‘Ijtihad’ is free thinking. But free thinking must also be extended to politics and society. Isn’t it then detrimental to autocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia and Iran?
Of course, it is. That is why they want to control. Ijtihad is a challenge to taqleed or tradition. These are actually binaries. Ijtihad was not switched off suddenly. It took about two centuries before it was marginalised in Islam. And it was not only marginalised in the realm of science; it was marginalised in the realm of fiq or jurisprudence of Islamic intellectual realm, and replaced by taqleed. The cleric stronghold suddenly came up. Islam didn’t come into this world with any mosque or clerics commanding any special position. There was a book and there was Hadith (teachings of the Prophet). People were asked to read them and follow Islam. It remained like this for 150-200 years. Lots of things happened in the Islamic history after this. There are about 67 percent women in Iranian universities, much more than men. This is a positive sign. This is also the difference between the Arabs and the Persian world. Both have restrictions, but still there is a difference.