The Hanafi Madhab’s Approach to Classifying Legal Rulings

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

The scholars agree that in reality, every human action has a ruling unique to it. Killing an innocent human and an innocent petty lie are both unlawful (haram); however, one is immensely more grave than the other.

The Hanafis and the other schools agree on the main five-part classification of the rulings of the Shariah into:

Obligatory
Sunna
Permitted
Disliked
Prohibited.

However, the Hanafis then note that obligation and prohibition may both be established in one of two ways:

Through a decisive text
Through a probabilistic text.

It is undeniable that obligation or prohibition established through a decisive text is more serious in its implications than that which is established through a probabilistic text.

Thus, they divided obligation into:

The obligatory (fard)
The necessary (wajib).

And, through detailed, careful study of the primary texts–discussed at length in the more expansive works of the fundamentals of legal methodology (usul al-fiqh)–they deduced the differences in implications between the obligatory and necessary.

The same applies to prohibitions, which were thus divided into:

The prohibited (haram)
The prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman).

Similarly, we see that the sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) consists of:

Matters that he strongly emphasized (or warned against leaving), and
Matters that he did sometimes or by way of habit.

Thus, the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace was divided into:

The emphasized sunna (sunna mu’akkada)
The recommended (mustahabb or mandub).

The rulings related to each of these two levels of sunna acts differs, too, as described.

[Sources: Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari, Kashf al-Asrar `ala Usul al-Bazdawi]

And Allah knows best.

By: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

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