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Ijtihâd explained.

Published: 27/08/2011 08:15:00 PM GMT
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If there is no direct evidence of something's being unlaful in the Qur'ân or Sunnah, can the scholars declare it unlawful? Does the lawfulness or unlawfulness of something have to be verified by statements from these two sources? If the scholars do possess the right or authority to declare something lawful or unlawful in the absence of direct textual evidence, what must they consider to arrive at their verdict? Does it become obligatory for the Muslims to submit to the decisions of the scholars? What if the scholars differ in opinion?

Answered by

the Fatwa Department Research Committee - chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî

No one has the right to declare something forbidden except for Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). Everything that is forbidden is mentioned either explicitly or implicitly in the Qur’ân and Sunnah.

An example of an explicit prohibition is the prohibition of killing ourselves. Allah says: “Do not throw yourselves to destruction by your own hands.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 195]

Another is the prohibition of tattoos. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah has cursed the one who gives another a tattoo and the one who receives it.” Allah gives us the reason for this prohibition in the Qur’ân when he He relates to us that Satan threatens: “I will mislead them and I will create within them false desires. I will order them to slit the ears of cattle and to change Allah’s creation.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 119]

Other matters are not addressed directly by the Qur’ân and Sunnah, like many new developments of our age and like the customs of people not encountered in Arabia during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, these matters can be referred back to the matters that are explicitly mentioned. This is often achieved by way of juristic analogy (qiyâs). Often, the reason why something is forbidden in Islam is known. If something else shares that same reason, it will share the ruling.

For instance, there is no direct statement to say that smoking is unlawful in Islam. However, we know that smoking ruins the health and brings on early death. Therefore its ruling is implied in Allah’s statement: “Do not throw yourselves to destruction by your own hands” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 195], as well as all the other evidence demanding that we take care of our lives and our health. For this reason, the vast majority of scholars rule that smoking is unlawful in Islam.

Another example is tribal and beauty scarring practiced in certain parts of Africa. This was not encountered by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and is not addressed by the Qur’ân. However, it is most certainly unlawful, just like tattooing is unlawful, since it alters Allah’s creation the same way that tattooing does, if not more so. On this basis, scholars agree that tribal and beauty scarring is an unlawful practice.

Sometimes scholars disagree with each other when they apply this technique of other techniques of juristic reasoning (ijtihâd). However, they are not sinful if they make a mistake, as long as they expend their utmost effort to arrive at Allah’s ruling on the matter.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If a jurist performs ijtihâd and is correct, he will have two rewards. If he performs ijtihâd and is incorrect, he will have a single reward.”

As for the general public, they can follow in such matters whoever among the jurists they feel has sufficient knowledge and piety.

And Allah knows best.

Source: Islam Today

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