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ISLAMIC LAW SYNOPTIC NOTES1 The Sources of Islamic Law The primary Sources Under the Sharia there are considered to be 2 primary sources. These are the Quran and the Sunnah. The literal meaning of the word Quran means reading or recitation. The Quran is considered to be the very word of God(Allah) as revealed to His final Prophet Muhammad. As the words of the Quran are considered to be immutable they are of universal and eternal application. It was revealed piecemeal over a period of 23 years. It consists of 114 chapters and over 6000 verses known as 'ayah's'. The shortest Sura consists of 4 ayah and the longest 286. The Quran consists of manifest revelation which is considered to be the communication of God to the Prophet through the medium of the Archangel Gabriel received in a wakeful state. The very notion of legality comes from the Quran. Manifest revelation can be distinguished from internal revelation which is considered to be the inspiration of concepts but which were conveyed in the Prophet's own words and the sayings of the Prophet fall into this category. Following on from this one can conclude that no hadith may be ranked on an equal footing with the Quran. As far as the transmission of the Quran is concerned it is considered to be wholly certain because the community as a whole was involved in its transmission from generation to generation. There is agreement amongst the ulama that the entire text of the Quran is mutawatir. This basically means it has proven authenticity by virtue of a universally accepted testimony. The Quran was revealed in what are considered to be 2 broadly speaking periods:
1. The Meccan Period
1 Please note that these notes are a mere summary of some of the important points to think about. They are not to be used in isolation, and are certainly not a substitute for the requirement of extensive reading from the variety of sources in this highly interesting area. Students must engage in reading from the core text and beyond.
The Medinan Period.
There was, generally speaking, a difference between the two in that revelation in Mecca focussed on spiritual matters concerning permissible foods, protecting the property of orphans, upholding justice, honesty in trade related matters. Heaven and Hell, resurrection etc were the dominant themes here. Whereas in Medina, focus shifted to society and political, social, legal and economic matters. This was due to the fact that the first Islamic state had been created in which such matters had to be addressed. In a similar vein the 'Sahifat al Medina' was drafted which was the constitution in Medina after the Hijrah which laid down the basis of the rights to be enjoyed by the various groups within Medina society. A distinction has also been drawn between what is considered to be the 'definitive' and the 'speculative' text. Definitive texts are those which are clear, unambiguous and specific. Speculative texts are those which are subject to interpretation and therefore there is scope for Ijtihad on these. The Quran has been subject to interpretation from the beginning, and as Prophet Muhammad was the best person to effect an interpretation, and when elucidating verses of the Quran this became the basis of what came to be known as Sunnah or Traditions. The Quran is not strictly a constitutional code and is described as a book of guidance. There are 500 verses that are legal in nature, although some academics have argued over the number. So, for example, Coulson argues that there are eighty in total. This may be a strict application of what is meant by legal, but often it is the case that issues of a moral nature will constitute what is considered to be a legal principle. The second primary source of the Shariah is the Sunnah. There is a consensus amongst the schools of law and the sects that the Quran and the Sunnah are the two main sources of the Shariah. The Sunnah are also known as 'Prophetic Traditions'. The hadith are a report of the Prophets Sunnah. There are three classifications of hadith which are the 'Qawl' - the sayings and utterances of the Prophet; 'Fa'l' - the actions and daily practices of the Prophet; and, 'Iqrar'
- the tacit approval of the Prophet which can also be inferred from silence or a lack of disapproval.
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