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Al-Nass wa l-ijtihad (book)

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Al-Nass wa l-ijtihad
Author Al-Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din
Original title النَّص و الاِجتِهاد
Language Arabic
Series 1 vol.
Genre Theology
Publisher Dar al-Qari • Uswa Publication • Dar al-Ta'aruf • Maktabat Narjis
English translation
En. title Al-Nass Wal-Ijtihad
Translator 'Abd Allah al-Shahin
En. publisher Ansariyan Publications, Qom
En. full text

Al-Naṣṣ wa l-ijtihād (Arabic: النَّص و الاِجتِهاد) or al-Ijtihād fī muqābil al-naṣṣ (Arabic: الاجتهاد فی مقابل النص) is a book concerning imamate and caliphate written by Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-'Amili, a Lebanese scholar.

The book is concerned with proofs for the superiority of Imam Ali (a). It cites about hundred cases in which caliphs and some companions opposed the Qur'an and explicit words of the Prophet (s). Without evaluating these oppositions, the author only cites them from the main Sunni sources.

Al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Hakim wrote a relatively long introduction to the book. The book was translated into Persian and English. The Persian translator of the book is Ali Dawani.


Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi al-'Amili (b. 1290/1873 - d. 1377/1957) was a Shi'a mujtahid in Lebanon and an advocate of the proximity of Islamic sects. He made a great deal of efforts to unify Shi'as and Sunnis and to solve the roots of their disagreements. He was also a leader of the Lebanese Independence Movement. He wrote this book when he was about eighty years old.

His best-known book is al-Muraja'at which concerns the immediate succession of Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (a) as the first Imam after the Prophet (s).


The word, "nass", means an explicit word or sentence whose meaning is obvious, having no more than one meaning in a way that it cannot be interpreted in different ways. The word, "ijtihad", literally means to try and attempt, and terminologically it means the deduction of the rulings of sharia from reliable sources.

"Nass" in the title of the book refers to explicit words of God and the Prophet (s), and by "ijtihad" the terminological meaning is meant. The phrase, "ijtihad in the face of nass", is a term in principles of jurisprudence meaning to exercise one's personal opinion in the face of the explicit words of God and the Prophet (s).


The book consists of eight chapters, enumerating hundred cases in which early caliphs, rulers, and some of their associates exercised "ijtihad" in the face of "nass" (that is, exercised their personal opinions in the face of explicit words by the Prophet (s)) during or after the Prophet's (s) period. The author leaves the judgment to the reader. Sharaf al-Din expresses his scholarly and critical views with respect to each of these cases.

These oppositions to explicit words of the Prophet (s) are of two types: some are not compatible with any principle (even according to Sunni views), and some are out of ignorance of the real ruling which were corrected after learning about the real rulings.

Below are some cases of such ijtihads (personal opinions):

Ijtihads by the First Caliph

In the first chapter of the book, Sharaf al-Din enumerates the cases in which the first caliph, Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa, exercised his own personal opinions in the face of explicit words by God or the Prophet (s):

  • Rejecting the share of "those whose hearts are made to incline to Islam"
  • Rejecting the share of "kinsmen"
  • Disobeying the Prophet's (s) order to kill Dhu l-Thadya twice
  • Fighting those who failed to pay zakat to him
  • Prohibition of writing the Prophet's (s) hadiths
  • Agreeing with some polytheists who wanted to take back their slaves who had converted to Islam.

Ijtihads by the Second Caliph

In the second chapter of the book, Sharaf al-Din enumerates cases in which the second caliph, 'Umar b. al-Khattab, exercised his personal opinions in the face of opposing words by God and the Prophet (s):

  • Audacity in front of the Prophet (s), preventing his will to be written
  • Objection to the Prophet (s) when he said that worshippers of God will go to the Heaven
  • Heresy in adhan and iqama
  • The third divorce
  • Ignorance of some obvious rulings of the sharia
  • Permitting a grandfather to inherit from the dead although the departed has a brother
  • Permitting an uncle to inherit from his sister's child
  • 'Idda for a pregnant woman after her husband's death
  • Permitting a woman whose husband is lost to get married
  • Selling bondwomen who have children
  • Not saying prayer when there is no water
  • Prohibition of crying for the dead
  • Violating the rulings of fasting in the early days of Islam
  • Drinking wine even after the revelation of Quranic verses in which wine was declared as forbidden, which made the Prophet (s) so angry that he hit 'Umar with something that was in his hand
  • Escaping the battlefield
  • Inspecting the houses of Muslims
  • Changing the hadd of theft, ignoring it in the case of servants who had stolen things
  • Whipping a person for an extra-marital sexual intercourse although it was not proved
  • Exiling Dabi' al-Tamimi and hitting him because he had asked questions about difficult verses of the Qur'an
  • Exceeding the hadd on his son twice
  • Cutting the tree of Hudaybiyya
  • Issuing orders that were against the sharia, and canceling them after learning that they were against the sharia

Ijtihads of the Third Caliph

In the third chapter of the book, Sharaf al-Din enumerates cases in which the third caliph, 'Uthman b. 'Affan, exercised his personal opinions in the face of explicit words by God and the Prophet (s):

  • Donation from the public treasury (bayt al-mal) to his kinsmen
  • Respecting people who were banished by the Prophet (s)
  • Saying complete prayer on travel

Ijtihads by Aisha

In the fourth chapter of the book, Sharaf al-Din enumerates cases in which Aisha exercised her personal opinions in the case of explicit words by God and the Prophet (s):

  • Saying complete prayer on travel
  • Aisha's defamation of Mariya, the Prophet's (s) wife
  • Hafsa and Aisha's conspiracy against the Prophet (s)
  • Objection to the Prophet (s)
  • Reproaching 'Uthman and ordering his murder
  • Her hadiths from the Prophet (s)

Ijtihads of Khalid b. Walid

  • Disobeying the Prophet's (s) order
  • Killing people in the Banu Judhayma tribe

Ijtihads of Mu'awiya

  • Killing righteous people
  • Mu'awiya's and his agents' acts
  • His battle with Ali (a)

In chapter seven, some ijtihads by Sunni scholars in the face of explicit words of the Qur'an and the Prophet (s) are enumerated, and in chapter eight (the epilogue) the competence of 'Ali (a) for the immediate caliphate of the Prophet (s) is discussed.

Translations and Publications

The book has frequently been different publishers under al-Nass wa l-ijtihad or al-Ijtihad fi muqabil al-nass. The book was translated by Ali Dawani to Persian and was published in 1972 and was since then reprinted many times. It was also translated into English by Abd Allah Shahin in 2004 and was published by Ansariyan Publications.