Taqleed linguistically is following others without scrutiny. It is said 'he imitated him in such and such' i.e. he followed him without scrutiny or examination. Legally, Taqleed is acting according to the statements of others without a binding proof or argument, such as the layman's adoption of the opinion of a Mujtahid. Or the Mujtahid's adoption of the opinion of someone of the same stature as him.
Taqleed is forbidden in Aqeeda
Taqleed (imitation) in the 'Aqeeda (creed) is not allowed because Allah (swt) has censured the Muqallids (imitators) in 'Aqeeda. This is a censure for imitation in belief and not in the adoption of the Shari'ah rules. This is because the subject matter of the verses concerns belief. Its text is specific to the subject of belief and they have no 'illah (reason). He (swt) said:
“When it is said to them: "Follow what Allah has sent down." They say: "Nay! We shall follow what we found our fathers following." (Would they do that!) even though their fathers did not understand anything nor were they guided?” [TMQ 2:170]
And He (swt) said:
'And when it is said to them: "Come to what Allah has revealed and unto the Messenger (Muhammad [saw] for the verdict of that which you have made unlawful)." They say: "Enough for us is that which we found our fathers following," even though their fathers had no knowledge whatsoever and no guidance.” [TMQ 5:104]
“And similarly, We sent not a warner before you (O Muhammad [saw]) to any town (people) but the luxurious ones amongst them said: "We found our fathers following a certain way and religion, and indeed we will indeed follow their footsteps." (The warner) said: "Even if I bring you better guidance than that which you found your fathers following?" They said: “verily, we disbelieve in that with which you have been sent.”’ [TMQ 43:23-24]
And His (swt) saying:
“When those who were followed disown (declare themselves innocent of) those who followed (them), and they see the torment, then all their relations will be cut off from them. When those who followed will say: "if only we had one more chance to return (to the worldly life), we would disown (declare themselves ourselves as innocent from) them as they have disowned (declared themselves as innocent from) us." Thus Allah will show them their deeds as regrets for them. And they will never get out of the Fire.” [TMQ 2:166-167]
And Allah (swt) saying:
“When he said to his father and his people: “what are these images, to which you are devoted?” They said: "we found our fathers worshipping them."' [TMQ 21:52]
These verses are texts clearly concerning the subject of belief (Iman) and disbelief (Kufr) and nothing else. This text does not include any 'illah nor is there any reasoning found in any other text. Therefore, it should not be said that what matters is the generality of the wording and not the specificity of the cause. This principle is correct with respect to the cause (Sabab). It is the incident that is the cause of revelation but it is not correct regarding the subject matter of the verse. The consideration is the subject matter of the verse and the generality ('Umum) is restricted to the subject of the verse only. It is general to everything concerning the subject matter in the meaning of the verse and not to anything that the verse does not include. Nor should it be said it concerns belief and disbelief, but it is correct to interpret it as applicable to the Muqallidin considering that the Hukm revolves around the presence or absence of an illah. This cannot be claimed since no 'illah can be found in the Ayah and no 'illah can be found for the Ayah. There is no justification and no justification has come for it in any of the texts of the Kitab and Sunnah. Thus no text can be found which prohibits Taqleed. Rather the texts and the reality of the Muslims in the time of the Messenger (saw) and Sahaba indicate the permissibility of practising Taqleed.
Taqleed is not the basis
Islam has forbidden us from following any path other than the path of ‘Ilm: “And follow not that of which you have no knowledge. Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those you will be questioned (by Allah).” [TMQ 17:36]
From this it becomes clear that the basis in every matter of the Sharee’ah, whether we are ordered to do something or forbidden from a matter, is that we should arrive at knowledge of its hukm through one of the paths of knowledge. If the mukallaf (legally responsible) is unable to do that then he is obliged to study the matter to arrive at a preponderant view in an issue.
Taqleed does not bring us to any definite knowledge or preponderant view and that is why many scholars did not allow it except for the weak and compelled. He is the layman who does not have the tools of ijtihad. This is what they obliged and permitted him to ask for a fatwa and imitate that.
As for the rest the basis is they should exert the effort to deduce the Hukm, this is better though it is allowed for him to make taqleed as we have clarified previously.
Those who do not have the ability for ijtihad are of two types:
1. Muqallid Muttabi’ (follower): He is the one who has knowledge of the some of the recognized disciplines in the Sharee’ah and evidences but it is not enough for him to make ijtihad. That is why it is allowed for him to make taqleed but with knowledge of the daleel used by the Mujtahid he follows.
2. Muqallid Ammi (layman): The layman who does not have the knowledge of the evidences and even some of the recognized disciples in legislation, for him the fatwah of an Imam is sufficient. He can ask him for hukm and get an answer as to ether it is halal or haram.
The evidence for Taqleed in the Shariah rules
Taqleed in the Shar’ai rules is legally permitted for every Muslim. Allah (SWT) said:
“So ask the people of the Reminder (ahl al-zikr) if you do not know.” [TMQ 21:7]
He (swt) has ordered the one who does not have the knowledge to ask the one who is more knowledgeable than him. Even though these verses came in the context of replying to those who rejected the Messenger (saw) as a human being. However the wording of the Ayah is general and what matters are the generality of the wording and not the specificity of the cause (Al-'ibra bi 'umum al-lafz laa bi khususiyyat al-sabab). Moreover, it is not about a specific subject, it is general about the request from those who do not know to ask those who do know. For it requests the Mushrikeen to ask the People of the Book to teach them that Allah (swt) has not sent to previous nations messengers who were not human beings. They were ignorant of this information so He (swt) ordered them to ask those who know. The Ayah states:
“And We sent not before you (O Muhammad [saw]) but men to whom We revealed. So ask the people of the Reminder (Scriptures – the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel) if you do not know.” [TMQ 21:7]
The word 'fas'alu' (ask!) has come with a general import i.e. ask in order to learn that Allah (swt) has not sent anyone to preceding nations other than human beings. It is related to knowledge and not to belief (Iman). Although the people of Zikr mentioned in the verse are the People of the Book, the term came in a general manner and it includes all people of Zikr, whether Muslims or non-Muslims. The Muslims are the people of Zikr because the Qur'an is a Zikr. He (swt) said:
“And We have also sent down to you (O Muhammad [saw]) the Zikr (reminder and advice [i.e. the Qur’an]), that you may explain clearly to men that which was sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” [TMQ 16:44]
So those who know the Shari'ah rules are the people of Zikr whether they had gained knowledge by Ijtihad or acquired knowledge. Ahl al-zikr in this ayah refers to the people of knowledge, regardless as to whether they actually know the correct ruling of an issue or not, provided they have the capacity to investigate and find out. [Amidi, Ihkam, IV, 206; Kassab, Adwa', p. 121.]
The Muqallid only asks for the rule of Allah (swt) in an issue or issues. Therefore, the ayah indicates the permissibility of practising Taqleed.
It has also been narrated on the authority of Jabir (ra): “a man was struck by a stone that fractured his skull. Then he had a wet dream. He asked his companions - do you know of a permit (Rukhsa) for me to perform Tayammum (dry ablution)? - They said - we do not find any permit for you and you can use water. He then had a bath and died. The Prophet (saw) said: “Verily, it would have sufficed for him to make Tayammum, so tie a piece of cloth around his head and wipe over it and wash the rest of his body.' And the Prophet (saw) said: 'why did they not ask when they did not know. Indeed, the cure for inability and lack of knowledge is to ask.” [Abu Dawud: 275, Ibn Majah: 565, Ahmad: 2898] The Messenger (saw) instructed them to ask about the Hukm Shar'ai.
It has been authentically reported that al-Sha'bi said: ‘there were six companions of the Messenger of Allah (saw) who used to deliver legal opinions to the people. Ibn Mas'ud (ra), 'Umar b. al-Khattab (ra), 'Ali b. Abi Talib (ra), Zayd b. Thabit (ra), Ubayy b. Ka'b (ra), and Abu Musa (ra). Three used to leave their opinion for the opinion of the other three. Ibn Mas’ud used to leave his opinion for 'Umar's opinion, Abu Musa used to leave his opinion for the opinion of 'Ali and Zayd used to leave his opinion for the opinion of Ubayy b. Ka’b.’ This also indicates that the Muslims used to imitate the Sahaba and some of them used to imitate each other.
Allah (swt) said: “And it is not (proper) for the believers to go out to fight (jihad) all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may get instructions in the Deen, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil).” [TMQ 9:122]
Ordering them to beware when they warned by their scholars would not be possible if taqleed was not allowed. Thus, taqleed is allowed in every matter without specification except in beliefs which must be definite and not speculative.
Taqleed is applicable to the follower (Muttabi') and to the layman ('Ammi) irrespective. That is because Allah (swt) has defined Taqleed as following the opinion of someone else. He (swt) said:
“When those who were followed disown (declare themselves innocent of) those who followed (them).” [TMQ 2:166]
The Hukm Shar'ai that a person adopts, either he has deduced it himself or someone else has deduced it. If he himself deduces it then he is a Mujtahid and if someone else deduces it and he adopts it then he has adopted the opinion of someone else i.e. followed the opinion of someone else. This is Taqleed whether he adopted the Hukm without proof or with a non-binding proof, the Muttabi' (follower) therefore is a Muqallid. Ittiba'a (following someone else) means that you follow the opinion of a Mujtahid based on what has become clear to a Muslim in terms of evidence without passing judgement on this evidence i.e. without being bound by this proof. If the Muslim passes judgement on the evidence, knows the method of deducing the Hukm from it and agrees to the inference of the Hukm and the Hukm itself then the proof on which the Hukm rests has become binding on him. Then the opinion has been adopted as the opinion of that Muslim as it is the opinion of a Mujtahid. In this case the Muslim has become a Mujtahid and not a Muqallid. From this it becomes clear that Ittiba'a (following) is Taqleed and that the follower (Muttabi') is a Muqallid even though he knows the evidence.
The reality of Taqleed
The definition of Taqleed, linguistically and legally, indicates that anyone who follows others in a particular matter is a Muqallid. So what matters is following others. Therefore, there are two types of people regarding knowledge of the Shari'ah rules - the Mujtahid and the Muqallid and no other as the reality of the Muslim is that he either adopts what he has arrived at himself by his Ijtihad or what the other has arrived at by his Ijtihad. The issue is limited to these two cases. Therefore, anyone who is not a Mujtahid is a Muqallid of whatever category. The issue in Taqleed is the adoption of the rule from others irrespective of whether the one who adopted is a Mujtahid or not. It is acceptable for the Mujtahid to imitate other Mujtahidin in a particular issue even if he is qualified to do Ijtihad. Then he would be considered a Muqallid in this issue. Thus, in a single Hukm the imitator (Muqallid) may or may not be a Mujtahid, but the same person may be Mujtahid and Muqallid at the same time.
When the Mujtahid gains complete competence (Ahliyya) for Ijtihad in any issue and performs Ijtihad on it that leads him to derive a Hukm, he is not allowed to imitate other Mujtahidin in a matter contrary to what his Ijtihad has led him to. He cannot abandon his opinion in this matter except in four cases:
(1) When it appears that the evidence (Daleel) on which he relied in his Ijtihad is weak (Da'if) and the evidence of another Mujtahid is stronger than the evidence he used. In such a case he is obliged to leave at once the Hukm to which his Ijtihad had led and adopt the Hukm proven stronger by evidence. It is forbidden for him to continue adopting the first Hukm, which he had reached, by his own Ijtihad. He is not prevented from adopting a new Hukm simply because a new Mujtahid was the only one to hold such an opinion, or because this Hukm has not been expounded by anyone before. That goes against Taqwa (the fear of Allah [swt]) because the consideration is the strength of evidence, not the number of Mujtahidin who held it or how ancient they are. There have been many an Ijtihad derived by the Sahaba whose errors later became apparent to the Tabi'in or Tabi'-Tabi'in. When the weakness of his evidences and the strength of someone else’s evidences becomes apparent through outweighing (Tarajjuh), without considering all evidences and the inference from them, in such a situation the Mujtahid will be considered a Muqallid, because he has adopted the opinion of someone else through outweighing evidences (Tarjeeh). This example is that of the Muqallid who is confronted with two Hukms, so he gives preference to one of them according to a Shari'ah qualification (Murajjih Shar'ai). If the weakness of his evidence and the strength of someone else's evidence becomes apparent through judgement (Muhakama), pursuance (Tatabbu') and inference (Istinbat) through which he arrives at an opinion which is the opinion of another person he is not a Muqallid but a Mujtahid to whom the errors within the first Ijtihad became apparent. So he retracts it in preference to another opinion that he has deduced as happened with Imam al-Shafi'i on a number of occasions.
(2) When it appears that another Mujtahid has a greater capacity to link or has better awareness of the reality, or stronger comprehension of the evidences or is more acquainted with the textual evidences (Adilla Sam'iyya) etc. He takes the preference that the other Mujtahid is closer to the truth in understanding a specific issue or issues as they are. It is then allowed for him to leave the Hukm he has reached through his Ijtihad and follow the Mujtahid in whose Ijtihad he has greater confidence than his own. As was mentioned earlier it has been reported on the authority of al-Sha'bi that Abu Musa (ra) used to leave his opinion for the opinion of 'Ali (ra), that Zayd (ra) used to leave his opinion for the opinion of Ubay b. Ka'b (ra) and that 'Abdullah (ra) used to leave his opinion for the opinion of 'Umar (ra). Incidents have been reported about Abu Bakr (ra) and 'Umar (ra) that they used to leave their opinion for the opinion of 'Ali (ra). This indicates the retraction of a Mujtahid from his opinion for the opinion of someone else based on his trust in the Ijtihad of the other Mujtahid. However, this is permitted for the Mujtahid and not obligatory.
(3) If the Khalifah adopts a Hukm which conflicts with the Hukm arrived at through his Ijtihad, then he is obliged to leave the conclusion of his Ijtihad and take the Hukm which the Imam (leader) has adopted, because the Ijma'a of the Sahaba has taken place on the fact that 'the order of the imam settles disputes' and that his order is to be implemented on all Muslims.
(4) If there is an opinion by which it is intended to unify the Muslims, for their own good, in such a situation it is then allowed for the Mujtahid to leave the conclusion of his Ijtihad, as happened with Uthman (ra) when he was given the Bay'ah. It has been reported about 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf (ra) that after he consulted the people individually and in twos, together and separately, secretly and openly he then gathered the people in the Mosque, ascended the Minbar and made a long supplication. He then called 'Ali (r.a), took hold of his hand and said: ‘do you pledge to me that you will rule according to the Book of Allah 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 and the Sunnah of His Messenger but I will exercise my own Ijtihad.’ So ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Awf (ra) let go of his hand and called for 'Uthman (ra) and said to him: ‘do you pledge to me that you will rule according to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger and the opinions held after him (saw) by Abu Bakr And 'Umar?' Uthman (ra) replied: ‘By Allah yes!’ So 'Abd al-Rahman (ra) raised his head towards the roof of the Mosque, his hand in Uthman's hand, and said three times: ‘O Allah, hear and bear witness!’ Then he gave Uthman (ra) the pledge and the people thronged to the mosque to give Bay'ah to him making Ali (ra) push his way through the people until he gave his pledge to 'Uthman (ra). Thus, 'Abd al-Rahman (ra) demanded from a Mujtahid, 'Ali and 'Uthman that they leave their own Ijtihad and follow the Ijtihad of Abu Bakr (ra) and 'Umar (ra), irrespective of whether or not each exercised his own Ijtihad with regards it and had opinions which contradicted the opinions of both or one of them, or he had not exercised Ijtihad as yet. The Sahaba concurred with this and they gave Bay'ah to 'Uthman (ra) on that basis. Even 'Ali (ra) who refused to leave his Ijtihad, gave Bay'ah to 'Uthman (ra) on that basis. However, this is permitted for the Mujtahid and not obligatory as evidenced by the refusal of Ali (ra) to leave his Ijtihad for the Ijtihad of Abu Bakr (ra) and 'Umar (ra). No one rebuked him for that, which indicates that it is permitted and not obligatory.
All of this is with respect to the Mujtahid who has actually exercised Ijtihad and his Ijtihad has led to a ruling on an issue. As for the Mujtahid who has not exhausted Ijtihad on an issue, it is allowed for him to follow other Mujtahidin and not make Ijtihad on the issue since Ijtihad is an obligation of sufficiency (Fard 'ala al-kifaya) and not an individual obligation (Fard 'ayn). If he already knows the Hukm of Allah (swt) on an issue then it is not an obligation on the Mujtahid to make Ijtihad with regards to it. It has been correctly reported about 'Umar (ra) that he said to Abu Bakr (ra): 'We hold opinions in accordance with your opinion.' It has also been correctly reported about 'Umar (ra) that when he found himself completely at a loss to find in the Qur'an and Sunnah what was needed when two disputing parties come to him, he would see if Abu Bakr (ra) had made a decision in the matter. If he found that Abu Bakr (ra) had passed a certain judgement on the issue he would pass the same judgement. It has been authentically reported about Ibn Mas'ud (ra) that he used to adopt the opinion of 'Umar (ra). This often occurred before the eyes and ears of the Sahaba in numerous incidents and no one objected. Thus, it became a tacit Ijma'a (Ijma'a sukuti).
This is the reality of the Mujtahid's practice of Taqleed. As for the Taqleed of the non-Mujtahid whether he is a learned person or a layman, when an issue presents itself to him, he is not permitted do anything other than ask about it since Allah (swt) is not worshipped by His creation through ignorance, rather their worship is through knowledge. He (swt) said:
“So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you.” [TMQ 2:282]
i.e. Allah (swt) teaches you whatever the case may be, so fear Him. So knowledge comes before the Taqwa (fear of Allah), since the order to fear Allah (swt) follows from the acquisition of knowledge in a natural manner, that knowledge is given precedence over action. Just as when He (swt) said: “Fear Allah.”
Thus it comes to the mind of the Muslim what Taqwa should be like. He (swt) said: “And Allah teaches you so fear Him.”
As knowledge must be given precedence over action, it becomes Fard on the Muslim to learn those rules of Allah (swt) are necessary for action before he acts since it is not possible for the Muslim to act upon these rules without knowledge. This knowledge of the rules requires the Muslim to ask about them in order to adopt the Hukm and act upon it, and through this knowledge he will follow that Hukm. He (swt) said:
“So ask the people of the Reminder if you do not know.” TMQ 21:7]
This is general instruction to all those who have been addressed. The Messenger (saw) said in the Hadith about the person whose skull had been fractured: “Indeed, the cure for inability and lack of knowledge.” During the time of the Sahaba the Ummah continued to ask the Mujtahidin for their opinions and followed them in the Shar’ai rules. The Mujtahidin continued to answer the questions of the Ummah without reference to any textual evidences and they were not forbidden from doing so nor were any objections raised to these actions. Thus it was an Ijma'a. This was common practice in the time of the Tabi'in and Tabi-tabi'in, and thousands of incidents have been reported to that effect.
Just as it is allowed for the learned person or layman to follow others in the Shar’ai rule i.e. it is permitted to ask others, so it is permitted for him to teach this Shar’ai rule to others as he understands it once he is sure that he has understood it correctly, and he has adopted this Shar’ai rule to act upon it himself. If he does not trust this rule due to lack of confidence in the authenticity of the evidence or lack of trust in the character (Deen) of the one who has taught it to him, then he cannot teach it to others in order to act upon it. Rather he should state that which he knows about the rule when he discusses it. It is permitted for the one who learns a Hukm to teach it to others because anyone who has knowledge of even a single issue is considered knowledgeable about that issue, when the trust in his knowledge of the Hukm and the veracity of what he has said about the issue is confirmed. The concealment of knowledge is forbidden. The Prophet (saw) said: “Whosoever hides the knowledge which he knows, he will be restrained on the Day of Judgement with a bridle of fire.” This is general and is applicable to knowledge of one or many issues.
However, the learned person (Muta'allim) is not considered a follower of the one who has taught him the Hukm. He is seen as a Muqallid of the Mujtahid who has deduced the Shari'ah rule, and the learning of this Hukm is considered only as learning, as Taqleed can only be made to a Mujtahid and not to someone who only has knowledge of a Hukm. However much a non-Mujtahid attains in terms of knowledge, it is not permitted to make Taqleed to him in his capacity as learned person because he is not a Mujtahid.
The Muqallid is not given a choice when a difference of opinion arises, when for instance the Mujtahidun differ on two opinions. Some people think that two opinions with respect to a Muqallid are tantamount to one opinion. They think he has the right to choose between them, follow his whims and desires and thus choose whatever he wants rather than whatever goes against it. However, the situation is not like that since the Muslim is ordered to adopt Hukm Shar’ai. The Hukm Shar'ai is the address of the Legislator. There is only one (address) and there cannot be more than one. Where there is more than one understanding of the address then each understanding constitutes a Shari'ah rule with respect to the one who understands it and the one who makes Taqleed to him. Anything other than that is not considered Hukm Shar'ai with respect to him. So how is it possible then for the Muqallid to adopt two different opinions? When a Muqallid finds two opinions from the Mujtahidin that conflict with each other, then each Mujtahid is a follower of evidence that demands something different from what the evidence of the other Mujtahid demands i.e. they possess two conflicting evidences. Following one of them according to personal whims is explicitly forbidden. He (swt) said:
“Follow not the desires of your hearts.” [TMQ 4:135]
The Muqallid has no option but to perform Tarjeeh (weighing up of evidences). Two Mujtahids with respect to the layman ('Ammi) are like two evidences with respect to the Mujtahid. Just as it is obligatory for the Mujtahid to weigh up two conflicting evidences, likewise it is also incumbent on the Muqallid to weigh up two contradictory rulings. If whims and motives were allowed to arbitrate in something like this then this would also have been allowed for the judge. It is invalid according to the Ijma'a of the Sahaba. In the issues of the Qur'an there is a general control that clearly forbids the following of personal whims and desires, as in the saying of Allah (swt):
“(And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, then refer it to Allah and His Messenger (saw).” [TMQ 4:59]
This Muqallid must refer the matter to Allah (swt) and the Messenger (saw), and this is done by referring to a qualification that Allah (swt) and the Messenger (swt) are pleased with from the Muqallid, just as the Mujtahid returns to the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw). Returning to what Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw) are pleased with has nothing to do with following personal whims and desires. The Muqallid must choose one of the two opinions and this choice must be based on a qualification which Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw) are pleased with. It is not possible for the Muqallid to act upon both opinions since they conflict. Choosing one of the two Mazhabs or one of the two different rulings without qualification is a choice based on personal whims and desires. It is contrary to returning to Allah (swt) and the Messenger (saw). The qualifications (Murajjahat) by which the Muqallid chooses one Mujtahid over another, or one Hukm over many others are - the question of best knowledge (A'lamiyya) and understanding (Fahm). It has come in the Hadith of Ibn Mas'ud that the Messenger (saw) said: 'O Abdullah b. Mas'ud. I said I am at your service and here I am.’ He (saw) said: “Do you know who are the most knowledgeable of people?” I replied: “Allah and His Messenger (saw) know best.” He (saw) said: “the most knowledgeable of people is the one most well-versed in the truth when the people differ even if he lacks in deeds and crawls on his buttocks.” Therefore, the Muqallid weighs up what he knows of the Mujtahid's knowledge and trustworthiness because trustworthiness is a condition in accepting the testimony of a witness. Giving a Hukm Shar'ai in his teaching is a testimony this is a Hukm Shar'ai. So in accepting a Hukm the integrity and trustworthiness of the teacher who teaches it is essential and the integrity of the one who deduces it is essential. So A'adala (integrity) is a stipulation required in the person from whom the hukm Shar'ai whether he is a Mujtahid or teacher. It is inevitable. As for knowledge it is a correct qualification. Whoever believes that Imam Shafi'i was more knowledgeable and his Mazhab more likely to be correct does not have the right to adopt a conflicting Mazhab according to his whims and desires. Whoever believes Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq to be more knowledgeable and his Mazhab more likely to be correct does not have the right to go against it based on his whims. He has the right, even obligatory on him to adopt that which conflicts with his Mazhab when the preponderant opinion becomes apparent after weighing up the evidence. Tarjeeh (weighing up of evidences) is certain. That this weighing up of evidences should not be based on whims and desires is also certain. The Muqallid does not have the right to pick and choose from different Mazhabs those issues more agreeable to him. Rather the required Tarjeeh is like the weighing up of two conflicting evidences for the Mujtahid. To perform Tarjeeh, the Mujtahid relies on the veracity of the information that comes with the Qara'in (indications).
The qualifying factors in Taqleed are two:
First: the general qualification, which relates to the person he wishes to follow such as Ja'far as-Sadiq and Malik b. Anas for example.
Second: the specific qualification regarding a particular one Hukm Shar'ai that he wishes to follow.
The question of best knowledge (A'lamiyya) comes in the second category. For example, if an incident had taken place in Medina in the time of Imam Malik he would be regarded as more knowledgeable about it than Imam Abu Yusuf, and an incident that took place in Kufa in the time of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq, he would be considered more knowledgeable about it than Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal. This is the case regarding particular incidents. However, regarding the one to whom the Muqallid makes Taqleed, the Muqallid will refer to the information which he has received regarding the Mujtahid.
Having the best knowledge (a'lamiyya) is not the only qualification and nor is it the qualification for taqleed in itself. Rather it is the general qualification for the one who wishes to make taqleed. And in general terms for the hukm which is intended to be followed. As for the true qualification with regards to the hukm, it is the strength of the evidence on which reliance is put. However, because the muqallid cannot understand the evidence then the criterion of best knowledge (a'lamiyya) is considered. There are many recognised qualifications which vary according to the states of the muqallids.
The states of muqallidin and their qualifications
Taqleed is the adoption of another person's opinion without a binding proof (hujja mulzima). So the acceptance of another person's opinion without a binding proof is considered taqleed just as acting according to the opinion of another without a binding proof is considered taqleed. That is like the layman's adoption of the opinion of a mujtahid, or the adoption of the mujtahid of an opinion from someone like him. Referring to the Messenger (saw) is not taqleed to him and nor is referring to the ijma' of the Sahaba taqleed to them. Because, that constitutes referring to the evidence itself and not adopting the opinion of another. Likewise, the laymen's reference to a mufti is not considered taqleed to him, rather it constitutes seeking a legal opinion and learning and not adoption. So he either refers to him, to seek a legal verdict (fatwa) or to learn, ie the reference of a layman to a learned person is not considered taqleed to him because it constitutes either inquiring about a hukm Shar'i or learning it. As for the adoption of an opinion with knowledge of its evidence, it will be looked into. If the knowledge of the evidence is mere knowledge, like knowing that visiting the graves is permitted because the Messenger (saw) said: “I used to forbid you from visiting the graves, (but now) visit them.” Then in this situation he is considered a muqallid because he has adopted the opinion of another without a binding proof even if he knew the evidence. However, he himself did not use this evidence as proof so it is not a binding proof with respect to him. As for if an understanding of the evidence was arrived at after judging it and deducing the hukm from it, it is then regarded as an ijtihad which agrees with the ijtihad of the one who initially held this opinion. Because judging the evidence and deducing the hukm from it can only be done by the mujtahid since it depends on the knowledge of outweighing the evidence and on the scrutiny of the evidences. No one has the ability to do this except the mujtahid. Therefore, the muqallid is not a mujtahid. People with regards to the hukm Shar'i are either mujtahid or muqallid and there no other category i.e. either he deduces the hukm himself whether someone else had deduced it before or he himself deduced it from the onset. Or he adopts the deduction of another mujtahid. Therefore, whoever does not have the capacity (ahliyya) for ijtihad he is a muqallid irrespective of whether he had knowledge of some of the legally recognised disciplines in ijtihad or not. So he falls under the category of muqallid 'ammi (layman) or muttabi' (one who follows a hukm with the knowledge of the evidence).
It is permitted for the muqallid, whether follower or 'ammi to adopt the opinion of any mujtahid when it is established that this opinion of his is an ijtihad, even if it was according to a solitary narration (khabar ahad). When he is confronted with an issue and he has not acquainted himself with the opinions of the mujtahidin but he knows the opinion of a single mujtahid. It is permitted for him to adopt the shari'a rule which this mujtahid had deduced because what is required from him is the adoption of a shari'a rule in an issue and not the pursuance of the opinions of mujtahids. In such an instance outweighing is not required from him. As for if he is familiar with the opinions of the mujtahidin and he wishes to adopt one of them then it will not be correct for him to do anything other than perform tarjeeh (outweighing). And this tarjeeh (outweighing) should not be according to the conformity of the hukm to his whims or apparent benefit. Since the intention of the Shari'a is to take the mukallaf (legally responsible) from the motive of his whims and desires until he is a true servant of Allah. Indeed, the tarjeeh should be according to a Shari'a qualification ie the qualification should be linked to Allah and the Messenger of Allah (saw). He (SWT) said: “(And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger (saw).” [TMQ 4:59]
Referring to Allah and to His Messenger (saw) is either to the word of Allah or the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw) i.e. to the shari'a evidence, either to what Allah or His Messenger (saw) has ordered. Consequently, the qualifications differ according to the different states of the muqallids. Yes, the general qualification for the layman is, subsequent to the evidence, the one who has the best knowledge (a'lamiyya) and comprehension (fahm). And this is the primary qualifications for all muqallids. However, there are different qualifications which people use to outweigh, with or without the qualification of best knowledge (a'lamiyya). So the layman follows a mujtahid according to his trust of the understanding and taqwa (God fearing) of the ones who follow him, from the people he knows, like when he trusts his father or one of the 'Ulama, so he follows the ones who follow him. This outweighing (tarjeeh) for the 'ammi (layman) is from the perspective of the deen and not the perspective of his whims. Or, another qualification is that the layman knows the shari'a rules and the evidences by attending lessons on fiqh, hadith etc. At that point he is able to distinguish between rules and their evidences. This person outweighs in taqleed according to his acquaintance with the evidence. So he follows the hukm the evidence for which he is familiar with when it contradicts a hukm the evidence for which he is not acquainted with. He will, then, have a hukm which is linked to an evidence which is preferable to a hukm which is not linked to an evidence. Those two situations apply to the layman, who is anyone who does not have knowledge of some of the recognised disciplines in ijtihad. Therefore, the layman in all of these situations when an evidence becomes manifest to him, he must leave the taqleed that is based on his trust of the knowledge and taqwa of those who follow the mujtahid whom he follows and adopt the hukm which is linked to evidence, because now he has a stronger qualification. So whoever used to follow Shafi'i or others because his father used to follow him, when the evidence of a hukm Shar'i, which had been deduced by a mujtahid other than the one he followed, becomes manifest and he believed in it. Then he must adopt that hukm due to the presence of a stronger qualification which is the Shari'a evidence. As for if he did not believe in it, then he does not have the right to leave the hukm he has been following since he has no qualification to warrant it. In the outweighing (tarjeeh), he relies on the hearing of indications (qara'in). He does not have the right – i.e. the layman - to adopt different mazhabs based on whims. And nor does he have the right to follow the mazhabs in every issue which is easier for him, rather he must seek a qualification when there is more than one understanding for the ahkam.
Moving (tanaqqul) from one mujtahid to another
Allah has not ordered us to follow any mujtahid, Imam or mazhab. Rather He ordered us to adopt the hukm Shar'i. He ordered us to adopt what the Messenger (saw) brought and to abstain from what he has forbidden us. He (SWT) said: “And whatsoever the Messenger (saw) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it).” [TMQ 59:7] Therefore, the Shari'a does not deem it right for us except to follow the rules of Allah and not the people. However, the reality of taqleed has led to the Muslims to follow the rulings certain mujtahids whom they have assigned as imams for themselves and they adopted the rules these mujtahids have deduced by their ijtihad, as a mazhab for themselves. So the Shafi'is, Hanafis, Malikis, Hanbalis, Ja'faris and Zaidis etc have an actual presence amongst the Muslims. Even though these people follow the shari'a rules which have been deduced by these mujtahids, their action is legitimate because it constitutes following a Shari'a rule. As for if they followed the mujtahid as person and not his deduction, then their action is not lawful and what they follow is not considered a shari'a rule because the statement of a person is not from the orders and prohibition of Allah which have been brought to us by the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (saw). Consequently, all those who follow mazhabs must understand that they are following only the rules of Allah which have been deduced by those imams. If they have a contrary understanding, then they will be answerable to Allah for leaving the rules of Allah and following people who are themselves the servants of Allah.
This is from the perspective of following the rules of a mazhab. As for the perspective of leaving these rules, it has to be looked into. If someone adopted a hukm but has not acted upon it yet, then he has the right to leave it and adopt another hukm based on one of the qualifications which is linked to seeking the pleasure of Allah. If he, in actuality, practised it then this hukm has become a ruling of Allah with respect to him. It is not permitted for him to leave it and adopt another hukm except when the second hukm is linked with an evidence and the first hukm is not linked to an evidence. Or it was proven to him by way of instruction that the evidence of the second hukm is stronger than the first and he is convinced of that. Then it is incumbent on him to leave the first hukm and because his conviction and trust of the shari'a evidence has made it the rule of Allah with respect to him. Which is analogous to the mujtahid, when he finds an evidence stronger than the evidence from which he deduced the hukm. Then he must leave the previous opinion and adopt the new opinion due to the strength of the evidence. In any other situation, it is not allowed for the muqallid to leave the hukm he has made following and adopt a different hukm after he had already practised that first hukm.
As for making taqleed to another mujtahid for another hukm that is permitted due to the ijma' of the Sahaba which has taken place on allowing the muqallid to seek legal verdicts from any learned person in an issue. As for when the muqallid selects a mazhab such as the mazhab of Shafi'i or Ja'far for example, and he says: ‘I follow his mazhab and adhere to it’, there are some details for this. He is not allowed to follow any other mujtahid in a question he has already practised according to the mazhab he is following. In questions that he has not yet practised the relevant actions, he is allowed to follow other mujtahidin in those questions.
However, it should be made clear that the issue for which it is allowed for him to leave the hukm which he has been following for another hukm, then it is stipulated that the issue should be separate from other issues, and that leaving it does not entail infringement of other Shari'a rules. As for when the issue is connected to other issues then it is not allowed for him to leave it until he leaves all the issues connected to it, because they are all considered as one issue. For instance, if it was a condition in another hukm, or one of the pillars (arkan) of a complete action such as the prayer (salah), wudu (ablution) and pillars (arkan) of the Salah. Thus, it is not correct for a Shafi'i to follow Abu Hanifah's opinion that touching the women does not invalidate the wudu and continue praying according to the mazhab of al-Shafi'i. It is not right for him to follow the one who takes the opinion that constantly moving in prayer (to whatever extent this may be) does not invalidate the prayer. Or that the recitation of the Fatihah is not one of the pillars of prayer and then he continues to pray as a muqallid of the one who holds the opinion that constantly moving in prayer does invalidate it or that the Fatihah is one of the pillars of the prayer. The hukm which is allowed to leave is that hukm whose relinquishment does not affect the actions which are undertaken according to other shari'a rules.
Learning the Shari'a Rule
The one who seeks a legal verdict (mustafti) is not a muqallid, because the muqallid is the one who adopts the Shari'a rule and acts upon it. As for the mustafti (one who seeks a legal verdict), he is the one who learns the hukm Shar'i from a person who knows this hukm whether that person was a mujtahid or not and whether the mustafti learned it in order to practise it or just for the sake of knowledge. The mustafti is anyone who seeks to know the rule of Allah pertaining to an issue. So anyone who is not a mujtahid with regard to a hukm is seeker of a legal verdict in regard to that hukm. So the one who is not a mujtahid in any issue he is a mustafti (seeker of a legal verdict) in all issues. Whoever is a mujtahid in certain issues he is a mustafti in the issues he has not exercised ijtihad in. As for the one who explains the ruling of Allah to a mustafti (seeker of a legal verdict) he is a mufti. It is said in the Arabic language: He gave a legal verdict pertaining to an issue, he clarified its ruling. And he sought a legal opinion from an 'alim regarding an issue, he requested him to give a legal opinion about it. The legal opinions of the Sahaba and the Tabi'in are the rulings they clarified to the people. And since having knowledge of Allah's rule is fard there must be people, whether mujtahids or not, who can teach the Shari'a rules to others, irrespective of whether they teach the people the rules with or without the evidences. Since it is not stipulated that the one who teaches the rules should be a mujtahid just as it is not stipulated for the Muslim who teaches others to clarify the evidences. It is allowed for someone who knows a hukm to teach it to others when he becomes conversant about that hukm. Since it is not stipulated for the one who gives legal opinions to people regarding the shari'a rules or teaches them himself to be a mujtahid. On the contrary this is permitted for a non-mujtahid. It is allowed for a non-mujtahid who is acquainted with the shari'a rule of a mujtahid to deliver a legal opinion using that hukm because he is a carrier of the hukm even if he did not make that known. In performing this action there is no difference between an expert and others, such as in the reporting of ahadith. Just as it is not stipulated that the transmitter of a hadith be an expert it is not stipulated either for the one who conveys a hukm Shar'i to others to be an expert. So it is by greater reason (min bab awla) that there should be no stipulation for him be a mujtahid. Even though it is stipulated that he should know, the hukm that he conveys, in a clear and accurate manner since he cannot convey it to others if he is not precise and unable to convey it properly. Likewise, it is not stipulated for the person who teaches people the hukm Shar'i or gives them legal opinions to teach them the evidence or convey it to them. Rather it is allowed for him to limit himself just to conveying the hukm Shar'i without quoting the evidence i.e. it is permitted for him to give fatwa with the hukm Shar'i and teach it to people without clarifying to them the evidence. However, he is required to explain to them that what he transmits to them is a hukm Shar'i or the inference (istinbat) of someone else ie of a certain mujtahid. However if he conveys an opinion and he says to them: 'This is my opinion' or he conveys to them an opinion and says : 'This is the hukm because so-and-so mujtahid said such and such thing'. What he imparts is not considered a shari'a evidence since the statement of a mujtahid is not a shari'a evidence. Using their speech as an evidence for a hukm invalidates its status as a hukm Shar'i. However, if he ascribes the hukm to a mujtahid's deduction. It is a hukm a Shar'i even if he does not expound the evidence.
This was common practise in the time of the Sahaba. The people used to seek legal opinions from the mujtahidin and follow them in the shari'a rules. The learned among them used to respond to their questions without alluding to the evidence and they were not forbidden from doing that. Not one Sahaba objected. Thus it became an ijma' (consensus) on the legality of a layman to follow a mujtahid without mentioning the evidence. It was also an ijma' on the permissibility of learning the rules of Allah and teaching them without learning or teaching the evidence. The layman ('ammi) and the follower (muttabi') are the same with regards to that. It is allowed for any one of them to seek verdicts from the other and teach the hukm shar'i he correctly understands to the other. Whether he knew the evidence or not. That is because anyone who gains knowledge of a hukm he is considered to be knowledgeable about that hukm. So it is allowed for him to teach it to others. However, the layman ('ammi) limits himself to conveying what he knows exactly as he learnt it. As for the follower (muttabi') he teaches what he knows and he gives verdicts according to what he knows because he possess some of the recognised disciplines in ijtihad. He comprehends the rules and he knows how to teach them and how to give legal opinions with them. However, learning the rules and giving opinions with them does not constitute making taqleed to the teacher or the mufti. This is considered only as the giving of opinions or learning a hukm. Taqleed should be made to the one who deduced the hukm and not the one who teaches it or gives verdicts by it. However, it has been stipulated that the teacher, in analogy to the witness, be just ie without manifesting any transgressions of the Shari'a. Since, the witness informs about an incident and the teacher also informs about the hukm of Allah. So both inform about something, for which trustworthiness ('adala) is a stipulation. Also, Allah has forbidden the Muslims to accept the statement of a fasiq (transgression) and ordered them to check it. He (swt) said: “O you who believe ! If a fasiq (rebellious person) comes to you with a news, verify it” [TMQ 49:6] The use of the word 'fasiq' (transgressor) and 'news' (naba') in their indefinite (verbal noun) forms indicate that when any fasiq (transgressor) comes with any news, the people should desist from adopting what he says and seek to verify the matter and discover the true reality and not simply accept what he says. The opposite understanding (mafhum al-mukhalafa) of this verse is that the statement of the upright and just person is taken whether for the purpose of giving legal opinions or learning etc.