Who is Right?
Is the Door of Ijtihad Closed?
Mufti Muhammad Qasim Attari
Along with Islamic finance and contemporary medical issues such as artificial insemination, blood transfusions, and organ transplantation, the scholars of today utilise relative ijtihad to formulate Islamic legal solutions for countless arising matters. Likewise, new methods of trading have become prevalent in the modern era. The world of online business and import-export is evolving rapidly. Hundreds of issues faced by Muslims are being solved through the ijtihad of today’s ulema, demonstrating that the door of ijtihad is open. Qualified Muslims in religious and academic fields exercise ijtihad. Ijtihad is ongoing in the problems the Muslims face, which are related to their necessities.
In opposition to the ijtihad of the observant and qualified ulema, look at the ijtihad of the incompetent and list the topics they choose to pursue. Their fraudulent and uninformed “ijtihad” typically relates to legalising what pleases the carnal self. The ijtihad of the unfit will conclude that music and singing are permissible, veiling is unnecessary, and Islam does not sanction the hijab and niqab.
Their pseudo-ijtihad will encourage women to leave their homes and spend time in the marketplace. Along with household chores, they should double their workload by working outside. Unrelated men and women should be at liberty to intermix and enjoy each other’s company. Their sham ijtihad will argue that usury should be permitted and that a certain Islamic practice should be abandoned because it is subject to criticism from non-Muslims! In short, the quasi-ijtihad of these inept will always cover these topics. Their focus will always be related to base desires and urges of the carnal self, and their conclusions will make things permissible.
Those who seek and engage in such ijtihad abandon their prayers, sit in the company of non-mahrams, and enjoy smoking cigarettes. Suppose you pay attention to their writing and speech. In that case, you will find that they have never opposed the enemies of Islam at an academic level. However, it is part of their daily routine to speak ill of and criticise Islam's true scholars and servants.
In fact, there are two groups of people here. One group aims to eliminate the teachings of Islam altogether so they can openly follow their desires. However, saying such things in a Muslim-dominated society is difficult. The one who claims the teachings of Islam are obsolete will face humiliation and disgrace. Hence, these inept and evil individuals will focus on undoing specific teachings of Islam, labelling them as foreign and “invented by the maulvis,” “based on culture, not Islam,” or “outdated practises.”
These people do not have the courage to directly reject the teachings of Islam, so they resort to anti-clericalism and attacking the ulema, the “maulvis,” as a means of indirectly rejecting Islamic teachings. The reality is they are not rejecting the words of the maulvis, they are denying matters of Islam. If you replace the word “maulvi” with “Islam” when they speak, their intentions will become clear to you. Meaning, “The teachings of Islam are outdated and cannot be acted upon in today’s society.” I mention this because maulvis did not command us to adopt Islamic veiling. Rather, the Quran and Sunnah did. Likewise, the prohibition of music is not an innovation of the scholars. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “Allah Almighty has commanded me to remove the tools of music.” The people who claim music is permissible are the first group of incompetent self-proclaimed mujtahids.
The second group of people are those who know that Muslims derive rulings and laws from the Quran and Hadith. Therefore, they make modern interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. This category of people also has two groups. One group has observed the explicit rulings found in Hadith and understood they cannot be interpreted any other way. However, the Quran gives general rulings without any detail.
For example, the Quran forbids usury but does not supply further details. The Quran mentions obligatory prayers but does not specify their number. This group of people have understood there are many rulings like this, but since the hadith undo their ploy, they reject all hadith, claiming that they are an unreliable source of evidence. Only the Quran is authentic, and since it has everything, it is sufficient. Thus, the rejecters of Hadith decide what is halal and haram based on the desires of their hearts.
The second type of people from this group are more cunning. They saw how the deniers of hadith were rejected by the entire Ummah. Hence, they searched for a way of not being labelled as deniers of Hadith whilst being free from the commands of the Hadith. These people claim they believe in the Quran and Hadith, but they make deceitful statements that are supported by the naive public. Their famous statement is, “The sole source of religion is the being of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم.” After gaining praise for this statement, they began their attack on hadith.
As well as accepting the principles and conditions of all Hadith scholars, they claim it is necessary to accept additional conditions. These conditions were imposed in such a way that 98 out of every 100 Hadith are not taken as evidence. For example, the report of a 100% reliable narrator from a 100% reliable tab’i from a 100% reliable Companion will not be accepted unless it is reported by more than one person. This removes 98% of narrations, which are known as “isolated reports,” (khabr al-wāḥid). The remaining two percent of hadith were manipulated to fit the mould of their desires.
The second group is, in practice, like the first, except it executed its plan with careful thought, as opposed to the hasty approach of the first. However, the people of knowledge are aware and understand that the goal of this group is the same as the rejectors of hadith, and know their ijtihad is clouded by their desires and thirst for freedom. They are careful with the words they use in writing, but their true motives are revealed in speech.
With great audacity, they say Hadith are just stories that the Companions and tabi’een would tell each other to pass time, similar to how people tell each other stories when they socialise today, or when they sit at cafes and recall their day or speak about old stories, مَعاذَ الـلّٰـه. This is what they truly believe with regards to Hadith. This is the misuse of their Ijtihad and the rejection of isolated reports. The audacity of downgrading hadith to the level of stories allows them to disregard the canonical compendiums of Hadith such as Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, and Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.
 Musnad Ahmad: 22,281