The Hanafi Madhhab’s Approach to Classifying Legal Rulings

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


Please explain the Hanafi classification of legal rulings.


The scholars agree that in reality, every human action has a ruling unique to it. Killing an innocent human and an innocent petty lie are both unlawful (haram); however, one is immensely more grave than the other.

The Hanafis and the other schools agree on the main five-part classification of the rulings of the Shariah into:

  • Obligatory
  • Sunna
  • Permitted
  • Disliked
  • Prohibited

However, the Hanafis then note that obligation and prohibition may both be established in one of two ways:

  • Through a decisive text
  • Through a probabilistic text.

It is undeniable that an obligation or prohibition established through a decisive text is more serious in its implications than that which is established through a probabilistic text.

Thus, they divided obligations into:

  • The obligatory (fard)
  • The necessary (wajib).

And, through detailed, careful study of the primary texts–discussed at length in the more expansive works of the fundamentals of legal methodology (usul al-fiqh)–they deduced the differences in implications between the obligatory and necessary.

The same applies to prohibitions, which were thus divided into:

  • The prohibited (haram)
  • The prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman).

Similarly, we see that the sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) consists of:

  • Matters that he strongly emphasized (or warned against leaving), and
  • Matters that he did sometimes or by way of habit.

Thus, the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace was divided into:

  • The emphasized sunna (sunna mu’akkada)
  • The recommended (mustahabb or mandub).

The rulings related to each of these two levels of sunna acts differs, too, as described.

[Sources: Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari, Kashf al-Asrar ‘ala Usul al-Bazdawi]

And Allah alone gives success.

Related Answer:
The Rulings of the Sacred Law

[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.