Iqbal / Ijtihad / Islamic Movement:
Q. In his 'Khutbat' the practical concept of 'ijtihad' (interpretation of Islamic Law) given by Allama Iqbal, is different from the manner the Islamic Movement assign to Qur'an and Sunnah at present? How would you explain?
No. It is not so. In principle, the door of interpretation (ijtihad) cannot be closed. Because a door that has been kept open by the Qur'an and Sunnah, can be shut by them alone and no one else. If ijtihad was allowed during the first four centuries, then no new revelation was sent in the 5th century (Hijra) to stop it. So, theoretically speaking, there is no difference of opinion at all in this respect. The door of ijtihad was open, it is open and will remain open.
The earlier scholars used to term ijtihad for three occasions. One is ijtihad in a given problem (ijtihad fil-mas'alah) which means, the injunction you want to apply, and in this application, make (extreme) effort to get guidance for the situation that you know, and one which you do not know. This specific process has never been abandoned. The guiding principles which Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Ma'alik, Imam Ibn Taimiyya, Imam Shafai and others, have derived in this regard, need no change by way of improvement. We find this particular meaning in the traditional thinking. In principle, however, the door of ijtihad is open in our view, provided the qualification and capability required for the purpose are there and also that the situation demands new interpretation (ijtihad).
One thing should remain clear that ijtihad is not done without real need. Ijtihad does not mean mowing and clearing a forest; it simply means that to understand the will of Shariah, if the orders are clear and injunctions established, then these will be accepted. But if in a given matter, the orders are not clear or injunctions are absent, then intellect and wisdom will be applied. While doing so, however, certain rules and methods will be followed. Thus by way of 'necessity', we are not differing with Iqbal. We believe and admit that whenever necessity so demands, there should be ijtihad.
The second thing is that there are certain regulations for ijtihad and a certain level of scholastic capability. Ijtihad does not mean that those who know not even the preliminaries of religion, or on the other hand have no understanding of the contemporary problems, be given the right to formulate some wishful view in a given matter. If, for pleading a case in a court of law, you impose the condition, that the person should be a qualified lawyer, who has properly registered himself after studying law, if you set a level of education necessary for a doctor and hakim and consider quacks fistular unlcers for the health and society and similarly, if a degree of knowledge and experience is essential for an engineer; then why it is only religion in which anyone, without knowledge and practical experience, should jump in and exercise ijtihad? Even in the present time, personal righteousness , comprehensive understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah, fair taste of the Arabic language and literature, thorough study of the vast jurisprudential material, and detailed study of the modern economic and political
philosophies, are necessary for ijtihad. A lawyer of the high calibre like Allama Iqbal could not hold an unjust view that overlooks such fundamental pre-requisites.
In his same lecture (khutba) Allama Iqbal says, that where ijtihad is necessary, then equally essential is to exercise full care, accord full regard to tradition and that those doing ijtihad must possess knowledge, capability, self-righteousness and fear of God. According to his interpretation, Allama Muhammad Iqbal did favour the right of the National Assembly to do ijtihad, as in the current age that institution could discharge this responsibility. Allama particularly said so in the light of experience of Turkey of Mustafa Kamal Pasha. In this respect, it should be kept in view that Iqbal's view pertains to the period when from 1924 to 1928, Kamalism had veiled its secularist face. But when the real secular intention of Mustafa Kamal Pasha were clear and he talked of anti-religious secularism, Iqbal felt deeply hurt. He then clearly distanced himself and said:
"It is neither apparent in the deeds of Mustafa, nor in Raza Shah. The oriental soul is still in search of a body"
Then Allama Iqbal said, directly addressing Mustafa Kemal Pasha:
"What is this Secular and Latin stratagem, that entangled you?
The remedy for the weak is one: None is Supreme, but Him (the Almighty)" Seeing the intellectual degeneration and practical deviation of the leadership of Muslim 'millat',
Allama Iqbal lamented: "They could and were to lead their age; but those worn out minds (blindly) follow their age"
The background in which Allama Iqbal suggested that Assembly could be assigned the authority of jihad, and in his same very address when he emphasized the character of the legislative assemblies, he also very clearly stressed that, "the legislative assemblies should incorporate the religious scholars (ulema) as an effective element. But the scholars on their part should also allow open discussion and free expression of views in every matter of law and only then provide guidance. Yet to eliminate the chances of wrong interpretation of Islamic shariah, the only way is that the current (outdated) system of the education of jurisprudence in the Muslim countries is reformed. The fiqh syllabus needs further expansion. It is, therefore, necessary that simultaneously the modern jurisprudence is also studied, taking of course, due care".
Forwarding this view, Allama Iqbal said again in 1932, "I would recommend that an assembly of the religious scholars (ulema) be constituted, in which those Muslim lawyers be included who have studied the modern principle of law, so that in the light of the current situation, the Islamic Law (shariah) is protected and further expanded. This assembly should be properly accepted, so that any Bill concerning Muslim Personal Law may not get enacted before being thoroughly screened by it.
Allama Iqbal never said that the elected assemblies be given unchecked freedom to do and decide whatever they like. He rather said that the assemblies can be authorized (to undertake ijtihad) provided such capable people were there who fully understood shariah. And that is what we also say, that in the present day circumstances, the assembly, the courts and the scholars (ulema) should all join the process of ijtihad. But it is conditional that permission is subject to adequate knowledge. In this respect, we together with Allama Iqbal, hold the same view.
Allama Iqbal does not permit (self-styled) scholars with poor vision, to exercise this right. If these half-cooked poor-thinking scholars, wish to avail the right of ijtihad making reference to Iqbal, then neither Islam and Iqbal, the defender of Islam, give them this right, nor we can permit them to do so. If this just approach is nick-named theocracy by some elements, then we happily accept the allegation. In reality, however, it is not theocracy, because the opportunities are equally available to every God-fearing scholarly person. There is no monopoly of anybody. May they come from the modern or the old fashioned educational institutions, be they garbed in gown and turban or in western suit, should they possess a degree from west or east; as long as they are educated and possess righteousness (taqwa), they have every right to express their views. You will then (be surprised to) see how the collective conscience and wisdom of the Ummah accepts what is suggested by these intellectuals and prudent authorities. Briefly, we present the same view what Iqbal said. We have written on the subject with sufficient details, and to this effect, we have thoroughly gone through his whole poetry and prose sources, to indicate how Iqbal's concept of ijtihad gets constructed.
Allama Iqbal did not permit all out freedom in this respect, nor to blindly follow the West. He would rather satisfy the present day demands, but taking all cares which slam determines. We also strive for and desire the same.
Professor Muhammad Munawar Mirza, referring to the statements of Iqbal in respect of ijtihad, rightly points out that, "Iqbal's concept of ijtihad was evolutionary like the (process of) ijtihad itself. We may, in the light of "Reconstruction" (i.e. khutbat), therefore, keep in view the subsequent letters, statements, addresses and explanations. Iqbal's thinking did not stop at 1929". This was a just clarification about Iqbal and his thinking.
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