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As conceived by classical Muslim jurists, ijtihād is the exertion of mental energy in the search for a legal opinion to the extent that the faculties of the jurist become incapable of further effort. In other words, ijtihad is the maximum effort expended by the jurist to master and apply the principles and rules of uṣūl alfiqh (legal theory) for the purpose of discovering God's law.1 The activity of ijtihad is assumed by many a modern scholar to have ceased about the end of the third/ninth century, with the consent of the Muslim jurists themselves. This process, known as ‘closing the gate of ijtihad’ (in Arabic: ‘insidād bāb al-ijtihād’), was described by Joseph Schacht as follows:
The profile of Egypt at midcentury is quite typical of Third World countries: Two-thirds or more of the population lived and made a living off the land, more than half of the national labor force was rural, the contribution of agriculture to GNP was one-third the total, and that of industry less than 15 percent. Land distribution was extremely unequal, less than one percent of landowners possessed more than one-third of the cultivated land and many of them were absentee landlords. The credit system and extension services were inadequate if available at all. Finally, population pressure on the land was relentless.
The legitimacy of stationing British troops on Egyptian soil for the defence of the Suez Canal, and maintaining a base in the Near East, were Britain's special requirements in Egypt. Accordingly, the security of these two vital imperial interests was the motive that dictated Britain's policy towards Egypt. The political pattern in the country, reflecting a continuous struggle between those two significant forces, the popular nationalist Wafd party and an autocratic palace, largely determined the course of Anglo–Egyptian relations.
What has been called the Revolution of 1952 was not really a revolution; a revolution should start from the bottom, not the top. The 1919 Revolution was different; it created the Egyptian man, while the 1952 revolution killed him. The 1919 Revolution … achieved … the British evacuation, while the 1952 revolution brought with it several defeats. The leaders and members of the 1919 Revolution faced torture in prisons, while the leaders of the 1952 revolution built palaces with money from secret sources and sent hundreds of people to military prisons.
Because of the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, observers have felt a sense of urgency to analyze the conditions that favored the emergence of Islamic militancy in Egypt. Psychological, political, and socioeconomic categories have been widely used to explain—and even suggest the means to neutralize—the ill effects of sectarian and political violence on social harmony and the stability of the political order. Laudable as these attempts are, they must first be preceded by a clear conception as to whether the militants do represent a social movement whose existence can be supported by empirical data.