibadat, literally acts of worship):
  3. Social law (mu`amalat, literally ways of treating one another):
  4. Personal conduct:

A few important general concepts that are operative in fiqh are:


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