The Islamic Academy Diary: The Fiqh of Fiqh *
Posted Dec 27, 2007

The Islamic Academy Diary: The Fiqh of Fiqh *

By Hafiz Muhammad Amin Kholwadia

The purpose of revelation is to guide man and facilitate his journey towards his ultimate destination: his Lord (Who is also his Guide). The purpose of revelation is to allow man to maneuver in his journey without having to divert or digress from the path. True revelation propels the sojourner to travel and consolidate his commitment to his goal. Revelation would be beguiling if it allowed the wayfarer the ‘luxuries of non-commitment and double standards”. Revelation would be the devil’s best weapon if it compromised with retrogression in the name of accommodation and flexibility Revelation is like the path and goal it guides towards: straight and strong.

FIQH in its pristine form is the understanding of revelation. History has eroded its meaning and has left only a miserly portion for us to witness. Fiqh was never restricted to the “do’s and don’ts” of life in the early era of its existence. Reflect, for instance, upon how Hasan of Basra defined this very word fiqh: “Fiqh is to understand the properties of the self (nafs): what is beneficial for it and what is detrimental to it.” Or perhaps, one might wonder how fiqh inspired its bearers to become beacons of spirituality - something which has conveniently escaped the academics of fiqh today. The truth is that the early advocates of fiqh understood revelation and the post-colonial ‘Fuqaha” bicker about the eroded version of fiqh.

A faqeeh (literally one who understands) visualizes the path, the destination and the various distractions and hindrances. A faqeeh will inform the sojourner of his/her destination and of what it takes to get there. A faqeeh will understand that a human being is not a machine or a computer which is programmed to function by an operator. A faqeeh will facilitate the wayfarer’s journey and help him reach his destination because he himself is a traveler.

Conversely, a faqeeh will not encourage the lazy and the inert to indulge in their apathy and to constantly look for short-cuts and conveniences. The faqeeh will not compromise with unfounded excuses to change the route because certain individuals find it boring and unattractive. The faqeeh will not create pot holes in the road in order to avoid natural undulations. A faqeeh will always know and advocate that the only way to reach the Lord is to specifically follow His directions.

All this applies, of course, if revelation has created a desire to travel and progress. If it hasn’t, then the role of a faqeeh is not to indulge in the semantics of neo-modernist fiqh, but rather to spark and ignite the forces of action within potential wayfarers. And that is the fiqh of fiqh.

Originally published in the July-August 1991 print edition of

The American Muslim


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