Download the entire book in PDF: The Concept of Taqleed in Islam
The root word for Taqleed is Qalaadah. The meaning of Qalaadah is a piece of cloth or scarf and this would signify placing a cloth or scraf around your neck. According the shariah, the Ulama have mentioned that the meaning of taqleed is ‘to accept the word of another without any evidence or proof”.
Allamah Samhudi in the Aqdul Fareed has mentioned that, “To accept the word of another in such a manner that certainty on this person is fully established.”
If the truth of someone is established through proof and evidence, then this would not be considered as Taqleed. However, if one is absolutely certain about the trustfulness of another and also believes that since he is a truthful person, a religious person and someone who is an expert in his field and therefore, whatever he says is certainly the truth and he accepts the words of this person, this would be referred to as Taqleed.
Let us move away from religion and look at worldly issues and every day experiences we will find that we are also bound by Taqleed every moment of our lives. This would be applicable to anyone, whether he is rich or poor or whether he lives in a village or a city. Every category of person in this world is bound by Taqleed.
Look carefully at the life of a small child. As this little child grows older, he is within the Taqleed of his parents and those who take care of him. When a person becomes ill, he is completely reliant on the person who is taking care of him to make him well. When a person has a legal problem, he goes to a lawyer and through this lawyer, he is able to acquire his right. When a person is on a journey, he relies on the person who he meets on the road to show him the right direction to his destination.
A student who enters any institute, is reliant on his teacher to become a person of knowledge and someone who is well qualified. A person who intends to become a craftsman, he is reliant on his teacher to make him an expert in this field. These are issues which people see on a daily basis and no one is able to refute these things or even ignore them. A small child from a Bengali household sees his parents eat fish all the time, without seeking proof or testimony, he will also start to eat fish. He will also start to wear the same clothing which he sees others wear. He will start to speak the same language. The same if the child belonged to a Punjabi family. When he sees his parents eating, he will also start to eat meat and bread because this is something he will see everyday. He will also wear shalwar and kameez and wear a turban and also speak Punjabi.
If a child goes to a school and the teacher places his finger on one letter and tell him that this is Alif, the child will accept this without question. He places his finger on another letter and says that this is Ba, again the child would accept this without question. The child will never ever question his teacher on why this is Alif and this is Ba. In fact, if the child starts to question at this age, then he will never be able to complete his education. In like manner, a person goes to a lawyer and states his claim. The lawyer informs him that he should open a case based on a certain law. This person would do exactly as he is told, he will never question his attorney.
A person goes to a doctor and after examining the patient, he prescribes a certain medication. No patient will ever question his doctor on why he is being given such medication. As for that patient, who starts to argue and question, most often, he will never get better.
If you are travelling to a certain place and you reach a cross road. You are confused. Should you go right or left or keep straight. Suddenly you see someone from the area and you question him about which direction you should take. The moment he answers you, that is exactly the same direction you take. In other words, you never question the person on which direction you should take. You are solely reliant on this person.
We can clearly see from all of these examples of life, that if we remove the scarf of taqleed from around our necks even for one moment in life, we will never be able to progress in life for one second. We are reliant on taqleed every moment of our lives. This is also applicable to everyone around us. As a sick person is reliant on a doctor, a criminal on an attorney, a lost person on a guide etc.
If we remove the scarf of taqleed, then certainly our lives would become lost and we would also become confused. Think about it, if a sick person starts to inspect the medication and begins to question his prescription, starts to delve into all the intricate issues pertaining to that medication, besides not becoming well, very soon, he will also die. In the same manner, if a criminal starts to question his attorney and begins to question the law, will he be able to acquire his rights?. As long as he is not a qualified attorney himself, none of his claims and arguments will be accepted.
This has become the norm in life. You only follow that person who is an expert in a certain field. This has continued for thousand of years that someone who is qualified and an expert, everyone follows that person. In brief, Taqleed has become a part of our life. To survive in this world without following Taqleed is an impossibility. This is one of the reasons that the Ijmah of this ummah is that Taqleed is fard. In fact such is the importance of this that even those who seem to object have had to accept this fact.
Therefore, anyone who has a little common sense or anyone who has a little religious knowledge will tell you that is absolutely necessary in life. If people ignore this important duty in life, it would be impossible for them to continue.
There are of course people who say that we have only been commanded to obey the Almighty and His beloved Prophet peace be upon him. However, look at the many laws which are to be found in this. How is it possible for us to obey the Quran and the Hadith if we are unaware of the laws within them. Do we know which laws are applicable and which are not. Which is common and which is specific. Which is apparent, which is hidden. As long as we are unaware of all of these laws, we will never be able to truly follow the Quran and Ahadith. Let us look at a few examples in this regard.
In surah Baqarah, verse 234, the Quran states:
وَالَّذِیۡنَ یُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنۡکُمْ وَیَذَرُوۡنَ اَزْوٰجًا یَّتَرَبَّصْنَ بِاَنۡفُسِہِنَّ اَرْبَعَۃَ اَشْہُرٍ وَّعَشْرًاۚ فَاِذَا بَلَغْنَ اَجَلَہُنَّ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَیۡکُمْ فِیۡمَا فَعَلْنَ فِیۡۤ اَنۡفُسِہِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوۡفِؕ وَاللہُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُوۡنَ خَبِیۡرٌ﴿۲۳۴﴾
And those of you who die and leave behind wives, they should keep themselves apart for a period of four months and ten days, then when they complete their period, then O guardians! There is no blame on you in anything, which the women do with regard to themselves according to law. And Allah is aware what you do.
In the same surah, verse 240, it is mentioned:
وَالَّذِیۡنَ یُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنۡکُمْ وَیَذَرُوۡنَ اَزْوٰجًا ۚۖ وَّصِیَّۃً لِّاَزْوٰجِہِمۡ مَّتٰعًا اِلَی الْحَوْلِ غَیۡرَ اِخْرَاجٍ ۚ فَاِنْ خَرَجْنَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَیۡکُمْ فِیۡ مَا فَعَلْنَ فِیۡۤ اَنۡفُسِہِنَّ مِنۡ مَّعْرُوۡفٍؕ وَاللہُ عَزِیۡزٌ حَکِیۡمٌ﴿۲۴۰﴾
And those of you who die and leave behind them wives, they should bequeath for their women to provide them maintenance for a year without turning them out; then if they themselves leave, you are not accountable regarding any proper thing which they did in their matters and Allah is Dominant, Wise.
The same Surah, yet two different laws. A person would be confused on what he should follow. The first verse tells him that the iddat of a widow is four months and ten days and the second verse tells him that the iddat is one year. We ask any qualified person in the Arabic knowledge, will he be able to inform us on which law we should practise? There is no way that this so called expert will be able to help and assist. Let us go foward. As we have said, from the above mentioned, we see that the iddat of a widow is either four months and ten days or one year.
However, let us look in Surah Talaq verse 4:
وَ الِّٰٓیۡٔۡ یَئِسْنَ مِنَ الْمَحِیۡضِ مِنۡ نِّسَآئِکُمْ اِنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُہُنَّ ثَلٰثَۃُ اَشْہُرٍۙ
And the period of the pregnant women is when they give birth to children.
Again, we are confused, if a person dies, and his wife is pregnant, what is the exact iddat period? Will it be four months ten days, one year or after she gives birth.
Again, in Surah Baqarah, verse 180, the Quran declares:
کُتِبَ عَلَیۡکُمْ اِذَا حَضَرَ اَحَدَکُمُ الْمَوْتُ اِنۡ تَرَکَ خَیۡرَۨاۚۖ الْوَصِیَّۃُ لِلْوٰلِدَیۡنِ وَالۡاَقْرَبِیۡنَ بِالْمَعْرُوۡفِۚ حَقًّا عَلَی الْمُتَّقِیۡنَ﴿۱۸۰﴾ؕ
Made obligatory on you that when death approaches any of you, if he leaves some property, then he should make a will for his parents and near relatives according to usage. This is an obligation on those who fear Allah.
The word “near relatives” in this verse is certainly very common. It would therefore include his brothers, sisters, aunt etc. In other words, there is no specific share mentioned in any of this. Does it mean that a person should give how much he wants? If this is the case, then there is a chance that many of his near relatives will not get a share. However, when we look at Sura Nisaa, we will find that there are shares mentioned for each one.
This proves that even if a person is an expert in the Arabic language, it does not mean that he will be able to make out how much of share goes to which person. There are merely examples which we have presented. If we have to list all of them, they would be able cover volumes in this regard. In the same way, there are many examples to be found in the Ahadith as well. If we therefore remove Taqleed from our lives, how will we be able to understand all of these laws of Islam? If every Muslim was given this responsibility, it would be impossible for him to survive in this world.
The first thing is that a person would never be able to fully acquire all the faculties of knowledge which a Mujtahid has acquired and which are necessary for a Mujtahid.
As the same time, even if one becomes an expert, the gift which is given by the Almighty to be able to find answers in religion and which has been described as fiqh, can anyone say that he will actually have this gift which comes from the Almighty. In fact, even experts in a certain field have also made mistakes when it came to giving fatwah. An expert like Imam Bukhari May Allah have mercy on him once gave the decision that if a boy and girl drinks the same milk from a certain goat while they are feeding as infants, then Radaa’at will be established. In other words, they will not be able to marry. You can see this by reading the Bukhari shareef. In one place, it is mentioned that water would not be considered as unclean as long as the colour, the taste and the appearance has not changed.
On another occasion, it is mentioned that if a dog places its mouth in a container of water, then the container would become unclean and one has to wash it seven times. For one minute, think about this question. There is a container in which there is water. A dog has also placed its mouth inside this container, however, the water has not changed appearance, colour or taste, then it would mean that the water is clean but the container is unclean! This would certainly confuse a person. There is no doubt that the great eminence of Imam Bukhari May Allah have mercy on him cannot be disputed. However, fiqh is another field all together which is not given to everyone. This is the reason that another eminent Muhaddith has stated that, “A hadith is certainly dangerous except for a jurist.” This is the reason that one, Hadrat Imam A’mash May Allah have mercy on him mentioned to the young Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him that, “we are the people who sell the medication and you people are the actual physicians.”
Even if a person is able all of these faculties, what guarantee is there that he will also be religiously minded and also be someone who has sincerity in when it comes to serving the Almighty.
How many people have we seen in life who claim to be the Bun Hanifah of their era and yet, they have fed us nothing but poison and evil. The amount of so called experts in this world cannot even be counted.
Here are a few examples:
- All the Deobandis and the ghair muqallids called Ismail Dehlwi a kaafir and a misled person when they saw a statement in the book “Idaahul Haq”. However, when they realised that this was a statement uttered by their own leader, all of them went silent.
- Recently, a mufti of Deoband “molwi” Mehdi gave a fatwah of kufr on a statement of janab qari Tayyib, but when he came to know that this was uttered by one his own, he immediately withdrew this fatwah.
- It is mentioned that Rashid Ganghohi was very fond of the testicles of a goat and also considered it very beneficial. This is the reason that he gave a fatwah that it was permissible to eat. This also appeared in the first edition of his fatwah. However, when the entire world began to spit on his face, it was secretly removed from all future editions.
Therefore, no ordinary person in this ummah can survive without taqleed. Hence, if taqleed is considered as haraam and bid’ah, only a very people will actually practise on Islam or have the capability of practising on Islam. At the same time, it would also place a massive burden on people and the Quran is very specific that the Almighty does not place a burden on someone more than that person can carry.
In Surah Baqarah, verse 286, the Quran declares:
لَا یُکَلِّفُ اللہُ نَفْسًا اِلَّا وُسْعَہَاؕ
Allah places not burden on any soul but to the extent of his strength
Hence, this ummah has been divided into two groups. The first is a Mujtahid and the second is a non Mujtahid. A non mujtahid has been instructed to follow a person who is a Mujtahid and turn to him and obey him.
In surah Ambiyah, verse 7, the Quran declares:
فَسْـَٔلُوۡۤا اَہۡلَ الذِّکْرِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۷﴾
O people! Ask the men of knowledge if you have no knowledge.
This verse is addressing those who do not have knowledge. In this verse also, the people who are referred to as the Ahle Ilm are actually the Ahle Zikr. Hence, we are commanded to seek the advice of the learned or the people who have knowledge. At the same time, there are numerous testimony that the real Ahle Ilm are the Mujtahids. When this is the case, then it means that it becomes waajib upon a person to follow a mujtahid. And this is what is called Taqleed.
At the same time, if we follow anyone after only researching his advice, this would not be considered as following someone in talqeed. Therefore, following a Mutahid is encompassed in the act of taqleed. Therefore, it becomes waajib upon every Muslim whether he is learned or not to follow an Imam from among the four Imams. Yet there are a few people who reject this and consider this as worshipping priests. In this regard, they have no solid proof to back their argument.
Allamah Syed Ahmed Tahaawi May Allah have mercy on him in the Haashiyah of the Durre Mukhtaar writes, “O believers! it is absolutely necessary upon you to follow that group of salvation which is the Ahle Sunnah wa Jamaah. The reason is that the Divine Help and Support is on this group and also His Protection if one abides by this group. His Divine Wrath and Anger is upon those who oppose this group. This group has also reached Ijmah that this only constitutes the four mazhabs which are the Hanafi, the Shafi, the Maliki and the Hambali. As for that person who removes himself from any of these groups, he is a bida’ti and a person of hell.”
The person who is a considered an eminent leader among the opposition, namely Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlwi May Allah have mercy on him explains in the book Aqdul Jayyid that, “There is certainly extreme wisdom in accepting the four mazhabs. And to reject any of them is a cause of great harm. We will explain this in a few ways. Firstly, this has become an Ijmah of this ummah that to knowledge of Islam is attained from the pious predecessors of Islam. The Taaba’eeb acquired this from the blessed Ashaab and the Taba Taaba’een from the Taaba’een. In this manner, each generation after, acquired this religion knowledge from those before them and also relied on this knowledge. There is also a logic to this as well.
The reason is that shariah cannot be reached if there is no passing and conveying of this knowledge. And at the same time, this is not possible if the generation after does not acquire it from the generation before it. Therefore, we have to understand this important belief and not exceed the limits of religion. We see that no trade can be acquired if one does not acquire this from an expert. Therefore, we can also establish that besides the four mazhabs, no other group was imbued with this truth”.
From the above explanation, certain important points become clear.
- The successful group is only the Ahle Sunnah wa Jamaah. Any other group whatever name they might keep for themselves are certainly people of hell and are certainly misguided.
- There is absolute Ijmah that it is permissible to follow a person in the form of an Imam.
- There is extreme wisdom in this and there is great fitnah if one turns away from this.
- Shariah is something which is recognized through what has been recorded and passed on and this is reliant on what the pious predecessors of Islam have conveyed to us.
- Only the statements of the four Imams is something which is genuinely proven and verified and only their mazhab is considered as truthful.
- The reports of other Imams even though they maybe the truth, they are not fully established and have not been passed on in the manner as the reports of the four Imams.
- This proves that the four mazhabs are based on truth and following any one of them means that one is following the truth. This is reason enough to follow one of them. It is also waajib to follow one of these Imams. At the same time, we must also bear in mind that the majority of Muslims in the world constitute the Ahle Sunnah wa Jamaah which is made up of the four mazhabs and we also know that the Holy Prophet peace be upon him has made it clear that this ummah would never be united on falsehood. Hence, this again gives a Prophetic testimony to the truthfulness of the Ahle Sunnah wa Jamaah.
In Surah Nisa, verse 115, the Quran declares:
وَمَنۡ یُّشَاقِقِ الرَّسُوۡلَ مِنۡۢ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَیَّنَ لَہُ الْہُدٰی وَیَتَّبِعْ غَیۡرَ سَبِیۡلِ الْمُؤْمِنِیۡنَ نُوَلِّہٖ مَا تَوَلّٰی وَنُصْلِہٖ جَہَنَّمَ ؕ وَسَآءَتْ مَصِیۡرًا﴿۱۱۵﴾٪
And whoso opposes the Messenger after the right way has become clear and follows a way other than the way of Muslims, We shall leave him on his own conditions and shall cause him to enter Hell; and what is an evil place of returning.
Again, it is waajib upon us to follow one of the four mazhabs. In other words, we have to be muqallids of one of the four mazhabs. It is not permissible for us to follow any other Imam in this regard. At the same time, the teachings of the other Imam besides these four Imam have not been collated and preserved in the manner as the four Imams. As for the question that if we accept one Imam in certain issues and another Imam in certain issues, Is this permissble?
This is an action which is considered as unbecoming. There is Ijmah that a person should follow the Imam whom he is following. To follow one Imam in this issue another Imam in another issue, this is considered non permissible and a great sin.
In fact, this would be considered as following your nafs and not the actual Imam. After all, if you choose one Imam over the other, you are actually satisfying your nafs. If you look at it carefully, when a certain issue is liked by you, you follow Imam Azam May Allah have mercy on him and when see an issue from the Shafi mazhab, you begin to jump for that issue. This is not actually following an Imam it is following your nafs and also considered as a great show of disrespect to all the Imams. If you say this is because you have proof, then this would no longer remain Taqleed! The reason is because taqleed means to follow an Imam without question. At the same time, even the Quran condemns the action of choosing something at this place and then choosing another command at another place.
In surah An’am, verse 153, the Quran declares:
وَ اَنَّ ہٰذَا صِرٰطِیۡ مُسْتَقِیۡمًا فَاتَّبِعُوۡہُ ۚ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِکُمْ عَنۡ سَبِیۡلِہٖؕ ذٰلِکُمْ وَصّٰکُمۡ بِہٖ لَعَلَّکُمْ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۱۵۳﴾
And that, this is My’ straight path, then follow it and follow not other paths for they will deviate you from His path. This He has ordered you that perchance you may be self-restrained.
Therefore, you cannot chop and change your mazhab as and when it suits you. In other words, it is like changing road all the time in your journey. We know that a person who does this, never reaches his destination. Therefore, in the present day, those who are Hanafi should remain so. Those who are Shafi should remain so etc. This ummah is not allowed to follow any other Mujtahid except these four Imams. In fact, it is also considered as haraam to follow one Imam in this regard and follow another Imam in another issue. This is actually making a mockery of religion.
Again, as we have said, if a person continues to do this, he is only following his nafs and nothing else.
There is also another idiot who has made the suggestion that how can we say that the Hanafi Ulama do not know the evidence of all of these issues in the mazhab. Many of them are fully aware of all of these evidence, hence, this cannot be called Taqleed. In fact, these Hanafi Ulama would therefore become Mujtahids. Our answer to this idiot is as follows.
Again, we repeat that when a person accepts the word of another without first looking at the evidence, this is taqleed. However, after accepting the word of an Imam and then looking at the various evidences in this regard what harm would this cause. When a person accepts the prescription of a doctor and after this, he begins to read the labels, the various papers which appear inside these packets, he would still be considered as someone who accepted the prescription in the first place without any question. In other words, he would be considered as having performed taqleed. In like manner, when the Hanafi Ulama start to look at the evidence of various Imams, it must be remembered that they have already accept the word and opinion of the Imams and are merely reading what has been mentioned about this issue and nothing else. After all, when a person starts to read the books of fiqh such as Wiqaayah and Hidaayah, he will also come to know about the various evidence about a certain issue, yet, he will merely be educating himself of a certain issue and nothing else. Therefore, you cannot accuse him of not being a muqallid.
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