TAQLEED AND IJTIHAD
And I have not created the jinn and humankind except that they should serve Me. I do not desire from them any sustenance and I do not desire that they should feed Me. Surely Allah is the Bestower of sustenance, the Lord of Power, the Strong.
[ Al-Thariat 41:56-58]
After establishing that the purpose for our creation is to serve and worship Allah (swt), it is essential that we understand how this servitude manifests itself in our lives. Clearly Allah (swt) is in no need of our services, as He is the Bestower of all sustenance; rather it is understood from this and from other verses of the Quran, that the worship of Allah is achieved by carrying out His commands and avoiding His prohibitions. In other words, regulating our actions according to the divine laws of Allah (ahkam shar?iah).
And obey Allah and the Messenger; that you may obtain mercy. [Al-Imran 3:132]
The problem now becomes not how to worship Allah, but how to obey Allah and His Messenger (saas), given the knowledge that Allah (swt) does not speak with any of us directly, and His final Messenger Muhammed (saas) has passed away. We therefore turn to revelation (wahiy) from Allah that has been preserved for us, in the form of the final Book of Allah (Quran) and the Sunnah, comprising the traditions, sayings and actions authentically attributed to the Prophet (saas). Furthermore, every action of the Muslim has be based on a daleel from the Islamic legislative sources. Extracting evidences and giving a judgement on any issues requires sound knowledge of fiqh and Arabic language. Surely, it is not required of every Muslim to be equipped with these tools of knowledge. Hence, this category of Muslims have to follow the understanding of a scholar on all issues related to the deen. However, there are many issues on which there exists valid differences of opinion.
For example, regarding the Islamic ruling on beard, some scholars have concluded that it is obligatory (wajib) while some others concluded that it is recommended (mandoub). And some others discussed all the evidences related to the issue of the beard and concludes that growing the beard is mandoub, while shaving it is permissible (mubah).
As for adopting an opinion it is fundamentally linked to the strength of the evidences and the principles of jurisprudence that has been used. However it has to be kept in mind that those who do not possess the capacity to perform ijthihad (process of extracting rules), follow the opinion of a scholar he is convinced of. So if the muqallid (those who follow or imitate) follows a scholar in a hukm (rule) of any issue and acts accordingly, he is not allowed to leave that hukm for another scholar. However, it is permissible for the muqallid to follow the scholar in other issues, because the Sahabah permitted that a muqallid may ask a different scholar on a different issue. If the muqallid assigned a certain School of Thought (mazhab), such as the Shafi’i and committed himself to follow the entire mazhab, then the following applies upon him: the muqallid is not allowed to follow any other scholar on an issue he has already practised according to the mazhab he is following. Regarding the issues that he has not practised yet, he is allowed to follow the other scholars. This is the case unless he is entirely and absolutely assured that the scholar has erred in his deduction, in which case he adopts the stronger opinion. So convenience or personal likes and dislikes should in no case become the arbiter of opinions.
Regarding the muqallid (imitators), there are two types :
Muqaalid aammi is the layman who does no possess even most basic knowledge of shariah or Arabic language. For him the hukm of a scholar is sufficient.
Muqallid mutable is the follower who has a some knowledge of shariah and Arabic language. Therefore he is allowed to make taqleed (imitate) but with the knowledge of the evidences.
Imitating one scholar in one issue completely
If a muqallid is committed to follow a scholar in one Islamic issue(mas’ala) ,he should should follow the same scholar on that issue completely. For example, prayer consists of dispensations (e.g. when travelling ), conditions (e.g. facing the qiblah, wulu…etc), and pillars (e.g. number of rakats). So the person who follows Imam Shafie on the issue of prayer has to follow Shafie’s rulings on all matters related prayer. That is to say a muqallid is not permitted to follow Imam Shafie’s judgement on Qunoot and follow Imam Hanifah’s ruling on the rules of wulu(ablution). This is because wulu and Qunoot are related to the same issue (mas’ala) of prayer. However, it is permitted for the muqallid to imitate another scholar on the issue of fasting.
Imitation is not a permission for blind following of scholars
The Muqallid should not persist in imitating blindly once the evidence has come to him from the Qur’an or the Sunnah clearly demonstrating the error of the scholar he had imitated. Also, he should not allow his blind trust of the scholar, whoever he may be, to outweigh the Sharia’a text of the Qur’an or the Sunnah. The Muqallid who does this would be relegating the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw) to follow the personage of that scholar, and this is a rejection of the deen which we seek Allah’s refuge from. Allah (swt) says:
“Follow what has been revealed unto you from your Lord and follow not as friends or protectors any other than Him” [7:3]
An example to clarify this issue:
A person invests his money in a bank returning riba (usury), and finds among the Sheikhs one who gives him an opinion approving of this. In such a case, the Muqallid is not blameless, nor would be the one who gave him the fatwa, for again, the fatwa violates Sharia’a in a matter which is known from Islam by necessity.
The point may be raised that there are some reputedly distinguished scholars who have been known to give fatwas on the permissibility of riba (usury). As we here concern ourselves with the position of the Muqallid, we shall not discuss those who issue incorrect fatwas. However, if a Muqallid was at ease and was reassured by the piety of the Sheikh who gave him the fatwa legitimising riba (in some cases and not always), convinced that he be knowledgeable, and he himself happened to be extremely ignorant, he may in this case be discharged of his liability before Allah (swt). If a person came to this Muqallid and said to him: “Truly Riba is forbidden and unlawful upon you.” Upon this the Muqallid would say: “But Sheikh ‘so and so’ gave me a fatwa.?” If that person persisted and said to the Muqallid: “This scholar is wrong and you are forbidden from acting upon this fatwa of his.” The Muqallid would say: “But he is more knowledgeable than you.” The person might reply: “Even if he were more knowledgeable than me, he cannot be more knowledgeable than the Book of Allah (swt) in which He (swt) says:
“Those who take usury will not stand except as stands one whom the evil one by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: ‘Trade is like usury’.”[ 2:275]
He (swt) also says:
“And Allah had permitted trade and forbidden usury.” [2:275]
He (swt) also says:
“O you who believe fear Allah and abandon what is left of usury if you are indeed believers.” [ 2:278]
Once that person brings him the texts from the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw) and the Muqallid realises that these texts forbid riba, he is forbidden from continuing to deal in riba no matter how firm his trust is in the scholar who had given him the fatwa.
Perhaps the Muqallid may say to himself: Surely the scholar who gave me the fatwa is aware of these verses and of other texts related to riba, therefore, I shall stick to his fatwa and continue to deal in riba.
In such cases the Muqallid would have fallen into sin because he persisted in his blind imitation of the scholar who gave him the fatwa, and because he persisted in ignoring the Qur’anic verses even after they had been ringing in his ears and after he had understood their meaning which clearly forbids him from following this fatwa. The Muqallid should stop dealing in riba immediately after hearing the verses of the Holy Qur’an. If he is still in doubt, he should immediately go back to the scholar who gave him the fatwa and seek an explanation about why he permits to deal in riba while the Qur’an forbids it, and he should try to understand no matter how ignorant he may be.
No imitation is allowed in the ‘Aqeeda matters
As for the issue of taqleed (imitating) in the fundamentals of the ‘Aqeeda, this is categorically forbidden. This is so because if taqleed in the fundamentals of ‘Aqeeda were permitted, then the Christian, the Jew and the Magus who imitate their parents or their folk would be blameless. Allah (swt) says:
“When they were told to follow what Allah has sent down, they say: ‘No, we shall follow the ways of our fathers’ What! even if it is Satan beckoning them to the penalty of the fire.” [ 31:21]
We witness that many Muslims inherit their ‘Aqeeda from their parents just like they inherit any other asset or property. This is forbidden because the Muslim should, once he reaches the age of puberty and once he becomes able to reflect and investigate, review what he had inherited from his parents and his environment, without any prejudice or sentiment. Whatever he deemed true, he should stick to it, and whatever he deemed false, he should shun without any qualms. Allah (swt) has addressed the Mushrikeen (polytheists) in the Holy Qur’an by saying:
“Can there be another god besides Allah? Say: ‘Bring your evidence if you were truthful.” [ 27:64]
Therefore, the Muslim who asks people for proof about their ‘Aqeeda, should himself have proof about his own ‘Aqeeda.
This is as far as the fundamentals of ‘Aqeeda are concerned: Every Muslim should therefore embrace his ‘Aqeeda with clear understanding and absolute conviction, for it should not be subject to taqleed (imitation).
What is important to note is that, when we follow the opinion of a certain scholar, we do not follow this opinion blindly, and we are not following the scholar. Rather, we are following his opinion on the basis that we are convinced his opinion is the most correct opinion, based on the strength of the evidence from the Islamic sources of legislation. This is what it means when we say that Islam is our reference; regardless of who said what, everything that is said, and every opinion that is issued must have its evidence from the Islamic text to substantiate it.
The problem is when we start following human beings WITHOUT referring what they say to the Islamic text or questioning what they say based on the Islamic sources. As a result, we have shifted away from referring to Islam as our reference, and instead we have begun to revolve around a certain shaykh or individual. What is worse is when Muslims begin to adopt opinions that are OUTSIDE the boundaries of Islam altogether, and the result of this is the emergence of sects.