Treatise on the Foundations of
Islamic Jurisprudence TRANSLATED
BY MAJID KHADDURI
On Legal Knowledge
29. Someone asked me: What is [legal] knowledge
and how much should men know of it?
30. Shafi’i replied: Legal knowledge is of
two kinds: one is for the general public, and no sober and mature person
should be ignorant of it.
31. He asked: For example?
32. [Shafi’i] replied: For example, that the
daily prayers are five, that men owe it to God to fast the month of Ramadan,
to make the pilgrimage to the [Sacred] House whenever they are able, and to
[pay] the legal alms in their estate; that He [God] has prohibited usury,
adultery, homicide, theft, [the drinking of] wine, and [everything] of that
sort which He has obligated men to comprehend, to perform, to pay in their
property, and to abstain from [because] He has forbidden it to them.
This kind of knowledge may be found textually
in the Book of God, or may be found generally among the people of Islam. The
public relates it from the preceding public and ascribes it to the Apostle of
God, nobody ever questioning its ascription or its binding force upon them. It
is the kind of knowledge which admits of error neither in its narrative nor in
its interpretation; it is not permissible to question it.
33. He asked: What is the second kind?
34. Shafi’i replied: It consists of the
detailed duties and rules obligatory on men, concerning which there exists
neither a text in the Book of God, nor regarding most of them, a sunna.
Whenever a sunna exists [in this case], it is of the kind related by few
authorities, not by the public, and is subject to different interpretations
arrived at by analogy.
35. He asked: Is [legal knowledge on this kind
as obligatory as the other, or is it not obligatory so that he who acquires
such knowledge performs a supererogatory act, and he who neglects it falls not
into error? Or, is there a third kind, derived from a narrative (khabar) or
36. [Shafi’i] replied: There is a third kind
37. He asked: Will you explain it, give its
source, and state what [portion] of it is obligatory, and on whom it is
binding and on whom it is not binding?
38. [Shafi’i] replied: The public is
incapable of knowing this kind of knowledge, nor can all specialists obtain
it. But those who do obtain it should not all neglect it. If some can obtain
it, the others are relieved of the duty [of obtaining it]; but those who do
obtain it will be rewarded.
ON THE OBLIGATION
OF MAN TO ACCEPT
THE AUTHORITY OF THE PROPHET
A Declaration Concerning the Duty Imposed by God, as Laid Down in His
Book, [Ordering Men] To Follow the Prophet’s Sunna
86. Shafi’i said: God has placed His
Apostle—[in relation to] His religion, His commands and His Book—in the
position made clear by Him as a distinguishing standard of His religion by
imposing the duty of obedience to Him as well as prohibiting disobedience to
Him. He has made His merits evident by associating belief in His Apostle with
the belief in Him. For God, Blessed and Most High, said:
So believe in God and His Apostles, and do not say: “Three.” Refrain;
[it will be] better for you. God is only one God. Glory be to Him. His
having a son is something alien to him [Q. IV, 169].
The believers are only those who have believed in God and His Apostle,
and who when they are with him on some common affair do not go away until
they ask his permission [Q. XXIV, 62].
Thus [God] prescribed that the perfect beginning of the faith, to which all
other things are subordinate, shall be the belief in Him and then in His
Apostle. For if a person believes only in Him, not in His Apostle, the name of
the perfect faith will never apply to him until he believes in His Apostle
together with Him.
So the Apostle laid down the sunna [of reciting the Prophet’s name
together with that of God] for testing the faith of every man [as the
following tradition indicates]:
Malik b. Anas told us from Hilal b. Usama from
Ata’ b. Yasar from Umar b. al-Hakam, who said:
I went to the Apostle of God with a slave-girl and I asked him: ‘I have
taken an oath [to free a slave]; may I free her?’ ‘Where is God?’ the
Apostle asked her. ‘In heaven,’ she answered. ‘And who am I?’ asked
he. ‘You are the Apostle of God,’ she answered. ‘You may free her,’
[the Prophet] said.
[The transmitter’s name, Umar b. al-Hakam — Shafi’i says—should
read Mu’awiya b. al-Hakam, for Malik, I believe, has not correctly reported
the name, as others did.
87. Shafi’i said: God has imposed the duty on
men to obey His divine communications as well as the sunna of His Apostle. For
He said in His Book:
O our Lord, raise up amongst them an Apostle, one of selves, to recite to
them Thy signs and to teach them the Book and Wisdom and to purify them.
Verily Thou art All-mighty, All-wise [Q. II, 123].
And He, glorious be His praise, said:
And also we have sent among you an Apostle, one of yourselves, to recite
to you our signs, and purify you, to teach you the Book and the Wisdom, and
to teach you what you did not know [Q. II, 146].
God bestowed a favor upon the believers when He raised up amongst them an
Apostle, one of themselves, to recite His signs to them, to purify them and
to teach them the Book, although they had formerly been in manifest error
[Q. III, 158].
And He, glorious be His praise, said:
It is He who has raised up an Apostle among the untutored people, one of
their number to recite to them His signs, to purify them, and to teach them
the Book and the Wisdom, though formerly they had been in manifest error [Q.
But remember the goodness which God has shown you and how much of the
Book and the Wisdom He has sent down to you to admonish you thereby [Q. II,
God has sent down to thee the Book and the Wisdom, and has taught thee
what thou did not know before; the bounty of God towards thee is ever great
[Q. IV, 113].
And call to mind the signs of God and the Wisdom which are recited in
your houses; verily God is gentle, well-informed [Q. XXXIII, 34].
So God mentioned His Book—which is the
Qur’an—and Wisdom, and I have heard that those who are learned in the
Quran—whom I approve—hold that Wisdom is the sunna of the Apostle of God.
This is like what [God Himself] said; but God knows best! For the Quran is
mentioned [first], followed by Wisdom; [then] God mentioned His favor to
mankind by teaching them the Qur’an and Wisdom. So it is not permissible for
Wisdom to be called here [anything] save the sunna of the Apostle of God. For
[Wisdom] is closely linked to the Book of God, and God has imposed the duty of
obedience to His Apostle, and imposed on men the obligation to obey his
orders. So it is not permissible to regard anything as a duty save that set
forth in the Quran and the sunna of His Apostle. For [God], as we have [just]
stated, prescribed that the belief in His Apostle shall be associated with the
belief in Him.
The sunna of the Apostle makes evident what God
meant [in the text of His Book], indicating His general and particular
[commands]. He associated the Wisdom [embodied] in the sunna with his Book,
but made it subordinate [to the Book]. Never has God done this for any of His
creatures save His Apostle.
© The Islamic Texts Society 2002