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The Development of Fiqh
The Evolution of Fiqh
The development of Fiqh falls traditionally into six major stages named as follows: Foundation, Establishment, Building, Flowering, Consolidation, and Stagnation and Decline.
These stages occur respectively in the following historical periods:
Foundation: the era of the Prophet (SW.) (609-632 CE)1
Establishment: the era of the Righteous Caliphs, from the death of the Prophet (SW.) to the middle of the seventh century CE (632-661)
Building: from the founding of the Umayyad dynasty (661 CE) until its decline in the middle of the 8th century CE.
Flowering: from the rise of the ‘Abbaasid dynasty in the middle of the 8th century CE to the beginning of its decline around the middle of the 10th century CE.
Consolidation: the decline of the ‘Abbaasid dynasty from about 960 CE to the murder of the last ‘Abbaasid Caliph at the hands of the Mongols in the middle of the 13th century CE.
Stagnation and Decline: from the sacking of Baghdad in 1258 CE to the present.
In this work [of “The Evolution of Fiqh”] the above mentioned stages in the development of Fiqh will be described with special reference to the relevant social and political context of the respective periods. As the reader follows this development, he will be given insight into the evolution of the Madhabs (schools of Islamic legal thought) as well as their contributions to Fiqh. Hopefully he will then be able to appreciate the fact that all the Madh-habs have contributed in different degrees to the Development of Fiqh, and that no single Madh-hab can properly be claimed to represent Islaam of Islamic law in its totality.
In other words, any one school of thought acting alone does not determine Fiqh. All Madhabs have been important instruments for the clarification and application of the Shari’ah. Together, Fiqh and Shari’ah should be unifying forces that unite all Muslims regardless of place, time or cultural background.
In fact, the only infallible Madhhab that deserves to be followed without any questions asked is that of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself. Only his interpretations of Sharee’ah can be considered divinely guided and meant to be followed until the last day of this world. All other Madhabs are the result of human effort, and thus are subject to human error.
Or as Iman ash-Shafi’i, founder of the Shaafi’ee Madhab, so wisely put it,
“There isn’t any of us who hasn’t had a saying or action of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ elude him of slip his mind. So no matter what rulings I have made or fundamental principles I have established, there will be in them things contrary to the way of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ However, the correct ruling is according to what the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, and that is my true ruling.”2
C.E. (i.e. Chirstian Era) is used instead of A.D. (Anno Domini, lit. in the year of our Lord) because Muslims do not recognize Jesus the son of Mary as the Lord, but as a Prophet of God.
Collected by al-Haakim with a continuous chain of reliable narratours to ash-Shaari’ee (Ibn ‘Asaakir, Taareekh Dimishq, vol.15, sec. 1, p. 3 and ibn Qayyim, I‘laam al-Mooqi‘een, (Egypt: Al-Haajj ‘Abdus-Salaam Press, 1968), vol. 2, p. 363).