on 24 October 2009
The two volumes reflect Ibn Rushd's decade of research and thought on fiqh. He did write more books on the principles of fiqh, which unfortunately were lost during turbulant times he lived in, but he briefly covers the basics in his introduction. One of his memorable quotes for me from this dynamic scholar of high intellect during Islamic Spain is that he is very critical of his times, which has some parallels to our times. He states that the science of fiqh/mujtahid has been reserved to mere memorisation of verdicts (he calls it memorisaton of shoe sizes) and the true nature and skill of figh/mujtahid is understanding the situation, and fitting a verdict (best shoe size) which fits/matches the situation reflecting the principles of justice in Islam. He line by line analyses/critics the opinions of the great four madhabs, and explains the rationale of each of their reasonings, and at times, offers his humble opinion harmonising the opinions from the madhabs or offers a completely different opinion. This is the true dynamic nature of fiqh, and his work has made me appreciate the reasoning why certain madhabs came to a particular opinion. It has also made me appreciate that fiqh is not a black and white area for certain situations as it is sometimes presented by some people, and it has made me appreciate the acceptance of differences of opinions from the madhabs, with each ne coming to conclusions which I understand after reading this book. People who are affiliated to an anti-madhab view should read this book, rather then see things in black and white and condemn the wisdom of the madhabs. At the same time, as Ibn Rushd has demonstrated, one should critic evidence to strengthen the verdict (or indeed to an alternative stance), and as a qadi who followed malaki madhab, he at times differed with some of the opinions which came from the malaki school. Only skilled and knowledgable people like Ibn Rushd were in a position to do this after decades of research.
I also recommend an understanding of basics and principles of figh, and this is essential before one embarks on analyses of opinions from the madhabs. I can suggest Muhammad Asad's essay "Our Law of ours", who quotes Ibn Hazim (also from Cordoba during Islamic Spain) on his principles of fiqh. Muhammad Asad warns about principles of fiqh being lost in complexity of details, as science lost in time/stuck in time and reminds the important of keeping fiqh simple so that it is accessible to all.
Most importantly, Ibn Rushd who was a mujtahid in Cordoba and Seville, starts a new dynamic philosophy/approach to fiqh which in my view was the original intention of the founders of the great madhabs, which was to search for stronger evidence, keep ijtihad and qiyas alive, put an end to blind following, understand the opinions of the great predecessers, scrutinise for a greater body of evidence (where this is appropriate or needed), and where a stronger opinion is needed, he presents them with his own reasons. He presents new opinions based on the new situations he experienced during his time. That way, fiqh is not something which is static but a vibrant dynamic science. Incidentally, this work was standard fiqh manual for other great scholars who come after him and is one example of the great contributions which came out of Islamic Spain.
One warning, it is not an easy read for the layman like myself and immensely detailed. I use it for reference only as I develop my understanding.
Ibn Rushd ends humbly by saying as he normally does with all his work, that he hopes future generations can improve and develop his work further. I hope that will be case.