What is Taqleed?
Taqlid or Ittiba’ is Wajib (compulsory) upon Muslims:
Taqlid or Ittiba’ is Wâjib (compulsory) upon Muslims. Yet there are many Muslims in the present age who have hardly heard of the words Taqlid or Ittiba’. Others who may have heard about it, do not fully comprehend its meaning. This has led to people even rejecting Taqlid – thereby rejecting a Wâjib. As a general rule, man is suspicious and afraid of that which he does not know. Therefore a proper understanding of the issue of Taqlîd or Ittibâ would dispel the ignorance surrounding it, Inshâ Allah.
Taqlid is a part of everyday life:
Taqlîd or Ittibâ in essence, simply refers to the practice of an unqualified, lay person (in a specific field of specialisation) submitting to and accepting the authority of an expert in that field, without demanding proof and justification for every view, opinion or verdict expressed by such an expert authority. This is a natural state of human existence, practised by millions of people worldwide in every facet of life. The simplest and most tangible example of Taqlîd or Ittibâ is that of a child learning his basic alphabets at school. Every child learning his alphabets is unconsciously practising Taqlîd. A learner driver taking instructions from a driving instructor is practising Taqlîd. People going to a specialist doctor for medical treatment and following his instructions is another glaring example of Taqlîd or Ittibâ. A lay person soliciting a legal opinion from an advocate or following the advice of a tax consultant is another common case of Taqlîd. A client at an engineering firm, asking for the engineer’s advice on complex engineering calculations is yet another instance of Taqlîd or Ittibâ in action. The millions of ‘facts’ in the myriad of sciences such as astronomy, archaeology, etc. are all distinct examples of Taqlîd or Ittibâ Who ever questions the ‘fact’ or asks for proof that the sun is really 93 million miles away from the earth! It is taken for granted that this is the findings of the ‘experts’ in these fields and everyone simply accepts it as such. School teachers teach these to their pupils as ‘gospel truth’ and children learn and memorise these ‘facts’ with the hope of succeeding in their exams. There are countless such examples of Taqlîd or Ittibâ in everyday existence. It is quite clear from the above, that Taqlîd or Ittibâ is a natural way of life, and is not specific to Islam or Islamic Fiqh alone.
Taqlid is the easy option for ordinary people:
In the context of Islamic Fiqh or Law, Taqlîd or Ittibâ simply refers to accepting and following the verdicts of expert scholars of Islamic Fiqh in their exposition and interpretation of Islamic Law, without demanding from them an in-depth explanation of the intricate processes required in arriving at such a verdict, called Ijtihad. It simply means that ordinary folk do not have to do Ijtihâd, i.e. the intricate and complicated procedures involved in deriving Islamic rulings that scholars exercise when issuing a Fatwâ (legal verdict). The duty of ordinary people is to trustingly accept the authority of the learned scholars in this matter and act upon their verdicts.
In this sense, Taqlîd is a great blessing for common people, for it is beyond their capacity to understand the extremely complex and complicated mechanics of Ijtihâd. The ability to do Ijtihâd requires many long years of study and erudition and a great deal of exertion (Ijtihâd means to exert one self) in acquiring a mastery of various Islamic sciences, among other varying requirements.
Misunderstandings regarding Taqlid:
Recently, misunderstandings have arisen regarding the issue of Taqlîd. It has become a theme of major debate in many parts of the world among Muslims. This debate has naturally resulted in arguments being promulgated by both the protagonists and the antagonists of Taqlîd.
The best way of removing such misunderstanding is to view the original sources of Islam – the Qurân and Hadîth and the teachings of the learned elders of Islam on this subject. After a study of this subject, the correct interpretation and understanding of Taqlîd and Ittibâ would emerge. This would lead to a better understanding and analysis of the arguments and counter-arguments of protagonists and antagonists. (Elsewhere in this issue, check the article on Taqlîd and Ittibâ in the light of Qur’an and Hadith)
Shar’ee role of Taqleed:
The essence of guidance is derived from the Holy Qurãn – “Hudan li al-Nas” (“A Guidance for Mankind). But this guidance and its laws are based on fundamental principles, the details of which have been entrusted to and consigned by the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) in order to explain them to mankind.
For example, the Holy Qurãn says: “Aqimus-Salaat” (“establish prayer”). It does not define the method as to how the prayer should be established; how the various postures should be performed; the mode of recitation of Surah, etc. The complete method of prayer i.e. “Salaat” is explained by the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam).
“Wa ‘Atuz-Zakat” (“And give charity”). Now the Zakaat amounts payable on gold, silver, cattle, land, produce, etc. are only known through the Ahadith and there is no mention of it in the Holy Qurãn.
“Wa Lillahi ‘ala an-Nas Hij Al-baiti” (“It is obligatory on people to perform the Hajj of the House of Allah.) Here again, the method of Tawaf, the number of circumambulations, the details regarding Arafat, Mina, Muzdalifah, the stoning at the Jimar, etc. have all been explained by the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam).
Thus it becomes imperative to understand the Holy Qurãn in the light of the Ahadith even for major obligatory acts like Salaat, Zakat and Hajj without which it is impossible to act and understand the commands of the Holy Qurãn. The believers are commanded to attain guidance from the Holy Qurãn in accordance with the details explained by the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam). Therefore Allah specifies: “Whosoever obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah.” This obedience to the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) would in reality be obedience to Allah Himself.
A direction from the Hadith informs us:
“Also perform your prayer just as you see me perform my prayer.” (Bukhari Vol. 1, p. 1076)
It is not said: “Perform your prayer in the manner you may infer from the Holy Qurãn.”
Hadith is divided into different categories:-
The sayings of the Holy prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam),
The acts and doings of the Holy prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam),
The sayings, acts and doings of others, approved by the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam).
All these categories of Ahadith give guidance to the Umma.
When the Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) was asked a question he answered and also counter-questioned the questioner, on a similar (analogical) matter, the answer of which was known to him. On the correct reply being given by the questioner, the Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) would say: “The question you had asked is in the same category as this answer of yours.”
EXAMPLE: A lady once asked: “Hajj was obligatory on my mother but she passed away. Can I perform it on her behalf?” The Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) replied: “Yes, it would be accepted on her behalf. Tell me, if your mother had a debt would you pay it.” She replied in the affirmative. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said: “Fulfill what is on her behalf. Certainly, the duty and right of Allah would be more acceptable.” This kind of reasoning is called Qiyas, Ijtihaad, or Istimbat in Shari’a.
These are only used in Shari’a when the Qurãnic or Traditional directives are not specifically spelt out. The Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) sent Hadrat Mu’adh ibn Jabal (Radhiyallaahu Ánhu) as a Governor and Qaadhi to Yemen. The Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) gave to Hadrat Mu’adh many instructions and advices even while he held the reins and led the horse with Hadrat Mu’adh mounted on it. The Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) also asked: “By which law would you dispense justice.” He replied: “By the Law of the Holy Qurãn.”
“And if you do not find it (i.e. what you seek) in the Holy Qurãn.”
He replied: “By the Prophetic Traditions.”
“And if you do not find it in there also, then!”
He replied: “Then I would make Ijtihad.” The Holy Prophet, (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) expressed his happiness with his reply and fully endorsed and supported his stand and thanked Allah for it. (Abu Daawud Vol 2. p. 149)
When after such an Ijtihad all the scholars agree to its conclusion, it is termed “Ijma”, for it must be understood that Qiyas or Ijtihad does not prove an order or command; it only makes it evident and known. It was hidden in the Holy Qurãn or the Ahadith; the Mujtahid, by Dalalatan, ‘Isharatan or Iqtdha’an, brought it in the open for the generality of people.
The person who does not have the power of Ijtihad is bound and compelled to follow a Mujtahid and this act of following a Mujtahid is termed Taqlid. The Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) sent Hadrat Mu’adh ibn Jabal as Qadi so that people could act upon his instructions and guidance derived from the Holy Qurãn, the Ahadith and his Ijtihad. To accept all three would in reality be obedience to Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) as mentioned in Mishkãt Sharif (p. 310). Hadhrat Abu Hurayrah (Radhiyallaahu Ánhu) reported that the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, “Who has obeyed me, has obeyed Allah and who was disobedient to me has been disobedient to Allah and who obeyed the Amir was obedient to me and who was disobedient to the Amir has been disobedient to me.”
Precepts, Propositions & their kinds:
Masa’il or precepts are of four kinds:-
Clear instructions from the Holy Qurãn and Ahadith. No Qiyas is allowed nor Taqlid permissible. The order is to practice on the clear injunction.
In such propositions where there are two injunctions, one earlier, and one later, and through historical evidence both renown, then the earlier proposition is abrogated (Mansukh), whilst the latter command is ordered. Here too Qiyas and Taqlid ~ not permitted.
Those propositions that have two clear injunctions but it is not known which is earlier and which later, i.e. no historical evidence.
Those propositions of which there exist no clear injunctions.
Propositions 1 (and 2) are clear. the last two (Propositions 3 and 4) need explanations. Since 3 and 4 are not clear, what must a person do? If he does not practice upon them, he is yet not allowed to go free. The Qurãnic verses state: “Is man under the notion that he will be left free?”‘
“Do you think that you have been created in vain?” It is not so, you have to obey Allah’s command every second. Now how are we going to obey when it is not known, which is abrogated and which is not. In the fourth kind of proposition when one has no knowledge what is he going to practice on? Allah says: “Do not practice on anything without knowledge:”
Thus the need of Qiyas and Ijtihad. In the third kind of proposition the need is to verify the clear injunction and in the fourth kind it is to find a clear order and command. This is a known fact that everybody does not have the ability or power to make Ijtihad and this verse also makes it clear.
Everybody makes claims of giving opinions but only that ruling is accepted which is in accordance with Shar’iah and of a Mujtahid. The verdict of a Muqallid will not be accepted. The Mujtahid makes Ijtihad while the Muqallid makes Taqlid. Even if the Mujtahid makes a mistake he is rewarded as mentioned in Bukhari, Vol. 1 p. I1092.
Here exists a doubt that there were many Mujtahids among the Sahaaba (Radhiyallaahu Ánhum), the Tabi’in and Tabi’ Tibi’n; But only the ‘I’ima ‘Arba’ i.e. Imaam Abu Hanifah, Imam Maalik, Imam Shaafi’i and Imam Ahmad (Rahmatullaahi Álayhim) are followed and Taqlid made of them. What Is wrong in following the Sahaaba (Radhiyallaahu Ánhum) whose virtues have been abundantly mentioned in the Holy Qurãn and the Ahadith?
There is no doubt that the Sahaaba (Radhiyallaahu Ánhum) have a far greater status and position than the I’ima Arba’a does not make Taqlid of any one of the I’ima Arba’ ever thinking them to be greater than the Sahaaba but its simple reason is that for Taqlid it is necessary to know those injunctions in which Taqlid has to be made. The detailed knowledge which can be found in every section and chapter from Kitaab- at-Taharat to Kitab al-Fara’idh, whether it concerns acts of worship, or social and cultural aspects, in every department of knowledge, these were the first and only ‘I’ima that gathered them all in every detail. They were schools of knowledge in their own right that codified knowledge in every field. We do not find such codification either of the Sahaaba or other Tabi’in. The only choice we have is to follow them. It must also be borne in mind that Allah had bestowed on them the perfection of knowledge of the Holy Qurãn and the Ahadith. It is said by Shah Waliullah (Rahmatullaahu Álayhi) in the commentary of Muwatta’ Imaam Malik, p.6 that these four Imaams together have encompassed the entire knowledge of the Holy Qurãn and Ahaadith to such a degree that not a single Hadith which was reported by the Sahaaba was omitted by them.
Clarification is further required regarding another doubt in most minds: What is the necessity of making Taqlid of only one Imaam? One should be allowed to follow any of the four Imaams in the different Masa’il as was the method in the time of the Sahaaba and Tabi’in. Mazhab was not confined to a single Imam. Why must such concessions not be allowed in our times?
In the time of the Sahaaba, which was the best of times, there was no ulterior motives regarding religious questions. A question was asked to know the correct method and to practice on it. It was not asked for one’s convenience as in later times. For example, A person with Wudhu touched his wife which according to the Shafi Mazhab nullifies Wudhu: Now when he is told to make Wudhu, he replies: “I make Taqlid of Imaam Abu Hanifah and it is not a breaker of Wudhu according to his Mazhab, therefore my Salaat will be valid.”
Now this person vomits, which according to Hanafi Mazhab, breaks Wudhu. He is now told to make Wudhu. He replies: ‘I make Taqlid of Imam Shafi’i; it is not a nullifier of Wudhu, therefore my Salaat is valid’. If this person (who has on the one hand, touched his spouse, and on the other hand, vomited) has to perform his Salaat with such a Wudhu, it would neither be correct by Imaam Abu Hanifah nor by Imam Shafi’i. In terminology this is known as Talfiq which is agreed upon unanimously to be void and not permitted. This is not Taqlid but following one’s passions and desires for one’s personal convenience which lead one astray. The necessity of following a Mazhab, Imam or Mujtahid is that one would not fall into the temptations of following one’s own desires. The Holy Qurãn states:
‘And do not follow desires. You would be led astray from the path of Allah.” Thus the need of following only one Imam.
For centuries we have heard of great scholars, jurists, ‘Ulama’ and Auliya who had the treasures of knowledge, who were in their personal capacities libraries with encyclopedic knowledge. Their piety constituted perfect examples in emulation of the Sahaaba. Their entire life was spent in accordance with the Sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam). They also followed the ‘I’ima Arba” and it would not be incorrect to say that it was because of this Taqlid that they attained the heights of perfection.
Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) is confined to the four schools. Those that do not confirm to any one of them are called Ahle Hadith or Ghair Muqallid.