Islam / Sharia / Fiqh /
Other spelling: idjtihad
Ijtihad may be used with theology in general, or as a term for the development of law, fiqh. Ijtihad has never been defined as a technique of fiqh, except when the thoughts of ijtihad are agreed upon in a context of consensus among scholars. Then it is no longer ijtihad, but ijma.
With the earliest Muslim generations, before the clear definitions of fiqh came to be, ijtihad would often be equated with qiyas.
By definition, ijtihad may be wrong, since it originates in the mind of a human being. It can only be put on a par with the absolute truth in the case consensus.
The 11th century philosopher and theologian, al-Ghazzali, has been credited with the idea of the "closure of the door of ijtihad." This came to mean that the religious and legal doctrines had been laid down once and for all. But although it has been suggested that this idea was promoted before al-Ghazzali, it seems likely that it was with al-Ghazzali that it really acquired its impact.
The loss of ijtihad has been a central reason for the intellectual conservatism and stagnation in Muslim societies up until the modern age. Some modern, liberal Muslims have agreed on the need for the return of ijtihad. Most notable among these may be Muhammad Abduh, the founder of Salafism.
In Twelver Shi'ism, ijtihad is traditionally not allowed, although the 20th century Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini promoted a revised understanding of the application of Islamic theology within which there was room for new judgements.
One objection against the technique of ijtihad is that it may really be a form of ra'y, which is free opinion making. The opposite of ijtihad is taqlid, imitation.