IJTIHAD THROUGH THE LENS OF CRITICAL THEORY

Author: 

M. Mehdi Ali

The modern era has posed a plethora of philosophical challenges for Islamic scholars and Muslim communities that were unrecognizable in the pre-modern period.  Although the passage of time has brought about seismic shifts in societal values, the religious discourses on certain fundamental questions, especially conventions relating to marital law, are still based on pre-modern assumptions and methodologies.
This article will examine the methodologies of two prominent contemporary Muslim jurists, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani and Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, in negotiating between the vast body of Islamic legal literature that discusses marital law within a commercial contract law framework, and modern liberal perspectives about gender equality in marriage.  More broadly, this article will assess the trajectory of ijtihad, an Islamic juristic concept that can be roughly translated as “independent reasoning,” in the modern and post-modern period through the lens of critical theory.  Islamic jurisprudence as it pertains to family law, and in particular, marital law is an excellent case study for such an examination because of: (a) the vast differences in legal theory and legal practice, especially in the modern era; and (b) the chasm between certain Sharia-based rules and “modern” values and sensibilities.View More.