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Understanding the Amr

Since Qur'an was revealed in the Arabic language, deriving rules from the legislative sources requires comprehension of Arabic. Allah (swt) revealed:
Verily, we have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an in order that you may understand. [Yusuf 12, 2]

However, the mere understanding of the Arabic language is not sufficient to extract rules. This is because the issue at hand is the extraction of rules from a specific (i.e., legal) text. The Arabic language is just one prerequisite in understanding the legal text. Additional requirements exist such as the factors determining the obligation and prohibition, differentiating between the general and particular text or restricted and unrestricted text.

In this article we will address the topic of 'Amr. Some have considered the usage of 'Amr in legal texts as an indicator for performing a Fard. Hence, some jurists consider growing the beard as a Fard because of the apparent usage of 'Amr form in those Hadith. Others do not consider the mere usage of 'Amr as an indicator for Fard. Rather, the inclusion of other indicators is required to categorize an act as Fard. Understanding 'Amr and issues surrounding it is an important topic as a prerequisite to understand the factors applied to deriving the Hukm Shar'ii.
Comprehending the 'Amr debate amongst the jurists requires a basic understanding of the following:

1. Tenses used in the Arabic language, specifically the 'Amr form.
2. Methods by which commands are addressed in the Qur'an and Sunnah.
3. Meanings and the Usage of the Amr form.
4. Evidences used by those claiming that 'Amr form is obligatory.
(Evidences used by those claiming it is not obligatory, but rather neutral and requires ancillary evidences to be render it the command as recommended or obligatory.)

1. Tenses used in the Arabic language and the 'Amr Form

Similar to English grammar, Arabic grammar has past and present tenses. The past tense is termed as F'il Madi while the present tense is termed as F'il Mudarree. An example for the past tense is the word "Katabaa" - wrote and for the present tense "Yaktabu" - writing. Additionally, in the Arabic, the 'Amr tense implies an order, command, or request. An example of this can be found in the word "Uktub" - write or "Iqraa" - read. However, not every 'Amr tense necessarily indicates a firm order or command. It could simply mean a request and is dependent on the context in which it is applied.

In addition to the 'Amr tense, the 'Amr form is used. The application of the 'Amr form can be found in the Qur'an, Sunnah, and in general, the Arabic language. The 'Amr form is any form that implies a command or request. The 'Amr form is used in two following forms.

A. Fi'l 'Amr: An example of the Fi'l 'Amr tense is the word Uktub which means write, and is issued in a decisive manner.

B. Present tense prefixed with "L" or "Lam' ul 'Amr" (which is letter l prefixed to a present tense): An example of Lam' ul 'Amr is when Allah (swt) says in Surah 65, Ayah 7: "Li Yunfiq" which means to spend. In this phrase "Li" is prefixing "Yunfiq" which is in the present tense.

However, the `Amr command can be established through either the `Amr verb or the `Amr form.

2. Some methods by which commands are addressed in
the Qur'an and Sunnah.

The command of Allah (swt) can be addressed in any one of the following methods:

A. In the 'Amr form as outlined above.

B. Through Ikhbar, which means providing information which occurred either in the past, present, or future but implying an obligation.
O You who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become A-Muttaqun.
(Al-Baqarah 2, 185)

The Ayah informs us that fasting is prescribed upon us as it was prescribed to earlier nations. The command is an indirect order, since there is no 'Amr form in the Ayah.

C. Usage of terms such as Fard, Wajib, or any of their derivatives. In Surat al Tawba, Ayah 60, Allah (swt) says:

As-Sadaqat (Zakat) are only for the Fuqura, and the Al-Masakin and those emplyed to collect the Zakaty; and for to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah's cause, and for the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All- Wise. (At-Tauba 9, 60)

The beginning of the Ayah mentions the means of distributing Sadaqah. Towards the end of the Ayah, it states that the Fare'dathan, which literally means an obligation from Allah. However, the Ayah did not mention it using the 'Amr form and thus it is an indirect order.

D. Giving glad tidings of rewards and warnings of a punishment, which implies Hukm Shar'ii. In Surat al Nisa'a, Ayah 14, Allah (swt) says: But those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and transgress His limits will be admitted to a fire to abide therein and they shall have a humiliating punishment.

These are just the four methods by which commands are addressed. The first method is in the explicit 'Amr form. Whereas methods B, C, and D are not in the explicit 'Amr form, though they carry an obligation. Technically speaking there is a difference between the 'Amr form and the Hukm Shar'ii. Sometimes the Hukm Shar'ii would be mentioned clearly in an Ayah without the 'Amr form as in B, C, and D. Therefore, the 'Amr form is one of many styles by which the Hukm Shar'ii is stated but not restricted to it.

3. Meaning and the Usage of the 'Amr form

There is agreement amongst the jurists that the address of Allah can be in any of the above mentioned methods, as addressed in the Qur'an and Sunnah. However, it's debated whether the 'Amr form automatically implies an obligation or not. Some have said that the 'Amr form implies Fard unless proven otherwise. Other have said that the 'Amr form does not necessarily imply an obligation, but rather just a request to perform the action and additional factors shift the command to an obligation or recommendation.

Before discussing in detail the various Daleels to support the different point of views towards the 'Amr form, it would be useful to illustrate the usage of the 'Amr form as found in Arabic language so as to illustrate many meanings. Some have accounted for 26 meanings, some of which are the following:

Obligation. i.e., establishing the prayer [Al-Baqarah 2, 110]


The Prophet (saaw)'s saying to Ibn Abbas to eat from his side of the plate.

Guiding us to something.

Allah (swt) says:
".so let him write." [Al-Baqarah 2, 282]

The Ayah recommends us to have witnesses in a loan contract.


Allah says:
".and eat and drink." [Al-Baqarah 2, 187]


Allah says:
"Do what you want !" [Fussilat 4, 140]

Showing favor.

Allah says:

"Eat to the things which Allah has provided for you." [Al-Maidah 5,88]
Honor. Allah says:

"Enter you therein in peace and security." [Qaf 50, 34]


Allah says:
"Taste thou this. You are mighty and full of honor." [Ad-Dukkan 44, 49]


Allah says:
"Our Lord! Grant us what you promised unto us through your Messengers." [Al-Imran 3, 194]


The saying of a poet, "Oh the long night comes to an end"

Challenging and proving others incompetence.

Allah says:
"Produce one Surah similar to it." [Al-Baqarah 2, 23]

Since the 'Amr form can be used in a variety of different ways - not necessarily always Fard - we cannot consider a text in the 'Amr form as automatically Fard. It is the context and/or other Daleel which makes the 'Amr form an obligation. In the case of prayers, it is the entire set of Ayat and Ahadeeth mentioning the obligation of prayer and condemning those who do not perform the prayers and prescribing punishment on those who do not make the prayer an obligation. So the Fard is not established solely through the 'Amr form. If we consider a command in the 'Amr form a Fard, then by default the order in An-Nisa' 4: Ayat 3,

"Marry women of your choice two, or three, or four", would be obligatory.
And also in Al-Jumu'ah, 62: ayat 10, Allah says:

"Then when the (Juu'ah) prayer is finished, you may disperse through the land, and seek the Bounty of Allah, and remember Allah much, that you may be successful."

"Return to the Bai'", (trade) after the Jummah prayer, would be taken to mean that it is Fard to conduct trade after the Jummah. These are just a few examples from the few Ayat among the many which have the 'Amr form.

4. Evidences used by those claiming that 'Amr is obligatory or recommended

Allah (swt) condemned Iblis for not complying by Allah's 'Amr (command), and thus the 'Amr of Allah is obligatory.

Allah has condemned in many Ayah those who do not comply with the orders of Allah in Al-Mursalat 77, ayat 48:

"And when it is said to them: "Bow down yourself (in prayer)!" They bow not down (offer not their prayers)"

Allah says in An-Nur 24, ayat 63:

"And let those who oppose the Messenger's beware..."

In Ta-Ha 20, ayah 93, the 'Amr is used as a order.

"That you followed me not (according to my advice to you)?
Have you then disobeyed my order?"

and in Al-Ahzab 33, ayat 36

"It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error."

The other Daleel used is the order to obey Allah and His Messenger and thus the 'Amr must be obeyed.

First, in all of these Ayat, one has to realize the difference between two issues:
Obedience to the commands of Allah is obligatory and this is not argued by any Muslim. Turning away form the Hukm Sharii or disobeying is undoubtedly Haraam, and this could occur in two ways: Refusing or disobeying the Hukm as a yardstick
Changing the category of the Hukm from Mandub to Fard or Mubah to Mandub or Fard to Mubah or in any like manner. The category of Hukm Shar'ii is determined by the text. Therefore, performing the Mandub as Fard is to disobey the Hukm Shar'ii.
Consequently, obedience to the order does not necessarily mean an obligation to perform it, but to acknowledge it. The obedience is to follow the order as it was revealed, displaying submission and acceptance. Hence, the Fard has to be observed as Fard while the Mandub has to be followed as Mandub. Consequently, if a person acknowledged a Mandub order and did not perform it, he is not sinning. If a person did not use Miswak or pray the two Rakah after Maghrib he cannot be judged as a sinner as long as he does not undermine the Mandub nor denies that both Hukm are Mandub. He would be a sinner if he undermined it or even considered it a Mubah since this would amount to changing the Hukm Shar'ii

It is wrong to assume that the 'Amr form leads to an obligation. Through the investigation of each Daleel quoted indicates that meanings other than the 'Amr form are an obligation.

In the first and second Daleel, the order itself is Fard. The attitude of Iblis and others was of a rebellious nature, which was to not submit, and is Haraam. Surat al Nur surfaced the importance of complying with the affair which the Prophet (saaw) brought, i.e., Islam. The order encompasses more than just one 'Amr. In Surat al Ahzab, the Ayah talks about the reference and sovereignty of Islam, something different from the legality of the 'Amr form. However, when it comes to the 'Amr form, there is no Daleel indicating its obligation by default. Thus, the argument of the 'Amr form, whether it is obligatory or not is different from the obedience and submission to the Shar'ii and different from having Islam as the reference.
Besides these Ayat, the proponent of those claiming that the 'Amr form is obligatory bring forth a Hadeeth that the Prophet (saaw) called a man while he was praying, however the man continued his prayer and did not respond. After completing the prayer, Rasulillah (saaw) asked the man why he did not stop his prayer and respond while knowing that Allah (swt) says in Al-Anfal 8, ayat 24:

O You who believe! Answer Allah and His Messenger when He calls you to that which will give you life, and know that Allah comes in between a person and his heart. And verily to Him you shall return.

Rasulillah (saaw) condemned him. Thus the proponents of this view claim that it is obligatory

However, if we investigate the Hadeeth, we would realize that the Prophet (saaw) was aware that the man was engaged in prayer and the man knew that the Prophet (saaw) knew that he was praying. Additionally, the Prophet (saaw) knew that the prayer is Fard and breaking the Fard without any reason is Haraam. So the Prophet's (saaw) call to him is another Fard which he has to perform since the Prophet (saaw) would not ask him to break his prayers for no reason. The circumstance elevates it to become an obligation. However, the Daleel used here by itself does not mean that the 'Amr form is an obligation. If the 'Amr was considered a Fard then Rasulillah (saaw) would not quote the Ayah, since the 'Amr form would be enough.

5. Evidences used by those claiming it is not obligatory,
but rather neutral and requires ancillary evidences to be render it the command as recommended or obligatory.

The Arabs have used the 'Amr form to imply a request. Those who claim otherwise should provide a text from the Arabic language in which the 'Amr form - independent of any other Daleel - leads to an obligation. The legal definition for Fard is a decisive command and its compliance leads to reward and its rejection leads to punishment. On the other hand, the Mandub or Mubah are just requests. These concepts are legal Islamic concepts derived from evidences. The Arabic language allows the 'Amr to imply a request only. Additionally, to claim that every 'Amr is obligatory means not acknowledging the difference between the decisive 'Amr and the indecisive 'Amr and this is absurd. The 'Amr form without any other legal indicators only implies a request to perform the action. What shifts the 'Amr to any of the legal categories are other clues, Daleels, or indicators.

In conclusion, the 'Amr tense is a request in its neutral capacity. Other evidences must be existent to consider the command as a Fard. Other factors could be the context, extra words, occasion of the revelation, reward/punishment, frequent repetition of the order, etc. It is the role of the Mujtahid to thoroughly investigate the text and to derive the rule from it. It is not sufficient to have a cursory reading of the Qur'an and Sunnah and attempt to derive rules from these sources. Deriving rules needs more than just browsing the text. It needs the process of Ijtihad which in turn requires Usul ul Fiqh amongst other things. Otherwise, we will find ourselves following many understandings or accepting ideas that are alien to our Deen.

By Abu Tariq


Anonymous said…
You quoted a hadith where the prophet (saw) asked a man who was praying to break his salah..what,was the context of this hadith and the reference for it.jzk

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