The science of legal theory (usul al-fiqh) studies how to infer the rulings of Sacred Law directly from the Qur’an and sunna. This course will clear your confusions over (1) the role of scholarly consensus (ijma’) in preserving Islam; (2) how the Sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was preserved; (3) and the role of human reason in interpreting the Qur’an and Sunna. Since the Qur’an and Sunna are both in Arabic, some knowledge of Arabic, however, is a highly recommended prerequisite to this course. But the instructor makes every effort to explain things in a way that can be understood by English speakers without any knowledge of Arabic

Curricular Context
  • This is a second-level course

  • Complete Step One before taking this course

Course Outline


 Session 1

Lesson 1 -Imam al-Juwayni and the Waraqat
Lesson 2 – Usul, Fiqh, and Usul al-Fiqh
Lesson 3 – What is Fiqh?

 Session 2

Lesson 4 – The Rulings of Sacred Law
Lesson 5 – Probabilistic Inference
Lesson 6 – What is Usul al-Fiqh?

 Session 3

Lesson 7 – What is Speech and Why is it Important?
Lesson 8 – Kinds of Speech in Legal Inference
Lesson 9 – Literal and Figurative Speech

 Session 4

Lesson 10 – How to Discern Figurative Speech
Lesson 11 – Four Examples of Figurative Speech

 Session 5

Lesson 12 – Commands, Prohibitions, and Moral Responsibility
Lesson 13 – How to Fulfill One’s Moral Responsibility

 Session 6

 Lesson 14 – Who is Morally Responsible?
Lesson 15-  Is a Prohibited Action Also Invalid?

 Session 7

Lesson 16 – What are Inclusive Expressions?
Lesson 17 – Excluding from Inclusive Expressions

 Session 8

Lesson 18 – Excluding by the Sunna
Lesson 19 – Excluding by Analogy
Lesson 20 – Excluding by Revelatory Context

 Session 9

Lesson 21 – The Different Strengths of Linguistic Signification

 Session 10

Lesson 22 – The Figurative Interpretation of Probabilistic Expressions
Lesson 23 – Why Anthropomorphists are Mistaken

 Session 11

 Lesson 24 – Prophets are Divinely Protected from Sin
Lesson 25 – What can be inferred from the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did something?

 Session 12

Lesson 26 – Prophetic Approval
Lesson 27 – What can be inferred from the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not do something?
Session 13


Lesson 27 – What can be inferred from the fact that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not do something?
Session 14


Lesson 28 – Abrogation is Possible and it Actually Happened
Lesson 29 – Abrogation of Qur’anic Commands and Prohibitions 
Session 15



Lesson 30 – Kinds of New Rulings After Abrogation
Lesson 31 – Abrogation by the Qur’an and Abrogation by the Sunna 
Session 16


Lesson 32 – Evidentiary Conflict and Reconciliation
Session 17


Lesson 33 – Scholarly Consensus of the Muslim Umma is Never Wrong
Lesson 34 – Scholarly Consensus is the Impenetrable Fortress of Islam 
Session 18


Lesson 35 – Explicit and Implicit Scholarly Consensus
Lesson 36 – Ijtihad of a Companion  
Session 19


Lesson 37 – Isnad is the Distinction of the Muslim Umma
Lesson 38 – Kinds of Transmitted Reports  
Session 20


Lesson 39 – Mursal Hadiths
Lesson 40 – How Hadiths Were Transmitted 
Session 21


Lesson 41 – Human Reason and the Sacred Law
Lesson 42 – Kinds of Legal Analogy 
Session 22 Lesson 43 – The Initially Presumed Ruling of Sacred Law
Lesson 44 – The Presumption of Continuity 
Session 23


Lesson 45 – The Precedence-Order of Legal Evidence
Session 24


 Lesson 46 – The Conditions of Ijtihad
Lesson 47 – Following Qualified Scholarship
Lesson 48 – Is Every Mujtahid Correct?

What You Will Learn:

  • Explain what Islamic legal theory is and why it needs to be studied
  • Learn how to interpret the Qur’an and Sunna
  • Memorize the definitions of key terms in the science of Islamic legal theory
  • Appreciate the depth of scholarship of all four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence
  • Apply the techniques of Islamic legal theory to gain clarity on contemporary religious debates about literalism, ijtahad and taqlid, and bid‘a

About the Course Text

This course is a contemporary explanation of al-Waraqat, a primer on Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) by Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 478 A.H. / 1085 C.E.). Imam al-Juwayni was an imam (i.e., someone who is taken as an exemplar) of the Islamic sciences in the fullest sense of the word: he authored multi-volume seminal works in Shafi‘i jurisprudence, Islamic theology, and Islamic legal theory, that became the basis for all future work in each science. His al-Waraqat is a short work that brings his vast scholarship in the science of Islamic legal theory down to the level of an absolute beginner. Ever since it was written almost a thousand years ago, students of the Shafi‘i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools have successfully used it to begin their study of Islamic legal theory. A translation of the course text is provided as part of the course materials.