What's in an Obligation?

Updated: 3 days ago

When we hear the word obligatory, we often think in terms of something we have to do. While this does hold true, the term Waajib (obligatory) is broader and more particular than this with regards to its implications in law.

term Waajib (obligatory) is one of the verdicts of responsibility; meaning acts that fall under this umbrella of responsibility cause the person who is beyond the age of puberty and is sane to be held to account for such acts in front of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Succeeding verdicts of responsibility include Mustahabb (Encouraged), Mubaah (Neutral), Makrooh (Discouraged), and Mahthoor (Unlawful), otherwise known as Haraam (Illegal).

Linguistically, Waajib (obligatory) means binding or that which has fallen. It is said that which has fallen because a thing is firmly settled in its place after it has fallen. For example, it is said the sun wajabat once it has set.

In Usool al-Fiqh (Legal Theory) Waajib (obligatory) is an act one is rewarded for when done in compliance with legislation whilst one is deserving of punishment when it has been left off. Others in the field would define this as, an act the Legislator has requested be done immutably.

A point of nuance, the term Waajib is often utilized loosely but not necessarily with the most precise usage. Waajib is more so a description of an act whilst the proper term for the verdict is Wujoob or Ijaab.

From here obligation enters into several categorizations.

First, we have Fard and Waajib. In the majority usage of scholarship these two terms are synonymous, yet Hanifee legalists make a technical distinction between the two. Amongst Hanifee legalists, Fard is defined as what the Legislator has requested be done immutably, and its evidence is definitive, whilst Waajib is defined as what the Legislator has requested be done immutably, and its evidence is speculative. Definitive evidence includes the Quran and what is classified as Hadith Mutawaatir. A Hadith Mutawaatir is an incontrovertible Hadith conveyed by mass transmission, as understood within the Science of Hadith. Speculative evidence is a Hadith Ahaad. This is a Hadith that does not reach the criteria of a Hadith Mutawaatir. The intricacies and particulars of difference between a Hadith Mutawwatir and Hadith Ahaad are discussed within the field of Hadith as a study. This distinction becomes relevant when conflicting narrations exist and selection of preponderance between evidences is necessary. This distinction also enters into the arena of theological difference between the Atharee, Ash'aree, and Maatureedee schools, but that is beyond the scope of our current focus.

Waajib can be 'Ainee (Individualized) or Kafaa'ee (Communal). An individual obligation is what each individual must do and is accountable for such as the obligatory Prayer. A communal obligation is a responsibility of the whole, and as long as some carry it out the remainder do not have to, but if no one carries it out, all bear the sin. The Adhaan (Call to Prayer) and the Funeral Prayer are examples of this.

Further, Waajib can be Muhaddad (Confined) or Non-Muhaddad (Unconfined). A Confined Obligation is that which the Legislator has specified parameters for such as the number of units within a given prayer or the amount necessary to be required to pay Zakat (Annual Alms). An Unconfined Obligation is that which the Legislator has not specified parameters for such as treating people well or spending on one's spouse.

Waajib can also be categorized as Mu'ayyan (Specified) or Mukhayyar (Selective). Within a Specified Obligation, one must perform a specific action whilst in a Selective Obligation one has the option to select from a number of things. This option of selection is illustrated in the expiation for breaking an oath where one must select from feeding ten needy persons, clothing ten needy persons, or manumitting a slave. Of course, in the absence of ability to perform one of these three options, one would simply fast for three days.

Finally, we come to Mu'aqqat (Time Allotted) and Non-Mu'aqqat (Non-Time Allotted). Some legalists add a third category entitled Dhu Shibhayn (i.e. that which resembles both), such as Hajj (Major Pilgrimage).

Mu'aqqat (Time Allotted) obligations are further divided into two categories, Mudayyaq (Restricted) and Muwassa' (Unrestricted). A Restricted Time Allotted Obligation is that which its time of worship cannot be adjoined with another act of worship, such as fasting the month of Ramadan with another fast. An Unrestricted Time Allotted Obligation is that which its time of worship can be adjoined with another act of worship, such as the time of Thuhr Prayer with Thuhr Prayer and a voluntary prayer.

And Allah knows best.

Kenneth "Aqil" Ingram II

Jumada I 12, 1442 Anno Hegirae

December 27, 2020 Anno Domini

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