Tag Archives: Ijtihad

Contestations of Ijtihad: The Need For Debate

A.A Khalid has sent this exclusive piece for PTH. We are truly encouraged by the fact that there are so many rational Pakistanis who want to rescue their religion from the clutches of bigots and extremists. We would like more and more people to join this debate and develop a discourse which sadly is missing since the days of Allama Iqbal. Raza Rumi

In liberal circles of religious scholarship there is a contention that ‘’ijtihad’’ is the epistemic tool which will solve all our grapples and puzzles of establishing a suitable religiosity for our time.

Ijtihad is elevated from its formal place as a mere tool of legal reasoning restricted in the classical tradition to books of law, to that of an intellectual principle and a citadel of a rational religiosity. Ijtihad is indeed forms part of the rationalist tradition of Islam and as such is the natural ally for reformists and liberals in the Muslim World. But ijtihad, which means intellectual exertion and in a technical sense juridical adjudication, to solve legal problems which have no precedent in the normative texts or in the jurists’ corpus is not naturally an epistemic tool for liberals.

Ijtihad can also be illiberal and can also be disastrous; one can argue the totally unprecedented phenomenon of violent extremism instigated by demagogues and ideologues is indeed ijtihad gone tragically wrong. If ijtihad is taken to mean that all Muslims can interpret their faith as they wish in accordance to what they see as new soicio-political circumstances and new contexts then we must be cautious. After all conservatives and radicals can forward absolutely shocking and regressive opinions as ijtihad as much as a liberal can forward progressive and enlightened opinions as ijtihad. We need to avoid this epistemic anarchism and try and elaborate sensible parameters. Though the determination of these parameters in terms of dealing violent extremism will be easy as violent extremism and radicalism clearly are beyond the pale and their actions clash with the fundamentals of Islam, the real issue is betweeen conservatives and liberals/reformists. Issues such as Islamic law, politics, ethics, morality and epistemology will be where trying to agree on a set of sensible parameters will be difficult. Continue reading



Filed under Pakistan

Ijtihad, Freedom of Expression and Contemporary Politics

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

Muslims today suffer from a bizarre sense of loss. Perhaps no other community faces this sort of predicament to the same extent. They have failed to make use of the myriad opportunities provided by modernity. One of these valuable opportunities is freedom. The ideologues of the French Revolution claimed that man is born free but everywhere is in chains. This became the slogan of the modern world, and now freedom has been accepted as the basic right of every human being. Everyone has the right to adopt what he or she thinks is right and to act accordingly. There is only one limit to this unfettered freedom: in the exercise of one’s right one should not harm someone else, and in the pursuance of one’s objectives one should seek to use peaceful, not violent, means.

300 years ago, when America won freedom from England, an American man, so the story goes, rushed out into the street to celebrate. He swung his arms up in the air in glee and as he brought them down he hit the nose of a passerby. The latter was, naturally, enraged, and demanded an apology. The first man said to him, ‘Now America is free and so I can do what I want’. The passerby retorted, ‘Undoubtedly you are free, but your freedom ends where my nose begins’. Continue reading


Filed under Islam, Islamism, south asia

The Need For Reviving Ijtihad Today

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

Ijtihad is not a mere intellectual exercise. Rather, it is an extremely important and basic requirement for the followers of Islam. Through ijtihad Muslims have been able to re-establish their religious status in every age. Through ijithad they have also been able to engage in tatbiq (reconstructing and reapplying the principles of Islam in accordance with the Quran and Hadith) in the context of changing social contexts and conditions, thereby proving that Islam is a religion for all time and that it is as relevant for the future as it was in the past. In other words, ijtihad is a means to constantly
update Islamic thought and to thereby maintain its relevance.

What is Ijtihad?

Ijithad does not mean making decisions or coming to conclusions based
on free will. Rather, it denotes reflecting on the primary sources of
Islam—the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet—and through deduction
(istinbat) or analogy (qiyas) to suggest rules for new issues and
problems. In actual fact, ijtihad is also a form of taqlid. Ordinary
muqallids do taqlid of the learned jurisprudents (fuqaha), while a
mujtahid, one who engages in ijtihad, does taqlid of God and the
Prophet. Examining the Quran and Hadith directly, he deduces rules and
guidelines from these sources for issues not explicitly mentioned

By ijtihad is meant precisely that intellectual activity which is
termed istinbat in the Quran (al-Nisa: 83). In the language of the
fuqaha it is termed as qiyas. This is to say that ijtihad is to deduce
the rules as regards issues that are not explicitly mentioned in the
Quran and Hadith. The term istinbat comes from the root nabt, which
means ‘to draw out water from below the ground’. Thus, the term
istinbat al-fiqhiyya means that a faqih or Islamic jurisprudent has
closely studied the Quran and Hadith and has revealed its hidden
meaning. The noted Quranic commentator al-Qurtabi writes that istinbat
is the same as istikhraj or ‘deduction’ which is engaged in to derive
the shariah ruling with regard to a particular matter when neither the
divine sources of the faith (nass) nor the consensus of the ulema
(ijma) have explicitly pronounced on this issue. Continue reading


Filed under India, Islam, Islamism, Pakistan

Dynamics of Change in Islamic Law (I): Normative Pluralism

by Aasem Bakhshi

In my view, the most important crisis that Muslim society miserably failed to handle during Islam’s sojourn into modernity is diversity. By diversity, I mean religious heterogeneity in any form, may it be the pronouncement of legal injunctions, opinions regarding societal norms or something as personal as individual religious practices.

Therefore, whether it is the abundance of contradictory fatwas on issues as diverse as women leading prayers to Muslims attending Christmas celebrations to Islamic prohibition of images to what constitutes death, Pakistani brothers arguing about the bare heels of a Chinese sister during Hajj or my grandma’s queasiness while watching me pray in a manner other than our family’s religious school, there is an invisible urge to see a kind of religious monism; a CONSENSUS based on an almost Utopian unity of intelligibility, opinion and action.

Continue reading


Filed under Islam, Islamism, Law, Philosophy, Society