This entry provides a definition and analysis of the term ijtihÄd, drawing onÂ works by SHARIAsource Senior Scholar Sherman A. Jackson, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
When Islamic law was in its infancy, scholars relied solely on a method of legal reasoning called ijtihÄd. Many people define ijtihÄd as “the exhaustion of one’s (mental) capacity in the attempt to gain probable knowledge about anything concerning the divine law to the extent that the individual feels that he is incapable of exerting any further effortâ€ (p. 167, n.5). A more useful way to think of ijtihÄd is as a form of legal reasoning which involved â€œthe direct interpretation of scriptureâ€ (p. 173). Throughout the history of Islamic law, one of each scholarâ€™s primary goals has been â€œto establish himself as an authority (i.e., one who possesses the ability to enlist compliance on the belief that it is right to follow him)â€ (p. 169). During the early period of Islamic law, therefore, part of ijtihÄd for each scholar was â€œthe clear and open advocacy of views as having resulted from such a processâ€ (p. 173). This attempt by scholars to get others to adopt their conclusions helped ijtihÄd fulfill its purpose: â€œto provide authoritative legal interpretationsâ€ (p. 169).
Following the establishment and mutual recognition of the four Sunni schools of law . . .