Who is mujtahid-the performer of ijtihad, which is the act of deducing secondary judgments from the Quran and Hadiths-the sayings of Mohammad (pbuh)?

Mujtahid is the one who is highly knowledgeable about the secrets of the Quran, is capable of ijtihad, and is the scholar of fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) who is the authority on all the Islamic sciences. These are gifted people capable of knowing the secrets of the Quran and the Hadiths. Delving into the realms of both the mental and divine sciences, they have presented what they have discovered to the benefit of humanity.

It is an honorable and high rank to be a mujtahid. This rank cannot be achieved through claim but through gaining ability in sciences and with the help and guidance of God. It is not possible for everyone to compete with them. Theirs is the most glorious sample of being an heir to the prophets. All the great mujtahids are given the light of salvation. To perceive the purposes in the divine judgments and to put those into practice are their responsibilities.

After the time of the Ashab- who saw Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the conditions began to change. New problems and issues emerged in the areas of commerce, art, and agriculture. There were changes also in the customs. Of course, these needs had to be tended to. At this point, each mujtahid, aware of the high responsibility he went through, performed ijtihad with great attention and perseverance. With all their abilities and efforts, they set the grounds and fundamentals of the science of fiqh-Islamic Jurisprudence. Only thanks to these people applied the science of ijtihad rise to its peak.

The qualities a mujtahid must possess:

1) He must be highly knowledgeable about all the delicacies and fine points of Arabic.

2) He must be well qualified in every science related to the Quran.

3) He must know all the issues on which a definite decision is achieved in order not to act contrary to the agreement of religious authorities. And to this end, he must have done an extensive research about where the Islamic learned have united and where separated.

4) The mujtahid must have a precise understanding of comparison, because the essence of ijtihad is comparison. For this reason, the mujtahid must know all the types, conditions, and judgments of comparison with details.

5) The mujtahid must also be acquainted with the customs.

6) The mujtahid must memorize the Hadiths about religious judgments, and be able to discern the reliability of them; know who related them, whether they are mutawir-definite, or mashur-widely acknowledged, or ahad-not definite, or mansuh-annulled. And he must also be cognizant of the qualities and the circumstances of the narrators of Hadiths in terms of his conducts of disproving and correcting.

7) The fundamentals, rules, and conditions mentioned in the system of fiqh must be capabilities of the mujtahid.

These are not the whole criteria. Ijtihad requires an innate ability and genius, and capability. Abdulkerim Zeydan explains this in his Usul-u Fiqh:

The mujtahid must possess a delectable understanding, clear perception, exclusive reasoning, and all in all perfect intellect. A person not having all these capabilities, even if he knows the rules of ijtihad, cannot possibly be a mujtahid. Then Zeydan continues with this example: A person, however knowledgeable in literature and poetry, cannot be a poet if he doesnt have an innate ability.

On the same issue, Imam Malik says, Knowledge is not through abundance of relating; it is perhaps a light that God puts into hearts so that the right and the wrong can be told apart.

A divine gift is also required for ijtihad. To exemplify, if the body of ijtihad is what is gained by self-study and work, then the soul of it is what is given by God. We cannot rely on the ijtihad of the one who is not attentive in avoiding evils and in performing good deeds.

If a person fails to have even one of the above-mentioned criteria, then he cannot be called a mujtahid. One cannot be king by repeating himself that he is, because evidence is required.

If knowledge and insight depended just on the personal effort and study of the person, surely they would be rather lacking, because both the understanding and intellect of the human is limited. Hence, it is not possible to penetrate into every truth and issue to the full through them. For the knowledge and insight to develop, divine inspiration is also needed. Only then can the light of foresight shine, and can lots of secrets and truths be discovered. A person with divine inspiration and help can be able to discover the truths.


Besides capacity and vast knowledge, perseverance in avoiding evils, will power, and high moral virtues are also required for ijtihad. Numerous learned people with memories embellished with the Quran and Hadiths could not dare to perform ijtihad, and did not claim to be mujtahids. Because it brings about responsibility to perform ijtihad for the ones not having the capacity for it; so there is no option for the people incapable of ijtihad other than imitate a mujtahid. Otherwise, it would not be possible to retain the holy judgments of religion.

It is a duty upon the Muslims to believe that all the mujtahids in the Ahl-i Sunnah-the followers of the way of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) - are possessive of a complete salvation and are on the right path, because these great mujtahids are the precious and powerful heirs in the first place of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and of the Ashab-the believers who saw him. There is an agreement that they are also the crown of avliya-religious people that come after the prophets and the Ashab- in terms of closeness to God. God exclusively bestowed upon these people the capability to fortify religious laws, and to deduce the points of rules from the Quran and the Sunnah-the way Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived and behaved.

Indeed, they are among the greatest of asfiya-heirs and followers of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), with whom the Islamic rules and the truth emerged. So, not to take one of them seriously, claim equality with, or to despise them is at least going too far.

In accordance with the principle The cause is like the doer, they have a share of all the prayers of the Believers until the Doomsday. They cannot be equaled in terms of their virtues and knowledge.

On this issue, Bediüzzaman is asked whether the mujtahids of religion or the sheiks of right tariqas-means "way, "path" or method. In Sufism, it is conceptually related to Truth, are more virtuous.

His answer is as follows:

Not all the mujtahids, possibly Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafii, and Ahmad Ibn-i Hanbal are superior to sheiks and heads of the truthful tariqas. However, in specific virtues, certain great people of gift can have higher ranks in some aspects, but the entire virtue belongs to the Imams-mujtahids.

Some of the mujtahids saw the Ashab-the Believers who saw Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), talked with them, and benefited from them in terms of knowledge and good manners. They deduced the rules and laws of Islamic legislation from the Quran and the hadiths. They paid utmost attention to this end. They wrote books on religion concerning issues of both mental and divine origins. And through these efforts, the science of fiqh gained stability and direction.

Mujtahids are exemplary people:

They paid great attention to being serious in their professions and dispositions, and to being mild and gentle in their relations and actions. They have become The beloved of the hearts, the instructors of the minds, and dears of the souls. They strongly hated demagogy, misleading, fame, hypocrisy, and showing off. They were excessively exertive in searching for and grasping the truth.

Mujtahids, besides being like oceans in knowledge and talents, were also exemplary people in good behavior. In their holy faces dignity with affection were shining. God made them a symbol of knowledge, wisdom, honesty, courage, and generosity.

The greatness of religion was in their hearts. Their hearts were full of good qualities and virtues. Rightfulness and trustworthiness were their innate characteristics. Nothing could hinder them from the truth on the right path.

They were perfect people with divine gifts. Their hearts were free of spiritual diseases. They were so far from misleading in the declaration of the truth; surely, a mature mind forbids its possessor from ignorant courage.

They were lovers of the truth. Whoever said the truth, they would not hesitate to acknowledge it. They detested pride, arrogance, and conceit. Imam Shafi says, I am pleased when the truth comes from the ones I discuss and debate.

They were so bound to the reflection of the truth that they would not spare any sacrifice for that matter. If need be they would sacrifice their own lives. Some tyrannical sultans performed all kinds of cruelties and tortures to these great fiqh authorities, and brought about untold darkness and pain upon the Islamic history. They tried to realize their unlawful desires and to stabilize their positions by using these Imams; but they failed. For all those tortures and cruelties, these great people persevered in their right cause and did not give in, in the least, on this right path. They stuck to this path up until their last breath.

Great mujtahids like Imam Azam and Ahmad bin Hanbal did not hesitate to say the truth in front of the cruelest sultans. Imam Azam preferred to go into jail by denying the ranks he was offered and even preferred to die aggrieved. And also, Imam Ahmad told the truth although he was subjected to cruelties and tortures in prison.

The mujtahids did not consider touching ones feelings on the way to raise the truth and to do away with the wrong. This was also the case even to their fathers and children. Their sole aim was to gain the acceptance of God. The fear of God was so deep in their hearts that tears made signs on their cheeks.

They had a vast sight and understanding; they could retain what they saw, read, and heard. God bestowed this capacity upon them.

Their minds were like vast treasures. The idiom walking library really suited to these people. For example, Imam Malik memorized one million hadiths.

However, there have also been scholars of hadith who memorized hundreds of thousands of hadiths but could not deduce the judgments they included.

One day the hadith scholar Imam Amash asks Imam Abu Yusuf of the judgment of an issue. When Imam Yusuf gave his answer, Imam Amash asks, Where did you derive this judgment from? Abu Yusuf answers: from the hadith you related to me. Then Imam Amash appreciates his rank in fiqh by saying, Although I have memorized this hadith before you were born, I have not understood it this way.

Some of the mujtahids came in the period of tabiin-the believers who saw the ashab-the believers who saw Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); and some in that of tebe-I tabiin- the believers who saw the tabiin.

These periods are the heydays of knowledge and capability in theological studies. At those times, the seeds of wisdom and knowledge would blossom in a short period. For example, at the age of four, Sufyan b. Uyayyna became a hafiz-one who has memorized the Quran.

The great mujtahids took their knowledge and insight from the ashab and became real heirs of their knowledge. They knew all the ways of conducts, virtues, and biographies of them. In emergence of a new issue, they first referred to the Quran and the Sunnah-the way Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived and behaved, and then to the ijtihads of the ashab. If they could not find open judgment, they would act with their own view and ijtihad.

Their ranks, abilities, knowledge, and understanding were very high. As close to the Period of Happiness and Tranquility-in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived in, they personally witnessed the fertility of that era. Some got instruction from the people from ashab about the principles of ijtihad, which is a high rank and honor.

The mujtahids understood all the secrets of the verses of the Koran, like the Ashab. They would wholly acknowledge the issues upon which the Ashab united and agreed. They would not attempt to perform ijtihad upon these issues. They became good pupils of the Ashab. In the research and scrutiny of issues of religion, they became of much help and support to the Muslims, and eased their burden. By gathering the essential and secondary issues of fiqh in books, they left a vast treasure to benefit from until the doomsday.

The honor to reach perfection in ijtihad was granted only to the four great Imams. These persons, rightful appreciators of the Quran and the Sunnah, embellished their souls with high virtues, and good deeds. They are each a genius. They complemented one another in dealing with the problems of the Muslims.

They, rightful heirs of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), deserved the appreciation and regard of the Muslims with their stunning service.

We cannot deny that the great mujtahids paid praiseworthy service to the community of the believers. Innumerable reflections of this service can be seen on the pages of history.

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