Rafed English

How the faqih's outlook on the world affects the legal opinions he issues

Adopted from the book : "The Principle of Ijtihad in Islam" by : "Shahid Murtadha Mutahhari"

The work of a faqih and mujtahid is the deduction and derivation of the precepts [of the shari'a]; but his knowledge and understanding of all things, in other words, his world-view, has a great influence on the decisions he makes. The faqih must have all the information on matters upon which he is going to issue a fatwa. If we imagine a faqih who is always sitting in the corner of his house or his madrasa, and compare him with a faqih who is conversant with the currents of life, both of them refer back to the valid proofs of the shari'a, but each one of them will derive his legal rulings in a particular way, using a particular method.

Let me give an example. Suppose that someone who grew up in Tehran, or in a big town like Tehran, where running water is in plentiful supply and there are reservoirs and tanks and gutters, becomes a faqih and wishes to issue a fatwa concerning the precepts about what is pure and what is impure. When he refers to the hadiths on purity and impurity, such a person will, owing to his own previous experience, make a deduction in a way which will be extremely circumspect and will necessitate the avoidance of many things. But the same person, once he has been to the House of God [the Ka'aba] and seen the conditions of purity and impurity and the lack of water in that place, will find himself changing his outlook regarding the subject of purity and impurity. After such a journey, if he consults the hadiths on this matter, he will see them in a different light.

If someone compares the fatwas of the fuqaha' with each other, and then pays attention to the individual circumstances and each of these scholars' ways of thinking about living problems, he will see how the mental environment of a faqih and the information he has concerning the outside world influence his legal rulings in such a way that the legal rulings of an Arab faqih have an Arabic flavour, those of an Iranian have an Iranian flavour, and those of a country-dweller have a rustic flavour as opposed to the urban feel of those of a city-dweller. This religion is the final religion; it is not exclusive to a particular time or place; it is relevant to all times and places. It is a religion which came to establish order and progress in the life of man, so how could a faqih who is uninformed of the natural arrangement and movement of things and who does not believe in a progression towards perfection in life, deduce the high and truly progressive laws of this upright (hanif) religion in a way which is in perfect accordance with the truth? For this religion came to give order to this natural arrangement, movement and development, and it guarantees its guidance.

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