The Twenty-Seventh Word

TREATISE ON INDEPENDENT JUDGEMENTS

OF THE LAW (Ijtihad)

[Five or six years ago in an Arabic treatise, I wrote concerning a matter to do with independent judgements on points of the Shari’a. Now, at the request of two of my brothers, this Word was written about that matter in order to put in his place someone who had overstepped the mark in his attacks on it.]

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

If they had only referred it to the Prophet, or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have tested it from them direct.1

The door of independent judgements on the law is open, but at the present time there are six ‘Obstacles’ to entering it.

THE FIRST

In winter when the storms are fierce even small holes are blocked up, and it is in no way reasonable to open up new doors. Under the onslaught of a mighty flood, to make openings in the wall in order to repair it leads to being drowned. In just the same way, at this time of denial and the assault of the customs of Europe and the legion of innovations and the destruction of misguidance, to open up new doors in the citadel of Islam in the name of ijtihad, and make openings that will be the means of those bent on destruction scaling the walls and entering it, is a crime against Islam.

THE SECOND

Independent judgements may not be made about the essential teachings of religion, for they are specified and definite. Moreover, they are like basic food and sustenance. Although at this time all effort and endeavour should be expended on their being upheld and raised to life, they are being abandoned and degraded. So to give them up, despite their being among the theoretical matters of Islam and due to being the pure and sincere interpretations of the first generations of Islam are not inadequate for the needs of all times, and to make new interpretations of the law in arbitrary fashion, is an innovation and betrayal of Islam.

THE THIRD

Just as varying goods in the market are sought after according to the season; they are in demand one after the other, so in the exhibition of the world and market of human society and civilization, every century different goods are sought after and are in demand; they are displayed in the market, demand attracts them, gazes are turned on them, minds are drawn by them. Like at the present time the goods of politics and securing the life of this world and the demand of philosophy are sought after, for example. And at the time of the first generations of Islam and in the market of that age, deducing from the Word of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth His wishes and what He wants of us were the most sought-after goods, and obtaining the means to gain through the light of prophethood and the Qur’an eternal happiness in the world of the hereafter, which had been revealed to such a degree it could not be concealed.

At that time, since people’s minds, hearts and spirits were directed with all their strength towards understanding the wishes of the Sustainer of the Heavens and the Earth, the discussions, conversations, events, and circumstances of social life all looked to that. Since they occurred in accordance with those wishes, whoever had high ability, his heart and nature unconsciously received instruction in knowledge of God from everything. He received knowledge from the circumstances, events, and discussions which took place at that time. As though everything became a teacher for such a person, and inculcated in his nature and disposition the preparatory knowledge for independent judgements. That natural instruction illuminated him to such a degree that he was almost capable of interpreting the law without acquiring the knowledge, to be illuminated without fire... Thus, when someone capable who received such natural instruction in this way began to work at interpreting the law, his capacity which had become like a match manifested the mystery of Light upon Light; he became qualified to interpret it (mujtahid) swiftly and in a brief time.

At this time, however, due to the domination of European civilization and the supremacy of natural philosophy and the preponderance of the conditions of worldly life, minds and hearts have become scattered, and endeavour and favour divided. Minds have become strangers to non-material matters. Thus, it is because of this that if someone now was to memorize the Qur’an at the age of four and have the intelligence of a mujtahid like Sufyan ibn Uyayna, who held discussions with religious scholars at an early age, he would need ten times longer than Sufyan to become qualified to interpret the law. If Sufyan acquired the learning in ten years, this man would need one hundred years. Because the period of Sufyan’s natural study began at the age of reason. His disposition and abilities were slowly prepared and illuminated; they took lessons from everything and became like a match. But his counterpart at the present time, since his thought is submerged in philosophy, his mind plunged in politics, and his heart is giddy at the life of this world, his disposition and abilities have grown distant from interpretation of the law. For sure, they have become distant from interpretation of the Shari’a to the degree they have been preoccupied with the modern sciences, and have remained backward in regard to it to the extent he has become learned in the physical sciences. Therefore, he may not say: “I am as intelligent as him. Why can’t I on a level with him?” He does not have the right to say this, and he cannot be on a level with him.

THE FOURTH

Just as within a body is the inclination to expand, for its growth and development. And, since it is from within, the inclination to expand is a being perfected for the body. Whereas if it is an inclination for expansion from outside it, it is to rip the body’s skin; to destroy it; it is not expansion. In the same way, when the inclination to expand and will to interpret the law were present in those within the sphere of Islam through the door of perfect taqwa and the way of conforming to the essential teachings of Islam, like the righteous early generations, that was a perfection and a being perfected. But if such an inclination and desire come from those who give up the essentials, prefer the life of this world to that of the hereafter, and are tainted with materialist philosophy, it is the means of destroying the body of Islam and casting off the chain of the Shari’a from the neck.

THE FIFTH

Three points of view make interpretation of the law earthly at this time, and prevent it being heavenly. Whereas the Shari’a is heavenly, revealed, and since interpretations of it make known its hidden ordinances, they also are heavenly.

The First: The wisdom of an ordinance is one thing, while the reason for it is something different. Wisdom and benefit are the cause of its choice, not the means of its being necessitated and created. And the reason is the means for its existence. For example, the obligatory prayers are shortened while travelling; two rak’ats are performed. The reason for this permission of the Shari’a is the journey, while its wisdom is the hardship. If there is the journey but no hardship, the prayers are still shortened. For there is the reason. But if there is no journey yet hardship, it may not be the reason for shortening the prayers. Thus, contrary to this fact, the view at this time is to set up the benefit and wisdom in place of the reason, and to make its judgement in accordance with that. Such an interpretation is certainly earthly, not heavenly.

The Second: The view at the present time looks primarily to worldly happiness, whereas the view of the Shari’a looks primarily to happiness in the hereafter, and to happiness in this world in second place and indirectly as the means to the hereafter. That is to say, the view of this time is a stranger to the spirit of the Shari’a; in which case, it may not make interpretations in its name.

The Third There is a rule: “Necessity makes permissible what is forbidden.” This rule is not universal. So long as it is not by way of what is forbidden, necessity makes licit what is forbidden. But if something has become a necessity due to abuse and for illicit reasons, this necessity may not be the basis of ordinances permitting it, nor form an excuse. For example, if, through ill choice someone makes himself drunk in an unlawful way, according to scholars of the Shari’a, his actions act against him and he may not be counted as excused. If he divorces his wife, the divorce is in force. And if he commits a crime, he receives the punishment. But if it is not through ill choice, the divorce is not in force, neither does he receive punishment. And, for example, even if an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol to the degree of necessity, he may not say: “It is a necessity, and lawful for me.”

Thus, at this time there are many matters which have reached the degree of necessity and have taken on the form of a general calamity afflicting people, and which, since they have arisen from ill choice, illicit desires, and forbidden acts, may not be the basis of ordinances permitting them and making what is unlawful lawful. However, since those who make interpretations at the present time make those necessities the basis of ordinances of the Shari’a, their interpretations are earthly, the products of their own fancies, tainted by philosophy, and cannot be heavenly or revealed, or in accordance with the Shari’a. However, if exercise of authority concerning the Divine ordinances of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and interference in the worship of His servants is without the Creator’s permission, that exercise of authority and interference are rejected. For example, a number of the heedless and neglectful approve the changing of some of the marks of Islam like the Friday Sermon, and substituting the language of each country for Arabic, for two reasons:

The First: “So that in that way the mass of Muslims will understand current politics.” But current politics has become so intermixed with lies and trickery and evil that it has become like the very whisperings of Satan. However, the pulpit is the seat of delivering Divine revelation, so political rumours do not have the right to rise to that high position.

The Second: “The Friday Sermon is for understanding the admonitions of certain Suras of the Qur’an.” Yes, if the majority of the Islamic nation conformed to the essential teachings and incontestable matters of Islam and the ordinances which are well-known and carried them out, then the reading of the Sermon in the known language and the translation of the Qur’an,(*) if it was possible, might have been desirable, in order to understand the theoretical matters of the Shari’a and its subtle matters and abstruse teachings.

{(*) The Twenty-Fifth Word, about miraculousness, has shown that a true translation of the Qur'an is not possible.}

But the well-known, incontrovertible ordinances of Islam like the five daily prayers, fasting in Ramadan, and zakat, and the unlawfulness of murder, fornication, and wine are neglected. The ordinary people are not in need of learning their necessity or unlawfulness, but through encouragement and warning, to be reminded of those sacred decrees, and, through their sense of belief and feelings for Islam being stirred, to be prompted, encouraged, and reminded to conform to them. However lowly and ignorant they may be, they understand the following brief meaning from the Qur’an and Arabic Sermon: “The preacher and the reciter of the Qur’an are recalling the pillars of belief and Islam, which are known by me and everyone, and teaching us, and reciting them.” A longing for them is born in their hearts. What words are there in the universe which can be compared with the miraculous, instructive reminders, warnings, and encouragement of the All-Wise Qur’an, which comes from the Sublime Throne?

THE SIXTH

Since the great interpreters of the law among the righteous early generations of Islam lived close to the time of the Companions of the Prophet, the age of light and age of truth, they were able to receive a pure light and make pure interpretations. But the interpreters of the law at this time look at the book of reality from behind so many veils and from such a long distance that they can see even its clearest letters only with difficulty.

If you say: The Companions also were human beings and not free of error and differences, while the means of interpretation of the law and the ordinances of the Shari’a is the justice and truthfulness of the Companions, on which the Islamic community have agreed, saying: “All the Companions were just and all spoke the truth.”

The Answer: Yes, the absolute majority of the Companions of the Prophet were lovers of the truth, truthfulness, and justice. For in that age, the ugliness of lies and falsehood was shown in all its ugliness and the beauty of right and truthfulness was shown in all its beauty in such a way that the distance between them stretched from the ground to the Divine Throne. There was a clear separation between them, from the depths of Musaylima the Liar at the lowest of the low to the degree of truthfulness of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) at the highest of the high. Indeed, just as it was lying that brought Musaylima to the lowest of the low, so it was truthfulness and right which raised Muhammad the Trustworthy to the highest of the high.

Thus, the Companions, who held elevated sentiments and worshipped good morals and were illuminated with the light of the conversation of the Sun of Prophethood, did not stretch out their hands to the buffoonery and filth of the lying in Musaylima’s shop, which was so ugly and the cause of descent, and they shrank from unbelief. So too they shrank from lying, the companion of unbelief, and sought as far as they were able –especially in relating the ordinances of the Shari’a and propagating them– truth, truthfulness, and right, which are so fine and the cause of pride and glory, ascent and progress, and were the thing most in demand from the elevated treasury of the Glory of Messengership, and which illuminate man’s social life with their beauteous splendour; the Companions acted in conformity with them and were desirous of them; this is certain, definite, and necessary. Whereas at this time, the distance between truth and lying has become so narrow that they are now quite simply shoulder to shoulder. It is extremely easy to pass from truthfulness to lying. Lying is even preferred to truthfulness due to the propaganda of politics and diplomacy. And so, if the most ugly and the finest things are sold in the same shop for the same price, certainly the jewel of truthfulness and right, which is most elevated and penetrates to the essence of reality, will not be obtained blindly, relying on the word and skill of the shopkeeper.