A council of fuqaha'
Adopted from the book : "The Principle of Ijtihad in Islam" by : "Shahid Murtadha Mutahhari"
There is another recommendation which I wish to make, and the more fully I explain what I have in mind the better it will be. At the present time, when branches of specialization exist in every science, resulting in breathtaking advances in these sciences, there is another practice which, in its turn, has acted as a contributing factor, and this is practical and theoretical cooperation between first rank scientists and specialists in all the branches of science. Now, solitary theorising or experiment no longer has any value, nothing is to be achieved from going one's own way. In every branch, scholars and scientists are constantly engaged in exchanging ideas; they put the results of their thinking at the disposal of other specialists, and the scientists of one continent cooperate with those of another. The result of this theoretical and experimental cooperation between first rank scientists is that if a useful and valid theory is put forward, it can be published and establish itself more quickly, whereas, if a theory is weak, its failing can be discovered and it can be eliminated sooner, so that in the future the pupils of the authorities who developed these theories will be saved from these errors.
Unfortunately, we still have not created any division of labour or specialization among ourselves, no practical or theoretical cooperation, and it is clear that as long as this is delayed, progress and the solution of difficulties cannot be achieved. There is no need for a proof of the need for scientific cooperation and the exchange of ideas since it is so self-evident, but so that it may not be doubted, I shall show, by quotations from the Qur'an and "Nahj al-Balagha ", that this recommendation, this progressive order, is to be found within Islam itself. In the Qur'an, in the sura called al-Shura (Counsel), it is said : And those who answer their Lord, and perform the prayer, their affair being counsel between them, and expend of that We have provided them with. (42:38)
This verse describes the true believers and followers of Islam in this way: they reply to the call of God, they establish prayer, they do their work in consultation with each other, and they dispose of that which God has bestowed on them. So, in the view of Islam, consultation and the exchange of ideas is one of the basic principles of life for people of faith, the true followers of Islam.
In "Nahj al-Balaqha" it is said : Know that a group of the slaves of Allah with whom knowledge of Allah was entrusted keep His secret; they cause His springs to flow (i.e., they open the springs of knowledge for the people), they have friendly relations with one another and feelings of affection, they meet each other with warmth and cheerfulness and love, they quench each other's thirst from the cup of their acquired knowledge, and they emerge with their thirsts quenched. If scientific consultation were to come into existence in the science of fiqh, and the principle of the exchange of ideas were to be thoroughly practiced, many of the differences between legal opinions would be resolved, quite apart from the advances that would be made in the science as such. There is no alternative: if we maintain that our fiqh is also one of the world's genuine sciences, we must make use of the methods used in the other sciences. If we do not, the result will be that it will no longer be considered a science.
I have other useful and urgent recommendations, but my time is running out and I cannot mention them now, for it would take almost another three quarters of an hour, and I know that some people have a long way to go to reach their homes. The verse of the Qur'an which I quoted at the beginning was : It is not for the believers to go forth all together; but why should not a party of every section of them go forth, to become learned (yatafaqqahu) in the religion, and to warn their people when they return to them, that they may beware. (19:122)
This verse explicitly instructs that a group of the Muslims should study (tafaqquh) their religion and let others benefit from what they have studied. Tafaqquh is from the root f-q-h. The meaning of fiqh is not mere understanding: rather, it is deep understanding of, and perfect insight into, the truth of something. In his "Mufradat", Raghib46, says : Fiqh is the reaching for hidden knowledge by means of manifest knowledge. Taffaquh is defined as : Going after something and becoming expert in it. This verse is addressed to Muslims whose understanding of Islam is not superficial, telling them to think deeply and discover the meaning and the spirit of the rules of Islam. This verse is the evidence for ijtihad and the study of fiqh, and it is also the evidence for our recommendations. Just as this verse lays the foundation for ijtihad and tafaqquh in Islam, so also it advocates that these two things should be more widely practiced. More attention should be paid to what is required, the 'ulama' should start to sit in fiqh counsels, the individualistic approach should be discouraged, and branches of specialization should be created, so that our fiqh may continue on its path of perfection.
46. "Al-Mufradat fi Gharib al-Qur'an", (ed. M. S. al-Kilani, Cairo, 1961), by Abu l-Qasim al-Husayn b. Muhammad b. al-Mafdal al-Isfahani (d. 502/1108-9), a famous lexicon of obscure meanings in the Qur'an.
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