Reason and Individual Reasoning

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M. A. Muqtedar Khan

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Abstract

The term “ljtihad” itself means to strive hard. But it has been widely used
to imply independent reasoning in the development of Islamic jurisprudence.
The contemporary understanding, shared widely by formally trained
Islamic jurists, defines Ijtihad as an intellectual tool that seeks to articulate
Islamic laws about issues on which the Qur’an and the Sunnah are decidedly
silent. This standard and orthodox conceptualization of Ijtihad, theoretically
limits the role of reason to analogical thinking on mundane matters.
Even though most Islamic thinkers do use reason quite judiciously in
the interpretation of revalation. The point that is often ignored in discussions
of Ijtihad, its meaning, role, scope and functions, is that the concep
tualization of Ijtihad itself is the product of Ijtihad. The development of the
‘usd uZ-fiqh, the principles of jurisprudence, and the systematic articulation
and rank ordering of the sources of Islamic Law - Qur’an, Sunnah, ijma,
Ijtihad, ‘urfand musZu& - are all products of an Ijtihad much wider in
scope than its standard understanding. In a remarkably curious development,
a conceptually wider process of Ijtihad has spawned a rather meek
theory of Ijtihad.
Taking a second look at the discussion between Imam Shafi‘i and his
interlocutor on the Qur’anic sources of Ijtihad,’ one is amazed at how Imam
Shafi’i is able to build a whole theory out of a single verse. We are turning
to Imam Shafi‘i because he has arguably left the most enduring and
unshakeable impact on the structure of Islamic legal thinking and in particular
on the theory of Ijtihad. In his response to the question, “Is Ijtihad permiad
in the Qur’an?” Imam Shafi‘i derives the instrument from only one
verse of the Qur‘an and then supports it with just one other.
Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque: wherever
you are turn your faces in that direction. (2:144) ...

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