Time-place vs Tradition in Ijthihad


If there are two competing opinions where one opinion gives priority to conditions of time & place while the other opinion gives priority to 1200 yrs of interpretative tradition, which opinion will have greater validity ?

As prohibition of slavery and young marriage is defended on grounds that it satisfies the Quranic command of “freeing of slaves” and “health” similarily, why can’t death penalty be prohibited on satisfying the greater command of “forgiveness”, apostasy laws be re-considered based on the benefit that agreement of UN declaration of human rights would grant universal religious freedom for Muslims and conversion of non-Muslims to Islam, prohibition of polygamy on grounds that the criteria of being “just” is not maintained or culture of abuse of polygamy ? Isn’t it hypocritical to simply dish the latter arguments away as “modernist” or kufr ?


Interpretive tradition has itself given due consideration to conditions of time and place as spelled out by the ruling in the Qawa`id al-Fiqhiyya that “rulings change with the changing of times”, so the two opinions are not necessarily incompatible and they can be both correct. In Islam, society has rights also, not only individuals. True justice has to balance the two, not defend one at the expense of the other.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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