Está en la página 1de 22


21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihdl

Hamid Algar



78: Remember D3d and Sulaymn, when they give judgement in the sheep of certain people had strayed by night; We did witness their judgement. 79: We bestowed understanding thereof on Sulaymn, and to each of them We gave judgement and knowledge
matter of the field into which the

An impressive number of mufassirn are of the opinion that the incident to which these two verses refer resulted in divergent verdicts from D3d and his son, Sulaymn. It is held that when the father realised that his son's judgement was wiser than his own, he revised the verdict he had just given, despite being vested with both prophethood and kingship, and despite the extreme youth of Sulaymn at the time. This understanding derives in part from the opening words of verse 79, for they speak

understanding on Sulaymn to the apparent exclusion of D3d. The verb expressing this bestowal, fahhamnh, is, moreover, preceded by a f' that has been interpreted as a/' al-tacqib, suggesting that Sulaymn reached his correct decision on the matter some time after his father had given his verdict.1

divine bestowal of

Far more influential, however, have been a series of partly contradictory traditions that purport to supply details of the whole affair. Traditions of this type are, of course, commonly found not only in exegetical writings but also in books belonging to the

genre of qisas al-anbiy'. In both cases, the principal aim is to enlarge on the purposefully laconic and allusive narratives the Qur'an devotes to the prophets. In the present instance, however, these traditions serve more than a literary purpose, for they are adduced in support of the notion that ijtihd has Qur'anic roots and was practised by the prophets themselves. Baydwi, one of the most prominent exegetes to explain the verses as alluding to divergent exercises in ijtihd, goes so far as to concede that 'were it not for the [relevant] traditions' (law l al-naql), Dd and Sulaymn could be assumed to have delivered one and the same verdict, and the question of ijtihd would not have arisen.2 For Fakhr al-DIn al-Rzi, the evidence of 'the numerous traditions' (al-akhbr al-kathira) detailing what had allegedly transpired was also decisive, although in a slightly different way. Convinced that the verdicts of father and son diverged, he thought it possible that in principle both should have been the result of divine command but that the traditions made clashing exercises of ijtihd a far

likely explanation.3

Journal of Qur'anic Studies

Most of the traditions in question begin by clarifying that al-harth (lexically 'field', 'tillage') as it occurs in verse 78 has the meaning of al-karm (vineyard), for the property subjected to nocturnal invasion was supposedly a vineyard where 'the clusters of grapes hung low' and were all consumed by the marauding sheep.4 According to the most frequently cited tradition, that going back to Ibn Masc Od, the owner of the vineyard appealed to Dd for justice on the day following the incident, and he awarded him ownership of the sheep by way of compensation, presumably because the value of the vineyard and that of the sheep was roughly equal.5 Sulaymn, reportedly eleven years of age at the time, went to his father and told him: '[A judgement] other than this [is better], o Prophet of God'. D3d then asked him what the preferable verdict might be, and he responded: 'That you assign the vineyard to the owner of the sheep for him to tend until it returns to its former state; assign the sheep to the owner of the vineyard so he may benefit from them until the vineyard is restored; and then return the vineyard to its owner, and the sheep to their owner' .6 The circumstances under which Sulaymn learned of his father's verdict and made his objections known to him are related somewhat differently in a tradition going back to Ibn Abbs. Sulaymn is said to have encountered the two parties to the dispute as soon as they emerged from his father's court, for he was sitting next to the entrance. When they told him of Dd's verdict he remarked, without going into detail: 'Were I to be given authority to settle this matter, I would render a different judgement'. Thereupon Dd summoned his son to ask him how he would adjudicate the case. He explained: 'You should give the sheep to the owner of the field [for this is how Ibn cAbbs evidently understood al-harth] so that he will have at his disposal their offspring, their milk, their clarified butter, and other benefits deriving from them. Meanwhile, let the owners of the sheep sow the field on behalf of its owners, just as they would usually do themselves. When the field is restored to its former state, its owners will take possession of it anew, and they will return the sheep to their owners' .7 According to yet another version, attributed by Rzi again to Ibn Mascud as well as to Shurayh and Muqtil but related by BaydwT and AlsT without mention of a source, Sulaymn told his father when suggesting a revision of the judgement: '[A verdict] other than this would be more favourable (arfaq) for the two parties'. Da3ud then adjured his son, invoking his claims upon him as father and prophet, to tell him what would be 'more favourable'. He responded with the same proposal of temporary exchange of property between the owners of the land and the owners of the sheep, prefacing it, according to this version, with the words, 'I am of the opinion (ara) that ...'.8

Despite minor differences

in wording and detail, the upshot of all three traditions is the same: that a defective and apparently hasty verdict on the part of D3d was annulled in light of his son's superior insight. The story is not unique. The tradition

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihdl

literature contains accounts of similar instances of what can be called prompt judicial review on the part of Sulaymn, and several of them are cited in connection with the exegesis of the two verses under examination. Unlike the narrations with which we are principally concerned, none of them is in attempted explanation of Qur'anic references, and therefore lack any purported basis in revelation. One such story is, however, attributed to the Prophet in the Sahihayn. According to this tale, a wolf abducted two boys, each the son of a different woman, and only one survived the ordeal. The two women then went to DTid, each claiming the survivor was her son. D3d was about to award the child without further ado to the older and more insistent of the women, when Sulaymn proposed that the object of the dispute be bisected and one half be awarded to each of the claimants. The suggestion was accepted by the older woman, but rejected by the younger, who renounced her claim rather than seeing harm come to the child. The veracity of her claim and the falsity of her rival's thus became apparent.9 Another story belonging to the same genre, found in the Trlkh of Ibn cAskir and cited in works of tafslr without sanad, relates that four men from the Ban IsrTl sought to seduce a woman of uncommon beauty. When she rebuffed all of them, they conspired to avenge themselves by denouncing her for bestiality with a dog specially trained for the purpose. D3d unhesitatingly sentenced her to death by stoning. Sulaymn was playing near his father's place of judgement as sentence was being rendered, and decided to mimic what had just transpired in the trial. He played the part of the judge himself and had two of his playmates assume the role of the accusers. He interrogated each of them separately concerning the color of the dog in question, and they gave him contradictory answers. Dud observed the game and applying the same investigative technique to the four actual accusers received four different answers. He thereupon urgently countermanded the sentence of execution and had the four slanderers put to death instead.10 A third account of dangerously erroneous judgement on the part of D'd also relates to a slanderous accusation of sexual misconduct. Two slave girls owned by a pious spinster were forbidden by her to have illegitimate contact with men. They thereupon forged evidence of apparent fornication on her part in the expectation that she would be put to death and they would then be free to satisfy their urges. D3d delivered the verdict they desired, which he was obliged to annul once Sulaymn had proved the pious woman's innocence by means of an inspired forensic technique.11

Finally, a story related by KisT in his Qisas al-anbiyW, although not cited by any of the mufassimn in connection with the episode of the sheep and the vineyard, is of relevance because it portrays Sulaymn as coming yet again to the aid of his judicially perplexed father. A man unexpectedly discovered buried treasure on a recently

Journal of Qur'anic Studies

purchased plot of land and, against the normal promptings of human nature, sued the seller to have him take possession of the treasure. The seller nobly demurred, declaring the sale of the land implicitly to have included whatever lay beneath it. Dd was left nonplussed by this unusual display of abstemiousness, whereupon Sulaymn intervened with his father's permission. He asked one of the litigants whether he had a son, and the other whether he had a daughter. Both answering in the affirmative, Sulaymn proposed that they marry their offspring to each other and give them the unwanted treasure as a wedding gift.12
It is conceivable that the apparent subordination of D^d to Sulaymn that underlies all these stories is connected to another matter in which the son is seen to have outdone his father: completing the building of Bayt al-Maqdis.13 Be that as it may, the aggregate of the judicial anecdotes does suggest a dismal record of ineptitude on the part of D^d, redeemed only by the prompt intervention of Sulaymn on each occasion. Indeed, it would be difficult in light of these traditions to resist the conclusion that DTJd had difficulty in fulfilling the divine command to 'judge justly among men' (Q. 38:26). A whole series of mufassirn nonetheless cite one or more of them as proof that the differing judgements of D'd and Sulaymn in the case of the sheep and the vineyard and, by implication, on the other occasions mentioned resulted from each in turn exercising ijtihd in good faith; it is simply that the ijtihd of D'd proved inferior to that of his son. Fakhr al-Din al-Rzi, Baydwi, Ebussud Efendi, and Alsl are among the prominent exegetes to espouse this understanding of the matter. The precise wording of one of the traditions is regarded as decisive. The occurrence of the word ar (T am of the opinion') at the beginning of Sulaymn's remarks to his father clearly indicates, it is held, that he had not received revelation on the matter, and that he was therefore engaged in ijtihd. The same is indicated by the fact that his father found it necessary to adjure him to speak his mind plainly, for if Sulaymn had received revelation on the matter he would in the nature of things have needed no prompting to proclaim it. And if Sulaymn was practising ijtihd, it follows that D3d must have engaged in the same when he pronounced his original verdict, not basing it on revelation, for it is axiomatic that ijtihd cannot annul netss.14

precise interpretation of the episode as involving the exercise of ijtihd varies, however, according to the differing perspectives of the musawwiba and the mukhtiDa. The former regard every exercise of ijtihd as yielding a correct result (sawb), even in the face of differing or contradictory judgements, and their view is summarised in the formula, 'every mujtahid hits the mark' (kudu mujtahidin musib). The latter, by contrast, assert that there is only one divinely approved and correct (wqici) answer for every possible case (mas1 aid), so that a mujtahid may err, but do so excusably and still be rewarded for his efforts; their slogan is, 'the error of the mujtahid does

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for IjtihMl



affect his status


mujtahid' (la yaqdahu


al-mujtahid fi

among the mufassirn, by Najm al-Din Rzi, Sufi but also the author of an important although still unpublished tafsir, the Bahr al-macnl. He glosses the words, 'We did witness their judgement' in verse 78 as meaning, 'We were present with Our knowledge (hdirln cilman) when they gave judgement; they gave judgement in accordance with Our guidance, so neither of them was in error. It is rather that We wished to make firm the structure of ijtihd by means of their judgement, in order to honour and ennoble the mujtahidn and for them to follow [both] D3d and Sulaymn by relying on their wellappreciated exertions in ijtihd'. In other words, the episode is not to be interpreted as merely illustrating the practice of ijtihd; the divine purpose for its entire occurrence was establishing the principle of ijtihd. Even Sulaymn's tender age is regarded as significant, for it indicates that 'the knowledge and understanding of ordinances, of their inner meanings and purposes, are the criterion to be used in assessing greatness and accomplishment, not age'. Najm al-Din Rzi similarly glosses the words, 'and to each of them We gave judgement and knowledge' in verse 79 to mean, '[We did this] in order that each of them might judge in accordance with knowledge and wisdom with Our support (hi ta'yidina), even though one of them might judge contrary to Our wisdom, so that the validity of the practice of ijtihd be established; every mujtahid attains a correct result (kullu mujtahidin musib)' ,16 This understanding of the matter involves two important disjunctions, or at least distinctions: one between the wisdom of the mujtahid and the divine wisdom with which it may or may not coincide with respect to a particular case (mas0aid); and the other between that divine wisdom and the higher and more general purpose involved in establishing the principle of ijtihd.
as a

The former best known

viewpoint is exemplified,

The position of the mukhtFa would seem to be indicated by the words, 'We bestowed understanding thereof on Sulaymn', for, it has been claimed, if D30d had also had correct understanding, this statement would be meaningless. In response to this it was said by midi that the verse does not negate correct understanding for D'd, while affirming it for Sulaymn; the meaning of the statement may therefore be that they delivered the same verdict in the case of the vineyard and the sheep, both by way of ijtihd, but their joint ijtihd was annulled by a nass which was revealed for what-

Sulaymn. Another possible explanation, according to this of the musawwiba position, is that father and son gave differing judgeproponent ments, each based on ijtihd and each correct, but that the ijtihd of Sulaymn was confirmed by wahy and therefore abrogated that of his father.17
ever reason



Journal of Qur'anic Studies

Fakhr al-DIn al-Rzi criticises the arguments of both the mukhti'a and the musawwiba, without making it entirely plain where he stands on the issue under dispute. The former are on weak ground, he affirms, because the divine bestowal of

understanding on Sulaymn may simply mean that an abrogating revelation came to

him of which D3d



at the time of his

verdict; if that be the


clearly only a hypothetical possibility for Rzi, given his preference for ijtihd as an explanation for what transpired then Dd was correct (musib) in his judgement. As for the musawwiba, their assumption that the bestowal of 'judgement and knowledge' on both D^d and Sulaymn related specifically to their divergent verdicts is untenable; the knowledge in question is rather 'knowledge of the methods of ijtihd' (cilman bi-wujh al-ijtihd). Further, argues Rzi, the phrase, 'to each of them We gave judgement and knowledge', is a form of praise, and no praise is due for the essentially passive act of receiving revelation; that which occasions abundant praise is 'the vigour of mind and skill in deduction' that come into play when exercising ijtihd.l% The word dim is thus interpreted by Rzi not in the sense of divinely bestowed knowledge that the context suggests, but as a branch of knowledge or

In addition to thus discovering an allusion to 'the science of ijtihd' in the Qur'anic text, Fakhr al-DIn al-Rzi, followed by, among others, Ebussufld Efendi, affirmed that the allegedly divergent judgements of D'd and Sulaymn corresponded respectively to rulings of the HanafT and ShficI madhhib. The verdict of the father, they

maintain, corresponds to the Hanafi ruling that the owner of an absconding slave who
crime must surrender him to the victim of the crime. Similarly, the son's verdict conforms to the Shfici ruling that if a stolen slave absconds from his usurper, the usurper must provide the legitimate owner with the monetary value of the slave pending his recapture. Ebussud remarks further that the ijtihd of D3d was based on qiys (analogy) and that of Sulaymn on istihsn (judicial preference).19 The two prophets are thus made to prefigure not only the principle of ijtihd but also specific rulings by two of the four Sunni madhhib as well as two of the usl al-fiqh. Several of the commentators concede that earlier sharic may have been governed by procedures different from those known to the Muslim jurists. It is nonetheless plain that at least in this case the interpretation of the incident deduced from the verses of Sura 21 but amplified by the stories we have reviewed has been heavily influenced by the prevailing concepts of fiqh, if not thoroughly subordinated to them.


problem with the interpretation of the episode as involving two successive and divergent judgements, each based on ijtihd, is the general impermissibility of one ijtihd annulling another, since neither can be based on more than a supposition of correctness: ijtihd can be annulled only by a relevant nass which bestows certainty. It has therefore been argued that, supposing father and son to have given divergent


Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtiha"?

judgements, both must have been in accordance with wahy, with the revelation received by Sulaymn abrogating that received by Dd. From the viewpoint of those espousing the relevance of ijtihd to the understanding of the episode, there are a number of possible responses. First, argues, for example, Alsi, if what is meant by the principle of one ijtihd not annulling another is that the ijtihd of one person cannot void that of another, making its acceptance incumbent upon him, this is not relevant to the case in question, presumably because D3d was under no obligation to follow his son's ijtihd. That he did effectively discard his own ijtihd to follow that of Sulaymn may be because, as suggested above, he received wahy to deliver the verdict that his son suggested; if such was the case, Sulaymn's ijtihd acquired the force of revelation and legitimately annulled that of D3d. Second, if what is meant is rather that one and the same person repeats the exercise of ijtihd with respect to the same problem, basing himself on a different dalil each time, this is entirely permissible; ShfiT, for example, is recorded to have held two opinions on the same masJala, one in the early part of his career as a jurist and one in the latter part.20 Finally, it may be the case that the principle of no ijtihd being able to overturn another did not apply in earlier sharJic, so D'd and Sulaymn need not be regarded as having been bound by the regulations of Islamic jurisprudence.21
Views of the Jurists

Prophetic Ijtihd

The entire invocation of ijtihd in order to solve the perceived problem of two divergent judgements in the verses under review presupposes, of course, that the prophets in general including most relevantly and significantly the Prophet Muhammad permissibly engaged in the practice, not a view that is universally held. The verses have admittedly been cited as evidence for their view by such proponents of prophetic ijtihd as the ShfiTs Abu Ishq al-ShirzI and Sayf al-Din al-midl as well as the Hanbali Ibn Qudma,22 and in his own commentary on them Alsi claims without qualification that the permissibility of ijtihd for the prophets 'has been expounded in [the science] of usl [al-fiqh]'P Matters are not, however, that simple, for opinion even within the SunnI community was sharply divided on the question before the ultimate emergence of the consensus echoed in AlOsi's lapidary statement.24 It was primarily the HanafTs who deemed the Prophet to have engaged in ijtihd whenever, after a period spent waiting for revelation to be received, the adjudication of a problem became urgent.25 ShfiT-Ashcaris generally regarded ijtihd by the prophets as rationally possible, but withheld judgement on whether the Prophet actually engaged in it. The farthest Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni would go was to opine that 'it is not improbable (l yabcud) that when a certain event occurred the Almighty Lord should address His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, saying, "exercise your opinion (fajtahid ra'yak) on the matter; in whatever direction your opinion inclines, that is the truth".'26

Journal of Qur'anic Studies

His pupil, Abu Hamid al-GhazlT, likewise affirmed ijtihd on the part of the Prophet as something possible and not conducive to any harm (mafsada), but instead of furnishing examples of his exercise of ijtihd devoted himself to refuting the arguments of those opposed to the doctrine. It may be objected, for example, that the Prophet was in a position to discover a ruling by means of revelation and his predecessors, by implication, enjoyed the same advantage and had therefore no reason to engage in the fallible practice of ijtihd. The answer, Ghazll hypothesises, is that the Prophet may have been told, 'We have decreed for you that you should make ijtihd and be bound by it'. Were he to have been so instructed and Ghazll does not actually claim that he was his failure to make ijtihd would have been disobedience to God on his part, a manifest impossibility. As for the fact that ijtihd as commonly understood results only in zann, the supposition of correctness, not its certainty, Ghazll speculates that the Prophet may have been told, 'your zann has the force of a ruling ('almat al-hukm)'; his ijtihd is, in other words, a privileged form of ijtihd, its correctness divinely guaranteed, as Juwaynl himself had suggested in so many words. Another obvious objection is that one mujtahid may legitimately dispute the ruling of another, so that the Prophet might legitimately have been opposed on a matter where his ruling was based purely on ijtihd. Ghazll suggests a twofold response: that the ijmc of the umma forbids any opposition to the Prophet; and that in general the opinion (ray) of any ruler and a fortiori the Prophet must be followed and obeyed for the sake of the public welfare.27

time, however, Ghazll rejects firmly one argument advanced by the proof ijtihd by the prophets the view that if they were barred from engaging ponents in it they would be deprived of its reward. Ghazll counters that prophets receive uniquely abundant reward for the infinitely more significant and demanding task of conveying the divine message with which they are entrusted.28 As to whether the Prophet actually engaged in ijtihd, Ghazll recommends suspension of judgement, although he regards it as improbable that he did: 'Rather the likelihood (al-zdhir) is that everything was by way of explicit revelation, legislating in detail' ,29 In any event, he did not invoke the incident of the sheep related in al-Anbiy' as proof for the exercise of ijtihd by the prophets. By contrast, Fakhr al-DIn al-Rzi used precisely his commentary on these two verses to argue strongly for the permissibility of ijtihd by the prophets, rejecting all other explanations as implausible.30

At the

Embracing even the possibility that the Prophet engaged in ijtihd, with its potential for error, is at least at first sight difficult to reconcile with his inerrancy (cisma). A mode of reconciliation is achieved by Juwaynl and Ghazll, who posit a kind of divine verification in advance for any and all instances of ijtihd undertaken by the Prophet. Fakhr al-DTn al-Rzi hypothesises in similar vein that God may have said to the Prophet, 'if it appears overwhelmingly likely to you (idh ghalaba cal zannika)

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihd?


in such-and-such a principle and then the same rule accordingly (i.e. by way of analogy with the form, existing ordinance)'. Rzt goes so far as to explicitly link the ijtihd of the Prophet to wahy by asserting that its exercise derives from revelation, 'in a general sense' (cal'l-jumld) if not in the detailed results it produces.31 Finally, it has been said that for the Prophet, uniquely among all practitioners of ijtihd, the evidence (cilla) on which he based his judgement was 'as plain as the midday sun', so that his ijtihd was intrinsically different from that of others.32 Such attempts to preserve the dignity and authority of the Prophet by elevating his ijtihd over that of others result at best in a mixed category of ijtihd and wahy, a blurring of the distinctions between fallible human judgement and the certitude bestowed by revelation; it is not unreasonable to characterise them as a distortion of ijtihd?3 The problem becomes only slightly less acute if the definition of cisma is not so rigorous as to exclude the commission of minor sins (al-sagh'ir), as is proposed by Juwayni, albeit in his usual tentative manner. He proclaims it rationally incumbent that prophets should not commit abominable acts (al-fawhish) that indicate turpitude and lack of religiosity, not however that they always refrain from sins counted among the saghir. He holds further that there is no definitive transmitted proof (dalli qfi samcT) either affirming or negating the possibility of their commission of such sins. If pressed for an answer, however, he would answer that the possibility exists, 'as witnessed by stories of the prophets in certain verses of the Book of God, but God is best-knowing of the truth'.34 Presumably the verses concerning the marauding sheep, once interpreted in the light of the narrations, would fall into that category.


ordinance is


matter appears in another

Ibn Kathir, ShfiT by madhhab, like Juwayni, Ghazli and Rzi, duly recounts the narrations pointing to divergent verdicts by Dd and Sulaymn, as well as others suggesting judicial ineptitude on the part of the former, but seems to stop short of regarding the incident as exemplifying ijtihd by the prophets in their capacity as such. For he stresses that 'all the prophets are inerrant, and supported by God, Glorious and Almighty, this being a matter on which there is no difference among accomplished scholars, whether of early or late generations', and suggests that the ijtihd practised by D3d and Sulaymn on this occasion was purely judicial in nature. In other words, they were engaged only in giving a verdict on a specific case, not in legislating an ordinance of general validity; the verb yahkumni is certainly capable of yielding both meanings. To support his exclusively judicial interpretation of the ijtihd at issue in these verses, Ibn Kathir relates an anecdote concerning Iys b. Mucwiya. Trembling with fear of hellfire when he was appointed judge, he regained his composure only when Hasan al-Basri pointed out to him that in Q. 21:79, God had indeed praised Sulaymn for his correct verdict, but not blamed D'd for his incorrect one.35


Journal of Qur'anic Studies


Ibn cArabi:



Ibn ArabT holds a distinctive place among the upholders of prophetic ijtihd as an explanation for the alleged duality of verdict in the case of the sheep and the vineyard. While discoursing in the Fusils al-hikam on 'The Wisdom of Compassion in the Word of Sulaymn', he interprets the divine statement, 'We gave Sulaymn to D3d' (Q. 38:30), to mean that Sulaymn, as a token of divine generosity to his father, was, in his very person, 'a complete favour, irrefutable proof, and unmistakeable stamp'. If this be the case, it is not surprising that his knowledge should prove superior to that of his father, as indicated by the phrase, 'We gave Sulaymn understanding thereof. It is true, as the verse immediately afterwards clarifies, that 'to both of them We gave judgement and knowledge', but the knowledge of D3d was 'an acquired knowledge, granted him by God, while Sulaymn's knowledge was God's own knowledge on the matter, since He was Himself the judge in it without intermediary (bi-l wsita) and Sulaymn was [no more than] a true expositor in a seat of veracity (maqadi sidqY .36 According to Abdullah Bosnevi, one of the most authoritative commentators on the Fusils, the identification of Sulaymn's knowledge of the matter with that of God Himself reflects the principle that 'to perceive a thing as it truly is in the divine presence and as it is known to the divine knowledge is itself divine knowledge; just as God had given Sulaymn as a gift to D'd, He now gave this knowledge as a gift to Sulaymn'. As for God being the judge 'without intermediary', this can mean only that 'God was the judge, in the form of Sulaymn (suret-i Siileyman'da)'.37 A more recent commentator on the Fuss, Ahmed Avni Konuk (d. 1928) explained the matter in comparable terms: 'Sulaymn in the seat of veracity became the true expositor by virtue of being a divine manifestation (bi-hasebi'l-mazhariyye). When the divine essence manifested itself {tecellt-i zti indinde), Sulaymn's humanness (beseriyeti) was effaced (fani oldu), his case being similar to the tree of Ms' .38 Despite these explanations on the part of Ibn cArabi's commentators, it is not at all clear why the divine bestowal of understanding on Sulaymn should have endowed him with a degree of knowledge superior to that of D3d, for the verb fahhamndhd would seem to imply a subject-object relationship no less than the verb tayn and therefore the bestowal of a derived form of knowledge, one necessarily distinct from the divine knowledge. In any event, Ibn cArabI clearly believes that the tafhim in question was a special divine favour given to Sulaymn as a prophet.
It is therefore curious, at least at first sight, to see Ibn cArabi drawing a parallel between the receipt of this distinctive favor and something apparently much less elevated, namely a correct decision arising from the use of ijtihd. For he continues

his discussion of the episode as follows: 'Likewise, a mujtahid who attains the judgement of God in a certain case, whether by his own efforts or by means of what God has revealed to His messenger, will have two rewards, whereas the mujtahid whose

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihd?

erroneous will have but one reward, despite his having knowledge and This community of Muhammad has been given both the rank of Sulaymn judgement. upon whom be peace in judgement and that of D3d upon whom be peace; how excellent a community it is!'39 Sulaymn is thus portrayed, once again, as the Qur'anic prototype of the mujtahid musib and D3d, as that of the mujtahid mukhti0.

decision is

tafslr commonly attributed to Ibn cArabi but most probably written by cAbd al-Razzq al-Kshnt is not at all concerned with questions of ijtihd, providing as it does an entirely allegorical interpretation of the episode. It does, however, uphold the theory of two divergent verdicts, together with Sulaymn's superiority to his father, by presenting Dd as representative of the speculative intellect (al-caql al-nazari) and Sulaymn as embodying 'the knowledgeable intellect' (al-'aql al-cilmi), i.e. the intellect imbued with divinely bestowed knowledge; this is essentially the same distinction as that drawn by Ibn cArabi in the Fusils. The field mentioned in verse 78 is treated as an allegory for 'the ground of human capacity (ard al-isticdd) with the perfections deposited in it since pre-eternity', and the sheep are the passionate instincts in man that freely rampage in the dark night of corporeal nature. DTid's solution was to surrender those instincts to the 'spiritual faculties' (al-quw al-rhniyya), who are the owners of the field, for them to slaughter by means of establishing dominion over them. Sulaymn, by contrast, determined that those same faculties should indeed take possession of the instincts, but in order to nurture and reform them, not to destroy them, while the land they had trampled should be restored to its former state by means of worship and ascetic acts of devotion.40
Views of Muctazilite and ShlT Scholars


Nazzm, a MuTazilite scholar of Baghdad, as well as the leading MuTazilites of Basra, all reject the possibility of ijtihd for the prophets as incompatible with the
divine favor (luff) that necessitates the provision of mankind with infallible exponents of the divine will. Thus JubbT is reported to have said, with respect to the case we are examining: 'God Almighty bestowed on Sulaymn a revelation that abrogated the verdict D3d had previously given. This was not by way of ijtihd, for it is not fitting that the prophets should judge by means of ijtihd'.41 JubbT does not state explicitly that the abrogated verdict of D:>d was similarly the result of wahy, but this logically follows from his argument, as is made clear by the celebrated MuTazilite exegete, Zamakhshari. For after recounting the divergent verdicts permanent transfer of the sheep to the owner of the vineyard as intended by D3d, temporary transfer of their usufruct to him as advocated by Sulaymn he explains them as resulting from successive revelations to D3d and Sulaymn respectively, the second abrogating the first.42 This explanation effectively necessitates an understanding of the verb fahhamnh as awhaynh. Insofar as wahy is a defining attribute of the


Journal of Qur'anic Studies

prophets, it also creates the appearance of a simultaneity of prophets among the same people; such simultaneity is unknown to the Qur'an with the exception of Ms and Hrn, and it would exceed the concept of Sulaymn as a divinely appointed auxiliary to his father that some mufassirn have discerned in Q. 38:20 ('We strengthened his [Dd's] kingdom'). Further, it raises the question of why abrogation should have been needed so quickly, given the absence of any change in the facts of the case or the circumstances surrounding it.
It is well-known that the Shfi doctrine of cisma of the prophets and of their divinely appointed legatees is more consistently rigorous than its Sunn! counterpart. Their

inerrance was authoritatively defined by Ibn Bbya al-Qummi as excluding the commission on their part of any sin, major or minor, and forbidding the attribution to them of defect or ignorance in any respect.43 This would seem to exclude the possibility of an even partially erroneous judgement having been delivered by D3d in order to necessitate the proposal of a correction by Sulaymn, whether by way of ijtihd or the receipt of abrogating revelation. Although the other instances cited above of D'd being rescued by his son from judicial error are absent from ShicI sources, the story of two judgements in the case of the vandalised field or vineyard, one supplanting the other, has been ascribed to one or other of the imams of the Ahl al-Bayt.44 Thus Muhammad al-Bqir and JaTar al-Sdiq are both recorded as narrating the same version as that ascribed in SunnI sources to Ibn Mascud.45 In addition, when questioned about the meaning of Q. 21:78, JaTar al-Sdiq suggests a rationale for the divergent judgements: 'al-nafsh (straying) takes place [by definition] only at night. It is the duty of the owner of the field, not of the owner of the livestock, to protect it during the day; the owner of the livestock is not liable for any damage caused by his animals grazing during the day. There is, however, liability for damage caused by their grazing at night. Dd upon whom be peace ruled that the ownership of the sheep be assigned to the owner of the field, and Sulaymn ruled that he should receive only the milk and the wool that they should produce that year'.46 The extent and nature of the compensation to be awarded to the owner of the field thus differ according to the verdicts of D'Od and Sulaymn.

Given the unacceptability of prophetic ijtihd as an explanation for this divergence, the occurrence of which is apparently confirmed by these and other traditions from the imams, a number of ShicT mufassirn have inclined to the Muctazilite invocation of naskh. Thus after citing the opinion of Jubb'I, Tabarsi remarks: 'This is the correct view of the matter in our opinion and that upon which we rely. Ibn Ts and Balkhi have said that it [the divergence of verdict] may have resulted from ijtihd, because the opinion of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him and his family [and by extension the preceding prophets] is more excellent than that of all others; if it be permissible to obey the ordinance of one other than a prophet at which he has

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihdl


arrived by means of ijtihd, how should this not be permissible with respect to the ordinance of a prophet [similarly attained]?' To this Tabarsi responds that it would not be fitting for prophets to employ ijtihd given their access to revelation and 'firm knowledge on how to judge'. Moreover, if the prophets engaged in ijtihd, other practitioners might legitimately oppose them, and opposition to the prophets is self-

evidently kufr.


alleged abrogation took place are detailed in a further hadith attributed to Jacfar al-Sdiq. When asked by a certain Abu Basir whether or not D3d and Sulaymn had arrived at a single verdict (qadiya wdhida) in the case, the Imam replied: 48
The circumstances under which the God had decreed by means of prophets preceding Dd that if a flock of sheep trespassed on a field by night, the ownership of the sheep should pass to the owner of the field; incumbent on the owner of the field was its protection by day, and on the owner of the sheep, guarding them by night. Then God Almighty and Glorious revealed to Sulaymn upon whom be peace that whenever sheep strayed into a field by night, the owner of that field might lay claim only to offspring subsequently produced by the sheep (m kharaja min butnih). This ruling remained in force (kadhlika jarat al-sunnd) after Sulaymn, upon whom be peace. This is the meaning of the words, 'and to both We gave judgement and knowledge'. Thus each ruled in accordance with God's ruling.

The scenario emerging from this tradition suggests, then, that D3d ruled in accordance with a pre-existing ordinance that revelation had not authorised him to abrogate; the necessary revelation, once received by Sulaymn, was adopted by D'd so that the resulting judgement was theirs jointly.49 The absolute infallibility of the prophets is thus preserved, despite the divergence of judgement between D'd and Sulaymn. There remains the problem that in the view of many Shlci jurists the abrogation of preceding shard 'ic, in part or in whole, can be undertaken only by lawgiving prophets (ul'l-cazm), a category to which Sulaymn cannot be assigned.50 It is also curious that Sulaymn should have received the abrogating revelation rather than D3d, who as ruler of the day was primarily responsible for the resolution of the case. As Fakhr al-Dln al-Rzi, a proponent of ijtihd as solution for the apparent dilemma, points out, if the two divergent verdicts in the case had both been founded on revelation and the second of them had abrogated the first, D3d should have received the abrogating revelation just as he had received or inherited the abrogated.51

Another set of ShiT traditions suggest that Drad knew in advance of the verdict that Sulaymn would render, and that he deliberately assigned him the case for a


Journal of Qur'anic Studies

particular purpose of his own. The same Abu Basir reports the following from Imam

from among the Ban Isril had a vineyard where sheep belonging to another man once strayed at night and gnawed on the branches, causing much damage. The owner of the vineyard came the next day to D3d and lodged a complaint against the owner of the sheep. D3d upon whom be peace told the two of them, 'Go to Sulaymn so that he may judge between you'. So they went to Sulaymn upon whom be peace and he said, 'If the sheep have consumed both root and branch, the owner of the sheep must forfeit the sheep and whatever offspring they may be carrying. If they have destroyed only the branches and not the roots, the owner of the sheep must give their offspring to the owner of the vineyard'. This was the ruling of Dd; he wished only to inform the Ban Israel that Sulaymn should be his legatee and successor (wasiyyuhu bacdahu). They did not differ on the verdict; had they done so, God would have said [in verse 78], 'and We witnessed both their verdicts [kunn lihukmayhim shhidln, instead of kunn U-hukmihim shhidln]'.

A certain

A somewhat fuller narrative casts a rather different light on this nomination of Sulaymn as successor, for it implies that Dd himself was the first person who needed to be convinced of his son's worthiness. As in the previous version, the two

parties to the dispute came to D3d on the morning after the incident. God thereupon ordered D3d to gather all of his sons and told him that whichever among them rendered the proper verdict in the case should be his successor. Once they had all assembled, Sulaymn questioned both parties and ordered that the offspring and wool of the sheep be given to the complainant for the following year. D'd then asked his son why he had not ruled in accordance with the existing precepts of the Ban Isr3il by assigning ownership of the sheep to the owner of the vineyard. Sulaymn replied that it was because the vines had not been completely uprooted and would again bear fruit the following year. God then revealed to Dd that this was the correct ruling. This was evidently unwelcome news to D'd, for he had wanted the as yet unborn son of
his favourite wife to succeed him. God therefore told him: 'O D3d, you wanted one thing, and We wanted something else', and D3d broke the bad news to his wife in these words: 'We are content with God's command and submit to it'.53 Underlying this narrative is the theme of abrogation invoked by Muctazilite and ShIcI scholars in explanation of the episode, although here the abrogation is communicated to D3d rather than Sulaymn, thus avoiding the problem of wahy given to other than a prophet. There is also no question of dual verdicts.

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihdl


It is true, of course, that the Qur'an itself makes explicit mention of Sulaymn succeeding his father, 'and Sulaymn inherited from D3d' (Q. 27:16), and that it thereby endows the question of succession with some significance. Both these traditions seem, however, to display a special concern for having D3d prefigure, through his appointment of Sulaymn, the distinctive ShlT principle of nass the public or at least witnessed nomination by an imm macsum of his successor.54

Certain ShfT traditions thus support the same notion of two divergent judgements that is broadly espoused by Sunn! mufassirn, while others point to a single ruling by father and son. As one way of reconciling the apparent contradiction NTmatullh Jaz3in proposes that hadith pointing to divergent rulings be dismissed as originating in taqiyya, 'since they correspond to the manifestly erroneous views of the Sunnis (almma) concerning the permissibility of ijtihd by the prophets'.55 This procedure seems somewhat arbitrary, for it is difficult to imagine circumstances that might have necessitated a tag/yya-inspired interpretation of the verses in question; it might equally well be the case that the hadith from Imam Jafar al-Sdiq pointing to a duality of verdict and thus raising the possibility of ijtihd are simply inauthentic. TabtabT's

Rejection of Dual Verdicts

Allma TabtabT, author of the Tafsir al-Mizn, is the most categorical of all commentators, whether Sunn! or ShiT, in rejecting the thesis of two divergent verdicts. He reaches this conclusion largely by concentrating on a precise analysis of the wording of the verses in question, making only oblique reference to some of the narratives discussed above; these, in any event, he segregates in a separate bahth riw% in accordance with his general method of 'interpretation of the Qur'an by means of the Qur'an' (tafsir al-Qurn bi'l-Qur'n).56 He begins his analysis by remarking that the matter under dispute was referred initially to DTid because he was the ruler of the day among the Ban IsrTl, as indicated by Q. 38:26: 'O D3d, We have appointed you vicegerent on earth, so judge justly among men'. This being the case, any role played in the affair by Sulaymn can only have been with the permission of his father and destined to serve a certain purpose, such as making apparent his worthiness to succeed him. That role may well have consisted of consulting and discussing, for the dual verb idh yahkumni is a historic present ihikyat al-hl al-mdiya), indicating a gradual process of mutual consultation, not the actual issue of a verdict for implementation; the sense of the verb thus becomes, 'when they were consulting on the appropriate verdict' .57

TabtabT's interpretation of 'We witnessed their verdict' confirms his attribution of the ruling to both Dd and Sulaymn as their joint accomplishment. He points out that 'verdict' (hukmihim) is in the singular; were they to have issued divergent rulings, presumably the dual would have been used.58 As for the plural possessive ending, all


Journal of Qur'anic Studies

other mufassimn consulted for the purpose of this article explain it as embracing both D3d and Sulaymn (as successive or simultaneous authors of verdicts) and the parties to the dispute, or as exemplifying the occasional Qur'anic usage of the plural to refer to only two persons, by way of laudation (tafkhim).59 Tabtab3!, however, suggests that this ending may refer to the totality of the prophets. His explanation may be questioned in that the word al-anhiy3 does not occur in the immediate vicinity of verse 78 to act as antecedent for the ending in hukmihim. However, it seems contextually justified given that narratives of the prophets form the entire content of the sura as well as furnishing it with its title. In any event, if his interpretation be accepted, the phrase, 'We witnessed their verdict', might be paraphrased as, 'We witnessed their verdict as We witness the verdict of all the prophets'. The witnessing, moreover, is not a merely passive act of observation, but implies 'a protection from error' (sawn can al-khataD). The correctness of the single judgement put forth by Dd and Sulaymn is further confirmed by the statement, 'We bestowed understanding thereof on Sulaymn', for the understanding in question is 'the knowledge of God's true ruling in the matter' (hukm Allah al-wqicT), something utterly different from a suppositional opinion (al-raDy al-zanni). Nor can this knowledge be assumed to have been given exclusively to Sulaymn, for the verse immediately continues, 'and to each of them We gave judgement and knowledge', meaning that their judgement derived from divinely bestowed knowledge, not from supposition.60 This portion of the verse is thus interpreted by Tabtab3! in a sense diametrically opposed to the view that it provides a Qur'anic warrant for the excusably fallible exercise of ijtihd.
After an exposition of the verses based entirely on an analysis of their wording, Tabtab3! concedes some relevance to the Sunn! and Sh!cI narratives surrounding the incident by suggesting that although there was but a single verdict, 'there was a difference with respect to the mode of implementation'. The differing modes were the award of ownership of the sheep to the owner of the field as first intended by D30d, and the award to him of their usufruct for one year, as correctively proposed by Sulaymn. Alone among the mufassimn, Tabtab3! suggests that the value of the annual usufruct was the same as that of the sheep themselves, so that the amount of the compensation received by the owner of the field remains unchanged and the effective unity of the verdict is preserved.61 Nonetheless, the distinction he draws between 'different modes of implementation', a possibility he entertains, and two differing verdicts, a possibility he rejects, seems largely semantic and of a nature to undercut his main argument. It may be that he was simply adhering to the traditional custom of the mufassimn to include a variety of possible interpretations, even those they regarded as unlikely, or that the pull of the riwyt was too strong even for him to fully resist.

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihal



It has not been the purpose of this article to adjudicate among the differing interpretations of Q. 21:78-9 that have been reviewed apart from certain preferences in the foregoing and still less to propose any new or original interpretation. implicit Two conclusions will, however, be hazarded. The first is perhaps self-evident. Many if not most of the interpretations reviewed above constitute efforts not so much to extract meaning from the Qur'anic text as to impose on its understanding legal and theological doctrines that were elaborated several centuries after its revelation. For we see read into this portion of the text once amplified by the narratives such matters as the ijtihd of the prophets; the competing views of the musawwiba and the mukhtFa; rulings of HanafI and ShficI/zg/t; and IbncArab!' s typology of knowledge. It might of course be argued in response that ultimately all these concerns originate in a concern with and for the Qur'anic text and its indispensible complement, the Snna. However, the density and preponderance of these concerns, once reflected back on the Qur'an, threaten to obscure or muffle its voice. The divergent interpretations offered for the allegedly divergent verdicts of D^d and Sulaymn illumine less the meaning of the Qur'an than they do the history of jurisprudence and theology.

The second and related conclusion is prescriptive in nature. The narratives found in the Sunni sources cannot be regarded as particularly authoritative, for none of them is marfc, with the exception of the peripherally relevant tradition found in the Sahihayn about the assignation of the disputed boy. Nor is the status of these narratives significantly elevated by Fakhr al-DIn al-Rzi's invocation of an alleged consensus on their authenticity among the Companions and the Followers.62 By contrast, the ShicI traditions go back, it is true, to one or other of the imams of the Ahl al-Bayt, and are thus at least putatively authoritative. They are, however, characterised by contradiction, and it is hardly conceivable that the entire welter of traditions narrated from Imam Jacfar al-Sdiq should actually have emanated from him, even if the principle of taqiyya is brought into play. Given these considerations, the utility of extra-Qur'anic narratives concerning the prophets for interpreting or expanding on the narratives the Qur'an itself provides seems at best questionable. Well-attested traditions of the Prophet (and of the Twelve Imams, for ShPI Islam) are undeniably necessary for the understanding of many portions of the Qur'an. But in the case under review and others resembling it it seems advisable to lay aside the narrations and allow the Qur'an to speak for itself, clearly if often laconically. The task of the exegete might sometimes be easier as Baydwl put it 'were it not for the narrations' (law l al-naql).


Journal of Qur'anic Studies

vol. 12, p. 196. 2 Baydwl, Anwr al-tanzil (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-cArabiyya al-Kubr, 1330/1911), vol. 3, p. 44. The same opinion was expressed by Ebussud Efendi, the celebrated Ottoman Seyhillislam, in TafsirAbi 'l-Su cd: Irshd al- caql al-salim il mazy 'l-Qur'n alkarlm, ed. cAbd al-Qdir Ahmad cAt (Riyadh: Maktabat al-Riyd al-Haditha, n.d.), vol. 3, p. 719.

1 Fakhr al-DIn al-RzI,

al-Tafsir al-kabir (n.p., n.d.),

asrr al-ta'wil

3 Rzl, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 22, p. 198. 4 This was the view of Ibn Ishq, Masrq, and Ibn Mascd. See Tabarl, Tdrikh al-umam wa'lmulk (Cairo: al-Matbaca al-Misriyya, n.d.), vol. 1, p. 253; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'n alcazim (Beirut: Dar al-Macrifa, 1993), vol. 3, p. 195; Baydwl, Anwr al-tanzil, vol. 3, p. 44; and Shihb al-DIn al-Alsi, Ruh al-macnl (Beirat: Dr Ihy3 al-Turth al-cArabI, n.d.), vol. 17, p. 73. Additional possibilities suggested by Tabarl are ghars (a planted area) and zarc (a sown area), but he concludes, not unreasonably, that 'there is no harm in not knowing precisely what is meant' [Jnii' al-bayn, 2nd edn (Cairo: Mustaf al-Bbl al-Halabl, 1373/1953), vol. 17, pp. 50-1 ]. On the possible origin of the lexically improbable equation of harth with kann, see fn. 8 below. 5 Muhammad Asad suggests in the commentary that accompanies his translation of the Qur'an that despite this equivalence in value Sulaymn regarded his father's verdict as 'too severe, inasmuch as the sheep represented the defendant's capital, whereas the crops lost related only to one year's Income'. This seems a reasonable explanation, always supposing that father and son did indeed issue contradictory verdicts. Less reasonable is Asad's dismissal of the incident itself as mentioned in the Qur'an not the stories that seek to expand on it as 'legendary'. It hardly behooves a mufasstr to discount as a legend what the Qur'an clearly depicts as an event that has actually occurred. See Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (Gibraltar: Dr al-Andalus, 1980), p. 496. Another modern reworking of the story of the two verdicts is provided by Sayyid Qutb. After affirming that both verdicts were the outcome of ijtihd, he characterises that of Sulaymn as a constructive form of justice, 'vital and positive', motivated by the impulse to build and cultivate, as justice supplemented by a civilisational purpose [Fl nll al-Qur'n, 5th edn (Kuwait: Wizrat al-Awqf, 1386/1967), vol. 5, 'Srat al-Anbiy3' pp. 44-5 (each sura is separately paginated within the volume)!.

al-bayn, vol. 17, p. 51; Ibn Kathir, Tafslr al-Qurn al-cazlm, vol. 3, p. 195. 7 Thaclabt relates the story additionally on the authority of Qatda [Qisas al-anbiyd0 (Cairo: Maktabat al-Jumhriyya al-cArabiyya, n.d.), p. 161). 8 Rzl, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 22, p. 195; Baydwl, Anwr al-tanzll, vol. 3, p. 44; Alsi, Rh al-macdni, vol. 19, p. 74. Although our concern here is to examine the use made of these narratives by the mufassimn, not their putative origins, it is worth noting that a similar story is found in an early Ethiopic source. The framework of the story is somewhat different. Baltasor, described as a Persian king, gives his daughter in marriage to Adrami, a son of Solomon, whom he appoints ruler of Rome. Then, to test his judicial acumen, he invites him to pass judgement on the case of a vineyard destroyed by nocturnally marauding sheep. He awards the usufruct of the sheep for a period of one year to the owner of the vineyard, pending the repair of the damage by the owner of the sheep; at the end of the year, the sheep revert to their owner, and the vineyard to its owner. See D. Sidersky, Les Origlnes des Legendes dans le Coran et dans les Vies des Prophetes (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1933), p. 113. It may be significant that the damaged property is a vineyard, according to this legend, for there is no lexical justifica6 Tabarl, Jmlc tion for

interpreting al-harth as al-karm.

9 Bukhri, hadlth 3427; Muslim, hadith 1720. The Solomonic

proposal to bisect the disputed

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihd!


boy is, of course, the same in its essentials as that related in 1 Kings 4, vv. 16-28. In the biblical account, however, the two women are harlots; the dead child is unintentionally smothered by his mother while she slept, not devoured by a wolf; and the incident takes place after Sulaymn has succeeded his father as ruler of the Ban IsrTl, not when he is effectively a judicial advisor to him. 10 The story is cited without comment in Ibn Kathlr, Tafslr al-Qur'n al-cazlm, vol. 3, p. 196. 11 For the details of this highly unedifying story, see Alsi, Rh al-macni, vol. 19, p. 74, who cites it unquestioningly and without mention of a source or a sanad. 12 KisT, Qisas al-anbiy', ed. Isaac Eisenberg (Leiden: Brill, 1922), p. 271. According to Sidersky, the story has a Jewish origin, the source being a midrashic narrative in which, however, the sole arbiter of the affair was a certain King Katzia, a contemporary of Alexander the Great (Les Origines, p. 114). 13 Tabarl, Trikh al-umam wa'1-mulk, vol. 1, p. 252; Nicmatullh al-Jaz3iri,

Qisas al-

anbiy', ed. Muhsin AqIl (Beirut: Dar al-Balgha, 1411/1991), p. 396. The theme of D3d's failure to complete the building of Bayt al-Maqdis and Sulaymn's success in doing so is entirely absent from the Qur'an. 14 Rzi, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 22, p. 197; Alsi, Rh al-macni, vol. 19, p.74. 15 See cAl al-Din cAbd al-cAziz al-Bukhrl, Kashf al-asrr can usl al-Bazdawi (Beirut:
Dr al-Kitb al-cArabI, n.d.), vol. 4, pp. 18-19. 16 Cited in IsmTl Haqql al-Bursawi, Rh al-bayn (Istanbul: Eser Kitabevi, 1969), vol. 5, p. 505. 17 Cited in Alsi, Rh al-macni, vol. 19, pp. 75-6. It is remarkable that none of the tafsir consulted for the purposes of this article have given much attention to the precise meaning of the verb, fa-fahhamnh, although it is the only verse of the Qur'an where any form derived from the root F-H-M occurs; they interpret it instead contextually in accordance with their overall understanding of verses 78 and 79. Rghib al-Isfahm, however, paraphrases the relevant portion of verse 79 as follows: 'God appointed for him an abundant capacity of understanding by means of which he comprehended it [=the verdict]'. Alternative possibilities that Isfahnt proposes are: 'He placed it in his mind (alq dhlikafl rcihi)', and 'He revealed it to him in exclusivity (wa khassahu bihi)' [al-Mufradt fl gharib al-Qurn (Beirut: Dar alMa'rifa, n.d.), p. 386]. It might be profitable to explore the possibility of a distinction between its meaning and that of the verbs commonly used in the Qur'an to indicate divine communication with the prophets. 18 Rzi, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 22, p. 199. 19 Ibid, vol. 22, p. 198; Ebussuud Efendi, Tqfsir Abi'l-Sucd, vol. 3, p. 718. 20 On this point, see Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwaynl, Kitb al-Ijtihd min kitb al-talkhis, ed. cAbd al-Hamld Ab Zunayd (Damascus: Dr al-Qalam, and Beirut: Dr al-cUlm wa'lThaqfa, 1408/1987), pp. 85-94. 21 Alsi, Rh al-macni, vol. 19, p. 75. 22 See respectively Sharh al-lumca fl usl al-fiqh (Beirut: Dr al-Gharb al-Islml, 1408/1988,) vol. 2,p. 1091; al-Ihkmfi sl al-ahkm (Beirat: Dr al-Kutub al-cArabi, 1984), vol. 4, p. 173; and Rawdat al-nzir wajannat al-munzir (n.p.: Dr al-Fikr al-cArabi, n.d.), p. 193. 23 Alsi, Rh al-macni, vol. 17, p. 74. 24 On the complex and contentious question of whether the Prophet engaged in ijtihd, see Eric Chaumont, 'La problematique classique de V ijtihd et la question de 1' ijtihd du Prophete: ijtihd, wahy et cisma\ Studia Islamica 75 (1992), pp. 105-41, especially pp. 114-37.


Journal of Qur'anic Studies

Chaumont's article is centered on the views of Ahm Ishq Shlrzi as expounded in his al-Lumca and the responses to it made by opponents. Ndiya Sharif al-cUmarfs Ijtihd al-rasl (Beirut: Muassasat al-Risla, 1401/1981) includes a survey of the views of earlier authorities on the subject, but is primarily an enthusiastic endorsement of the principle, which she sees as mandating a comprehensive practice of ijtihd by contemporary scholars. See too H. Yunus Apaydm, 'Ictihad', Tiirkiye Diyanet Vakfi Islam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 21, pp. 432-3. 25 See, for example, Abu Bakr al-Sarakhsi, Usl al-Sarakhsi (Beirut: Dar al-Marifa, n.d.), vol. 2, p. 91.

yl faqlh, 19).

Republic of Iran. Imam Khomeini found it necessary to give ufatwd that the ruling of the walias the highest constitutional authority, necessarily overrides divergent opinions held by other mujtahtdn (Istiftct (Qum: Daftar-i Intishrt-i Islmi, 1375 Sh./1996), vol. 1, p.
28 Ghazll, al-Mustasfd fi ctlm al-usl, Arqam, 1994), vol. 2, pp. 525-7.
ed. Muhammad Ibrahim Ramadan

commentary on Juwaynl's al-Waraqt, al-Thamart Cal'l-Waraqt (Hama: Maktabat alGhazll, n.d.), p. 63. 27 A parallel argument has been made recently in a quite different context, that of the Islamic

Juwayni, Kltb al-Ijtihd min kltb al-talkhls, p.77. See also Khidr Muhammad al-Lajmi's


Dr al-

29 Ibid, vol. 2, pp. 528-32. 30 Rzl, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 22, pp. 195-9. 31 Ibid, vol. 22, p. 196.
32 Abd al-cAH Muhammad Ansri, Fawtih al-rahamt, printed on the lower half of each page of Ghazll's al-Mustasfd, vol. 2, p. 607. 33 This characterisation is made by Chaumont, 'La problematique classique de Yijtihd', p. 137.

Juwayni, Kitb al-Irshd, ed. Muhammad YOsuf and Abd al-Muncim cAbd al-Hamld (Cairo: Muhammad al-Khnjl, 1369/1950), pp. 356-7. 35 Ibn Kathlr, Tafslr al-Qur'dn al-caz.lm, vol. 3, pp. 195-6. 36 Ibn cArabi, Fuss al-hikam, ed. Abu'l-A'J3 al-Afifi (reprint, Tehran: Intishrt-i Zahr, 1991), p. 156. I have used, with modification, the translation of R.W.J. Austin, The Bezels of Wisdom (New York: The Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 193-4. 37 Abdullah Bosnevi, Ar'ls'n-Nusus fi Manassati'l-Fusus (Istanbul: Matbaa-yi Amire, 1873), vol. 2, pp. 164-5. 38 Ahmed Avni Konuk, Fususu'l-Hikem Tercme ve erhi, ed. Mustafa Tahrah and Selcuk Eraydin (Istanbul: Marmara niversitesi Ilahiyat Fakiiltesi, 1990), vol. 3, p. 239.
34 39 Ibn cArabI, Fuss al-hikam, p. 156. 40 Ibn cArabi (?), Tafslr al-Qur'dn al-karlm vol. 2, pp. 84-5.



al-Yaqza al-cArabiyya, 1387/1968),

41 Cited in Tabarsi, Majmac al-bayn Ii culm al-Qur'n (Cairo: Dr al-Taqrib bayna'lMadhhib al-Islmiyya, 1394/1974), vol. 7, p. 109. It is not apparent from this citation which of the Jubba3Is is meant, Abu CAH (d. 303/916) or his son, Ab Hshim (d. 321/933). Both of them were agreed on the impermissibility of ijtihd for the prophets; see Chaumont, 'La problematique classique de Vijtihd', p. 114. 42 Mahmd al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshf (Cairo: Mustaf al-Bbi al-Halabl, 1385/1966), vol. 2, p. 579.

Q. 21:78-9: A Qur'anic Basis for Ijtihd!


43 Ibn Bbuya, Risalat al-ictiqadat (Tehran: Intishrat-i Tlmi, n.d.), pp. 125-6; translated by A.A. Fyzee as A Shi'ite Creed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1942), pp. 99-100. See also Martin McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufid (d. 413/1022) (Beirut: Dar alMachreq, 1986), pp. 107-112, 355-8. Muhammad Khwjagl Shirzi makes it plain that from the Shici point of view the comprehensive inerrancy of the prophets begins with their birth and continues until their death and is not restricted to matters directly connected to their missions (al-Nizmiyya fi ictiqd al-shlca, ed. CA1I Awjabi (Tehran: Nashr-i Qibla, 1375/1996), p. 129). For an exposition of the doctrine in philosophical terms, see cAbd al-Razzq Lhijl, Gawhar-i murd (Tehran: Kitbfurshi-yi Islmiyya, n.d.), pp. 267-8. 44 The scandalous story of Bathsheba and Uriah, in more or less the same form as found in 2 Samuel 11, is, however, included in NFmatullh al-Jaz'in's Qisas al-anbiy3, where it is connected with the events to which Q. 38:21-5 make allusion. A similar connection is made in a variety of Sunnl works; see, for example, Tabari, Trikh al-umam wa'1-mulk, vol. 1, pp. 249-50. Ibn Kathlr pertinently remarks in his commentary on these verses: 'The exegetes have mentioned at this point a story taken mostly from the IsrTliyyt; there is no firmly established narration from a macsm that needs to be followed It is best that one restrict oneself simply to a recitation of the story [as it occurs in the Qur'an] and to leave the knowledge of it to God, for the Qur' an is true and whatever it contains is true" (Tafsir al-Qur'n al- cazim, vol. 4, p. 34). 45 Tabarsi, Majmac al-bayn, vol. 7, p. 109.

46 Nimatullh al-Jaz3iri, Qisas al-anbiy', p. 412; cAbd CA1I al-cArsi al-HuwayzI, Tafsir nr al-thaqalayn, ed. Hashim al-RaslI al-Mahallti (Qum: Mu'assasa-yi Matbctl-yi IsmTlin, n.d.), vol. 3, p. 441.

Majmac al-bayn, vol. 7, pp. 109-11. Ibn Ts and al-Balkhl were, presumably, ShicIfuqah3 who deviated from majority ShicI opinion by holding to the permissibility of ijtihd by the prophets at a time when it was regarded as synonymous with rany (personal opinion); see al-Sayyid Muhammad Bqir al-Sadr, al-Macm al-jadida li'1-usl (Beirut: Dar alTacruf, 1401/1981), pp. 22-9. The theory of abrogation is also accepted by 'Abdullah Shubbar (d. 1826), in his Tafsir al-QurDn al-karim (ed. Hamid Hifnl D'd, Cairo, 1397/1977, p. 320), a marginal commentary on the Qur'an that one might characterise as the ShII counterpart of the Tafsir al-Jallayn. 48 Fluwayzl, Tafsir nr al-thaqalayn, vol. 8, p. 442. 49 Jaz'iri, Qisas al-anbiy3, p. 414.
47 Tabarsi,

50 Ibid.
51 Rzi, al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 22, p. 198. 52 Huwayzi, Tafsir nr al-thaqalayn, vol. 3, p. 443; CAH b. Ibrahim al-Qumml, Tafsir alQummi, ed. Tayyib al-MsawI al-Jaz'iri (Najaf: Matbacat al-Najaf, 1386/1967), vol. 2, pp. 73-4.

Huwayzl, Tafsir nr al-thaqalayn, vol. 3, pp. 442-3, citing the Usl al-kfi of Kulaynl. 54 The theme of nominating a successor by means of an examination is also to be found in at least one Sunni source. The Qisas al-anbiy' of Thaclabi (pp. 161-2) contains a somewhat bizarre story narrated on the authority of Ab Hurayra to the effect that God sent down to D3d from the heavens a book with a gold seal containing thirteen questions which he was to pose to Sulaymn, together with the right answers; if Sulaymn answered them correctly, he was to be his successor. So D^d assembled 'seventy priests and seventy rabbis', seated Sulaymn in front of them, and asked him the questions, all of which were in the nature of riddles. When he was done answering them, D'd ordered the seal on the book to be broken, and Sulaymn was seen to have answered correctly in every instance. The assembled dignitaries



Journal of Qur'anic Studies

however, unwilling to accept Sulaymn as successor to D3d unless he proved able to solve yet another riddle they wished to pose. When he gave the right answer, D'd 'mounted the minbar' and announced that he was appointing Sulaymn as his successor, in accordance with divine command. But the chiefs of the Ban IsrTl, ever hard to please, claimed that there were others better fitted for rule. D3d therefore ordered that all the proposed candidates for the succession, including Sulaymn, should provide him with their staffs, and if any of the staffs proved capable of bearing fruit, its owner should become his successor. The staffs were duly gathered, with the names of their owners inscribed on them, and locked for the night in a room. The next day, the staff of Sulaymn alone was seen to have sprouted leaves and borne fruit. All resistance to the appointment of Sulaymn then ceased.
55 JazTri, Qisas al-anbtyd3, p. 414. Concerning the problem of evaluating Imamite hadith that may have been uttered by way of taqiyya, see Majld Marif, Pazhuhishl dar trikh-i hadith-l shica (Tehran: Mu'assasa-yi FarhangI va Hunarl-yi Darlh, 1374 Sh./1995), pp. 264-84.
56 The bahth riwdi for the verses in question is found in TabtabT, Tafslr al-mlzn, 4th edition (Tehran: Dr al-Kutub al-Islmiyya, 1363 Sh./1984), vol. 14, pp. 347-8. On his exegetical method, see CA1I al-Awsi, Al-Tabdtabd'l wa manhajuhu fl tafsirihi 'al-Mizdn' (Tehran: Szmn-i Tablight-i Islmi,1363 Sh./1985).

Although the idea of consultation leading to a verdict is deduced by TabtabT from the wording of the verse, it also corresponds to yet another hadith from Imam Jacfar al-Sdiq, according to which he said: 'They were not both engaged in judging; rather they were debating [the matter]'. See Huwayzl, Tafsir nur al-thaqalayn, vol. 3, p. 443, citing Shaykh Sadq's Man Id yahduruhu 'l-faqih. 58 A variant reading of hukmayhimd is, in fact, mentioned by Zamakhshari {al-Kashshdf, vol. 2, p. 579) and Rzl (al-Tafsir al-kabir, vol. 22, p. 195). 59 See, for example, Alsi, Ruh al-macdnl, vol. 19, p. 74. 60 It might, of course, be remarked that the verb zanna occurs in Q. 38:24 precisely with reference to Dd, but it has been argued that in this case jann does not have its conventional meaning, signifying rather 'knowledge' (Rghib al-Isbahni, al-Mufradt, p. 217, and TabtabT Tafsir al-mizdn, vol. 17, p. 203); or 'deductive knowledge, or strong supposition approximating knowledge' (Alsi, Ruh al-macni, vol. 23, p. 182). 61 TabtabT, Tafslr al-mizdn, vol. 14, pp. 341-2.

62 Rzl,

al-Tafsir al-kablr, vol. 22, pp. 195-6.