The Living Sunnah

Question

My question pertains to the process of "Living Sunnah" which was abolished after Imam Shafi closed the gates of Ijtihad. Living sunnah in my understanding is the process of Ijtihad and Ijma' for law formulation and other decision making activities of a Muslim society. I am still a student in understanding aspects related to the process of the "Living Sunnah". I would really like for you to tell me if your institution knows what I am talking about because I feel that is what your institution's purpose entails. If you do know what I am talking about could you impart more knowledge on this process so I can be ascertained that this was the way for the propagation of our society towards positive intellectual development.


Answer

Thank you for writing to us. As to the question of closing the gate of ijtihad I will restrict my response to the statement that the gate of ijtihad was not closed by Shafi'i. Imam Shafi'i himself explained that ijtihad means ascertaining the legal rulings and fulfilling the religious obligations mentioned in the religious sources in the light of express and implied religious injunctions. The door of ijtihad is considered to have been closed by the later jurists at least a century after Imam Shafi'i. Even this has been refuted by many scholars. For practically the Muslim scholars have always continued exercising ijtihad and finding solutions to the new problems faced. Please refer to the attached article on the issue of closure of ijtihad.

As for the living sunnah I do not understand which original Arabic term you are referring to. The Muslim scholars use the word sunnah to refer

1) To the religious practices instituted by the Prophet (sws),

2) All actions and sayings of the Prophet (sws),

3) The normative practices followed by the Muslims even if they were established by the Companions or even the pre-Islamic Arabs

4) The optional acts of worship which are done following the Prophet's example.

We believe that Sunnah should only be used for the established religious practices instituted by the Prophet (sws) as part of the religion and which have reached us through consensus of the entire generation of the Muslims in all the layers from the Prophet to the present day. For detail of our view in this regard please refer to:

1. http://al-mawrid.org/pages/articles_english_detail.php?rid=40&cid=344&search=sunnah

2. http://al-mawrid.org/pages/articles_english_detail.php?rid=145&cid=355&search=sunnah

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