What is the importance of ijtihad-in Islam, the act of deducing secondary judgments from the Quran and Hadiths-the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?
Ijtihad is the biggest favor and blessing God bestowed upon the Community of Islam. There are many purposes why God left some verses in the Quran open to interpretation. If God did openly reveal these open-to-doubt verses and the judgments in them, then all the subjects and issues which are from the realm of details and thus secondary in nature would be musts and obligations; and so the opponents of them would fall into destruction.
Another purpose; by opening the institution of ijtihad God gave the reason and mind their share and thus honored the Community of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and its people of knowledge.
The most precious of divine gifts is mind. It is a divine light discovering the realities or the matter, and the secrets of the Universe. With this gem, the deepest meanings and truths of the Holy Quran are penetrated. The mind is the ultimate stage of Gods mercy and bestowment. However, people are not equal in terms of wisdom and knowledge they possess.
Although the constitution of knowledge does not change, it changes according to the way it is understood. Though thousands of people take the same lesson from the same learned person, the relish and insight they acquire are different. As the abilities vary, they each get the relish and insight as much as their abilities allow.
People with poor reason and short insight fail to understand anything from the clearest subject. It is the responsibility of the people with mature minds to think upon the veiled realities and issues. For the people not having the proper qualities, the insight and understanding they get would be lacking. As it is seen in the history of Islam, in every field of science many learned and proficient people have come, but the number of the people who have reached to the rank of ijtihad is so small. The area that the field of ijtihad covers is so vast that it is not possible for everyone to dive into this ocean. And this ocean comprises realities and truths not easy to be handled by every mind. The real composition of it, not every intellect penetrates.
Ijtihad is a hard subject and a deep mystery. Not everyone who has different qualities or mind and intellect can walk through that field.
It is peculiar to the mujtahids-performers of ijtihad- imams to bring pearls of truths from the depths of these oceans, and especially to the four Imams.
Islam is the perfect religion. In fact, God states:
Today for you I completed my religion and my bestowment upon you. As there are open judgments in the Quran concerning belief, worship, and behavior, there are also principles and rules enough to solve new events and issues, which may emerge until the doomsday. It is only possible through ijtihad to deduce judgments from them.
Islam pays much importance to ijtihad. Many of the needs of Muslims are met with this institution. As it is known, new events emerge by the time passes. The fundamental rules and high truths are present in the Quran and in the Hadith Books. However, it is not possible for everyone to understand these deep and covert meanings. Therefore, the mujtahids eased the hardships of Muslims by deducing such secondary judgments from the Quran and its first-hand explanation, Hadiths.
Man can avoid mistakes only by sticking to the way of Holy Quran and Sunnah-what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did, said or conducted. For, these two sources are the torches illuminating the way through salvation.
Actually, the definite and open divisions of the Quran and the Hadiths determine most of the Islamic rules. And this division, as Bediüzzaman puts it, belongs to the Quran and its explanation, Sunnah. If the subjects of ijtihad are golden, then these are all diamond pillars.
By benefiting from these two treasures to the full, the mujtahids deserved the honor of this verse, God bestows the knowledge to whom He wills. And our Prophet (pbuh) articulated the importance and worth of ijtihad with this Hadith,
The person performing ijtihad gets two reward if he is correct with his judgment; and if he is wrong with it gets one. The intended meaning with the mistake here is not to be able to find the more correct. Muhammad bin Hazm says, The intended meaning with the mistake is not hitting the mark, the proof. Making mistake is not the thing, which leads its possessor out of the rules of Islam. If this is the case, he would not be granted a reward. We must highlight the fact that if someone not capable of ijtihad is mistaken in his judgment, he would not be excused it would be a sin.
There was not any verse as of yet in the battle of Badr as to what to do with the slaves. As he does in every situation about which no verse is issued, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also consulted to his friends on this matter. Hazrath Abu Bakr was of the opinion that the slaves should be set free in exchange for due ransom, while Hazrath Omar thought that the slaves should be killed directly. One group of Muslims was on the side of Hazrath Abu Bakr, and the other on Hazrath Omar. And when disagreement arose within them, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) opted for the ijtihad of Hazrath Abu Bakr, and they acted this way.
Then the verse expressing warning was revealed:
It is not suitable for any prophet to have slaves till having power over Earth (till the blasphemy is knocked down). You want this transient worlds property, but Allah wants (for you) the Hereafter
This verse though does not annul the ijtihad of Hazrath Abu Bakr, puts forth that that of Hazrath Omars is superior. Hence, two contrasting views are both acknowledged. As is understood from this verse, every performer of ijtihad is correct in his view. If the view of Hazrath Abu Bakr were wrong, then a verse would have been revealed before they carried it out. So this verse was revealed because the believers did not choose the superior view.
The intention of Hazrath Abu Bakr was to empower the armies of Muslims by providing those weapons with the ransom. That of Hazrath Omar was to hinder mischief over Earth by getting rid of their bodies, as they showed no sign of improvement.
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