The Sixth Distinction: The Door of Ijtihad is Open
True Conception of the Ahmadiyya Movement
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
However good and perfect principles may be given to a nation, unless that nation has an opportunity for progress, such principles cannot be of much use. Principles are like the roots of a tree and the other details like its branches. If there is enough space for the tree to spread its branches far and wide, its strong roots indeed become a help for its proper growth. If there is no scope for its branches to spread, its roots shall also soon shrivel and cramp and cause an early death to the whole plant. The tree of Islam had strong roots in the form of sound principles and its branches had a great scope to spread because of the opening of the door of ijtihad (exercise of judgment). Ijtihad means to exert oneself and make use of one’s intelligence for some cause. This door was kept open in Islam in respect of details of shariah. In matters of Law where no details were found in the Quran and the Hadith, Muslims could make use of their intellectual faculties for understanding and solving the new problems with which they might be faced from time to time. Islam is a universal religion in its scope and teachings, free from and above all limitations of race, colour and nationality. Although there was no religion to emerge after it, but human needs are limitless and every age, nation and country is faced with new problems for the solution and fulfilment of which human faculties must be utilized. In other words, after the Divine revelation existing in the Quran in the form of wahy jali or wahy matluww (revelation which is recited) and in the Hadith in the form of wahy khafi (inner revelation), man’s intellect has been given the status for the working out of laws for human needs.
It is also evident that if no use is made of human faculties, they become obsolete. Thus, if Muslims were not guided to make use of their mental powers they would have suffered the same fate. Accordingly, as long as they considered the door of ijtihad open and made use of their faculties of judgment they made progress in all walks of life. But after the death of some great Imams when the door of itihad was considered to have been closed, their intellectual powers were also paralysed and their spiritual and material progress quickly came to cease. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement removed this fatal misunderstanding from the minds of Muslims and showed them that the door of ijtihad was opened by the Prophet Muhammad himself, and no one else has any right to close it. And none of the four Imams had said anything contrary to it. The world of today has given rise to so many new problems that there is a growing need of re-judication and ijtihad in details of Law. By opening the door of ijtihad all over again, Ahmadiyyat has in fact opened new vistas for the progress of Islam and the Muslims.