(Continued From Part –II Publish on May 9, Sunday……)
The contribution of Allama Muhammad Iqbal (d.1938) one of the outstanding minds of 20th century in the development of Ijtihad is noteworthy. His legal thought takes its roots from Shariah and more importantly from Quran which he further progressed by strongly advocating Ijtihad. He developed a legal thought comprising of classical theological foundations and modern scientific interpretations. He attempted to bridge a gap between undiluted conservatism and uncontrolled modernism by advancing a legal thought founded on theological basis and polished with scientific outlook which can accommodate the emerging issues and challenges. His lectures on Ijtihad can be understood from “The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam” the sixth lecture in his ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ a collection of his lectures delivered during 1928 and 1930 at Madras, Hyderabad and Aligarh. He also advocates for the utmost necessity of keeping the door of Ijtihad open for all the well learned Muslim scholars for all the time. He believes that the principle of movement in the structure of Islam is Ijtihad. He considered Islamic Law as a living institution. In the words of Iqbal “Today Islam’s greatest need is the reconstruction of the Islamic law and its re-codification in such a way that it may provide the Islamic answer to the hundreds of thousands of new questions that have been posed by the modern economic, political, social, national and international developments.” According to him, Islamic law can be subject to moderation from time to time but within the unalterable cores of legal codes of Islam, which are obviously ethical and universal in nature. In his ‘Reconstruction’ Iqbal has elaborately dealt with the theological historical and traditional background of the Ijtihad. In his opinion the elected Assembly of a Muslim state should exercise this power as Ijma (consensus of the community) in the process of enacting Islamic legislation. Iqbal believes that a true Muslim should consider his religion not merely a spiritual formality but essence of his entire life. He veiled on this fact that Ijtihad was unfortunately, restricted, restrained and blocked for so many centuries. The reason for this intellectual attitude which reduced the law of Islam in the state of immobility enumerated by Iqbal are: i) the rise of Rationalist Movement; ii) rise of Skepticism; iii) emergence of Taqlid; iv) rise and growth of ascetic Sufism (rahbaniyat; and on top of it v) the Destruction of Baghdad in 1258 which almost robbed of the Muslims from the intellectual heritage. In his opinion, the elected Assembly of a Muslim State should exercise this power as Ijma (consensus of the community) in the process of enacting Islamic legislation. He says that “the only course open to us is to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and to appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge, even though we may be led to differ from those who have gone before us.” He expected ulema and preachers to be well acquainted with Islamic history, economics and social sciences besides the literature and idealism of their nation. For Iqbal there is no reason why this attitude of taqlid-i-mutlaq and the finality of the schools should be maintained any longer. But at the same time he warned against the misuse of Ijtihad. He criticized the unregulated exercise of opinion and freedom which ultimately paved way for uncontrolled modernism and unregulated liberalism which has tendency of disintegration. He says: Azaadi afkaar say hai unki tabahi rakhtay nahi jo fikro tadabur ka saleeqa, Ho fikr agar khaam tou azadi afkar insaan ko hywaan banana kar tareeqa. Another notable thinker and advocate of Ijtihad in 20th century was Syed Maududi(d.1979). Regarding Ijtihad his work ‘tajdid-o-Ahyay-i-Deen’ is worth to mention in which he has laid the importance of Ijtihad for the revival of Islamic ethos. In his book , he elaborately examines the question that comes to his mind, namely, how could the British build a vast prosperous Empire in India, thousands of miles away from their home, while the Indian Muslims engaged in life long struggle failed to establish an Islamic State in their home land. The elaborate study concludes with two findings relating to the failure of Islamic Movement in its conflict with the Western materialist polity, as given below: “Although the revival of religious education and practice of Shari’ah are essential for the renaissance of Islam, yet this is not enough and something more is required for achieving final success. Matters needs in addition to the above are the full support and backing of modern science, constructive thought, competence in arts and technical skill, which have jointly combined to make the Western Nations stronger than the Muslim peoples.” He further says that “The work of revival and reconstruction in modern times demands a new power for Ijtihad.
There is no doubt that the historical experience available to us is without any merit on our part, very much wider than that which was available to the Companions thirteen centuries ago. Indeed we have to think of the immense development in the intervening centuries of so many scientific concepts in order to realize that in some respects we are even better equipped to grasp the inner purport of this or that socio-economic proposition of Islam.
The insight and power of interpretation displayed by Shah Waliullah and earlier mujtahids and mujadids can not cope with the present day situations. The new Age accompanied by new means and powers has brought with it new evils and produced countless new problem of life, which could not even have crossed the minds of the Shah Sahib and the early Doctors. These conditions were only known to Allah who imparted these to His Messenger through His Grace. Therefore, the only source to guidance and inspiration for an ideological Movement for the renaissance of Islam in this Age are the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet. Then in the light of this guidance, such an independent power of Ijtihad is needed as may carve out a highway for action. The present age has brought with it new evils and produced countless new problems of life, therefore the need is for such minds which are equipped with the methods of Ijtihad in the light of Shariah.” An influential Islamic Scholar of his time Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi (d.1999) in his book ‘Islam and the World’, writes about Ijtihad and Jihad as follows: “There being no separate realms of God and Ceaser in Islam, the Muslim Caliphate or Imamat calls for a large variety f human qualities. A Caliph or Imam should be, in addition to possessing a high degree of personal virtues, keenly alive to the needs of Jihad and Ijtihad. Jihad is an Islamic terminology meaning to strive to one’s utmost for what is noblest object on Earth. Ijtihad means the ability to cope with the ever changing pattern of life’s requirements. It calls for a deep insight into the soul of Islam, and a thorough knowledge of the basic principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. These two principles which embody the dynamism of Islam could never suffer a vacuum in its structure. They remained operative ceaselessly in the body of Islam as living factors, holding aloft the Torch of Religious endeavors in the midst of severest tempests.” An influential European Muslim thinker of 20th century Muhammad Asad, (d.1992) laid great stress on the fact that all the findings obtained through Ijtihad by however a great person, are invariably conditioned by that person’s environment and state of knowledge: and knowledge, especially in matters of social concern, depends not so much on the loftiness of a man’s character as on the sum total of the historical experience available to him. There is no doubt that the historical experience available to us is without any merit on our part, very much wider than that which was available to the Companions thirteen centuries ago. Indeed we have to think of the immense development in the intervening centuries of so many scientific concepts in order to realize that in some respects we are even better equipped to grasp the inner purport of this or that socio-economic proposition of Islam. Dr. Israr Ahmad (d.2010) a widely known Islamic Scholar of Pakistan acknowledges the relevance of Ijtihad whenever new problems arise. However, he is more concerned about the methodological and structural utility of Ijtihad i.e. its authorization and enforceability. He cites Iran as an only example where there is a hierarchy among mujtahids and religious scholars. But even there, ten religious scholars can give ten different opinions regarding a certain issue. Now whose opinion is to be implemented? He suggests since in modern democratic states parliament is the supreme law making body; therefore, it is the only institution which can accept a particular Ijtihad to make it a law. Therefore, it shall be settled in the Constitution of a modern Islamic State that ‘no legislation will be done repugnant to the Qur´an and Sunnah’. If this is settled in the Constitution, then judiciary as a custodian of the Constitution shall resolve the question of law (Ijtihad) by exercising power of judicial review to check the constitutionality of law if it is challenged. The opinion of Israr seems similar to that of Iqbal ‘that the elected Assembly of a Muslim state should exercise this power as Ijma (consensus of the community/collective ijtihad) in the process of enacting Islamic legislation’.
( The author is pursuing Ph.D in Law at Law Department Kashmir University. Views are exclusively his own)