In his book, al Bahr al Muhit, al Zarkashi(rah) (d 794 AH) wrote
"Al Imam al Shafi'i (rah) was the first to write about Usul al Fiqh. He wrote the Risalah, Ahkam al Qur'an (Legal Interpretations of the Qur'an), Ikhtilaf al Hadith (Conflicting Hadith), Ibtal al Istihsan (The Invalidity of Juristic Preference), Jima' al 'Ilm (The Congruence of Knowledge), and al Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning)-the book in which he discussed the error of the Mu'tazilah group, and changed his mind about accepting their testimony. Then, other scholars followed him in writing books on al Usul."
In his commentary on the Risalah, Imam Al Juwayni (rah) wrote:
"No one before al Imam al Shafi'i (rah) wrote books on the subject of al Usul, or had as much knowledge as he concerning it. It is related that Ibn 'Abbas (RA)mentioned something about the particularization of the general, and that some of the others among the early scholars made pronouncements which suggested they understood these principles. Still, those who came after them said nothing about al Usul, and they contributed nothing to it. We have seen the books of the Tabi'un and the third generation, and have found that none of them wrote books about al Usul."
Al Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Rah)said: "Until al Imam al Shafi'i came along, we never thought of things like the general and the specific al 'Umum wa al Khusus".
Al Imam al Shafi'i's Risalah dominated studies in Islamic jurisprudence from the moment it appeared. Indeed, as a result of it, the scholars divided into two groups. One group, the majority of Ahl al Hadith, accepted it, and used it in support of al Shafi'i's school of legal thought. The other group, however, rejected most of what it contained, and attempted to refute whatever of al Imam al Shafi'i's work contradicted their own methods and practice before it had the chance to influence people. The members of this group were taken almost exclusively from the Ahl al Ra'i, all of whom were in complete disagreement with nearly all that al Imam al Shafi'i had written.
The Shafiʿiyyah’s Usul Books
Al-Risālah by Imam al-Shāfi’ī (204 A.H.)
Al-ʿAmad by al-Qādī ‘Abd al-Jabbār ibn Aḥmad al-Mu’tazilī (415 A.H.)
Al-Muʿtamad by Abū al-Husayn al-Mu’tazili (436 A.H.)
Al-Burhān by Imam al-Haramayn al-’Ash’arī (478 A.H.)
Al-Mustasfā by Imam al-Ghazālī al-’Ash’arī (505 A.H.)
Imam Ibn Khaldūn rahimahuLlah ta’ala mentions, “Among the best books of the Mutakallimūn on usul al-fiqh are al-Burhān by Imam al-Ḥaramayn and al-Mustaṣfā by al-Ghazālī, from the al-Ashʿariyyah. As for from the Muʿtazilah are al-ʿAhd (or al-ʿAmad) by ʿAbd al-Jabbār and its commentary al-Muʿtamad by Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī. These four books are the foundation and pillars in this science.”
Al-Maḥṣūl by al-Rāzī (606 A.H.), summarized from the above four books, his method is that he mentions the evidences and proofs.
These four main books also had been summarized by Sayf al-dīn al-Amidī (630 A.H.) named as al-Iḥkām. His method is that he expounds the different viewpoints of the madhahib and he deduces masa’il (legal issues) contrary to Ibn al-Khatib al-Rāzi.
Ibn al-Ḥājib abridged Al-Iḥkām (646 A.H.) twice named as al-Muntahi and then became Mukhtaṣar al-Muntahi. Then Taj al-Subkī (771 A.H.) explains this Mukhtaṣar and names it Rafʿ al-ḥājib ʿan Ibn al-Ḥājib (2 vol.).
Al-Ḥāṣil by al-Armawī (652 A.H.), abridged of al-Maḥṣūl by al-Rāzī
Al-Minhāj by al-Bayḍāwī, abridged of al-Ḥāṣil, Al-Qadi al-Baydawi (d 685) summarized al-Hasil in his book Minhaj al-Wusul Ila ‘Ilm al-Usul “
The Way of Mastering the Science of Source Methodology”; but his summary was so abbreviated that the result is like a riddle, and very difficult to understand. Thus, many scholars undertook to produce commentaries on the book. Among such commentaries, the best is that of al-Isnawi (d 772), which is entitled Nihayat al-Sūl “An End to Questioning” This book occupied the attention of the scholars in the field for a long time, and the Shafiʿī yah scholars of al-Al-Azhar are still devoted to it.
Then Taqī al-din al-Subkī (756 A.H.) wrote a commentary on al-Minhāj, al-Ibhāj bi sharḥ al-Minhāj till the introduction of “al-wājib,” from there his son Taj al-dīn al-Subki (771 A.H.) completed it.
Among the Shafiʿī yah scholars, Taj al-dīn al-Subki wrote his famous book, Jam’ al-Jawami’ “The Compilation of the Comprehensive”. Imam Taj al-dīn al-Subki tried to gather as many of the principles of fiqh possible, he gathered his commentary on al-Muntahi (Rafʿ al-hājib) and al-Minhāj (al-Ibhāj) and compiled them as Jamʿ al-jawāmiʿ. In the introduction, he mentioned that he had compiled his work from one hundred different books on al-Usul.
Many scholars wrote commentaries and added footnotes to imam al-Subki’s book. Of these, perhaps the most important and most widely-available commentary is Sharh al-Jalal al-Mahalli, which remains even today the basis for studies in al-Usul, especially for the Shafiʿīyyah scholars.
Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi (d 794) wrote a commentary, entitled Tashnif al-Masamiʿ“To Please the Ears”. Imam Al-Zarkashi also wrote al-Bahr al-Muhit “The Vast Ocean”, in which he collected the submissions of scholars of al-Usul from over one hundred books.
The studie of usul al-fiqh is a vast ocean to be explored. In Islamic legal studies, it is important to study usul al-fiqh especially for us Shafi’iyyah. Our fiqh is based on al-usul and we are the ones who introduced this subject as a completed subject matter, developed it, propagated and disseminated it to the world.
Among the Shafi'iyah scholars, Imam Taj al Din al Subki (Rah) wrote his famous book, Jam' al Jawami' "The Compilation of the Comprehensive". In the introduction, he mentioned that he had compiled his work from one hundred different books on al Usul. Many scholars wrote commentaries and added footnotes to al Subki's book. Of these, perhaps the most important and most widely-available commentary is Sharh al Jalal al Muhalli, which remains even today the basis for studies in al Usul, especially for the Shafi'iyah scholars.
- Islamic Jurisprudence, Dr. Taha Jabir al-Alwani.
- Al-Wajīz fī uṣūl al-tashrīʿi al-Islāmī, Dr. Muḥammad Hasan Hītū, First Edition 2006, Muassasah al-Riṣalāh, Beirut.