The Taqlīd al-Ijtihād Paradox: Challenges to Quranic Hermeneutics

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    Ijtihād has been extremely important throughout Islamic history and seen as such by many Muslim scholars, both Sunni and Shii, in early, medieval, and contemporary Islam. However, the phenomenon of ijtihad, in both traditional and contemporary Islam, is restricted to a set of rules that were outlined by earlier mujtahids. This poses a challenge in Quranic hermeneutics as to whether contemporary mujtahids are performing ijtihād or merely imitating (taqlīd) the method of ijtihād. The purpose of this study is to investigate the following question: is ijtihād in the Quranic Sciences today merely an imitation (taqlīd) of ijtihād? The paper opens with defining imitation (taqlīd) according to classical Muslim scholars, starting with the arguments that accepts imitation in Islam and then compares it with various scholars' stances on ijtihād. The paper employs arguments from the Quran, prophetic tradition (adīth), and acts of the Companions (aābah) that are typically used by Muslim scholars to argue in favor of ijtihād over imitation (taqlīd). It compares the stance of both Sunni and Shii scholars on the roles of both mujtahids and sources of jurisprudence (marāji) and muftīs. It shows that, in Quranic Sciences, although the role of ijtihād is highly recommended, it continues to be part of a larger paradox, in which ijtihād may only be performed through a set of rules outlined by early scholars. This brings us to a paradox that to be a mujtahid, one needs to imitate (taqlīd) rules outlined by earlier mujtahids, which poses the challenging question on whether scholars today are truly performing ijtihād, or simply taqlīd al-ijtihād.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)145-167
    Number of pages23
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2015


    • exegesis
    • hermeneutics
    • ijtihād
    • imitation
    • Quran


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