Some Lessons from Jurisprudence (Fiqh)
For us to form an acquaintance with jurisprudence it is necessary for us to recognise its different sections. Previously we said that the range of jurisprudence is extremely wide, for it contains all the subjects related to all the actions about which Islam contains instructions.
The famous classification of today is the same classification first introduced by Muhaqqiq Hilli in his Sharay'i and which Shahid Awal has briefly commented on and explained in his Qawa'id. Amazingly the most proficient of those who have composed commentaries of the book Sharay'i amongst them Shahid Thani in his Masalik, made not the slightest comment or explanation about the classification of Muhaqqiq, and the First Shahid in Lum'a has not even followed Muhaqqiq's system
In any case, Muhaqqiq's classification is that all the issues of jurisprudence are divided into four parts: worship, two-party contracts, one-party contracts and (other) commands.
This division is based on the fact that the actions that must be performed in accordance to the Shari'iah are either such that a condition of their validity is the intention of nearness to God meaning that they must be done solely for God and if there is any other motivation for their performance the obligation is not fulfilled and they must be done again, or they are not subject to this condition .
If they are of the first type, like prayer, fasting, khoms, zakat, Hajj and so on, they are termed in jurisprudence as worship (ibadat).
If, however, they are of the second type and the intention of nearness is not a condition of their validity, and, supposing that they are performed with a different intention, are still correct and valid, then they are of two types: either their actualisation does not depend upon the execution of a special contract or it does.
Acts that do not depend upon the execution of a special contract, like inheritance, punishments, retribution and so on, are grouped together in jurisprudence under the heading commands, (ahkam). If they do depend upon the execution of a contract, then again they are of two types: either the contract must be recited by two parties, or there is no need for two parties and the contract is unilateral.
If they are of the first type, like selling, hire, and marriage, they are called contract (aqd), in which one party states the contract and the other agrees. If, however, one person can carry it out alone with no need of another party like the changing of one's mind regarding one's due, divorce and so on, it is called unilateral instigation.
In this classification all the sections of jurisprudence have been divided into fifty two chapters. Ten chapters of worship, nineteen of contracts, eleven of unilateral instigations and twelve chapters of commands.
One point is not to remain unmentioned. In the first and second centuries of Islam, the books of jurisprudence that were written were related to one or a few of the subjects of jurisprudence, not about all the subjects. For example, it is recorded that such and such a person wrote a book about prayer and such and such a person a book about marriage. For this reason, in later eras, when books about all the issues of jurisprudence were written, the different chapters of jurisprudence were all under the heading The Book. The custom is that instead of writing The Chapter of the Ritual Prayer, or The Chapter of the Hajj, we write, The Book of Ritual Prayer or the Book of Hajj.