ROLE OF ‘URF’ IN FIQH Lecture # 19 (Thursday 10 July 2003) by Maulana Sadiq Hasan


.^.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.


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.

4- Being 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 place.

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.

6- Neighbor 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.

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 here.

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.

5- Taking interest is haram. But what is the definition of interest in Islam ? This will not be decided by Urf.


Some mujtahids 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 Urf.
2- Is 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:

(a) To prove crime for decision on Islamic punishment

(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.


Mujtahids differ 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.


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:

(a) For 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 graveyard
(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.