We live in a fascinating world whose charm is endless. We are lucky to be its inhabitants because it offers countless pleasures. Our ancestors could not have imagined that one day we would rejoice in electronic gadgets, start up boeings and air-buses, hang up scrolls for knowledge and so on.
Civilizations around the world are constantly evolving. None of the surviving societies has remained static thus far, nor can they afford to remain so. Those who resisted “change” are nowhere. Even history has erased them from its pages and we must accept this reality in its entirety.
No one can deny the fact that it was the disposition of Muslims to revere the perpetual nature of ‘change’ that they enjoyed their ‘golden age’ for some time. They were cordial, accommodating, tolerant and ready to shape their societies according to the demands of “change”. They did not resist the eternal process of ‘change’, rather they devised strategies to accept ‘change’ as reality while holding fast to their faith. And unfortunately, when they failed to respond to ‘change’ in time or at least miscalculated the speed of ‘change’, they were among the losers and they also paid the price. Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.
The willingness of Muslims to accept change as reality is also envisioned in their religion. We name this rediness as ‘Ijtehad’. No fault lies in our religion; it resides in our relaxation.
Ijtehad is generally considered a theological term that refers to the process of deriving Islamic Sharia laws from its supreme sources, namely the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. But if one delves deeper into the spirit of Islamic Sharia, ijtehad does not appear to be such a limitation; it invariably emerges as a concept that invites the collective wisdom of every Muslim society around the world to become part of a “collective mega-wisdom” that can be instrumental in managing the problems that the perpetual process of “change” poses or posed for centuries.
Early Muslim theologians rightly believed that ijtehad could perpetuate the effectiveness of Islamic jurisprudence in the face of the ever-changing socio-religious or politico-economic conditions of the globe. These wise men, with their divine wisdom, predicted that ‘change’ is perpetual and Islamic jurisprudence can only do so if ijtehad becomes a regular phenomenon in Muslim societies. Muslim societies have always adorned true mujtahidins. History is a clear testimony to this fact.
However, during the later medieval period and even until large tracts of Muslim lands were colonized by European powers, Muslims ignored the true spirit of ijtehad making it a purely religious subject used to dilute on purely ideological issues that have very little to do. do with the practical social life of ordinary Muslims.
Regardless of their rise or fall, inland Muslim societies have always remained vibrant. Muslims are blessed in that they accept wisdom as their “lost treasure”. As narrated by Abu Hurairah (RA), the Holy Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Wise pronouncement is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it, then he is more worthy of it.
The Arab Republic of Egypt, through its Ministry of Awqaf, is currently organizing a general conference on “Ijtehad as a necessity of the modern era” under the auspices of His Excellency President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi , the Egyptian president. This is an event that can safely be called the sincerest effort of a nation-state to redefine the word ijtehad.
Egypt, since the period of the auspices of the Fatimid dynasty, has been of great importance in history. Even after the war, it contributed immensely to the intellectual and cultural evolution of humanity. Thanks to the University of Al’Azhar (which was opened in Cairo for prayers in 972) and the dynamic leadership of this country, Egypt has continuously supported the intellectual growth of the Muslim ummah.
What could be more captivating than the fact that the conference invites the attention of even Muslim societies vis-à-vis the protection of the environment in the light of the Koran and the Sunnah through the institution of ijtehad. The conference timely and rightly invited the collective wisdom of Muslims around the world on every contemporary topic: virtual currencies, corneal transplants, mechanical animal slaughter, climate change, reforestation, media landscapes, and more. It’s a big opening. Egypt has become a harbinger. Hats off to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his Minister of Awqaf, Professor Mohamed Mukhtar Jumah.
Praise and applause are also due to the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), which is a subsidiary platform of the OIC, for inviting its members to attend this two-day conference in Egypt. The way the IBU alumni, especially Mr. Ahmed Al Murtda, facilitated the guests from various Muslim countries to reap the benefits of this conference is highly commendable. Pakistan, as a founding member of the OIC, has always believed in playing a proactive role in this supreme Muslim organization.
Change is perpetual, just like the religion of Islam. The Muslim ummah is once again on the road to finding its lost treasure, wisdom. Congratulations again to the Arab Republic of Egypt.