Development of Ijtihad —– I

During the life time of the Prophet S.A.W legal affairs were exclusively within the domain of his functions. Interpretation also was initially one of his responsibilities. He carried out the functions of law giver during his life time in the most successful manner. When he left for his heavenly abode, the Faith (DIN) was complete and the art of interpretation was well developed. A group of companions had acquired adequate knowledge and expertise in the art of interpretation and thus could provide the necessary rules and regulations for the establishment of a well ordered society. These companions were well versed in the art of interpretation and had an insight into the finer points and complexities involved in it. They not only evolved the legal principles but also undertook formal compilation of the then existing Operative Orders. Thus they laid down the foundation for the systematic development of Operative Orders for controlling and directing human actions in the society of Islam. They performed this job creditably as they were highly motivated and capable leaders of religion and law. And universe is not stationary. New facts and situations continue to arise. To meet this problem, God authorized the Muslims to do Ijtihad and the Prophet supervised and trained his Companions in this faculty in the speedily changing society under his control. The work of Ijtihad had begun in the Prophet’s life time. As, permission of Ijtihad was given to Muadh bin Jabal. However it was not practically possible to refer all cases to the Prophet, the Companions and other men in authority began to take resort to Ijtihad under justifiable circumstances. Hazrat Abu Bakr invariably consulted the Quran and then Sunnah, and last of all he would gather together the best of the people for consultation on new type of problems, and would take the final decision according to the majority opinion. The same procedure was followed by Hazrat Umar, who resorted to Ijtihad freely, taking care to consult the most learned Companions. The decisions were followed as long as they were not in disagreement with the Book of God and Sunnah. Classical evidence suggests that Ijtihad has actually been used in the presence of clear injunctions in the Quran. The Caliph Umar exercised Ijtihad in precisely these situations and his actions have been explained in terms of his perception of the best needs of the Muslim community at that time. The fourth Caliph, Ali, also made the statement that men and women speak for the Quran and so interpretation (Ijtihad) of its dictates is an essential part of applying Quranic injunctions to the lives of Muslims.Gradually. Companions of Prophet SAW did Ijtihad on different emerging matters of deen as they had understood since the times of Prophet s.a.w. They analyzed the situations in which they were themselves living in. They negotiated issues in the manner they faced after the demise of Prophet and their successors and followers spread down the line accordingly. So if there is difference of opinion on issues pertaining to fiqh, it is difference in interpretations and derivative process i.e while deriving the solution from the usul. The difference of opinion is not on the basic principles, teachings and essence of Deen but the difference ought to arise while deriving the secondary rulings from the founding principles. Take the example of three distinguished companions (jurists) of their time; Abdullah ibn Masud would hesitate in giving his own opinion. He would not resort to interpretations but only transmit as it is i.e literalist approach; on the other hand, Abdullah ibn Abbas’s approach was wide.
Mujtahids and jurists like Abu Hanifa, Maalik, Shaafi, Imam Muhammad, Abu Yusuf, ImamHanbal, etc and other learned persons developed the jurisprudence of Islam by formulating rulings and opinions based on Quran and Hadith and Ijma. They made respective Ijtihads on various issues which emerged before them. It was this period when the Law of Islam was specially studied in three ancient centers-Iraq, Hijaz and Syria. It was during the reign of the Abbasides (Banu Abbas) that a new impetus was given to the study of Islamic Jurisprudence which resulted in the emergence of different schools of Islamic jurisprudence.
Where the Ijtihad or opinion of other companions would be too difficult Abdullah ibn Abbas would resort to comparatively easier approach; Abdullah ibn Umar would approach the things which apparently seem hard interpretations. Therefore, the diverse understanding levels; different tastes and temperamental approaches; geographical locations; local needs, circumstances and customs; individual inclinations and thinking; changing situations, conditions and environment in which a jurist is doing Ijtihad or giving a futwa or interpretation not only play influencing role in the development of fiqh but also results in difference of opinion which is a natural phenomenon and which ought to happen. This opened the gates of learning for next generation of Muslims, (taba tabeen), their successors and so on and so forth. In essence, the Shariat is a compendium of rules guiding the life of a Muslim from birth to death in all aspects of law, ethics and etiquette. These rules have been crystallized through the process of Ijtihad employing the sophisticated jurisprudential techniques. Then mujtahids and jurists like Abu Hanifa, Maalik, Shaafi, Imam Muhammad, Abu Yusuf, ImamHanbal, etc and other learned persons developed the jurisprudence of Islam by formulating rulings and opinions based on Quran and Hadith and Ijma. They made respective Ijtihads on various issues which emerged before them. It was this period when the Law of Islam was specially studied in three ancient centers-Iraq, Hijaz and Syria. It was during the reign of the Abbasides (Banu Abbas) that a new impetus was given to the study of Islamic Jurisprudence which resulted in the emergence of different schools of Islamic jurisprudence. (To be continued next Sunday……………………)
(The author is pursuing Ph.D at Law Department Kashmir University. Views are his own)

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