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Furūʿ al-dīn (Arabic: فروع الدين), lit. branches/ancillaries of religion, is a legal and theological term which refers to actions in Islam that have been legislated, and they are often discussed alongside the roots of religion which are known as the usul al-din (which primarily pertain to beliefs as opposed to action). Some of the branches of religion include: prayers, fasting, khums and zakat (religious taxes), hajj (pilgrimage), jihad (struggle), enjoining the good, forbidding the evil, and tawalli (association/expressing love) and tabarri (disassociation/expressing hatred).
- 1 Divisions of Religious Knowledge
- 2 The Source of this Categorization
- 3 The Branches of Religion
- 4 Acting on the Branches of Religion
- 5 The Method of Deriving the Branches of Religion
- 6 Sources for the Derivation of the Branches of Religion
- 7 The Differences between the Roots and Branches of Religion
- 8 References
Divisions of Religious Knowledge
According to the more common and famous categorizations, Islamic scholars have divided religious knowledge into three parts. They have done so inspired by a few hadith (traditions). They are:
- Aqai'd (Theology): These refer to the foundational beliefs in one's thoughts. This also refers to the usul-e-din (the roots of religion) like tawhid (monotheism) which is the most foundation of them all.
- Akhlaq (Ethics): Some of the ethics/behavioural recommendations that Islam makes include, but are not limited to: justice, bravery, and modesty.
- Fiqh (Legislation/Laws): These refer to the decrees related to action and worship, the most foundational of which are the furu'al-din. These decrees include actions, behaviours, rituals, and worship.
Aqai'd is explored in detail the field of kalam (theology), ahkam in the field of fiqh (law), and akhlaq in the field of ethics.
The Source of this Categorization
These two terms (i.e. usul al-din, and furu' al-din) have become very famous and commonly used, and in the history of Islamic thought, they have played a primary and pivotal role. However, in the Qur'an, and in both Sunni and Shi'i hadiths, we do not see any type of categorization/division of the usul and furu as such. This fact shows that these two terms were simply theological terms that some theologians decided to use and establish, and it is through their usage that these categorizations became commonly used.
This being said, it should also be noted that the hadith literature has, in bits and pieces, indicated that Islam has pillars and roots. However, these are scattered indications throughout the hadith literature and are not identical to the categorizations of usul and furu that have become more common today.
As an example, there is a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) where he was asked: "What are the pillars of religion? What are the matters that everyone must have knowledge of and that nobody should reject/leave abandoned? Those that if somebody falls short in recognizing and learning about them, their religion will become corrupt and God will not accept their actions? And to the contrary, if somebody recognizes them, and acts according to them, their religion will be correct and in order, and their actions will be accepted?" The Imam (a) responded: "Bearing witness to the oneness of God (tawhid), the prophethood of the Prophet (s) (nabuwat), believing that which has come from God, zakat (one of the obligatory religious taxes), and wilaya."
It is true that the usul and furu' al-din (the roots and branches of religion) have not been mentioned specifically in verses of the Qur’an and in the traditions. However, scholars of theology and jurisprudence have searched the sources and gone through the verses of the Qur’an and the hadith literature, and from this, they have derived the usul and furu' al-din in order to educate the general population about them.
The Branches of Religion
According to what has become more commonly known, the furu' al-din i.e. the branches of religion include the following:
- Salat (the obligatory prayers)
- Sawm (fasting)
- Hajj (pilgrimage)
- Zakat (a religious tax)
- Khums (a religious tax)
- Jihad (holy war)
- Amr bi l-Ma'ruf (enjoining the good)
- Nahi 'an al-munkar (forbidding the evil)
- Tawalli (association/expressing love)
- Tabarri (disassociation/expressing hatred).
It is possible that specifically naming these ten items, is because of the vast importance given to them in verses of the Qur'an and in the hadiths. However, it should be noted that the branches and rules of religion are not limited to those listed here. They also include things that have not been mentioned, like legislation and laws surrounding selling and purchasing, marriage, corporal punishment, blood-money, judgment etc.
Some of the branches of religion are associated with the connection between God and mankind, and have been presented in the form of rules and legislation. These are responsibilities that one must carry out for His sake, and include responsibilities like prayers, fasting, and the pilgrimage. Some of these responsibilities include things in which people have responsibilities towards each other and which regulate human society. This includes branches like jihad (holy war), and khums (a religious tax).
Acting on the Branches of Religion
Unlike the roots of religion (usul al-din), the branches of religion (furu' al-din) are a group of matters in which, if one falls short in carrying them out or alternatively, overemphasizes or overdoes them, it will not really hurt the religion of Islam. However, even if one does not reject them entirely (as part of the religion) and does not act according to them, it can cause corruption and mischief, and as such, adherence to these branches of religion, like its roots, is obligatory. On the other hand, the roots of religion (the usul al-din) are a group of beliefs upon which the religion of Islam is based without which it is impossible to be a Muslim. Moreover, rejecting even one of these roots is enough to qualify a person as a kafir (disbeliever). However, with regards to carrying out the obligations of Islam, Muslims are not homogenous. Some are extremely devout and do their best to carry out all of their obligations and to be true to the laws and regulations of Islam. Others, however, are less concerned with being devout and they do not carry out some of their obligations.
A person who is mukallaf (i.e. they have reached a certain age in which they are responsible for carrying out Islamic obligations) must either (1) reach the stage of ijtihad and follow their own rulings (i.e. they should be knowledgeable enough to derive the laws by themselves) or (2) practice caution in their actions in order to avoid any possible forbidden action or (3) do taqlid (follow/emulate) another mujtahid (jurisprudent who has reached the stage of ijtihad and derives his own rulings).
The Method of Deriving the Branches of Religion
The fields of fiqh (jurisprudence) and usul (the principles of jurisprudence) are two fields of study in Islam which respond to mankind’s questions about the branches of religion. In fact, these are the two fields of study which clarify what one's responsibility is in action. Through these two fields of study, Shi'a jurists derive the branches of religion and clarify the laws and regulations of Islam.
Sources for the Derivation of the Branches of Religion
The sources that jurisprudents use to derive and clarify the laws of Islam are the following: (1) the Qur'an, (2) the Sunna (the tradition of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a)), (3) ijma' (consensus) and (4) 'aql (intellect).
The Differences between the Roots and Branches of Religion
There are several differences between the roots (usul) and the branches (furu') of religion. These include the following points:
- The roots of religion (usul al-din) are concerned with theology and beliefs, whereas the branches of religion (furu' al-din) are concerned with human action.
- The roots of religion require certainty, and as such, one cannot follow or emulate somebody else in these matters (i.e. one cannot do taqlid in matters of belief and theology). However, with regards to the branches of religion, one actually needs emulation and taqlid and clarification from scholars. Intellect alone is not sufficient in this matter and as such, following somebody else is acceptable in these matters.
- The roots of religion are descriptive and express a reality that one believes in. However, the branches of religion do not describe a reality or one's perception of the truth; rather, they have to do with imperatives and actions which have been commanded or forbidden.
- In the roots of religion, there is no difference of opinion among scholars. However, in the branches of religion there are several differences in opinion. The reason for this is because acting according to probability (as opposed to certainty) is not applicable in the roots of religion. However, reliable conjecture/probability is relied upon in the branches of religion.
- Abrogation is possible in the branches of religion, however, there is absolutely no possibility of abrogation in the roots of religion.
- Shi'a scholars have determined that there are five roots of religion. However, they have determined either eight or ten branches of religion. In fact, some have even gone as far to count anything which is not considered to be a part of the roots of religion as the branches of religion as well as issues which are considered to be a part of the legislation of Islam that are related to action.
- The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from فروع_دین in Farsi WikiShia.