Doors to Ijtehad are closed?

Beliefs & Practices, Chapter 10, Islam & Modernism / Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Sometimes, however, “Ijtehad” is not taken as a freedom of opinion to prevail over the Quran and tradition, but whenever the process of “Ijtehad” is discussed an impression is given that the Quran and traditions have been revealed to us for the first time and no work has been done in the field of interpretation and explanation for all these fourteen hundred years and that the meanings deduced by us through personal reasoning shall be “Ijtehad”
that must be implemented.

This concept is sometimes deliberately propagated while the fact is that we are not living in a vacuum but we are living in an era which has the background of fourteen centuries of laudable efforts in the field of Quranic learning by renowned companions of the Prophet, their followers, religious scholars, jurists of Islam and devoted personalities of the Ummah.
They have spent their lives in devotion to the cause of exegesis of the Quran and interpretation of the Prophetic traditions, and the sacrifices they have made for this cause are beyond our imagination. They had to go through the
troubles of starvation and rough clothing and poorest means of sustenance for this noble cause and left behind a huge collection of this work. Now, throwing all this collection in a dust-bin and start making fresh interpretations,
through the agency of “Ijtehad” unsupported by the Quran and the Sunnah, it will be an act of shameful self deception. It will mean that all the collections of the jurists be ignored and totally a new Fiqh of Islam should be

A sensible solution, however, that answers the new problems may be sought in the light of existing rules and principles derived from the Quran and traditions. This is the right application of “Ijtehad” in the right
direction. Indeed countless problems may arise in every new period that are not defined by the Quran and the Prophetic traditions or no answer to these problems is provided by the available Fatawa(verdicts) of the jurists. Being within these limits and seeking the solutions to newer problems and understanding the intentions of jurists and the intentions of the Shariah is called true “Ijtehad” and this is the “Ijtehad” whose doors have not been closed to anyone so far.

This is a sheer propaganda that the door of Ijtehad is closed. Nobody has ever closed it. This door has been opened by the Holy Prophet and shall remain open till the Last Day, and as long as this Ijtehad remains in capable hands nobody can close it. This is the type of Ijtehad that is needed in the present time. Countless problems have come up before us about whom we find no explicit injunctions or there are practical difficulties in their implementations. The door of Ijtehad is open for solving these problems.

Here I wish to point out that the topic of the committee has been phrased “How to start the process of Ijtehad in Pakistan?” The sentence seems to claim that the process of Ijtehad has not been started out so far, and now it
is being started which was not in practice before. I wish to submit that this supposition is not correct. The required Ijtehad which the Muslim Ummah really needs is not a new thing. It was in practice before. If now an organized method is provided to it, it would be appreciable. But to think that the scholars of Islamic learning had not been doing this Ijtehad before is not correct. The true Ijtehad that is needed had been in process and should continue to be there in the future.

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