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FARD AL-‘AYN. Almost all religio-legal obligations in shari`ah (the divine law) are fard al-`ayn (obligations on the individual), that is, they must be discharged personally by the individual; they cannot be performed vicariously.

The term fard al-`ayn is more common among the non-Hanafi schools of law. For the Hanafiyah, fard is ordinarily an epistemological term signifying obligations of unambiguous certainty. In this, they are distinguished from the category of wajib, which for the Hanafi means an obligation of probable certainty, that is, one based on a probable reading of the Qur’an, or a hadith that is probably reliably translated.

For the non-Hanafiyah, however, there is no term that refers to epistemically certain or probable obligations. Obligations in general are referred to using the term wdjib. An obligatory act is that for the doing of which there is reward, and for the neglect of which there is punishment, or, primarily in Mu’tazili and Ithna `Ashari and Zaydi Shi l circles, that for the doing of which there is praise and for the neglect of which there is blame.

Comparative ethicists have remarked that the Muslim categories of moral-legal assessment (hukm; pl., ahkdm) are not simply binary compliance/noncompliance categories. Obligatory (wdjib), proscribed (mahzur) and neutral/permitted (mubah) are central categories of assessment in Muslim law. But equally important are the categories of supererogation, mandub (“recommended”) and makruh (“reprehensible”). These latter two are defined in terms of incitement, but not sanction, that is, mandub is that for the doing of which there is reward, but for the neglect of which there is no punishment; makruh is that for the avoidance of which there is reward, but for the doing of it there is no punishment. Consequently there is no domain of behavior bereft of moral assessment, particularly since for most jurists even the neutral category was described as “permitted,” a positive assessment rather than truly “neutral,” a category of moral indifference. The five categories express the totalism of shari`ah theory in its power to assign value to all acts whatsoever.

In the modern period fard al-`ayn and its complement fard al-kifayah have been the object of some discussion by those seeking to reinterpret Islamic, particularly social, doctrines. The question of whether “reproaching the unjust ruler,” or more generally the obligation to “commend the good and forbid the reprehensible” (“alamr bi-al-ma’ruf wa-al-nahy `an al-munkar”) is an obligation on each individual, or is devolved on a sufficiency within the community has received attention, particularly among Shi`i scholars. Some, such as Ahmad Tayyibi Shabistari, have in effect argued that “commending the good” is an obligation on all Muslims who can meet the necessary preconditions, and if they cannot meet the preconditions, they are obliged to strive to remedy their situation so as to be competent to undertake the commending and forbidding (Enayat, 1982, pp. 179-180). [See also Fard al-Kifayah.]


Enayat, Hamid. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin, 1982. Faruki, Kemal A. “Al-ahkam al-khamsah: The Five Values.” Islamic Studies 5 (1966): 43-98.

Reinhart, A. Kevin. “Islamic Law as Islamic Ethics.” Journal of Religious Ethics 11.2 (1983): 186-203.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/fard-al-ayn/

  • writerPosted On: November 26, 2012
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