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The voice of unity – Part IV: The methods of obtaining knowledge and eradicating dispute

Nov 30, 2012, 10:34 AM

The Scope of Ijithad

The “Scope of Ijithad” is actually an academic and theological discussion which is more properly studied in the classroom. There are many such issues. The majority of discussions pertaining to theology and jurisprudence are of this nature; they are issues which are not certain. The place for them to be discussed is the Islamic seminary and schools, not general gatherings. These are issues that were not raised during the beginning stages of Islam, or if they were, they were raised in a limited and obscure from. They have been raised throughout the centuries as a result of the meticulous approach and the erudition of the scholars. Nevertheless to say, there are differences of opinion regarding these issues.

These types of difference cannot be considered the differences of opinions which are rejected in Islam. If a mujtahid intentionally makes a mistake in his derivation and does not refer to a certain verse or authentic tradition, he is at fault and will be punished. But, if he tried his best, studied correctly, met with various religious authorities, studied under various professors in the Islamic seminary, and observed all of the principles found in religion (both principles of his own sect and of other sects) and then made a conclusion on a matter, his conclusion must be accepted. It should be respected. It is authoritative for him and it is authoritative for those who follow his in taqlid. But, the conclusion that the mujtahid reaches does not necessarily correspond to reality. It is possible that it is congruent with reality and it is possible that it is not congruent with reality. But, in any case it must be respected. The mujtahid is rewarded in either case, even if he made a mistake in his ijithad. What is clear is that the Quran and Islam ordered Muslims to ponder and think. If it issued such commands, then it must accept their consequences as well. The result of free thought is differences of opinion. It is not necessary for the people who have come from various parts of a city, or a few cities, and who have studies and reached ijtihad to all come to the same conclusions their opinions are sufficient for themselves.

The scholars know about this issue. Other also must know about it to a certain extent. At the beginning of the maraji’s manuals of Islamic laws, they write in their own handwriting: “Acting in accordance to this book is sufficient”. This means that one’s responsibility will take care of. Why do they not state that “this book consists of Allah’s laws”? The reason is because the book consists of theoretical issue which are disputed. The jurisprudent tried his best and reached a conclusion on each issue. This conclusion is authoritative for him and those who follow him. He does not write more than this. He only states that it is sufficient-that if one acted according to his rulings, such a person would have done his duty.

The Issue of Erroneous and Correct Judgment

Now that this is so, another intellectual topic arises. It has become clear that there are differences of opinions amongst the mujtahids in matters pertaining to religion, especially in matters pertaining to Islamic jurisprudent. They discuss the issue in accordance to their method of ijtihad. Are all of the conclusions that the mujtahids reach in accordance with reality? Are they exact divine Law that corresponds to the will of Allah? This is s famous theological issue. Some Masubah scholar’s state: “Although the verdicts of mujtahids are different, they are all the ruling of Allah. The verdict of such-and-such muhtahid is the ruling of Allah and the verdict of another mujtahids is also the ruling of Allah. The reason is that Allah does not have a ruling in such issues; that is He does not have a ruling other than that of what the mujtahids conclude. The conclusions of ijithad of the mutahids are the very ruling of Allah. There is also nothing preventing multiple divine rulings on a single issue of ijihad. The ruling of Allah being singular is only compulsory in the necessities of religion.”

Other scholars are called Mukhta’ah. They state: “The mistakes that mujtahids make are permissible. The Masubah scholars’ state that whatever conclusions mujtahids make, even if they are in opposition with each other, are all the rulings of Allah. This is incorrect. Allah has a specific ruling about all issues-a ruling which we do not know.” The consensus amongst the scholars is that the Mukhta’ah view is the correct one. According to the Mukhta’ah, Allah’s ruling is in reality only one. If a mujtahid happens to find this reality, then so be it, but if he does not find it, he is excused and his opinion is sufficient to form a percept. This group narrates the tradition, “The one who reached the correct opinion gets two rewards and the one who made a mistake gets one reward. “Allah will give the erroneous mujtahid one reward. But, the mujtahid who reached the correct conclusion through his ijtihad will receive two rewards.

The late Ayatullah Burujardi, our teacher (may Allah be pleased with him) had a novel opinion about the above- mentioned consensus. He said that this consensus was not a legal consensus, but rather it was a theological consensus. Hence this consensus does not have the same ruling as a jurisprudential or legal consensus. So if someone was able to reach a conclusion that was in opposition to it, his conclusion would not be invalidated on the grounds that it goes against the [legal] consensus. This discussion is very detailed. I want to pass over it quickly so that I may reach a conclusion that has bearing on the conciliation and proximity of the Islamic sects and schools of thought. But, these discussions are necessary and help to set the scene for the ways and methodologies of conciliation. These ways should be examined with an open heart; without any sort of tunnel-vision or parochialism. Having an open heart is quintessential to the issue of bringing the sects together. Without an open heart fanaticism cannot be prevented. Without an open heart the two sides of the argument will not reach anywhere; they will not be able to even respect each other’s opinions. Justice would not prevail. God-willing we will discuss the issue at hand with an open heart.

I think that I can come to a conclusion from what has been stated. It was concluded that ijtihad exists in Islam. One is commanded to think and ponder over each part of religion. Traditions are various and multifarious. Therefore, people’s understanding of the traditions and their understanding of which traditions are authentic and which traditions are not authentic are different.

Likewise, there are numerous verses about some issues. Different individuals’ usage and method of forging a concurrence between these verses will be various. What is certain is that not everyone will reach the same certain conclusion regarding them. They will reach different conclusions and their opinions are authoritative and binding for themselves and for the people that follow them. Such scholars will be exonerated by Allah if they prescribe something that is contradictory to reality and not in line with the actual will of Allah.

Ijtihad and Derivation

Ijtihad means to put forth strenuous effort. It is formed by the Arabic verbal from which denotes intensity. The definition that has been given for it is: ijithad is “to go to the utmost of one’s capacity.” In the cognitive context, it means that a person uses his intellectual strength to its full ability. Sometimes the term derivation or investigation is used for ijtihad. The Quran states:

....those of them who investigate (4:82)

The Arabic term used for ‘derivation,’ istinhat, means bringing water up from the bottom of a well. Issues which have differences of opinion-theoretical issues, are similar to water that is found at the bottom of the well. It takes struggle and effort to bring it from the bottom of the well. In conclusion derivation is the greatest intellectual action. It is almost synonymous with deep thought or understanding (tafaqquh). The innovativeness of Islam is seen through the fact that the doors of ijtihad are open in order to solve religious problems, correlate religious law to the needs of the time, and as was said, determine the rulings regarding the day-to-day events that take place. In this way, derivation means “to determine the day-to-day subjects and events, and to go on to express their rulings.” Subjects are variable and change depending on their time and space; therefore their rulings also change. The reason for this is that a ruling is consequent upon the subject. In a lecture that I delivered in a country, which was attended by about 3,000 people, I said “ijtihad is one of the doors of mercy.” ‘Ali (a) also said: “Jihad is one of the doors of paradise.” Jihad, in the path of religion, is one of the doors of paradise. The value of ijtihad in the path of religions is the same as Jihad in the path of religion. The mujtahids and jurisprudents provide the greatest services for the Ummah and for Islamic sciences. They use all of their efforts over a 50, 60, or 70 year period, in order to derive religious laws from their sources and to bring them to the level of preponderance (not certainty). Then they go on to present their derived laws to the people, thus eliminating excuses from the sinners and not allowing them to say: “We could not refrain from committing sins because we did not know what the rulings of Allah were.”

Now that we know about ijtihad and the source of differences in principle, in the following sections we can go on to further investigate these differences. In particular we can pose the question as to whether the differences and disputes that were witnessed at the advent of Islam, or which gradually came to realization after that period, stemmed from ijtihad, or from politics?

The End.