A faqih’s evidence isn’t always what it appears to be

Several of the books that I am working on as part of my Shāfiʿī fiqh curriculum include evidence related to fiqh positions. One of the things I watch for is when evidence in later books differs from the evidence in earlier books. Some of these instances involve later scholars citing a hadith as evidence whereas earlier scholars employed an analogy or drew on their understanding of the evidence as a whole or. And its especially noteworthy when the earlier scholar is more knowledgeable in hadith than the latter.

Take, for example, the Shāfiʿīs (and others) saying that a woman should draw herself together when bowing and prostrating during prayer – in contrast to spreading out the elbows and raising stomachs from thighs which is the norm for men. Keep in mind that what’s of interest here is the development of reasons given – not the strength of the reasons themselves. So:

Imām al-Shāfiʿī (and other Imāms [رحمهم الله]) held the opinion that women should perform some acts of prayer in a manner that differs from the way men do. The reason Imām al-Shāfiʿī (رحمع الله) gives is that Allah and His Messenger ﷺ call for women conceal and cover themselves more than men, and that drawing themselves together while bowing and prostrating is in line with their extra concealment and cover.

Later Shāfiʿī scholars bolstered their Imām’s argument with a hadith that Abū Dāwūd had included in his Al-Marāʾsīl. A mursul hadith is one where a Successor has omitted the Companion from whom they heard the hadith. This omission is a cause for weakness, though hadiths of this type are sometimes accessible as sufficient for legal rulings.

What we see here is the earlier scholar (Imām al-Shāfiʿī) drawing an analogy based on his understanding of Islam as a whole, and later scholars bolstering that analogy with textual evidence that mentions the specific issue. And later scholars don’t always mention the hadith – even when they do mention the Imām’s initial reasoning.

The following image gallery shows the above happening. One image shows Imām al-Shāfiʿī’s statement in Al-Umm. Two show Imām al-Nawawī commenting on Imām al-Shirāzī’s mention of the opinion, along with mentioning the mursul hadith. A final image shows Ibn Mulaqqin including the hadith in his Tuḥfat al-Muḥtāj.

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One of the takeaways from all of this is that the true foundation of a ruling isn’t necessarily the most obvious one.

And Allah knows best.

Learn more about the fiqh of prayer and other issues in The Accessible Conspectus (Amazon and elsewhere).

Learn more about the principles of Islamic jurisprudence in Sharḥ al-Waraqāt (Amazon).

Learn more about hadith nomenclature in Hadith Nomenclature Primers (Amazon).