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Legal Maxims as a Genre of Islamic Law


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Origins, Development and Significance of Al-Qawāʿid al-Fiqhiyya


Al-qawāʿid al-fiqhiyya are legal maxims or principles that are usually expressed in the form of terse adages, such as: al-umūr bi-maqāṣidihā (acts are [judged according] to the objectives behind them); and al-mashaqqa tajlub al-taysīr (hardship brings about facilitation). Most of al-qawāʿid (sg. al-qāʿida) are specific to individual schools of law, although some of them are acknowledged by all schools. The most accepted definition of al-qāʿida al-fiqhiyya is: “A predominantly valid legal determination (ḥukm aktharī) that applies to most of its particular cases (juzʾiyyāt) so that their legal determinations will be known from it”. Another designation of the genre is al-ashbāh wa’l-naẓāʾir (similitudes), referring to the similarities between cases included under the rubric of each qāʿida. The schools of law (madhāhib, sg. madhhab) are agreed on two types of qawāʿid fiqhiyya: general qawāʿid that apply to all or most fields of the law, which are therefore known as kulliyya (universal), and specific (khāṣṣa) qawāʿid that apply to one or more, rather than all, fields of fiqh; the latter are also known as ḍawābiṭ (sg. ḍābiṭ, regulators).


Affiliations: 1: The School of Oriental and African Studies
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