Sources of Islamic Law and Teachings
Sources of Islamic Law and Teachings

Sources of Islamic Law and Teachings


This postulation is devoted to Allah, my Creator and my Master, and envoy,
Mohammed (May Allah favor and give him), who showed us the motivation behind life. My
country Pakistan is the hottest womb; Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad; my second
wonderful home; My awesome guardians, who never quit giving of themselves in incalculable ways, My dearest friend, who drives me through the valley of dimness with the light of trust and support, My cherished siblings and sisters; especially my dearest sibling, who remains by me when things look disheartening, My beloved Parents: whom I can’t compel myself to quit loving. All the general population in my life who touch my heart, I commit to this research.


The primary sources of Islamic law are the Holy Book (The Quran), The Sunnah (the traditions or known practices of the Prophet Muhammad), Ijma’ (Consensus), and Qiyas (Analogy).  This section of the research guide specifically presents the primary sources that include the actual rules of law created by God and the Prophet Muhammad. The following below websites and books below present English translations of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and other sources as well The Noble Quran has been translated into the modern English Language by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali, Ph.D. & Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. This online edition does not include Arabic text, footnotes, or hadith. Altafsir is a completely free, non-profit website providing access to the largest and greatest online collection of Quranic Commentary (tafsir or Tafseer), translation, recitation, and essential resources in the world. Translations of the Holy Qur’an in various languages. Please note that not all of the following translations are authentic. The Qur’an is the principal source of Islamic law, the Sharia. It contains the rules by which the Muslim world is governed (or should govern itself) and forms the basis for relations between man and God, between individuals, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, as well as between a man and things that are part of creation. The Sharia contains the rules by which a Muslim society is organized and governed, and it provides the means to resolve conflicts among individuals and between the individual and the state. There is no dispute among Muslims that the Qur’an is the basis of the Sharia and that its specific provisions are to be scrupulously observed. The Hadith and Sunna are complementary sources to the Qur’an and consist of the sayings of the Prophet and accounts of his deeds. The Sunna helps to explain the Qur’an, but it may not be interpreted or applied in any way which is inconsistent with the Qur’an.


The Qur’an contains a variety of law-making provisions and legal proscriptions interspersed throughout its chapters (suwar) and verses (ayat). A number of rules exist for interpreting these provisions, such as the position of a given ayah within the context of the surah, which in turn is interpreted in accordance with its place in the sequence of revelations, its reference to other revelations, and its historical context in relation to particular conditions which existed at the time of the given revelation. These and other rules are known as the science of interpretation (ILM usul aI-fiqh). According to these rules, for example, one initially is to refer to a specific provision and then to a general provision dealing with a particular situation. No general provision can be interpreted to contradict a specific provision, and a specific rule will supersede a general proposition. A general provision, however, is always interpreted in the broadest manner, while a specific provision is interpreted in the narrowest manner. Reasoning by analogy is permitted, as are applications by analogy, except where expressly prohibited. Simplicity and clear language are always preferred. Similarly, the clear spirit of certain prescriptions cannot be altered by inconsistent interpretations. A policy-oriented interpretation within the confines of the rules of jurisprudence is permissible and even recommended, as is the case with the doctrine of ijtihad (progressive reasoning by analogy).

Avoid condemning the Muslim to Hudud whenever you can, and when you can find a way out for the Muslim then release him for it. If the Imam errs it is better that he errs in favor of innocence (pardon) than in favor of guilt (punishment).

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The Prophet’s Hadith

“Were people to be given in accordance with their claim, men would claim the fortunes and lives of (other) people, but the onus of proof is on the claimant and the taking of an oath is incumbent upon him who denies.”

The Prophet’s Hadith

Muslim scholars do not consider Islam to be an evolving religion, but rather a religion and legal system which applies to all times. It is, therefore, the application that is susceptible to evolution. Indeed, the provisions of the Qur’an are such that by their disciplined interpretation, with the aid of the Hadith and Sunna and other sources of interpretation, Islam can, as intended, provide the solution to contemporary social problems.

Fourteen centuries ago Islam was a spiritual, social, and legal revolution. Its potential for effecting progress remains unchanged. This is essentially the belief of enlightened fundamentalist Muslims. Islamic fundamentalism is not, therefore, a regressive view of history and contemporary reality. Islam at the height of its civilization, between the seventh and eleventh centuries, was neither repressive nor regressive. It was a progressive, humanistic, and legalistic force for reform and justice.

Muslim law is a personal law that is applied only to Muslims. It is applied by courts in India to Mohamedans not in all, but in some matters only. Muslin law in India means that portion of Islamic civil law that is applied to Muslims as a personal law. Muslim law is the body of law that is derived from the Quran and other recorded saying of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. However Islamic law talked about man’s duties rather than his rights. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of god’ & in the secular sense, Islam means the establishment of peace.

The origin of Muslim law is Arabia where Mohammad enunciated Islam. The object of Islam is to create a sense of obedience and submission to Allah. His ordinances and thereby to walk on the right path. Those who follow this path are Muslim. According to Amir Ali Muslim is any person who professes the religion of Islam, in other words, accepts the unity of god and the prophetic character of Mohammad. Thus to be a Muslim only two things are required- one is that Allah is one and the second is the prophethood of Mohammad. Islamic law is a branch of Muslim theology, that gives practical expression to the faith, which lays down how Muslims should conduct themselves through their religion, both toward god and towards other men.

Muslim law consists of the injunction of the Quran, of the traditions introduced by the practice of the prophet (sunna), of the common opinion of the jurists (ijma), and of the analogical deductions of these three (qiyas). Further, it has been supplemented by juristic preference (Istihsan), public policy (Istislah), precedent (Taqlid), and independent interpretation (Ittihad).

Sources of Muslim law is classified into two categories that are primary sources and secondary sources.

Primary Sources
Primary sources are those on which Muslim law relied. These sources are the foundation of Muslim law. Primary sources of Muslim law are:

  • Quran
  • Sunnat
  • Ijma
  • Qiyas

1. Quran

Muslim law is founded upon the Al-Quran which is believed by Muslims to have existed from eternity, subsisting in the very essence of god. The word Quran has been derived from the Arabic word Quarra which means to read. The Quran is, Al-furqan i.e., one showing truth from falsehood and right from wrong. The word Quran which is the ‘divine communication’ and revelation to the prophet of Islam is the first source of Muslim law.
Quran is a primary source of Muslim law, in point of time as well as in importance. The Islamic religion and Islamic society owes its birth to the word of Quran. It is a paramount source of Muslim law in point of importance because it contains the very word of god and it is foundation upon which the very structure of Islam rests Quran regulates individual; social, secular, and spiritual life of Muslims.
It contains the very words of god as communicated to prophet mohammad through angel Gabriel. It was given to the world in fragmentary forms, extending over a period of 23 years. It originally had for its objects repealing objectionable customs, such as, usury, unlimited polygamy and gambling, etc., and effecting social reforms, such as raising the legal status of women and equitable division of the matters of inheritance and succession.
The Quran can be no way altered or changed, thus, even the courts of law have no authority to change the apparent meaning of the verses as it does have an earthly origin. This view was held in Aga Mohammad Jaffer v. koolsom Beebee (1895). But whenever the Quran was silent on any particular matter, guidance was taken from the ‘sunnat’.

2. Sunnat

The word sunna means the trodden path & as this meaning shows it denotes some kind of practices and precedent. It is belief of Muslim that revelations were two kinds- manifest (zahir) and internal (batin). Manifest revelation is communication which is made by angel Gabriel under the direction of god to Mohammad in the very words of god. Quran is composed of manifest revelations.
Internal revelation is opinions of the prophet which is delivered from time to time on questions that happened to be raised before him. Sunna means the model behavior of the prophet. The narrations of what the prophet said, did or tacitly allowed is called hadis or traditions. The traditions, however, were not reduced to writing during lifetime of Mohammad. They have been preserved as traditions handed down from generation to generation by authorized persons. The importance of hadith as an important source of Muslim law has been laid down in the Quran itself.

Kinds Of Traditions: The Traditions Are Of Two Kinds:

  1. Sunnat
  2. Ahadis

These two have been classified into the following three classes on the basis of mode or manner in which it has actually originated:

  • Sunnat-ul-fail i.e., Traditions about which prophet did himself.
  • Sunnat-ul-qaul i.e., Traditions about which he enjoined by words.
  • Sunnat –ul-tuqrir i.e., The things done in his presence without his disapproval.

The three-class of Ahadisare:

  • Alhadis -i-mutwair i.e., Traditions that are of public and universal propriety and are held as absolutely authentic. In such hadis the chain is complete.
  • Ahadis -i-mashhoor i.e., Traditions which known to a majority of people, do not possess the character of universal propriety.
  • Ahadis-i-wahid i.e., Traditions which depend on isolated individuals.

Thus two sources, namely, the Quran and Sunna may thus be said to form the fundamental roots of Islamic law.

  1. Ijma

It was equally binding on the people to act on a principle (not contrary to the Quran or hadis ) which had been established by agreement among highly qualified legal scholars of any generations. Ijma has been defined by Sir Abdul Rahim as agreement of the jurists among the followers of Prophet Mohammad in a particular question of law. The validity of ijma, as containing a binding precedent, is based upon a hadis of the prophet which says that god will not allow His people to agree on an error. Ijma thus become a source of law. According to the classical theory, failing Quran and traditions, and consensus of opinion amongst the companions of the prophet is recognized as the best guide of law. Thus it is the third source of law, both in point of time and importance. The authority of ijma as a source of Muslim law is also founded on Quranand Hadith. The law is something living & changing. The aim of law is to fulfill the needs of the society. The principle of ijma is based upon the text i.e. god will not allow His people to agree on an error and whatever Muslims hold to be good is good before god. Muslims religion does not admit the possibility of further revelation after the death of the prophet, the principle of ijma is the only authority for legislation in the present Muslims system.

Kinds Of Ijma

Ijma is of three kinds:

  • Ijma of the companions of the prophet – is the consensual opinion of companion which is universally acceptable, throughout the Muslim world and is unrepealable.
  • Ijma of jurists- is the consensual opinion of jurists which is believed that its best ijma after ijma of companions. All the jurists should sit together and discussed the reasoning, and majority of the jurists is of the view that unanimity to form ijma.
  • Ijma of the people – is the opinion of Muslim population as a whole may have any importance but in actual practice ijma of Muslim public had no value with regard to legal matters but in matters related to religion, prayer and other observances have more value attached to it.

Ijma cannot be confined to any particular period or country. It is completed when the jurists, after due deliberation, come to a finding .it cannot be questioned or challenged by any individual jurist. Ijma of one age may be reversed or modified by the ijma of the same or subsequent age.

4) Qiyas

This is a last primary source of Muslim law. Qiyas means reasoning by analogy from above 3 sources i.e., Quran, Sunna and Ijma. In Qiyas rules are deduced by the exercise of reason.
Qiyas may be defined as a process of deduction by which the law of the text is applied to cases, which though not covered by the languages are governed by reason of text. Thus, it should be noted that Qiyas does not purport to create a new law, but merely to apply old established principles to new circumstances.

Conditions of Validity of Qiyas:

  • The original source from which Qiyas is deduced must be capable of being extended, that is it should not be of any special nature.
  • The original order of the Quran or hadith to which the process of Qiyas is applied should not have been abrogated or repealed.
  • The result of Qiyas should not be inconsistent with any other verse of Quran or any established Sunna.
  • Qiyas should be applied to ascertain a point of law and not to determine the meanings of words used.
  • The deduction must not be such as to involve a change in the law embodied in the text.

Thus it can be said that Qiyas is weak source of law and rules analogically deduced do not rank so high as authority, as those laid down by Quran and Hadith or by consensus of opinion (ijma).the reason is that with respect to analogical deductions one cannot be certain that they are what the law giver intended. Such deduction always rest upon the application of human resources which always are liable to err

Secondary Sources

These sources are not basic sources of Muslim law but the supplementary sources of Muslim law. The secondary sources of Muslim law are:

  • Urf or Custom
  • Judicial decision
  • Legislation
  • Equity, Justice, & Good conscience

Urf or Custom

Before the emergence of Islam in Arabia , customs were the basis of entire social life, religion, morality, trade and commerce. Custom has not been recognized as a source of law in a Muslim law. However, it cannot be denied that custom has always been given a place under Muslim law, if it is in conformity with Muslim law. For example, prophet mohammad never repeal the whole of the pre-Islamic customary law of Arabia. In various matter of Muslim law, custom play a significant role when the matter is relating to their:

  1. agricultural land;
  2. testamentary succession among certain communities; and
  3.  charities other than wakf, because these matters have not been included in the section 2 of Shariat Act,1937. Custom influenced the growth and formation of shariah in several ways:
  1. A number of texts, particularly traditions are based upon usages.
  2. A part of the shariah based upon tacit or silent approval of the prophet comprises many of Arab customs.
  3. Imam malik says that the customary conduct of the citizen of medina was a sufficient ijma to be relied upon in the absence of other texts.

Pre- Condition Of Valid Custom

  • Custom must be territorial.
  • It must be existing from memorable time i.e. ancient.
  • It must be continuous and certain and invariable.
  • Custom should not oppose the public policies.
  • Custom must not in contravention of Quran and Ijma.

Judicial Decision

These includes the decisions of privy council, the supreme court & high court of India, Judges explain what law is. These decisions are regarded as precedents for future cases. Judicial decision is one of the distinguish characteristic of English law. In India, the plan of Warren Hastings of 1772 made provision that it was only judiciary which introduced new set rules in personal laws of Hindus and Muslims.

There are number of judicial decisions which have given new dimension to Muslim law:

  • In Maini Bibi v. Choudhry Vakil Ahmad, the privy council held that a widow possesses the right to retain the property of her husband till her dower money was paid
  • In Bai Tahira v. Ali Hussain, the Supreme Court gave a new line of approach to the law of maintenance. The Supreme Court held that a woman will be entitled for maintenance under section 125 of criminal procedure code even though she has received a lump-sum amount under her customary law. A similar view also taken in Shah Bano’s case.

It may be concluded therefore, that to some extent, the courts in India have tried to modify the rules of Muslim personal law as applied in India. Unless overruled or negative by some legislative enactment, these rules through the decisions, continue to be a source of Muslim law.

Justice, equity, and good conscience

The doctrine of equity, justice & good conscience is regarded as one of the source of Muslim law. Abu Hanifa, the founder of hanafi sect of Sunni, expounded the principle that rule of law based on analogy could be set aside at the option of the judge on a liberal construction or juristic preference to meet the requirements of a particular case. These principles of Muslim law are known as Istihsan or juristic equity. Istihsan literally means approbation and may be translated as liberal construction or juristic preference.

This term was used by great jurist Abu Hanifa to express the libert that he assumed of laying down the law, which in his discretion, the special circumstances required, rather than law which analogy indicated. Several areas of Muslim were modified so as to meet the changing conditions in India.


In India, Muslims are also governed by the various legislation passed either by the parliament or by state legislature. The following are the examples of legislation in India.

  • The usurious loans act, 1918
  • Religious toleration act
  • Freedom of religion act, 1850
  • The mussalman wakf validating act, 1930
  • The shariat act, 1937
  • Dissolution of Muslim marriage act, 1939

These acts have considerably affected, supplemented and modified the Muslim law. In 1986 an act i.e. Muslim Woman (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 to provide separate law in respect of divorced Muslim women was enacted by Indian parliament. According to the need of time and circumstances Indian legislature enacted the law to fulfill the need.

These four sources namely Quran, Sunna, Ijma and Qiyas are the primary sources of law. Muslim law mainly based on verses of Quran and practices of hadith. There is secondary source of Muslim law which subsequent of it. Sects of shias does not accept the Qiyas as source of Muslim law. It is due to the contribution of all that an orderly and systematic theory of personal laws of Islam came into existence which govers the Muslim community.

Ijma is a secondary source of Islamic law. It refers to the decision related to any issue which was not existing in the time of our holy prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). If anything has been discussed in the Holy Quran or any hadith is available regarding any issue, the Ijma will not be valid for that issue. Ijma can be done with the consensus of Muslim scholars. Trying to take consensus in the issue which is already discussed in the holy Quran or hadith will lead to Shirk (association in the oneness of ALLAH Almighty). In the same way, Ijma is not allowed to do the same issue where Ijma is already done. A great example of the Ijma is the opinion of the religious scholars on test-tube babies.

Qiyas is the last source of Islamic law and it is also a secondary source. It is done where all the above sources are silent. In Qiyas, the scholars try to find out all the relative information from the holy Quran and hadith. The records of Ijma are also checked because in case if Ijma has done, Qiyas will not be valid for the same issue. Then all the merits and demerits are checked in the light of Islamic laws. Scholars match the unknown with the known and find out the similarities to come to any decision. A common man can’t go for Qiyas as only great scholars who have in-depth knowledge of Shariah are eligible for Qiyas.


  1. Mohammedan Law By Aqil Ahmad, 25th Edition 2013
  2. Muslim Law By Syed Khalid Rashid, 3rd Edition
  3. Muslim Law By M.A. Qureshi, Edition 2002
  4. Principles Of Mohammadan Law By Mulla

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