the Qur'an Reveals the Law:
al-Shafi`i's Risala on bayan ('making
Translation by David
Vishanoff from Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi`i, al-Risala, ed.
Ahmad Muhammad Shakir ([Cairo: al-Halabi Press, 1940]; reprinted Beirut: al-Maktaba
al-`Ilmiyya, ), 21-25. Numbers in square brackets indicate paragraphs
in Shakir's edition.
 al-Shafi`i said: 'Making clear' [bayan, i.e. revelation]
is of various types, which are essentially the same but differ in their particulars. 
What these similar yet differing types of revelation have in common is that
things clear to those who are addressed by them, in
Qur'an came down. For such people they are more or less equivalent [in
their clarity], even if some types make things more emphatically clear than
who do not know the language of the Arabs, they are of differing [degrees
 al-Shafi`i said: All the requirements that God (having ordained
them beforehand) has made clear to his creatures in his Book can be categorized
-  That which God has made clear to his creatures by an unambiguous
example: His summary imposition of the duties of prayer and
zakah (tax) and pilgrimage and fasting,
and of the prohibition of shameful acts both external
and internal; and
the unambiguous texts concerning fornication and wine and eating carrion
and blood and pork; and his making clear how to perform ablution;
and other things that he made clear by an unambiguous text.
-  That which God ordained as duties in his Book, and clarified its
performance by the tongue of his Prophet. For example: The
number of the prayers, and the zakah and its timing, and other duties that
he revealed in his Book.
-  That for which the Prophet established a precedent (sunna), without
there being a text with a judgment about it from God, yet with God having
imposed in his Book that one must obey His Prophet and follow
his judgments, so that whoever accepts something from the Prophet has accepted
the judgment of God.
-  That which God has required his creatures to discover by diligent
inquiry, thus testing their obedience in diligent inquiry just as he tested
their obedience in other requirements.
-  For He says: "We will test
you, that We may know who of you is diligent and who is patient, and
put to the test what you say" (Q 47:31).  And He has said: "That
God might test what is in your breasts and examine what is in your hearts"
(Q 3:154).  And He has said: "Perhaps your Lord will
destroy your enemy and leave you in charge of the land, that He may
see how you act"
-  al-Shafi`i said: Thus God directed them toward the Sacred
Mosque as a qibla, and said to His Prophet: "We
see your face turning to the skies. We will turn you to a qibla that
will please you. Turn your face toward the Sacred Mosque; wherever
you may be, turn your faces toward it" (Q 2:144).  And
He said: "Wherever
you set out from, turn your face toward the Sacred Mosque; and wherever
you may be, turn your faces toward it; that the people may not have any
argument against you" (Q2:150).
-  And if they are out of sight of the Sacred Mosque, God has guided
them in that diligent inquiry that he has required of them, by means of
rational faculties which discriminate between things and their opposites
and which he has implanted in them, and also by means of those other signs
that he has placed [in the world] for them, other than the Sacred Mosque
itself, toward which He has commanded them to turn themselves. 
He has said: "It is He Who made the stars by which you might
guide yourselves in darkness, on land and sea" (Q 6:97). And
he said: "And
signs, and by the stars they guide themselves" (Q 16:16). 
Those 'signs' are mountains, and the night and the day, and winds whose
names are known blowing from different directions, and among the celestial
bodies are sun and moon and stars whose rising and setting places and
positions are known.
-  So by [commanding them] to face the Sacred Mosque He has imposed
upon them the duty of inquiring diligently,
using those things already described by which
he has directed them to [the Sacred Mosque]. So
long as they inquire diligently, they do not depart from God's command. But
He has not allowed them, should the Sacred Mosque be out of sight, to pray
in whatever direction they wish.  Thus he has informed them of
his decree. He said: "Do humans think they are left without
purpose?" (Q 75:36) -- "without purpose" means without
being given commands or prohibitions.  This shows that no one,
other than God's Prophet, may state [a legal opinion] without reasoning
from the evidence that I
have described, either in [determining the qibla] or in [determining the]
uprightness [of witnesses] or in [determining] compensation for
game [killed unlawfully during the pilgrimage]; he may not state [a legal
on what he thinks best (istihsan), for that is to invent something
without any precedent. 
Thus God commanded them to take as witnesses two upright persons. Uprightness
is to act in obedience to God, and they have a way to know what is uprightness
and what is not.
-  All this has been dealt with in its place. I
have written of it in summary fashion, hoping that this will [suffice
to] indicate other examples of a similar nature.
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