The Algorithm of Ijtihad

Our religion is both “text-oriented” and “context(evidence)-oriented”, and to understand religion, one needs to discover the meaning of the propositions in the sources of religion and the evidence related to them. Continuous experience has proved that there are different interpretations and understandings for common propositions and texts, and these experiences have shown that not every understanding corresponds to the intention of the speaker or author; Therefore, the need for a criterion for a correct understanding and also the method for achieve that criterion becomes evident.

When encountered by a text or evidence, an initial understanding comes to the minds of those familiar with the language and context of the subject, but in many cases we later find out that the initial understanding was not intended by the speaker, and in order to achieve the real intention of the speaker, we must put together a set of sentences and evidence to reach a conclusion.

“Istizhar”, which is the first stage of the operation of understanding the text, means reaching “prima facie” (face) of the text and the discovery of the meaning that is normally considered as the intention of the speaker (Istizhar from the proof), unless other evidence proves that the intention of the speaker is different. (Istizhar from the collection of proofs); And those initial understandings cannot be included in the stage of collective proofs, unless they are already reached at in the first stage. It should be noted that “proof” in the first stage, does not mean merely a single sentence, but a continuous chain of words and sentences that are in the same context and there is a syntactic or rhetorical connection between them.

Field study of interpretive and jurisprudential texts shows that the main effort of the authors has been to document their understanding of verses and hadiths, and to criticize other interpretations. The great commentators, interpreters, and jurists have acted, over time, based on the methods documented in the science of the “Principles of Jurisprudence”, but due to the implicitness of methodological concepts, their methods applied lies behind their analyses. Those methods in some cases are quickly recognizable and in others require exploration; But can these methods -with all details that go through the mind of the jurist- be discovered and simulated?

If “Ijtihad” in the general sense is a methodical attempt to discover the God’s opinion on any subject; And if the operations of inference and Ijtihad are the actions that the jurist performs step by step to discover God’s opinion in order to reach the ultimate goal (fatwa); And if the methodology and algorithm is the exact description of the steps of a problem-solving operation so that the starting and ending point, number of steps, logical sequence of steps, then it turns out that Ijtihad and inference can be described by algorithms. One of the stages of this inference is how to discover the meaning of the arguments in the sources of religion; And since the propositions of religion act as a “network of propositions”, and they are not separate propositions from each other, in order to discover the meaning of the text, one must examine all the propositions and evidence related to the subject in question. This causes the discovery of God’s intention to take place in two general stages: 1- The stage of discovering the meaning of reason and proof by itself 2- The stage of discovering the collective meaning of the proofs and evidence related to the subject.

This research deals with the first stage of discovering the meaning of the religion propositions, and presents the detailed processes of discovering the meaning of arguments and proofs individually.