I have been reading that some scholars do not differentiate between 'illa العلة and sabab السبب in usul al fiqh, while others do.

Question: What is the difference between 'illa and sabab in usul al fiqh?

Provide examples with verses.

If possible, also add which scholars that doesn't differentiate between the two terms, and which does. Also explaining how some of them conclude that there is or isn't a difference between the terms.

For instance the verse 5:91:

إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَاةِ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّنتَهُونَ

if there is a difference between the terms; then maybe to comment whether this would be a sabab or 'illa.

All views are welcome, I do however hope that the one answering has been studying usul al fiqh or is familiar with it, i.e just linking to a website is not what i am looking for.

2 Answers 2


Sabab is used as synonym for 'illah, and the two are often used interchangeably. Yet the ulema of usul tend to use sabab in reference to devotional matters (ibadat) but use 'illah in all other contexts. Thus it is said that the arrival of Ramadan is the cause (sabab) of fasting but that intoxication is the 'illah of the prohibition in wine-drinking.


Sabab can be thought of as a mixture of the following: Cause or Occasion.While 'illa can be thought of as the Basis, or rationale for a stance or a ruling.

As brother Mohammad Saeed Al-Rahawan has mentioned: Intoxication, and all of its personal and social ills, is the basis ('Illah) for the prohibition of Alcholol. On the other hand, Ramadan is the (Sabab), that is, the occasion or initiative for fasting.

Allahu 'Aalam.

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