What is the place of ijthad in our religion?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The legitimacy of ijtihad is definite based on the following verse of the Quran:

“When there comes to them some matter touching (Public) safety or fear, they divulge it. If they had only referred it to the Messenger, or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have tested it from them (direct).” (an-Nisa, 4/83)

The Muslims who migrated to Madinah were not fully peaceful though they were partially secure. There was a possibility that they would be attacked by the Makkans at any moment. From time to time, rumors such as “they have come, they are coming” spreading among the people. The verse above teaches what to do in such situations.

Hamdi Yazır deduces the following from the verse above:

1. Among the decrees of the events, there are some that are not directly known by verses of the Quran, but known by ijtihad.

2. Istinbat (revealing a subject with deep research) is also regarded as evidence.

3. It is religiously obligatory for the people who are not qualified to make istinbat to apply to the people of knowledge related to the judgment of events and to imitate them.

4. The Messenger of Allah is also responsible for istinbat.

As Abu Zahra also states, “Endless events occur. The existing verses are limited. Therefore, it is a necessity to make judgments about the issues for which there are no verses in the light of existing verses.”

The verse above is the biggest proof that qiyas (analogy) and ijtihad are among the religious proofs. Referring a new event to religiously authorized scholars means asking them to make ijtihad and qiyas because there is no need for ijtihad about the issues for which there is a clear decree.

Fakhruddin Razi states that the verse above indicates three things:

Firstly: Those about which there are no clear verses and are known by ijtihad.

Secondly: Ijtihad and istinbat are religious evidence.

Thirdly: It is obligatory for the ordinary people to imitate scholars related to the deeds that are not about essential issues because, with this verse above, God Almighty declares that those who do not know the decrees of new events must apply to those who are authorized to deduce these decrees from religious evidence.

God Almighty commands those who are competent to make ijtihad with the following verse:

“Take warning, then, O ye with eyes (to see).” (al-Hashr, 59/2)

In that case, alongside the definite decrees in the Quran, there are also secondary decrees that are not clearly expressed, i.e., secondary decrees that can be considered as details. God Almighty made it permissible to act with one’s view in such decrees. It is not possible for people to deduce those decrees from the Quran. Their duty is to follow the scholars. Such imitation is necessary for the common people.

First of all, making ijtihad is a great science and special talent; not everyone can do it because there are thousands or even tens of thousands of decrees of shari’ah. Their evidences are unlimited. It is not possible for everyone to deduce all these decrees from those countless evidences.

On the other hand, even if it is assumed that all Muslims are knowledgeable enough to make ijtihad, if they work for ijtihad, no worldly profession will be performed. Due to these two important reasons, the common people are obliged to imitate mujtahids.

God Almighty orders those who are competent in ijtihad to make ijtihad; He orders other believers to follow them with the following verse:

“…If ye realize this not, ask of those who possess the Message.” (an-Nahl, 16/43)

It is possible for a Muslim to worship in accordance with the will of Allah only if he follows mujtahids.

Sheikh Abdullah Diraz states that imitation is obligatory and essential as follows:

“A person who does not have the capacity and authority to make ijtihad will either do nothing and hinder his duty of servitude when he encounters a secondary issue. It will be an act contrary to ijma (consensus). Or he will try to fulfill his duty of servitude by doing something. It can be done either by finding the evidence that determines the decree on the new issue that has emerged and acting by looking at it, or by imitating a mujtahid. The former (finding the evidence for every new issue encountered and making a judgment from that evidence) is by no means possible for everybody.”

“For, this way will cause the necessity of searching for the evidence of the events both for the person who encounters new issues and for all people; it will prevent people’s livelihood efforts, stop all kinds of arts and technology, and hence cause the world to be devastated by stopping all agricultural and similar activities. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to remove imitation suddenly. As it is seen, there is no other way out other than imitation. The only way in the face of such a situation is to follow a mujtahid.”

Shatibi expresses the issue as follows:

“The religious evidence for a mujtahid is the same as a fatwa of mujtahid for a layman.”

Thus, mujtahids deduce the second-degree decrees that are implicitly or indirectly present in the Quran and make them available to the humanity. As a matter of fact, the hidden and veiled truths in the book of the universe are discovered by the relevant scientists. Those people are like the interpreters and mujtahids of the book of the universe.

It is necessary for people who do not have a say in a science to follow the scholars of that science and benefit from the works produced by them; similarly, the common people must imitate mujtahids related to the decrees deduced from the Quran. A sane person cannot say, “I get on only a plane that I make myself or use a computer that I make myself.” Similarly, he cannot say, “I deduce my own judgment from the Quran and hadiths instead of imitating mujtahids.”

Questions on Islam

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