The Approved and Disapproved Varieties of Ra’y (Personal Opinion) In Islam

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Mohammad Hashim Kamali



While Islam emphasizes conformity to the directives of the Qur’an and
Sunnah, one finds in the same sources a parallel emphasis on rational inquiry,
exercise of personal opinion, and judgment. This essay looks into the evidence
in support of this statement and the extent to which Islam validates the freedom
to formulate and express an opinioq. It also examines the methodology and
criteria that ascertain the validity of personal opinion and distinguishs the
acceptable ra’y from that which is not tolerated. This essay also highlights
how the detailed classification of ra’y by the ‘Ulama reflects a concern for
latitude and tolerance on the one hand, balanced on the other by respect
for recognized authority and values which are deemed essential to Islam.
Freedom to express an opinion is probably the most important aspect
of the freedom of speech, which also comprises such other varieties of speech
as a simple narration of facts, comedy, and fiction. To express an opinion
on a matter implies a level of involvement, commitment, and competence
which may or may not be present in the factual narration of an event. This
may partly explain why the phrase hurriyah al-ra'y), (literally, freedom of
opinion) is used in the Islamic scholastic tradition for freedom of speech,
in preference to hurriyah al-qawl, the more precise equivalent of “freedom
of speech.” That scholars and jurists have consistently used hurriyah al-ra'y
for freedom of speech perhaps signifies that ra'y, or personal opinion, is
the most important aspect of this freedom.
Ra ’y has three main classifications -praiseworthy, blameworthy, and
doubtful personal opinion-which are further subdivided. The main varieties
of praiseworthy opinion to be discussed here are ra'y, that elaborates the Qur‘an
and Sunnah, the opinions of the Companions, ra'y that consists of ijtihad,
and ra’y that is arrived at as a result of consultation. Blameworthy opinion
is also divided into three types, namely bid‘ah (pernicious innovation), hawa
(caprice), and baghy (transgression). And, lastly, ra'y, that is the subject of
doubt (ra'y fi mawdi‘ al-ishtibah) does not lend itself to classification or ...

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