The Errors about ijtihad & Qiyas or Inference by Analogy, By Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

Translated By: Professor Muhammad Hasan Askari & Karrar Husain
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani

Answer to Modernism

Intimation 7: Regarding Qiyas or Inference by Analogy, as a source of the Shariah

Having considered the three principles, we now have to deal only with Qiyas, or Inference by Analogy. The errors usually committed in this respect are quite a few:

The first error about Qiyas and the reality of Qiyas

1. The first of these errors pertain to the meaning and nature of Inference by Analogy. In substance, this principle is applicable only to a situation about which there is no explicit injunction either in the Holy Qur’an or in the Hadith, nor is there a consensus on the subject.

But, evidently enough, there is no situation of this world or of the other that the Shariah could have neglected, and for which it should not have laid down an injunction – as we have shown under Intimation No. 3 while discussing the fourth error. So, even in the case of those situations for which we do not find an explicit, injunction, one would rather say that the Shariah has laid down an injunction for this situation too, but, since it has not been formulated in the express and explicit terms, the relevant injunction is present in a veiled form. Thus, one will be required to deduce or infer this veiled injunction in some way.

The mode of this deduction has been pointed out by certain indications in the Shariah. And it is this in dealing with a situation about which the Shariah is apparently silent, one should first consider those situations about which explicit injunctions have been laid down in the Holy Qur’an or the Hadith in order to find out which one of them has the nearest resemblance with or similar to the situation under investigation with regard to its peculiarities and characteristics. Secondly, one should try to determine, in the case of the situation for which there is an explicit injunction the peculiarity or characteristic which forms the most probable basis for this injunction. Thirdly, one should ascertain whether this very peculiarity is present in the case of that situation too about which the Shariah appears to be silent. Finally, if it is found to be present, the same injunction will be held to apply to this situation also as has been explicitly laid down for the other situation also as has been explicitly laid down for the other situation analogous to this one.

Thus, the process of Inference by Analogy has to pass through four stages, and there are technical names for the different factors involved in it. The situation for which there is an explicit and regular injunction in the Shariah is called Maqees alaih (that on which the analogy is based), while the situation about which the Shariah appears to be silent is Maqees (the analog).

The basis of the injunction is that (The basis of the analog) and the final affirmation of this injunction for the situation about which the Shariah appears to be silent, is called Ta’diyah (extension) or Qiyas (Inference by Analogy).

This, then, is the real meaning and nature of Inference by Analogy, which the Shariah has sanctioned as has been amply shown by the writers on the basic principles of the Shariah.

Therefore, one must admit that even when an injunction has been established through Inference by Analogy, the real and ultimate sanction behind it is the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, and the Inference by Analogy does no more than making the injunction manifest.

Now, as against this genuine Inference by Analogy, what is nowadays called Qiyas by Muslim modernists, and actually practiced by them, is something totally different. The substance of the new-fangled Qiyas is no more than individual and personal opinion, pure and simple, in which injunctions are not deduced from the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith in conformity with the procedure described above. Even they themselves admit this fact, for they are too fond of using phrases like “in our opinion” and “we think this”, in fact, amounts to setting oneself up as a legislator laying down the Shariah. The defect of this approach is evident even from the rational point of view. Individual opinion has also been condemned by the Holy Qur’an, the Hadith, and the early masters. This shows the falsity of this approach from the traditional point of view. Thus, it is condemnable rationally as well as traditionally.

The second error about Qiyas

2. The second error pertains to the occasion when the principle of Inference by analogy can be validly employed. The above discussion has made it clear that the need for Inference arises only in those situations about which there is no explicit injunction in the Shariah, and that, in order to extend the application of a certain injunction intended for one situation to an anlogous situation one has to find out the raison d’etre of this injunction. It follows from this that, unless there is an actual need for such an extension and inference, it is not permissible to seek to determine the raison d’etre of an explicit injunction. The great error which is so often being committed nowadays is that people try to impute some kind of a raison d’etre even to an explicit injunction without there being any need for it, and then venture to make the very existence or non-existence of this injunction depend on the existence or non-existence of this raison d’etre which they imagine to have discovered – as we have already shown under Intimation No. 3, while discussing the sixth error.

The third error about Qiyas

3. The second error with regard to inference helps us to understand the nature of the third error too, which pertains to the purpose of Inference. As we have just explained, the essential purpose of Inference is to extend and apply a certain injunction to a certain situation for which no injunction is to be found in the Shariah explicity, and not to alterordistort one which has been explicity laid down.

The fourth error about Qiyas or reality of Ijtihad

4. The fourth error pertains to the question as to who enjoys the authority to make an Inference. The modernists consider everyone to be worthy of this right. Some bold spirits have propounded, in their public lectures, that the verse:

لکم دینکم ولی دین

“your religion is for yourselves, and my religion is for myself” (109:6)

has bestowed the right of drawing an inference in religious matters Ijtihad upon each and every one.

Why is Ijtihad forbidden for every ordinary person?

As a matter of fact, the masters of the science of the basic principles of the Shariah have, with strong arguments, already laid down the qualifications necessary for the man who can be allowed the right to draw an inference for himself in religious matters (ijtihad). This shows that it can never be a common or general right. Moreover, this particular verse of the Holy Qur’an does not at all mean what the modernists suppose it to mean. Then, it does not require very fine intelligence to be able to see that everyone cannot be worthy of this right. The substance of what we have said above about the nature of Qiyas and ijtihad is comparable to a lawyer applying a certain section of the legal code to a particular case. If everyone were equally competent to do it, where would be the need for studying, law, and getting a degree? Just as, in the latter case, certain conditions must be a fulfilled-the man should have studied law, he should still know and remember what he had once studied, he should have understood the aims and objects of different laws, and he should have an insight into the intricacies of the cases he is dealing with before he can be regarded as qualified to advise that the case falls under such and such section of the legal code; in the same way, similar conditions must be fulfilled in the matter of exercising Ijtihad also.

Who is capable of ijtihad today?

Now, it is a different matter whether a man with the qualifications necessary for ijtihad can be found in our own day. This is a subject of controversy between two Muslim seas — on the one hand, are those who hold that it is necessary to conform to the decisions of the established masters of fiqh or Islamic law, and on the other hand are those who do not think so. It would be quite an outof place for us to discuss the question at length, for we are here concerned only with those errors into which Muslim modernists have generally fallen. So, we would say only a few words on the subject. Supposing that a man with such qualifications can still be found, even then it is better to be on the safe side, and not to rely on one’s own ijtihad or Qiyas, for we who belong to the present age temperamentally ten to follow our own desires and to seek lame excuses even in religious matters. If we begin to exercise the right of Ijtihad, it is almost certain that our minds will always be inclined towards that decision that suits our desires. Moreover, we would thus be providing an example to those who are totally unworthy of this privilege. Such people would use the precedent set by us as a pretext for appropriating the right of ijtihad to themselves. And this would finally lead to a diminishing of piety, fear of God, and scrupulousness in religious matters.

Let us take an example from everyday life. Once they have been assumed to be the most qualified to judges of a high court have declared their judgment in a case, no one, not even a subordinate judge, is allowed to interpret the particular section of the legal code in a different way, and the basis of this injunction is that they have been assumed to be the most qualified to interpret the law. Were we to allow everyone to go against the judges, everyone would act in his own way and end up destroying law and order in the country.

We should try to see that exactly the same principle holds good with regard to the established masters of Islamic law.

Summary of errors regarding the fourfold sources of Shari’ah

Now, let us finally sum up the essential substance of all the errors regarding the fourfold sources of  the Shariah:

  • (1) The modernists accept the Holy Qur’an as the final authority. They also accept its authenticity. But they commit errors in interpreting it.
  • (2) They accept the Hadith as an authority, but question its authenticity, and do not thus touch upon the question of interpreting it.
  • (3) They refuse altogether to accept ljma’, or consensus, as an authority.
  • (4) In place of Qiyas, or Inference by Analogy, they have substituted an invention of their own, which they take to be the final criterion for judging the validity of an injunction.

And the Principle they have invented is personal opinion.

To read the eight Intimation about The Reality of the Angels, Jinns, and Satan, Click on the link below:


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