Islamic Studies

On the Synergy of Tradition and Creativity: the Role of Usol in Empowering the Mind and the Role of Tradition in Compassing it by Ibn Rushd al-Maliki

Ibn Rushd [Allah’s mercy be upon him] wrote:

“Those known as people of knowledge and distinguished from the masses in their ability to memorize and comprehend are [divided into] three groups:

The first, those who follow the opinions of Malik without knowing any evidences, they memorize his statements and those of his students related to religious law in order to grasp which are correct and which are weak without understanding how they arrived at such conclusions.

The second, those who follow his views because of the sound fundamentals on which they were based, memorizing his statements and those of his companions while grasping their meanings; aware of the correct ones and the weak ones. However, they have not reached the level of knowledge where they can synthesize the secondary issues with the fundamentals.

The third, those who follow the school due to their understanding of its sound principles based on their profound scholarship of the rulings rooted in the Qur’an and Sunna. They know the abrogated and what abrogated them, the clear and the ambiguous, the general and the specific and the universal and the restricted.

Their knowledge encompasses the opinions of the scholars from the companions of the Prophet [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him], their students and the scholarly community in general, empowering them to go beyond issues of dispute.

It is not allowed for the first group to issue to religious edicts even if they learned and practiced them. As for the second, if they issue edicts based on what they’ve learned to be correct from Malik’s statements or from the scholars of law from his school, then it is acceptable. As for the third group, they are those who are qualified to issue religious edicts without restriction.

Muwahib al-Jalil Sharh Mukhtasar Khalil of al-Hattab, vol. 6, pg(s).94-94

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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  • Takbeer! Allahu Akbar!

    Masha Allah I love Ibn Rushd’s (rhm) explanation above.

    May our Scholars be amongst the latter group mentioned above.


  • Re: the above comment

    It’s no secret that every generation of Muslims has been worse than the last. While we certainly have our gems, most Ulema (fitting that third level especially) acknowledge the situation and in a time where Muslims are so divided and under assault from all sides, are appropriately and rightly taking conservative stances, not trying to rock the boat of the Ummah too much. And Allah bless their souls, they are usually very humble and doubt themselves and don’t take themselves that seriously out of a fear of Allah, no doubt partly due to being almost isolated on islands from others of their ilk. but that is, in and of itself, a wisdom for us to benefit from. an appropriate wisdom for this age and our people.

    what benefited the earlier communities may not be the same as what benefits us. the same is the principle behind the saying ‘speak to each person according to their temperament’.

    It’s ironic because this view was famously propounded by Imam al-Ghazali (ra), whom Ibn Rushd (ra) was at odds with (in the sense of lively and beneficial debate of course). This is at the very core of the dramatic shift in Islamic civilization at about their time which brings us to today. The Western world’s academics and historians will often try to insert their own 2 cents into the debate by saying the views of Ibn Rushd (ra) which were traditional for the time, would have better suited Islamic civilization than Imam al-Ghazali’s (ra) which were new, and based upon the new circumstances of the Ummah and where it was headed. But we know what the Westerners value, material progress above all, so that is another sign in and of itself.

    To have been able to live in an age of Alims and Saints of the likes of Ibn Rushd (ra), Ibn Arabi (ra), and al-Ghazali (ra)! We have fallen far, but things will take a turn for the better.

    fa inna mal ‘usri yusra. inna mal ‘usri yusra.

  • AS

    This is another clear indication that Hasan al Banna’s 20 Usul was founded upon sound Usuli principles. Last I heard from one of the scholars here in the US is that he used 50 works on Usul to compose them. In any event, we can see the principles laid out by Imam Ibn Rushd (r) whom I love dearly at work in the Maliki school today as it revives itself and aims to move beyond the bigotry of madhab bias. The question we have to ask ourselves now is are we committed to a curriculum which will implement the ability to dynamically function within the school. It is here with these principles and those laid out in the Usul 20 that the reality of tarjih comes clear and is contextualized harmonizing the da’wah to taqleed and that of ijtihad and that of itibaah.

    A thousand thanks Oklahoma boy…
    after watching a bit of the Eagles game up against Washington I have opted to hide my Philly roots..I think now I may say go Blue! or something like that.


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