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Rulings on ijtihaad in Islam and the conditions to be met by the mujtahid

Ijtihaad in Islam means striving to understand the shar‘i ruling on the basis of shar‘i evidence. It is obligatory for the one who is able to do it, because Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):

’So ask of those who know the Scripture, if you know not“ [al-Nahl 16:43, al-Anbiya‘ 21:7].

The one who is able to engage in ijtihaad can find out the truth for himself, but he must have vast knowledge and study the shar‘i texts, and understand the guidelines on deriving rulings and be aware of the views of the scholars, lest he fall into that which is contrary to Islam. Some people are seekers of knowledge (taalib al-…ilm) who have only a little knowledge, but they set themselves up as mujtahids, so you see them acting on the basis of ahaadeeth which are general in meaning but have other reports which make them specific, or they act on the basis of abrogated ahaadeeth and do not know of the texts that abrogate them, or they act on the basis of ahaadeeth which the scholars are unanimously agreed are different from their apparent meanings, but they are unaware of this scholarly consensus.

Such a person is in grave danger. The Mujtahid must have knowledge of the shar‘i evidence and knowledge of the basic principles (usool) and scholarly views which, if he knows them, he will be able to derive rulings based on that evidence without unwittingly going against scholarly consensus. If these conditions are met in his case, then he may engage in ijtihaad. Ijtihaad may be focused on a narrow area, so a person may research one issue of knowledge and examine it thoroughly, and become a mujtahid with regard to that issue, or he could focus on one aspect of knowledge, such as issues having to do with tahaarah (purification), which he researches and examines, and thus becomes a mujtahid in that area. End quote.

Fatwa of Shaykh Ibn …Uthaymeen, signed by him. [Fataawa …Ulama‘ al-Balad al-Haraam (p. 508)]

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There are conditions attached to making ijtihaad. Not every individual has the right to issue fatwas and make pronouncements on matters, unless he has knowledge and is qualified. He has to be able to know the daleel; the wording and apparent meaning of the texts; what is saheeh (sound) and what is da‘eef (weak); al-naasikh wa‘l-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 …ulamaa‘ and fuqahaa‘, and memorization or knowledge of the texts. Undoubtedly issuing fatwas without being qualified to do so is a grave sin, and means that one is speaking without knowledge. Allaah has warned us against that, when He said (interpretation of the meaning):

’And say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely: ’This is lawful and this is forbidden,“ so as to invent lies against Allaah. Verily, those who invent lies against Allaah will never prosper.“ [al-Nahl 16:116].

In a hadeeth: ’Whoever was given a fatwaa with no proof, his sin will go back on the one who gave him the fatwaa.“ (Saheeh; narrated by Imaam Ahmad, 2/321). 

The seeker of knowledge should not hasten to issue fatwas or to speak on an issue until he has found the source and daleel for what he is saying, and who has spoken about it previously. If he is not qualified to deal with the matter, he should pass it on to someone who is better able to deal with it, and he should limit himself to that which he knows, and continue learning and studying until he is qualified to make ijtihaad. And Allaah is the Guide to the Straight Path.

Al-Lu‘lu‘ al-Makeen min Fataawaa al-Shaykh ibn Jibreen


Reference: qsep.com