بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The book The System of Islam states: [Thirdly: If there is an opinion which is intended to unify the Muslims for their own good, then it is allowed for the Mujtahid to leave the result of his Ijtihad, and to take the judgment that intends to unify the Muslims, as happened with 'Uthman (R.A) when he was given the Bay'ah.] End
And the following is stated in the book The Islamic Personality Volume I: (Fourthly: If there is an opinion by which it is intended to unify the Muslims for their own good, then it is allowed for the Mujtahid to leave the result of his Ijtihad, as happened with ‘Uthman (ra) when he was given the Bay'ah as Khalifah. It has been reported about 'Abdur-Rahman b. 'Awf (ra) that, after he consulted the people individually and together, in secret and openly, he gathered the people in the mosque, ascended them to the minbar and made a long supplication. He then called 'Ali (ra), held his hand and said: ‘do you pledge to me that you will rule according to the Book of Allah (SWT) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw) and the opinions held after him (SAW) by Abu Bakr And 'Umar?' Ali (ra) replied: ‘I pledge to you on the basis of the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger, but I will exercise my own Ijtihad.' So ‘Abdur-Rahman b. ‘Awf (ra) let go of his hand and then called for 'Uthman (ra) and said to him:‘do you pledge to me that you will rule according to the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger and the opinions held after him (saw) by Abu Bakr And 'Umar?' Uthman (ra) replied: ‘By Allah (swt) yes!' 'Abdur-Rahman (R.A) raised his head towards the ceiling of the Mosque, his hand in Uthman's hand, and said three times: ‘O Allah (SWT), hear and bear witness!
And the question is that I found it in other narrations read as "but to the best I can and to the extent of my ability" and "to the extent of my knowledge and ability", so is it the same meaning as: "that I will exercise my own Ijtihad"? Also, I read another narration that Ali bin Abi Talib agreed but said (as much as I can), so what is the validity of that?
Yes, there is no difference between those phrases according to the scholars and Mujtahideen, and to clarify this I say:
- It is mentioned in Ibn Kathir's The Beginning and the End: "So come to me Ali, so he came to me under the minbar and ‘Abdur-Rahman took his hand and said "Do you pledge that you will rule according to the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw) and the actions of the two Khaleefahs after him?' Ali (ra) replied: ‘By Allah, No, rather according to my efforts and extent of my ability..." End
- It is mentioned in Tabari's History: "And Ali was summoned, and he said 'Do you promise to act according the Allah's Kitab and the Sunnah of his Prophet and the precedent of the two Khalifas after him?' He said: I want to do and act to the extent of my knowledge and power..." End
And perhaps when you read the likes of these narrations you supposed that "to exercise my own Ijtihad" is different from "to the best I can and to the extent of my ability", and from "to the extent of my knowledge and ability", but they have the same meaning. For Ali (ra) had differentiated between following the Kitab and Sunnah and following the actions of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, as he agreed to follow the Kitab and Sunnah, but exempted the actions of Abu Bakr and Omar for his capability and actions, meaning his Ijtihad.
And this is what the scholars understood, and it is mentioned in the preface and summary of evidences for the Qadi Abi Bakr al-Baqlani' al-Maliki who died in the year 403 AH the following:
"And they said 'how can 'Abdur-Rahman's allegiance to Othman be valid when he pledged allegiance to him under the condition that he follow the rulings of Abu Bakr and 'Umar', and it has been narrated that he said to Ali we give you the Bayah and give allegiance to you provided that you rule according to Allah's Kitab and the Sunnah of his Prophet and the Sunnah of the two Sheikhs after him and Ali said 'One like me cannot be more prominent but I make Ijtihad according to my opinion' and he offered that to 'Uthman and he agreed to the condition and gave him allegiance..." End. So he had conveyed with the phrase "Ijtihad according to my opinion."
And likewise, Sarkhasi who died in 483 AH has mentioned in his Usul this understanding, saying:
"Then 'Umar made the issue consultative after he recommended six persons and they agreed to make 'Abdur-Rahman responsible for the appointment after he withdrew himself, so he offered to Ali that he act according to the opinion of Abu Bakr and 'Umar and he said 'I will act according to Allah's Kitab and the Sunnah of his Prophet and then make Ijtihad according to my own opinion' and then he also offered this condition to 'Uthman and he accepted it and appointed him" End. So he conveyed with the phrase "make Ijtihad according to my own opinion."
And this is a known fact even in research institutes in the modern era, and in the Islamic University of Medina's Deanship of Academic Research Journal (1423 AH/2002) is the following:
"Abdul Rahman bin 'Awf gathered the Muslims in the Masjid... and called Ali, and 'Abdur-Rahman had authorized the selecting of the Khalifah after he had withdrew himself, given that the Muslims would follow him by giving allegiance to who he gave allegiance to.
And 'Abdur-Rahman placed his hand in the hand of Ali saying that we give you allegiance that you act according to Allah's Kitab and the Sunnah of his Prophet and the Ijtihad of the two Sheikhs - meaning Abu Bakr and Omar- and Ali did not agree to the Ijtihad of the two Sheikhs and said: Instead I will make Ijtihad according to my own opinion, so he pushed his hand and called 'Uthman (ra) and he accepted the Ijtihad of the two Sheikhs though what happened after that is what happened." End
And because of this there is no contradiction between "I will follow my own Ijtihad", and " to the best I can and to the extent of my ability", and "to the extent of my knowledge and ability," for all of them are the same according to the scholars according to what Allah has given them in knowledge, so if any of these phrases are used to express it then it is correct, especially if the issue is in the setting of extracting a judgment from the evidences as is in our book, and therefore if you see it mentioned as "I will follow my own Ijtihad" instead of "to the best I can and to the extent of my ability" or "to the extent of my knowledge and ability" then there is nothing in that if it was in the case of extracting a judgment.
- As for what came in the question about what Imam Ahmad extracted in his Musnad, he said: "I said to 'Abdur-Rahman bin Awf: ‘How did you give the Bay'ah to 'Uthman instead of Ali?' He said: ‘What is my fault?' I began with Ali, so I said: ‘I give you the Bay'ah on Allah's Kitab and the Sunnah of his Prophet, and the precedent of Abu Bakr and 'Umar.' And he said: ‘In that which I am able to.' He said: ‘Then I offered it to 'Uthman, and he accepted it.' End. This is a weak chain (isnad), Sufyan bin Waki' has been described as weak more than once, in his book Al-Taqreeb, Al-Hafith said, "Sufyan bin Waki', his hadith has been dropped," and likewise Abu Zar'a Al-Razi described him as weak in his book The Weak Ones, and Ibn Abi Hatim in The Wound and the Amendment quoted him in it as saying "I asked Abu Zar'a about Sufyan bin Waki' as that he had said that he lies, and he said yes". And therefore, the Hadith is weak and not reliable.
10 Rabi' I 1434