What is Ijtihad? What are its conditions?

Ijtihad literally means making a great effort with might and main in order to accomplish a difficult and exhausting duty.

Terminologically, it means endeavoring with might and main to clarify the subjective judgments, which are not fortified by exact and clear proofs; i.e. deducing or inferring judgments from the religious laws of Islam, which are fixed and clear as they are based on the Quran, hadith, and ijma -consensus of the community of Muslims.

The Holy Quran is a treasure of endless abundance and blessings; it is based on pre-eternity and gives information about eternity. It is endless and limitless in knowledge and mystery. The learned persons in each century have from it as much as their understandings allowed, and will continue to do so up to the Day of Judgment. The community of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) have benefited from the Quran both physically and spiritually, and they will do so in the future.

The Holy Quran is concise and full of fine points; and it is a bountiful treasure containing lots of principles and rules.

Allah states the following in a holy verse:

“…Nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a record clear (to those who can read)”

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi interprets this verse as follows:

“According to one interpretation, the Clear Book or Record consists of the Qur'an. This verse states that everything, fresh or dry, is found within it, is that so? Yes, everything is found in it, but not everyone can see everything in it,  for those are found at different levels. Sometimes the seeds, sometimes the nuclei, sometimes the summaries, sometimes the principles, sometimes the signs, are found either explicitly, or implicitly, or allusively, or vaguely, or as a reminder. One of these forms is expressed according to need, in a manner suitable to the purposes of the Qur'an and in connection with the requirements of the position.

If everything the humanity will face until Doomsday were clearly present in this divine treasure, then the Quran would be a thousand times thicker than it is now.

As Imam Sharani says,

If our Prophet (pbuh) had not explained the fine points in the Quran, then the Quran would remain as compendious expressions. Likewise, if the mujtahids - the performers of ijtihad- had not explained the intense and fine points in the Sunnah, it would remain as compendious expressions."

As is known, the closest deed to acceptance in the sight of Allah is the one that is the hardest.

The hadith: “The most virtuous of deeds is the hardest” is a proof of this.

Ijtihad is lofty knowledge that calls for a difficult search and a deep inquiry and it is a sacred duty for the people capable of it. It is concerned with all the states and deeds of human beings. This can be achieved not with word of mouth, but through being a rightful heir to our Prophet (pbuh).

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