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Islamic Q and A ( 12 Sept 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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What Is Ijtihad, Its Scope and Mujtahid?

By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam

13 September 2019

The Muslim who practices Ijtihad is known as Mujtahid. Ijtihad is derived from the root word Jahada (struggle). Ijtihad linguistically means to make the utmost effort to realise a matter that involves a measure of difficulty. In the terminology of Islamic jurisprudence, Ijtihad is defined as “making complete expenditure of effort in order to infer the rules of Islamic Sharia, after going through their detailed evidence in the primary Islamic sources; the Quran and Sunnah.” The similar definition can be found in the book of Amidi ‘Ihkam...’ (vol. 4, p. 162)

In other words, Ijtihad is the ability for deducing laws in cases to which no express text or a rule already determined. Ijtihad does not take place in the Ahkam Sharia (Sharia rulings) whose evidence (Daleel) is decisive (qati’), but it occurs only in those rulings whose evidence is speculative (Zanni).

The scope of Ijtihad does not involve those matters which are related to ‘beliefs’ (Aqaid), because they are decisive and definite and cannot be extracted except from those evidences which are definite (qati’). In other words, Aqeeda (belief) in Islam is not proved from the source of speculative evidence (Daleel Zanni). Therefore it is not allowed for a Mujtahid to do Ijtihad with regard to the belief in Allah Almighty, his prophets, angels (malaika), the day of Judgement (Akhirat), Paradise (Jannat) and hell (Jahannam) and so forth.     

The classical scholars are in agreement that with regard to the essentials of Aqaid (beliefs), such as the oneness of Allah, His Attributes, Prophets including the truth of prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the hereafter and so on, there is one ultimate truth and anyone, whether a Mujtahid or otherwise, who takes a different opinion is the one who automatically renounces Islam.

Some of the Quranic verses which are presented to prove that in matters of beliefs, speculation or guess is not accepted are as follows;

Allah says, “And indeed assumption does not serve any purpose in place of the Truth.” (53:28)

“Those who dispute concerning the signs of Allah without any proof having come to them – in their hearts is nothing but a craving for greatness which they shall never achieve; therefore seek the refuge of Allah; indeed He only is the All Hearing, the All Seeing.” (40:56)

“They have no (certain) knowledge. They follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not (Hazrat Jesus peace be upon him)” (4:157)

“They are nothing but some names that you have coined you and your forefathers – Allah has not sent any proof for them; they follow only guesses and their own desires; whereas the guidance from their Lord has come to them.” (53:23)

In all of these and other verses of the Quran related to beliefs, Allah censures those who make beliefs through speculation, conjecture or guess (Zanni) and decisively prohibits them from doing this. So Ijtihad does not occur in beliefs. 

The Mujtahid is the one who is qualified in Ijtihad. He requires wide expertise and many years of studying jurisprudence, the fundamentals of jurisprudence, the Quran, Sunnah, the biographies of hadith narrators, Arabic language, grammar, rhetoric and logic etc. He must be well-qualified in the main principles of the Sharia or the legal code so as to be able to ascertain the intention of the Lawgiver, the circumstances in which the texts of the Quran were revealed, the rules related to the continuous and isolated traditions. He must know discrimination between authentic as well as weak traditions. In the words of Sadrush Shariat following Fakhrul Islam, a Mujtahid “should have knowledge of the Quran together with its meaning, dictionary, legal and its various divisions, of the traditions including the texts and the authorities thereof, and of the rules relating to analogical deduction” (Bazdawi, vol. 4, p.1135; Taudih, p.382). It must be noted that the qualifications for a Mujtahid are more detailed than what has been given here.  


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