Some Lessons from Jurisprudence (Fiqh)
In the terminology of the Quran and the Sunnah, fiqh is the extensive, profound knowledge of Islamic instructions and realities and has no special relevance to any particular division. In the terminology of the 'ulema, however, it gradually came to be especially applied to the profound understanding of the Islamic laws. The 'ulema of Islam have divided the Islamic teachings into three parts:
First, the realities and beliefs: the aim of which is awareness, faith and certitude, and which are related to the heart and the mind, containing issues like the issues related to the unseen past and the unseen future, to Prophethood, revelation, angels and Imamate.
Second, morality and self-perfection: the goals of which are the spiritual qualities of how to be and how not to be, containing issues like cautiousness of God (taqwa), justice ('idalat), generosity, courage, fortitude and patience (sabr) being satisfied and content with God (riza) firmness on the true path (istiqamat) and so on.
Third, the laws and issues of actions: which is related to the special external actions that human beings must perform and how the actions they perform are to be and how they are not to be.
The jurisprudents of Islam have termed this last division, fiqh (jurisprudence), perhaps from the viewpoint that since the early days of Islam the laws were the most subject to attention and queries. Therefore, those whose speciality was in this subject came to be known as the fuqaha (jurisprudents).
Two Types of Law
It is necessary that we mention some of the special terms of the jurisprudents. Amongst these is the names of the two divisions the jurisprudents have made of the Divine Laws: the laws of (human ) duty (hukm taklifi) and the laws of (human) situations (hukm waz'i).
The laws of duty include those duties which contain obligation, prohibition, desirability, undesirability, and, simple permissibility.
These five laws are termed as "the five laws" (ahkam khamsah).
The jurisprudents say that in the view of Islam no single action is empty of one of these five laws. Either it is obligatory (wajib), meaning that it must be done and must not be left undone, like the five daily ritual prayers, or it is forbidden (haram), meaning that it must not be performed and must be refrained from like lies, injustice, drinking alcohol and such like; or it is desirable (mustahab) meaning that it is good to do but leaving it undone is not a crime or sin, including such things as praying in a mosque; or it is undesirable (makruh), meaning that it is bad to do but if done no sin is committed, like talking about worldly affairs in a mosque which is a place of worship; or it is permissable (mubah), meaning that the doing of it and the not doing of it are exactly equal, and this includes most actions.