Ijtihad and Mujtahid

      This island of Trinidad enjoys British Administration and is governed by British Law. Those who wish to enter any such Government service here which concerns itself with the administration of law are bound to qualify themselves in a knowledge of the British Law. For instance, even he who is desirous of holding the job of a Police Sergeant must study the sections of Criminal Law before he can be appointed in his job. Thus every police Sergeant in the colony can claim to possess the knowledge of Law. But, can you ever conceive that because of that knowledge of Law which a police Sergeant might possess, the Government can ever consider him eligible for the post of the Judge of the Supreme Court or that of the Attorney-General. If a Sergeant could equal a Barrister-at-Law or an L.L.D., the Lincoln’s Inn and the Faculties of Law at the great Universities would not have existed.

      No one can be given the right of interpreting the man-made laws, which continue to change and to be amended from day-to-day, unless he is a fully-qualified Barrister-at-Law, nay, unless he has mastered the higher subjects, as, for instance, the Philosophy of Law, the History of Law, Social Psychology and Sociology, etc., and can stand up as in the true sense a Doctor of Law. But, what a pity, that people can afford to believe that the work of Ijtihad, i.e., of interpreting the revealed Law of God and of deducing new laws from it, can be done by X, Y, Z. Such a monstrous suggestion simply staggers the imagination, and it can possibly come only from those who have but a scant regard for God and His Law!

      The word Ijtihad has been derived from the root JHD, and literally means “striving with full exertion.” In Islamic legal terminology, it denotes the endeavour of choosing, in the light of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, between two or more differing legal interpretations and of deducing, from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, any new rulings for meeting new legal situations. One who performs “Ijtihad” is called “Mujtahid”. The learned men of Islam have laid down certain qualifications, in the light of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, which a person must possess for acting and for being accepted as a Mujtahid. Allama Shah Waliullah of Delhi (on who be God’s Mercy!) has mentioned those qualifications in detail in his celebrated book: Hujjatullahil-baligha. I may summarise them here in their minimum form for the benefit, especially, of those simple-minded brothers and sisters of mine who have been misled into the belief that they can act as Mujtahids in their independent capacities. Let those whom the promptings of personal fancies lead them into posing as Mujtahids without right, and who condemn the great services rendered by the Imams simply because their hearts are gripped by un-Islamic things and they cannot bear the Islamic discipline systematised and codified by the latter, pause for a while in an attitude of just consideration and think. The following are the minimum reasonable qualifications, in their Islamic side, which a Mujtahid should possess:-

(1) He should be an expert in Arabic language, literature and philology, so that he may be able to decide properly between the different connotations of the same word.

(2) He should be a high-class scholar of the Qur’aan, and his study of it should be so extensive and intensive that whenever he has to consider a given problem, he should be capable of keeping before his mind’s eye the whole sweep of Qur’aanic thought and all the relevant verses.

(3) He should have the Traditions of the Holy Prophet in his memory, so that whenever he has to focus his mind on any problem, he may have all the connected Traditions, even those connected indirectly, before him, clearly and vividly, to guide his thought-process rightly and comprehensively.

(4) He should further be an expert of the sciences of historical criticism (Riwayat) and logical criticism (Dirayat), so that he may be able to view the worth and connotation of various Traditions, under study at the time, in their proper perspective.

(5) Above all, he should possess piety and true Islamic character, and his heart should be imbued with what the Qur’aan calls ‘fear of God’.


      Now, my Friends! if there is a person who claims to be a Mujtahid, but who does not possess even one-tenth of these qualifications, what else can you say about him but that he is groping in the dark, and what else can be the result of his stumbling but misguidance.

      Allama Shah Waliullah of Delhi, the celebrated philosopher, theologian, legist, traditionist and commentator, before whose learning and piety bowed the Arab and non-Arab Ulema, found all the qualities of a Mujtahid in his person. Yet his sense of responsibility and fear of God withheld him from declaring his Imamat and Ijtihad, and in all humility, he continued to regard himself as a follower (Muqalid) of Imam Abu Hanifa’s school of Law and continued to stress before the Muslims of India that they should stick to the Hanafi school, which had guided the Muslim governments for centuries and had been developed into a perfect system.

      Qalaadah and Taqleed are two related Arabic words. The word Qalaadah means “a rope or a chain which is bound to the neck of someone to make him follow behind.” Taqleed connotes the act of following. As a religious term, it has reference to the fact that “the servants of God, who are linked together by obedience to God, receive the Commandments of God through such and such a chain.”

      That is, when someone says that he is the Mujtahid of Imam-e-Azam, it means that the chain through which he is receiving the Commands of God is that which passes through Imam-e-Azam to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be with him!). It never means that he is following the commands of Abu Hanifa. Nay, the Command is that given by God, the manner of grasp is that taught by the Holy Prophet, the interpretation is that given by the Companions, the arrangement is that fixed by the Hanafi school. The work of the Aalim and the Mufti is to follow this chain, to acquire his knowledge of the Islamic Law in conformity with it and to guide the people in their legal affairs.


      Suppose, today, someone enquires from me concerning some point of Islamic law. What shall I do? I have no right to give him some commandment on my own behalf or tell him something in the light of my own commonsense. My function is merely to deliver the law which God has given to guide the people on the basis of that revealed Guidance. This function is also based on certain authority and certain qualifications. For instance:-

(1) If I am questioned about any problem relating to the Qur’aanic text, I can answer authoritatively, because I possess a continuous authority reaching up to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be with him!).

(2) If I am questioned about any problem relating to the Qur’aanic exegesis or the sciences relating to the Hadith literature, I can answer authoritatively, because I possess a continuous link of authority reaching up to the Holy Prophet.

(3) Similarly, if I am questioned about any problems relating to Islamic Law, in accordance with the Hanafi or Maliki or Shafei or Hambali schools, I can answer authoritatively, because I possess continuous chains of authority passing through the four Imams and reaching up to the Holy Prophet (peace be with him!).


      I am here before you. My mode of life and my character are before you. The evidence of history about the authoritative learning and piety of my teachers is before you. The commands which I am delivering to you today and the teaching which I am explaining to you is not, in reality, from me. It is the command and the teaching sent to humanity by God through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peach be with him!).. In  the field of Law, I know that every section of law which is found in Hedaya, or Fath-ul-Qadeer, or Durre-Mukhtar, or Shami, or any other similar book has been inserted there after the utmost investigation, and I am ready at all times to prove it.

      After all, what these books of Islamic Law (Fiqh) are? They are the hand-books detailing the Law which the Holy Prophet brought to humanity. They are the compendiums where each and every one of us can find a ready-made and clear-cut reply to his legal problem.

      Even though it may prolong the discussion let me re-state the argument I have been expounding so far. Let me state that:-

(1) The Holy Qur’aan is the basic book, the ground-work of Islamic Law. The explanation and exposition of its teachings, in the light of the Holy Prophet’s Traditions, is called Ilm-ut-Tafsir (or, the Science of Commentary). There exist numerous books on that subject, among which the better known classics are: Tafsir Tabari, Tafsir Baidwi, Tafsir Kashshaf and Tafsir Ma’alim-ut-Tanzeel.

(2) The explanation and detailed exposition of the Qur’aanic teachings by the Holy Prophet, in his Sayings and Actions, forms the second basic source of Islamic knowledge. Now that science which deals with the collection of those Sayings and Actions of the Holy Prophet is called the Science of Hadith. There are numerous books on that subject, the most well-known classical works being: the Sihah of Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Ibn Majah, Muatta of Imam Malik, Musnad of Imam Azam, Musnad of Imam Ahmad, etc., etc. There are several compendiums where the Traditions have been arranged alphabetically, e.g. Kanz-ul-Ummal and Bihar-ul-Anwar. There are some compilations arragned in a third way, e.g., Ma’ani-ul-Athar.

(3) The science which deals with the biographies of the reporters of Traditions for the assessment of their worth, is known as the Science of Asma-ur-Rijal, and there are many classical books relating to it.

(4) The science which deals with the graduation of Traditions is known as the science of Usool-e-Hadith.

(5) The science which deals with the Principles Qur’aan and Hadith is known as the Usool-e-Fiqh, and there are several classical works and numerous explanatory books on that subject.

(6) When the laws are fixed up and deduced from the Qur’aan and Hadith according to the rules of Usool-e-Fiqh, and they are arranged and systematised in the form of a Law-Code, the science is called Ilm-ul-Fiqh. There are a number of classics and numerous hand-books on that subject.


      In mentioning this classification of Islamic sciences, my purpose is to give just an idea to my simple-minded brothers and sisters who are being thrown into confusion concerning the Islamic legal schools by certain unconscientious people, who wish to establish their own hegemony and leadership, and hence they propagate all sorts of confusion. Some of them have their ulterior sectarian ends to gain. Most of them are ignorant of Islamic sciences and the safest way they can adopt for their leadership is that of the denial of the validity or the necessity of those sciences. Many of them are so unconscientious as to impute absolutely false motives to the Imams, to call them as “gods besides Allaah”, and to criminally impute Shirk (polytheism) to the overwhelming majority of the Islamic world which accepts the guidance of the Imams in the matter of understanding the Islamic Law. Even a blind man can see how far they are right. Even the least intelligent person can grasp the element of blasphemy in their stand. Even the ordinary Muslim can understand that:-

(1) When the Commentator of the Qur’aan ponders over the verses of that Sacred Book, in accordance with the principles of language and grammar and in the light of the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (peace be with Him!), he is doing nothing else than obeying the following command of the Qur’aan itself:

“Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’aan.” (XLVII): 24).

(2) The scholar of Hadis (Muhaddis), when he applies himself to the understanding of the Holy Prophet’s Sayings and Actions, does so only in obedience to the Qur’aanic teachings::

“He who obeys the Apostle, obeys God.” (IV: 80).

(3) The scholar of Asma-ur-Rijal, when he carries out the work of examining the veracity of the reporters of the Traditions, does so in conformity with the Qur’aanic principle of not accepting any report without exhaustive investigation. (See XLIX: 6).

(4) The scholar who applies the science of Usool-e-Hadith for grading the Traditions which are extant and for fixing up the categories of Fard, Sunnat, Mustahab, Permissible, non-Permissible, partially-Permissible, etc., in the domain of practical injunctions, is only elaborating on the Qur’aanic command:

“And whatsoever the Apostle giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it).” (LIX: 7).

(5) The scholar of Usool-e-Fiqh fixes up the Principles of Islamic Law to elaborate the practical teachings of Islam for the Faithful, in obedience to the following Qur’aanic injunction:

“If a party from every group remained behind, (they could devote themselves to the task of) gaining sound knowledge in religion.”  (IX: 22).

(6) The Imams of Fiqh, when they systematize the legal injunctions of Islam, in the light of the Usool-e-Fiqh, do so merely to carry out the Qur’aanic injunction, which forms the remaining part of the verse just quoted, namely:

“And that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so  that they may beware.” (IX: 122).

Those Imams only further the mission of the Holy Prophet (peace be with him!) referred to in the following verse:

“O Messenger! Make known that which hath been revealed unto thee from they Lord.” (V: 67).

When they teach Islamic guidance to the people, they do so in obedience to the Holy Prophet’s command:

“Lo! Verily, let him who is present deliver the Message to him who is absent.”


      When the Imams systematize the Islamic laws to save men from falling into errors and to make the path of their understanding smooth, they only act in accordance with the following Qur’aanic command:

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! Thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from his way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.” (XVI:125).

      Let us view the problem concretely. Suppose a Muslim goes to an Islamic scholar and questions him about the Islamic law on some point of ceremonial and worship or on some point of human affairs, what, do you think should be the procedure which that scholar should adopt? Do you think the following procedure can be adopted as the normal routine in all such cases? When a questioner comes to an Aalim, and puts to him a query, the Aalim concerned takes up the Holy Qur’aan, studies it thoroughly for finding out the relevant verse or verses, shows the verse or verses to the questioner, explains the verse or verses in the light of linguistic, logical or historical principles; - then he studies the whole Hadith literature comprising hundreds of thousands of Traditions, picks out the relevant Traditions, examines their authenticity in the light of Historical and Logical Criticism, fixes up the principles for preferring one Hadith to another; - then he fixes up the accurate legal form of the query, applies the knowledge he has obtained from the Qur’aan and the Hadith in accordance with certain valid principles, formulates the Islamic law on the point:- and explains the whole procedure to the questioner and proves to him its validity from the point of view of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Then the questioner might feel that he had escaped Taqleed and that he has received guidance direct from the Qur-aan and Sunnah, Actually, even with such a procedure, the enquirer or questioner has actually slipped into Taqleed, for the knowledge he has obtained is through the medium of that scholar.

      Even if you can consider such a procedure feasible in each and every case, do you think that every Maulvi is really capable of adopting and working according to that procedure? Does every Maulvi possess that vast learning and that deep insight necessary for the adoption of that procedure? Does every Muslim possess that understanding whereby he can associate himself in the scholarly endeavour of the Maulvi to be able to claim, even formally, that he has received the guidance directly from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and has escaped Taqleed?``

Can the verdict of the Qur’aan be falsified when it says:

“Can the learned and the non-learned be ever equal?”

      Tell me, my Friends!, is it humanly possible for you to fix up the above-mentioned procedure as a normal and necessary routine?

      And, let me ask you, what do you do when you are confronted with any problem connected with the man-made Law which governs your colony. When you have a law-suit, do you call upon your Barrister to explain to you all the background of the relevant sections of the law, their origin, their history, their different interpretations by legal authorities, the various rulings given by Judges from time to time, so on and so forth? Well, you only explain the case to the Barrister and discuss it with him and leave out all the above-mentioned questions as irrelevant.

      Again, it is the function of the Barrister to state the law and to employ it and interpret it for pleading his case. Do you think that the Government can accuse him on that basis of acting as a legislator and a law-giver? Or, do you think that the authors of law-books and commentators of law can be reasonably accused of taking the authority into their hands?


      If the answer is in the negative, and it can only be in the negative, how can anyone accuse the Imams of usurping the authority of God or His Prophet (peace be with him!)? Let me declare, and declare most emphatically, that if the Imams took away the authority of anyone it was only the authority of those mischief-makers who are always out to create confusion in the ranks of Muslims and of those half-educated people who, because of their self-conceit and other faults, like to pose as authorities to misguide people. The Imams only acted as the spokesmen of God and His Holy Prophet and whosoever follows their direction to-day actually follows nothing else but the guidance of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. The work of the Imams is a demonstration of “The religion (of Islam) is easy”. Thanks to the great labours of the Imams of Tafsir and Hadith and Fiqh, to-day the knowledge relating to every department and every branch of the Islamic Way of Life is open to us, properly systematised and simplified, completely preserved and protected:-

(1) The Qur’aanic text is present, preserved to the very letter;

(2) The commentary of the Qur’aan is present in bulky volumes;

(3) The Traditions of the Holy Prophet are present in books of Hadith and Siyar;

(4) The literature on Asma-ur-Rijal is present to help us in examining the Traditions;

(5) Comprehensive books on Principles of Tradition and Principles of Law are present to make us understand
      the method of deducing laws from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah;

(6) Voluminous books on theological problems are present to guide us on Beliefs (Aqaid);

(7) Exhaustive books of Law are present to guide us in matters of ceremonial, civil and criminal laws.

      It is now for us either to practice Islam, which is the purpose for which Islam came, or to continue to waste our time in meaningless and new-fangled controversies.

      There can be no doubt that the Holy Qur’aan is “the store-house which contains all the knowledge we need.” Similarly, the Holy Prophet’s Traditions are “the Comprehensive Treasure of Guidance”. If you want to find out a reply to any one of your problems from the Qur’aan and the Hadith, you can certainly find it in them. There you have the Source and the Fountainhead. But to discover it in that vast and deep treasure demands all your ambition and exertion and courage and a thorough mastery of all those sciences which form the key to that unique treasure. Even if you can do that according to your light, you might not be still sure of your conclusions.

      The safest and the truest path for all is to seek help from those guide-books which were built up by centuries of honest research-labour performed by the highest and the most pious intellects of Islam. Thus if you have any problem relating to the meaning of the Qur’aanic verses, refer to the Commenataries. If you wish to obtain information on any point relating to the Holy Prophet’s life, refer to the authentic books of Hadith. If you want to be clear on any problems of Belief, refer to the classics of Ashaerah and Matureediyyah philosophers.If you want a reply to some problem relating to ceremonial or general law, refer to the books of Law according to the Hanafi,  Maliki, Shafei and Hambali schools. You will find your problems solved, your queries answered, without much-ado. You will discover the beauties of the Codified Islamic Law.

      I would advise you not to follow the example of the rat who found a piece of tamarind and started claiming that he was a full-fledged grocer.

      Remember! The Holy Prophet (peace be with him!) prophesied for the latter days in unambiguous terms that:

“People will appoint ignorant persons as their (religious) leaders, who will give Fatwa (legal verdict) without knowledge and will mislead their own selves as well as others. Beware of those mis-leaders!”

      About those very people who do not even know the Arabic language properly but who pose to be not only Muftis but Mujtahids, the Holy Prophet prophesied that they will be the “wolves in human dress” – the hypocritical robbers of Faith. They wear a crown of service to him

who whispers (evil) into the hearts of mankind, - among Jinns and among Men” (CXIV: 5, 6),

      They put on the mantle of hypocrisy, they utter the name of Islam with their lips but invite the people to all sorts of immoralities, nay, sometimes, to Kufr itself.


      Those evil geniuses are there, thanks to the ignorance of the Muslims. But the true scholars of Islam are also present at all times, to tear the mask from the face of evil, - even as the true Prophet of God (peace be with him!) truly prophesied:

“A party of my followers will continue to conclusively demonstrate the truth.”

      In the fulfillment of this prophecy, numerous refulgent stars have appeared from time to time on the firmament of Islamic learning and have illumined the path of the followers of Islam. As for my humble self, I would consider it my good fortune if God Almighty counts me among their true pupils. As such, I am always ready to render any service of which I may be capable.

      Since my arrival in the island, I have found the Muslims entangled in certain controversies. They following are the questions which I have been asked to reply time and again.

(8) Whether Jesus (peace be with him!) was born without a father, or through the agency of a father?

(9) Whether Jesus died a natural death or is still alive?

(10) Whether the Mi-raaj (Ascension) of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be with him!) was of a spiritual
       character or physical?

(11) Whether a Muslim should read twenty Rakaats in Tarawih or eight?

(12) Is it permissible to hold the Milad assemblies?

(13) Is it permissible to send blessings to the dead with Qur’aanic recitation?

(14) Is it permissible for Muslim ladies to appear before strangers in the semi-naked Western style of dress?


      I have been replying to the individuals on these points. But I have been asked to state the verdict of Islam in these matters for the benefit of the general Muslim public.

      According to the argument which I have fully elucidated during the discussion of “the Codification of the Islamic Law”, my function is only to state the Fatwa as it is found in the authoritative books of Fiqh. That is the procedure which the Islamic world has been following.

      Let me now state that, during the past thirteen centuries, the overwhelming majority of the learned men of Islam have unanimously held in the light of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, that:

(1) Jesus (peace be with him!) was born without a father.

(2) Jesus was neither killed nor crucified, but Allaah saved him from the clutches of his enemies and has preserved him alive under His protection at a place He chose for him.

(3) The Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be with him!) performed the Mi-raaj with his body which was Light personified. This problem will be explained rationally during my lectures on “Miracles”.

(4) Keeping before him the Sayings of the Holy Prophet, which referred to the blessings to be obtained by increased amount of worship performed during the nights of Ramadan, and considering thoroughly the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, Amir-ul-Momineen Omar (God be pleased with him!) fixed  twenty Rakaats of congregational Taraweeh prayers behind the Imam. Twenty Rakaats of Taraweeh are the Sunnah of Omar, and it is followed in obedience to the Holy Prophet’s command:

      “You should follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the righteous Caliphs.”

(5) To hold Milad assemblies and to recite the life of the Holy Prophet, in conformity with the Holy Qur’aan and the Hadith, is Mustahab and Mustahsan, i.e., a religiously good action.

(6) To send blessings to the dead with Qur’aanic recitation is permissible and is an act based on the teaching of the Qur’aan and the Hadith.

(7) It is forbidden for Muslim ladies to appear dressed half-naked in the Western style before strangers.


      This bare statement of Islamic guidance should not, however, mislead anyone to think that I am not prepared to argue out of the Fatwas which I might thus state. In fact, I am always ready to discuss any issue on the basis of the original sources found in the Holy Qur’aan and the Hadith, provided the person who wishes to discuss it with me has proper access to the technical knowledge necessary and comes to me as an honest student of the subject. Otherwise to discuss the “ins” and the “outs” of technical points with those who possess no technical knowledge of the and the Sunnah would be as meaningless as act as discussing Atomic Physics with a school-boy.

      Unfortunately, certain sections of Muslims to-day have lost all sense of proportion. They may not even know the A B C D of the various Islamic sciences, but they have courage to indulge in discussions of Islamic things with such a tone of authority as to make even the worse form of lunacy look grave. And not only can they pose as authorities, but they can also fight with fellow Muslims on the basis of their unwarranted and unauthorized views and can extend the fight to a limit where the community gets smashed up into pieces and becomes the laughing-stock of the enemies of Islam. What is still more pitiable is that all this fight of the ignorant and petty “Mujtahids” revolves mostly round problems and issues which have no relation to the mission of Islam or the progress and stabilisation of the Muslim community.

      Here I might recall to your minds an incident of history which depicts very well the condition of these “friends” of Islam.

      Before the Islamic conquest, Constantinople was the seat of the Byzantine Church and a great centre for Christian controversies. Fighting among themselves on petty issues relating to ceremonials and the like had become the pastime of the Christian clergy. They were engaged in it during that night also when the armies of Mohammad the Conqueror were crossing the Bosphorus. The most eminent among them were present in the beautiful church of St. Sophia and a heated discussion was in progress. The issue was whether the bread to be used in the feast of Eucharist should be leavened or unleavened. The fury of the debaters rose ultimately to such a pitch that they tore off the robes of each other. Everyone had in mind to vanquish his opponent, not only in argument, but also physically. In the meantime, the armies of Islam broke through the fortification of the town. The Byzantine Empire came to an end. The Byzantine Church also disappeared in due course. The church of St. Sophia where the Bishops fought on that petty issue so ferociously, became the house of Islamic Worship. Not only that petty controversy, but Christianity itself was wiped out.

      I must make this admission, though I must do so with a very sad heart, that I find the Muslims in the same unenviable position today which characterised the Byzantine Christians of those days. Muslims have lost all their past glory. They are virtually existing on the keg of a dynamite. The antagonistic forces are fully busy in liquidating their spiritual and moral heritage. The very fundamentals of Islam are under fire. The organized movements of irreligion and immorality, which stand for destroying and wiping out religion as such, are attacking the Muslim religious life also with full force. Vast Muslim populations in Central Asia, Transcaucasia, Eastern Europe and China have been engulfed by atheistic Communism. Other Muslim populations are also suffering under the stress of the materialism-ridden modernism.

      Such an all-round catastrophe necessitates that Muslims should stand united like a solid rock and should concentrate on the fundamental spiritual and moral issues confronting them. And not only this. They should invite the whole world of religion to join with them in fighting the organized menace of irreligion.

      But, instead of this, there are certain persons who are never tired of raising petty issues for dividing Muslims and of wasting their energies. Such persons have, of course, their own axe to grind. What their actions mean to Islam, they do not care. It is, however, for all sincere Muslims to see that they do not fall into the snare and do not allow themselves to be misled into wasteful pursuits.

      Before I conclude, I pray that Almighty Allaah may bless the Muslims with the right understanding so that they may be able to distinguish the right from the wrong and to save themselves from pernicious influences. Ameen!







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