Discuss and show relevance of Ijtihaad during the era of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

In the name of Allah,


Ijtihad, which stems from the Arabic word ‘jahada’, literally means to strive or exert oneself in any endeavor that includes some level of hardship. Therefore, it would be proper to use the phrase jahada to refer to someone who is carrying a heavy load rather than a light one. According to the legal definition, it is the whole amount of effort made by a jurist to reasonably infer the Sharee’ah laws from the sources’ rich documentation. Finally, the concept of ijtihad makes it clear that only a jurist (faqih) is permitted to practice ijtihad.

Inferences of ahkam made by a layperson are thus prohibited by the definition of ijtihad.



The validity of Ijtihad


Imam Ash Sha’fi (May Allah have mercy on him) establishes the legitimacy of Ijtihad based on Quranic verse like:


‘So turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque ˹in Mecca˺—wherever you are, turn your face towards it’. [Translation Quran 2:144]


When praying, believers are commanded by Allah to face the direction of the Qibla. If it is unclear whether he is facing in the correct or wrong direction, he will be able to face the right direction by using some indicators he is aware of[i].



Amr b. al-‘As reported hearing the Prophet (peace be on him) say: “If a judge gives the proper judgment through ijtihad, he shall be double rewarded; if he errs, he will be rewarded once.”


Since rewards are not granted for breaking the law or purposefully committing mistakes, this demonstrates the Ijtihad’s legitimacy.[ii]



Purpose of Ijtihad


There are several situations where the Qur’an and Sunnah’s texts do not clearly outline how to apply particular rulings. To make such legal decisions, jurists turned to Ijtihad. It was the responsibility of the learned jurists to provide a verdict that would serve the interests of the Muslim community and the general welfare. The Qur’an, Sunnah, general agreement, and Aql all support the validity of Ijtihad.




‘So turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque ˹in Mecca˺—wherever you are, turn your face towards it’. [Translation Quran 2:144]




The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) acted in accordance with his ijtihad when he said, “I am only a human being. “When a case is presented to me, I tend to side with the one who presents his case more convincingly, leading me to assume that he is right. In this case, if I gave someone something that belonged to his brother instead of himself, he shouldn’t have accepted it. After all, I only gave him a small amount of fire’(Tirmidhi,1339).




On the validity of ijtihad, the Companions and those who followed them all agreed. The Rightly Guided Caliphs and the rest of the Prophet’s Companions used to refer to the Book of Allah whenever an incident or any circumstance arose. They would then look into the Sunnah and if they couldn’t find a ruling there, they actively pursued ijtihad.



By Reason (aql)


With the evolution of life, the expansion of science, and the emergence of new situations in various eras and locations, Jurists base their decisions on fundamental Islamic sources by using intellect.



Was ijtihad permissible for the Companions during the Prophet’s lifetime?


Most of the Ulama have upheld this, whether it took place in the Prophet’s presence or not[iii]. The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave ‘Amr b. al-‘As permission to give judgment. ‘Shall I practice ijtihad while you are present, Amr said.’ The Prophet said, “Yes,” to this. ‘You receive two awards for good judgment, but only one if you make a mistake’(Ahmad 1281, 1282, 1283).


The Qur’an occasionally supported the Prophet’s ijtihad and occasionally did not. When it wasn’t confirmed, it was stated that a better alternative than the one he had taken was the better one. The Companions’ ijtihad was always in response to circumstances that occurred to them. They would later explain what had happened and share their decision with the Prophet when they met. When he gave his approval to their ijtihad, it became Sunnah. If he disagreed with their ijtihad, his description of the proper course of action would become the Sunnah.


The Dhihaar divorce is one example of an inferred judgment that was not confirmed. Khawlah bint Tha’labah stated, “My spouse, Aws ibn as-Samit, said, “You are to me like my mother’s back. I thus complained about my spouse to Allah’s Messenger. But the Prophet of Allah objected and said, “Fear Allah, he is your cousin.” I kept complaining till the verse was revealed (Quran 58: 1-2).


Dhihaar had been approved by the Prophet as a valid divorce, and he had instructed Khawlah to follow it. However, Allah ruled that it was not valid.


Such judgments based on individual reasoning served as instruction for the Prophet’s Companions in the Sharee’ah application process. They learned from it that judges are not accountable if they err due to circumstances beyond their control.



Some Examples of Ijtihad


Before the battle of Uhud, the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) recommended his companions to stay in Madinah and set up camp there rather than go out. According to him, Muslims shouldn’t risk a war by engaging their opponents in open combat until they are worn out. But when the sahabah advised him to leave Medina for the war, he agreed.[iv]



The prophet (peace be upon him) intended to set up a tent before the Badr wells but When Al-Hubaab bin Al-Munthir said, “If this is an inspiration from Allah, then sure,” “It’s not an inspiration,” the Prophet (Peace be on him) stated. Al-Hubaab advised him to set up camp after the water so that he would be between the enemy and the water. He consequently accepted his advice.



Muaath ibn Jabl was appointed governor of Yemen by the Prophet. When asked how he would decide in the absence of guidance from the Qur’an and the sunnah, Mu’adh said, “Then, I would try to establish an opinion.”


The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)  then patted him on the breast and said: ‘Praise be to Allah Who has helped the messengers of the Messenger of Allah to find something which pleases the Messenger of Allah’(Tirmidhī 1327).



Sad b. Muadh was appointed to preside over the Bani Qurayzah by the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him). He ruled that they should be executed and their children were taken as hostages.


‘You have rendered a judgment that is from above the seven heavens’, the Messenger of Allah (saw) replied.[v]



The Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded his companions upon his return from the battle of Khandaq.”No one should pray Asr except in Bani Quraizah,” The companions were traveling when the ‘asr (late afternoon) time arrived. Some stated they would wait to offer the ‘Asr prayer until they reached Bani Quraizah, while others prayed it at the appointed time, stating that the other group had not understood the Prophet’s intended meaning. The Prophet (peace be upon him) afterward heard about the situation but did not criticize any of the two parties (Bukhari 4119).



Once the companions prayed after performing Tayammum on the pure ground. After the prayer, they later discovered water. One of them repeated his prayer with ablution, whereas the other did not. Then they went to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH ) and told him about the situation.

He addressed the person who did not repeat, saying, “You followed the Sunnah, and your (first) prayer was sufficient for you’’. He (peace be upon him) said to the person who did the ablution and repeated the prayer “For you, there is a double reward,”( Dawud, 338)



The Prophet’s ijtihad established a precedent for his Sahabah and succeeding Muslims.


The Prophet used to ask some of his Companions to perform ijtihad on specific issues in his presence. Then he would let them know who was right and who was wrong. The companions successfully applied the prophet’s ijtihad-making teachings.[vi]


An illustration of this is seen in the advice Umar gave Abu Musa when he chose him to be a judge:


“Judgement is to be passed based on express Quránic imperatives or established Sunnah practices…” Then he added: “Make sure that you understand clearly every case that is brought to you for which there is no applicable text of the Qurán and the Sunnah. Yours, then, is a role of comparison and analogy, to distinguish similarities to reach a judgment that seems nearest to justice and best in the sight of God”.





It should be emphasized that the Prophet’s Ijtihad at this time is not regarded as a separate source of law[vii]. This is because revelation was required to affirm their legitimacy. In this way, the Prophet’s Ijtihaad served primarily as a means of teaching the Companions the techniques of Ijtihaad, whilst the Sahabaa’s Ijtihaad at this early stage served primarily as a means of practice.




[i] Shaafi, Muhammad ibn Idris, RISALA FI USUL AL-FIQH Treatise on the Foundations, TRANSLATED by Majid Khadduri, 2nd edition. Islamic Texts Society. Page 295

[ii] Shaafi, Muhammad ibn Idris, RISALA FI USUL AL-FIQH Treatise on the Foundations, TRANSLATED by Majid Khadduri, 2nd edition. Islamic Texts Society. Page 299

[iii] Kamali, M. H, Abbreviation of Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Part 2), page 110

[iv] Mubarakpuri, Safi-ur-Rahman, (1996). Ar Raheeq Al-makhtoom, The sealed Nector, Biogrophy of the noble prophet. Maktaba Darussalam.page 248

[v] Philips, Abu Ameenah Bilal, A Commentary on Usool al-Fiqh Made Easy. Page 228

[vi] Alwani, Taha Jabir, Source Methodology in Islamic Jurisprudence Usool al Fiqh al Islami. The international institute of Islamic thought London. page 6

[vii] Philips, Abu Ameenah. (2006). The evolution of Fiqh, Islamic Law and the Mad-habs. IIPH, page 52


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