The concept of legal obligation is as ubiquitous as it is puzzling. It is hardly contentious that a legal system should aim to impose and ensure the fulfilment of obligations. This is an aspect of law making and enforcement that legal subjects experience routinely. Yet, what obligation consists of, what its imposition, breach or satisfaction exactly mean, are all matters that generate significant conceptual confusion and disagreement. 1 The concept of obligation in Islamic law and jurisprudence is no exception to this. Whereas the idea that legal subjects are bound in various manners by the prescriptions of the Sharīʿa is hardly problematic, how to conceive of this legal and moral bond is a much less straightforward matter. In Western jurisprudence, the idea of legal obligation has received a wide array of explanations ranging from the command of the social order, 2 social pressure generated by widespread recognition, 3 and the duty to perform a course of action determined by the law to be in accordance with the common good. 4 In the discipline of principles of Islamic jurisprudence (uṣūl al-fiqh), obligation or compulsoriness (wujūb) is typically conceived as one of five standard degrees of normativity that also include recommendation (nadb), permission (ibāḥa), reprehension (karāha) and prohibition (manʿ). In classical uṣūl literature, which presupposes the need for divine revelation for the determination of the normative status of actions, those five degrees are determined by jurists on the basis of various revealed indicants (adilla) through the use of a range of methods that the discipline of uṣūl al-fiqh elaborates at length.