What is an Ijaaza Anyway? Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

WHAT IS AN IJAAZA ANYWAY? (because someone asked)
The word ‘Ijaaza’ in the Arabic language, literally means ‘permission’. In the terminology of traditional Islamic knowledge and scholarship, ijaaza is when a student of knowledge seeks permission from a teacher or shaykh to listen or to receive narrations of knowledge from the shaykh, that the shaykh possesses. Knowledge and narrations that are either retained by verified memory, or in writing.

Upon completion, when the shaykh is assured that the student has understood or retained the text by memory, the shaykh then gives the student permission to transfer or teach that information to someone else or to others. In Muslim tradition, this whole process is called ‘ijaaza’.

Depending upon the shaykh, the student, the text, or the subject of narrative, the shaykh may have a greater or lesser degree of retention and proficiency which he (or she) would require of the student before the student is afforded qualified permission (ijaazah) to transmit the knowledge. Many times, ijaaza was implicit by virtue of the known relationship and length of time between a student and a particular teacher or because of narrative connection to him.

Historically, the process of seeking and receiving an ijaaza was not contracted from anyone who is not a qualified expert in the subject matter, and there was no formal ijaaza ceremonies or graduation certificates. Also, historically in Muslim lands, people did not dare to teach Islamic topics without having knowledge. Ijaaza was a way to trace the chain of knowledge back to a source

The first to start this method of transferring knowledge were Arab poets and genealogists during the latter part of the Umayyad and the beginning of the Abbasid dynasties (period) of Islam, followed by scholars and preservers of sacred knowledge.

Eventually the process became widespread and varied throughout the Muslim world. Before the ijaazah process became wide spread, and before Islam, the Arabs relied on sheer memory and generational continuity of knowledge through people, to preserve information about lineage (mainly), history and poetry. The ijaaza process is different today from what it was originally, but remains the same in some places.

That’s the short of it. There are different types of ijaazas. And Allah knows best. – Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad.

Shaykh Luqman is Associate Imam and Resident Scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He is the author of two books on marriage; ‘Killing Marriage in Black Muslim America’, and ‘One-hundred Advices About Marriage’. Both available on Amazon

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