.^. ‘Urf’ is an Arabic term,
which means general opinion or custom in a
community. This is a very important term in
fiqh as many of the rulings (fatwas) issued by a
mujtahid on different issues (masail) are based
on Urf. On the other hand, there are also many
rulings in fiqh, which are not based on Urf.
.^. A more technical term in fiqh
is ‘Urful Mutasharre’een’ or ‘Urful Muttaqeen’
meaning general opinion of the righteous
momineen in a community.
.^. Urf about an issue may change
by passage of time and also by change of place.
.^. An understanding of ‘Urf’ will
make it easier to understand the logic and
reasons of many fatwas issued by a mujtahid.
MASAIL BASED ON URF
1- Fatwa: “Wearing of gold is
haram for men”. But what is gold ? Is ‘18-karat
gold’ or a ‘14-karat gold’ or a ‘white gold’
considered as gold in Islam for this fatwa ?
This will depend upon Urf. For example, if in a
community (village, town etc), people consider
an 18-karat gold as gold, then wearing of
18-karat gold is haram for men.
Otherwise not. An opinion of gold expert will
not be accepted by the sharia for implementation
of this fatwa.
2- A sick person is in a state of
coma or is considered ‘brain dead’ or
‘clinically dead’ and is on a life-support
system. Should such a person be considered alive
or dead from
Islamic sharia point of view ? The answer of a
mujtahid to this question will be conditional
upon Urf. If according to Urf, such a person is
considered a living person,
then it is wajib to keep him alive at all costs.
If according to Urf, such a person is considered
dead, then he is taken as dead. Again, the
opinion of an expert doctor will not have an
effect on this fatwa.
3- Doing good (Husne Sulook) to
your parents is wajib. But what is meant by
doing good ? Doing harm to your parents or
making them angry is haram. But what is meant by
causing harm ? This will depend upon Urf.
good (Sile Rahmi) to your relatives is wajib.
But who is a relative according to sharia ? This
will depend upon Urf. And such Urf may change
with passage of time or even with passage of
5- Your neighbors have rights over
you. But how far is neighborhood from your house
according to sharia ? (Some hadeeth says that
upto 40 houses are your neighborhood). This will
depend upon Urf. And this Urf may be different
at different places. For example, Urf about the
range of neighborhood in Karachi may be
different than the Urf about range of
neighborhood in Melbourne.
of a masjid has some special rights and duties.
But how far is neighborhood around a mosque ?
This will depend upon Urf and this Urf may be
different at different places.
7- In salat, it is wajib that the
body must be motionless during all wajib
recitations, especially Takbeeratul Ihram. What
is meant by being motionless ? This will depend
upon Urf. (Note that in sharia, hands, face and
neck are not included as part of the body in
this requirement of being motionless).
8- Wearing of neck tie is allowed
or not? This will depend upon Urf.
MASAIL NOT BASED ON URF
There are many
Islamic laws and fatwas, which are not based on
Urf at all, and can not change with time and
place. Some examples:
1- What is a halal meat ? A
mujtahid has laid down specific conditions and
method for slaughtering an animal. This will not
change by Urf.
2- Salat becomes Qasr after
traveling a certain distance. Urf will not apply
3- In how
much area, one Salatul Juma can be held ? This
can not be decided by Urf.
4- What is a tahir water ? Urf
will not decide this matter.
Taking interest is haram. But what is the
definition of interest in Islam ? This will not
be decided by Urf.
DIFFER IN MATTER OF URF
also differ on what masail should be based on
Urf. Some examples:*(1) What is music ?
Ayatullah Khui and Ayatullah Seestani say it
depends upon Urf.
Ayatullah Khomeini says it is not based on
it allowed to do Tawaf of Holy Kaba at a certain
radius around Kaba ? Ayatullah Khomeini says
that Tawaf should be within a radius of 13
meters. Ayatullah Khui and Ayatullah Seestani
say that this will depend upon Urf in Mecca.
ROLE OF WITNESS IN
SHARIA Lecture # 20 by Moulana Sadiq Hassan
(Thursday 17 July 2003)
In Islamic sharia,
a witness (gawah) is often required to prove the
truthfulness of something.
Examples of situations, where witnesses are
often used, include:
To prove crime for decision on Islamic
(b) To witness a divorce case
(c) To prove moon sighting
What is the
standard of witness in Islam ? In most of the
cases in Islamic fiqh, two adil male Muslims are
normally required as witnesses. In above three
examples also, two adil male Muslims are
required as witnesses.
Who is an Adil person ? According to sharia, an
adil (just) is that person who does not commit
any major or minor sin, and if he commits any
sin, he immediately seeks forgiveness (tauba)
from Allah. In Shia fiqh, one of the conditions
for the imam of jamaat of salat is that he must
be an adil Muslim. While judging a person to be
an adil, it is quite possible that he may be an
adil in view of one muslim and may not be an
adil in view of another Muslim.
REQUIREMENT TO PROVE NAJASAT OR TAHARAT
in the standard of witness necessary to prove if
a thing is najis or tahir. In order to prove the
najasat or taharat of a thing, following
witnesses are required:
According to Ayatullah Khoi, one reliable
person is required.
According to Ayatullah Khomeini, one male
adil Muslim is required.
According to Ayatullah Seestani, two male
adil Muslims are required.
What is the criterion that a person is
considered reliable ? If you are confident that
the person concerned is not speaking a lie about
the taharat or najasat of a thing, you may
consider him to be a reliable person for that
matter. Thus, according to Ayatullah Khoi, a
reliable person need not be an adil person, and
such a person may be a muslim or a non-muslim,
male or female.
Thus it is possible that a thing is considered
najis for the follower of one marja, and the
same thing is considered tahir (not najis) for
the follower of another marja, due to above
differences in witness requirement.
NAJASAT OF A KAFIR
If you do not know
the religion of a person you come across, then
according to Islamic sharia, you can consider
such a person as tahir, even if that person
lives in a pre-dominantly non-Muslim country or
has a non-Muslim appearance or name. Thus, for
example, you can accept and eat food prepared by
such a person, shake hand with wet hands, sit in
a vehicle seat wetted by his sweat etc. It is
not necessary, nor wajib, to ask his/her
religion or his/her name. But if you are 100%
sure that such a person is a kafir, then you
have to follow the fatwa of your marja regarding
the taharat/najasat of such a person.
If you do not know the religion of a person,
then it is wajib to enquire about his/her
religion in the following 2 cases:
burial of such a person, in case of his/her
death, in a Muslim graveyard, because it is
haram to bury a non-Muslim in a Muslim
(b) For marriage of such a person to
a Muslim person, because it is haram for a
Muslim to marry a non-Muslim. There are
different rules for Ahle Kitab.
If a kafir person
recites kalima (shahadatain) with its meaning,
and if he/she does not do or say anything
apparently against the kalima or its meaning,
then such a person is to be considered a Muslim
and hence a tahir person for all practical
purposes, such as cooking food, marriage to a
Muslim person, burial in a Muslim graveyard etc.
A munafiq (a Muslim who does not believe in
Islam by heart) is considered as tahir in Islam.