Are gates of ijtihad open or closed?

The Details of the Question
Are gates of ijtihad open or closed?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There are nine main conditions for ijtihad:

1. To know Arabic and its style because the source of religion is the Quran and the Sunnah, which are in Arabic.

2. To know the general (aam) and specific (khass), absolute (mutlaq) and limited (muqayyad), abrogating (nasikh) and abrogated (mansukh) verses of the Quran.

3. To know the verbal (qawli), actual (fi'li) and tacitly approved (taqriri) sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).

4. To know the consensus (ijma) or disagreement (ikhtilaf) about the issue; there is no doubt about consensus. Nobody can deny the consensus of the Companions about certain issues. However, Ahmad bin Hanbal said there was no consensus after the Companions. Imam Shafii did not deny consensus after the Companions but when he was asked about consensus regarding an issue, he did not accept it.

5. To know comparison and its rules.

6. To know the aims and purposes of shari'ah decrees.

7. To be competent enough to distinguish between what is right and wrong.

8. To be sincere about ijtihad and Islam. 

9. To have a strong belief and to be away from bid'ah.

It is understood from the conditions above that ijtihad is not an easy thing. Not everybody can make ijtihad. Nobody can make ijtihad about Islamic issues based on his own mind, the environment, the thoughts and views imported from the east or the west.

Gates of ijtihad are always open. Gates of ijtihad were open in the first century (H); they are open in this century too if there is a person who has the necessary conditions. It is wrong to say, "Gates of ijtihad were open from this date to this date but they were closed after that date." It is not up to us to close or to open them. Nobody has the authority to do it.

(see Halil GÜNENÇ, Günümüz Meselelerine Fetvalar)

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