What is Ijtihad and Mujtahid


The reality of this issue is that Ijtihad is ‘…… the jurist exhausting himself with effort and lengthy research in expelling the doubt so that the rulings in the Revealed Law might be known. This explanation has been given and also explained by the judge, Imam Ala’ud’Din al-Mardawi in his Making Use of Narrated Texts in Learning the Principles‘, which discusses the principles of the Hanbali scholars. I would also mention that the vast majority of the Hanbali schools, as well as the masters of principles, have mentioned that it is not permissible for an age to be devoid of mujtahid, as the cultivation of them is a collective duty.

They sought to prove this by evidences mentioned in context, and they spoke on it at great length. The vast majority of the Ummah agreed upon the conditions that the mujtahid must possess. Thus, it is clear amongst them that whoever exists from them has transgressed from the Collective and the Vast Majority, which has been forbidden, according to the explicit statements of the authentic hadith.
There is no doubt that possessing this rank and meeting these conditions is difficult for anyone, especially in this time of increasing corruption and lessening good. Someone in this time would tend to follow this base desires until many ages have passed without there being someone who combines all the conditions of ijtihad has ceased in its forms, which will make sense if considered carefully. The reason for the passing of these people of ijtihad is that there no longer exists the one who falls within the bounds of revelation and piety, who is free from carnal desires and innovation in word, deed or state of the heart. There is no movement or power except in Allah. The vast majority of the masters of principles fromt he transmitted legal schools have mentioned that the mujtahid must fulfil certain conditions and have certain qualities, those being:

a) a thorough and rigorous knowledge of the Book and the Sunnah in their various ways, meanings, language, commandments and divisions;
b) knowledge of the Sunnah, its texts and transmissions, likewise the different forms and classifications of evidence within it;
c) varying forms of analogy.

This is exactly what has been mentioned by Shaikh Sa’ad ud-Din al-Taftazani in ‘A Point of Clarification when Examining the Foundations of the Revealed Law‘, and Imam Alaudin al-Mardawi in his works and commentaries. When discussing the conditions of a mujtahid, Imam al Mardawi comments: “So the conditions for someone being a mujtahid are that:

1) The one in question would be a jurist, the word jurist carrying the meaning of ‘the scholar of the principles of fiqh….’ which means that he has the strength and ability to derive rulings from their primary sources and is knowledgeable of what is depended upon in principles of jurisprudence, that being the Book, Sunnah, Consensus and analogy from its many forms.

2) He would know how to look for evidence, where it would be found, and the differing principles of the scholars of fiqh. What he must also do is look at the situation that requires the ruling. He would then look at the ruling for that situation and finally how to apply it. He would know when to give precedence to something that would normally be delayed and when to delay something that would normally be given precedence. That type of skill is the instrument of the mujtahid, just as much as the pen is the instrument of the writer.

3) He would be a scholar of the textual evidence of revelation in all its elaborate detail along with the different ranks and levels of that evidence. While having all this, he would possess the ability and erudition to master the textual evidence with full power to bind, loose, arrange, declare what is authentic and also what is inauthentic. That is all the providence and responsibility of implementing fiqh. Hujjat ul-Islam Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, may Allah have mercy upon him, stated: ‘When the jurist speaks and gives the rulings in matters that have hears about, but does not speak with the same authority in matters he has not heard about, then he is really not a jurist’.

4) The individual should be a scholar of the science of that which abrogates and that which is abrogated. He should know about the science of hadith, whether it be authentic, weak, the point of the text or the chain of transmission.

5) He would know grammar and syntax, which is the way of coming to know what is in relation to the Book and Sunnah when one discusses an explicitly worded text, a dominant text, a passage, clarified by another text, an independently clear passage, external/literal, figurative and other divisions that reach some 80 subcategories.

6) The person should know the intent of phrases and statements that are used, and how sentences are structured grammatically. The way things are understood or how they should be understood are crucial, as some rulings are connected to how certain phrases and statements are applied. By knowing this, he is firmly acquainted with grammatical pauses and punctuation. An example would be the statement of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, “Follow these two after me: Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.’ The way the Shi’a relate it renders the punctuation, ‘Along with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, you should follow those after me’. The way to know the correct understanding would be comprehend the grammar and construction of the sentence. Situtations like this often arise, so much so that in the areas of divorce and affirming evidence, and similar subjects, the jurists make a difference between the one who knows Arabic and the one who does not.

7) He knows what is agreed upon and what is differed in, and the areas of consensus, so that he does not contradict or oppose it by mistake.

8) He would also know the reasons why ayat were revealed in the Qur’an and why the statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were made, so he should know the intent and context of what was said. In this way he would also have access to this knowledge in relation to what is specific and what is general.

9) More importantly, he knows Allah and His attributes, His being free from resembling His Creation and other important knowledge. He knows that which is permissible to believe about Him, Exalted be He, and that which is impermissible to believe about Him. He would bear witness and testify of the Messenger, peace be upon him, what Revealed Law he came with that has been given to us and emphasised by definite evidence. He believes in the rest of the messengers, (peace be upon them), and all other revelations previous to those mentioned, and what is authentically expounded int he books of the rightly guided Orthodox creed.”


The scholars of the Shafi’e School have discussed these same conditions as have the scholars of the Maliki School in their books of principles and their commentaries as written by Imam Ibn Hajib,(R). Once you look at all that has been said and understand it carefully, it becomes clear to you that ijtihad has ceased to be fashionable today. Whatever statements there are saying that it has not ceased are reffering to the communal duty or training of non-absolute mujtahids, or the ability of someone to be able to train to make ijtihad.

The difference between these two expressions is in wording only, and we have already explained this issue. Whosoever should claim to do ijtihad in this time will and should be asked about the conditions mentioned in the previous quote and whether that person possesses them in himself. This would have to be done by training and the evidence established by his methods being based on the four principles of the Book, the Sunnah, the Consensus and Analogy, and his proper use of them without contradiction. If it is the case that he has those attributes, he will be left alone to teach, and at will be well.

There is no doubt that it is a gross lie in this time for someone to claim to have the quality of ijtihad as has been claimed by a tiny cult (Wahabism) that emerged out of Najd, which recently linked itself with the Hanbali School. This tiny cult originates from the same place where the horn of Shaitan would emerge, as has been authentically narrated. These very people do not in reality make use of consensus and analogy as two principles, indeed, they limit themselves to the Book and Sunnah while they neither understand it in its forms defined previously, nor do any of them know the basic fundamental aspects of knowledge.
This is especially the case when looking at how this group understands the words as intended in the texts, or their foundational principles. They teach their children these false claims from a young age and groom them to argue and debate with the texts using the outward form of the texts while abandoning whatever else is relevant. The reason they do this is because of their ignorance and their arrogance. They claim advanced juridicial reasoning and use Ibn Taymiyyah alone as an advocate for themselves. The very Imam mentioned just a moment ago exited from the Hanbali School in number of areas in which he is isolated, and that would be tantamount to claiming advanced juridical reasoning. The only problem is he never systematised these points as a separate legal school, as the four legal schools were written down, established and systematically discussed.

These are issues that he loved to debate and no one ever gave rulings by his statements. Examples would include:

a) holding three divorces in one sitting to be one, even though the phraseology is specifically three, one thousand or more;

b) declaring it impremissible to travel to anywhere besides the three masjids;

c) intercession with the prophets and pious people.
There are other issues besides these that are mentioned elsewhere. These issues of divergence are neither from the Hanbali School, nor is there a narration from Imam Ahmad to support them, nor is there a text from the jurists of the Hanbali School. Whoever claims that this is from the Hanbali School has no statement within the school to support them. This is the case for claims made by the cult we are presently discussing. They speak out of ignorance, lack of insight and blindness. May Allah the Exalted give us and them the success to be followers of the way of the Chosen One, peace and blessings be upon him, who was a caller to clear guidance, and may Allah give the success to follow those who follow him. Amin.

(Taken from: The Divine Texts (Answering M. Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Movement) by Imam Mustafa Ibn Ahmad ash-Shatti)