Taqlid: Following a Jurist
Questions and Answers
- Question: The jurists tell
us that it is wajib to emulate the most learned (a'lam) mujtahid, and when
we ask the religious scholars in our area, "Who is the a'lam?" we do not get
a clear-cut answer so that we may follow his fatwa. When we ask them about
their answer, they say that they are not ahlul khibra and they also say that:
"we have asked ahlul khibra*
and have been informed that identifying the a'lam mujtahid requires the study
of the books of the mujtahids and that obviously is a time consuming and difficult
task; so go and ask the others."
If the problem of identifying the a'lam mujtahid is so difficult in religious
circles, obviously the problem would be even more difficult in other countries
like Europe and America. After a lot of difficulty when we convince the youths
of these countries that it is necessary to abide by the shari'a laws, we reach
to the question of who is the a'lam, and find ourselves lost for words. Is
there a solution to this problem?
Answer: If there are some ahlul khibra
who refuse to identify the a'lam for one reason or another, there are other
ahlul khibra who readily identify him. It is possible to contact those ahlul
khibra through the religious scholars and others who are reliable and have
contacts with religious seminaries and with the scholars in other countries.
So, although identifying the a'lam is not without difficulty, yet it is not
a serious problem.
- Question: How do we know who ahlul
khibra are so that we may ask them about the a'lam mujtahid? How do we reach
them since we are far away from religious seminaries? Is there a way that
can simplify for us the process of determining whom we should follow in taqlid?
Answer: The ahlul khibra are the mujtahids
and those next in line in religious sciences, and they know quite well that
one person in a limited group of mujtahids is the a'lam. And they have to
consider the following three things to identify that a'lam:
- First: His knowledge concerning the methods for providing
the authenticity of the hadith, and that involves 'ilmu 'r-rijal (the science
of narrators of hadith) and 'ilmu 'l-hadith (the science of hadith). On
this subject, issues like familiarity with the books [of hadith] and the
ahadith that have been tampered with; knowledge of causes for fabrication
[of ahadith]; variance in the manuscripts and distinguishing the most correct
one; and being aware of confusion which sometimes occurs between the text
of a hadith and the explanation of the compilers, are of utmost importance.
- Second: His ability to understand the meaning of the text by considering
the general rules of speech, especially the style used by the Imams of Ahlul
Bayt (a.s.) in describing the laws. The science of 'usūlu 'l-fiqh (Principles
of Jurisprudence), Arabic grammar and literature, as well as familiarity
with the views of the Sunni jurists who were contemporaries of the Imams
play an important role in the understanding of the hadith texts.
- Third: Soundness of his view in deriving the rules from the sources.
And the method of getting acquainted with those in whom the status of a'lam
is confined to having scholarly discussions with them or to referring to
their books or to the transcripts of their lectures on Jurisprudence and
the Principles of Jurisprudence.
If a person cannot know the ahlul khibra by himself, he can come to know
them through the religious scholars and others whom he trusts. The geographical
distance should not be a barrier to establishing communication with them in
this era where many fast means of communication are easily available.
- Question: Sometimes the heart feels
at ease in regard to a particular mujtahid. Is this feeling sufficient to
do his taqlid if the ahlul khibra have difference of opinion in determining
Answer: If the ahlul khibra have difference
of opinion in determining the a'lam, one must follow the view of those who
are more qualified and capable among the ahlul khibra. This is the norm in
dealing with all cases where the experts have difference of opinion.
- Question: If the ahlul khibra have
difference of opinion in determining the a'lam mujtahid or just say that following
any one from the given number of mujtahids is sufficient, can a person apply
the fatwa of one mujtahid in one issue and another mujtahid in another until
it becomes clear for him who is the a'lam?
Answer: This question has three parts:
- First: That some ahlul khibra announce that "it is sufficient
to follow one specific mujtahid or of a group of mujtahids." This has no
religious value at all.
- Second: That the ahlul khibra announce that two or more mujtahids
are equal in knowledge and piety (in the sense of being careful in deriving
the laws [from their sources]), then a lay person has the option of acting
according to the views of any one of the mujtahids in all the issues.
However, as a matter of precaution (ihtiyat) in some issues, if possible,
one could act in such a manner as to fulfill the requirements of both views;
for example, in the case of praying concessionary qasr and full (tamam)
prayers. [That is, praying the same prayer in qasr as well as in tamam forms.]
- Third: That some ahlul khibra announce that mujtahid 'a' is the
a'lam whereas others among the ahlul khibra announce that mujtahid 'b' is
the a'lam. This can have two situations:
- A person knows that one of the two mujtahids is the a'lam
but he does not know which one specifically. This is a very unusual situation
and it has been discussed in detail in Minhaju 's-Saliheen, question No.
- A person does not know which of the two is the a'lam in the sense that
he thinks both are equal in knowledge. This refers back to the second
of the three parts mentioned above, provided that the person is unable
to identify the more Godfearing of the two mujtahids. If he is able to
identify the more Godfearing of the two mujtahdis, he must follow the
fatwa of that mujtahid.
- Question: If a person does not know
the view of his marja', in a certain problem, is it necessary for him to find
out about it even if it involves expensive telephone calls? Or is it sufficient
to act on the known view of any other mujtahid until he finds out the view
of his own marja'? And in such a case what will be the verdict on the past
acts [done according to the view of the other mujtahid] if it differs from
the view of his own marja'?
Answer: It is necessary for him to find
out the view of his a'lam marja' even through telephone contact as long as
it does not cause him harm [physically or financially]. If it is not possible
for him to find out the view [of his own marja'], it is permissible for him
to refer in that particular case to the other mujtahids, taking into account
the hierarchy of the al-a'lam and the next a'lam in line. The deeds performed
according to the view of the second mujtahid would be valid even if the worshipper
later on finds out that it was not in accordance with the view of his own
* Translator's Note: See rule
no. 26 for meaning of ahlul khibra.