The science of legal theory (usul al-fiqh) studies how to infer the rulings of Sacred Law directly from the Qur’an and sunna. This course will clear your confusions over (1) whether you should interpret Qur’anic verses or hadiths literally or figuratively; (2) whether or not a religious actions that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) never did is bid‘a; (3) and whether or not you should follow your madhhab (school of jurisprudence) if you finds a hadith that contradicts it. Since the Qur’an and Sunna are both in Arabic, some knowledge of Arabic, however, is a highly recommended prerequisite to this course. But the instructor makes every effort to explain things in a way that can be understood by English speakers without any knowledge of Arabic.

Curricular Context

  • This is a first-level course in Step Two
  • Completing Step One before taking this course

Course Outline

WEEK 1: The Author, the Text, Fiqh, and Usul al-Fiqh (Part 1) <

  • (1) Imam al-Juwayni and the Waraqat
  • (2) Usul, Fiqh, and Usul al-Fiqh
  • (3) What is Fiqh?

WEEK 2: The Author, the Text, Fiqh, and Usul al-Fiqh (Part 2)

  • (4) The Rulings of Sacred Law
  • (5) Probabilistic Inference
  • (6) What is Usul al-Fiqh?

WEEK 3: Speech (Part 1)

  • (7) What is Speech and Why is it Important?
  • (8) Kinds of Speech in Legal Inference
  • (9) Literal and Figurative Speech

WEEK 4: Speech (Part 2)

  • (10) How to Discern Figurative Speech
  • (11) Four Examples of Figurative Speech

WEEK 5: Commands and Prohibitions (Part 1)

  • (12) Commands, Prohibitions, and Moral Responsibility
  • (13) How to Fulfill One’s Moral Responsibility

WEEK 6: Commands and Prohibitions (Part 2)

  • (14) Who is Morally Responsible?
  • (15) Is a Prohibited Action Also Invalid?

WEEK 7: Inclusive and Non-Inclusive Expressions (Part 1)

  • (16) What are Inclusive Expressions?
  • (17) Excluding from Inclusive Expressions

WEEK 8: Inclusive and Non-Inclusive Expressions (Part 1)

  • (18) Excluding by the Sunna
  • (19) Excluding by Analogy
  • (20) Excluding by Revelatory Context

WEEK 9: Determinate, Indeterminate, and Probabilistic Expressions (Part 1)

  • (21) The Different Strengths of Linguistic Signification

WEEK 10: Determinate, Indeterminate, and Probabilistic Expressions (Part 2)

  • (22) The Figurative Interpretation of Probabilistic Expressions
  • (23) Why Anthropomorphists are Mistaken

WEEK 11: Prophetic Actions (Part 1)

  • (24) Prophets are Divinely Protected from Sin
  • (25) What can be inferred from the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did something?

WEEK 12: Prophetic Actions (Part 2)

  • (26) Prophetic Approval
  • (27) What can be inferred from the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not do something?

What You Will Learn:

  • Explain what Islamic legal theory is and why it needs to be studied
  • Learn how to interpret the Qur’an and Sunna
  • Memorize the definitions of key terms in the science of Islamic legal theory
  • Appreciate the depth of scholarship of all four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence
  • Apply the techniques of Islamic legal theory to gain clarity on contemporary religious debates about literalism, ijtahad and taqlid, and bid‘a

Course Requirements:

  • Previous study of several courses in Sacred Law (fiqh) is recommended.
  • A familiarity with the Arabic language is highly recommended.

Course Format: 12 downloadable lessons and three live classes

About the Course Text

This course is a contemporary explanation of al-Waraqat, a primer on Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) by Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 478 A.H. / 1085 C.E.). Imam al-Juwayni was an imam (i.e., someone who is taken as an exemplar) of the Islamic sciences in the fullest sense of the word: he authored multi-volume seminal works in Shafi‘i jurisprudence, Islamic theology, and Islamic legal theory, that became the basis for all future work in each science. His al-Waraqat is a short work that brings his vast scholarship in the science of Islamic legal theory down to the level of an absolute beginner. Ever since it was written almost a thousand years ago, students of the Shafi‘i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools have successfully used it to begin their study of Islamic legal theory. A translation of the course text is provided as part of the course materials.

Significant Dates

Registration Opens: September 30, 2019

Registration Closes: November 25, 2019

Note: Course material will be available on the first day of classes, October 21, 2019.

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“Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward”– The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)