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Means Juristic preference - to deem something preferable
It is a method of exercising personal opinion and therefore a form of ijtihad
Rigidly following the law would lead to hardship and preferable to do something else
Source of islamic law is similar to equity. (The rigidity in the common law)
Exercising ones personal opinion (ra'ay)
2nd Caliph in islamic law - Umar - suspended the application of the punishment of theft during a period of famine. (Often cited as an example of ihtihsan)
Istihsan - Arabic word derived from 'hasan' - good - designates the preference of one object or idea over another.
Associated with analogy (qiyas)
* Shafi's concern with linking legal judgement to the text led him to reject the legal mechanisms which appear to be detached from it, such as istihsan. He feared that, by going beyond the methodologically secure and generally recognised principles of legal interpretation, a scholar might compromise the divine element of shari'ah
* In certain cases, it was found that it is preferable not to apply what seems to be the normal apparent analytical judgement but to revert to a less apparent analogy due to the existence of stronger evidence. E.g. it is evident in the scenario where a person takes food because he has forgotten that he is supposed to be fasting. By analogy to a person who does this deliberately, the fasting of that individual would be void. However, another view which is preferred (mustahsan) - one that takes in to account the prophetic tradition which states that the act of fasting would remain valid if eating was a consequence of forgetfulness or error.
* Amidi summarises the various definitions of istihsan - including those of Halwani (the Hanaf scholar), who highlights the relationship between qiyas and istihsan. He perceives istihsan as entailing the abandonment of a certain analogy in favour of one based on a stronger proof, for example on the Qur'an, Sunnah, ijma or other legal sources.
* Istihsan that is based on customs reflects the richness of regional practice, and for Muslims who reside outside the lands of Islam, it provides a source that could be employed to formulate new legal rulings of a different nature from those previously applied. E.g. allowing of some kinds of religious endowments to be temporary, such as the endowment of books and food utensils. In this case, preference overturns the general principle whereby, waaf, must be permanent. This is permissible due to the prevalent custom in certain societies, even though traditionally endowment is usually for immovable objects such as buildings.
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