(Note: In the year 1404 A.H a convention of Ulema (Religious scholars) was held in Islamabad under the
auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Pakistan. In the open session of this convention the president of Pakistan, Gen. Zia ul Haq, was also present. One of the topics of this convention was “How to start the process of Ijtehad in the country?” The extempore speech of the Editor of Al-Balagh given on this occasion has now been published in a booklet by transcribing it from the Tape-recorded speech which is reproduced below.)
Mr. President, distinguished audience, As-salam-oAlaikum.
I conceive that the recommendations submitted by the four committees of this convention in this short time are promising and encouraging. When this program was being announced yesterday it was not expected that such
solid recommendations could be prepared in such a short time. But, on the whole, the recommendations prepared by all the four committees are very commendable and encouraging. Every person had to be a member of one of these committees therefore a member of certain committee did not get a chance to express his views before other committees. I, therefore, seek to express my views with regard to the problems that were discussed by the committees that did not have me as a member.
The committee which dealt with the ways and means to enhance the speed of Islamization, which is the real object of this convention, has done a remarkable job. I fully endorse every word of the recommendations by this committee and also request that they should be given thorough consideration and be examined with all their intentions and spirits and immediate action should be taken.
Similarly the recommendations made by the Unity and Consonant committee are also very encouraging and in fact, if they can be put to practice they will play a very effective role in checking the epidemics of disunity and disruption.
Just now I want to draw your attention to the third committee which has been formed in connection with the process of “Ijtehad”, and its recommendations have been presented by Moulana Muhammad Malik Kandhalvi
and ‘Allama Syed Muhammad Razi Mujtahid. Since this gathering is, more or less, a representative gathering of Ulema (Religious scholars), I think the decisions taken here will have a far reaching effect. Hence I wish to state that contradicting misunderstandings are present about “Ijtehad” in our society at present. As a result at times we notice an extreme degree of inactivity and at other times an equal degree of over activity in this field.
In my opinion, and this is not my individual or exclusive opinion but it is derived from the Qur’an, Hadith and verdicts of jurists of Islam, that “Ijtehad” is like a double- edged sword. If it is properly understood, and used within its limitations of fulfilling the conditions laid down for it, this can be a source of great treasure of Islamic laws and a matter of great pride for the nation. But if it is allowed to be wrongly used by incapable persons it will result in creating false concepts and irreligious movements as we read in the books like ‘Al-milal Wan-Nahi’. Those views and claims had their sway for sometime but now they exist only in the pages of ancient books.
The same Ijtehad can be used to find practical ways for the Muslim Ummah, and the same can lead to such ridiculous interpretations as were advanced in our country. The Quran said:
“And as the thief, man or woman, cut off the hands of both.”
This Quranic verse was interpreted that “thief man and thief woman” means “capitalists”; and “cut off their hands” signifies “Nationalize their industries”. This interpretation has not been made by a person of ordinary literary status, but by a person of our country who is, supposed to be a renowned intellectual.
Similarly, in this country it has been expounded through Ijtehad that “interest” is not forbidden, and that intoxicants are also permissible. It is through the same type of Ijtehad that they tried every evil of Western Civilization to make permissible; and it is through this that an endless chain of religious manipulations has been started.
It is in this context that I have called it a double-edged sword. If it is not used with necessary precautions and some one starts attempting it without having the required proficiency he would open the door to distorting the religion, and would lead to extreme degree of misleading conceptions.
Some people think that “Ijtehad” allows taking a decision through personal opinion in religious matters. This must be fully understood that this practice has never been regarded as “Ijtehad” in Islam. The one who considers it as “Ijtehad” has in fact fallen into great error. The door of “Ijtehad” had been opened by the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and the Hadith reported by Ma’ az bin Jabal has made it clear.
The Prophet asked Ma’az “How will you decide on a thing not found in the Book of Allah?” He replied, “I will follow the Prophetic traditions (Sunnah). The Prophet then asked, “What would you do if you findnothing in Sunnah?” He replied, I will do “Ijtehad” with my personal opinion.” It is quite apparent from this Hadith that there is no room for “Ijtehad” in matters explicated by the Quran and the Sunnah. If someone attempts Ijtehad in such matters it will not be called “Ijtehad” but fabrication or distortion.
If “Ijtehad” could be permitted in matters where explicit injunctions from the Qur’an and Hadith are present, there was no need for the advent of Prophets and Messengers. The purpose of Wahy (Divine Revelation) was that the right way be shown to people through Wahy in matters where Man cannot make the correct decision through his intellect. Had it been an open field for everyone, to do as he or she thinks proper there was no need to follow the
Qur’an or Prophetic traditions. It would have been sufficient to say that people should lead their lives according to their personal likings, opinions and reasoning as the time and circumstances demand. This misunderstanding must
be removed about the application of Ijtehad, and whatever resolutions are passed must fully observe this point.