As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 5


The Sources of the Religion, Ijtihad, Ikhtilaf and Discussions on Taqleed

The Sources of the Religion, Ijtihad and Ikhtilaf
The two main sources of Islam; the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, either give direct injunctions or provide general guidelines without going into specifics. That which is explicitly and unequivocally mentioned in the Qur’aan and the Sunnah (i.e. the Islamic Texts) is taken as the final word that none can dispute with, and this covers the majority of the rulings that the Muslims require in their daily lives. The Sahabah understood these texts directly from the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam), and therefore, their opinions and tafaseer (interpretation of Qur’aanic verses) are necessarily referred to in understanding the texts; and likewise, are the views and commentaries of their successors (the Taba’een) because they were a generation uninfluenced by deviations and false ideologies that effected the later generations.

When a certain issue is not directly mentioned in the text or in the agreements (Ijma) of the first generations of Islam; qualified scholars expand efforts to derive a ruling based on the general texts related to the matter - this process is called Ijtihad(*5). Ijtihad is an outcome of human efforts and is never perfect or flawless like the revealed texts. The door of Ijtihad will always remain open as new situations or developments require guidance related to the religion.

If the scholars agree on an Ijtihad by consensus, it is raised in status and is called an Ijma (consensus). If an Ijma has been attained by the previous generations, then none from the later generations must dispute with it, and even if someone from a later era differs with this Ijma, his differing will be rejected.

The most valid Ijma are those that were established during the era of the Sahabah, because in their time, the most knowledgeable among the Sahabah were close to each other. However, as the Muslim nation grew and the people of knowledge spread far and wide, it became more and more difficult for the Ijma to be established.

There are conditions attached to making Ijtihad. Not every individual has the right to issue fatawas and make pronouncements on matters, unless he has knowledge and is qualified. He has to be able to know the daleel (proof); the wording and apparent meaning of the texts; what is saheeh (sound) and what is da’eef (weak); al-nasikh wal-mansookh (what abrogates what); wording and interpretation of texts; what is specific in application and what is general; what is stated in brief and what is mentioned in detail. This needs lengthy experience and practice, knowledge of the various branches of Fiqh and where to look for information; knowledge of the opinions of the ulama and fuqaha, and memorization or knowledge of the texts. Undoubtedly, issuing fatawas without being qualified to do so is a grave sin, and means that one is speaking without knowledge. Allah has warned us against that, when He said, ‘And say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely, ‘This is lawful and this is forbidden,’ so as to invent lies against Allah. Verily, those who invent lies against Allah will never prosper.’ [Soorah an-Nahl (16): 116] [See, al-Lu’lu’ al-Makeen min Fatawa al-Shaikh ibn Jibreen]

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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