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Definition of a mujtahid mutlaq

G F Haddad

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{ وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا }

{ And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids, abstain from it } 59-7

A mujtahid is someone qualified to exercise ijtihad, which literally means striving and technically means juridical endeavor and competence to infer expert legal rulings from foundational proofs within or without a particular school of law.

A mujtahid mutlaq or "absolute mujtahid" is one that attained the rank of the Four Imams Abu Hanifa, Malik, al-Shafiʿi, and Ahmad in knowledge of Arabic, qualification to apply legal reasoning, draw analogies, and infer rulings from the evidence independently of the methodology and findings of the Sunni Schools, through his own linguistic and juridical perspicuity and extensive knowledge of the texts.

Examples: several of the Companions and Tabiʿin, al-Awzaʿi, al-Tabari, Dawud al-Zahiri, and others. An additional qualification sine qua non is agreed-upon, superlative taqwa.

There is no mujtahid mutlaq today nor even a claimant to that title.

Below is a list of the requisites of Ijtihad summarized from the book "PRINCIPLES OF ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE" by M Kamali p374-377 as posted by Br. Abu Usamah on the msa-ec forum in July of last year.

Firstly the mujtahid must be a Muslim and a person of sound mind and intellectual competence.

Requirements of a mujtahid:
*Knowledge of Arabic such than he can understand the Qur'an and Hadith correctly.

*Knowledge of the Qur'an which includes Makki/Madani;

Occasions of Revelation; Incidences of Abrogation;

LEGAL TEXTS (aayaatul ahkaam).

(In short all the requisites of Tafsir)

*Knowledge of the Sunnah specifically the legal texts (ahaadeethal ahkaam)

He must know where to find the Hadiths and be able to distinguish the reliable narrations from the weak.

*Knowledge of the substance of the Furuʿ works and the points on which there is Ijmaʿ.

*Knowledge of Qiyas (Analogical Deduction)

*Knowledge of the Maqasid (objectives) of the Shariʿah

*Knowledge of the General Maxims of Fiqh. eg. Certainty prevails over Doubt.

Another description can be found in Shaykh ʿAli Hasabullah's _Usul al-Tashriʿ al-Islami_ (5th ed. 1976) p. 94-95:

The Mujtahid is he who possesses, together with complete soundness of mind and of Religion, three necessary traits:

1. Knowledge of the Arabic language and the ways in which its signifies meanings. This knowledge does not come except to one who has frequented its various disciplines and read much of the works of its masters of eloquence until he knows how to differentiate between the specific and the general, the literal and the figurative, the explicit and the ambiguous, and other aspects upon knowing which depends his ability to infer rulings.

He does not have to reach the mastery of language of a Khalil or a Sibawayh or al-Asmaʿi and others of the Imams of Arabic. It suffices that he attains the rank necessary to understand texts in the right way.

2. Knowledge of Qur'an and Sunna and whatever is in them of rulings, those that were abrogated and those that were not, together with the linking up of the universal with its particulars, the absolute with its restricted sense, and the general with the specific. He does not, in this, have to have memorized all that is related.

It suffices that he has to be able to gather up all that is connected with the topic he is investigating and to know what the experts of hadith have said concerning sound or weak gradings as well as what they said concerning the narrators with regard to discreditation and commendation.

3. Knowledge of the objectives of the Law and of the living contexts of people as well as the customs they share and whatever harms or benefits them, and the ability to know the minute defects of legal rulings and to compare and contrast their similarities so as to better understand facts and infer the rulings that most precisely correspond to the objectives of the Lawgiver and implement the welfare of those under consideration.

GF Haddad ©

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