The Continuation of Ijtihād
A Study of Shāh Walī Allāh’s Views from the Perspective of the Classical Typology of Ijtihād
This article deals with legal thought of Shāh Walī Allāh, an outstanding religious thinker of eighteenth-century Muslim India, who emerged as one of the most prominent proponents of independent legal reasoning (ijtihād). According to Walī Allāh, ijtihād has always been a communal duty and thus it stipulates the existence of jurists capable of independent legal reasoning (mujtahids) in all ages. His thought-provoking response to the issues concerning ijtihād and taqlīd has led to a great deal of attention from scholars in both the East and the West. However, there remains the controversy of whether he advocated for an independent ijtihād after the eponyms of the law schools or not. This study attempts, analyzing Walī Allāh’s views on the juristic typology maintained by Sunnī jurists, to show how Walī Allāh argued for the continuity of ijtihād, both partial and independent, throughout the history of Islamic law. The author concludes that Walī Allāh believed not only in the possibility of absolute ijtihād (al-ijtihād al-muṭlaq) or ijtihād through legal theory (fī ’l-uṣūl) and positive law (wa ’l-furū‘), after the eponyms of the juristic schools, but also in the existence of such absolute jurists throughout Islamic centuries.
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