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Q21 Verses 78-79 a Qur'Anic Basis for Ijtihad

Q21 Verses 78-79 a Qur'Anic Basis for Ijtihad

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Q.
21:78-9:
A
Qur'anic
Basis
for
Ijtihädl
Hamid
Algar
UNIVERSITY
OF
CALIFORNIA,
BERKELEY
78:
Remember
Dä3üd
and
Sulaymän,
when
they
give
 judgement
in
the
matter
of
the
field
into
which
the
sheep
of
certain
people
had
strayed
by
night;
We
did
witness
their
 judgement.
79:
We
bestowed
under-
standing
thereof
on
Sulaymän,
and
to
each
of
them
We
gave
judge-
ment
and
knowledge
...
An
impressive
number
of
mufassirün
are
of
the
opinion
that
the
incident
to
which
these
two
verses
refer
resulted
in
divergent
verdicts
from
Dä3üd
and
his
son,
Sulaymän.
It
is
held
that when
the
father
realised
that
his
son's
 judgement
was
wiser
than
his
own,
he
revised
the
verdict
he
had
 just
given,
despite
being
vested
with
both
prophethood
and
kingship,
and
despite
the
extreme
youth
of
Sulaymän
at
the
time.
This
understanding
derives
in
part
from
the
opening
words
of
verse
79,
for
they
speak
of
a
divine
bestowal
of
understanding
on
Sulaymän
to
the
apparent
exclusion
of
Dä3üd.
The
verb
expressing
this
bestowal,
fahhamnähä,
is,
moreover,
preceded
by
a
fä'
that
has
been
interpreted
as
a/ä'
al-tacqib,
suggesting
that
Sulaymän
reached
his
correct
decision
on
the
matter
some
time
after
his
father
had
given
his
verdict.1
Far
more
influential,
however,
have
been
a
series
of
partly
contradictory
traditions
that
purport
to
supply
details
of
the
whole
affair.
Traditions
of
this
type
are,
of
course,
commonly
found
not
only
in
exegetical
writings
but
also
in
books
belonging
to
the
genre
of
qisas
al-anbiyä'.
In
both
cases,
the
principal
aim
is
to
enlarge
on
the
pur-
posefully
laconic
and
allusive
narratives
the
Qur'an
devotes
to
the
prophets.
In
the
present
instance,
however,
these
traditions
serve
more
than
a
literary
purpose,
for
they
are
adduced
in
support
of
the
notion
that
ijtihäd
has
Qur'anic
roots
and
was
practised
by
the
prophets
themselves.
Baydäwi,
one
of
the
most
prominent
exegetes
to
explain
the
verses
as
alluding
to
divergent
exercises
in
ijtihäd,
goes
so
far
as
to
concede
that
'were
it
not
for
the
[relevant]
traditions'
(law
al-naql),
Dä°üd
and
Sulaymän
could
be
assumed
to
have
delivered
one
and the
same
verdict,
andthe
question
of
ijtihäd
would
not
have
arisen.2
For
Fakhr
al-DIn
al-Räzi,
the evidence
of
'the
numerous
traditions'
(al-akhbär al-kathira)
detailing
what
had
allegedly
transpired
was
also
decisive,
although
in
a
slightly
different
way.
Convinced that
the
verdicts
of
father
and
son
diverged,
he
thought
it
possible
that
in
principle
bothshould
havebeen
the
result
of
divine
command
but
that
the
traditions
made
clashing
exercises
of
ijtihäd
a
far
more
likely
explanation.3
 
2
Journal
of
Qur'anic
Studies
Most
of
the
traditions
in
question
begin
by
clarifying
that
al-harth
(lexically
'field',
'tillage')
as
it
occurs
in
verse
78
has
the
meaning
of
al-karm
(vineyard),
for
the
prop-
erty
subjected
to
nocturnalinvasion
was
supposedly
a
vineyard
where
'the
clusters
of
grapes
hung
low'
and
were
all
consumed
by
the
marauding
sheep.4
According
to
the
most
frequently
cited
tradition,
that
going
back
to
Ibn
Masc
Od,
the
owner
of
the
vine-
yard
appealed
to
Dä°üd
for
 justice
on
the
day
following
the
incident,
and
he
awarded
him
ownership
of
the
sheep
by
way
of
compensation,
presumably
because
the
value
of
the
vineyard
and
that
of
the
sheep
was
roughly
equal.5
Sulaymän,
reportedly
eleven
years
of
age
at
the
time,
went
to
his
father
and
told
him:
'[A
judgement]
other
than
this
[is
better],
o
Prophet
of
God'.
Dä3üd
then
asked
him
what
the
preferable
verdict
might
be,
and
he
responded:
'That
you
assign
the
vineyard
to
the
owner
of
the
sheep
for
him
to
tend
until
it
returns
to
its
former
state;
assign
the
sheep
to
the
owner
of
the
vineyard
so
he
may
benefit
from
them
until
the
vineyard
is
restored;
and
then
return
the
vineyard
to
its
owner,
and the
sheep
to
their
owner'
.6
The
circumstances under
which
Sulaymän
learned
of
his
father's
verdict
and
made
his
objections
known
to
him
are
related
somewhat
differently
in
a
tradition
going
back
to
Ibn
°Abbäs.
Sulaymän
is
said
to
have
encountered
the
two
parties
to
the
dispute
as
soon
as
they
emerged
from
his
father's
court,
for
he
was
sitting
next to
the
entrance.
When
they
told
him
of
Dä°üd's
verdict
he
remarked,
without
going
into
detail: 'Were
I
to
be
given
authority
to
settle
this
matter,
I
would
render
a
different
judgement'.
Thereupon
Dä°üd
summoned
his
son
to
ask
him
how
he
would
adjudicate
the
case.
He
explained:
'You
should
give
the
sheep
to
the
owner
of
the
field
[for
this
is
how
Ibn
cAbbäs
evidently
understood
al-harth]
so
that
he
will
have
at
his
disposal
their
off-
spring,
their
milk,
their
clarified
butter,
and
other benefits
deriving
from
them.
Meanwhile,
let
the
owners
of
the
sheep
sow
the
field
on
behalf
of
its
owners,
just
as
they
would
usually
do themselves.
When
the
field
is
restored
to
its
former
state,
its
owners
will
take
possession
of
it
anew,
and
they
will
return
the
sheep
to
their
own-
ers'
.7
According
to
yet
another
version,
attributed
by
Räzi
again
to
Ibn
Mascud
as
well
as
to
Shurayh
and
Muqätil
but
related
by
BaydäwT
and
AlüsT
without
mention
of
a
source,
Sulaymän
told
his
father
when
suggesting
a
revision
of
the
 judgement:
'[A
verdict]
other
than
this
would
be
more
favourable
(arfaq)
for
the
two
parties'.
Da3ud
then
adjured
his
son,
invoking
his
claims
upon
him
as
father
and
prophet,
to
tell
him
what
would
be
'morefavourable'.
He
responded
with
the
same
proposal
of
temporary
exchange
of
property
between
the
owners
of
the
land
and
the
owners
of
the
sheep,
prefacing
it,
according
to
this
version,
with
the
words,
'I
am
of
the
opinion
(ara)
that
...'.8
Despite
minor
differences
in
wording
and
detail,
the
upshot
of
all
three
traditions
is
the
same:
that
a
defective
and
apparently
hasty
verdict
on
the
part
of
Dä3üd
was
annulled
in
light
of
hisson's
superior
insight.
The
story
is
not
unique.
The
tradition
 
Q.
21:78-9:
A
Qur'anic
Basis
for
Ijtihädl
3
literature
contains
accounts
of
similar
instances
of
what
can
be
called
prompt
 judicial
review
on
the
part
of
Sulaymän,
and
several
of
them
are
cited
in
connection
with
the
exegesis
of
the
two
verses
under
examination.
Unlike
the
narrations
with
which
we
are
principally
concerned,
none
of
them
is
in
attempted
explanation
of
Qur'anic
references,
and
therefore
lack
any
purported
basis
in
revelation.
One
such
story
is,
however,
attributed
to
the
Prophet
in
the
Sahihayn.
According
to
this
tale,
a
wolf
abducted
two
boys,
each
the
son
of
a
different
woman,
and
only
one
survived
theordeal.
The
two
women
then
went
to
DäTid,
each
claiming
the
survivor
was
her
son.
Dä3üd
was
about
to
award
the
child without
further
ado
to
the
older
and
more
insistent
of
the
women,
when
Sulaymän
proposed
that
the
object
of
the
dispute
be
bisected
and
one
half
be
awarded
to
each
of
the
claimants.The
suggestion
was
accept-
ed
by
the
older
woman,
but
rejected
by
the
younger,
who
renounced
her
claim
rather
than
seeing
harm
come
to
the
child.
The
veracity
of
her
claim
and
the
falsity
of
her
rival's
thus
became
apparent.9
Another
story
belonging
to
the
same
genre,
found
in
the
Tärlkh
of
IbncAsäkir
and
cited
in
works
of
tafslr
without
sanad,
relates
that
four
men
from
the
Banü
IsräTl
sought
to
seduce
a
woman
of
uncommon
beauty.
When
she
rebuffed
all
of
them,
they
conspired
to
avenge
themselves
by
denouncing
her
for
bestiality
with
a
dog
specially
trained
for
the
purpose.
Dä3üd
unhesitatingly
sentenced
her
to
death
by
stoning.
Sulaymän
was
playing
near
his
father's
place
of
 judgement
as
sentence
was
being
rendered,
and
decided
to
mimic
what
had
 just
transpired
in
the
trial.
He
played
the
part
of
the
judge
himself
and had
two
of
his
playmates
assume
the
role
of
the
accusers.
He
interrogated
each
of
them
separately
concerning
the
color
of
the
dog
in
question,
and
they
gave
him
contradictory
answers.
Dä°ud
observed
the
gameand
applying
the
same
investigative
technique
to
the
four
actual
accusers
received
four
different
answers.
He
thereupon
urgently
countermanded
the
sentence
of
execution
and
had
the
four
slanderers
put
to
death
instead.10
A
third
account
of
dangerously
erroneous
 judgement
on
the
part
of
Dä'üd
also
relates
to
a
slanderous
accusation
of
sexual
misconduct. Two
slave
girls
owned
by
a
pious
spinster
were
forbidden
by
her
to
have
illegitimate
contact
with
men.
They
thereupon
forged
evidence
of
apparent
fornication
on
her
part
in
the
expectation
that
she
would
be
put
to
death
and
they
would
then
be
free
to
satisfy
their
urges.
Dä3üd
delivered
the
verdict
they
desired,
which
he
was
obliged
to
annul
once
Sulaymän
had
proved
the
pious
woman's
innocence
by
means
of
an
inspired
forensic
technique.11
Finally,
a
story
related
by
KisäT
in
his
Qisas
al-anbiyW,
although
not
cited
by
any
of
the
mufassimn
in
connection
with
the
episode
of
the
sheep
and
the
vineyard,
is
of
relevance
because
it
portrays
Sulaymän
as
coming
yet
again
to
the
aid
of
his
 judicially
perplexed
father.
A
man
unexpectedly
discovered
buried
treasure
on
a
recently

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