Articles

IJTIHAD OF THE PROPHET’S COMPANIONS DURING HIS LIFETIME

Feb 20

Written by: Dr. Hassan Uddin Hashmi
2/20/2014 3:30 AM  RssIcon

Among the Prophet Muhammad's Companions, there was a sizable number of such great intelligent persons who were competent to solve problems through their ijtihad.l They were capable of offering personal opinions and solving the current issues by their God-given juristic insight. A good number of them such as Abu Bakr, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, , Amr ibn al-' As, Sa'd ibnMu'adh, and Sa'd ibn 'Ubbadah were well known for their wisdom, intelligence and competence in personal reasoning even during the pre- Islamic period. When they entered the fold of Islam, their spiritual purity, and intellectual enlightenment grew further. Their conversion to Islam did not impede their reasoning skills or intellectual qualities. Instead, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) commanded his followers through the revelation of Allah to utilize their thinking power and reasoning capacity. The Holy Qur'ansays, "Contemplate, O you who are endowed with insight" (59:2). There is severe condemnation against those who don't utilize their faculty of reason, the Qur'an says, "They have hearts with which they do no understand, and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do no hear. Those persons are like animals, even more worse" (7:179).

 

Nevertheless, the Companions had a unique privilege and opportunity to confer with the Holy Prophet. Sometimes, when they were not clear about an issue they asked him. At other times, they exercised their personal reasoning. The Prophet was the cradle of Allah's revelation which was the highest authority and most superior source of knowledge. In the second place of authority was the Prophet's own personal opinion. If there was any conflict between the Prophet's ijtihad and divine revelation, the latter superseded the former as in the case of Khawlah bint Tha'labah of the Khazraj tribe. Her husband Aws ibn Samit of the Awstribe divorced her by an old Arabian custom known as "zihar", whereby a husband could divorce his wife by simply declaring "You are to me as my mother's back." In old Arabian society as well as in the early days of Islam, this mode of divorce was considered fmal and so severe that it prevented the wife from ever returning to her husband and there was no possibility of remarriage between them. Khawlah pleaded this case before the Prophet who had not yet received any new divine commandment about this kind of divorce. He told Khawlah that the divorce was effective and complete, and she was forbidden from returning to her husband. After a while the divine revelation came down which stated that the zihar was no longer a divorce {Qur'an 58:1-4). The Prophet, on receiving this revelation, told Khawlah that she was not divorced, and her marriage bond was still safe and sound}2

 

The Companions' ijtihad was in the third place as an authority. It came after the Prophet's ijtihad. In the event of conflicting opinions, the latter superseded the earlier as in the case of Ibn al-Latbiyyah who was appointed by the Prophet as a tax collector in Banu Sulaym. When he came back to Medina, he had many valuable goods with him. He handed them to the Prophet but kept a portion which he described as a gift presented to him by Banu Sulaym. In his consideration that portion was his property because the people of that region offered it to him out of their free will as a gift, not as a part of tax. The Prophet did not agree with his reasoning, opining that he was offered that gift due to his official position. Had it not been for his position, no one would have given him anything. Therefore, that portion was also state's property, not the collector's.3 Based upon this reasoning,Ibn al-Latbiyyah changed his opinion and presented the goods to the Prophet.4

 

Sometimes, the Prophet accepted his Companions' ijtihad and changed his personal opinion as it happened on the occasion of Badr. When the Prophet decided to camp at a certain place, one of his Companions, Hubab ibn al-Mundhir al-Khazraji, came to him and asked whether stopping at that location was commandment of Allah, or it was a matter of opinion and strategy of war. When he replied that it was merely a matter of opinion and strategy of war, the Companion said, then that was not the place to halt, and suggested another place. The Prophet agreed with him and carried it out.5

 

In fact, the ijtihad of the Prophet's Companions during his lifetimes is a historical reality which should not be disputed among scholars. But in the literature of Islamic jurisprudence, we find major disputes on this issue. The diverse opinions of the Muslim scholars in this regard can be summarized as follows:

a.                              Impermissibility of the Companions' ijtihad during the Prophet's lifetime, in both his absence as well as his presence.

b.                              Permissibility of their ijtihad only in his absence, and not in his presence unless he gave permission.

c.                              Permissibility of their ijtihad in his presence as well as in his absence, whether he had given permission in advance or not.

 

The first group said, it was not permissible for any of the Prophet's Companions to exercise their ijtihad during his lifetime whether he was present or absent.6 This group was a very minor group. We do not know names of the scholars who belonged to this group. Their names have not been disclosed in the books because they were probably considered unworthy of being mentioned. In any case, they argued that the Prophet's Companions were able to seek indubitable knowledge through referring their problems to the Prophet who was the cradle of divine revelation and source of correct and certain knowledge. It is quite logical that when somebody has access to gain errorless and perfect knowledge, he should not exercise his personal reasoning, which could possibly be inaccurate.7

 

The argumentation of this group is delusional. The Companions of the Prophet were not confmed to Medina. They were spread in different parts of Arabian Peninsula. Even those who were inhabitants of Medina were not present at home all the time. On various occasions, many of them were sent by the Prophet for diverse duties to different areas of the country such as Yemen,Bahrain, Najd, Tihamah, and Yamamah, etc. In that era, which did not have rapid means of communications, it was not practical or even possible for them to contact the Prophet from that distance about every single matter. If they tried to do so, they would have delayed the settlement of disputes and postponed the solution of problems. This could cause unrest in society, and the failure of new administration, which would result in the destruction of the Muslim State. Therefore, it was necessary for them to practice their ijtihad in order to solve their problems expeditiously. As for those Companions who were present at Medina, although they had opportunities to ask the Prophet about every single issue, they did not do so because this kind of practice would neither be proper for them nor convenient for the Prophet. Therefore, they were instructed by the divine revelation to exercise their own personal reasoning (Qur'an 59:2) and not to ask the Prophet so many questions (Qur'an 5:101). They only turned to the Prophet for the solution of their problems when they could not find the answer through their personal reasoning or they were not confident and satisfied about their ijtihad. Otherwise, they did not need to bother the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

 

One thing is clear, that if any divine revelation or commandment of the Prophet about an issue already existed, then there was no need for the Companions' ijtihad. But if these sources were silent, then there was room for personal reasoning. The idea that the Companions of the Prophet, who were thousands in number, were not allowed to exercise their personal reasoning, and were bound to ask the Prophet about every single issue, is neither proper nor practical because it would have greatly distracted the Prophet. It would have occupied most of his time, forcing him to discontinue his more important activities of propagating Islam. His Companions knew this fact and therefore they did not ask him too many questions.8 Furthermore, it would be against the spirit of Islam if they stopped using their intellect and depended merely on questioning the Prophet about every issue. This kind of attitude has been considered by the divine revelation as deafness and blindness. The Qur'an says, "Those who, whenever they are reminded of their Lord's revelations, do not fall at them deaf and blind." (Qur'an 25:73)

 

The second argument of this group is that the Companions went to the Prophet whenever they encountered any issue. Ifijtihad was permissible for them, then why did they not practice it instead of going to the Prophet? 9

 

This argument is based on a false supposition. It is not true that the Companions did not exercise their ijtihad and asked for the Prophet's answer about every issue. However, they requested for the Prophet's answer only when they could not solve an issue through their own reasoning, or were not satisfied by their ijtihad, or wanted more satisfaction. This doesn't mean that they were forbidden from conducting their ijtihad.

 

The second group (b) of Muslim scholars are of the opinion that ijtihad was only permissible for those Companions who were absent from the Prophet. As for those who were present with him, it was not lawful for them to exercise it except with his previous permission. This is the opinion of Abu' Abdullah al-Hanbali, Ibn ' Aqeel and Abu al-Khattab. They say the Companions who were far from the prophet were in need of exercising their personal opinion because they were unable to ask the Prophet. If they delayed every decision and postponed it until they were to receive the Prophet's answer, it would create many problems for people. Those Companions who were present with him did not have this kind of excuse. Therefore, the exercising of ijtihad was not lawful for them. 10 The well-known Mu'tazili scholars such as Qadi' Abdul Jabbar, Abu' All and Abu al-Husayn al-Basri were of the same opinion.11 Hafizuddin al-Nasafi said, "The permissibility of ijtihad for the Prophet's Companions who were absent from him, is the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars."12 But a minority did not consider this ijtihad lawful either.13 However, al-Baydawi did not consider this opinion to be noteworthy and claimed the unanimity of Muslim scholars about the permissibility ofijtihad for those Companions who were absent from the Prophet.14

 

The third group ( c ) of Muslim scholars said that it was permissible for the Companions to exercise their ijtihad in the absence of the Prophet as well as ill his presence, whether there was any prior permission from him or not. The majority of Muslim scholars belong to this group.15 Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, al-Ghazali, Fakhr ud-Din al-Razi, al- Baydawi and al- Amidiwere all in favor of this point of view. 16

 

This group argued that it was not against logic and reason if any of the Companions should have solved his problems either by asking the Prophet or through utilizing his own ijtihad. Sometimes, it might be even better for them to exercise their ijtihadrather than waiting for the Prophet's answer because the postponement of judgments on some occasions could worsen problems. On the other hand, there is no proof that it was impossible for them to utilize their intellect and reasoning. Therefore, permissibility of ijtihad for them during the Prophet's lifetime was a logical and ratiocinative fact.17

 

There is clear evidence in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet in favor of this point of view. The Qur'an says, "Contemplate, O you who are endowed with insight" (59:2). There is no specification of a particular situation in this verse; it is a general commandment, whether they were absent or present, and permitted in advance to exercise their ijtihad or not. The Holy Prophet himself also encouraged his Companions to practice their ijtihad. He said, " Anyone who exercises his personal reasoning and achieves the right, he will get two times the reward. However, if any mistake occurs in his ijtihad, even then he will get one time the reward."18

 

One day the Prophet asked his companion, , Arnr ibn al- , As, to make a judgment about a dispute. He said, "How can I exercise my ijtihad while you are present?" The Prophet said, "Yes (do it), if you achieve the right then will receive two times the reward. Even if you make a mistake in your ijtihad, you will still receive one time the reward."19

 

Once the Prophet asked 'Uqbah ibn ' Amir al-Juhani and , Amr ibn al-' As to make judgment between two opposing parties and said, "If you are right in your judgment, you will receive reward of ten good deeds and if you are mistaken, you will have reward of one good deed."20

'U qbah ibn ' Amir stated that one day two opposing parties came to the Prophet for settlement of their dispute. He said to me, "0 'Uqbah, get up and make judgment between them." I said, "May my father and mother be sacrificed for you 0 Messenger of Allah, you are more suitable for this." He said, " Anyway, you should make the judgment between them." I said, "On what basis?" He replied, "Exercise your reasoning. If you achieve the right, you will have reward of ten good deeds. If you are mistaken in your judgment, you will have reward of one good deed."21

 

The narrative of Mu'adh ibn Jabal is very famous jn this regard. When the Prophet appointed him as a governor of Yemenhe asked him, "Whenever any case for settlement comes to you, how would you make your judgment?" He replied, " According to commandment of Allah." He said, " And if you don't fmd it in the book of Allah?" He answered, " According to the tradition of the Messenger of Allah." He said, "If you don't find it in the Prophet's tradition and nor in the book of Allah?" He replied, "I will exercise my ijtihad and will spare no effort." The Prophet patted his chest and said, "Praise be to Allah who guided the messenger of Allah's apostle to a path, which the Prophet of Allah is pleased with. "22

 

This group who believed that according to logic and reason it was permissible for the Companions to exercise their ijtihadduring the Prophet's lifetime, split into four branches with regard to the actual practice and existence of this ijtihad.

 

The first branch asserted that although it was logically permissible for the Companions to exercise their ijtihad in presence of the Prophet as well as in his absence, theyactually did not practice it. AI-Asnawi ascribed this viewpoint to Abu , All al-Jubba'iand his son Abu Hashim.23 This ascription does not seem to be correct because both the scholars clearly stated that it was not permissible for the Companions to practice their ijtihad in the Prophet's presence.24 However, this branch argued that if this ijtihadwas actually practiced, it would be widely known to scholars oflater times. That it was not known indicates that it did not occur.25

 

This argument is very weak. Yes, this ijtihad did not get wide celebrity because of its infrequency, but scarcity cannot prove nonexistence. The exercise of personal reasoning during that period was not very common practice of Companions. However, they exercised their ijtihad certainly, though not frequently. This infrequency is the reason that this ijtihad was not widely known.

 

The second branch preferred silence about this matter. They were not satisfied with the arguments of either side. Once Abu' All ai-Jubba'i was of this viewpoint.26 No report has been found whether he picked this view before the above stated opinion or after that.

 

The third branch acknowledged existence of this ijtihad but only from those Companions who were absent from the Prophet. As for those who were present with him, this branch is silent about them. Qadi' Abdul Jabbar supported this idea.27 AI-Baydawi and al-Ghazali favored this opinion also.28

 

The fourth branch proclaimed the existence of the Companions' ijtihad in the Prophet's absence as well as in his presence.29 The majority of Muslim scholars belong to this branch. There are many reliable pieces of evidence in favor of this viewpoint. Those references can be broadly divided into two categories: first, those which concern the Companions' ijtihad in the Prophet's presence, and second, those which concern their ijtihad in his absence.

 

IJTIHAD IN THE PROPHET'S PRESENCE

 

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged his Companions to seek knowledge, utilize their reasoning ability, and benefit mankind. It was due to his encouragement that on several occasions, they exercised their ijtihad and practiced their personal reasoning in presence of the Prophet. Sometimes he himself asked them for their opinion and reasoning, while at the other times they expressed it without his demand.

 

1.                              In the 5th year of Hijra, the Prophet received news that a large arnly of Quraysh was about to march to attack Medina. He summoned his Companions for consultation. Several suggestions were expressed as to what would be the best plan for defense.Salman al-Farisi said: "0 Messenger of Allah! In Persia, when we feared an attack ( of horsemen), we would surround ourselves with a trench. Let us dig a trench around us now." The Prophet accepted Salman's suggestions and ordered the digging of a trench to defend the city of Medina.30

 

2.                              During the battle of the Trench ten thousand troops of Quraysh, Banu Ghatafan, and their allies besieged Medina.31 This siege was prolonged and the strain on the Muslims increased. Food was beginning to run short and many of the weak in faith, unnerved by hunger, cold, and lack of sleep were losing strength to resist. The Prophet tried to weaken the power of the enemy by splitting them. One night, he sent word to 'Uyaynah ibn Hisn, the chief of Banu Ghatafan, offering him one third of the date harvest ofMedina if he would quit the Quraysh and turn back along with his men. But 'Uyaynah demanded half of the dates of Medina. The Prophet sent for Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, the chief of Banu Aws, and Sa'd ibn 'Ubbadah, the chief of Banu Khazraj. He said, "Uyaynah has asked me half of your dates for leaving Quraysh along with his men and deserting the allied forces, while I offered him one third. However, he refused to accept my offer and insisted on one half. What is your opinion?" They replied, "0 Messenger of Allah if you have been commanded by Allah about something, then do it." The Prophet replied: "If I were commanded by Allah I would not consult you. It is just my personal opinion which I am presenting to you for discussion." They said: "Then our opinion is not to give them but sword." The Prophet agreed with them and accepted their opinion.32

 

3.                              After the battle of the Trench, the Prophet (along with his Companions) went to the Banu Qurayzah who had broken their agreement with the Prophet and sided with the Meccan forces against the Muslims. This tribe was an ally of the Banu Aws in the pre-Islamic period. The men of Aws requested the Prophet to show the same leniency toward their former allies as he had shown toward Banu Qaynuqa' who had been the allies ofBanu Khazraj. He said, "Would you be satisfied if one of you pronounces judgment upon them?" Theyagreed. He entrusted it to their chief Sa'd ibn Mu'adh who was injured during the battle of Trench and whose wounds had not yet healed. The Prophet had placed him in the tent of Rufaydah in his mosque at Medina so that he might visit him more often. Rufaydah was a nurse from Banu Aslam. This expert Muslim lady used to tend and treat the wounded people. Some of the clansmen of Sa'd went to him and mounted him on an ass. They brought him to the Prophet saying to him on their way, "Do well to your confederates for the Messenger of Allah has set you in judgment upon them merely to treat them with kindness." When they repeated their request again and again, he said, "The time has come for Sa'd to give no heed to the blame of the blamer in the cause of Allah." 

Sa'd was a man of majestic and handsome appearance and a mighty stature. When he approached the camp, the Prophet said, "Stand up in the honor of your chief." They rose to greet him and said, "Father of' Amr, the Messenger of Allah has appointed you to judge the case of your confederates." He said, "Do you swear by Allah and make by Him your covenant that my judgment will be the verdict upon them?" "We do" they answered. " And is it binding upon him who is here?" He added, with a glance in the (iirection of the Prophet, but not mentioning him out of reverence. "It is," said the Prophet. "Then I judge." said Sa' d, "that the men of Banu Qurayzah should be slain, the property divided and the women and children made captive." The Prophet said to him: "You have judged with the judgment of Allah from above the seven heavens."33

 

4.                              On the occasion of Badr the Prophet along with his men camped at the first well he came to, near the field of Badr. One of his Companions, Hubab ibn al-Mundhir al-Khazraji, who was famous for his solidity of opinion and skillfulness in the war affairs, said, "0 Messenger of Allah, this place where we are now, has Allah revealed it to you to halt here then we should neither advance nor retreat from it, or is it a matter of opinion and strategy of war?" He replied it was merely a matter of opinion and strategy of war, whereupon Hubab said, "0 Messenger of Allah then this is not the place to halt, but take the people on until you come to the well which is nearest to the enemy. Let us halt there, and stop up the wells that lie beyond it, and make there for ourselves a cistern and fill it up with water, then we will fight the enemy. We will drink the water while they will have nothing to drink." The Prophet considered this opinion as the best one and carried out the plan of Hubab in every detail.34

 

5.                              When the Prophet moved closer to the valley of Badr, another Companion Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, the chief ofBanu Aws, came to him and said, "0 Messenger of Allah, let us build for you a shelter behind the battle field where you should stay, and put beside you your riding camels in readiness. Then we will meet our enemy. If Allah strengthens us and makes us victorious over them, that is what we fervently desire. But if something else happens you can mount your camels, and join those people who are left behind. For, 0 Prophet of Allah, our love for you is not greater than those Muslims who are left behind. If they had known that you would meet with war they would have not stayed behind. Allah will protect you through them. They will give you good counsel and fight at your side." The Prophet appreciated his concern and invoked blessings upon him. Then the shelter was built with branches of palms, and he stayed there during the fighting.35

 

6.                              The battle of Badr left seventy soldiers of the enemy dead and seventy captured. The Prophet consulted his Companions regarding the treatment of the captives. The Companions expressed various opinions. Abu Bakr suggested their release on ransom. He said, " O Messenger of Allah, they are your people, and your family. Preserve them alive. Maybe Allah would turn to them with His mercy. Take from them ransom and strengthen your followers by that money."36 'Umar ibn al-Khattab advised him to kill all of them. He said, "0 Messenger of Allah, these people accused you of lying, expelled you from Mecca and fought against you. They are the leaders of infidelity. Allah has made you free from the money of their ransom. Bring them forward and cut their heads Off."37 , Abdullah ibn Rawahah said, "0 Messenger of Allah, fmd a valley of plentiful firewood and burn up these captives in the fire."38 Sa'd ibn Mu'adh insistently said, "0 Messenger of Allah, kill them and do not take the ransom."39 The Prophet accepted the suggestion of Abu Bakr and released the captives for ransom.40

 

7.                              On the occasion of Hudaybiyah, when the Quraysh did not let the Prophet enter Mecca to perform the pilgrimage to its holy shrine, a treaty was signed between him and the Quraysh on their terms. According to it the Muslims had to return to Medina that year without performing the pilgrimage, however, they were allowed to come back next year and perform the ritual rites of the holy shrine of Ka'bah. The Prophet asked his Companions to rise, sacrifice their sacrificial animals, and then shave their heads. He repeated it a second and a third time, but no one moved. They were perplexed by this demand because, according to pilgrimage tradition, the sacrifices had to be performed within the sacred territory of Mecca after some special ritual rites. The field ofHudaybiyah was outside of the Meccan sanctuary, and they had not yet performed the other special rituals. Besides this, perhaps, they regarded the sacrifice at Hudaybiyah as a victory for the Quraysh, which they did not like. The Prophet was somewhat dismayed by their silence. He withdrew to his tent and told his wife Umm Salamah about the situation, wondering what was the matter with the people. She said, "0 Messenger of Allah you know their deep sadness and grief which has seized them. Say no word to any man. Go to your sacrificial animal and sacrifice it, then call for your barber who should shave your head." Carrying out the advice of Umm Salamah, the Prophet went out and did not speak to anyone. He sacrificed his animal, and then called for his barber who shaved his head. U pon seeing this, the Companions leaped to their feet and raced falling over each other in eagerness to follow the practice of their beloved Prophet.41

 

8.                              Abu Qatadah reported, "We went along with the Messenger of Allah in the year of Hunayn. When we met the enemy, we suffered a reverse. I saw one of the polytheists getting the better of one of the Muslims. I struck him on his shoulder blade with my sword and cut his coat of mail. He turned to me and pressed me to him so hard that I felt death was near. However, he let me go when he was overtaken by death. I then saw 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and asked him what was the matter with the people, to which he replied that it was what Allah had decreed. Then the Muslims returned and defeated the enemy. After that the Prophet sat down and said," Anyone who killed an enemy, and could prove it, he will get his share of the spoils." I asked "Who will testify for me?" and then sat down. The Prophet made the same announcement a second time, and I again asked, "Who will testify for me?" and sat down. The Prophet repeated his word a third time, and I again got up. He saw me and said, "What is the matter with you, Abu Qatadah?" When I told him my story, a man verified my statement and said, "He had spoken the truth, O Messenger of Allah. I have his share of the spoils, so gratify him by giving something else in exchange." U pon this, Abu Bakr said, "Never, I swear by Allah, the Prophet will never do so in the case of one of the Allah's heroes who fights for Him and His Messenger, and then he should give you his share of the spoils." The Prophet said "He (Abu Bakr) has had spoken the truth" and asked the man to hand it over to me."42 
In this report we find two persons exercising their personal opinions in the presence of the Prophet. The first person is the one who was keeping the plunder. He considered it proper for the Prophet to let him keep it, and to give Abu Qatadah something else in exchange. The second one is Abu Bakr in whose opinion it was not proper to deprive Abu Qatadah, the hero of Islam, from the spoils.

 

9.                              When the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina, the Muslim community at that time did not have any regular system of calling the people for the prayers. He consulted his Companions regarding this matter. Some suggested the use of a bell as the Christians did, while others advised him to use a horn like that of the J ews. At first, the Prophet was inclined towards the horn, but then, he did not like it and ordered a bell to be made so that it might be struck to gather the Muslims for prayers. Meanwhile, one night Abdullah ibn Zayd, a Companion of the Prophet, saw a dream. Early in the morning, he rushed to the mosque, met the Prophet and said, "0 Messenger of Allah, last night when I was sleeping, I saw a dream. A man dressed in two green garments carrying a bell in his hands appeared to me. I said to him, O servant of Allah will you sell me this bell?" He asked, "What would you do with it." I replied that we would use it to call people to the prayers. He then asked, "Shall I show you something better?" I said, "What is that?" So he told me the words of the "adhan" (call to prayers). The Prophet said, "It is a true vision." He then ordered Zayd to get up along with Bilal so that Bilal should repeat the words because his voice was louder than Zayd.43 

This report shows that the Companions exercised their ijtihad in the presence of the Prophet and suggested the utilization of the bell or horn for the call to prayers.

 

10.                           Ibn ' Abbas reported that the Prophet used to lean against a dry trunk of a datepalm during his sermons. When the number of audience increased, one of his Companions Tamim al-Dari suggested for him to have a pulpit similar to the Syrians. The Prophet approved it and Maymoon, a carpenter of Medina, was ordered to make a wooden Pulpit, which the Prophet used during his sermons afterwards.44

 

 

UTIHAD IN THE PROPHET'S ABSENCE

 

The Prophet Muhammad's Companions, during his absence, were in much need of exercising their ijtihad to solve the issues of their society. It was unnecessary, improper, and even practically impossible for them to contact the Prophet about every single problem. Therefore they practiced their personal reasoning to seek the solution for various issues. Later on, when they had chance, they reported their answers to the Prophet. In his role as supreme authority, he sometimes rejected these and sometimes approved or modified them.

 

1.                          When' Ali ibn Abu Talib was in Yemen, a tragic case was brought to him for settlement. Some people had dug a pitfall to hunt a lion. When the lion fell in, many people gathered on the brink. By chance, one man slipped into the pitfall and gripped another person so that he might be rescued. The latter grabbed someone else who seized another one. All four men fell into the pitfall and were killed by the lion. ' All announced his decree that those who were standing on the brink should pay compensation to the kindred of the slain. He fixed one fourth of blood money as indemnity for the first slain, one-third for the second, half for the third, and full blood money (one hundred camels) for the fourth one. Later on somebody mentioned it to the Prophet who smiled and approved it.45

 

2.               Zayd ibn Arqam reported that once he was sitting by the Prophet when a Yemeni man came in and told the Prophet about a judgment of Ali ibn Abu Talib in Yemen. He said, there were three Yemeni men who (in their pre- Islamic period) had sexual intercourse with a woman in the same period of her purification. When she gave birth to a son, each one of them claimed to be his father. They brought their dispute to Ali who asked every two of them to give up their claim in the favor of third one but they refused. Ali said, you are quarreling partners, I am going to cast lots among you. The child will belong to him who wins, but he would have to pay a sum equivalent to two third of the blood money to his companions. Then he cast lots among them and entrusted the child to the winner. On hearing this, the Prophet smiled displaying his approval.46

 

3.               Once during the military expedition of Dhat al-Salasil, , Amr ibn AI-' As happened to have a nocturnal emission. The weather was extremely cold. Fearing his death due to intense chill, he did not take bath for prayer. Instead, he performed ablution with dust and led his companions in prayer. On their return to Medina, somebody informed the Prophet about it. He said, "0 ' Amr, did you lead your companions in prayer while you were in the state of grave impurity?" In replay, , Amr expressed his excuse and supported his action with a verse of the Qur'an which reads: "Do not kill yourselves, Allah has been most Merciful to you(4:29)". Hearing this explanation, the Prophet smiled and did not say any word against his reasoning.47

 

4.               Once, during a journey, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and , Ammar ibn Yasir happened to have nocturnal emissions, and could not get water to take baths. When the prayer time came, 'Umar did not pray and delayed it until he could have access to water. But' Ammar rolled himself on the ground to perform tayammum (ablution with dust) and offered the prayer. He exercised his ijtihad and compared through analogy the tayammum for grave impurity with the tayammum for minor impurity. On return to Medina, he mentioned to the Prophet who said, "It is enough for you to strike the ground with your hands, then blow into them, then wipe up your face and the palms of your hands with them"48 This example at a time contains two personal reasonings: one about lawfulness oftayammum for grave impurity, and other about nature of tayammum. The latter required correction, which was made by the Prophet.

 

5.               When the battle of the Trench was over, the Prophet, after the afternoon prayer had been prayed, gave orders to his Companions that none should pray the late afternoon prayer until he had reached the Banu Qurayzah territory. They marched out. On their way the prayer time began. Some of them took the Prophet's orders literally and said, "We will not offer the prayer till we reach the BanuQurayzah". They did not pray on their way and performed it later on in Banu Qurayzah territory. Others looked at the spirit of the orders. They realized through their ijtihad that the Prophet's purpose was haste in traveling, not merely delaying the prayer. Therefore, they offered the prayer on their way and then rushed to the destination. Later on it was mentioned to the Prophet and he did not condemn any one.49

 

6.               Two Companions of the Prophet went out on a journey. When the time of prayer came, having no water with them, they performed ablution with good earth and then prayed. Immediately afterwards they found water. One of them performed ablution with water and repeated the prayer while the other did not. They both exercised their ijtihad and practiced according to it. When they came back they mentioned it to the Prophet. He said to the one who did not repeat the prayer, "You have observed my practice (Sunnah) and your prayer was enough for you." To the one who had performed ablution with water and repeated the prayer he said, "You will have a two fold reward."50

 

7.               Once the Messenger of Allah sent a military expedition to the western sea cost in order to watch the Quraysh's caravan. They were three hundred men under the command of Abu 'Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah. They stayed at the seashore for half a month and were struck with severe hunger. One day the sea threw out a dead fish so big, the like of which they had never seen, and it was called "Anbar". They did not have any instructions from the Prophet about the lawfulness of this huge animal. The commander Abu 'Ubaydah exercised his ijtihad and pronounced it lawful and asked them to eat of it. They ate of it for half-a-month. On arrival atMedina they informed the Prophet about it. He said, "Eat of it, for it is a food which Allah has brought out for you." Then he said, "Feed us if you have some of it." There upon one of them gave him a portion which he ate.51

 

8.               Once some of the Prophet's Companions went on a journey until they reached a certain Arabian tribe. They stopped there for rest, and asked them for hospitality, which the tribe refused. The chief of the tribe was then by chance bitten by a snake. His tribesmen tried their best to cure him but it was in vain. One of them said, "Nothing is benefiting him. If you go to the people who stopped here, some of them might have something useful." They went to the Prophet's Companions and told them that their chief had been bitten by a snake, and they had tried everything but it was in vain. Then they asked them if they had any useful thing. One of the Companions replied, "Yes, by God, I can use a spell but when we asked you for hospitality you refused, now I am not going to use a spell for your chief unless you fix a remuneration for it. They agreed to pay them a flock of sheep. Upon this the Companion started the recitation of the Qur'an's first chapter " Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil 'alameen", and puffed over the chief who recovered instantly as if he was released from a chain; he started walking and there was not a bit of sickness with him. The tribesmen paid what they had agreed to pay. Some of the Companions suggested to divide the earnings, but the one who used the spell said, "Do not do it until we come to the Prophet, and tell him the whole story, and then wait for his orders." So they went to the Messenger of Allah and reported it to him. He said to that one who used the spell, "How did you come to know that the first chapter of theQur'an was a spell?" Then he added, "You people have done the right thing, divide the earnings, and assign a share for me as well." Then the Prophet smiled.52

This report contains three reasonings. First, using the first chapter as a spell and demanding remuneration for it. Second, the suggestion of distribution. And finally, not to do it without asking the Prophet.

 

9.               On the occasion of Hudaybiyah, the Prophet sent 'Uthman ibn ' Affan to Mecca in order to negotiate with the Quraysh so that they might allow the Prophet and his Companions to perform the pilgrimage to the Ka'bah. 'U thman entered Mecca and tried his best to convince the Quraysh but it did not work. However, they allowed him to perform the circumambulating around the Ka'bah which he refused to do. His ijtihad led him not to accept their offer. He informed them that he would never perform the ritual without the Messenger of Allah.53

 

10.            During the last year of the Prophet's Meccan life the city of Medina became the base for the Islamic movement. In a very short period of time Islam grew to be one of the two major religions of that city; the other was Judaism. The majority of the two pagan tribes of Medina, Banu Khazraj and Banu Aws, had embraced Islam. One day some devoted Muslims of Medina held a meeting and discussed the need for a weekly fixed day for special religious services. They did not have any divine instruction in this regard and did not have access to the Prophet because he had not yet migrated and was still at Mecca. They said to each other that the Jews had a fixed weekly day, Saturday, in which they get together, just as the Christians had Sunday. Let the Muslims have a fixed day also on which they should meet together every week, remember Allah, offer prayers, and pay thanks to Allah. They selected the day of Friday for this purpose, and assembled to As'ad ibn Zurarah, a very knowledgeable companion of the Prophet, who led them in the prayer which was the first Friday prayer in the history of Islam.54 This action of the Muslims of Medina was later on confirmed by the Prophet. This report is evidence that the selection of Friday for the special congregational prayer was through the ijtihad of the Muslims of Medina during the Prophet's absence.

 

The foregoing discussion about the Ijtihad of the Prophet's Companions during his lifetime can be condensed into the following points:

 

1.                The ability of personal reasoning (ijtihad) is a magnificent favor of Allah. The exercising of this faculty is a virtue which brings ten times the reward from Almighty Allah when it is done correctly. Even if someone is mistaken in his ijtihad, he still would receive one reward. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had encouraged and urged his follower to practice this quality and condemned the failure to practice it.

 

2.                A sizeable number of the Prophet's Companions practiced their ijtihad during his lifetime in both his absence as well as in his presence. This action, on the one hand was a need of the times, and on the other hand it was a guidance and preparation for the future. These Companions, after his death, conducted their ijtihad on a large scale and met the problems of community.

 

3.                The revelation of Allah was the highest authority, the Prophet's ijtihad was next to it, and the ijtihad of the Companions was in third place. The revelation of Allah had authority to abrogate the Prophet's decision, as the Prophet's ijtihad had the power to supersede the Companions' judgment. The reverse was not possible, i.e., the companions' personal reasoning could not abrogate the Prophet's decision, as his ijtihad could not supersede the divine ruling.

 

4.                Being a higher authority, the Prophet, sometimes accepted his Companions' opinion, while on other occasions he modified or canceled it, as had happened to his own ijtihad when the divine revelation sometimes conformed it and sometimes abrogated it.

 

5.                The Prophet practiced his personal reasoning about questions in every field. Likewise, his Companions also exercised their ijtihadabout issues of every aspect whether they were political, financial, judicial, civil or criminal, pure religious or social, and personal or communal.

 

6.                The Prophet's Companions exercised their ijtihad during his lifetime but not frequently. There are two main reasons for this infrequency. First, the simplicity of that period which did not create many new issues. As a result, there was no need for excessive use of ijtihad. The other reason was the presence of the Prophet among people, since he was the cradle of divine revelation. When an issue appeared, sometimes the divine revelation came down, while on other occasions he answered through his own ijtihad. The Companions were actually in need of exercising their ijtihad about any issue when both of these sources were silent or they could not have immediate access to them. Such matters were not frequent.

The ability of ijtihad is a great blessing of Almighty Allah. The real gratitude for this favor is to benefit humankind through utilizing it for solving their problems. The exercise of ijtihad by the Prophet's Companions during his lifetime demonstrates its great importance and the tremendous need for it. In that period the Prophet was among them and the new divine revelations were also coming down to him one after another. Furthermore, the society of that time was very simple. Still, even then the Prophet's followers needed to practice their ijtihad for solution of their various problems. Consider the present age which is full of complications and enormous new issues. It is the duty of Muslim scholars to answer the challenge of the times and solve the new problems through exercising their ijtihad in the light of Qur'an and Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

 

NOTES:

1. The Arabic word ijtihad is derived either from jahd which means Ilifficulty, or juhd which means power. The Arabs used this word only for those actions which contained some hardship, difficulty, and inconvenience. For example, they say, ijtahada ii hamlal-hajari auw al- raha, "he exerted himself in lifting a rock or a millstone." They don't say, gtahada ii hamli nawatin auw qalamin, "he exerted himself in holding a seed or a pen." The word ijtihad according to its literal meaning can be used for every kind of hard act whether physical or mental; it can be a perceptible matter such as walking and running, or an abstract thing such as thinking an idea and making a judgment. The meaning of ijtihad as a term, is the exertion of one's intellectual faculties in the search for an opinion to the extent of full mental energy of the thinker.

During the very early period of Islam the term "ijtihad" had a wide meaning. It related to every kind of affairs whether judicial, political, fmancial, pure religious or social, and personal or communal. But in the later times this term was confined to the legal matters.

 

The word "reasoning" or "personal reasoning" has been used in English language as a substitute for the Arabic word "ijtihad". For details about the term "ijtihad" see al-Fayruzabadi, Majd al-Oin, al-Qamus al-Muhit, vol. 1 (Cairo, 1952/1371), p. 386; IbnManzur, Muhammad b. Mukarram, Lisan al-'Arab, vol. 4 (Cairo, 1302 A.H.), p. 107; al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad B. Muhammad, al-Mustasfa, vol. 2 (Baghdad, 1970), p .350; al-Zabidi, Muhammad Murtada, Taj al-'Arus, vol. 2 (Cairo, 1306 A.H.), p. 329: al-Amidi, Sayf al-Oin Abu AI-Hasan ' Ali b. Abu' Ali, al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam, vol. 3 (Cairo, 1968/1388), p. 204; al-Bukhari, , Abdul ' Aziz B. Abroad, Kashf al-Asrar, vol. 4 (Beirut, Lebanon, 1974/1394), p.14.

 

2. AI-Tabari, Muhammad b. Jarir, al-Tafsir(jami'al-Bayan), vol. 28 (Cairo, 1954/1373), pp. 2-3; Ibn Kathir, Abu al-Fida Isma'il b. 'Umaral- Oimashqi, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, vol. 4 (Beirut, 1983/1403), p. 320.

 

3. AI-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma'il, al-Jami'al-Sahih, Vol. 4 (Cairo, 1320 A.H.), p. 150; 'Abu Oa'uud, Sulayman b. AI-Ash'ath ai-Sajistani, al-Sunan, vol. 3 (Oar Ihya al-Sunnah, Beirut), p. 134.

 

4. Ibn Hajar, Shihab al-Din al-' Asqalani, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al- Bukhari, vol. 16 (Cairo, 1959/1378), p. 290.

 

5. AI-Tabari, Muhammad b. Jarir, Tarikh al-Ummam wa al-Muluk, vol. 2 (Cairo, 1961), p.440.

 

6. AI-Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad b. Muhammad, al-Mustasfa, vol. 2, p. 354; al-Amidi, Sayf al-Din, al-Ihkam, vol. 3, p. 213; al-Asnawi, Jamal al-Oin ' Abd al-Rahim, Nihayat al-Sulfi Sharh Minhaj al- Wusul, vol. 3 (Cairo, 1969/1389), p. 197.

 

7. AI-Amidi, al-Ihkam, vol. 3, p. 214.

 

8. Ibn Kathir, Abu al-Fida, Tafsiral-Qur'an al-'Azim, vol. 1, p. 152. 9. AI-Amidi, al-Ihkam, vol. 3, p. 214.

 

10. AI-Harrani, Abd al-Salam b. Abdullah b. Taymiyyah, al- Musawwadahfi Usulal-Fiqh (Cairo, 1964/1384), p. 511.

 

11. AI-Basri, Abu al-Husayn Muhammad b. ' Ali b. Tayyib, Kitab al- Mu'tamadfi Usul al-Fiqh, vol. 2 (Dimashq, Syria, 1964/1384), p. 722.

 

12. AI-Nasafi, Hafiz al-Din, Kashf al-Asrar Sharh al-Manar, vol. 2, p.175.

 

13. AI-Basri, Abu al-Husayn, Kitab al-Mu'tamad, vol. 2, p. 722.

 

14. AI-Baydawi, Abu Sa'id Abdullah b. 'Umar, Minhaj al- Wusul, vol. 3 (Cairo, 1969/1389), p. 196.

 

15. AI-Amidi, al-Ihkam, vol. 3, p. 213.

 

16. AI-Baydawi, Minhaj al-Wusul, vol. 3, pp. 196-197; al-Bihari, Muhibbullah b. 'Abd al-Shakur, Musallam al-Thubut, vol. 2 (Baghdad, 1970), p. 374.

 

17. AI-Ghazali, Abu Hamid, al-Mustasfa, vol. 2, p. 354; al-Basri, Abu ai-Husayn, al-Mu'tamad, vol. 2, p. 723.

 

18. AI- Tirmizi, Muhammad b. 'Isa, al-Jami' al-Sahih, vol.2 (Cairo, 1964/1384), p. 393.

 

19. AI-Ghazali, al-Mustasfa, vol. 2, p. 355.

 

20. Ibid.

 

21. Ibn Hanbal, Abu' Abdullah Ahmad b. Muhammad, al-Musnad, vol. 4 (Beirut, 1969/1389), p. 205.

 

22. Abu Da'uud, Sulayman b. al-Ash'ath al-Sajistani, al-Sunan, vol. 3 p. 412; al-Sarakhsi, Muhammad b. Ahmad, al-Mabsut, vol.16 (Beirut, Lebanon), p. 69.

 

23. AI-Asnawi, Jamal al-Din, Nihayat al-Sul, vol. 3, p. 197 .

 

24. AI-Basri, Abu al-Husayn, al-Mu'tamad, vol.2, p. 722.

 

25. AI-Asnawi, Nihayat al-Sul, vol. 3, p. 198.

 

26. AI-Basri, Abu al-Husayn, al-Mu'tamad, vol. 2, p. 765.

 

27. Ibid.

 

28. AI-Ghazali, Abu Hamid, al-Mustasfa, vol. 2, p. 355; al-Baydawi, 'Abdu"ah b. 'Umar, Minhajal-Wusul, vol. 3, p. 197.

 

29. AI-Amidi, al-Ihkam, vol. 3, p. 213; al-Harrani, al-Musawwadah, p.511.

 

30. Ibn Hisham, Abu Muhammad Abd al-Malik, Sirat al-Nabi, vol. 3 (Cairo, 1963), p. 708; Ibn Sa'd, Muhammad, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1912), p. 47; al- Tabari, Muhammad b. Jarir, Tarikh al- Umam wa al-Muluk, vol. 2, p. 566.

 

31. Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat, vol. 2 p. 47; al-Tabari, al-Tarikh, vol.2, p.570.

 

32. Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabi, vol. 3, p. 707; Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat, vol. 2 pp. 52-53; al- Tabari, al- Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 573; al-Baladhuri, Ahmad b. Yahya, Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 1 (Cairo, 1959), p. 346.

 

33. Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabi, vol.3, p. 720; al-Tabari, al-Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 576.

 

34. Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabi, vol. 2, p. 452; Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat, vol. 2 p. 9; al- Tabari, al- Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 440.

 

35. Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabi, vol. 2, p. 452.

 

36. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, vol. 2, p. 325.

 

37. Ibid.

 

38. Ibid; al- Tabari, al- Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 476.

 

39. AI-Waqidi, Muhammad b. 'Umar b. Waqid, Kitab al-Maghazi, vol. 1 (London, 1965), p.110.

 

40. AI-Tabari, al-Tarikh, vol. 2, pp. 474-475.

 

41. AI-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma'il, al-Jami'al-Shahih, vol.2, p. 88; al- Tabari, al- Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 637; Ibn Kathir, al- Tafsit; vol. 4, p.197.

 

42. Muslim, Kitab al-Sahih, vol. 12 (Cairo, 1349 A.H.), pp. 57-61.

 

43. Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabi, vol. 2, pp. 354-355; Ibn Hajar, Fath al- Bari, vol. 2, pp. 77-82; al-Bukhari, al-Jami'al-Shahih, vol. 1, p. 83; Muslim, Kitab al-Sahih, vol. 1, p. 285; al- Tirrnidhi, al-Jami al-Sahih, vol. 1, p.122.

 

44. Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat, vol. I. part 2, p.9; Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, vol. I, pp. 486-488.

 

45. Ibn al-Qayyirn, Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Abu Bakr, I'Lam al-Muwaqqi'in, vol. 2 (Beirut, 1973), p. 58.

 

46. Abu Da'uud, al-Sunan, vol. 2, p. 281.

 

47. Ibid., vol. I, p. 92; ai-Bukhari, al-Jami'al-Shahih, vol. I, p. 52.

 

48. AI-Bukhari, al-Jami'al-Shahih, vol. I, p. 51.

 

49. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 22.

 

50. Abu Da'uud, al-Sunan, vol. I, p. 93.

 

51. AI-Bukhari, al-Jami'al-Shahih, vol. 3, p. 48.

 

52. Ibid., vol. 2, pp. 26-27.

 

53. Ibn Hisham, Sirat al-Nabi, vol. 3, p. 780; al-Tabari, al-Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 631.

 

54. AI-Alusi, Mahmud Shukri al-Baghdadi, Bulugh al- 'Arabfi Ma 'rifat Ahwal al-'Arab, vol. I (Cairo, 1342), p. 274; Ibn Hisham, Siratal-Nabi, vol. 2, p. 296. Even in the pre-Islamic era, Friday had been selected as the day for special gathering. The Quraysh of Mecca assembled every Friday in front of ka'b ibn luwayy, the grand grand faher of the Prophet Muhammd (PBUH), who delivered to them a lecture. See al-Alusi, Bulugh al-'Arab, vol. I, p. 272.

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