The progress made in fiqh during the last thousand years
Adopted from the book : "The Principle of Ijtihad in Islam" by : "Shahid Murtadha Mutahhari"
There was a time when fiqh was a very limited science. When we refer back to the texts before the time of the Shaykh al-Tusi, we see how restricted it was. By writing his "al-Mabsut", al-Tusi took fiqh into new realms and enlarged its scope, and in the course of time, as a result of the efforts of the 'ulama' and fuqaha, and because of the creation of new problems and the initiation of new investigations to answer them, fiqh progressed even further, to the point where, about a hundred years ago, when the author of the "Jawahir" wrote his complete compendium of fiqh, he was only just able to finish it. It is said that he started his task when he was about twenty years old, and that, thanks to his extraordinary genius, continual work and a long life, he was able to write the last pages right at the very end of his life. The "Jawahir" was printed in six very bulky [lithographed] volumes, while the whole of al-Tusi's "al-Mabsut", which was in his time the example of a comprehensive work on fiqh, is probably less than half of one of these six volumes. After the author of the "Jawahir" died, the foundations of a new fiqh were laid by the Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari, and the epitome of this new fiqh was that great man's "al-Makasib" and "al-Tahara".45 Since his time, no-one could even conceive of teaching a complete cycle of fiqh with such thorough explanation and research.
At the present time, after this advance in the development of our fiqh, which occurred in the same way as similar advances in other sciences all over the world, and which has been the result of the efforts of the 'ulama' and fuqaha' of the past, the scholars of today will find themselves faced with the choice of either curbing any further progress in fiqh or putting this sensible and progressive recommendation into practice and creating branches of specialization, as a result of which people will come to discriminate in their taqlid, in the same way as they discriminate in referring to a doctor.
45. By the Shaykh al-Ansari.
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