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Mujtahid (Arabic) is a Muslim jurist who is qualified to interpret the law and thus to generate Ijtihad

The qualifications for a mujtahid were set out in the 11th century by Abul Husayn al-Basri  in “al Mu’tamad fi Usul al-Fiqh” and accepted by later Sunni scholars, including al-Ghazali, though al-Ghazali himself believed that innovation had ended, as there was nobody qualified to be a Mujtahid.  These qualifications require proficiency in Sha'aria law and its interpretation. Specifically:

  • Fluency in the relatively obscure classical literary Arabic of the Quran and the Sunnah.
  • Proficiency in the laws (ayat al Ahkam) of the Qu'ran, the events surrounding their revelation and the incidences of abrogation (suspending or repealing a ruling). Complete understanding of the historical background is not necessary. Knowledge of the classical commentaries is essential.
  • An adequate knowledge of the Sunnah,
  • Understanding of the Hadiths and of the relative reliability of the narrators and the priority between conflicting rulings, some of which were abrogated.
  • An ability to verify the consensus of the companions of the Prophet and leading authorities, as well as ability to identify unresolved issues.
  • A thorough knowledge of the methodology and logical system of reasoning by analogy (qiyas) making to possible to apply revealed law to an unprecedented case.
  • Understanding of the revealed purposes of Sha'aria, including "considerations of public interest"  - protection of life, religion, intellect, lineage and property.
  • Understand the general maxims for the interpretation of Sha'aria: "removal of hardship", that "certainty must prevail over doubt", and the achievement of a balance between unnecessary rigidity and overly liberal interpretation.
  • An upright life and a judgment that can be trusted.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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