Similarities & Differences Between Titles of Respect in Islam.
The words ‘aalim, faqeeh and mujtahid all carry the same meaning: they refer to one who strive to reach the shar‘i ruling and who has the ability to derive shar‘i rulings from the evidence.
This means that he has to acquire the tools (pre-requisites) of ijtihaad. No one can be described in these terms (‘aalim, mujtahid or faqeeh) except one who meets the pre-requisites of ijtihaad.
The scholars paid attention to these pre-requisites so that the door is not open to just anyone, old or young, to say about the religion of Allah that of which he has no knowledge.
But we will content ourselves with just two reports from which we will demonstrate what these pre-requisites are.
Al-Shawkaani summed up in five points, listing five pre-requisites:
- He should have knowledge of the texts of the Qur’aan and Sunnah.This does not necessarily mean that he should have memorised the Sunnah; rather it is sufficient for him to be able to find reports in their places and be familiar with the contents of the books of Sunnah, foremost among which are the well-known compilations of the Sunnah (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Saheeh Muslim, Sunan Abi Dawood, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Nasaa’i and Sunan Ibn Maajah), and so on. He should also know what is saheeh (sound) and what is da‘eef (weak) in the texts of the Sunnah.
- He should have knowledge of the issues of consensus (ijmaa‘)
- He should be well versed in the Arabic language. It is not stipulated that he should have learned it by heart; rather he should be able to understand the meanings and structure of the language.
- He should have knowledge of usool al-fiqh (basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence), including analogy (qiyaas), because usool al-fiqh is the foundation for deriving rulings.
- He should have knowledge of what abrogates and what is abrogated (al-naasikh wa’l-mansookh).
See: Irshaad al-Fuhool, 2/297-303
The second report was narrated from Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen [raheemullah]: He mentioned the pre-requisites of the mujtahid without differing greatly from what al-Shawkaani mentioned, but he put it more clearly and said:
Ijtihaad is subject to several conditions, including the following:
- He (the mujtahid) should have knowledge of the shar‘i evidence that he needs for the purpose of ijtihaad, such as verses of the Qur’aan and ahadeeth that speak of rulings.
- He should have knowledge of the matters pertaining to the soundness or weakness of ahadeeth, such as the isnaad, the men in the isnaad and so on.
- He should be aware of what abrogates and what is abrogated (al-naasikh wa’l-mansookh) and issues on which there is consensus (ijmaa‘), so that he will not issue a ruling on the basis of something that has been abrogated or that is contrary to scholarly consensus.
- He should have knowledge of various matters affecting the ruling, such as reports of specific meanings, reports that set limits, and so on, so that he will not issue a ruling that is contrary to that.
- He should have knowledge of the Arabic language and usool al-fiqh that has to do with verbal evidence, such as what is general and what is specific, what is absolute and what is restricted, what is mentioned in brief and what is mentioned in detail, and so on, so that his rulings will be in accordance with what is indicated by that evidence.
- He should have the ability to derive rulings from the evidence.
End quote from al-Usool fi ‘Ilm al-Usool, p. 85, 86; Sharh (commentary thereon), p. 584-590.
It should be pointed out that referring to the Sunnah now is much easier than it was before, because of the books that have been written on the Sunnah.
The one who fulfils these conditions is a scholar (‘aalim) who can derive shar‘i rulings from the evidence. Anyone who does not fit this description cannot be described as a ‘aalim, faqeeh or mujtahid.
It should also be noted that these words (‘aalim, mujtahid and faqeeh) are technical terms, as it were; according to the scholars they have specific meanings and pre-requisites. So it is not permissible to use them readily about anyone who speaks about Islamic rulings or teaches Islamic material in schools and universities, or who works in the field of da‘wah (calling people to Allah). A man may be a daa‘iyah, calling people to Allah, and putting a great deal of effort into that, without having reached the level of being a scholar (‘aalim).
The faqeeh is the mujtahid who derives shar’i rulings, explains the principles of sharee’ah and teaches people the rulings of their religion. The focus of his specialty is the aims and goals of sharee’ah, the clear verses of the Qur’aan and achieving sound understanding of what Allaah wants from His slaves.
This is something that can be done by only a few individuals, because it requires extensive study of the texts, lengthy study and examination of the words of the scholars, and intelligence in studying real life situations and applying the rulings of sharee’ah to them.
The term muhaddith refers to a specialist who profoundly knows and narrates hadith, the chains of their narration isnad, and the original and famous narrators.
Shaykh al-Albaani – may Allaah have mercy on him – was asked:
‘What is the connection between the knowledge of Fiqh (understanding of the religion) and the knowledge of hadeeth? Is it necessary for a Muhaddith (scholar of hadeeth sciences) to be a Faqihi (scholar of Sharia’), or is he just a Muhaddith?’
So he answered:
‘It is necessary for a Faqihi to be a Muhaddith but it is not necessary for a Muhaddith to be a Faqihi, since a Muhaddith is already naturally a Faqihi.
Did the Companions of the Prophet -sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam- study Fiqh or not? What was the Fiqh that they used to study? It was what they used to take from the Messenger of Allaah -sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam-, so they used to study hadeeth.
As for these Fuqaha (scholars of Sharia’), who study the statements of the scholars and their Fiqh and do not study the hadeeth of their Prophet which is the spring of Fiqh, then it is said to these people: it is obligatory to study the knowledge of hadeeth since we cannot conceive there being a correct Fiqh without knowing, memorizing and authenticating the hadeeth and knowing the weak hadeeth, while at the same time we cannot imagine a Muhaddith not being a Faqihi.
The Qur’aan and the Sunnah are the two sources of Fiqh, of all Fiqh. As for general Fiqh today then it is the Fiqh of scholars and not the Fiqh of the Book and the Sunnah.
Yes, some of it is present in the Book and the Sunnah and some of it is expression of opinions and Ijtihaad (deriving an opinion from the Book and the Sunnah) but much of what they have opposes the hadeeth because they did not comprehend the knowledge.’
* Taken from: ‘al-Asalaah Magazine’ vol. 7 Dated 15th Rabi al-Awwal 1414a.h.
He also said the following in a recorded lecture on cassette tape entitled: ‘Haqeeqat al-Bida’ wal-Kufr’:
‘The Sharia’ is not just taken from the texts nor from just one Ayaah or one hadeeth, rather it is all that is collected on that specific issue. Therefore it is not just obligatory to collect all the texts regarding Fiqh issues so that we can know what abrogates from what is abrogated, the specific from the general, the absolute from the limited and …… and….etc, rather gathering the texts for ‘Aqeedah is foremost by a long way.
A mufti is a scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law (Sharia).
A Mufti will generally go through an Iftaa course and the person should fulfill the following conditions set by scholars in order that he may be able to issue verdicts (fataawa). They are eight:
- Mastering the science of principles of jurisprudence,
- Mastering the science of Hadith,
- Mastering the science of Maqasid ash-Shari`ah (Objectives of Shari`ah),
- Mastering legal maxims,
- Mastering the science of comparative religions,
- Mastering the foundations of social sciences,
- Knowing Arabic, and
- Having sufficient knowledge of social realities.
Shaykh- The term is used to address learned men of various Islamic sciences, such as faqihs, muftis, and muhaddiths, and more generally to convey respect for religious authorities. The word in Arabic stems from a triliteral root connected with age and ageing: ش-ي-خ, shīn-yā’-khā’. The term literally means a man of old age, and it is used in that sense of all men in Qur'anic Arabic.
Henceforth, the word shaykh can be used as a synonym to the word mujtahid of various categories and verily, Allah knows best.