Distinguishing Fiqh from Shari'ah
For most of the non-Arabic speaking people like me, Fiqh and Shari’ah are used interchangeably. Most often, I use these words synonymously when in fact they are two terms that mean differently. What I understood from childhood is that these two mean “Islamic Law.” However, as I studied in Islamic Online University, I learned that these two are of different meanings.
Fiqh literally means “the true understanding of what is intended.” And Shari’ah literally means “a waterhole where animals gather daily to drink, or the straight path.”
Technically, Fiqh is a science of deducing Islamic laws from evidences found in Qur’an and Sunnah. While Shari’ah is the total of Islamic laws revealed to the prophet that can be found in the Qur’an and Sunnah. In short, Fiqh is a deduced Shari’ah.
Fiqh may also be changed according to the circumstances to which it is applied, while Islamic laws in Shari’ah can never be changed as they are decreed by the Almighty Allaah. Fiqh applies to specific circumstances while the Shari’ah is mostly general in the sense that it is basic principles.
We must understand the Fiqh of Shari’ah for us to be able to live the Islamic way of life. This should be the unifying force that would bring Muslims altogether. In shaa Allaah, we will all learn further.
(source: The Evolution of Fiqh by Dr. Bilal Philips)