Islamic Studies

Questions on Some Issues Related to Maliki Usol and Minority Fiqh

The Question:

I hope you are well:

What is ‘shepherding differences” you’ve eluded to a number of times in your answers in the school? Also, what justification does Sh. Bin Bayyah have for taking the marjouh opinion?

Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh:

I think other some of our brothers might not be aware of the scope of taking the Marjooh that exists in the Maliki School? For that reason, we’ve seen a large number comments regarding Dr. Bin Bayya’s statement, which he quoted from al-Bannani al-Maliki, that a Mujtahid can take the marjoh.

A quick glance at the more advanced texts in Usol show that the Malikis went beyond “Escaping differences” but added, Mur’atu al-khilaf, “shepherding differenes,” the former being a part of the latter in its universal usage since its usage came after issues arose and not before. Meaning, the Malikis were not only concerned with ikhtilaf before it happened only, but after the fact as well. This represents the genius of Imam Malik, his closeness to the understanding of the Salaf and grants the Maliki school space to flourish and coexists with other rites.

Broadening the Concept of Ikhtilaf

Thus, “escaping differences” implies that one, he were the Imam for a group of Shafi’s, Hanbalis or Hanafis, would recite the basmalah in a silent voice; honoring the Hanafi, Shafi and Hanbali proofs. Such an act is considered disliked in prayer unless, as noted by our scholars, it is done out of taqlid of a mujtahid who holds that opinion or mura’at al-khilaf [En. Shepherding the differences] as illustrated above.

An Example of this from Imam Malik

Take a look at Imam Malik’s position on a corrupted marriage such as al-Nikah al-Shigar. It is the position of the school that such a marriage is fasid and annulled. This is based on the statement of the Prophet that “There is no al-Nikah al-Shigar in Islam.” Abu Hanafi (ra) differed and held that the cause for this prohibition was the absence of a sound mahr. Thus, if the mahr was paid the marriage was valid. Now, on the issue of inheritance, in case one of the spouses died in such a marriage, we find that Imam Malik considers such inheritance as sound? This is an example of Mur’atu al-Khilaf. Although he felt the marriage was annulled, based on his respect and honor for the Hanafi’s al-Adilah, he held that under the following circumstances:


1. They had lived together
2. They had sexual relations
3. Perhaps they had children
4. Perhaps they had been married for years not aware that the marriage was corrupted

Inheritance agreed with the proofs and ideas of Abu Hanifah. Thus, the ruling changed in order to achieve the benefit [Ar. Maslaha]

Where Do I Find This Stuff?

Not all acts fall under “Guarding the differences” so one, if he is not a qualified mujtahid, would have to refer to the trustworthy books in the school: al-Dasuqi’s work on Sh. Dardir’s explanation of Khalil’s mukhtasar and, of course, al-Sharh al-Saghir are great places to find these things.

Compassing the Differences

Muratu al-Khilaf is a safe guard that protects the community after the initiation of an act. For that reason Ibn Abdu al-Salam al-Maliki al-Tunis, who died in the 9th century defined it as, “Using both dalils, for rulings, whose correct usage is demanded by circumstance.”

Regard is for the Dalil not for Differences in Themselves

It should be noted as Dr. Muhammad Salim al-Shankiti stated that the goal of Mur’atu al-Khilaf is respect for sound proofs and not khilaf itself. As some noted, “If regard was given to differences alone, then there would be no madhab. However, what is respected here is the soundness of the proofs.”

Confusing alShattibi

One of the problems that some of our brothers have is their reading of alShattibi‘s comments on Muratu al-Khilaf. One time an avid denier of its reality; alShattibi (D. 791) after many discussions with the scholars of his time, including al-Qabab who responded to al-Shattibi directly, changed his opinion and said in al-Muwafatqat, “Mura’at al-Khilaf is one of the usol of Imam Malik’s school.”

Latter on he wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, “due to circumstances, what was once the marjooh, becomes the Rajih to the Mujtahid after a change in the realities and settings that forced such a change.”

Taking the Marjooh

One who ponders on the above would easily realize that Imam Malik took, in the case of inheritance of such a marriage previously mentioned, both dalils, made them work, and drew rulings from them. In other words, what was once the marjooh became the rajih. This is also apparent in other schools, but not to the degree of the Malikis. For example the Shafi’s ease their position on breaking one’s wudu when touching the opposite sex when one is making Tawaf.

The only issues the Maliki’s had with Mur’atu al-Khilaf is its essence

Being a principle of Islamic Law
Being a principle of jurisprudence

The former serving as an interpretive lens that guided thoughts, the latter serving as a platform for rulings in themselves. However, there were some who felt it was not from the Usol of the school and they are the minority. This was noted by Ibn Abi Kahf in his poem on the Maliki Usol.

The idea of taking the Marjooh for the Mujtahid was expounded on by a Mauritanian scholar who wrote a poem called Tulahah [the small tree] because he composed it under a small tree in one sitting. In that poem, which I have in my possession, he address 23 lines on taking the marjooh and its conditions:

1. One should be a Mujtahid
2. Know the time
3. Know the place
4. Know the causes
5. Know, if what he is actually using, is the Marjooh

This poem forms the conditions for what is known, and what al-‘Allamah Bin Bayyah refers to as, “Juryan al-Amal.” Thus, attacks of relativism and hyper post modernity are reflections of ones ignorance of the school’s scope, usol and an inability to come to grips with a strictly Maliki enterprise. Although there are glimpses of this in other schools, as noted earlier.

The Prophet Taking the Marjooh

  1.  Letting the man urinate in the mosque
  2. Not rebuilding the K’aba due to the Arabs recent conversion to Islam
  3. Not killing Abdullah bin Ubai the head of the hypocrites

Now, in the Maliki School, this leads into three more important foundational sources of law: ithsan, ‘Urf and al-Maslaha. No time for that now. Take care and keep me in your prayers.


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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  • Assalamu'alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu

    The claim that the Nabi, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, “took the marjuh” on an issue is a very tall claim. Each of the three cases you mentioned can easily be chalked up to an issue of a situation where clearly the lesser of two evils was chosen, which in the first two cases had to do with giving priority to the very Iman of a person over issues that were of a lower tier in terms of priority. I don't think that allowing a person to urinate in a mosque is the opinion of any scholar or an opinion of any validity at all, in fact, so it puzzles me as to how it can be referred to as “marjuh” rather than just straight wrong. Remember the five conditions you chalked out in the Tulahah; the fifth condition seems to an ignorant one like myself to be totally non-existent in this example. To an ignorant one like myself it seems distressing that actions of the messenger of Allah, 'alayhi assalam, would be considered marjuh. I would appreciate it if you gave us some sort of citation of the 'ulama of the past making such a claim, or you informing us if these are your own thoughts. Such a service would put a lot of misgivings in this ignorant one to rest.


  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Dear Humza:

    Perhaps if you looked at some of the major books in the school it would have been better? The above was an email conversation and the evidences I used were not my own but those of the school. [see, al-M'yar vol. 6. pg. 395 please note the evidence I gave above were used by the great Imam's of the school in their discussions with al-Shattibi. Also, have a look at as well as the important Phd. done on the subject by Dr. Muhamamd Amin walid Salim ibn Shaikh pg. 249-266. I would also encourage you to see al-Muwafaqat vol. 4 pg. 151 as well as al-'Itisam vol. 2 pg. 352. for al-Shattibi's evidences as well]

  • Wa'alaykum Assalam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu

    Sidi Suhaib. Jazakallahu Khayran for taking time out to respond to the inquiries of this lowly one. Please do not interpret my poor choice of words to be a challenge. Rather I am trying to understand what you have said properly.

    By the Mi'yar, I am assuming that you mean Imam al-Wansharisi? My copy should be arriving by the weekend insha'allah…

    Can you also please send me the chapter headings of the citations from the Muwafaqat and the I'tisam? I think we have different editions, so if you would indulge me, I would be very grateful.


  • Assalamu'alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu

    Sidi Suhayb: Please do not interpret my words as a challenge or refutation. I am simply trying to wrap my head around a concept which doesn't seem to be very clear to me at this time.

    My copy of the Mi'yar is coming insha'allah soon. I am assuming that you mean Imam Wansharisi.

    If you could be so kind as to send me the chapter headings for the citations from the I'tisam and Muwafaqat, I would also be much obliged. It seems like I am working from different editions than you are.

    I have ordered the Tuwalah and it should also be coming soon, insha'allah.

    If you had any clarificatory remarks that would clear up any misunderstandings that I conveyed in my last comment I would appreciate that as well. It may help more than simply sending page numbers.

    I appreciate your time.


  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Dear Humza:

    No was my intention to come at you like kimbo Slice. Sorry, my time doesn't let me prepare a paper on this subject in the manner I would like. The subject cannot be addressed in a mere paragraph or two. Please have a look at those resources, digest them and we will talk once I'm done with studies this spring and back in the states.


  • SubhanAllah, it's really important us to look at the surrounding real life context to a scholars ruling. A lot of times we judge the scholar based on his fatwa and not based on how he came about with his fatwa (i.e. with what real life understanding did he give this ruling). The scholars of the past understood this and they had a respect for each others rulings because of that. They true intellectual vigor rather than childish polarity (whether very liberal or ultra conservative).

    jazakAllahu khayr for this post, really cleared up some thoughts I've had for a while.

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