Fiqh is an Arabic word which can be translated as Islamic law. Its primary sources are the Quran and the Sunnah (the sayings and the actions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as recorded in the hadith).
Usul al-fiqh is the study of the sources of Islamic law and the methodology by which Islamic law is developed. Fiqh is the end product of the application of usul al-fiqh which is best translated as Islamic jurisprudence.
To be a competent Islamic jurist one must know both the law and the methods by which it was developed. As an example, Kamali points out that Islamic law prohibits theft. However the jurist needs to know the source which in this case is given as the Quran 2.188 "Devour not each other's property in defiance of the law."
During the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh) Islamic law existed in the form of the Quran and the Prophet's rulings. However Islamic jurisprudence was not required as any new problem not covered by existing Islamic law could be referred to the Prophet (pbuh) for a decision. That decision would then become a part of the expanded Islamic law.
After the Prophet (pbuh) died, legal decisions were made by his companions, inspired by their knowledge of his approach to decisions, and they were not in need of any formal legal methodology or jurisprudence. However with the passage of time those who had known the Prophet (pbuh) passed away and gradually jurisprudence became a formal methodology.
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