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Ijtihad in Twelver Shiism: The Interpretation and Application of Islamic Law in the Context of Changing Muslim Society

The purpose of the thesis is to investigate whether Islamic laws, without relaxing the nature of the Shari ‘a, could be expanded and adapted to meet the changing needs of modem Muslim societies.

The focus is on the Shi’ites’ approach to the law with special reference to the debates in Iran following Imam Khomeini’s emphasis on the “role of the time and place in Ijtihad“. The thesis suggests that scientific knowledge in different areas should play a role in jtihad beside the judgments of those possessing the accomplishments necessary to be a qualified mujtahid. The first three of the seven chapters are designed to provide a general overview of Shi ‘i law, the concept of ijtihad and its development and also the sources and the methodology of ijtihad (usul al-fiqh) among the Shi’ite ‘ulama. The fourth chapter discusses the relation between itihad and the comprehensiveness of the Shari’a, and examines the different theories introduced by both traditional ‘ulama and Muslim modernists in adapting Islamic law to the requirements of the modern age. The fifth chapter focuses on the “role of the time and place” in ijtihad, and the ways and principles through which changes in the law may be justified. In investigating the stages through which a mujtahid may find out the rulings of the Shari ‘a on a particular subject, some new and controversial issues including insurance policies, Islamic banking, human dissection, organ donation, and woman’s right to judge and to be followed are discussed briefly in the sixth chapter. By studying and examining in detail the rulings of the Shari’a, as extracted by some leading fuqaha, on the new reproductive technologies, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation and human cloning, it is shown how scientific knowledge can affect the procedure of jjtihad. Overall it is concluded that participation of the fuqaha in regulating the law and giving practical instruction regarding different problems requires the authorisation of division in ijtihad and cooperation between mujtahidun and scientific authorities on various subjects. It is by recognising these necessities and considering the conditions of the time that they may be able to bring Islamic law successfully into harmony with the requirements of modern life.

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