Know your books: Class on the Foundations of Sharia – The Risāla of Imām Shāfi (rah)


Dates: 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th February, 2021.
Time: 7:30-9:30 PM (each day)
Contribution: 300/-
Platform: Zoom
Note: Access to the class recordings will be available for one week after each class.

About the Class

Fiqh in Islam stands for depth and gaining depth in Islam is supposed to be an important lifelong journey of every Muslim. Today Fiqh has been reduced to legal opinions that are mainly related to the external aspects of our life but that’s not how the companions and early Muslims understood it to be. To appreciate this fact we have to visit early Muslim society where the difference between scholars (‘ulama) and callers (du’aat/muballighīn) was almost unnoticeable but as time went by the gap widened until our time where true scholarship is hidden from us and pseudo-scholars as well as mediocre du’aat dominate our primary source of learning Islam, that is, the social media, giving opinions about every matter without knowing their limits. These are people, writes Imām Shāfi’, whose keeping quiet would have been a favour on the Ummat!

Imām Shāfi’s Risāla is a work that captures brilliantly the early understanding of Fiqh and gives us a way to re-orient and ground ourselves in the Quran and Sunnat which seems to be our need of the hour in a world where more and more unqualified individuals comment on what the Shariat is and is not.

The Risāla is worth studying for anyone who wants to understand the principles of Muslim thought because it was authored for teaching us how to:

  • ground our thinking in what Allah has revealed;
  • save ourselves from the errors of free-style indisciplined reasoning;
  • purify our knowledge from biases and prejudices;
  • give Fiqh opinions with responsibility;
  • practice intellectual humility in the true sense.

That’s why Imām Ahmad ibn Hanbal used to say, “Anyone who uses the ink and the pen (to write about Islam) is indebted to Imām Shāfi’.”

The 4-day class is going to be based on classical case studies in Fiqh to explain all the major themes (Qur’ān, Sunnat, Ijma’ and Qiyās) of Imām Shafi’s Risāla such as understanding:

  • the centrality of Arabic in Islam;
  • abrogation in the Quran;
  • Sunnat and it’s types;
  • contradictory ahādith on a subject;
  • ahādith that go against reason;
  • legal reasoning that saves us from gender discrimination;
  • prerequisites for giving a fatwa in any matter of Islam.

Added features of the class:

  • we will cover the story of the printing of the Risāla in the modern world from manuscript form;
  • studying Maulana Ashraf ‘Alī Thānwi’s (d. 1943) fatwa on women leadership as a case of brilliant legal understanding.

Who should attend:

  • Muslims wishing to conceptualise Islam properly;
  • students of Islamic Studies;
  • people interested in early Muslim understanding and history;
  • people interested in Imām Shāfi’ and his legacy;
  • people learning or specialising in Usūl al-Fiqh;
  • people who want to learn the manners of studying issues where scholars have a difference of opinion (Adab al-Ikhtilāf);
  • Muslims who seek answers from the Quran and Sunnat alone;
  • Muslims who entirely depend on social media personalities for learning Islam.

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