THE JURISTIC PRINCIPLE OF IJTEHAD
Dr. (Mrs.) Zeenat Shaukat Ali
With the resurgence of a keen interest in Islamic theology as well as its socio-political-economic-juristic-structures, a multiplicity of opinion with regard to these structures has emerged among the scholars of the occident as well as the orient. As the development and advancement of these structures is closely connected to the relative dynamics of a transforming and oscillating world, they can neither be grasped nor precipitated without comprehending this process of transformation. However, as a specific analysis of the above mentioned structures are beyond the scope of the present dissertation, I shall confine myself to the juristic perspective alone.
The development of Islamic jurisprudence began during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, but the need for legislation increased after his death with the expansion of the Islamic empire. With the conquests by Muslims and rapid growth of their political power, the development of Islamic jurisprudence was spectacular. Just as a state was founded upon overcoming the bifurcations created by the tribal system, similarly a sophisticated and highly complex legal system was developed within a short span of time, through the process of refining the tribal customs and levelling the imbalance created by such ways of life. ,
The attitude of Prophet Muhammad towards the enhancement of knowledge, and learning in general, was responsible for the development of Islamic jurisprudence. It is not surprising, therefore, that there emerged, from the very outset, a team of Muslim scholars who equalled the jurists of any age. They diligently followed the principle set forth by the Prophet, that the rules of law should suit the exigencies of any situation.
This process was set forth through the juristic principle of ijtehad. The word ijtehad a derivation from the root jahd meaning "exercising oneself to the utmost of one's ability"1 and ijtehad, literally meaning and conveying the same significance, is technically applicable to a lawyer's exerting the faculties of mind to the utmost for the purpose of forming an opinion in case of law, respecting a doubtful and difficult point'''. In Islamic legal terminology it conveys, "to exert with a view to form an independent judgement on a legal question."' With the influx of time, it has, however, come to denote a large complex of juristic conditions and definitions.
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