Door to ijtihad

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Is the door to ijtihad open?

The door to ijtihad is open but there are six obstacles which block up the way to it.

The first: Just as in winter when storms are violent even the small holes are closed up and to open new ones is in no way reasonable, and just as under the onslaught of a mighty flood to make openings in the wall to repair it leads to being drowned, so too, at this time of the invasion of hideous sins and customs from Europe and the legion of religious innovations, and the destructions of misguidance, to open in the name of ijtihad new breaches and routes of infiltrations in the walls of the citadel of Islam, is a crime against Islam and a help to the ‘enemy’.

The second: Religion is primarily based on certain essentials which are not subject to ijtihad. They are specified and definite, and are like basic food and sustenance without which life is not possible. At present they are abandoned and not given due care and importance. While we must therefore spend all our efforts in restoring and revitalizing them, abandoning the rules which the first generations of Islam deduced for the theoretical matters of Islam from the main sources of the law with perfect authority and purity of intention, and which are adequate for the needs of all times, to seek new rules in an indulgent and fanciful fashion is a harmful innovation and betrayal of Islam.

The third: Just as in the market various goods, foods and fruits are sought after according to season, and are in demand one after the other according to the change of time, so too in the market of the social life of mankind and human civilization, certain ‘goods’ are in demand in a particular epoch. They are displayed in the market, attention is drawn to them and minds are preoccupied with them. For example, while at this time politics, securing the worldly life and philosophy are in more demand, in the time and market of the righteous early generations of Islam the most sought-after ‘goods’ were to learn from the Word of the Creator of the heavens and earth the things of which He approves and what He wants of us, and to obtain the means of gaining eternal happiness in the world of the Hereafter, the doors of which were opened by the light of Prophethood and the Qur’an so wide that they can no longer be closed.

Since at that time all the minds, hearts and souls were bent with all their strength on under-standing the things the Lord of the heavens and earth approves of, the conversations, discussions, correspondences and events were all devoted to that point. Therefore, whoever had the capacity was naturally and automatically taught by the ethos of the time. It was as if everything was a teacher to prepare his mind and soul and develop his capacity to do ijtihad. This natural and automatic kind of teaching was so enlightening that one was almost capable of doing ijtihad without the acquisition of necessary knowledge. With a match-like capacity ready to ignite, one who had that natural education displayed the meaning of light upon light, and became a mujtahid, one who is able to do ijtihad, in a short time.

At this time, however, due to the domination of European civilization and the heavy pressure of naturalistic philosophy, and due to the conditions of modern life growing unbearable, minds and hearts are scattered, and efforts and cares divided. Minds have become estranged from spiritual issues. It is because of this that, supposing one was as intelligent as Sufyan ibn Uyayna, a great mujtahid who memorized the Qur’an at the age of four and held discussions with scholars, in contrast with the time of Sufyan, one would now need ten times longer to become a mujtahid. If Sufyan became qualified to do ijtihad in ten years, that man would now need a hundred years. This is because the period of Sufyan’s natural study began at the age of reason. His capacity gradually developed, was sharpened, and reached the degree to take lessons from everything, be-coming like a match in the end. As for his counterpart at this time, since his thought is absorbed in philosophy, his mind preoccupied with politics, and his heart is giddy at the worldly life, his capacity has grown too dull to acquire the qualifications of become a mujtahid. For sure, his faculties have become removed from exerting themselves to be qualified to do ijtihad to the degree of his preoccupation with modern sciences, and have remained backward in regard to it to the ex-tent that he has become learned in physical and worldly matters. Therefore, he may not say: “I am as intelligent as him. Why can’t I be on a level with him?” He has no right to say this, and he cannot be on a level with him.

The fourth: There is in a body the inclination to expand for its growth and development. Since this inclination is inherent in the body and comes from within, it functions for the perfection of the body. Whereas if the inclination was in the form of intervention from outside, then it would cause rips in the body's skin and therefore not be expansion. Likewise, if the inclination to expand and desire to do ijtihad are present in those who, like the righteous early generations, have entered the sphere of Islam through the door of perfect taqwa—utmost care in living according to Divine rules of religion and laws of the creation and operation of the universe--and through the way of conforming to the essentials of Islam, that is a virtue and perfection. But if such an inclination and desire come from those who abandon the essentials of religion, prefer the worldly life to that of the Hereafter, and are preoccupied with materialistic philosophy, then it is the means of destroying the body of Islam and breaking away from the Shari‘a.

The fifth: The Law of Islam is heavenly, revealed, and since ijtihad is to uncover its hidden rules and commandments, it is also heavenly. However, there are factors which prevent the present desire for ijtihad from being heavenly and make it worldly.

The sixth: Since the respected mujtahids among the righteous early generations of Islam were close in time to the age of the Companions, which was the age of light and truth, they were purified by that light and exercised ijtihad with pure intentions. But those who claim today to have the necessary qualifications for ijtihad look at the ‘book of truth’ from so great a distance and from behind so many veils that they can see with great difficulty even the clearest letter of it.

 

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