Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ijtihad now

Ijtihad - Two columns
1) Ijitihad Now by Mike Ghouse
2) Ijitihad by Dr. Ibrahim Syed


Ijtihad Now

by Mike Ghouse

Ijtihad, the intellectual effort to understand a new situation and make sense out of it is alive and puzzled with sentences like, “Muslim thinkers are demanding the right to individual interpretation.” The question is, who are we demanding the right from?

We have fallen into the trap that “some one” owns and controls our faith. Let’s clarify that first, on the Day of Judgment; it is our deeds that determine how we would be judged by the Lord. Please remember, it is not our teacher’s knowledge, the wealth of our family or the spiritual status of some one other than me or you. On that day, you are on your own and the salvation comes from enough good things you have done to benefit the humankind. Given that, the responsibility to understand the religion squarely falls on each one of us. The stress is on individual responsibility and contribution for a better world.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was clear on these items:

  1. Qur’aan is book of guidance and that is the only reference for Muslims besides the example of his own life,
  2. No one was assigned to interpret the book for us, nor he created a clergy system to administer the religion,
  3. He was a signatory to Pluralistic laws of the Madinah pact along with the Jews and Christian leaders of the time, whereby he was a secular & a pluralistic administrator working with other faiths functioning under his administration, while he was also the head of the religious institution.
  4. The separation of church and state was the form of his administration.

Wikipedia “ Ijtihad (Arabic اجتهاد) is a technical term of Islamic law that describes the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal sources, the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The opposite of ijtihad is taqlid, Arabic for "imitation". A person who applies ijtihad is called a mujtahid, and traditionally had to be a scholar of Islamic law, an Islamic lawyer or alim.
To become a mujtahid in theological terms is similar to having a doctorate in divinity in Islamic kalam, or in legal terms to reaching the status of a high or supreme court judge.

Ijtihad is alive in every spehere of life, we make decisions in our daily dealings based on Justness and truthfullness, the core aspects of Islam and for that matter, every religion.

Thanks to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for freeing us from the shackles of the clergy, thanks to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for liberation from ignorance and thanks to him for helping us imbibe the simplicity of God’s plan – Justice and liberty for all.

Indeed, to be a Muslim is to be a peace maker; one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; life and matter. Indeed that is the purpose religion.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. His comments, news analysis, opinions and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website He can be reached at


Ijtihad - By Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D
President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc

Finding the causes for the decline and fall of the Muslim Ummah has become a life long pursuit for me. One of the most important causes of Muslims deterioration is the low literacy rate. Even the Islamic faith's fundamental requirement of knowledge of the Qur'an and the Sunnah is marginal. They lack knowledge of even the simple and basic laws of Islam. Those who have read books of collections of Ahadith and have devotedly and extensively studied the Qur'an are ignorant of the many fundamental Aqaid(canons) of Islam including Fiqh. The term Fiqh means knowledge of all the laws of Islam(Shari'ah). Shariah is synonym for Fiqh. It is necessary for Muslims to understand there are four basic sources for the Sharia, viz: (1) Qur'an (2) Sunnah (3) Ijma(consensus) and (4)Qiyas(analogical deduction). These laws cover every action performed by an individual or society.

Today we live in a highly complex and technologically advanced world as a result we are facing very complex problems- to give some examples such as genetic engineering, permissibility eating of genetically altered cattle or vegetables /fruits, gene therapy, in vitro fertilization, organ transplants, space travel(in the near future), etc., Problems of this nature cannot be solved by the Shariah.

To solve problems like these, Prophet Muhammad (SAS) himself introduced the fifth component (if I would say so) of the Shariah called Ijtihad which is individual intellectual effort. One who performs Ijtihad is a Mujtahid. The word Ijtihad is derived from the Arabic root word of jihad. Ijtihad was once an important force in the articulation and interpretation of Shariah. Some of the greatest minds in the history of Islamic jurisprudence used Ijtihad during the first centuries of Hijra. With time for reasons given below, Ijtihad faltered and was replaced by the doctrine of taqlid or blind imitation. Taqlid not only discouraged individual interpretation but also prohibited it. Some Muslim scholars throughout the ages have been protesting the prohibition of Ijtihad as it violates the original spirit and intention of Islam. Muslims all over the world are fond of saying that Islam is applicable to all places and in all times. How can this be achieved without Ijtehad?

In order to perform Ijtihad, a Muslim man or woman should be thoroughly familiar with the sciences of Qur'an and the Sunnah, comprehend the wider purposes of the Sharia and understand Arabic correctly. On complicated and complex issues of law, Ijtihad should be purviewed by trained scholars. Any Muslim or Muslima with some knowledge of religion can perform Ijtihad on certain matters, particularly those of personal concern. For example Muslims have been practicing Ijtihad routinely in determining the direction of Qibla or to ascertain the times of prayer by the position of the sun. The Hanbali scholar, Imam Ibn Taymiyah(1263-1328 CE) wrote that " a Muslim can perform Ijtihad for himself or herself on certain questions, it is permitted, because Ijtihad is not an absolute-the pivotal point is ability or the lack thereof. Thus a person might be able to perform Ijtihad on certain questions and not others." Taqlid (blind imitation) is based on an absence of intellectual activity on the part of the believer, and early Muslims held that it was permissible only if one was incapable of understanding due to a lack of mental ability or faculties. Dr. Taha J. al-Alwani of IIIT (International Institute of Islamic Thought) argues that" both the Prophet (SAS) and the Qur'an rejected taqlid, the Sahabas (companions of the Prophet) and many others considered it an evil and also rejected it." He further quotes one of the successors to the companions as saying, "There is no difference between an animal that is led and a person who makes taqlid." By the end of 4th century Hijra taqlid became the rule rather than the exception in Shariah, in spite of the early contempt for taqlid and judgments against its permissibility. Ultimately a majority of the medireview.

Muslim scholars (ulama) declared the door of Ijtihad to be closed and ruled that all future Muslims must practice taqlid. Why did they do this? Because after 400 years they thought all conceivable questions and situations had been explored and resolved by the ulama, obviating the need for new judgments. Some historians say that the door of Ijtihad was closed because Muslim Ummah was under attack from external forces such as the Crusades and Mongol invasion and sacking of Baghdad on June 6, 1258 CE (seventh century Hijra). However taqlid was adopted one hundred before Crusades and 300 years before the devastation by the Mongol hordes who were still in the far Asian steppes. The real reason there was a serious split between different schools of law and theology among individual jurists and imposition of taqlid was the best way to resolve, but at a tremendous cost. Secondly the jurists such as Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik wanted to preserve their intellectual and juristic independence and did not want to rule in accordance with the wishes of the caliphs. As time passed the pressure from the rulers increased, until the ulama declared the Shariah complete to provide an excuse in the face of an angry ruler. On the one hand the ulama preserved the Shariah from dissolute and corrupt Muslim rulers, but on the other they ensured that the Shariah would remain static and therefore stagnant. As a result we are living in a state of withered intellectual activity, starved for fresh ideas and insights.

In the past a number of scholars have claimed the right to Ijtihad. Eminent scholars like Ibn Taymiyah, al-Suyuti, Muhammad ibn Abdal-Wahhab, al-Sanusi,Muhammad Abduh of Egypt, Allama Iqbal of the Indian subcontinent and Ben Badis of Algeria (1889-1940) called for the reactivation of Ijtihad to rouse the Muslim world from its intellectual lethargy and recreate the vigor and elan of the early Muslim community. Today this calls for Ijtihad continues louder and more insistent. Modern scholars are demanding the systematic reinterpretation of the Islamic tradition using the Qur'an and the Hadith as a foundation. In the face of new technologies, new philosophies and new challenges, Muslim thinkers are demanding the right to individual interpretation.

Allama Muhammad Iqbal in his famous book "The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam" (p.178, Ashraf, Lahore, 1988) declares, "The closing of the door of Ijtihad is pure fiction suggested partly by the crystallization of legal thought in Islam, and partly by the intellectual laziness which, especially in the period of spiritual decay, turns great thinkers into idols. If some of the later doctors have upheld this fiction, modern Islam is not bound by this voluntary surrender of intellectual independence." A modern scholar said taqlid is a renunciation of "critical faith", while Ijtihad is the key to "the Islam of those who understand." Today's Muslims must be critical in their beliefs and in their actions, and have freedom to question, discuss and debate issues that are of personal and collective importance. Only through the exchange of ideas (through Ijtihad) it will be possible to safeguard the Muslim world from deterioration and empty westernization.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.