How was ijtihad- the act of deducing secondary judgments from the Quran and Hadiths- performed in the age of Tabiin-the Believers who saw the Ashab, who are the Believers who saw Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?
At the time of Tabiin, there were many learned people and scholars of hadith all over the Islamic World. Most of them were capable of applying ijtihad and they never imitated one another. They took the issues, as they were upon which the Ashab united. All the talks of this time were fruitful and fertile as the light of the prophethood was so close. The deliverers of these talks had such strong faiths as iron. Their consciences were pure, and minds clear. Just as the Ashab derived the outer and inner sides of Islam from the Sun of Prophethood, they stuck to the same way.
However, in the issues upon which debate existed among the Ashab, they chose the idea and view of the one whose opinions were stronger and suited best to their ijtihads. The science of ijtihad, the basis of which was laid at the time Ashab, rose to its peak at the time of Tabiin, and turned into a separate science.
This era turned into a time of knowledge and understanding thanks to the mujtahids. The people of knowledge at this period canalized all their efforts into the development of knowledge and understanding, and especially into the science of ijtihad. This is because they thought it the biggest cause to deduce the detailed and secondary issues from the Quran and hadiths in order to handle the problems of people.
The learned of this time were the real heirs of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They opted for virtue instead of wealth, rank, fame, and splendor of this transient world. They did not value the glory of this world, but it did not leave them. When their lives are searched thoroughly, it can be seen that they did not come this world for pleasure, but only for virtue and knowledge. Virtue is a mixture of knowledge and worship. The essence of it is the acceptance of Allah, and this cannot be taken as an instrument to either worldly or heavenly end, not even to paradise. The quality of virtue is superior to the worldly and lustful desires. The one who has not tested it would not know; who has not relished would not understand.
The history of Islam shows that the most fertile and magnificent time of knowledge and insight was the ages of tabiin and tebei-i tabiin-the Believers who saw Tabiin, after the Period of Happiness and Tranquility-in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived. At those times all the Muslims felt deep respect and affection to religion. Faith and the Quran not only dominated their hearts and consciences, but also reflected in their actions. The majority of people rushed to the places of knowledge. They got instructions from these places. At this time, all the abilities and tendencies of the learned were towards ijtihad, and in a short period of time thousands of scholars reached high ranks in this field.
Imam Azam, Imam Shafii, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad, and such geniuses of knowledge were the lamps of understanding and insight of these times. They were the closest heirs of the Sun of Prophethood. This closeness has a big share in their being superior to their successors. And for this reason, none of the knowledgeable could surpass them. At this period, the great mujtahids were always busy with the knowledge and its exaltation. They found the real taste of life in this activity.
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