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The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence

The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence 1

This is the third and most revised edition of one of the best textbook on the subject of Usool Al-Fiqh Al-Islami, (The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence).

Usool Al-Fiqh is one of the main realms of Islamic knowledge and is so essential that not only Fiqh—which is the practical aspect of Islam and the way of living and applying its laws –but all other realms use it and rely upon it. In fact, the main function of these Usool or principles is to help the scholars understand Islam and facilitate its application by providing the people with tools they need to refer all matters facing Muslim individuals and communities to the original and only two textual sources of Islam, namely the Noble Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad so that all needed rulings and guidelines may be derived from them, thus preserving their authenticity and insuring their maximum credibility of correctness and validity. It is no wonder that many students of knowledge complain of the dryness of Usool Al-Fiqh books and difficulty of its subject matter—this book is no exception.

I know that it is a dense read, and that it can be boring if you are not a student of the subject of the principles of Fiqh or someone who has a good background in Islamic knowledge, yet I found Kamali’s style to be distinguished by clarity and readability. But this is a book that is best used as textbook for a university level course or as a desk reference for varying specialists and scholars of Islamic law who cannot access the principles of Fiqh or Islamic knowledge in Arabic. Some of my colleagues mentioned that Kamali tried his best to follow the style of earlier scholars in writing about the subject, and they wished that he would change that to a style that is more befitting to the learning abilities of today’s student and in accordance with today’s methods of instruction. I am of the opinion that both approaches have merits in teaching this kind of subject matter and both may be effective in teaching the principles of Fiqh provided one has a good teacher and the right learning environment—both of which are hard to find considering today’s situation of many of the so-called Islamic universities.

The fact remains that when the Principles of Islamic jurisprudence was first published, it offered an excellent addition to the few English Usool Al-Fiqh textbooks available then. This edition, however, represents a far better detailed and substantially expanded discussion of the same topics of the earlier editions as well as newer ones. This excellent book, nevertheless, can still benefit some of the essential enhancement that are typical in the production process of academic books like, an expanded index, extensive and more comprehensive glossary, authentication of references especially the Hadeeth and certain quotations, more footnotes and cross-referencing, among others.

Kamali was honestly seeking objectivity in adding the two sections about the Usool of Al-Khawaarij and Shia sects. But while this may have worked in the case of Al-Khawaarij, I do not think the inclusion of the Shia Usool served objectivity. Not only that there are serious differences between the Sunnah and Shia Usool, but the extent of discussion in this limited-scope book of Usool does not permit a real discussion of comparative Usool Al-Fiqh.

Furthermore, I wished that Kamali had left the topic of Tajdeed Usool Al-Fiqh (the renewal of the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence) out of this book. This was another place where he failed to provide appropriate discussion to issues that are essential but highly controversial. Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali is Professor of Law at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, where he has been teaching Islamic law and jurisprudence since 1985. Aspiring students should find this book very informative