بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Several people have asked me what order they should read my Shafi‘i books in, and whether the books I have done are part of some overall plan. I’m going to try to answer both of those questions.
Yes, my books are part of a Shafi‘i fiqh curriculum that I have in mind. I’m trying to put something together that will allow English readers to go from knowing nothing about Shafi‘i fiqh all the way up to knowing some of the reasoning behind the basic mu‘tamad positions, some of the variant positions that were transmitted within the madhhab, and a taste for how Shafi‘i scholars do fiqh. Towards this end, I currently offer the following:
- The Encompassing Epistle (“EE”) presents personally obligatory knowledge of basic creed, acts of worship, and piety. It even includes basic evidence so that readers can be confident that there is a textual basis for the contents of the basic text. It also includes some commentary to enable readers to put things into practice.
- The Ultimate Conspectus (“UC”) presents basic coverage of the full range of fiqh issues but without any explanation. It’s a lean translation that’s great for review and memorization but doesn’t make a lot of sense unless it’s read with an instructor. A lot of people don’t have access to instructors and there’s a gap that needs to be filled, hence…
- The Accessible Conspectus (“AC”) gives a basic explanation for most everything covered in . It’s a pretty painless way for people who don’t have access to a fiqh instructor to learn fiqh. The book doesn’t go into deep issues – but it will make it easy to approach The Reliance of the Traveller which does have those issues. AC also makes it easier for folks to transition to reading fiqh in Arabic (say, Ibn Qāsim al-Ghazzī’s Fatḥ al-qarīb) because it lays down the basic conceptual framework, so the struggle one of vocabulary and not also conceptual. The Accessible Conspectus includes textual evidence to show why the various topics are included in fiqh. But it doesn’t give evidence for the individual rulings, because that requires familiarity with the principles of Islamic jurisprudence [uṣūl al-fiqh]. And that’s the topic of the next book:
- Sharḥ Al-Waraqāt: Al-Maḥalli’s notes on Imām al-Juwaynī’s Islamic Jurisprudence Pamphlet. This book introduces the basics – enough for students to make sense of legal arguments related to basic sources for rulings (i.e., Quran, Sunnah, consensus, legal analogy, and the presumption of continuity) and to appreciate some points related to semantics and linguistic indication. Fiqh is hadith-heavy, so folks interested in hadith can also read Hadith Nomenclature Primers – though it isn’t necessary for understanding basic fiqh evidence.
- The Evident Memorandum (“EM”), which contains Ibn Mulaqqin’s Al-Tadhkirah along with commentary. Its Arabic text is close to the size of UC, but it covers more issues. Ibn Mulaqqin’s text didn’t have a commentary, so I pulled one together from his various fiqh commentaries and his books related to legal hadiths. The commentary aims to provide evidence for all the core fiqh issues.
Those books are already published. The order I mentioned them is the order I think they should be studied.
And now we move into the crazier parts of my curriculum plan. I have
three four three more Shafi‘i books in the pipeline.
- Ibn Daqīq al-‘Eid’s Tuḥfat al-Labīb (“TL”). This may be the earliest commentary for The Ultimate Conspectus. I wrote about it before. Ibn Daqī al-‘Eid’s commentary provides evidence for most of the issues given in the book. Where it really adds value above the book I mentioned above is that he frequently presents alternative opinions within the school, differentiating between the opinions of Imam al-Shāfi‘ī (a “qaul”), and the opinions of the “colleagues” (the “aṣḥāb”) – early major Shāfi‘ī scholars (a “wajh”). Occasionally, he presents parallel paths of transmitted alternative opinions within the school (each path is a “ṭarīq,” which combine to form “ṭuruq”). There are even a few places where Imam al-Shāfi‘ī gives different answers to similar issues, and each of those answers will be transferred to the other and an additional opinion will then be extracted. Many other books do this, too. But there are few books of its size that do it this well. Now, before anyone objects that this book isn’t mu‘tamad and well-read, that there are stronger versions of the hadiths it includes, and that I really should have done Kifāyat al-Akhyār instead – let’s step back for a minute, and consider a few things.
- The book isn’t intended to teach the mu‘tamad. That’s what The Reliance was for. Rather, the book is intended to teach variance within the madhhab and give readers a taste for how the fuqahā’ did things like addressing issues in spite of the absence of textual evidence, and how they weigh variant answers.
- Stronger hadiths for the mu‘tamad position will already have been included in the first book.
- While Kifāyat al-akhryār is a bigger, stronger, and later book, it is too long and overkill. Tuḥfat al-labīb is around 60,000 words in Arabic. Kifāyat al-akhyār is close to 200,000. When I’m faced with choosing between something that gives me 90% in 60k words and something that gives me 95% in 200k words, I pick the 90% solution and so I can do a better job at it and still have time left over for another book. Another book… like this one:
- Shayk al-Islām Zakariyā al-Anṣārī’s Al-I‘lām, a collection of 600 hadiths related to legal issues, drawn mainly from Ibn Ḥajar’s Bulūgh al-marām. Shaykh al-Islām even wrote a commentary for it (Fatḥ al-‘Alām), making it easier for me to translate and add notes.
- Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī’s Niẓhat al-Naẓr, his commentary on Nukhbat al-fikar. I finished this while I was still in Damascus. The terms need to be updated to match the ones used in Nukhbat and then edited into something fit for public consumption.
These three books are active projects. The first one is being read and edited so it can be prepared for publication. The other two are translated, but they both need additional work before they can be edited.
Before anyone asks: No, I cannot provide a timeline or estimates for when things will be done. But we’re talking years, not decades. In shā’ Allāh. And success is only through Him.
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UPDATE 1. I forgot to mention a fourth book that I have in the Shafi‘i curriculum pipeline. It is now added. And, no, I haven’t forgotten al-Sulamī’s Infamies of the Soul. I’m halfway through the final draft.