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Permission for Ijtihad

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Ijāzat al-Ijtihād (Arabic: اجازة الإجتهاد, ijtihad certification or permission) is a certification in Shi'a Seminary that indicates one's capability in deducing religious rulings from Islamic sources. This certification is usually granted by well-known mujtahids to Islamic seminary students who has gained this capability. The certification could be in written or oral form, and also could be certification of absolute ijtihad (ijtihād al-muṭlaq: capability in deducing religious rulings in all jurisprudential topics) or partial ijtihad (ijtihād al-mutajazzī: capability in deducing religious rulings in certain jurisprudential topics).


Main article: Ijtihad

In Shi'a jurisprudential (fiqh) terminology, ijtihad is the ability of deducing practical religious rulings and duties from its sources and principles of fiqh. Someone who has gained this power is called "mujtahid".

Ijtihad requires deep knowledge in several branches of religious science and Arabic grammar. Hawza students spend many years studying Arabic grammar, principles of jurisprudence, logic, exegesis of the Holy Qur'an especially the verses that contain rulings (Ayat al-Ahkam), rijal, diraya, early faqihs's opinions and viewpoints and etc. to reach ijtihad.

Absolute and Partial Ijtihad

There are two kinds of mujtahids: absolute mujtahid and partial mujtahid. A mujtahid who is capable of deducing religious rulings in all jurisprudential topics employing the sources of fiqh (the Holy Qur'an, hadith, intellect, and consensus) is called absolute mujtahid (mujtahid al-mutlaq). On the other hand, a mujtahid who has not gained this capability yet and is just able to deduce divine rulings in some jurisprudential topics, is called partial mujtahid (mujtahid al-mutajazzi). Likewise, ijtihad permission is divided into absolute and partial.


In recent centuries, it was conventional for mujtahids to grant their students a written or oral certification –which indicates that they are capable of deducing religious rulings- when the students reach a required level of knowledge. This certification is called "ijtihad permission."

In Shi'a seminary, granting this kind of certification was conventional and acquiring several ijtihad permissions, especially from prominent mujtahids, was considered as a sign of high jurisprudential knowledge of the receiver. For instance, it is mentioned in Ayatullah Burujirdi's biography that while residing in Isfahan, at the age of 28, he was granted three permissions of ijtihad by great mujtahids of Isfahan.

Some mujtahids were very strict in granting ijtihad Permission. It is narrated that the great mujtahid, al-Shaykh al-Ansari would not give ijtihad permission to anyone.

Other Permissions

In the tradition of Shia scholars two other kinds of permission have been common, permission of managing hisbiyya affairs and permission for transmitting hadith. These two permissions should not be confused with permission for ijtihad.

Permission for transmitting hadith concerns narrating hadiths amongst muhaddiths, if a master of hadith finds his students qualified for narrating hadith (for example: by being trustworthy and honest, having good comprehension of hadith), he grants them a permission to narrate hadiths. This permission could be for narrating a specific hadith book or hadiths narrated by a specific narrator or all books and hadiths that the master has narrated. For instance, al-Shaykh al-Mufid received the permission of narrating al-Kafi from his master, Ibn Qulawayh who had received it from al-Shaykh al-Kulayni, the author of the book.

Permission for managing hisbiyya affairs is about practical duties of faqihs (jurists). Faqihs may give permission to some trustees to do this job. However, the trustee must be a mujtahid (absolute or partial), just, and able to carry out this duty.