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In Islamic jurisprudence, qiyās (Arabic قياس) is the process of deductive analogy in which the teachings of the Hadith are compared and contrasted with those of the Qur'an, in order to apply a known injunction (nass) to a new circumstance and create a new injunction. Here the ruling of the Sunnah and the Qur'an may be used as a means to solve or provide a response to a new problem that may arise. This, however, is only the case providing that the set precedent or paradigm and the new problem that has come about will share operative causes (ʿillah) (عِلّة). The ʿillah is the specific set of circumstances that trigger a certain law into action.

Sunni interpretations[edit]

Late and modern Sunni jurisprudence regards analogical reason as a fourth source of Islamic law, following the Qur'an, prophetic tradition and binding consensus. While Muslim scholarship in the later period traditionally claimed that analogy had existed in Islamic law since their religion's inception,[1] modern scholarship generally points to Muslim scholar Abu Hanifa as the first to incorporate analogical reason as a source of law.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Since its inception, analogical reason has been the subject of extensive study in regard to both its proper place in Islamic law and its proper application.

Validity as a source of law[edit]

Among Sunni traditions, there is still a range of attitudes regarding the validity of analogy as a method of jurisprudence. Ahmad bin Hanbal and Dawud al-Zahiri for example, rejected the use of analogical reason outright, arguing that to rely on personal opinion in law-making would mean that each individual would ultimately form their own subjective conclusions.[10][4] Bernard G. Weiss, one of today's foremost experts on Islamic law and philosophy, explains that while analogical reason was accepted as a fourth source of law by later generations, its validity was not a foregone conclusion among earlier Muslim jurists.[11] Thus, while its status as a fourth source of law was accepted by the majority of later and modern Muslim jurists, this was not the case at the inception of Muslim jurisprudence as a field.

Opposition to qiyas came from a number of angles. Professor Walîd b. Ibrâhîm al-`Ujajî Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University explains the opposition to qiyas as coming from multiple angles:[1]

Some of them argued that qiyâs is contrary to reason. One argument given in this light was that: “Delving into this method is intellectually repugnant in its own right”. Another argument was: “Islamic legal rulings are based on human well-being, and no one knows human well-being except the One who gave us the sacred law. Therefore, the only way we can know the sacred law is from the revelation.” Other scholars said that qiyâs is not contrary to reason, but prohibited by the sacred law itself.

Early support for the validity of analogical reason in jurisprudence came from Abu Hanifa and his student Abu Yusuf.[10] Al-Shafi'i was a proponent of analogical reasoning as well, though his usage was less frequent than that of Abu Hanifa.[4]

Acceptance of analogical reason gradually increased within the Muslim world. With the Malikite and Hanbalite schools eventually granting full acceptance as the Hanafites and Shafi'ites already had done, the overwhelming majority of Sunni jurists from the late period onward affirmed its validity.[6] Japanese scholar of Islam Kojiro Nakamura defined the orthodox Sunni schools in regard to their eventual acceptance of analogy in descending order of that acceptance: Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi'is, Hanbalis and Zahiris.[9] Much work was performed on the details of proper analogy, with major figures such as Al-Qastallani, Al-Baqillani, Al-Juwayni and al-Amidi from the Shafi'ite school and Ibn Abidin from the Hanafite school providing rules and guidelines still used to this day.

Application as a source of law[edit]

Sunni scholar Baghawi gave a commonly accepted definition of analogy in Islamic law: analogical reasoning is the knowledge by which one learns the method of deriving a ruling from the Quran and prophetic tradition. In this case, the above mentioned ruling should not already be apparent in the Quran, prophetic tradition or consensus. If there is no derivation involved due to the explicitness of the ruling in the Quran and prophetic tradition, then such a person is not, by definition, a mujtahid.

Shi’a interpretations[edit]

Not unlike the Sunni Hanbalis and Zahiris, the Shi’a rejected both pure reason and analogical reason completely on account of the multitude of perspectives that would arise from it, viewing both methods as subjective.[4] There are various instances in which the Qur'an disapproves of a divergence of beliefs such as the following:

And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere:

—Sura 8 (Al-Anfal), ayah 46


Twelver Shi’a[edit]

Within the Twelver Shi’i legal tradition, the fourth source for deriving legal principles is not qiyās but rather the intellect ’’'Aql’’. Twelver Shi’a regard the ulama (scholars) as authorities in legal and religious matters during the Occultation (ghayba) of the Imamah Mahdi. Until the return of the hidden Imam, it is the responsibility of the ulāma’ to be his deputies and provide guidance on worldly matters. In modern interpretations of Twelver Shi’ism, the most revered and learned scholars are styled as references for emulation (marja taqlīd). In cases where the Marja Taqlīd have differing opinions, the Mahdi who is considered the highest in knowledge, must either become manifest and provide a ruling or correct view "must lie with both parties". This system of deriving legal principles effectively replaces both the Sunni notion of consensus (ijmā’) and deductive analogy (qiyās)[13]

Accordingly, in the chapter on Knowledge of the Twelver collection of prophetic traditions, Kitab al-Kafi, one finds many traditions cited from the Imams that forbid the use of qiyās, for example:

The Imam (a.s.) said, "My father narrated from my great-great-great-great grandfather, the holy Prophet (s.a.) who said, ‘Those who act on the basis of analogy will face their destruction and lead others to their destruction. Those who give fatwas without the knowledge of the abrogating and the abrogated, the clear text and that which requires interpretation, they will face destruction and lead others to their destruction."[14]

Ismaili Shi’a[edit]

Among the most notable Ismaili thinkers, Bu Ishaq Quhistani regarded the notion of subjective opinion (qiyās) as completely contradictory to the Islamic notion of tawhīd (unity) as it ultimately gave rise to a countless divergent conclusions, besides which those who exercised deductive analogy relied on little more than their imperfect individual intellects. According to Bu Ishaq, there must be a supreme intellect in every age, just as Muhammad was in his time. Without this, it would be impossible for any ordinary individual to attain knowledge of the Divine using mere speculation. The supreme intellect, he reasoned, could be none other than the Imam of the age.[15]

Bu Ishaq Quhistani referred to the Qur'anic tale of Adam and Eve to support his argument for the necessity of a perfect teacher who could provide spiritual edification (ta’līm) in place of what he felt were subjective whims and wayward personal opinions (ra’y). Commenting on the Qur'anic foundational narrative, Bu Ishaq explains that when God taught Adam the names of all things, Adam was commanded to teach the angels, as in sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 33.[16] Spiritual instruction therefore had its root in the Qur'an itself, however Satan, in his arrogance, refused to bow down before Adam. Instead he protested, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and him from clay." Thus the first to use deductive analogy was none other than Satan himself, by reasoning and challenging the command of God to prostrate. It was for this reason that Satan was punished for eternity and fell from favor until the final day.[17] In Ismaili thought, therefore, the truth lay not in subjective opinion (ra’y) and analogy (qiyās), but rather in the teaching of the bearer of truth (muhiqq), that is, the Imam of the time. The supreme teacher therefore exists at all times for the imperfect human intellects to submit (taslīm) to, as is proclaimed in the divine dictate:

This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.

—Sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida), ayah 3[18]

Mu'tazilite interpretations[edit]

Primarily being a school of dogma and not jurisprudence, the Mu'tazila generally did not hold independent positions on such issues. The majority of the Mu'tazila, despite being a distinct sect from both Sunni and Shi'ite Islam, still preferred the juristic school of Abu Hanifa, with a minority following Al-Shafi'i's views. This resulted in the odd combination of being Mu'tazilite in creed but Sunni in jurisprudence, and consequently most of the Mu'tazila accepted analogical reason in addition to pure reason.[19]

Mu'tazilite scholar Abu'l Husayn al-Basri, a major contributor to early Muslim jurisprudence, said that in order for a jurist to perform analogical reason, they must possess a thorough knowledge of the rules and procedures for which allows the application of revealed law to an unprecedented case, in addition to basic knowledge of the Qur'an and prophetic tradition.

Not all of the Mu'tazila followed Sunni jurisprudence. Al-Nazzam in particular denied the validity of analogical reason wholesale, preferring to rely on pure reason instead.

Historical debate[edit]

Before the Middle Ages there was a logical debate among Islamic logicians, philosophers and theologians over whether the term qiyas refers to analogical reasoning, inductive reasoning or categorical syllogism. Some Islamic scholars argued that qiyas refers to inductive reasoning, which Ibn Hazm (994-1064) disagreed with, arguing that qiyas does not refer to inductive reasoning, but refers to categorical syllogism in a real sense and analogical reasoning in a metaphorical sense. On the other hand, al-Ghazali (1058–1111) (and in modern times, Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi) argued that qiyas refers to analogical reasoning in a real sense and categorical syllogism in a metaphorical sense. Other Islamic scholars at the time, however, argued that the term qiyas refers to both analogical reasoning and categorical syllogism in a real sense.[20]


  1. ^ a b Walîd b. Ibrâhîm al-`Ujajî, Qiyas in Islamic Law – A Brief Introduction, Alfalah Consulting, FRIDAY, 29 APRIL 2011
  2. ^ Reuben Levy, Introduction to the Sociology of Islam, pg. 236-237. London: Williams and Norgate, 1931-1933.
  3. ^ Chiragh Ali, The Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms. Taken from Modernist Islam 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, pg. 280. Edited by Charles Kurzman. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  4. ^ a b c d Mansoor Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse, pg. 32. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  5. ^ Keith Hodkinson, Muslim Family Law: A Sourcebook, pg. 39. Beckenham: Croom Helm Ltd., Provident House, 1984.
  6. ^ a b Understanding Islamic Law: From Classical to Contemporary, edited by Hisham Ramadan, pg. 18. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.
  7. ^ Christopher Roederrer and Darrel Moellendorf, Jurisprudence, pg. 471. Lansdowne: Juta and Company Ltd., 2007.
  8. ^ Nicolas Aghnides, Islamic Theories of Finance, pg. 69. New Jersey: Gorgias Press LLC, 2005.
  9. ^ a b Kojiro Nakamura, "Ibn Mada's Criticism of Arab Grammarians." Orient, v. 10, pgs. 89-113. 1974
  10. ^ a b Chiragh Ali, pg. 281.
  11. ^ Bernard G. Weiss, The Search for God's Law: Islamic Jurisprudence in the Writings of Sayf al-Din al-Amidi, pg. 633. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992.
  12. ^ Quran 8:46
  13. ^ Elhadj, Elie. The Islamic Shield: Arab Resistance to Democratic and Religious Reforms (Boca Raton: Brown Walker Press), 2007, p.48.
  14. ^ Prohibition on Speaking without Knowledge
  15. ^ Shafique Virani. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press), 2007, p.149.
  16. ^ Quran 2:33
  17. ^ Virani, p.152.
  18. ^ Quran 5:3
  19. ^ Joseph A. Kechichian, A mind of his own. Gulf News: 21:30 December 20, 2012.
  20. ^ Wael Hallaq (1993), Ibn Taymiyya Against the Greek Logicians, p. 48. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-824043-0.

External links[edit]

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