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Step-By-Step Study Guide to Hanbali Fiqh

ChinguettiIn terms of studying any discipline so as to gain some degree of proficiency, two things must be born in mind: the need to learn step-by-step, as well as the need for a qualified teacher.

Learning in stages/step-by-step (bi tadarruj) can be gleaned from the following words of the Prophet, peace be on him: inna hadha’l-dina matin fa awghilu fihi bi rifq – ‘Verily this religion is strong, so go through it gently.’ [Ahmad, Musnad, 3:199]

Received wisdom here comes in the form of this remark: man rama al-‘ilma jumlatan dhahaba ‘anhu jumlatan – ‘Whoever acquires knowledge all at once, shall lose it all at once.’ Also: izdihamu’l-‘ilm fi’l-sami‘ madallatu’l-fahm – ‘Cramming knowledge into the hearing, causes understanding to be lost.’

For the serious mutafaqqih or “student of fiqh,” Ibn Qudamah (d.620H/1223CE), one of the most highly celebrated jurists in the Hanbali madhhab, penned a series of fiqh texts which would take the seeker from a beginner level, to an intermediate one, and finally to becoming an accomplished jurist or faqih.

The first text is a primer in Hanbali law, and is aptly called al-‘Umdah: “The Reliance”. It gives the relied upon (mu‘tamad) rulings of the school, containing minimum proofs.

Next is al-Muqni‘: “The Satisfier” which introduces two or more views of the school on any one given issue or mas’alah.

The third manual is al-Kafi: “The Sufficer”. It is just above an intermediate level, again relating only the relied upon position, but this time with copious proofs for each issue in preperation for the task of ijtihad and how each ruling relates to the proof-texts. In some issues, more than one opinion is related.

The last work is the highly-advanced, magesterial al-Mughni: “The Enricher”. It builds on the previous texts by relating the positions of the mujtahid imams of other schools: discussing their differences and proof-texts; their juristic merits, rationales, strengths and weaknesses; and then concluding with his own preferred view. In most issues, his conclusions agree with the Hanbali madhhab; in some instances they do not.

The above is an example of the gradual, step-by-step method orthodox scholarship has always adhered to; a method which produced as its fair fruits the great jurists of Sunni Islam. As for gaining fiqh by way of fiqh al-maqarin, “comparative law,” without first being grounded in any one madhhab, this would be laughable if it were not so reckless and dangerous.

Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi wrote the above books in the seventh century. The Hanbali madhhab, like other law schools, continued to develop since then. Texts and manuals penned by later jurist-authors have tended to be the ones taught, studied and used for fatwas in centuries after. Ibn Badran (d.1346H/1927CE), one of the last great Hanbali scholars of the previous century, advises the following course of study for learning the madhhab:

Commence with Ibn Balban’s primer, Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat, or al-Buhuti’s ‘Umdat al-Talib. Then progress to Ibn Qudamah’s al-‘Umdah; if unavailable, then Mar‘i b. Yusuf al-Karmi’s Dalil al-Talib. Following this intermediary level, al-Buhuti’s Rawd al-Murbi should be studied. The final level of progression, al-Bahuti’s Sharh Muntaha al-Iradat is engaged with.

He further writes that, upon completion of the first two levels, one studies a primer in Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh). The text he recommends is al-Juwayni’s Waraqat. And that while studying Sharh al-Muntaha at the final level, Ibn Qudamah’s Rawdat al-Nazir in legal theory is also studied.1

Of course, this is not the only Hanbali curriculum that can or should be followed. Instead, what is important is that one is guided by a qualified teacher in this matter, and that a step-by-step curriculum is actually adhered too (man dakhala fi talab al-‘ilm bila shaykh kharaja bila ‘ilm – ‘Whoever seeks knowledge without a teacher, will leave without knowledge’). This has been the tried, tested and fruitful way down through the centuries. In stark contrast, the do-it-yourself method has resulted in little more than religious anarchy, mayhem and chaos. Things, in this sense, need not be fixed if they aren’t broken.

1. Ibn Badran, al-Madkhal ila Madhhab al-Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risalah, 1981), 487-89.

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25 thoughts on “Step-By-Step Study Guide to Hanbali Fiqh

  1. jazakumAllahukhairan. i am very appreciatiave of this initiative. i am a student of the fiqh developed from madrassatul iraqiyya. also labeled the fiqh of abu hanifa, nu’maan ibnu thaabit ibni marzabaan (raheemahullahi alayh) and his companions qadi abu yusuf, imam muhammad (ra), etc. you hear many conversations about fiqh by many people who don’t even know proper arabic grammar let alone the pure sciences of true islamic scholarship coupled with the sacrifice and rich history of our scholars. they made unimaginable efforts to ensure the pure teachings of alQuran and Assunnah. so that the whole of mankind can derive benefit from these beautiful teachings without worries of fatal corruptions or losing the true mizaaj and minhaaj of our traditions. truly, the one who tries to understand this great deen through alienation from our history truly stands alone and will be deprived a great deal. May Allah Most High accept and elevate all of our great rasikheen, mujtahideen, and ulamaa past present and future. and also, by his infinite mercy, allow us to gain benefit from them in this world and meet with them under the shade of His arsh on a day when there will be no shade. Allahuma amin.

  2. JazakAllahu khair for the post. Will you be continuing your Hanbali Essentials part on this blog? I really like the way you are explaining and progressing, it compliments my study of Zad Al-Mustaqni’ and Umdatul-Fiqh that I have done and am doing with my teachers. The page didn’t have a date so I am not sure how old it is or whether it is on going. Please let me know =].

    • I do intend to continue, God-willing. I was hoping to put the rest of the purification section up by late December. Hopefully, by mid January it should be posted.

      I’m aiming to put up one or two sections each month inshallah. I ask Allah to help facilitate that. Amin.

      May Allah bless you for your words of encouragement and grant you the tawfiq to continue your studies in the Zad and the ‘Umdah.

  3. There is a great explanation of umdah by a sheikh from the US. We are following his duroos in the UK from his website Allah bless him.

  4. Syed Yusuf Pasha on said:

    Assalaamu Alaikum Brothers,
    Truly great information provided here, Maa Sha Allah.
    But, is there any English or Urdu Translations available on the net of these books?
    Al-Umdah (The Reliance);
    Al-Mughni (The Satisfier)
    Al-Kafi (The Sufficer)
    The Majesterial Al-Mughni (The Enricher)
    Can someone provide the links to download these books, please?
    Jazaaukum Allahu Khairan.

    • Wa alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullah.

      I’m not aware of any links to these books join either English or Urdu. However, al-‘Umdah has been fully translated into English and is available for purchase under the title: The Mainstay, by al-Baz publications.

      May Allah grant us all the tawfiq to seek sound knowledge, so that we may be drawn closer to Him.

  5. Imran Rafiq Rather on said:

    A highly informative systematic way to share some of the most beautiful words of wisdom of how to go through the learning stages in life.
    Here is what I learned and I will start to work on these methods of learning right from now.
    1. “Verily this religion is strong, so go through gently”…
    2.”Whoever acquires knowledge all at once,shall lose it all at once”…
    3.”Whoever seeks knowledge without a teacher,will leave without knowledge”…

    JazaakAllah ,please pray for my steadfastness in deen

    • Thank you for your comment, Imran, and for sharing what you learnt.

      May Allah grant us the grace to learn and put into practice what pleases Him, grant us steadfastness in seeking sacred knowledge, and cause us to be honoured with its benefits and beauties in this world and the next.

  6. Can you give your opinion regarding الشيخ أحمد بن ناصر القعيمي and if he is a true Hanbali. Will one benefit from his books like شرح أخصر المختصرات Jazaak Allaah in advance

  7. Unfortunately I do not know of the shaykh; and in my ignorance I’m unable to comment.

  8. sohail khan on said:

    Asalamoalikum how to change hanafi fiqa to hambali fiqa.jazak allah

    • Wa alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullah.

      Barakallahu fikum. But why would you want to change from following Hanafi fiqh to Hanbali? All the four Sunni fiqh schools are authoritative and orthodox.

      It’s always best to follow a fiqh school whose scholars are easily available and accessible, so as to make learning easier. One generally follows the madhhab of their area or country, if that’s possible.

      • sohail khan on said:

        Assalamoalikum thanks for your reply.yes all 4 fiqa are on right path.but I like hamble fiqa.this time hamble fiqa masail are best.

        • If you search online, there are some Hanbali resources: some books on Amazon and a few courses.

          • sohail khan on said:

            Can you tell me address of that web site and email address of a scholar from whom I can ask questions and learn masail.jazakallah

            • Perhaps you could begin your journey by just typing “hanbali fiqh” into a search engine and see what comes up, dear Sohail.

              If you’re going to learn hanbali fiqh, given how very few scholars or resources are available in the English language, you’re going to have to get used to a lot of personal research.

              May Allah grant you tawfiq.

  9. What would have been the ʿaqīdah texts for the Ḥanbalite communities of the Najd prior to the Wahhābite movement?

    • Abu Aaliyah on said:

      Among them, Ibn Hamdan’s (d.695H) Nihayat al-Mubtadi’in fi Usul al-Din is well referred to by the major scholars of the madhhab from the seventh century onwards.

      Its abridgement, Qalai’d al-Iqyan, by Ibn Balban/Balbani (d.1083H) is also held in high esteem. This later work has been translated into English, as has his fiqh text, Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat. There’s an online PDF of the excellent critical edition by Dar al-Minhaj, published along with an exhaustive kalam commentary that copiously cites classical Hanbali jurists.

  10. Talha Ahsan on said:

    You are aware there are differing views on how to navigate the most “authentic” opinion of the Ḥanbalī madhhab.

    There are those who are strict that one should abide by the muʿtamad of the later authorities. They would argue to do otherwise is to assume a degree of ijtihād and can also be following ones hawā.

    On the other hand, others may argue that so long as one is abiding to opinions within the madhhab there should be no problem in selecting a more “convenient” opinion (e.g. impurity can be removed by any means and one wash can suffice instead of seven). The advocates of this view may also argue that to do otherwise will make the religion frustrating for people particularly when they exist currently as precarious minorities, and that it is the general spirit of iftāʾ to make life easier for people.

    What are your thoughts on the matter?

    Allah keep you well.

  11. Abu Aaliyah on said:

    Bless you for your question, br. Talha.

    As you’re aware, your question revolves around the issue of when one can or cannot follow a rukhsah – a legal ‘concession’ – in terms of one’s fiqh. Let me respond with these two brief points:-

    Firstly, I’ve dealt with the rules of following rukhsahs, and their place in our modern life, in this article here:

    Secondly, if it’s a matter of following a rukhsah now and again, by following the relied upon opinion in the madhhab, but another opinion in it, that’s one thing. But to make this the norm would beg the question; Why follow a madhhab in the first place?

    I hope that answers your question.

  12. Talha on said:

    What do you call someone who studies Hanabli fiqh but is still a bit street?

    A Rawḍman.

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