THE SCOPE OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD’S IJTIHAD
Islamic scholars have mostly agreed that the Prophet might have made some decisions based solely on his own judgment in matters of technical, i.e. administrative, political and economic affairs or in matters that belonged entirely to worldly affairs. They disagree more on whether or not he had the authority over purely religious matters such as faith, prayers and rituals. According to the majority view, Prophet Muhammad did have the ijtihad authority in matters about which there was no divine revelation, regardless of which domain they belonged to.
We can classify examples of the Prophet’s ijtihads in terms of their essential characteristics as follows:
* Those that pertain to worship and rituals
* Those that concern judicial matters
* Those that are related to matters of war
* Those that pertain to worldly affairs
Prophet Muhammad sometimes made decisions based on his ijtihad on matters of prayers and worship. One of the best-known examples of this is the matter of the adhan (call to prayer and one of the most important signs of Islam). The Prophet made a decision that this call should be made to specify the exact times of prayer preventing the damage to people’s worldly interests should they attend a prayer too early as well as avoiding the loss of the other worldly gains in being late to the prayer.
Prophet Muhammad himself stated that in matters that pertained to judgments he had made decisions based on his ijtihad taking into consideration the defenses of the two parties and the evidence presented to him for and against a given case. A hadith on this point particularly emphasizes his human side:
“I am only a human being. When a case is presented to me, I might rule in favor of the party who presents his case in a better way, wrongly leading me to think that he is right. In this case, if I gave someone something that in fact belongs to his brother rather than himself, he should not accept it. For the thing that I gave him is nothing but a piece of fire” (Al-Bukhari, “Mazalim” 16, “Ahkam” 29, 31; Muslim, “Aqdiya” 5, 6).
Emphasizing the human side of the Prophet, this hadith clearly indicates that Prophet Muhammad was no different from any other human being in resolving problems judicially. This is because the Prophet could not access the knowledge in the realm of the unknown (ghaib) unless Allah wanted him to; therefore he had to make decisions based on the apparent and circumstantial evidence presented to him.
Matters of War
There are many examples of how Prophet Muhammad used to make a decision on the basis of his ijtihad after consulting with his companions and taking existing conditions into account on matters and strategies of war. An example of such ijtihad is the fact that the Prophet accepted the offer of the companion Sa’d ibn Mu’az to command the army in the Battle of Badr.
It is also a historical fact that from time to time Prophet Muhammad declared his own opinions based on his own experience and judgment on some worldly affairs and that he even made a mistake in some of his ijtihads. The best example of this is the inoculation of date palms in Medina. According to a report when the Prophet went to Medina, he saw that in order to have a better harvest the residents fertilized the date palms by conjoining male and female pollens. He then said that in his opinion this would not work; upon hearing this, the residents of Medina gave up the practice. However, that year the produce turned out to be less than in earlier years. Then the Prophet said that although they should follow him strictly when he made a decision on matters of faith and religion, he was like any one of them when it came to worldly affairs, making decisions based on his own judgment, and added, “You know your worldly affairs better than I do, and I know your religious matters better than you do” (Muslim “Fadail” 139 – 141).
In summary, Prophet Muhammad was a prophet who acted first and foremost under the guidance of divine revelation. Despite this, it is also true that there are some verses in the Quran that emphasize his human features as well as those indicating he might make mistakes on some issues. In addition, he made decisions based on his own judgment and was wrong (at least was not able to choose the better option) in some of these decisions. As such, it is clear that not all of his sayings and practices were a product of divine revelation. Islamic scholars and jurists have discussed this matter extensively, particularly in books on the Methodology of Islamic jurisprudence. The majority of the ulema (religious scholars) have argued with sound evidence that Prophet Muhammad, like any other Muslim scholar, had the authority of ijtihad and occasionally he actually used it within the limits of his human capacity.
Moreover, as a prophet who was compelled by divine revelation, the Prophet was mostly right in his ijtihad based decisions. Although few, in such cases where he was mistaken, he was often warned by divine revelation and quickly corrected by Allah the Almighty. On the other hand, it is not possible to argue that all the mistakes the Prophet made regarding the purely worldly affairs were corrected by divine revelation, or that such corrections were even necessary. In other words, Allah might not have corrected those related to purely worldly affairs based on expertise and experience like medicine, agriculture and technology. However, this does not affect his status as the Messenger of Allah.
The Prophet was the cradle of Allah's revelation which was the highest authority and most superior source of knowledge. In the second place of authority was the Prophet's own personal opinion. If there was any conflict between the Prophet's ijtihad and divine revelation, the latter superseded the former as in the case of Khawlah bint Tha'labah of the Khazraj tribe. Her husband Aws ibn Samit of the Aws tribe divorced her by an old Arabian custom known as "zihar" whereby a husband could divorce his wife by simply declaring “You are to me as my mother's back.” In old Arabian society as well as in the early days of Islam, this mode of divorce was considered final and so severe that it prevented the wife from ever returning to her husband and there was no possibility of remarriage between them. Khawlah pleaded this case before the Prophet who had not yet received any new divine commandment about this kind of divorce. He told Khawlah that the divorce was effective and complete, and she was forbidden from returning to her husband. After a while the divine revelation came down which stated that the zihar was no longer a divorce (Qur'an 58:1-4). The Prophet, on receiving this revelation, told Khawlah that she was not divorced, and her marriage bond was still safe and sound.2
The Companions' ijtihad was in third place as an authority. It came after the Prophet's ijtihad. In the event of conflicting opinions, the latter superseded the earlier as in the case of Ibn al-Latbiyyah who was appointed by the Prophet as a tax collector in Banu Sulaym. When he came back to Medina, he had many valuable goods with him. He handed them to the Prophet but kept a portion which he described as a gift presented to him by Banu Sulaym. In his consideration that portion was his property because the people of that region offered it to him out of their free will as a gift, not as a part of tax. The Prophet did not agree with his reasoning, opining that he was offered that gift due to his official position. Had it not been for his position, no one would have given him anything. Therefore, that portion was also state's property, not the collector's3. Based upon this reasoning, Ibn al-Latbiyyah changed his opinion and presented the goods to the Prophet.4
Sometimes, the Prophet accepted his Companions' ijtihad and changed his personal opinion as it happened on the occasion of Badr. When the Prophet decided to camp at a certain place, one of his Companions, Hubab ibn al-Mundhir al-Khazraji, came to him and asked whether stopping at that location was commandment of Allah, or it was a matter of opinion and strategy of war. When he replied that it was merely a matter of opinion and strategy of war, the Companion said, then that was not the place to halt, and suggested another place. The Prophet agreed with him and carried it out.5
In fact, the ijtihad of the Prophet's Companions during his lifetimes is a historical reality which should not be disputed among scholars. Among the Prophet Muhammad's Companions, there was a sizable number of such great intelligent persons who were competent to solve problems through their ijtihad.1 They were capable of offering personal opinions and solving the current issues by their God-given juristic insight. A good number of them such as Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, 'Amr ibn al-'As, Sa'd ibn Mu'adh and Sa'd ibn 'Ubbadah were well known for their wisdom, intelligence and competence in personal reasoning even during the pre-lslamic period. When they entered the fold of islam, their spiritual purity, and intellectual enlightenment grew further. Their conversion to Islam did not impede their reasoning skills or intellectual qualities. Instead, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) commanded his followers through the revelation of Allah to utilize their thinking power and reasoning capacity.
The Holy Qur'an says,
"Contemplate, O you who are endowed with insight" (59:2)
There is severe condemnation against those who don't utilize their faculty of reason,
The Qur'an says,
“They have hearts with which they do not understand,and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do no hear. Those persons are like animals, even more worse.” (7:179)
IJTIHAD IN THE PROPHET'S PRESENCE
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged his Companions to seek knowledge, utilize their reasoning ability, and benefit mankind. It was due to his encouragement that on several occasions, they exercised their ijtihad and practiced their personal reasoning in presence of the Prophet. Sometimes he himself asked them for their opinion and reasoning, while at the other times they expressed it without his demand.
1. In the 5th year of Hijra, the Prophet received news that a large army of Quraysh was about to march to attack Medina. He summoned his Companions for consultation. Several suggestions were expressed as to what would be the best plan for defense. Salman al-Farisi said: "O Messenger of Allah! In Persia, when we feared an attack (of horsemen), we would surround ourselves with a trench. Let us dig a trench around us now." The Prophet accepted Salman's suggestions and ordered the digging of a trench to defend the city of Medina.30
2. During the Battle of the Trench ten thousand troops of Quraysh, Banu Ghatafan, and their allies besieged Medina.31 This siege was prolonged and the strain on the Muslims increased. Food was beginning to run short and many of the weak in faith, unnerved by hunger, cold, and lack of sleep were losing strength to resist. The Prophet tried to weaken the power of the enemy by splitting them. One night, he sent word to 'Uyaynah ibn Hisn, the chief of Banu Ghatafan, offering him one third of the date harvest of Medina if he would quit the Quraysh and turn back along with his men. But 'Uyaynah demanded half of the dates of Medina. The Prophet sent for Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, the chief of Banu Aws, and Sa'd ibn 'Ubbadah, the chief of Banu Khazraj. He said, "Uyaynah has asked me half of your dates for leaving Quraysh along with his men and deserting the allied forces, while I offered him one third. However, he refused to accept my offer and insisted on one half. What is your opinion?" They replied, "O Messenger of Allah if you have been commanded by Allah about something, then do it." The Prophet replied: "If I were commanded by Allah I would not consult you. It is just my personal opinion which I am presenting to you for discussion." They said: "Then our opinion is not to give them but sword." The Prophet agreed with them and accepted their opinion.32
3. After the Battle of the Trench, the Prophet (along with his Companions) went to the Banu Qurayzah who had broken their agreement with the Prophet and sided with the Meccan forces against the Muslims. This tribe was an ally of the Banu Aws in the pre-lslamic period. The men of Aws requested the Prophet to show the same leniency toward their former allies as he had shown toward Banu Qaynuqa' who had been the allies of Banu Khazraj. He said, "Would you be satisfied if one of you pronounces judgment upon them?" They agreed. He entrusted it to their chief Sa'd ibn Mu'adh who was injured during the Battle of the Trench and whose wounds had not yet healed. The Prophet had placed him in the tent of Rufaydah in his mosque at Medina so that he might visit him more often. Rufaydah was a nurse from Banu Aslam. This expert Muslim lady used to tend and treat the wounded people. Some of the clansmen of Sa'd went to him and mounted him on an ***. They brought him to the Prophet saying to him on their way, "Do well to your confederates for the Messenger of Allah has set you in judgment upon them merely to treat them with kindnesses." When they repeated their request again and again, he said, "The time has come for Sa'd to give no heed to the blame of the blamer in the cause of Allah.''
Sa'd was a man of majestic and handsome appearance and a mighty stature. When he approached the camp, the Prophet said, “Stand up in the honor of your chief.” They rose to greet him and said, “Father of 'Amr, the Messenger of Allah has appointed you to judge the case of your confederates.” He said, “Do you swear by Allah and make by Him your covenant that my judgment will be the verdict upon them?” “We do”' they answered. “And is it binding upon him who is here?” He added, with a glance in the direction of the Prophet, but not mentioning him out of reverence. “It is,” said the Prophet. “Then I judged.” said Sa'd, “that the men of Banu Qurayzah should be slain, the property divided and the women and children made captive.” The Prophet said to him: “You have judged with the judgment of Allah from above the seven heavens.”33
4. On the occasion of Badr the Prophet along with his men camped at the first well he came to, near the field of Badr. One of his Companions, Hubab ibn al-Mundhir al-Khazraji, who was famous for his solidity of opinion and skillfulness in the war affairs, said, “O Messenger of Allah, this place where we are now, has Allah revealed it to you to halt here then we should neither advance nor retreat from it, or is it a matter of opinion and strategy of war?” He replied it was merely a matter of opinion and strategy of war, whereupon Hubab said, “O Messenger of Allah then this is not the place to halt, but take the people on until you come to the well which is nearest to the enemy. Let us halt there, and stop up the wells that lie beyond it, and make there for ourselves a cistern and fill it up with water, then we will fight the enemy. We will drink the water while they will have nothing to drink.” The Prophet considered this opinion as the best one and carried out the plan of Hubab in every detail.34
5. When the Prophet moved closer to the valley of Badr, another Companion Sa'd ibn Mu'adh the chief of Banu Aws, came to him and said, “O Messenger of Allah, let us build for you a shelter behind the battle field where you should stay, and put beside you your riding camels in readiness. Then we will meet our enemy. If Allah strengthens us and makes us victorious over them, that is what we fervently desire. But if something else happens you can mount your camels, and join those people who are left behind. For, O Prophet of Allah, our love for you is not greater than those Muslims who are left behind. If they had known that you would meet with war they would have not stayed behind. Allah will protect you through them. They will give you good counsel and fight at your side.” The Prophet appreciated his concern and invoked blessings upon him. Then the shelter was built with branches of palms, and he stayed there during the fighting.35
6. The Battle of Badr left seventy soldiers of the enemy dead and seventy captured. The Prophet consulted his Companions regarding the treatment of the captives. The Companions expressed various opinions. Abu Bakr suggested their release on ransom. He said, “O Messenger of Allah, they are your people, and your family. Preserve them alive. Maybe Allah would turn to them with His mercy. Take from them ransom and strengthen your followers by that money.”36 'Umar ibn al-Khattab advised him to kill all of them. He said, “O Messenger of Allah, these people accused you of lying, expelled you from Mecca and fought against you. They are the leaders of infidelity. Allah has made you free from the money of their ransom. Bring them forward and cut their heads off.”37 ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah said, “O Messenger of Allah, find a valley of plentiful firewood and burn up these captives in the fire.”38 Sa'd ibn Mu'adh insistently said, “O Messenger of Allah, kill them and do not take the ransom.”39 The Prophet accepted the suggestion of Abu Bakr and released the captives for ransom.40
7. On the occasion of Hudaybiyah, when the Quraysh did not let the Prophet enter Mecca to perform the pilgrimage to its holy shrine, a treaty was signed between him and the Quraysh on their terms. According to it, the Muslims had to return to Medina that year without performing the pilgrimage, however, they were allowed to come back next year and perform the ritual rites of the holy shrine of the Ka'bah. The Prophet asked his Companions to rise, sacrifice their sacrificial animals, and then shave their heads. He repeated it a second and a third time, but no one moved. They were perplexed by this demand because, according to pilgrimage tradition, the sacrifices had to be performed within the sacred territory of Mecca after some special ritual rites. The field of Hudaybiyah was outside of the Meccan sanctuary, and they had not yet performed the other special rituals. Besides this, perhaps, they regarded the sacrifice at Hudaybiyah as a victory for the Quraysh, which they did not like. The Prophet was somewhat dismayed by their silence. He withdrew to his tent and told his wife Umm Salamah about the situation, wondering what was the matter with the people. She said, “O Messenger of Allah you know their deep sadness and grief which has seized them. Say no word to any man. Go to your sacrificial animal and sacrifice it, then call for your barber who should shave your head.” Carrying out the advice of Umm Salamah, the Prophet went out and did not speak to anyone. He sacrificed his animal, and then called for his barber who shaved his head. Upon seeing this, the Companions leaped to their feet and raced falling over each other in eagerness to follow the practice of their beloved Prophet.41
8. Abu Qatadah reported, “We went along with the Messenger of Allah in the year of Hunayn. When we met the enemy, we suffered a reverse. I saw one of the polytheists getting the better of one of the Muslims. I struck him on his shoulder blade with my sword and cut his coat of mail. He turned to me and pressed me to him so hard that I felt death was near. However, he let me go when he was overtaken by death. I then saw 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and asked him what was the matter with the people, to which he replied that it was what Allah had decreed. Then the Muslims returned and defeated the enemy. After that the Prophet sat down and said, “Anyone who killed an enemy, and could prove it, he will get his share of the spoils.” I asked “Who will testify for me?” and then sat down. The Prophet made the same announcement a second time, and I again askeed, “Who will testify for me?” and sat down. The Prophet repeated his word a third time, and I again got up. He saw me and said, “What is the matter with you, Abu Qatadah?” When I told him my story, a man verified my statement and said, “He had spoken the truth, O Messenger of Allah. I have his share of the spoils, so gratify him by giving something else in exchange.” Upon this, Abu Bakr said, “Never, I swear by Allah, the Prophet will never do so in the case of one of the Allah's heroes who fights for Him and His Messenger, and then he should give you his share of the spoils.” The Prophet said “He (Abu Bakr) has had spoken the truth” and asked the man to hand it over to me.42
In this report we find two persons exercising their personal opinions in the presence of the Prophet. The first person is the one who was keeping the plunder. He considered it proper for the Prophet to let him keep it, and to give Abu Qatadah something else in exchange. The second one is Abu Bakr in whose opinion it was not proper to deprive Abu Qatadah, the hero of Islam, from the spoils.
9. When the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina, the Muslim community at that time did not have any regular system of calling the people for the prayers. He consulted his Companions regarding this matter. Some suggested the use of a bell as the Christians did, while others advised him to use a horn like that of the Jews. At first, the Prophet was inclined towards the horn, but then, he did not like it and ordered a bell to be made so that it might be struck to gather the Muslims for prayers. Meanwhile, one night Abdullah ibn Zayd, a Companion of the Prophet, had a dream. Early in the morning, he rushed to the mosque, met the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of Allah, last night when I was sleeping, I had a dream. A man dressed in two green garments carrying a bell in his hand appeared to me. I said to him, “O servant of Allah will you sell me this bell?" He asked, “What would you do with it?” I replied that we would use it to call people to the prayers. He then asked, “Shall I show you something better?” I said, “What is that?” So he told me the words of the adhan' (call to prayers). The Prophet said, “It is a true vision.” He then ordered Zayd to get up along with Bilal so that Bilal should repeat the words because his voice was louder than Zayd.43
This report shows that the Companions exercised their ijtihad in the presence of the Prophet and suggested the utilization of the bell or horn for the call to prayers.
10. Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Prophet used to lean against a dry trunk of a datepalm during his sermons. When the number of audience increased, one of his Companions Tamim al-Dari suggested for him to have a pulpit similar to the Syrians. The Prophet approved it and Maymoon, a carpenter of Medina was ordered to make a wooden Pulpit, which the Prophet used during his sermons afterwards.44
IJTIHAD IN THE PROPHET'S ABSENCE:
The Prophet Muhammad's Companions, during his absence, were in much need of exercising their ijtihad to solve the issues of their society. It was unnecessary, improper, and even practically impossible for them to contact the Prophet about every single problem. Therefore they practiced their personal reasoning to seek the solution for various issues. Later on, when they had chance, they reported their answers to the Prophet. In his role as supreme authority, he sometimes rejected these and sometimes approved or modified them.
1. When 'Ali ibn Abu Talib was in Yemen, a tragic case was brought to him for settlement. Some people had dug a pitfall to hunt a lion. When the lion fell in, many people gathered on the brink. By chance, one man slipped into the pitfall and gripped another person so that he might be rescued. The latter grabbed someone else who seized another one. All four men fell into the pitfall and were killed by the lion. 'Ali announced his decree that those who were standing on the brink should pay compensation to the kindred of the slain. He fixed one fourth of blood money as indemnity for the first slain, one-third for the second, half for the third, and full blood money (one hundred camels) for the fourth one. Later on somebody mentioned it to the Prophet who smiled and approved it.45
2. Zayd ibn Arqam reported that once he was sitting by the Prophet when a Yemeni man came in and told the Prophet about a judgment of Ali ibn Abu Talib in Yemen. He said, there were three Yemeni men who (in their pre-lslamic period) had sexual intercourse with a woman in the same period of her purification. When she gave birth to a son, each one of them claimed to be his father. They brought their dispute to Ali who asked every two of them to give up their claim in the favored third one but they refused. Ali said, you are quarreling partners, l am going to cast lots among you. The child will belong to him who wins, but he would have to pay a sum equivalent to two third of the blood money to his companions. Then he cast lots among them and entrusted the child to the winner. On hearing this, the Prophet smiled displaying his approval.46
3. Once during the military expedition of Dhat al-Salasil, 'Amr ibn Al-'As happened to have a nocturnal emission. The weather was extremely cold. Fearing his death due to the intense chill, he did not take a bath for prayers. Instead, he performed ablution with dust and led his companions in prayer. On their return to Medina, somebody informed the Prophet about it. He said, “O 'Amr did you lead your companions in prayer while you were in the state of grave impurity?” In reply, 'Amr expressed his excuse and supported his action with a verse of the Qur'an which reads: “Do not kill yourselves, Allah has been most Merciful to you(4:29)”. Hearing this explanation, the Prophet smiled and did not say any word against his reasoning.47
4. Once, during a journey, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and 'Ammar ibn Yasir happened to have nocturnal emissions, and could not get water to take baths. When the prayer time came, 'Umar did not pray and delayed it until he could have access to water. But 'Ammar rolled himself on the ground to perform tayammum (ablution with dust) and offered the prayer. He exercised his ijtihad and compared through analogy the tayammum for grave impurity with the tayammum for minor impurity. On return to Medina, he mentioned to the Prophet who said, “It is enough for you to strike the ground with your hands, then blow into them, then wipe up your face and the palms of your hands with them.”48 This example at a time contains two personal reasonings: one about lawfulness of tayammum for grave impurity, and other about nature of tayammum. The latter required correction which was made by the Prophet.
5. When the battle of the Trench was over, the Prophet, after the afternoon prayer had been prayed, gave orders to his Companions that none should pray the late afternoon prayer until he had reached the Banu Qurayzah territory. They marched out. On their way the prayer time began. Some of them took the Prophet's orders literally and said, “We will not offer the prayer till we reach the Banu Qurayzah”. They did not pray on their way and performed it later on in Banu Qurayzah territory. Others looked at the spirit of the orders. They realized through their ijtihad that the Prophet's purpose was haste in traveling, not merely delaying the prayer. Therefore, they offered the prayer on their way and then rushed to the destination. Later on it was mentioned to the Prophet and he did not condemn any one.49
6. Two Companions of the Prophet went out on a journey. When the time of prayer came, having no water with them, they performed ablution with good earth and then prayed. Immediately afterwards they found water. One of them performed ablution with water and repeated the prayer while the other did not. They both exercised their ijtihad and practiced according to it. When they came back they mentioned it to the Prophet. He said to the one who did not repeat the prayer, “You have observed my practice (Sunnah) and your prayer was enough for you.” To the one who had performed ablution with water and repeated the prayer he said, “You will have a two fold reward.”50
7. Once the Messenger of Allah sent a military expedition to the western sea coast in order to watch the Quraysh's caravan. They were three hundred men under the command of Abu 'Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah. They stayed at the seashore for half a month and were struck with severe hunger. One day the sea threw out a dead fish so big, the like of which they had never been seen, and it was called "Anbar''. They did not have any instructions from the Prophet about the lawfulness of this huge animal. The commander Abu 'Uubaydah exercised his ijtihad and pronounced it lawful and asked them to eat of it. They ate of it for half-a-month. On arrival at Medina they informed the Prophet about it. He said, “Eat of it, for it is a food which Allah has brought out for you.” Then he said, “Feed us if you have some of it.” There upon one of them gave him a portion which he ate.51
8. Once some of the Prophet's Companions went on a journey until they reached a certain Arabian tribe. They stopped there for rest, and asked them for hospitality, which the tribe refused. The chief of the tribe was then by chance bitten by a snake. His tribesmen tried their best to cure him but it was in vain. One of them said, “Nothing is benefiting him. If you go to the people who stopped here, some of them might have something useful.” They went to the Prophet's Companions and told them that their chief had been bitten by a snake, and they had tried everything but it was in vain. Then they asked them if they had any useful thing. One of the Companions replied, “Yes, by God , I can use a spell but when we asked you for hospitality you refused, now I am not going to use a spell for your chief unless you fix a remuneration for it. They agreed to pay them a flock of sheep. Upon this the Companion started the recitation of the Qur'an's first chapter "Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil 'alameen'', and puffed over the chief who recovered instantly as if he was released from a chain; he started walking and there was not a bit of sickness with him. The tribesmen paid what they had agreed to pay. Some of the Companions suggested to divide the earnings, but the one who used the spell said, “Do not do it until we come to the Prophet, and tell him the whole story, and then wait for his orders.” So they went to the Messenger of Allah and reported it to him. He said to that one who used the spell, “How did you come to know that the first chapter of the Qur'an was a spell?” Then he added, “You people have done the right thing, divide the earnings, and assign a share for me as well.” Then the Prophet smiled.52
This report contains three reasonings. First, using the first chapter as a spell and demanding remuneration for it. Second, the suggestion of distribution. And finally, not to do it without asking the Prophet.
9. On the occasion of Hudaybiyah, the Prophet sent 'Uthman ibn 'Affan to Mecca in order to negotiate with the Quraysh so that they might allow the Prophet and his Companions to perform the pilgrimage to the Ka'bah.
'Uthman entered Mecca and tried his best to convince the Quraysh but it did not work. However, they allowed him to perform the circumambulation of the Ka'bah which he refused to do. His ijtihad led him not to accept their offer. He informed them that he would never perform the ritual without the Messenger of Allah.53
10. During the last year of the Prophet's Meccan life, the city of Medina became the base for the Islamic movement. In a very short period of time Islam grew to be one of the two major religions of that city; the other was Judaism. The majority of the two pagan tribes of Medina, Banu Khazraj and Banu Aws, had embraced Islam. One day some devoted Muslims of Medina held a meeting and discussed the need for a weekly fixed day for special religious services. They did not have any divine instruction in this regard and did not have access to the Prophet because he had not yet migrated and was still at Mecca. They said to each other that the Jews had a fixed weekly day, Saturday, in which they get together, just as the Christians had Sunday. Let the Muslims have a fixed day also on which they should meet together every week, remember Allah, offer prayers, and pay thanks to Allah. They selected the day of Friday for this purpose, and assembled to As'ad ibn Zurarah, a very knowledgeable companion of the Prophet, who led them in the prayer which was the first Friday prayer in the history of Is1am.54 This action of the Muslims of Medina was later on confirmed by the Prophet. This report is evidence that the selection of Friday for the special congregational prayer was through the ijtihad of the Muslims of Medina during the Prophet's absence.
The foregoing discussion about the Ijtihad of the Prophet's Companions during his lifetime can be condensed into the following points:
1. The ability of personal reasoning (ijtihad) is a magnificent favor of Allah. The exercising of this faculty is a virtue which brings ten times the reward from Almighty Allah when it is done correctly. Even if someone is mistaken in his ijtihad, he still would receive one reward. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had encouraged and urged his follower to practice this quality and condemned the failure to practice it.
2. A sizeable number of the Prophet's Companions practiced their ijtihad during his lifetime in both his absence as well as in his presence. This action, on the one hand was a need of the times, and on the other hand it was a guidance and preparation for the future. These Companions, after his death, conducted their ijtihad on a large scale to solve the problems of the community.
3. The revelation of Allah was the highest authority, the Prophet's ijtihad was next to it, and the ijtihad of the Companions was in third place. The revelation of Allah had authority to abrogate the Prophet's decision, as the Prophet's ijtihad had the power to supersede the Companions' judgment. The reverse was not possible, i.e., the companions' personal reasoning could not abrogate the Prophet's decision, as his ijtihad could not supersede the divine ruling.
4. Being a higher authority, the Prophet, sometimes accepted his Companions' opinion, while on other occasions he modified or canceled it, as had happened to his own ijtihad when the divine revelation sometimes confirmed it and sometimes abrogated it.
5. The Prophet practiced his personal reasoning about questions in every field. Likewise, his Companions also exercised their ijtihad about issues of every aspect whether they were political, financial, judicial, civil or criminal, pure religious or social, and personal or communal.
6. The Prophet's Companions exercised their ijtihad during his lifetime but not frequently. There are two main reasons for this infrequency. First, the simplicity of that period did not create many new issues. As a result, there was no need for the excessive use of ijtihad. The other reason was the presence of the Prophet amongs people, since he was the cradle of divine revelation. When an issue appeared, sometimes the divine revelation came down, while on other occasions he answered through his own ijtihad. The Companions were actually in need of exercising their ijtihad about issues when both of these sources were silent or they could not have immediate access to them. Such matters were not frequent.
The ability of ijtihad is a great blessing of Almighty Allah. The real gratitude for this favor is to benefit humankind through utilizing it for solving their problems. The exercise of ijtihad by the Prophet's Companions during his lifetime demonstrates its great importance and the tremendous need for it. In that period the Prophet was among them and the new divine revelations were also coming down to him one after another. Furthermore, human society at that time was very simple. Still, even then the Prophet's followers needed to practice their ijtihad for solution of their various problems. Consider the present age which is full of complications and enormous new issues. It is the duty of Muslim scholars to answer the challenge of the times and solve the new problems through exercising their ijtihad in the light of Qur'an and Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).