Islamization of Knowledge

The Crisis of Thought and Ijtihad

The Muslim mind experienced a crisis of thought when, during the early centuries of the Islamic era ijtihad began to be viewed as limited to legal matters rather than as a methodology for dealing with all aspects of life. This limited understanding engendered a malaise that allowed taqlid to attain such prominence and respectability that its cancerous, constricting, and irrelevant fiqh spread throughout Muslim life. Had ijtihad retained more of its lexical meaning and creativity, and had fiqh been considered only one of its uses, perhaps Muslims would have overcome many of the problems that confronted them. However, this particularization of ijtihad confined the Muslim mind, and taqlid eventually led to the paralysis of its creative abilities.

Had ijtihad remained a way of life for Muslims as Allah commanded, they would not have fallen behind in establishing the Islamic sciences necessary for their society and civilization. They also would not have had to watch the reins of leadership fall pass to the West, whose most important qualification was its ability to engage in creative and scientific reasoning. Although its intellectual tradition was tainted with pagan Greek influences, the West achieved world leadership. Had Muslims taken up those sciences and laid the foundations of society on the basis of tawhid (unity), the face of the earth would be different today and the state of civilization itself would be far more felicitous than it is at present.

Before ijtihad was confined to the purely legalistic framework of fiqh, the Muslim mind was enlightened, eager to deal with all manner of thought, and able to meet challenges, generate solutions, and achieve its goals. Had it not been for taqlid and its subduing of the Muslim mind, that mind would have achieved great things. Certainly, a mind with its beginnings in the verse, "Read! in the name of your Lord Who created . . ." should be more than able to renew the ummah's mentality, to continually adjust to changing circumstances, and to initiate the sciences of civilization at a time when the West was over run by wild forest tribes.

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