Ijtihaad – criteria and categories
The prerequisites of ‘Ijtihaad’
Regarding ‘Ijtihaad’, Mufti Muhammad Shafi Sahib rahamtullahi alaihi writes in his book ‘Jawahir-ul-Fiqh’ that our proceeding Ulama have set certain standards (laid down a criteria) for the ‘Mujtahid’ (a highly skilled scholar who is qualified to deduce legal rulings from the sources).
The renowned mystic and scholar Hazrat Shah Wali-ullah Dehlavi states in his celebrated book, ‘Aqd-ul-jeed’, that the definition of ‘Ijtihaad’ as understood from the opinions of Ulama is as follows: “ Expending one’s utmost effort in deriving secondary opinions from the four fundamental sources of Islamic law, namely Qur’aan, Sunnah, Ijma’ (The unanimous opinion of all the respected and rightly guided scholars on any Islamic issue), Qi’yaas (Analogy).”
One of the conditions of ‘Ijtihaad’ is that the ‘Mujtahid’ should be well versed in those fields of the Qur’aan and Sunnah which are relevant to Islamic injunctions, and he should also have knowledge of those issues on which unanimous consensus has taken place. He should also have the necessary knowledge of all the conditions, which are essential for proper analogy. He should be fully competent to understand, analyse and draw conclusions from complex problems. He should be familiar with the sciences of the Arabic language as well as the science of abrogation. He should also have the full knowledge of the narrators’ lifestyles. It is not necessary to have the knowledge of scholastic philosophy and the conventional sciences of jurisprudence.
Imam Baghee on the criteria for ‘Ijtihaad’
These pre-requisites of the science of ‘Ijtihaad’, which we have mentioned, are to be found in many books of Islamic principles. It will be appropriate to mention Imam Baghee’s opinion regarding the condition of ‘Ijtihaad’. He states that a ‘Mujtahid’ is such a scholar who is an expert on five diverse sciences.
1. The knowledge of the Qur’aan.
2. The knowledge of the traditions of the Holy Prophet
3. The knowledge of all those issues upon which the pious predecessors have reached a unanimous decision (the knowledge of Ijma’).
4. The knowledge of Arabic language.
5. The knowledge of analogy.
Analogy is the method of finding solutions through the Qur’aan and Sunnah in all those situations where a Mujtahid cannot find the answer through the conventional means of the Qur’aan, Sunnah and Ijma’. One should acquire the necessary amount of each of the five sciences so that we can find out how much the Mujtahid has to learn.
It is of utmost importance for the Mujtahid to gain thorough knowledge of the sciences of the Qur’aan:
i) The science of abrogation.
ii) From the knowledge of Hadith, he should know all those specifics that have already been mentioned. He should also posses the knowledge of the meaning of such Arabic words that are to be found in the injunctions of the Qur’aan and Hadith. It is not necessary to be a complete master of the Arabic language. It is recommended that he preserve the study of linguistics until he becomes well acquainted with the objectives of the Arabic language. Because the Shari’ah has been revealed through the medium of the Arabic language, therefore whosoever is unacquainted with Arabic, will be unable to understand the objectives of Shari’ah. He should also know sufficient opinions of the eminent companions of the prophet and the Tabieen, which concern legal rulings. He should posses sufficient knowledge of legal rulings given by the pious jurists of the past through which he can abstain from issuing verdicts that clash with former rulings and result in the decree of Ijma’ being broken.
When the major part of these five sciences has been mastered, then one can lay claims to being a Mujtahid. It is not necessary to have the complete knowledge of the five sciences, however if one remains unacquainted with even one of the five sciences, he will not be classed as a Mujtahid. Therefore he will have to do Taqleed (follow another Mujtahid) of another qualified Mujtahid.
Ibn Qudama Hanbali’s rahmatullahi alaihi conditions of Ijtihaad
Allama Ibn Qudama Hanbali rahmatullahi alaihi states in his book ‘Al-Mughni’ (page 393 volume 2) that conditions of Ijtihaad include knowing six sciences of the Qur’aan, traditions of the Holy Prophet , Ijma’, the science of varied opinions, analogy and the Arabic language. There are ten essential topics to master with regards to the Holy Qur’aan, specific injunctions and general injunctions. In the vast field of traditions of the Holy prophet , only the knowledge of those traditions is required which are relevant to the injunctions. All those sciences, which are essential for the understanding of the Holy Qur’aan, are also essential for the understanding of the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad . Apart from the above, it is also essential to understand the various categories of Ahadith as well as those issues upon which the Ulama have agreed or disagreed in the past. With regards to the science of analogy, all its pre-requisites and it’s various methods have to be understood fully, and proficiency has to be gained to such an extent in the Arabic language which facilitates the understanding of the above-mentioned science.
Ibn ul Qayyim rahmatullahi alaihi commenting on the requirements for Ijtihaad
Hafiz Ibn Qayyim rahmatullahi alaihi states in his book ‘Al I’laam ul Mooqi’een’ that the famous scholar Khateeb quotes Imam Shafi’ee rahmatullahi alaihi as saying that it is not permissible for anybody to give Islamic legal opinion (fatwa) who is not well versed in Qur’aan and is well acquainted with the science of abrogation as well as the following science i.e. the science of those verses which are explicit in their commands and those verses which are Mutashabih (implicit), the science of Ta’weel and Tanzeel and the science of knowing which chapter (surah) was revealed in the venerable city of Mecca and which were revealed in the illumined city of Medina Al Munawarah. Apart from the above-mentioned sciences, he should also be well acquainted with the science of the traditions of the Holy Prophet Mohammed . He should also be knowledgeable in those sciences of the Qur’aan, which are directly related to the Ahadith. He should be familiar with Arabic and Arabic poetry as well as being familiar with all the things which are necessary for the understanding of the Qur’aan and the sayings of the Holy Prophet Mohammed . In addition he should be well versed with the various opinions of the Islamic scholars on Islamic issues. All the above conditions should become second nature to him due to excessive repetition. When one reaches such a stage, i.e. posses all the above conditions, only then is he allowed to give Islamic legal opinions (Fatwa). One who has not reached such a position is not allowed to give Islamic legal opinion.
Other scholars quoting on Ijtihaad
Saleh bin Ahmed rahmatullahi alaihi states that he asked his father Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal rahmatullahi alaihi his view, regarding an individual who upon being questioned concerning an Islamic issue, answers in correspondence with the Hadith and his answer collaborates with a statement of the holy prophet Hadhrat Mohammad ., in spite of him not possessing the knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence. In reply Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal rahmatullahi alaihi, stated that when an individual reaches the esteemed position of jurisconsult it becomes incumbent for him to have knowledge of all the various views and propositions regarding the holy Qur’aan as well as having familiarities with the traditions of the holy prophet Hadhrat Mohammad and being a master of the authentic chain of narrations. He than quoted all the prerequisites which Imam Shafi’ee rahmatullahi alaihi has mentioned in the above passage.
Abdullah Bin Mubarak rahmatullahi alaihi was asked by someone regarding, when does giving Islamic legal opinions become permissible. He replied that when one becomes familiar with the sciences of traditions of the holy prophet Mohammed and achieves a certain insight into opinions. Upon being asked the similar question, Yahya bin Aksam rahmatullahi alaihi replied that it becomes permissible to give a fatwaa after one has developed a keen insight in both, the sciences of Hadith and opinion. According to Hafiz ibn Qayyam rahmatullahi alaihi ,legal opinion means a combination of analogy, meanings and correct reasoning upon which the Shariah has placed the responsibility of Islamic injunctions and made them a significant factor in such injunctions.
The different categories of Mujtahid
The respected scholar, Hadhrat Shah Walli Ullah rahmatullahi alaihi writes in his famous book ‘Iqdul-jeed’ (page 5) that whosoever masters a major part of the above mentioned sciences, can be considered a Mujtahid. Renowned scholars such as Raafi and Naavi as well as numerous other scholars have (all) clarified that there are two types of Mujtahid Mutlaq which are Mustaqil and Muntasib, (independent and affiliated). It is understood from their writing (work) that Mujtahid Mutlaq (independent Mujtahid) is distinguished by three factors,
1. He should be able to alter principles on which the foundation of his school(of thought) lies.
2. Secondly, he should be able to trace the Quranic verses and traditions of the holy prophet Muhammad , for the solutions of the problems and questions which arise and make a judgement between proofs and also be able to distinguish strong proofs from weak proofs. He also furnishes the sources of the proof.
3. Thirdly he comments and provides research on new issues in the light of current proofs (the above mentioned)
A Mujtahid Muntasib (affiliated) is as scholar who follows his sheikh in his madhabs major principles and who uses the commentaries of his sheikh for assistance in finding the proofs. Inspite of this, he knows the injunctions together with their relevant proofs and he is fully competent in deriving injunctions from these proofs. Finally the scholar who does not meet the above-mentioned requirements for the two categories of the Mujtahid, is classed as a Mujtahid in his madhab. He is the scholar who follows his sheikh clarifications in every issue and if his sheikh has not expressed his view points on any particular issue only then he does ijtihad following the principles laid down by his sheikh. That is because, he is fully knowledgeable of all the four principles and concepts of his sheikh. The last position that a Mujtahid can achieve is a Mujtahid fil fatwa. He has thorough knowledge of the madhab of his Sheikh (his sheikhs school of thought) and he is fully competent in differentiating and giving priority to his Sheikh’s one legal upon another in a given situation.