Sources of Muslim Law

Muslim Law is derived from the holy book of Quran and other recorded holy books by Prophet Muhammad. Islamic Law talks about the duties of an individual rather than his rights. Muslim law, in a religious sense means submitting to the will of god and giving in to it. In a secular sense, Islamic sense means “Establishment of Peace”. Muslim law is applied to an individual who is muslim either by birth or converting his/her religion to Islam. Islam had its origin in Arabia and the Prophet Hazrat Mohammed laid down the principles of Islam in the 7th century. The Islamic law has been derived form a number of primary and secondary sources. They are –

A. Primary sources

  1. Sunna or Ahadis
  2. Quran
  3. Ijma
  4. Qiyas

B. Secondary Sources

  1. Judicial Decision
  2. Custom
  3. Legislation
  4. Equity, Just & Good Conscience (Istihsn, Itislah & Istidal)

Primary Sources of Muslim Law


The word, Quran, has been derived from the word “Quarra”, which means to read. The Quran has been considered as the holy book of Muslims all around the world. It is believed to contain the revelations by god which was perceived by the prophet himself. There are 114 “surahs”, generally in decreasing order of length. Some years after the death of prophet, each of the 114 surahs were compiled into a single script and thus the Holy Quran was established back then. It is believed that Prophet Muhammed received the commandments of god from god himself at two places, namely Mecca and Medina, which is considered a holy site for muslims all around the world. Holy Quran is like a constitution to Mulims and it is a personal law which is used in all the almost every case including succession, divorce, marriage, etc. In a stringent sense, Quran could not be called a legal code as it is not backed by legal sanctions and that it explains the way of living and morals of life and even Islam jurists consider the same.


After the demise of Prophet, the muslims were divided into two sects namely Shia and Sunni Muslims. Shia muslims were of the view that an individual elected by people would be called “Caliph” would be the successor of Prophet and Sunni muslims were of the view that the close relatives, family members, and descendants of the prophet could only be elected as the successor of Prophet. This led to inception of many religious codes, scriptures and and several books for the sources of muslim law. One such source of muslim law is Sunnah. It consists of customs and traditions which were followed by the Prophet himself. Prophet also preached that those customs and traditions should be followed even after his death. So whenever, there is a situation where the Holy Quran is silent and a muslim individual is unable to find answer to his problem, the Sunnah is referred. The sunnah teaches people what the Prophet would have done if he were in that particular situation. Since, it is believed that his actions are motivated by the grace of god, it became popular and people started following it.


The meaning of Ijma is consensus. It is considered that when the most revered people of the society who have the maximum knowledge of Quran take any decision based on mutual consensus, it should be for the benefit of the muslim community around the world. When all the judge of the supreme court unanimously agree to a point, and then pronounce judgment, it becomes binding a binding law. Similarly, Ijma is a concept of law which is made by the Islamic jurists and other learned men with skills and knowledge. However, the Shia sect believed that Ijma had errors and cannot be relied upon. Not each and every muslim is capable enough of becoming the jurist and participate in the decision making, but only Mujtahids (Jurists) can do the same.

There are 3 types of Ijma –

  1. Ijma of Companions of Prophet – It is Universally acceptable.
  2. Ijma of Jurist – They are best after the Ijma of Companion.
  3. Ijma of People – They are not of much importance.


This is the last primary source of muslim law. The meaning is Qiya is reasoning the analogy from the above 3 sources i.e. Quran, Sunna, and Ijma. Qiya may be defined as a process of deducing by which the law of cases is applied to on the cases. There are specific conditions after which a Qiya is considered reasonable.

  1. The originals source from Qiya has been deduced must be of extending nature, i.e. it should not be of special nature and confined to a single situation.
  2. The original order of Quran or Hadith should not be repealed.
  3. It should not be in contradiction to any verse from Quran or Any Sunna.

Secondary Sources of Muslim Law


Before the emergence of Islam in the 7th century, Customs have always played an important role as a legible source of law. Even to the current date, they play an important role in determining Quras and have been given utmost importance in the process. Customs should not be in contradiction with the Islamic law and should be benefitting to the muslim committee.

Judicial Decisions

They are the decisions which are taken by the privy council, high court, and supreme court. These decision are often regarded as the precedent for future cases which would fall inot the same category as of the decisions. Some of the landmark cases pertaining to muslim law are Maini Bibi v. Choudhry Vakil Ahmad and Bai Tahira v. Ali Hussain.

Equity, Just & Good Conscience (Istihsn, Itislah & Istidal)

They are regarded as one of the source of muslim law and it states that the laws set up by the Islam could be laid down pertaining to special cases and exceptions could be made out of good conscience. Bu Hanifa, the founder of hanafi sect of Sunni, expounded the principle that rule of law based on analogy could be set aside at the option of the judge on a liberal construction or juristic preference to meet the requirements of a particular case.


Muslims in India are governed by various laws which are either by parliament or state or both.

  • The usurious loans act, 1918
  • Religious toleration act
  • Freedom of religion act, 1850
  • The mussalman wakf validating act, 1930
  • The shariat act, 1937
  • Dissolution of Muslim marriage act, 1939


It may be concluded that the sources of law have mainly been established from the Quranic verses and that of traditioned teaching of the Muhammed. Other sources have also played an important role in establishing itself as a reliable and credible source of law but the majority of the sources have been rooted to Quran and teaching of the Muhammed because muslim community and jurists of muslim law have considered these two sources as the supreme and binding sources of law.

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