Qur'an and the corpus of hadith literature constitute a
comprehensive legal resource that is invoked to regulate the various
aspects of a Muslim believer's life. New situations and
contingencies have prompted the experts in the field to delve
into the sources and to devise methodological devices in usul
al-fiqh to enable them to deduce fresh juridical rulings (fatawa)
in order to deal with novel problems and issues. Consequently,
the door of independent research (ijtihad) -- deducing
legal rulings in the area of human-divine ('ibadat)
and human-human (mu'amalat) relationships --
has remained open in the Ja'fari/Shi'ah Ithna 'Ashari/Imami
school of thought. This is not a peculiar feature of the Ja'fari
school, and it is presently being argued in Islamic scholarship
that, contrary to the commonly held opinion, the gate of ijtihad
was not considered closed by Sunni jurists of the 4th/10th century.
This work contains the translation of
a selection of new legal rulings that are based on the opinion
of the eminent jurist Ayatullah al-'Uzma al-Sayyid 'Ali
al-Husayni al-Seestani, who resides in Najaf, Iraq, and is the
point of reference, or marja', for a good
part of the Shi'ah Ithna 'Ashari community of believers,
who revert to him for guidance. Three of his works, Al-Fatawa
al-Muyassarah (FM), al-Mustahdathat min al-Masa'il
al-Shar'iyyah (MMS) and Minhaj al-Salihin, vol.
1 (MS) were used in compiling the list of questions/answers and
organizing them under appropriate subjects. The source is clearly
marked in regular brackets after the response to each question
to facilitate easy reference to the original Arabic text.
The questions and answers in FM were formulated
by the compiler in the form of a dialogue between a father and
his son. Subsequently, they were sent by him to the office of
Ayatullah Seestani in Najaf, Iraq for verification and approval.
The legal responses in MMS are derived from the questions that
were posed by laypersons to the jurist for his legal opinion.
The third source, MS, was composed by Ayatullah Seestani and
takes the form of an enumeration of his rulings on various issues.
Translating a work of this sort is a challenging
enterprise and one is torn between remaining faithful to the original
text and being idiomatic. I have opted for the former at the
expense of smooth and flowing sentences, and as a result, the
reader will find that some of the sentences are stilted and unidiomatic.
Regular brackets have been inserted to clarify the meaning of
a sentence or to insert the Arabic term for the English equivalent.
The square brackets are part of the original Arabic text. Also,
a Glossary is appended at the end of the booklet to aid those
who are unfamiliar with the Arabic terms.
I am deeply grateful to Syed Mohammad
Ghassemi for the enormous help and assistance that he extended
to me in translating this work. I also acknowledge my gratitude
to Br. Khaleel Mohammed for reviewing the translation draft and
offering pertinent suggestions for its revision. I extend my
deep appreciation to Prof. Abdulaziz A. Sachedina who agreed to
review this work and provide expert advise under short notice,
in spite of his busy schedule and time constraints. Profound thanks
to Prof. Ali al-Oraibi of University of Bahrain for meticulously
comparing the Arabic text with the translation draft for accuracy
and fluency. Amendments that they proposed have been incorporated
to enhance the quality of this work. Every effort has been made
to be as precise and accurate as possible. As for any inadvertent
errors in the translation that may have slipped by, I alone am
responsible. The logo that appears is designed by Br. Azeem Ali
Amir, and I extend to him my gratitude.
I trust that this work will be useful
to those who are not literate in Arabic and are confronted with
the contemporary issues that are dealt with in this booklet.
It is also hoped that the work will be of benefit to the academic
community in obtaining a Muslim jurist's perspective on
modern ethical questions and dilemmas.
October 1996 / Jumada-l-Akhirah 1417