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Muharram 11 Tuesday Hijrah 1444
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Title – The Message   Preface   Arabian Peninsula the Cradle of Islamic Culture   Arabia before Islam   Conditions of Roman and Iranian Empires   Ancestors of the Prophet   Birth of the Prophet   Childhood of the Prophet   Rejoining the Family   Period of Youth   From Shepherd to Merchant   From Marriage up to Prophethood   The First Manifestation of Reality   The First Revelation   Who were the First Persons to Embrace Islam?   Cessation of revelation   General Invitation   Judgement of Quraysh about the Holy Qur’an   The First Migration   Rusty Weapons   The Fiction of Gharaniq   Economic Blockade   Death of Abu Talib   Me’raj – The Heavenly Ascension   Journey to Ta’if   The Agreement of Aqabah   The Event of Migration   The Events of the First Year of Migration   Some Events of the First and Second years of Migration   The Events of the Second Year of Migration   Change of Qiblah   The Battle of Badr   Dangerous Designs of the Jews   The Events of the Third Year of Migration   The Events of the Third and Fourth years of Migration   The Jews Quit the Zone of Islam   The Events of the Fourth Year of Migration   The Events of the Fifth Year Of Migration   The Battle of Ahzab   The Last Stage of Mischief   The Events of the Fifth and Sixth years of Migration   The events of the Sixth Year of Migration   A Religious and Political Journey   The Events of the Seventh Year of Migration   Fort of Khayber the Centre of Danger   The Story of Fadak   The Lapsed ‘Umrah   The Events of the Eighth Year of Migration   The Battle of Zatus Salasil   The Conquest of Makkah   The Battle of Hunayn   The Battle of Ta’if   The Famous Panegyric of Ka’b Bin Zuhayr   The Events of the Ninth Year of Migration   The Battle of Tabuk   The Deputation of Thaqif goes to Madina   The Prophet Mourning for his Son   Eradication of Idol-Worship in Arabia   Representatives of Najran in Madina   The Events of the Tenth Year of Migration   The Farewell Hajj   Islam is completed by the Appointment of Successor   The Events of the Eleventh Year of Migration   A Will which was not written   The Last Hours of the Prophet  

Ijtihad permitted by the shari’a

The word ijtihad was used until the fifth hijri century with this particular meaning, i.e., with the meaning of qiyas and ijtihad al­ra’y, a kind of ijtihad which is prohibited in the eyes of the Shi`a. Up to that time, the Shi`i `ulama included a chapter on ijtihad in their books only because they wanted to refute it, to emphasize that it was null and void, and to proscribe it, as did the Shaykh al­Tusi in some of his works. But the meaning of this word gradually extended beyond this specific meaning, and the Sunni `ulama themselves began not to use ‘ijtihad’ in the specific sense of ijtihad al­ra’y, [as a source] which was on the same level as the Book and the Sunna. [Such a shift in the meaning of the word can be seen with] Ibn Hajib [15] in his “Mukhtasar al­usul”, on which `Adud al­Din al­Iji wrote a commentary known as al­`Adudi, and which has been till recently, and maybe still is, the authoritatively approved book on [Sunni] usul, and before him with al­Ghazali [16] in his famous work “al­Mustasfa”. It then became used rather in the unqualified sense of effort or exertion to arrive at the rulings of the shari`a, and was defined as “the maximum employment of effort and exertion in deducing the rulings of the shari`a from the valid proofs (adilla, sing. dalil, see below ). However, it is another matter to decide what the valid proofs of the shari`a are: whether qiyas, istihsan, and so forth, are among them or not.

From this time onwards, the Shi`i `ulama also adopted this word because they accepted this [general] meaning. This kind of ijtihad was a kind approved by the shari`a. Although the word had originally been one to be avoided among the Shi`a, after its meaning and the concept it denoted had undergone this change, their `ulama, discarded their prejudice and subsequently had no reservations about using it. It seems that in many instances the Shi`i `ulama, were careful to consider unity of method and conformity among Muslims as a whole. For example, the Sunnis came to recognize ijma` (consensus of opinion among the `ulama) as a proof leading to certainty, and, in practice, they also held it to be fundamental and substantive (mawdu`i) just like qiyas, whereas the Shi`a did not accept it. However, to protect the unity of method, they gave the name ijma` to a principle which they did accept [17]. The Sunnis said that the valid proofs were four in number: the Book, the Sunna, ijma and ijtihad (qiyas); the Shi`a said the valid proofs were four: the Book, the Sunna, ijma` and `aql (reason). They merely substituted `aql for qiyas.

At any rate, ‘ijtihad’ gradually found a wider meaning, i.e., the employment of careful consideration and reasoning in reaching an understanding of the valid proofs of the shari`a. This, of course needs a series of sciences as a suitable preliminary basis on which to develop the ability to consider and reason correctly and systematically. The `ulama of Islam gradually realized that the deduction and derivation of the precepts from the combined valid proofs of the shari`a necessitated [the learning] of a series of preparatory sciences and studies such as the sciences of literature, logic, the Qur’anic sciences and tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis), the science of hadith and the narrators of hadith (rijal al­hadith), the science of the methodology of usul al­fiqh, and even a knowledge of the fiqh of the other sects of Islam. A mujtahid was someone who was a master of all these sciences.

I think it extremely likely, though I cannot state this categorically, that the first person among the Shi`a to use the words ijtihad and mujtahid [positively] was the `Allama al­Hilli.[18] In his work ” Tahdhib al­usul”, he puts the chapter on ijtihad after the chapter on qiyas, and there he uses the word in the same sense in which it is used today.

[We can therefore say that] the ijtihad which is forbidden and rejected in the eyes of the Shi`a is ra’ y and qiyas, which were originally called ijtihad, whether this is counted as a source of the shari`a and as an independent basis for legislation, or taken as a means for deriving and deducing true precepts; whereas the ijtihad which they deem correct according to the shari`a is that which means effort and exertion based on expert technical knowledge.

In answer to the question: what is the meaning, the use and the place of ijtihad in Islam, it can thus be said that it is ijtihad in the meaning that it is used today, i.e., competence and expert technical knowledge. It is obvious that someone who wants to refer to the Qur’an and hadith must know how to explain the meaning of the Qur’an, he must know the meaning of the verses, which verses abrogate which verses, which ones have clear meanings and which ones ambiguous meanings [19] – and he must be able to distinguish which hadith is valid and authoritative and which not. In addition, he must understand, on the basis of correct rational principles, incompatibilities between hadiths to the extent that it is possible for him to resolve them, and he must be able to distinguish the cases in which the `ulama of the Shi`a sect have consensus (ijma`). In the verses of the Qur’an themselves, and similarly in the hadith, a series of general principles [for verification and interpretation] are laid down, and the use and exercise of these principles need training and practice, just as in the case of all other basic principles in every science. Like the skilled technician who knows which material to choose from all the materials available to him, the mujtahid must have proficiency and ability. In hadith, especially, there is a great deal of fabrication, the true and the false are mixed together; the expert must have the power to distinguish between them. In short, he must have enough preliminary knowledge so that he can exercise competence, authority and technical expertise.


15.Muhammad b. al¬Hasan b. `Ali al¬Tusi (385/995 ¬ 460/1067), the Shaykh al¬Ta’ifa (the Chief [scholar] of the [Shi`a] Sect), author of ”`Uddat al¬Usul” (Tehran, 1314).
16. Jamal al¬Din Abu `Amr `Uthman b. `Umar b. Abi Bakr b. Yusuf, Ibn al¬Hajib (570/1174 -646/1249), the Maliki legist, author of “Muntaha al¬Su’al wa l¬Amal fi `ilmay al¬Usul wa l¬Jada”‘ which he condensed into his “Mukhtasar al¬Usul”. Besides al¬Iji’s commentary on this abridgement, there is also one by the `Allama al¬Hilli (see below, note 19), called “Ghayat al-Usul” which he wrote to refute al¬Iji’s (see: ”al¬Dhari`a”, XIV, p.56).
17. Abu Hamid Muhammad al¬Tusi al¬Ghazali (450/1058 ¬ 505/1 111), who followed the Shafi`i madhhab. The full title of his work on jurisprudence is “al¬Mustasfa min `ilm al¬Usul” (2 vols, Cairo, 1356).
18. The main substantial difference between Shi`i and Sunni ijma` is that the former must contain the opinion of the Imam in the consensus. The discussion of how this can be achieved during the Imam’s occultation forms one of the important parts of the science of usul.
19. Jamal al¬Din Abu Mansur, Hasan b. Yusuf b. `Ali b. Mutahhar, the `Allama al¬Hilli (648/1250 ¬ 726/1325), the famous legist, philosopher and mutakallim, author of “Tahdhib Tariq al¬ Wusul ila `ilm al¬Usul” (Tehran, 1308).

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