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.
This is one Canadian teacher’s view on the root cause students struggle with learning Classical Qur’anic Arabic. Whether or not you agree with his views, I think it’s fair that we take him seriously since he has been teaching students for over 10 years both institutionally at the madrasah and online. Here’s the full PDF. Also see the video.
Over the past several weeks I have had a number of conversations with a variety of people made the choice to become Muslim (I’m purposely not saying ‘convert’ here). Among some of our discussions arose the need for (new) Muslims to better understand Revelation. Many disparaged at not having sufficient skills in the Arabic language, others not having the means or the resources to even pursue Arabic studies. Some felt that the way the religion is discussed amounts to a myriad of bewildering symbols and technical “insider” terms which leave them left out. So I thought I might, in a modest and humble effort, start a (ongoing?) series of short posts helping to decipher some of these words and catch phrases to work towards making Islam accessible and operational. I’ve chosen the phrase, “I seek protection in Allah from the accursed Devil/أعوذ بالله من الشسطان الرجيم” as my first attempt. And with God belongs all success.
Back in 2010, I was asked by some students on how they might better memorize the Qur’an. I wrote a short post entitled Tips On Memorizing the Qur’an: Magic Lawh. With the month of Rajab upon us, I thought it would be a good refresher course to go back and remind us about the importance of Allah’s Book and our efforts to memorize it.
Islam at times can seem, to the outside observer, to be a peculiar religion in that there is no formally established hierarchy or pecking order. There is no priesthood, no monasticism (though there are traditions of asceticism). A Muslim’s “confession” of sin is directed solely to God without an intermediary, so to speak, as is the role of the priest in Catholic traditions. In this context, what is the role of an imam? How does it differ from other religious traditions?