In Islamic perspective and especially in Sunni Islam and on the basis of personal interpretation and application of the authoritative sources of Islamic law, the four doctrinal legal schools (madhhab) were shaped and named after the four founding fathers or jurists. Although, the term madhhab means a group of different individuals such as students, legists, judges, and jurists, the axis of each madhhab is a single leading jurist-Imam who is responsible for having created the school’s methodology on the ground of which its precepts and law were constructed. In the course of two centuries in which these four doctrinal schools were established, it came to be widely accepted among many Sunni communities that all essential legal questions have been answered by the founders of the schools, and hence Muslims, here Sunnis, do not have any new issue to be discussed. This idea is called the closing of the door of Ijtihad. Moreover, the acceptance of Ijma‘, literally consensus as the third source of jurisprudence in Sunnism, is known as the main reason for the closing of the door of Ijtihad. It is believed that jurists have agreed to differ and use independent judgment, so the emergence and spread of Ijma has come not only to make restrictions on Ijtihad but also to set the final seal upon the process of increasing rigidity in the Muslim law. By this event, which historically dates back to the early tenth century, the right of Ijtihad was replaced by the duty of taqlid or imitation. Henceforth, every jurist was regarded as an imitator, literally muqallid, and was obliged to accept the opinions of his predecessors, namely, the founding father of the schools. Thus, Ijtihad and imitation are two contrasted things, and belief and acceptance of one means denying another.
“Modern Scholars defended the exercise of Ijtihad as not merely the right, but rather the duty of present generations. Real and practical issues helped progressive sides to call for reform in the established law. In their opinion, the present law is not an ideal order, but a changing one rested on Ijtihad”.
This idea is challenged by a number of studies. According to these scholarships, and despite the principle of Ijma‘, the role of Sunni jurists was mainly to compose commentaries upon the works of the deceased masters/founders and to spend energy on scholasticism, but in reality the muftis or jurist have been actively engaged in the fields such as public law and its branches, particularly criminal law, to do additional jurisdictions supplementary to that of Shariah law. In contrast to the field of family law, which has always been a vital and inherent part of the Shariah, in public law, muftis had to synthesize doctrine and practice by their fatwa’s. Modern Scholars defended the exercise of Ijtihad as not merely the right, but rather the duty of present generations. Real and practical issues helped progressive sides to call for reform in the established law. In their opinion, the present law is not an ideal order, but a changing one rested on Ijtihad.
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