While in Kenya I studied a part of Fiqh us-Sunnah (chapter on taharah) from Sayyid Sabiq (a student of Hassan al-Banna and teacher of Yusuf al-Qardawi) in Arabic with a teacher (next to Safinatu an-Najaa; we compared) and he told me most of the modern scholars, the scholars nowadays, refer to and teach from this recent and modern fiqh-book. It is worldwide a very popular book. Later on, when staying in Lamu, I received several parts of the English translation of this book from someone who studied shari’ah in Sudan. I also studied al-’Aqaa’id al-Islamiyyah (partly) from the same author (1967), in Arabic, and there is, as far as I know, no English translation of this masterpiece on ‘aqida (according to my teacher influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah) until now. My main focus in this post though will be Fiqh us-Sunnah. I heard several things on this book and decided to do some research on the author and the work. I first saw a Dutch translation of this book years ago, before I was a muslim, at the home of a Moroccan friend.
An introduction on Fiqh us-Sunnah and Sayyid Sabiq can be read here: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/law/fiqhussunnah/fusintro.html
Fiqh us-Sunnah has been translated into English by Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo: http://www.jamaalzarabozo.com/ but there are several versions in circulation. A lectutre on the book by Zarabozo can be downloaded from his website: http://www.jamaalzarabozo.com/audio.php (“Commentary on Fiqh al-Sunnah” = Q. & A.) – Not very good quality though!
A course that is partially based on Fiqh us-Sunnah can be listened here (for free): http://an-nahdah.org//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=64&Itemid=85 (Fiqh ul-’Ibadaat 101 – 4 videos)
The whole book itself can be downloaded here as a PDF-document (in English): http://www.maktabah.net/store/images/35/Fiqhus-Sunnah%20-%20Sayyid%20Sabiq1.pdf and in Arabic here: http://read.kitabklasik.co.cc/2009/06/fiqh-al-sunnah-al-sayyid-sabiq.html
An article on Sayyid Sabiq (and his Fiqh us-Sunnah) from Arab News by Adil Salahi: http://www.arabnews.com/?page=5§ion=0&article=67337&d=27&m=7&y=2005 and also the same article here:
and here too (the latest): http://www.altranslators.com/bg/?p=337 [New Reflections On Shaikh as Sayyid Sabiq's (r) Fiqh us-Sunnah]
The opinions from the scholars and students on this book differ:
- He was awarded with a prize for the book in 1994, namely the King Faisal Prize for Islamic Studies (source: http://www.salaam.co.uk/knowledge/biography/viewentry.php?id=1535).
- Some people say it is not reliable, see for example: http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=151&CATE=91 and http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=6107&CATE=1431
- And some says it is just a pick and choose of issues from different schools which are authentic to the author: http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=4308&CATE=102
- Someone quotes Nuh Keller (a Shafi’i) who said (according to him) it (the book) represents for 90% the rulings of the Shafi’i school of law: http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=681&CATE=115
- In the article “Who or what is a Salafi?” (http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/salafi.htm) Nuh Keller states that 95% of the book reflects the rulings of the Shafi’i school. But, as can be deducted from the article, the book is popular amongst our Salafi brothers (although the author has a Muslim Brotherhood background!); according to some Salafi’s Fiqh us-Sunnah reflects or represents the “correct” position or the “strongest evidence”. Nuh Keller doesn’t say anything about the reliability of the book though.
- Shaykh al-Albani made some notes on the Fiqh us-Sunnah (of course there are some weak ahadith which can be expected as usual from the shaykh) which can be read here:
This book (Tamam ul-Minnah fi’t-Ta’liq ‘ala Fiqh us-Sunnah) from the shaykh can be read and downloaded in Arabic from this site: http://www.alalbany.net/albany_ebooks.php
The article “What’s wrong with Fiqh us-Sunnah by Sayyid Saabiq“, translated from the work of al-Albani: http://www.bakkah.net/articles/fiqhussunnah.htm Although al-Albani recommended the book here for beginning students: http://abdurrahman.org/knowledge/AlbaneeRecommended.html
On Islam Online Fiqh us-Sunnah is called “a main reference and guideline for the Islamic Fiqh or Jurisprudence regarding worship acts such as Prayers, Fasting, Zakah, `Umrah, Hajj and other rulings related to the Shari`ah.” See: http://www.islamonline.net/english/Hadith/hadith.shtml
- Shaykh Hasan al-Mashour ( a Jordanian Salafi muhaddith and a student from al-Albani) recommended the book (to be read with the notes of shaykh al-Albani), which can be read here: http://www.altranslators.com/bg/?p=193
- Shaykh b. al-’Uthaymin judged it to be one of the good books: http://abdurrahman.org/knowledge/fatwabase/therulingregardingsayyidsa.htm
- The book is gaining popularity and acceptance in the curriculum of the pesantrens (madaris) in Indonesia instead of the classical fiqh-books that are being taught there, see:
- Other people say it is a rather modernist approach to fiqh and the book “attempts to abolish 1400 years of juristic disagreement in a few slim volumes“: http://www.islamonline.net/english/Contemporary/2004/09/Article03.shtml
- Commenting (implicitly) on the Fiqh us-Sunnah shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad / Tim Winter (sarcastically) contents: “Maimonides made the Mishnah out of the Talmud; Sayyid Sabiq made a Talmud out of the Mishnah.” See: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/ahm/contentions5.htm
- In his article “Fiqh al-Shafi’i or Fiqh al-Sunna?” shaykh Hamza Karamali argues and explains that the term “fiqh al-sunna / fiqh us-sunna(h)” is grammatically (according to the Arabic language) incorrect. See: http://blog.sunnipath.com/2007/08/24/fiqh-al-shafii-or-fiqh-al-sunna/
- Ridhwan ibn Muhammad Saleem in his article “Asking for Evidences is a Clear Daleel for your Ignorance” sarcastically calls Fiqh us-Sunnah an “essential guide for all budding mujthahids”. See:
- Three instances can be explicitly mentioned were the book goes against the established opinions of the (remaining) 4 Sunni madhahib:
1.) on the issue of shortening the prayers during travel
2.) on the ruling in case of an apostate; this is mentioned by shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Harari – rahmatullahi aleyhi – in his Mukhtasar
3.) making up of missed prayers (Sabiq relies heavily on Ibn Hazm); see for example the chapter on Making up missed prayers is obligatory in “Reliance of the Traveller“, see pp. 881 – 894 for counter arguments
- Last but not least: shaykh Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti calls Fiqh us-Sunnah “a book of an opponent of the four Imams” regarding the question of the threefold pronouncement of divorce. (See pag. 130 of the English translation of “Al-La Madhhabiyya”, published by Sunni Publications)
- Nowadays several other books have been published with similar titles:
1.) The Concise Presentation of the Fiqh of the Sunnah and the Noble Book. See: http://www.onlineislamicstore.com/b9396.html
2.) Fiqh According to the Qur’an & Sunnah. See: http://www.dar-us-salam.com/store/main.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=230b&Category_Code=NW
Like if the fiqh of the four established Sunni madhahib is not according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, this is very misleading what these titles seem to indicate! Although it also has to be said here that “The Concise Presentation of the Fiqh of the Sunnah and the Noble Book” (in short ‘al-Waajeez’ ) by shaykh al-Badawi from Egypt is recommended as a very good book on basic fiqh by those who follow the Salaf in their understanding of the Shari’ah; based on mostly saheeh and hassan ahadeeth as proofs for the rulings as opposed to Fiqh us-Sunnah in some cases. It is not as comprehensive and detailed though as the Fiqh us-Sunnah.
- Some people say it is not consistent with any one sole madhhab and it probably contains some opinions that are not even consistent with one of the four accepted maddhabs. I myself would argue the books reflects the rulings of the (extinct/defunct) – neo – Dhahiri (read: pseudo-Salafi) madhhab since he (the author) refers a lot to and relies on the opinions of Ibn Hazm and relies on the apparent and outward / literal meaning of the ahadith he quotes as proofs or sees as proofs; on the other hand I would also argue it is a book of comparative fiqh (al-fiqh al-muqaarin) because next to Ibn Hazm he quotes from a lot of other (well-known and established) scholars of different background.
- Yet again other people say you need to stay away from this book because contemporary scholars of all the 4 Sunni madhahib have warned against this book and said that it is better to rely on the classical fiqh books of the 4 Sunni madhahib if one wants to learn his/her fiqh and what is personally obligatory for the accountable person (mukallaf).
Added to the above one can objectively and safely say or state about Sayyid Sabiq that:
1.) It can be doubted if he was truly a shaykh or scholar, or at least he was not at the time he wrote the book because he was only 30 years of age back then; he was a student of knowledge that is for sure.
2.) He didn’t master the fiqh of one single madhhab, let alone of four or five madhahib.
3.) He wasn’t a hafidh of hadith.
4.) These three things above alone already raise questions as regards to the reliability of the book.
What to do with all these opinions? Take knowledge from this book or not? I leave it up to you. My advice would be, but that counts for all books, be careful and do some research before you start reading it. Last but not least: study it with a teacher!
All the above doesn’t mean I say you should not read the book. I did and took and still take notice or knowledge of it just to see the differences.
p.s. Important notes:
1.) Fiqh us-Sunnah can in no way be compared to the following works of fiqh ul-hadith: Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar by at-Tahawi, Bulugh al-Maram by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Subul us-Salam by as-San’ani (which is a sharh of Bulugh al-Maram), ‘Umdat ul-Ahkam by al-Maqdisi (and the sharh Taysir al-’Allam by shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Bassam) and Nayl al-Awtar by ash-Shawkani. According to Bernard Haykel though Fiqh us-Sunnah is essentially and abridgement of Nayl al-Awtar (see “Revival and Reform in Islam; The Legacy of Muhammad al-Shawkani“, pag. 1)
A. A separate genre of fiqh ul-hadith is fiqh us-sirah with the masterwork of Ibn ul-Qayyim – rahimahullah – Zaad al-Ma’ad, a fiqh work based on the biography of our Beloved Prophet s.a.w.s., which was summarized by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd ul-Wahhaab and available in English. Fiqh us-Sunnah also can’t be compared with this.
2.) I saw a tahqiq / takhrij (checking if the used ahadith are reliable or authentic) in English of the Fiqh us-Sunnah in Kenya in four parts but I can’t remember who wrote it. I think the title in Arabic is: “Sahih Fiqh us-Sunnah wa Adillatuhu wa Tawdih Madhahib al-A’immah” by Kamal ibn al-Sayyid Salim but I still have to check this when going back to Kenya. I found out the imam of the mosque I pray at reads from this book sometimes after salaat al-’asr. Furthermore, there is also an English abridged version of the Fiqh us-Sunnah available which I also saw in Kenya. This last book can be bought here” http://www.indianbooks.co.in/bookmart/more-books-categories/spritual-world/islamic-studies/fiqh-us-sunnah-abridged-edition-.html
3.) I recently found out there is a book in Arabic called “al-Jami’ li Ahkam Fiqh us-Sunnah” by shaykh al-’Uthaymeen but don’t exactly know what this book is about, will have to ask some people.
Comments and notes on Fiqh us-Sunnah from other bloggers:
- Study notes on Fiqh us-Sunnah: http://theauthenticbase.wordpress.com/category/study-circle-notes/fiqh-us-sunnah-classes/
- Notes on Fiqh us-Sunnah on the website of our beloved brother Suhaib Webb: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/fiqh-as-sunnah-part-ii/