The 7 Ranks of Islamic Scholars

Discussion in 'Usul al-Fiqh' started by faqir, May 11, 2006.

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  1. faqir

    faqir Veteran

    The 7 ranks of Islamic scholars as mentioned by MH Kamali in his book: Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence:

    1) Full Mujtahid (mujtahid fi'l-shar'). This rank is assigned to chose who fulfilled all the requirements of ijtihad. They deduced the ahkam from the evidence in the sources, and in so doing were not restricted by the rules of a particular madhhab. The learned among the Companions, and the leading jurists of the succeeding generation, like Sa`id b. al-Musayyib and Ibrahim al-Nakha'i, the leading Imams of the four schools, the leading Imams of the Shi'ah Muhammad al-Baqir and his son ja'far al-Sadiq, al-Awza'i and many others were identified as independent mujtahids. It is by the authority of these that consensus of opinion, analogy, juristic preference, maslahah mursalah, etc., were formulated and established as the secondary proofs of Shari'ah.[76. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 310; Kassab, Adwa', p. 38; Abdur Rahim, Jurisprudence, pp. 182-83.] Although Abu Yusuf and al-Shaybani are usually subsumed under the second rank, Abu Zahrah, who has written extensively on the lives and works of the leading ulema, regards them as full mujtahids. The criteria of distinguishing the first from the second class of mujtahidun is originality and independent thought. If this is deemed to be the case the mere fact that a mujtahid has concurred with the opinion of another is immaterial in the determination of his rank. For many of the leading mujtahids are known to have concurred with the views of other ulema. For example, it is known that Abu Hanifah on many occasions agreed with and followed the views of his teacher Ibrahim al-Nakha'i, but this was only because he was convinced of the accuracy of his reasoning, and not out of imitation for its own sake.[77. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 310; Kassab, Adwa', p. 38; Abdur Rahim, Jurisprudence, pp. 182-83.]

    The question arises whether this type of ijtihad is still open or came to an end with the so-called closure of the gate of ijtihad. With the exception of the Hanbalis who maintain that ijtihad in all of its forms remains open, the ulema of the other three schools have on the whole acceded to the view that independent ijtihad has discontinued. [78. While stating the position of the three Sunni schools on the point, Abu Zahrah (Usul, p. 311) adds that this is not definite as, for example, some Hanafis have considered Kamal al-Din ibn al-Humam as a mujtahid of the first class.]

    Another related question that has been extensively debated by the ulema is whether the idea of the total extinction of mujtahids at any given period or generation is at all acceptable from the viewpoint of doctrine. Could the Shari'ah entertain such a possibility and maintain its own continuation , both at the same time? The majority of the ulema of usul, including al-Amidi, Ibn al-Hajib, Ibn al-Humam, Ibn al-Subki, and Zakariya al-Ansari have answered this question in the affirmative, whereas the Hanbalis have held otherwise. The Hanbalis have argued that ijtihad is an obligatory duty of the Muslim community whose total abandonment would amount to an agreement on deviation/error, which is precluded by the Hadith which states that 'My community shall never agree on an error.' [79. Muslim, Sahih, p. 290, Hadith no. 1095; Shawkani, Irshad, p. 253; Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 111.]

    To say that ijtihad is a wajib, whether `ayni or kafa'i, takes it for granted that it may never be discontinued. This is also the implication of another Hadith which provides that 'a section of my ummah will continue to be on the right path; they will be the dominant force and they will not be vanquished till the Day of Resurrection.' [80. Muslim, Sahih, p. 290, Hadith no. 1095; Shawkani, Irshad, p. 253; Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 111.]

    Since the successful pursuit of truth is not possible without knowledge, the survival of mujtahidun in any given age (`asr) is therefore sustained by this Hadith. Furthermore, according to some ulema, the duty to perform ijtihad is not fulfilled by means of limited ijtihad or by practicing the delivery of fatwa alone. According to the Hanbalis, the claim that ijtihad has discontinued is to be utterly rejected. Ijtihad is not only open, but no period may be without a mujtahid. The Shi'ah Imamiyyah have held the same view. The Shi'ah, however, follow their recognised Imams, in whose absence they may exercise ijtihad on condition that they adhere, both in principle and in detail, to the rulings of the Imams. In the absence of any ruling by the Imams, the Shi'ah recognise `aql as a proof following the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the rulings of their Imams.[81. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p.312; Kassab, Adwa', p.112.] And finally, it may be said that the notion of the discontinuation of ijtihad would appear to be in conflict with some of the important doctrines of Shari'ah. The theory of ijma', for example, and the elaborate procedures relating to qiyas all proceed on the assumption that they are the living proofs of the law and contemplate the existence of mujtahidun in every age.[82. Cf. Abdur Rahim, Jurisprudence, p. 174.]

    2) Mujtahids within the School. These are jurists who expounded the law within the confines of a particular school while adhering to the principles laid down by their Imams. Among the prominent names that feature in this category are Zafar b. al-Hudhayl, Hasan b. Ziyad in the Hanafi school; Isma'il b. Yahya al-Muzani, 'Uthman Taqi al-Din b. al-Salah and Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti in the Shafi'i; Ibn `Abd al-Barr and Abu Bakr b. al-`Arabi in the Maliki, and Ibn Taymiyyah and his disciple Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah in the Hanbali schools. It is observed that although these ulema all followed the doctrines of their respective schools, nevertheless they did not consider themselves bound to follow their masters in the implementation of the general principles or in arguments concerning particular issues. This is borne out by the fact that they have held opinions that were opposed to those of their leading Imams. [83. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 312; Kassab, Adwa', p. 39; Abdur Rahim, Jurisprudence, p. 183.]

    3) Mujtahids on Particular Issues. These are jurists who were competent to elucidate and apply the law in particular cases which were not settled by the jurists of the first and second ranks. They did not oppose the leading mujtahidun and generally followed the established principles of their schools. Their main pre-occupation was to elaborate the law on fresh points which were not clearly determined by the higher authorities. Scholars like Abu'l-Hasan al-Karkhi and Abu Ja'far al-Tahawi in the Hanafi school, Abu al-Fadl al-Marwazi and Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi in the Shafi'i, Abu Bakr al-Abhari in the Maliki and 'Amr b. Husayn al-Khiraqi in the Hanbali schools have been placed it this category.

    All the preceding three classes were designated as mujtahids, but the remaining four classes of ulema, as described below have been classified as imitators.[84. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 314; Kassab, Adwa', p. 40; Aghnides, Muhammedan Theories, p. 95; Mawsu'ah Jamal, I, 253, and VII, 387.]

    4) The so-called ashab al-takhrij, who did not deduce the ahkam but were well conversant in the doctrine and were able to indicate which view was preferable in cases of ambiguity, or regarding suitability to prevailing conditions.[85. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 315; Kassab, Adwa', p. 40; Aghnides, Muhammedan Theories, p. 96.]

    5) The ashab al-tarjih are those who were competent to make comparisons and distinguish the correct (sahih) and the preferred (rajih, arjah) and the agreed upon (mufta biha) views from the weak ones. Authors like 'Ala' al-Din al-Kasani and Burhan al-Din al-Marghinani of the Hanafi school, Muhyi al-Din al-Nawawi of the Shafi'i, Ibn Rushd al-Qurtubi of the Maliki and Muwaffaq al-Din ibn Qudamah of the Hanbali schools and their equals have been placed in this category.[86. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 315; Kassab, Adwa', p. 40; Aghnides, Muhammedan Theories, p. 96.]

    6) The so-called ashab al-tashih: those who could distinguish between the manifest (zahir al-riwayah) and the rare and obscure (al-nawadir) views of the schools of their following. Textbook writers whose works are in use in the various madhahib are said to fall into this category.[87. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 315; Kassab, Adwa', p. 40; Aghnides, Muhammedan Theories, p. 96.]

    It will be noted here that the previous three categories are somewhat overlapping and could be unified under one category to comprise all those who drew comparisons and evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the existing views.

    7) And finally the muqallidun, or the `imitators', who lack the abilities of the above and comprise all who do not fall in any of the preceding classes. It is said concerning them that, They do not distinguish between the lean and the fat, right and left, but get together whatever they find, like the one who gathers wood in the dark of the night. [88. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p.316.]

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