Download the entire book in PDF: The Concept of Taqleed in Islam
There is no doubt that the Quran and the Sunnah is certainly guidance for the life and action of a Muslim. It is a fountain of various laws and regulations. It also encompasses the life and journey of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him in this dunya and contains his words, his actions, his behaviour etc. Hence, for the ummah, it is a source of light and guidance until the day of Judgement. We must bear in mind that from the time of Nabi Adam peace be upon him until the Holy Prophet peace be upon him there has only be one religion and it has been the religion of Islam and this is the religion which would continue until the day of Judgement.
However, each shariah which was sent to this world has gone through changes as the time and generation demanded but the unique quality of the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – is that the Shariah which has been sent to him is the final and ultimate set of rules and regulations in religion, and after him, there would be no new Shariah. This is the Shariah which has been chosen for the entire universe to follow until the day of Judgement.
In like manner, besides the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him, it has also been essential for us to follow the Sunnah of the Khulafah Raashideen. At the same time, we have also been commanded to accept without question, the belief system which has been passed on to us by the blessed Ashaab. There is Ijma’ on this fact. Those who climb aboard this ship which has been termed the ship of Nabi Nuh – peace be upon him – are those who will reach the shore safely. And those who follow the stars (of guidance i.e. Sahaba), will also be able to navigate safely to this shore. This is the reason that the ship of Nuh – peace be upon him – has been referred to the blessed family of the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – and the stars have been referred to as the blessed Ashaab of the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him.
There has always been a dialogue or discussion on the various aspects of religion so that it could further guide mankind in that generation which it found itself in. However, at the same time, it made sure that the rules and laws which guided Islam and the Muslims were such that one was not allowed to transgress these laws and step into the realm of kufr and disbelief. In other words, all efforts were made to make sure that these sacred set of beliefs and laws were always protected and safeguarded.
From birth to death, the beliefs and set of rules in ibaadah and daily living is something which has been made obligatory on Muslims. No Muslim is allowed to reject following the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – and his blessed Ashaab – May Allah have mercy on them – under any circumstances. At the same time, no one’s personal opinion is allowed to interfere in any of these laws which pertain to the Quran and Sunnah.
At the same time, even the mightiest jurist or scholar cannot bring his own personal opinion into any of these rules and regulations. In Aqaa’id, there is no Taqleed of any Mujtahid and in like manner, this is also applicable to specific forms of ibaadah. In brief, everything which is clearly mentioned and established in the Quran and Sunnah, in this, there is no Taqleed of any Mujtahid. This is also not something which was seen in the time of the blessed Ashaab. Yes, we also admit that the knowledge of certain sahabi was more than another and his understanding was also greater than another, and because of this, those lesser in knowledge referred to the more learned on certain rules which needed to be fulfilled. After hearing the advice, they followed the advice and guidance. In fact, the practice of asking someone who more learned is something which has even been declared in the Quran.
In Surah Nahl, verse 43 the Quran declares:
وَ مَاۤ اَرْسَلْنَا مِنۡ قَبْلِکَ اِلَّا رِجَالًا نُّوۡحِیۡۤ اِلَیۡہِمْ فَسْـَٔلُوۡۤا اَہۡلَ الذِّکْرِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُوۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۳﴾
And We sent not before you any but men to whom We reveal. Then O people! ask the men of knowledge if you know not.
Again, encouraging people to study and think further, the Quran declares in Surah Taubah, verse 122:
وَمَا کَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُوۡنَ لِیَنۡفِرُوۡا کَآفَّۃً ؕ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِنۡ کُلِّ فِرْقَۃٍ مِّنْہُمْ طَآئِفَۃٌ لِّیَتَفَقَّہُوۡا فِی الدِّیۡنِ وَلِیُنۡذِرُوۡا قَوْمَہُمْ اِذَا رَجَعُوۡۤا اِلَیۡہِمْ لَعَلَّہُمْ یَحْذَرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۲۲﴾٪
And it is not possible for Muslims that all should come out. Then why should not a party from each group should come out that they may gain understanding of religion and warn their people after coming back to them, perhaps they may guard themselves.
The Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – has also stated, “The remedy for the ailment of ignorance is to question.”
(Abu Daud shareef)
Making dua for Hadrat Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbas May Allah have mercy on him, the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – mentioned, “O Allah Almighty, give him understanding of religion and also bless him with the gift of Tafseer and analysis.” As a result of this, he was considered as one of the most eminent amongst companions in these fields. In fact, such was his greatness and learning, that Hadrat Sayyiduna Abu Moosa Ash’ari – May Allah have mercy on him – once declared about him, “As long as this scholar and faqih is among you, till that time, you should not ask me (any question).”
The actual foundation of Shariah is the Quran and Sunnah. And in the light of this, the Qiyas of a Mujtahid has also been considered as one of the foundations of Shariah. One of the Hadith shareef which proves this concept is that Hadith shareef which explains the departure of Hadrat Sayyiduna Mu’az bin Jabal – May Allah have mercy on him – to Yemen.
(Tirmidi shareef, Daarimi, Mishkaat)
After the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – had left this world and he made it clear that this Ummah would never be united on misguidance, in the era of Taabe’een and the generation after that, one of the foundation of Shariah also became the Ijma’ of the Ummah. Thereafter, the foundation of Shariah was said to be based on four pillars. They were:
- The Quran
- The Sunnah
- Ijma’ (Consensus) of the Ummah
- Qiyas (Ijtihaad)
These were considered as the basis and cardinal foundations of Shariah. They were then set into a register of rules and regulations by the Aimmah and has been carried until the present generation and will continue until the day of judgement. This has become known as the Taqleed of the Aimmah. All the jurists in the various categories which we have already mentioned from 1 to 6 spent their entire life in making sure that this set of rules and regulations as set out by the original Aimmah are strengthened and followed.
Yes, as for the appearance of different issues in Islam, this has continued and will continue. However, even in the present era, it is impossible to find a jurist who even qualifies to be in the second last category of the jurists already explained. In other words, it is impossible to find someone who can said to qualify in the category of Ashaab-e-Tameez. The question is, is there anyone who actually qualifies to be called a Mujtahid. There are certain people who say that the modern day Ulama should also make Ijtihad. Yes, there are people who are looking for new answers to new situations, yet, we suggest that they do not use the word Ijtihad. Rather they should use the word Istikhraaj. This would mean acquiring a solution for modern problems using the basis of the four cardinal principles as their complete reference point and not going out of this boundary. When we say that no scholar in the present era even fits into the last category of Ijtihad, it means that even in the present time, the great Islamic scholar and Mufti is someone who is a Muqallid. It is waajib for him to always be a muqallid. After all, once we agree that someone is not a Mujtahid, it clearly means that he is a muqallid and through this path only is there salvation and success in both worlds.
That person who is not familiar with the field of medicine, cannot be considered a doctor. That person who does not have religious knowledge cannot be called an Alim. This is even understood by an ordinary person. There is no shortage of pearls and other valuable items in the ocean, but only that person can bring it to the surface who is professionally trained to do so. If this person is not trained, instead of bringing up something of value, the only thing he is going to achieve is drowning. The act of Taqleed only encompasses Fiqh and it is waajib for a muqallid to follow a Mujtahid on those issues which is not clearly indicated to in any of the Nass. As for other branches of knowledge such as Arabic or any modern branches of knowledge a person may acquire as much knowledge as he can. There are no restrictions on him. If he becomes the most brilliant doctor or engineer, this would be considered his personal success and no one has placed any restriction on him. However, in spite of all of this, he has no permission to exceed the limits of Shariah.
Literally, Taqleed signifies placing a band or collar around one’s neck (in adherence). In shariah, this means to accept the opinion of any Imam in an issue for which there is no specific proof or testimony. In other words, the issue for which there is no absolute Nass. This has been the accepted definition of Taqleed by eminent scholars of religion.
It therefore means that a person who is not a Mujtahid will automatically be a Muqallid and there is no option for him except this option. When an expert in any field through his research comes to a certain conclusion on any law, it becomes necessary for people to accept this opinion. If a person who is not as learned as this person objects to this opinion, the people in general would frown upon this person as if he is insane. Centuries earlier, eminent scholars of Islam accepted the institution of Taqleed in the laws of Fiqh and they were people whose eminence was accepted throughout the world. Yet, in matters of Fiqh, they were merely scholars who narrated what they had read and studied and nothing else in their Darul Iftahs.
Such is the status of the four eminent Imams that the Ahle Sunnah wa Jamaah has clearly declared the followers of these Imams to be the only Sawad-e-Azam and no one else. And this has continued for over one thousand years. This can also be substantiated by the Hadith shareef which clearly states that whatever the Muslim sees as good, in the Divine Court of Allah Almighty, it is also considered as good.
(Athar ibn Mas’ud)
On the other hand, when we look at the people today who claim that they are Mujtahids on their personal level, we will find that most of them do not even know proper Arabic. Even when they see certain words and pronounce in the Quran and Ahadith, they cannot properly translate these words or sentences.
As for those people who reject the the idea of being a muqallid, they are of two types. The first are those who follow ibn Hazam Zaahir and Ibn Taymiyah and the second are those who are ultra modern or have ultra-modern fancy ideas and education, yet no proper Islamic education. As for the first group, their claim is something else and their actions are something else. They claim they do not accept Taqleed while their action says that even though this is the case, they are genuine muqallids (of Ibn Taimiyah etc.). As for the second group, they say and mention statements which are certainly laughable. In fact, when you listen to their statements and ideas, you will clearly see how illiterate these people really are. They achieve nothing but the cause disunity among the followers of the Sawade Azam. In other words, they become the reason for further division among the Sunni Muslims. Besides creating this division and disunity, what else have these people actually achieved or what success have they actually achieved for Islam? The only road to success in both worlds is to follow the Sawade Azam (The largest group of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah who are on truth) and any road which leads away from this road will lead a person into hell.