Islamic Studies

On Mastering Multiple Fiqh Discourses and The Obama Victory- Drops from Dr. S'ad al-Din al-Hilali

On Mastering Multiple Fiqh Discourses- Drops from Dr. S’ad al-Din al-Hilali*

“Many of you studied in Cairo for a number of years. If I asked you to tell me how to come to al-Azhar from al’Attabah many of you would tell me, take al-Azhar street straight to the mosque! However, what happens when you run into one of our famous traffic jams? Would you rely on your your limited knowledge of the main road, or would you feel more comfortable with a local who knows all the streets, alleys and subtitles of Cairo’s roads?

The same can be said of the scholar of law, restricted to one path, he will find himself shackled by his own handcuffs and caged by his own ignorance. Release those handcuffs with the keys of knowledge, open your mind and prepare for the ascent. No one is a faqih until he can, at least, mention multiple opinions when giving an answer.

The Faqih stands before the Umma like a firefighter in front of a smoldering structure. If he knows one the main hallways, he will do very little good, may get caught in a back draft and harm himself as well as the structure and its occupants. As for the one who has the blueprints to the building, studies them and knows them well, there is a great chance that he will put out the fire, save the occupants and restore the good and noble nature of the structure.”


On Obama’s Victory

Suhaib: “Sheikh! We chose Obama.”

Dr. Hillali: “And we chose him as well!”

Suhaib: “Sheikh some are saying voting his haram and we are committing acts of infidelity.”

Dr. Hillali: “My son. This discourse is old… very old it came to us, in the 80’s, and left. I have a student doing a PhD. on the topic “Western Muslims and the Political Process.” If you like, next month, you can sit with him.”

Suhaib: “That would be amazing.”

Dr. Hilali: “al-Humdulillah. We not only chose Obama because we felt he is best for the Arabs. We chose him because we felt he was best for America and her people. Mubarak to you and your people. May Allah bring goodness through His servants”


*Background on Dr. S’ad al-Din al-Hilali

Dr. S’ad  al-Hilali is a world renowned scholar of Islamic law. He has mastery over more than one school of though, teaches in al-Azhar’s comparative fiqh department as well as trains muftis in the Dr. al-Ifta program. Recently Dr. Sa’d was received an award from the ‘Amir of Kuwait for his excellent writings on contemporary fiqh issues. A scholars scholar, we are thankful to know him and hope to translate some of his more important works in the future.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • I am abit confused about facilitation in fatwa and its extent.

    Firstly: is this a modern trend? If not do we have evidence to prove that muftis in the past have facilitated their questioners? By facilitation we mean give opinion of Ibahah since the questioner needs to certain action?

    Secondly: Whether this is a modern trend or not, how do we understand Dr Sa’d’s analogy between the different opinions and different roads. It seems as if he is viewing all the opinions as having the same weight. Is this possible? Would there not always be a Tarjeeh of the Mufti, i.e. an opinion he feels is stronger?

    Thirdly: Ibnul Qayyim in Al I’laam in Vol 4, Page 212, explains how it is not allowed for the Mufti (A) to direct a person to another Mufti (B) who holds something is permissible if A holds that action to be impermissible. A would be doing this because the questioner needs to do that action, and as he holds that impermissible, he will direct the person to a mufti that says it is allowed. This Ibnul Qayyim says is not allowed at all (Ala al Itlaaq) let alone A giving another opinion simply to meet the needs of the questioner as Dr Sa’d here seems to suggest.
    Ibnul Qayyims argument is:

    a) If there is no diff of opinion in the issue then giving a contrary opinion to the established position is absurd (this I know all agree)
    b) If the issue is a matter of Ijtihad: even then Ibnul Qayyim says it is not allowed for the Mufti to do Tarjeeh simply to meet the needs of the questioner. Rather he should asses the opinions on the strength of their evidences and then choose the one he feels is strongest and then he should give fatwa on this disregarding whether that suits questioner or not. Since it is the questioner trying to fit the will of God, and not trying to fit the will of God to the questioner.
    Now the last two lines really make sense to me but I also know Sh Bin Bayyah said that on the issue of 3 divorce in one sitting, he feels uncomfortable of leaving the 4 imams, and hence when somebody comes to him with this issue, he directs them to a Mufti that holds it permissible (In Sacred Law in Secular Lands). Now I am sure Sh Bin Bayyah is not sinning (astaghfirullah) nor doing this out of ignorance, as I am sure Dr Sa’d is speaking from knowledge. Hence I need to know how both the opinions on this issue of methodology come together.

    How can it be that Ibnul Qayyim is saying this is forbidden, whilst I have seen and read other scholars do otherwise? Is this another issue of Ikhtilaf? If so I need to now that.

    Please clarify!!!!!!

  • Habeeby Muhammad

    Mumajjad, Mu-ayyad, Muhammad:
    Glorious, Victorious, Muhammad.
    Ajmal min kulli jameel,
    Lam yakun ’anhu badeel,
    I love Muhammad.
    Ask Hamza Hanson or Michael Jackson,
    Ask Yusuf Islam or Ingrid Mattson,
    What’s in the world sweeter than a word
    From the mouth of Muhammad?
    Ask Suhaib Webb or Yusuf Estes
    Why they brushed aside
    Shakespeare and Cervantes
    And followed with pride
    The words of Muhammad?
    Ask Sheikh Qardawi and Sheikh Tantawi
    What but Muhammad’s Light
    Made them stars brighter than the cars
    In New York at night?
    Ask every new convert, be it Jane or Albert,
    Is there a man of whom you’d be a fan–
    But Muhammad?
    Sallo Ya Nass,
    Sallo ’Alalhabeeb Muhammad!

    Mohamed Ali Lagouader

  • Asalamu alaykum,


    I really don’t see, in the words of Dr. Hillali, the assumptions posted in your question. Could you please highlight your concerns with greater clarity.


  • Assalamu alaiykum Br Suhaib

    this is completely unrelated- and not important at all…… what does the ‘D’ stand for in ‘SDW’?


  • Wa Alykum As Salaam,

    Sorry if i wasnt clear, erm what i wanted to know, i understood Sh Sa’ds analogy of different roads to mean different fiqh opinions, and the fact that if a scholar only knows one opinion which is like knowing one road, then he is bound to hit a dead end or face difficulties both in his way of thinking as well as in relation to issuing fatawa (meaning he wil only give the opinion he knows) and thus this issue touches on the issue of facilitation as i see it.

    But even if i misunderstood the point of this article – do you still understand my question? meaning that how do we understand Ibnul Qayyims statement on the mufti facilitating the questioner? because there are numerous examples of many scholars including his teacher Ibn Taymiyyah, were they adopt a position simply due to ease (see ibn Taymiyyahs position on women doing Tawaf Al Ifadah for Hajj in Haydh). So i know very well that scholars do facilitate, but on the outside it seems as though ibnul Qayyim is saying for scholars to adopt opinions for any reason other than their textual weight is wrong.

    Am i making more sense? How do understand this?


  • Did Imam Ahmad not refer someone to another shaykh when he was asked a question and found the answer brought a gllomy face upon the questioner and then informed him to go somehwere else. I don’t lknow the source of this other than I hear it from Ustadh tareq al-suwaidan.

  • salam Haq..

    1. The side roads and avenues are not variant rulings, but rather intended to represent the deeper understanding a jurisrt has of what the texts and principles he has at his disposable offer to him, how they inter-relate and conform to each other and to the needs of any situation that may be brought into being. His mind is fluid, riding upon the evidences before him, being moulded to their dictates, acting according to their indications, moving in line with their signals to achieve the ruling designated by them upon his arriving at their conclusions. The Jurist sees himself as a mouth piece by which the principles and rulings of law are given voice. The jurist is aware of the verdicts and evidences of those that preceeded him, riding upon their light benifiting from their illumination, taking heed from the errors and misconceptions that snared and barred the ones whoes foot steps he is following, moving from certainty to certainty is thus acieved.

    This is in juxdaposition to the rigged non adaptive, preprogrammed unexercised mind, contending to bend situations into preset senarioes, principles or methodologies which may not in fact, upon closer scrutiny, have complete texual or practical support. The individual burdend by such a handycap when confronted with a nonconformist situation, or one that tests the very validity of the principles he is enacting will buckle and faulter as he grapples to force the square he has been presented into the circluar mould he had been carrying with him…..

    Allah subhaanah, from above the seven skies honoured us in His Noble Saying ” Verily We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran in order that you may utilise your intellects ” .

    2. With regards to Ibnul Qayyim, he himself stated, ” where ever the greater benifit (almaslahah) is to be found, the Shar’ (Law) is to be found with it. The majority of the Ulama, with the exception of alshaafi’e may Allah be pleased with them all, reagrd al masaalih al mursalah to be a valid source of Law when its preconditions are met and neccesary pillars are fully realised. Hence it would be correct to say that their are masaail the rulings of which change according to time place and cercumstance: the ruling of Ibnu taymiyyah with reards to women that you mentioned is of this type and not to be confused with a verdict issued for the benifit of one person, or only one portion of society. One of the pillars of almasaaliah al mursalah is that the benifit brought about by the ruling, or the harm removed by the ruling is general shared by the majority of the society the ruling would affect. With regards to Ibnu Taymiyyahs fatwa, it is clear how it is not specific to an individual, nor to a single group of people, but rather it is general covering every women from every country and level of society, so there is no conflict between the assertation of Ibnul Qayyim in the fatwa of his Shaykh. Whether we agree with Shaykh ul islam is another matter and requires greater research however.

    I pray this answer helped to clarify the matter for you.

    P.S. Suhaib habeeb, drop me a mail IA or give me a call on 0119091965 when your able, I haven’t been able to reach you via your phone.


  • Give it a few years and you will hold the same feelings for Obama, as you did for Bush. Its amazing how often muslims get bit in the same place these days.

  • Haq, I don’t think that’s Imam Suhaib since at the end, abu younus said: “P.S. Suhaib habeeb, drop me a mail IA or give me a call on 0119091965 when your able, I haven’t been able to reach you via your phone.”

  • Sheikh Abu Yunus is our teacher, friend and fellow Azhari.

    Haq: I sent out an email around 2 weeks ago that answered some of the question above. I’m preparing it as an article so you can contact me there is your have any questions. I think we have to ask ourselves some very important questions about the nature of Shariah itself. If we believe that it is good for all times and ages, then how can propose that it is somehow frozen and stuck in a set of 12th century legal postulates? I find that impossible.


  • Asalamu alaykum,

    I think Sh. Abu Yunus brings up a very important point that serves as a clear point of difference between the school of taqlid and the school of tajdid. The latter hold that taqlid is an enterprise for the novice, untrained student. However, for those who are given Ijaza in ifta, such as the students above, or at least they are in the process, ther is a different understanding. Namely, if there is no ‘Ijm’a on an issue and the text is not Qat’i Thubut, then rulings can change according to the Maslaha, which may be difficult or harsh, according to the mufti.

    That understanding keeps the law alive, free of stagnation and relevant until the end of time. I’m not quite sure how one who is a violent proponet of the closure of Ijtihad can argue the Islam is good for all times and places, when the law he holds reflects, for the most part, a set of 10th century A.H constructs that have, at least in the areas of Mu’amallat, not been able to keep up with the pace of our current societies. Thus, as far as the school of tajdid is concerned, the goal is not ease in itself, but the truth.

    If we continue to hold onto 10th century law manuals, ignoring the plight of the Muslim masses; unable to answer the current problems, then we will continue to see a society that finds it anchorage in other legal sources that are, as they see it, answering the problems and providing solutions for their lives. In al-Azhar, we’ve adopted the method of al-Shattibi and we are trained to go beyond the recipies that we’ve learned in our texts and weld them together with the societies that we live in.


  • Salaam

    “In al-Azhar, we’ve adopted the method of al-Shattibi and we are trained to go beyond the recipies that we’ve learned in our texts and weld them together with the societies that we live in.” Lol is this advertising for Al Azhar?

    No really I also agree about the changing of Ahkam. It’s just were I live the overwhelming majority are brothers who seem themselves as “Deobandis”. I usually do not like giving names to people but I do in this case since it identifies a method, an approach. I myself have been taught a lot by scholars who may be considered as following this method. What is this method? It seems hard to explain in a few words but namely, COMPLETE adherence to the Hanafi madhab.

    Any attempt to leave the mu’tamad of the madhab (let alone leave the madhab on an issue altogether) usually incites a barrage of insults from “deviating from the way of our scholars” to sheer “following desires (Ittiba al Hawa)
    And Wallahi I say this in all honesty your statement:
    “if there is no ‘Ijm’a on an issue and the text is not Qat’i Thubut, then rulings can change according to the Maslaha, which may be difficult or harsh, according to the mufti. ”
    Will not sit well in the environment we have here.
    Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to understand why my thinking becomes obscure at times, since I, after reading at large as well as speaking to a few scholars (independent minded) am convinced that the methodology of Sh Bin Bayyah for example, is much more effective in addressing problems than one which we exhort the masses to “fear Allah” and stay within the madhab.
    It is because I take this stance that I am unfortunately viewed with a suspicious eye, even receiving comments such as “he is a salafi!” just recently I was having a discussion with a very well studied brother over praying behind a person who wipes on his normal socks (something deemed impermissible according to the Ahnaf) and I said I will. On being asked to explain why these people allow masah on normal socks (note I was only explaining the view trying to get him to understand, he understood my effort of trying to explain the view as if I had endorsed this view – since the normal reaction here would have been to simply sneer at this opinion and keep quiet) I explained and then the brother becoming angry exclaimed this is nothing short of Ittiba al hawa.
    See ease in their view is a synonym for Ittiba al hawa in their (I agree not ALL, but in my experience, the overwhelming majority) view.
    So the method here is very different from Al Azhar, and to be honest, Al Azhar is not viewed that highly here too. Again there is this cautious suspicious attitude toward scholars from there. This view encourages following and conformism than individual and original thinking, it seems under the guise of Ihtiyaat.
    Anyway my comments should not in anyway be taken as an insult to the Ulama of Deoband or their piety (this seems to be a problem, since just because I differ or address issues of methodology of Fiqh, does not mean I am personally attacking persons holding this view). Indeed Deoband was once a high seat of learning, were scholars of high calibre were produced. There also scholars individually thinking diversely, but this has yet to be institutionalised.
    Insha Allah I will be writing an article on this where I hope I can write my thoughts down more coherently.

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    “Lol is this advertising for al-Azhar?”


    First, let me say that I have benefited greatly from the scholars of deoband. One of my Ijaza in hadith runs through them and I hold them in utmost admiration. That being said, I must admit that I disagree with their methods and those of their students in the West. However, I certainly would have no trouble praying behind them, taking knowledge from them and taking any benefit I could from them.

    My teacher, the muhadith and scholar of hadith in this era, Dr. Akram Nadawi told me that the current state of classical fiqh studies is like “a man who went to buy a cow for its dung, ignoring the milk and the meat.”

    Sh. Sulayman al-Nadawi: Another scholar who I was blessed to recieve an Ijaza through said, “The deobandis of today are not following the footsteps of Shah Waliullah al-Dehlawi. In fact, towards the end of his life he said, “I cannot lead this nation with one madhab.”

    My advice, dear brother, would be to avoid conflicts, keep studying and try and mend fences. I would not get caught up in debating the deobandis as, if they continue on this way, the will find themselves out of touch with general muslim community and slowly isolated until they have no influence on the general society at large. Let the scholars work out their issues and let us remain students.

    However, one thing I would stress is to take them to the Usol and to the foundational books of the madhab that were written pre 3rd century A.H. The books of Abu Yusuf and others. I would also take them to Bad’i al-San’i. I found al-Hidaya nothing short of a racist rant towards other madhabs and a book that has done a lot to create a very hanaficentric outlook.


  • salaam
    just to note, Akram Nadwi, Sulayman al-Nadwi, Salman Nadwi
    (the scholar from An Nadwa) are all “Nadwi’s”. Not to carry on too much, but one of my teachers, actually more than one, informed me that the “deobandis” view them as in “yes they are deobandies but…” There is also apparently the diff that deoband think with their heart whilst the nadwis think with their head (never knew what i am supposed to understand from this statement).

    JazzakAllah for the advice, honestly i clearly try to avoid disputes with anyone cause it affects me negatively., but at times you see something that is soo just not acceptable, silence seems to be an act of opression to the truth at that time.

    Regarding Hidayah, it is indespensable to the Deobandi syllabus and at the core of hanafi fiqh as they see it, and I think, and Allah knows best, any attempt at removing this from the syllabus (or revising it) will be viewed as “modernist” etc… although one of the scholars i was stuyding it with, Mufti Barakatullah ( a very interesting
    really humble person with diverse knoweldge) showed how a big chunk of it was inapplicable today is inapplicable today.


  • […] Farid Hilali who has been denied this right for the past four months while in prison in Britain. …On Mastering Multiple Fiqh Discourses and The Obama Victory …On Mastering Multiple Fiqh Discourses and The Obama Victory- Drops from Dr. S'ad al-Din al-Hilali […]

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