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The Principle of Ijtihad in Islam

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This booklet is written by Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari and translated in English by John Cooper.

The discussion of taqlid had been important in the wake of Ayatullah Burujirdi's death for the reasons given by Lambton. A solution to the problems posed in those articles was never achieved, and events subsequently altered the whole structure of the discussion, but the issues raised did open important new areas for thought. As a result of the revolution, the question of wilayat al­faqih came to the fore, and taqlid became the subject of even greater public concern.

As long as taqlid had been restricted in the common understanding as applying only to matters which belonged to the rubrics of the collections of fatwas issued by the marja`s, the only real debate took place within the legal classroom; but during the seventies, and hand in hand with the reawakening of political sensibilities, the boundaries of fiqh were seen by the public to expand and encompass new territory. The definition of these new frontiers was a source of some confusion, and hence of heightened interest, and, in the great post revolutionary surge of printing, the Burujirdi volume was re­issued.

Taqlid had long been a socially important element in Iranian society, and in Shi`i society in general, for it united people, at least as inhabitants of the same universe of duties and obligations, under their marja`s, but the events leading up to the revolution demonstrated the power that the marja`s could command through, among other means, their issuing of proclamations (`ilamiyas); this was reminiscent of the mobilization of the Iranian people during the tobacco protest of 1891­2, and during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-11.

The following article is presented as a description of taqlid and ijtihad by a leading contemporary Shi`i mujtahid who strove to make Islam comprehensible to the modern Iranian and to find answers to the problems of his time within the Islamic framework. The text has been left in its entirety; there were no footnotes in the original.

“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 in religion, and to warn their people when they return to them, that they may beware.” (9:122)

 

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