The following is a recording of the regular class I teach on Sundays at Middle Ground Muslim Center, Understanding Islam. This week covered the chapter of Prophetic Actions (Af’al al-Nabi/أفعال النبي) from al-Juwayni’s al-Waraqat.
فعل النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم – إما إن يكون على وجه القربة والطاعة – فإن دل الدليل على الاختصاص به يحمل على الاختصاص كزيادته صلى الله عليه وسلم في النكاح على أربع نسوة – وإن لم يدل دليل لا يخصص به – لأن الله تعالى قال: لَقَد كانَ لَكُم في رَسولِ اللَّهِ أُسوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَن كانَ يَرجُو اللَّهَ وَاليَومَ الآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثيرًا
“The actions of the Prophet ﷺ are either in the mode of acts of worship and obedience or they are not. If they are in the mode of acts of worship and obedience and the evidence points to it being particular to the Prophet ﷺ, then it is to be interpreted as particular to the Prophet ﷺ. The example given is the increase in the number of women (more than four) in which the Prophet ﷺ engaged in. If the evidence presented does not point towards peculiarity (of the Prophet ﷺ) then the action is not to be interpreted as particular, as the Qur’anic verse informs us:
“You have an excellent model in the Messenger of God, for all who put their hope in God, the Last Day and remember God much.” Qur’an, 33: 21
A branch is produced by the root. While the branch may come to fulfill an entirely different purpose than the root, it is, nonetheless, indebted to it. It also cannot survive without the root. So, in perhaps a circuitous way, the branch is tied to the root, figuratively and literally.
Branches do not thrive, let alone survive, by severing themselves. In fact, the primary way a branch can survive (should it become severed) is if it is grafted on to another plant which has a root. The branch’s well-being is tethered to the root.
Such is the way to explain ‘asl and far’(فرع/أصل), in the study of Usul al-Fiqh, as well as the application and implementation of sacred knowledge and overall success as a Muslim. Far too many of us today seek success as branches, heedless of our attachment to roots.
Usul al-Fiqh (the foundation of understanding) constitutes two definitions, made up of two single parts: ‘asl, (lit., “root”), which something — besides itself — builds off of and far’ (lit., “branch”), which itself is built upon something else. Fiqh (lit., “understanding”), is knowledge of sacred rulings, the path to which is known as ijtihad (independent legal reasoning, lit., “to push oneself in striving”.
أصول الفقه مؤلف من جزأين مفردين: فالأصل – ما يبنى عليه غيره والفرع ما يبنى على غيره والفقه – معرفة الأحكام الشرعية التي طريقها الاجتهاد
A short excerpt taken from al-Juwayni’s al-Waraqat.