The Principle of Ijtihad in Islam
Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari
An important recommendation
Here I have a recommendation which could be most useful for the advancement and development of our fiqh. It was previously put forward by the late Shaykh `Abd alKarim alYazdi, and I am here only reiterating his proposal.
He asked what it was that required people to follow only one person in taqlid in all matters. Would it not be better if specialised divisions were established in fiqh? That is to say, there would be groups who, after having completed the general study of fiqh and become experts in it, would specialise in one particular section, and then people would follow them in that particular section. For example, some would take as their specialisation `ibadat (the rites of Islam), and others mu`amilat (transactions), some siyasat (politics), and other ahkam (criminal law); this is exactly what has been done in medicine where specialised branches have been created, and doctors divided into groups for each speciality, some being heart specialists, some eye specialists, some ear, nose and throat specialists, and others specialists in other branches. If this were done, each person could study his own branch more thoroughly. I believe that there is a discussion of this matter in the book “alKalam Yajurru lKalam” by the Sayyid Ahmad al-Zanjani.
This recommendation is a very good one, and I will add only that the need to divide fiqh up and to create specialised branches arose a hundred years ago, and in present circumstances the fuqaha of today will impede the forward development of fiqh and stunt its growth unless they heed this recommendation.
The division of the sciences into specialised branches
The division of the sciences is the result of their development, but also its cause. For a science gradually progresses until it reaches the point where it is no longer possible for a single person to investigate all the problems it raises. It must then necessarily be divided up into branches of specialisation. Thus the division of a science and the creation of branches within it is the result and the effect of the development of that science, while, at the same time, more progress is made when these branches are created, and thought can be concentrated on the special problems in each branch.
In all the world’s sciences – medicine, mathematics, law, literature and philosophy – branches of specialisation have been created, and for that very reason progress has been accelerated in each of these branches.
The progress made in fiqh during the last thousand years
There was a time when fiqh was a very limited science. When we refer back to the texts before the time of the Shaykh alTusi, we see how restricted it was. By writing his “alMabsut”, alTusi took fiqh into new realms and enlarged its scope, and in the course of time, as a result of the efforts of the `ulama’ and fuqaha, and because of the creation of new problems and the initiation of new investigations to answer them, fiqh progressed even further, to the point where, about a hundred years ago, when the author of the “Jawahir” wrote his complete compendium of fiqh, he was only just able to finish it. It is said that he started his task when he was about twenty years old, and that, thanks to his extraordinary genius, continual work and a long life, he was able to write the last pages right at the very end of his life. The “Jawahir” was printed in six very bulky [lithographed] volumes, while the whole of alTusi’s “alMabsut”, which was in his time the example of a comprehensive work on fiqh, is probably less than half of one of these six volumes. After the author of the “Jawahir” died, the foundations of a new fiqh were laid by the Shaykh Murtada alAnsari, and the epitome of this new fiqh was that great man’s “alMakasib” and “alTahara”. Since his time, noone could even conceive of teaching a complete cycle of fiqh with such thorough explanation and research.
At the present time, after this advance in the development of our fiqh, which occurred in the same way as similar advances in other sciences all over the world, and which has been the result of the efforts of the `ulama’ and fuqaha’ of the past, the scholars of today will find themselves faced with the choice of either curbing any further progress in fiqh or putting this sensible and progressive recommendation into practice and creating branches of specialization, as a result of which people will come to discriminate in their taqlid, in the same way as they discriminate in referring to a doctor.
43. The Shaykh `Abd alKarim b. Muhammad Ja`far alMirjirdi alYazdi alHairi (1276/185960 1355/1937), whose move from Arak to Qum in 1920 began the modern history of that city as a centre of Shi`i learning.
44. The Sayyid Ahmad alHusayni alZanjani (1308/1890 1393/1973), a Qummi scholar. His “alKalam Yajurru lKalam” (3 vols, Tehran, 1363/1944) is a compendium of historical, literary, biographical and hadith information.
45. By the Shaykh alAnsari.