Umdatul fiqh (al umdah) is an abridged book of fiqh according to the Hanbali madhhab. An abridged book (which was known as matn) was supplemented by commentaries, footnotes, and notes written in the margins. These books were meant to be decisive and easy to memorize by the students of knowledge; they served as a code.
The book “Umdatul fiqh” (al umdah) is highly esteemed within the hanbali madhhab. It was written by one of the greatest scholars within the madhhab and in the history of Islam, namely Imam Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (may Allah bestow mercy on him), who died in 620 AH.
The Author of Umdatul fiqh
Muwaffaq-al-Din Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudamah Al Maqdisi is among the most famous from the long line of scholars from Hanabali school of thought. The impact of his scholastic contributions could be seen not only in his own school of thought but also in others in fields like fiqh and aqeedah.
He grew up in a religious family which was devoted in Islamic learning. This is evident from the fact that he and his relatives would travel to Baghdad to seek Islamic knowledge, besides benefiting from the Ulama of his own city. His family had moved to Damascus from Palestine. He and his relatives were contemporary of Sultan Salahuddin and hence took part in the great battle against the crusaders.
The Hanbali scholar Abdul Qadir ibn Badran discussed the juristic contributions of Ibn Qudamah stating that in fiqh, he wrote four major books which served as a curriculum. Umdatul fiqh (al umdah) is the first one which is suitable for absolute beginners and “Al Mughni” is the last one which qualifies a student to become a Jurist. Here we are reviewing the book “Umdatul fiqh” (al umdah) because it caters to beginners in the field of fiqh.
Due to the scholastic value, clear layout, simple language, and providence of basic evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah, Umdatul fiqh (al umdah) has found many past and present scholars attaching importance to it. He mentions in the introduction of his book,
I have abridged this book of fiqh as much as I can and shortened it merely to one opinion of the school so that it will serve as a primer for the reader. Thus, he will not be confused as to what is correct because of differing reports and narrations. Some of my (Muslim) brothers asked me to summarize it so as to make it simple for the teachers and to facilitate its memorization for students…
The method of writing followed by Ibn Qudamah in this manual has made it easy for the students to cover all the major topics of fiqh. His discussions are drawn out from authentic hadith which he quotes at the start of every chapter. This method inculcates importance of ahadeeth in a student of knowledge and encourages him to study them.
Focal point of Scholars
Due to these reasons, this brief primer became the focus of great scholars from among the hanbali madhhab. Ibn Taymiyyah wrote its explanation, although did not complete it, in four volumes and he had reached only up till chapter of pilgrimage! Another well known explanation of Umdatul fiqh is “Al Uddah Sharah al Umdah” by the muhadith and faqih, Baha’uddeen Abdul Rahman ibn Ibrahim Al Maqdisi. His explanation is a detailed exposition of the Hanbali school of thought crammed with evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Umdatul fiqh (al umdah) also has a few contemporary explanations such as the one written by Sheikh Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz Al Jibreen. This is by far the most simple explanation of the book and serves as the starting point for every student of knowledge. A similar effort has been made by Sheikh abdullah aali Bassam and his explanation also serves as a good book for starters.
Being a brief primer in Hanbali fiqh, Umdatul fiqh (Al Umdah), is extremely beneficial for those beginning in the field of fiqh. The chapters are arranged in a proper order and the brevity of the primer leaves the reader thirsty for more. The issues covered within the respective chapters are core points to note, but the intriguing way in which they are presented leaves the reader with deeper questions as if the discussion at hand was intended not only to inform the reader of the legal issue, but to invoke questions deeper into the topic.
– by Abu Isaam Imran Ali