Ijtihad A professor at Qom Seminary, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani is a member of the humanity texts evaluation council of Ministry of Sciences, director of jurisprudence and laws department of the humanity texts evaluation council of the said Ministry and a member of the scholarly council of philosophy of science of Tehran Industrial Sharif University. The following discussion is the outcome of an interview made with him by the office of scientific and international cooperation on the subject matter of ijtihad.

How do you define a shortcut to ijtihad? How can young seminary students attend the stage of ijtihad? What is your experience in this regard?

Ijtihad is a habit and skill created in an able person by various factors. It is a skill and philosophically talking, it is a habit that depends on various factors including having an essential disposition to develop such skills. Another factor is the degree one is engaged with scholarly discussions. To engage in scholarly matters and to exercise ijtihad are important from various points of views. The manner one attends classes and the way one studies and discusses juristic issues are all crucial in the formation of this habit. The professors and directors one chooses are also effective in accelerating the pace of reaching ijtihad. The more your professors and directors are knowledgeable and the more you try (studying, discussing and referring to reliable sources) the sooner you will reach your destination.

Ijtihad is a scholarly habit and quality that emerges in a human being. Once you get the habit of ijtihad, you can answer to daily questions through referring to main religious sources while relying on popular methodologies.  Ijtihad is of various degrees and stages. When a person begins studying religious sciences he develops the skill of ijtihad after passing few educational stages.

In the beginning he must however suffice to deducing simple matters that have fewer theoretical bases. Having attained the basics of ijtihad, one can face more complicated issues whose treatment is linked to dealing with other more fundamental issues. At last, he will be able to tackle modern issues, which are not thus far discussed. Thus ijtihad is of various degrees and stages. Being at the primary stage, one can religiously handle only simple issues with fewer complicated theoretical principles. Having reached an advanced stage, one can treat new issues that cannot be traced back in the past literature.

People are different in approaching questions they are supposed to answer. Some are only capable of deducing Islamic rules of matters related to praying or fasting whereas others are capable of approaching a wider spectrum of problems related to worship, trade, judgment etc. This is technically called partial ijtihad and the one who exercises partial ijtihad dealing with specific juristic matters is called mujtajazzi or partial mujtahid. Conversely, he who is capable of deducing on all juristic matters is called a mujtahid mutlaq or complete jurist. Thus ijtihad is divided into many divisions on the basis of simplicity and complexity of matters handled as well as on the basis of the quantity of matters in question. There is a huge gap between those who are capable of deducing on limited simple matters with fewer theoretical discussions and those who are capable of deducing on all matters including complicated issues as well as unprecedented questions. This gap can be bridged through the scientific endeavors one makes during his lifetime.

The shortest way to ijtihad is to get engaged in juristic matters, exercise deducing, learn about new methods of deduction and make use of better teachers. If a person makes use of better teachers and engages his mind in tackling with juristic issues he will quickly reach a desirable conclusion. Those who have reached the stage of ijtihad during their youth have had drills and excellent teachers. No doubt, talents and dispositions have also a say in this regard. Given the current necessary process of ijtihad, a person who attains the stage of ijtihad is gradually introduced to scholarly circles. His studies, his interaction with his teachers, the questions he asks his teachers in his classes, his discussion with his classmates and his teachings and writings show whether or not he is a mujtahid. They also determine the stage of his ijtihad once it is proved that he is a mujtahid. One important factor that contributes to his introduction is his works, which include his written works (books and articles), audio and video outputs as well as his students. When a class produces many professors, judges, religious scholars and Friday prayer-leaders, it shows that the person who holds such a class is scientifically efficient and strong. These are the ways through which we can introduce a qualified jurist to scholarly circles as well as to general public. The stimulus one creates in young students is also a crucial factor in introducing one to others. When young students find out that you have become a mujtahid as a young person after making lots of endeavors and making use of prominent scholars they get encouraged to follow the suit and pursue their studies more seriously.

Don’t you think that given the present seminary facilities, the changes that have occurred in seminaries and the need that we feel today, the number of our young jurists is few and far between?

Seminaries continuously produce jurists (mujtahids), though the number of jurists produced slightly varies from time to time. Given the problems that exist on the way to ijtihad, only a few percentages of seminary students reach the level of ijtihad. It is not true to say that the production of jurists is something that is exclusively related to the past. Seminary education (including teaching and being taught) has always produced figures of various academic levels based on varied talents and dispositions. That is the reason why there are jurists of different stages and levels ranging from the primary stage of ijtihad that consists of deducing simple problems with few theoretical principles in certain areas to complicated stage of ijtihad consisting of complex matters. However the number of those who reach the stage of ijtihad at every stage is not great. Anyhow the total number of jurists including all stages of ijtiahd is something that is appreciable and noteworthy. The number of those students who manage to reach the climax of ijtihad is however little. Perhaps ten out of one thousand reach the higher stages of ijtiahd and those who attain ijtihad on the whole constitute twenty percents of the all the seminary students. Since it is highly difficult to reach ijtihad in all areas therefore the number of those who attains absolute ijtihad is naturally very little.

If we promote seminary education, motivate students and minimize education problems (including those related to methodologies, textbooks and teachers) we will see seminaries flourish astonishingly. Above all what are important are your personal motifs and inclinations. As long as the students themselves do not show interests we will not see any progress even though we provide the best facilities (including methodologies, textbooks and teachers). If a student shows interest and is well motivated he will make progress even though he does not have access to advanced facilities and prominent teachers. There were great scholars who being interested in juristic deductions, reached ijtihad despite leading a hard life and having no facilities or prominent teachers.

Attempts have to be made to bring about positive changes in educational methodologies, textbooks and teachers, but above all students have to be motivated to aptly use the present facilities [in order to reach the lofty stage of ijtihad]. Compared to the facilities available to previous scholars, the facilities that are at our disposal are very ideal. The present seminary facilities are not comparable to those existing at the time of Sheikh Ansari, Sahib Jawahir and Sheikh Tusi. Their economic condition was not good as the political order of their time was not good either. After being attacked by cruel rulers, Sheikh Tusi was forced to leave Baghdad for Najaf. The poverty with which Sheikh Ansari was faced is beyond the understanding of modern seminary students. Our contemporary seminary students are not faced with problems Sahib Jawahir was faced with. Today few, if at all, are like Sheikh Ansari, Sahib Jawahir and Sheikh Tusi. The enthusiasm with which Sheikh Tusi, Sheikh Ansari and Sheikh Ansari were following their studies does no longer exist among modern seminary students. Despite lack of facilities, they were not ready to give up their studies even for a moment. If such an enthusiasm emerges among modern students we will see an increase on the number of young jurists. Presently we are faced with lack of motivation among seminary as well as university students. Compared to the past, they have ideal facilities, but due to lack of interest and motivation they do not use these facilities as expected.

Keywords: Hadavi/ jurisprudence/ ijtihad/ problems/ methodology/ education/ facilities/


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