The collective model of ijtihād upholds the Shia theological understanding that Sharia regulations are value based and lead mankind towards benefit and perfection. It also maintains the rational necessity of keeping the door of ijtihād open, whereby accurate answers are continually sought in response to new questions raised by Muslim communities.
According to the collective model of ijtihād the conclusions deduced by a body of mujtahids in consultation with subject matter experts provide a more accurate understanding of Sharia regulations than the endeavours of an individual mujtahid. Due to the complexities and vast scope of questions that arise, involvement of subject matter experts is integral for explaining the particularities of a given topic to the body of mujtahids. With a proper appreciation of the subject matter, mujtahids are able to deliberate and deduce Sharia regulations. The justification for the collective model of ijtihād can be rooted in the statement of Imam Mohammad al-Baqir (a.s), “Indeed the life of knowledge is sustained through constant discussion and critique.”
In addition, to the inclusion of subject matter experts, the collective model of ijtihād is also able to consult a plethora of independent sources and exegetical hermeneutical principles. Human evolution and progress in different fields means that there is access to a wide range of knowledge. Within the collective model of ijtihād, mujtahids take recourse to any, and all, evidence that can potentially give knowledge of the Sharia, including the contextual reading of textual sources.
As opposed to the traditional method of ijtihād, which emphasises the juristic utility of evidences that generate certainty in the deduction of Sharia regulations, the collective model is more concerned with deducing regulations with greater accuracy. The insistence on using certainty generating evidence does not ensure that the regulation deduced is free from error, rather it offers protection to a mujtahid from liability in front of God should he make an erroneous deduction. However, the collective model of ijtihād holds that arriving at an accurate appreciation of Sharia regulation is of greater importance than ensuring protection from liability and therefore, it does not have a stringent requirement of only accepting evidence that generates certainty.