Towards a Better Understanding of Ijtihad and

By Hasan Abdoney Jr.
After reading a few articles in the ICGT's Monitor this year, it became
abundantly clear that the concept of "Ijtihad" and "Mujtahid" hae been
misunderstood and misused by amateur writers who thin! they hae the
unconditional right to practice Ijtihad in matters of religion" In some of these
articles, the writers e#pressed opinions that are contrary to erses from the
$ur'an and statements of authenticated %unnah" Moreoer, some of these
"personal opinions" are contradictory to the established consensus of the
learned scholars of the %hari'ah" In light of this, I found it necessary to write
this piece, hoping to enlighten those who hae the temerity to encroach on a
&eld that they neither hae the right nor the necessary !nowledge to handle"
'e lie in the (nited %tates of America and are goerned by American law"
Those who wish to enter any such goernment serice here, which is
concerned with the administration of law, are bound to )ualify themseles
with !nowledge of American law" *or instance, if one wishes to hold the job of
a "+olice %ergeant", he or she must study the sections of "Criminal ,aw"
before being considered for such a job" Thus, eery "+olice %ergeant"
throughout this country can claim to possess some !nowledge of the law" -ut,
can you eer conceie that, because of that leel of !nowledge of the law a
"+olice %ergeant" might possess, the Goernment would eer consider him or
her to be eligible for the post of a "%upreme Court .udge/" If a "+olice
%ergeant" could e)ual a "%upreme Court .ustice", then faculties of law at the
great uniersities would not hae e#isted"
0en in the most modern and liberal societies of today, no one can be gien
the right to interpret man1made laws, which continue to change and be
amended on day1to1day basis, unless he or she becomes a fully )uali&ed
judge, and unless he or she has mastered the higher subjects and can stand
up as in the true sense of a 2octor of ,aw" -ut what a pity, that people can
a3ord to beliee that the wor! of Ijtihad, which inoles interpreting the
4eealed ,aw of God, can be done by 5, 6 or 78 %uch a monstrous suggestion
is indeed staggering, and it can possibly come only from those who hae a
scant regard for God and 9is ,aw8
Defnition of Ijtihad:
The word "Ijtihad" has been deried from the root ".92", and literally means
"striing with full e#ertion"" In Islamic legal terminology, it denotes a sound,
educated attempt to choose, in light of the $ur'an and the %unnah, between
two or more di3ering legal interpretations, and to deduce, from the $ur'an
and the %unnah, any new ruling in order to address new legal situations, to
which there are no preious literal precedence" The one who performs
"Ijtihad" is called a "Mujtahid""
The Qualifcations of a Mujtahid:
The learned scholars of Islam hae laid down certain )uali&cations, in the
light of the $ur'an and the %unnah, which a person must possess for acting
and for being accepted as a "Mujtahid"" *or e#ample, Allamah %hah 'aliullah
of 2elhi :on whom be God's Mercy; has mentioned those )uali&cations in
details in his celebrated boo!, "9ujjatullahil1-alighah"" I may summari<e them
here, in their minimum form, for the bene&t, especially, of those simple1
minded brothers and sisters who hae been misled into the belief that they
they can act as "Mujtahids" in their independent capacities" ,et those whom
the promptings of personal fancies lead them into posing as "Mujtahids",
without right or )uali&cations, :and who condemn the great serices rendered
by the authentic Imams, simply because their hearts are gripped by un1
Islamic things and they cannot bear the Islamic discipline systemati<ed and
codi&ed by the latter; pause for a while and consider the following, which are
the minimum reasonable )uali&cations which a true Mujtahid should possess=
A true Mujtahid should be an e#pert in the Arabic language, literature and
philology> so that he or she may be able to decide properly between the
di3erent connotations of the same word" The fact that the $ur'an was sent
down in the pure Arabic language has been highlighted in seeral ?erses of
the $ur'an, of which I )uote one as an e#ample=
"Indeed, 'e hae sent it down an Arabic $ur'an, in order thay you may
learn wisdom""
A true Mujtahid should be a recogni<ed high caliber scholar of the $ur'an, and
his@her study of the -oo! should be so intensie, that wheneer he@she has to
consider a gien problem, he@she should be capable of !eeping before his@her
mind's eye the whole sweep of $ur'anic thought and all releant erses"
A true Mujtahid should hae the Traditions of the +rophet :%AA'; A9adithB
memori<ed, so that wheneer he@she has to concentrate on any gien
problem, he@she may hae all the connected Traditions, een those indirect
ones, before him@her, clearly and iidly, to guide his@her thin!ing both
appropriately and comprehensiely"
*urther, a true Mujtahid should be an e#pert in both the science of historical
criticism :4iwayat; and logical criticism :2irayat;, so that he@she may be able
to iew the worth and connotation of arious Ahadith, under study in their
proper perspectie"
Aboe all, a true Mujtahid should possess piety and true Islamic character
and his@her heart should be imbued with what the $ur'an calls "Ta)waa""
In addition to these points, summari<ed aboe by %hah 'aliullah, Imam
%ha&'i said in his famous 4isalah=
"Allah has not permitted any person since the +rophet's time to gie an
opinion e#cept on the strength of established :legal; !nowledge" ,egal
!nowledge includes the $ur'an, the %unnah, Ijma' :consensus;, narratie and
$iyas :analogical deduction; based on these te#ts""" Cobody should apply
$iyas unless he is competent to do so through his !nowledge of the
Commands of the -oo! of Allah, its prescribed duties and ethical discipline,
its abrogated and abrogationg :?erses;, its general and particular rules and
its :right; guidance""" Co one is competent to apply $iyas unless he is
conersant with the established %unnah, the opinions of his predecessors, the
agreement and disagreement of the people, and his ade)uate !nowledge of
the Arabic tongue""
.alal1ud12in As1%uyuti, in his wor! Tadrib Ar14awi, )uotes Ibn 9a<m's report
that most of the Companions' ,egal Dpinions came from only seen of them,
namely= '(mar, 'Ali, Ibn '(mar, Ibn 'Abbas, 7ayd Ibn Thabit and 'A'ishah> and
this was from among thousands of Companions"
Cow, brothers and sisters, if there is a person who claims to be a "Mujtahid",
yet he@she does not possess one1tenth of these )uali&cations, what else can
you say about such a claimant besides that he@she is groping in the dar!8
'hat else could be the result of his stumbling e#cept misguidance8
Allamah %hah 'aliullah of 2elhi, the celebrated thin!er, theologian, specialist
of the %hari'ah, traditionist and commentator on the $ur'an, in whom one can
&nd many )uali&cations of a Mujtahid, could hae easily claimed himself as a
Mujtahid of his time and he would hae been easily accepted as such" 6et his
deep sense of responsibility and fear of God preented him from declaring his
Imamah and Ijtihad, and in all humility, he continued to regard himself as a
follower :Mu)allid; of Imam Abu 9anifah's school of law"
In light of these authoritatie and educated accounts on the subject of Ijtihad,
no body has the right to gie religious erdicts on their own behalf, or say
something on religion in the light of their common sense" Dur function as
sincere Muslims, is simply to receie and delier the ,aw which God has gien
us, and to guide people on the basis of that 4eealed Guidance" And this
function is, in itself, based on certain authority and )uali&cations and should
not be left to the whims of indiiduals"
4emember8 Dur +rophet :peace be upon him; prophesised for the latter days
in unambiguous terms when he said=
"+eople will appoint ignorant persons as their religious leaders, who will gie
*atwas :legal erdicts; without !nowledge and will mislead themseles as
well as others" -eware of those deceiers8"
About those ery people who do not een !now the basics of the Arabic
language, but who pose to be "Mujtahids", the noble +rophet :peace be upon
him; prophesised that they will be, "woles in human dress"1hypocritical
robbers of *aith" They wear a crown of serice to him "who whispers eil in
the hearts of man!ind1among .inns and Men"":EEF=G1H; They wear the mantle
of hypocrisy when they utter the name of Islam with their lips, but instead
inite people to all sorts of immorality" Those eil geniuses are always there,
than!s to the ignorance of Muslims" -ut the true scholars of Islam are also
present at all times, to tear the mas! o3 the face of eil" 0en as the true
+rophet of God :peace be upon him; truly prophesised=
"A party of my followers will continue to conclusiely demonstrate the Truth""

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful