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Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim on the Issues of Ijtihād and the Issues of Khilāf

Posted by Abu Iyaad
Translated November 2000
Filed under Fiqh & ʿIbādah

The issues of khilāf (differing) are those in which scholars have differed over.[1] The issues of ijtihād are those issues for which there is no evidence found in the Qurʾān, the Sunnah and consensus (ijmāʿ) and the scholars strive to extract a ruling for the issue based on principles found in the Qurʾān and the Sunnah. The issues of khilāf are broader than the issues of ijtihād. It is permissible to differ in the issues of ijtihād where there is more than one view being supported by evidence. Here it is a matter of strength of evidence, and a person may choose what is stronger in evidence, and evaluations and critiques of views based on ijtihād can take place. As for issues of khilāf (differing), then this is a broader category and includes those issues in which it is not permissible to differ because there are clear evidences from the texts. Whoever holds an opinion opposed to the evidence, then he is in erro and this is not a matter of permissible differing.

Some people have erred by treating the issues of khilāf to be the same as issues of ijtihād and thereby disallowed rejection in issues of khilāf.

Ibn al-Qayyim (رحمه الله) explained, citing the speech of his shaykh, Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah:[2]

Their saying ‘There is no rejection to be shown for the issues of khilāf (differing)’ is not correct. For rejection is to be shown either to the saying and fatwā or to the action. As for the first, if it is a saying that opposes the Sunnah or an ijmāʿ it is obligatory to reject it by unanimous agreement. And if it is not the case (that it opposes any of that) then it explaining its weakness or its opposition to the evidence is similar to it in rejection.

As for an action, then if it is in opposition to the Sunnah or an ijmā’ then it is obligatory to reject it according to the various degrees of showing rejection. And how can a faqīh (jurist) say that no rejection is to be shown in the issues which are differed over. The fuqahā (jurists) from all the various factions have clearly spoken of invalidating the judgement of a ruler (a judge, qāḍī) when he opposes the Book or the Sunnah, even if some of the scholars are in agreement with him on this issue.

As for when there does not exist anything in the Sunnah or from ijmā’ on this issue then performance of ijtihād in this issue is permissible and rejection is not to be shown against one who acted upon this based upon ijtihād or taqlīd.

Certainly, this confusion has arisen from the perspective that a person believes that the issues of khilāf are actually the issues of ijtihād, as has been held by numerous factions of people who do not have any ability or firm grounding in knowledge.

Arabic Text:

1. Issues of differing between scholars are of two types: Those in which there is a clear text from the Qurʾān or the authentic Sunnah and there are no other apparently conflicting texts, or those in which there is consensus. So some scholars may arrive at a ruling that opposes this evidence. The second type of differing is in respect to matters in which no clear evidence is found in the Qurʾān, authentic Sunnah or consensus, or in which there are apparently conflicting texts, and so this is a matter of ijtihād, and different views may arise.
2. I’lām al-Muwaqqiʿīn (5/242-243).

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