Thursday, 28 June 2018

Reality of Ijtihad

بســم اللــه الرحمــن الرحيــم

والصلاــة والسلاــم علــى نبيــه الكريــم

وعلــى اهــل بيتــه الطيبيــن الطاهريــن المظلوميــن

والعاقبة للمتقين

Now coming to the fourth source of Islamic law, Ijtihad, usually translated to mean mental effort or exertion to arrive at an opinion, it is usually manifested as Qiyas or analogical reasoning among the Sunnis and referred to as the use of Aql or intellect, among the Shi’a. All of these terms are essentially synonymous with respect to referring to this fourth source of the Shari’a. As in the case of Ijma (consensus), Ijtihad is not a primary or independent source of Islamic law, rather, its validity has been derived from the primary sources, particularly the following Hadith narrated by the companions Amr b. al-As and Abi Hurayra (radi Allahu anhuma) that the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) said:
إِذَا حَكَمَ الْحَاكِمُ فَاجْتَهَدَ ثُمَّ أَصَابَ فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ، وَإِذَا حَكَمَ فَاجْتَهَدَ ثُمَّ أَخْطَأَ فَلَهُ أَجْرٌ
“When a judge passes a judgment through Ijtihad and arrives at a correct decision, for him is a double reward, and when he judges through Ijtihad but makes an error, he is still entitled to a single reward.” (mutaffaq alayh)
Based on this Hadith it is firmly established that the exercising of Ijtihad is the domain of the one who is fit to be a judge. In other words, an ordinary layperson cannot be a mujtahid as he does not possess the necessary academic qualifications to be a judge or scholar of the Religion. Another critical fact concerning Ijtihad is that it can only be exercised in matters regarding which both the Quran and Sunna are silent, as illustrated in the Hadith of Mu’adh bin Jabal (radi Allahu anh), that before the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) sent him to act as a judge in Yemen, he quizzed him:
كَيْفَ تَقْضِي.‏ فَقَالَ أَقْضِي بِمَا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏‏ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ ‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَبِسُنَّةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏‏ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِي سُنَّةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَجْتَهِدُ رَأْيِي ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي وَفَّقَ رَسُولَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم
“How will you judge?” He (Mu’adh) said: “I shall judge according to what is in the Book of Allah.” He (the Prophet) said: “And if it is not in the Book of Allah?” He said: “Then by the Sunna of Allah’s Apostle peace be upon him.” He (the Prophet) said: “And if it is not in the Sunna of Allah’s Apostle peace be upon him?” He (Mu’adh) said: “I shall give my opinion through Ijtihad.” He (the Prophet) said: “All praise belongs to Allah Who made the emissary of the Apostle of Allah peace be upon him agreeable.” (Jami al-Tirmidhi #1327)
Although this narration is weak due to the presence of unknown narrators in its sanad, the meaning is certainly correct in the sense that Ijtihad is only to be exercised when the sources of Quran and Sunna have been exhausted and no explicit answer can be found in them to a practical problem that has risen and requires judgment. It is often said that the “Gate of Ijtihad” was closed in medieval times by the medieval scholars, and that it is not now possible for a perfectly qualified mujtahid to arise and make any fresh Ijtihad. According to this idea, all that Ijithad that could be done has already been exercised and the results compiled in the schools of law attributed to the great Mujtahidin of the past, particularly the four Imams, Abi Hanifa, Malik, al-Shafi’i and Ahmad b. Hanbal (rahimahumullah). What is required now is only to make taqlid (blind-following) of the Ijtihad of one of these four Imams and the school of law associated with him. Incidentally, this idea that the “Gate of Ijitihad” is closed and that it is now impossible for a new qualified Mujtahid to arise let alone a new madhhab or school of jurisprudence, is itself based on someone’s Ijtihad, otherwise it has no basis in the primary sources of Quran and Sunna that a time would ever come when the “Gate of Ijtihad” would be shut forever. In fact, this appears to be a weak and illogical view that should be rejected by the academic circles, in part because it is an attitude that has historically nurtured intellectual laziness and stagnation.

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