How is Ijtihad-in Islam, the act of deducing secondary judgments from the Quran and Hadiths-the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) - in a certain way by the gifted people of knowledge- viewed in Islam?
Ijtihad is lawful in Islam, which is clear from the verse:
When a tiding of safety and fear came to them, they would disclose it. If they asked the Prophets or the possessors of right among themselves of it, surely these possessors of right would try to show the judgment-ijtihad, and deduce (according to the condition).
The Muslims who immigrated to Medina were not entirely comfortable, though relatively safe. At any moment, the people of Mecca might have attacked. Sometimes the rumors would pass among the community: they are coming, they have come. The verse above instructs Muslims how to act under such circumstances.
Hamdi Yazır deduces these judgments from this verse:
1) Among the judgments, there are the ones not directly verified by verses, but can be acknowledged by ijtihad.
2) Istinbad (revealing a subject through a deep research) is also a proof.
3) The public not capable of istinbad must resort to the learned and imitate them.
4) The Messenger of God- is also responsible for istinbad.
As Abu Zahra says, Events are endless. The present verses are, however, limited. So it is a must to deduce judgments about the conditions on which no verse exists, and this must be done under the light of the present verses.
This verse is a clear proof that comparison and ijtihad are realities in Islam. Referring a new issue to the learned, who are capable to handle it, is to ask them to perform ijtihad and make comparisons. Because there is no need of ijtihad upon the issues about which clear and open judgments are present.
Fahraddin-i Razi declares that this verse indicates three things:
First, those upon which there is no verse but known through ijtihad.
Second, ijtihad and istinbad- revealing a subject through a deep research - are Islamic evidences.
Third, that the public must imitate the learned in the issues that are not related to the basics. Because Allah ordains that, those who do not know the judgments of new issues and events must refer to those who are capable to deduce these judgments from the Islamic evidence.
Allah commands the capable to perform ijtihad also in this verse:
O you who possess knowledge, interpret (our verses)
So, besides exact judgments, there are also secondary ones, which can be counted as details. Allah ordained it legitimate to act with supposition in these issues. It is not possible for the public to deduce these judgments from the Koran. So they must submit to the learned. Such kind of imitation is a must for the public.
Firstly, performing ijtihad requires a vast knowledge and the performer must be gifted. It is not within the grasp of everyone, because the Islamic judgments are thousands, even tens of thousands in number. And the proofs of them are countless. To deduce all these judgments from these countless proofs is not something everyone can do. On the other hand, say all the Muslims have the capacity to handle this, if they were to try to perform ijtihad, then no worldly work or occupation would be dealt with. For these two reasons, the ordinary person is obliged to imitate the mujtahids- the performers of ijtihad.
If you do not know, then ask the people of dhikr (knowledge). A Muslim must obey to the mujtahids in order to perform prayer in a way suited to the acceptance of Allah.
Sheik Abdullah Dhiraz explains why imitation is obligatory and necessary as follows:
If one, who does not have the capacity to perform ijtihad is faced with a secondary issue, he will do nothing at all, which either is contrary to ijma-the consensus of the learned persons upon a matter-, or will try to carry out his duties as a Muslim by doing something. And this can be done either through setting out to find the evidence to the new issue and acting according to it, or through imitating a mujtahid. The former is surely not possible for everyone.
As this way will cause everyone to endeavor to find the evidence of events and issues that both the first person faces and the other people might face, it will hinder the livelihood of people, will cause every kind of art and technique to come to a halt, and will lead the world to the point of destruction by suspending agriculture and such activities. For these reasons, it is highly dangerous to do away with imitation all of a sudden. As it is seen, no alternative is left other than imitation. Under these circumstances, the sole choice is to submit to a mujtahid. This is explained by Imam Al-Shatibi, A legal opinion (fatwa) from a mujtahid is in relation to the ordinary person just as a proof from the Islamic Law (Sharia) is in relation to the mujtahid.
Therefore, have the mujtahids deduced the secondary judgments, which are present in the Quran either covertly or as a sign, and they presented these judgments to the use of humankind. Likewise, the scientists discover the covert realities and phenomena present in this Book of Universe. Therefore, these people are the mufassirs and mujtahids of this Book of Universe.
Just as the people who are not well grounded in the content area of science, to follow scientists and derive benefit from their works is natural, and so are the ordinary persons to follow Mujtahids who have a comprehensive grasp of evidence from Quran and Sunnah. A reasonable man cannot say, I will get on only the plane I made, or I will use only the computer I designed. neither can he say, I will deduce judgments from the Quran and Hadiths on my own, instead of imitating the mujtahids.