Answered by Shaykh Sohail Hanif, SunniPath Academy Teacher
Wa Ďalaykum al-Salam
Imam al-Shurunbulali says in Imdad al-Fatah his commentary on Nur al-Idah which was later condensed to the well known Maraqi al-Falah,
Wajib in the sacred law is a name for that which we have been ordained by means of a text which has some degree of doubt in itÖ.
Know that sacred texts are of four types:
∑ Definite in itís transmission and meaning
[A text whose transmission is definite or doubtless is one which has reached us by means of numerous chains of transmission such that there is no room for error or forgery in the report. This is known in Arabic as mutawatir. Every verse of the Qurían has reached us by such a means as well as a number of hadiths.
The meaning is the understanding of what the text is saying. A text which is definite in meaning is one whose meaning is unambiguous such that it can not be interpreted in a different way. For example the saying of Allah most high ĎO you who believe, when you prepare for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows and wipe your heads and (wash) your feet to the anklesí. When Allah says Ďwash your facesí it canít mean anything other than that.]
∑ Definite in itís transmission and ambiguous in itís meaning
[In this case the actual meaning of the verse isnít clear in that it can be explained in more than one way]
∑ Probabalistic in itís transmission and definite in itís meaning
[In this case the text itself has room for error, even if slight. This includes hadiths whose chain of transmission, although rigorously authenticated, have only one or a few chains of transmission such that it is possible that the hadith narrators could have made an error. However, the content of the text, in this case, is unambiguous and clearly indicates a specific meaning.]
∑ Probablistic in itís transmission and ambiguous in itís meaning
[Here the both the transmission of the text has an element of doubt and the meaning is unclear, indicating more than one possible meaning.]
The first category establishes something as being fard (obligatory). The second and third establish something as being wajib (necessary) whilst the fourth establishes something as being sunna or mustahabb (recommended). [This is] so that the establishment of a legal ruling can be commensurate with the strength of the evidence that it is based onÖAnd know that the necessary rulings were legislated to complete and perfect the obligatory rulings, the sunnas were legislated to complete and perfect the necessary rulings, and the adab (recommended rulings) were legislated to complete and perfect the sunnas; such that each of these is a protection for what it was legislated to complete.
The ruling of a wajib is deserving punishment for leaving it [like the fard], not declaring as an unbeliever the one who denies itís necessary nature [due to the probabilistic nature of the evidence; unlike the fard whose denial does cause unbelief if done so knowingly], and reward for itís accomplishment [like the fard]. Itís specific ruling in the prayer is that the prayer is deemed deficient by leaving a wajib element. It is necessary to perform a prostration of forgetfulness if omitted forgetfully or to repeat the prayer if omitted intentionally. In the case that one neither prostrates for forgetfulness nor repeats the prayer, one is still counted as having offered the obligatory prayer though with deficiency [and doing so is sinful]. [Imdad al-Fattah, 256]
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