Fiqh us-Sunnah is of those texts which like the Riyadh us Saliheen of Imam Nawawi (r) has gained in popularity and notoreity and universality. It is unfortunate that in the English language we possess no sound translation of Fiqh us Sunnah. There is an Indian print English version which deserves mention due to it being a complete translation of the original Arabic version of Fiqh us-Sunnah and this is a plus in that it includes the books of marriage and business transactions.
After teaching the text for a year now it seemed necessary to mention some things in favor of Fiqh us-Sunnah and in the hope that Allah (swt) will reward as Sayyid Sabiq (r) for his unique endeavor. What Shaikh Sabiq (r) aimed at was to make popular a fiqh taught with evidences that was simple in language and encompassed multiple opinions. What slipped my reading of Fiqh us Sunnah most possibly due to the stage of my understanding was a subtle matter.
Shaikh Sabiq (r) not only presented fiqh in a simple language and with evidences but also undertook the task of pointing out for the reader those junctures in fiqh upon which there is a consensus and upon which there is an agreement by a body of scholars. Further, Shaikh Sabiq (r) was well aware of the importance of Uloom al-Hadith (Sciences of Hadith) , Tarikh at Tashriyyah (History of Islamic legislation) and Maqasid ash-Shar’iah (the Objectives of the Shar’iah). When reading Fiqh us Sunnah in light of these sciences one finds a text that serves as a strong intoduction to fiqh in the tradition of the scholars of Hadith such as Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad. The English translation that is popular in the West does a great injustice to the text in that at times the translators confuse a matter of consensus with a matter of agreement. In other words, the spirit of the text is lost. On other occassions, complete lines are missing.
Initially, upon being asked to teach the text I had access the Shaikh al-Albani’s (r) work Tamim al-Minnah (the completion of the favor). The book is a research work on Fiqh us Sunnah except that it is a limited research in that it does not go beyond the book of Salah essentially. So there was a limit on the research presented by Shaikh al-Albani (r) given its lack of inclusiveness whereby he stopped his research with the Book of Salah. What one becomes aware of with research and familiarity of fiqh works is that Shaikh Sabiq (r) draws from (but not exclusively) four works:
1.) Durr al Bahiyyah of Imam Shaukani and Imam Siddiq Hasan al-Qanauji (r)
2.) Bidayatul Mujthaid by Imam Ibn Rushd al Hafeedh (r)
3.) al-Mughni by Imam Ibn Quddamaal Maqdisi (r)
4.) Ijma of Imam Ibn Mundhir (r)
As a result the student becomes familiar with these external works. After, teaching Fiqh us Sunnah I have grown in respect for the effort of Shaikh Sabiq (r) especially as a resource to read as an introduction to madhab based fiqh. Put differently it is my “belief” that Fiqh us Sunnah should be read before studying madhab based fiqh. The reason why is because it is more detailed than Bulugh al Maram from a fiqh perspective has evidence like books of legislation hadith (ahadith al ahkam)and is simple and serves as an introduction to a series of fiqh topics which are encountered in standard fiqh texts.
If read with a book such as Hujjatullah al Baligha by the Muhaddith Shah Wali Ullah (r) it is my convinction that one will come to understand the spirit of Shaikh Sabiq’s treatment of fiqh. And this is the case due to the fact that Shaikh Sabiq (r) commented lightly on Hujjatullah producing a critical edition of the text.