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A Simple Guide to Taqlid

Prepared by Chris Morris

Taqlīd, an Arabic word, has both linguistic and religious meanings.  Linguistically taqlīd is the act of placing something around the neck encircling it.  Its religious meaning is to accept the judgement of a person without knowing their evidence.[1]  Because it has a religious definition it also has associated Islamic rulings; both permitted and prohibited.  To better clarify the prohibited type of taqlīd, first we address its opposite i.e. the permitted form of taqlīd. Allāh the most High said,

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ إِلا رِجَالا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ

"And We did not send before you except men whom We inspired to. So ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know." (Qur'an 21:7)

In general those mentioned in the above verse are those who do not have the ability to gather and interpret religious texts in general or a trained scholar unaware of a particular issue and are often referred to as ʿāmmī (laymen) and muqallid (blind-follower who performs taqlīd) respectively.  The ʿāmmī [2] is the one who does not necessarily follow a specific madhhab (juristic school) and the muqallid[3]  is the one who does.  The aforementioned refer their inquiries to scholars often classified as mujtahid (literally one who strives)[4]; either a mujtahid madhhab or a mujtahid muṭlaq. The mujtahid madhhab is one who is able to extract rulings within a particular madhhab and a mujtahid muṭlaq is one whose sufficient knowledge and mastery allows him to extract rulings that are not restricted to a particular madhhab[5].  Therefore, these are whom Allah has commanded us to ask, rely upon, and make taqlīd of when we do not know.

After mentioning the basic form of permissible taqlīd, we can now turn to Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allāh have mercy upon him, who wrote about three situations when it is not permissible to make taqlīd:

  1. Taqlīd of forefathers over revelation from Allah.
  2. Taqlīd of someone whose ability to derive a ruling is unknown.
  3. Taqlīd of someone after an authentic proof has been established.[6]

Additionally, on the topic of impermissible taqlīd, there is the issue of what many refer to as ‘fatwa shopping’. While it is permissible for the ignorant Muslim to seek an answer from a rightly guided scholar[7] and make taqlīd of him, it is not give permitted to seek out an answer on the mere grounds of fulling desires over what is believed to be the truth.[8]  Whether one is considered an ʿāmmī or a muqallid, it should be well understood that besides the Prophet (may Allah raise his rank and grant him peace) no other human is infallible in religious matters.  Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allāh have mercy upon him) opined that the only one we are obliged to follow is the Messenger of Allah (may Allah raise his rank and grant him peace) and we should always refer our issues that we don’t understand to the rightly guided scholars.[9]

Allah knows best.

Chris Morris is dedicated a long time student of Islam and the Arabic language.  He is an active member of his community and is currently enrolled in both Al-Hikmah Institute's Diploma Program in Islamic Sciences and Quranic & Arabic Studies.

This article was presented as his Hadith 101 course essay assignment.

Footnotes:

[1] The second question of Fatwa no. 11296 Fatwas of the Permanent Committee available @ alifta.net

[2] Hanz Wehr A Dictionary of Modern Arabic Pg. 641

[3] Fatwa No. 23280 islamqa.info

[4] Hans Wehr A Dictionary of Modern Arabic Pg. 143

[5] Fatwa No. 97985 islamweb.net

[6] Ilaamul-Muwaqqieen 2/188

[7] The fourth question of Fatwa no. 4172 Fatwas of the Permanent Committee available @ alifta.net

[8] The Compendium of Knowledge and Wisdom, Ibn Rajab pg. 111

[9] Majmoo’ al-Fatwa 23/382