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A Balanced and Insightful Look at Taqlid

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Check it out here; these are two passages that particularly struck a chord with me:

Even the scholars of Ahl al Hadith who were not proponents of a particular Madhhab, did not exhibit the very free-lance ijtihad that we find from many that claim the same name nowadays. Their proximity to the Hadith of the Messenger in both belief and practice instilled in them reverence for not only the texts and their meanings, but those that carried them. This spirit allowed them to formulate holistic solutions based on inductive research of the Prophetic sunnah and the precedent of the Salaf. Several of the Salaf have stated “I can never understand a hadith until I have narrated it from forty different ways.” Compare this to our very rudimentary readings of hadith (and in the English language at that) and the almost non-existent knowledge of precedent as presented in the Athar of the Salaf.

(Emphasis Mine)

Connections to a scholar become abominable when they are not accompanied with the proper attitude of virtue and benefit coming from Allah alone, no one else. This phenomenon is similar to what happened with the People of the Book and the extremes they went to in veneration and reverence of the Prophets, their followers, and especially their leaders after them. Most people that claim any “connection” to any “group” usually, not always, but usually will find themselves slipping into this. This is contrasted with affiliation to a school of Islamic law, which was similar, if not the same, as someone mentioning that they are alumni at a law school, or trained in a certain discipline. (see # 3 here for more). When such an affiliation goes beyond being a method to distinguish one’s origin, trade, or specialization, it becomes forbidden.

Bukhari and Muslim narrate from Jabir that

…once during a battle one of the Muhajirum pushed one of the Ansar. So the Ansari called “O Ansar!” so the Muhajiri then called out “O Muhajirun!”
The Messenger of God heard this and said “What is it with this call of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance)? … Leave it, for it is rotten!”

Even though these titles were bestowed on the companions of the Messenger by God himself, they became blameworthy when they were used for dividing the Muslims and causing dissension.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Hassan

    June 9, 2007 at 3:52 PM

    Realizing the necessity of taqlid, I see people claiming 4 kind of taqlids:

    1. Taqlid of Imam of the madhab, like taqlid of Abu Hanifa (RA), Shafi(RA) etc.

    2. Taqlid of madhab. Like saying I am hanafi, hanbali etc.

    3. Taqlid of a person who may have knowledge of fatawaas of one madhab only, and not knowing hadiths that may support other opinions.

    4. Taqlid of an alive scholar who may have been student of one madhab only, but has knowlege of opinions of other madhabs, and also has knowledge of hadiths, so he can apply usul of his madhab on the hadiths, but may come up with opinion different than his own madhab, based on accessibility to more hadiths.

    Are there more categories? BTW there is subtle but important differences between first 3.

  2. Abu Muhammad

    June 10, 2007 at 10:03 PM

    Taqleed does not lead to knowledge, not in the fundamentals of the religion nor in its branches.

    How can that which does not lead to knowledge ever become an obligation?

    Even the proponents of the madhahib claim that there is no taqleed in belief/aqeedah:

    If a man can understand the proof for aqeedah then surely using the same intellect he could understand the proof for matters of fiqh?

    Anyhow those are my random thoughts on the subject.

    • Omar Moad

      October 5, 2009 at 9:27 AM

      On the contrary, the proofs for fiqh matters are usually far more difficult than proofs for the basic matters of aqeeda.

      Also, the reason that understanding is necessary in matters of aqeeda is not because of greater or lesser difficulty, but it is because sincerity in action requires it.

      If someone does not really know that there is no God but Allah and the Prophet is His Messenger, then how can he really follow the fiqh with the intention of obeying Allah and His Messenger?

      Thus the proofs of these propositions must be made as clear to him as possible.

      Aqeeda is simple and deep. It is easy to get it right, but the levels of deeper understanding are potentially infinite. But the mandatory for us normal folks is just to get it right.

      Fiqh is complicated, and we have to get it right. It is very hard to cover all the bases, be aware of all the relevant textual evidence, relevant contextual circumstances, possible counter-evidences, etc. So, only the mujtahid can handle it, and they are very few. So, in my opinion it is best to follow a the madhabs (not of course to be chauvinistic toward one).

      I find that people that seem to ENJOY making fatwas and telling others what to do, typically have a lower standard of evidence and proof, and thus a lower standard for what counts as a mujtahid. They denounce taqlid as “blind following,” until they give you their fatwa, at which point they claim to have produced “proof,” and demand from you “itibba” – which really IS blind following.

      So, they want us to stop our justified following of the four Imams, and start blindly following them!

  3. Umm Layth

    June 11, 2007 at 1:57 AM

    Can a layman,understand without reading the books of fiqh of scholars who already have made their own ijtihaad?

  4. Abu Muhammad

    June 11, 2007 at 11:11 AM

    To escape taqleed does not require ijtihad. It only requires that one knows that the accepted ruling has a basis in the Book of Allah or the authentic Sunnah.

    People are of levels and according to scholars like Ibn Hazm, the level of capability a person has indicates the level of obligation upon that individual.

    So the layman has only to make sure that the ruling is from Allah and his Messenger. Then the one more capable must ask for the source of the ruling. Then the one more capable than that must look into it further according to the ahadeeth or tafseer etc. Then the one more capable than that must look into the asaneed. Until the complete mujtahid who should know all aspects regqarding the ruling and its proofs. (This can be found in “Usool ul Fiqh Az zahiri by Ibm Hazm, Maktabah Badee’ud Deen)

    Sometimes we only differ in language when describing the layman of the lowest capability. The people who do not believe in taqleed at all, state that the layman should at minimum have knowledge that the ruling has a basis in the Book and authentic Sunnah.

    Many a layman could not understand without reading a book of fiqh, just as he could not understand without reading a book of aqeedah. But that in itself would not render him muqallid, as long as he sought to obtain knowledge that the rulings had a basis.

    Allah knows best.

  5. Abu Bakr

    June 11, 2007 at 12:52 PM

    Personally, I think that the individual should try his best to understand the reasons for the ruling he is following. However, if one examines the definition of Taqlid given in the vast majority of usul al-fiqh books, that still amounts to Taqlid.

  6. sophister

    June 11, 2007 at 2:29 PM

    But you are quoting scholars that are accepted by those with your views, like Ibn Hazm. Do you realize that I can quote scholars from the past who were not mujtahids who viewed that you had to follow a madhab.

    What is the point in reviving this debate? We should be happy that at least no one does taqlid in Aqeedah. Also, the way someone would do taqlid in fiqh is not the same as one would accept a matter of Aqeedah by a known scholar. In doing taqlid in fiqh, you are accepting that so and so scholar had a methodology used to derive this ruling from the sources of law, henceforth you accept the ruling as valid. But you cannot do the same with belief, you have to have actual belief in that tenet of aqidah yourself, not defer its authority of validity to someone else.

  7. Abu Muhammad

    June 11, 2007 at 8:18 PM

    I was just offering a point of view. It would be ironic to try and put forward a position (me not accepting taqleed) by using the saying of a scholar if I wanted people to accept it!

    I wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they done taqleed because they were ignorant. Nor would I hate them for it, as some of the scholars of the Sunnah have accepted it. However I personally am not convinced by the proof offered by the proponents of taqleed.

    @Abu Bakr

    That’s why I stated that sometimes we differ only in the way we define things and perhaps the underlying concept is not too different.

    From what I have read and asked mashaikh is that as long as the person following the ruling knows it is from Allah and his messenger then it is not tantamount to taqleed.

    And by far the best definition that I have come across is:

    Taqleed is to accept the saying of an individual who’s saying is not a proof, without a proof.

    Some have summarised it as:

    To accept the saying of a non-prophet without proof.

    That does not mean that it is the best definition, only that it is the best that I have come across.

    Anyhow there is nothing wrong with discussing the issue as long as emotions are are controlled and good manners are upheld.

    I have not seen a strong refutation of taqleed on the net as of yet. Mmmm….

  8. Hood

    June 11, 2007 at 10:03 PM

    Interesting thoughts Abu Muhammad, however the difference between taqlid in Aqidah and that of Fiqh is in the level of ambiguity of each categories associated texts, as well as the ability that man has to determine the most probable meaning.
    Ambiguity in texts dealing with Aqidah is not to be delved into, for want of deviance or speaking about Allah and his actions without knowledge. (see 3:7)
    In short it is a matter of faith.

    Ambiguity in fiqh deals directly with the actions of the servant, and as such the more probable meaning was ordered to be discovered. Since the dichotomy of those who know vs. those who do not is clearly mentioned in the Quran, this would necessitate that the latter follow the former. (see 21:7)
    This all relates back directly to the Yaqin/Zann levels of the servant as relates to the Quran. And Allah knows best

  9. Abu Muhammad

    June 12, 2007 at 12:06 AM

    @Hood

    At some point it may become a requirement for a layman to know an issue of aqeedah in more depth. Especially during times when false beliefs are rampant. For those who have studied aqeedah they would agree that it can be just as complex as a matter of fiqh.

    One only needs to refer to the link from this website for an excellent example:

    http://aqeedah.wordpress.com/

    As for 21:7 then I see no proof in that ayah for taqleed. The tafsir of an ayah must be from another ayah, an authentic hadeeth or a narration of a companion. Other than that would be opinion which can be taken or rejected.

    As far as I know, that ayah was revealed to address the issue of some people not accepting human beings as messengers. They were reffered to the Jews and Christians:

    “(So ask the people of the Reminder if you do not know.) meaning, ask the people of knowledge among the nations such as the Jews and Christians and other groups: `were the Messengers who came to you human beings or angels’ Indeed they were human beings. This is a part of the perfect blessing of Allah towards His creation: He sent to them Messengers from among themselves so that they could receive the Message from them and learn from them.” (Ibn Kathir)

    Even that was a matter of Aqeedah and not fiqh, i.e that the messengers were human and not angels. Who would say it was taqleed that Allah was asking them to do in aqeedah?

    Anyhow I hope nobody gets offended, this just the way I hold to be true.

    @general comment

    I have seen many fancy ways of people trying to explain taqleed as acceptable but have never seen any real proof as understood by the sahabah (radhiAllahu a’nhum).

  10. Ibrahim

    June 12, 2007 at 2:26 PM

    Abu Muhammad, I think you and people here are saying the same thing so I don’t know where your disagreement is coming from or what exactly is your point. Nobody here is calling for blind taqleed.

    From ibn Taymiyyah to ibn Abdul Wahhab to Shawkani all believed in some level of taqleed for the lay person. Where taqleed has been declared haram is for scholars/formal students of knowledge. And, when it is said that laymen should do taqleed what is meant really is ittibaa’. And, most of us do ittibaa’. So, I know people who vehemently deny “taqleed” or following any alim, but routinely present fataawa from al-Albani without or from other scholars of ahl al hadeeth or even from Islam-QA without verifying/checking the daleels presented by them. What’s that then? That’s ittibaa’, most definitely and is not wrong. In the pure sense of non-taqleed, you would go open up Quran, hadith books and usul al-fiqh and fiqh books, discuss with scholars and find your own answer or come to an agreement with someone else’s opinion. Of course, that’s not possible for almost all people and requires a certain level of scholarship, which is obtained not only through books but also sitting with scholars. And, not doing taqleed is a methodology, is an intention or belief: The method is to ask a scholar with daleel who one trusts will give a ruling based on Quran and Sunnah and not due to ta’assub (bias) for or against some established opinion. And, have the intention that I would follow his ruling because of it.

    And, this is just not my opinion. I think it’s the correct and most balanced approach on the issue of taqleed, similar to that of ibn Taymiyyah, etc. I have also seen a fatawa by ibn Abdul Wahhab saying one (layperson) can follow a madhab with the right methodology: That’s, he’s open to other opinions which are closer to Quran and Sunnah and changes to another opinion when the truth becomes clear to him. Also, Shaykh Imran Ayub Lahori says in the introduction to his tahqeeq and translation of Ad-Durr al-Bahiyyah of Imam Shawkani, known as Fiqhul Hadith in Urdu,” When a a person has a masala and he wants to find out about it, the first thing he should do is to ask an alim who is an expert (Mahir) of Kitab (Quran) and Sunnah and fiqhi masaail. Then, when the Alim gives a fatawa, the person should ask him did Allah and his Rasool said so (meaning is it from Quran and Sunnah)? If the alim’s answer is yes, then he should accept it and always remain on it. But, if the alim says that it’s his opinion (ijhtihad) or so and so imam or faqih said this, then he shouldn’t accept the alim’s opinion. Rather, he should ask someone else.” Of course, you need to read this in context. He means that if it’s clear the ruling is from Qurand Sunnah, then accept it; otherwise, the questioner shouldn’t accept the opinion of the alim until he knows the daleel for the ijhtihad or the ruling, and be open to change his mind when he comes to know of another, stronger opinion from another alim. And Allah knows best.

  11. Hood

    June 12, 2007 at 5:21 PM

    @Abu Muhammad
    Have you read all the Athar of the Sahabah?
    There are numerous cases of some of the Sahabah relegating the office of fatwa to others. Famous case in point is Abu Musa with Ibn Mas’ud.
    The fact that some of the Sahabah were referred to as Muftis or Alims of the Sahabah shows that in that same generation.
    As for the verse then consideration is given to the generality of the text, and not to the reason it was revealed.

  12. Hood

    June 12, 2007 at 5:25 PM

    (hit enter to soon)
    The fact that some of the Sahabah were referred to as Muftis or Alims of the Sahabah….

    …..shows that in that same generation there were some that followed others.

  13. Abu Muhammad

    June 12, 2007 at 6:02 PM

    @Ibrahim

    I agree with you.

    @Hood

    I agree the layman must go to the scholars for fatawa, in the manner that Ibrahim just described.

    There’s no remaining disagreement here. (Wow, is that a first for Muslims on the internet?)

    @general comment

    What I disagree with is the following:

    1. To take all rulings from one individual other than the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa sallam) and believe him to be correct in every matter.

    2. To state that Islam obligates following one of the four madhabs.

    3. To follow blindly, books of fiqh that contain gross errors (like Bahishti Zewar).

    Anyhow I do agree that the layman must go to the alim for fatawa.

  14. Mujahideen Ryder

    June 12, 2007 at 10:04 PM

    Every single Muslim in this day and age makes taqlid to someone or some madhab or some manhaj whether they like it or not whether they say it or not.

  15. Abu Muhammad

    June 12, 2007 at 11:27 PM

    “Every single Muslim in this day and age makes taqlid to someone or some madhab…”

    That does not require a long answer.

  16. ibnabeeomar

    June 13, 2007 at 12:01 PM

    “Every single Muslim in this day and age makes taqlid to someone or some madhab or some manhaj whether they like it or not whether they say it or not.”

    agreed – even those who say its absoloutely impermissable to make taqleed of a madhhab or still following *someone* in their interpretations of the texts

  17. Abu Muhammad

    June 13, 2007 at 12:39 PM

    The ruling on the prohibition of taqleed does not rely upon a democratic majority.

    Also I think these statements that start with “All Muslims…” and “Every single Muslim” should perhaps be placed under the chapter of ‘False Ijma’, since logically it is impossible for anyone to check if ‘All Muslims’ are doing taqleed. You can guess, but your guess will be based on uncertainty and amount to nothing but your personally expressed opinion, which is fine as this is the internet.

    The issues of fiqh could be divided into two logical sections (for our purposes):

    1. Those that are clear in the book and Sunnah or where the Salaf have differed over their understanding of a text. Then it would not be taqleed to accept any of those opinions based on the text.

    2. Those that require ijtihad. As for these then it may be possible that in some constricted circumstances that an individual may fall into taqleed. But for the most part they can remain free from it.

    Here are some exceptions to your “Every Muslim” statement:

    1. The Ulema. Since according to at least some of the madhabs “The muqallid is not an Alim”.

    2. The tulaab ul ilm, at least of the Ahlul Hadeeth and Zaahiriyyah.

    3. Those Muslims that have knowledge of their deen to the degree that they fall into the category of ‘Mutabbi’, or the one that follows with proof.

    But I concur that the majority of Muslims today follow a madhab in some fashion. But that in and of itself does not make it correct.

    Anyhow I love you all for the sake of Allah, the muqaalidoon of you and the tullab ul ilm of you.

    Let this issue not be a dividing factor. Let it be one of the many issues that we can discuss without raising emotions. Let it be based on knowledge.

    May Allah forgive us all and guide us all to His Straight Path.

  18. Amad

    June 13, 2007 at 12:56 PM

    salam.. I have heard the “Mutabbi” part before, which claims ‘follows with proof’… I have never understood that. How does a layman decide to start with, what proof is needed, then what proof is good, then what proof is acceptable, etc. I think that is just another fancy word for doing taqlid but asking the why at the same time. Though the why hardly affects a change in action for the so-called ‘mutabbi’.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have espoused this same position before, but it just seems to mask what it really is.

    jazakallahkhair

  19. Hassan

    June 13, 2007 at 1:40 PM

    Salaam. I posted on top the kind of taqlid. Here is what I understand about this topic.

    1. Not all muslims are same, some are very knowledgable, some very laymen, and some in between.

    2. There is difference between taqlid blind-following and taqlid of someone till it is proven that what person is doing has either:
    a. No basis in Quran and Sunnah
    b. Very weak, and stronger opinion exists, and majority follow that
    c. Safer opinion exists.

    3. Temporary Taqlid. Many times people ask me questions (even though I have no knowledge whatsoever, nor I am student of knowledge), I tell them that I been told by so and so scholar this fatwa, so if you like follow it for now, till you or I meet sheikh and ask him directly.

    4. Taqlid of parents by their children.

    Now when people say they follow madhab, I am little bit surprised, because I do not know if its possible. Why? Because madhab like Islam itself many times does not have unanimous opinion. Hanafi of Egypt have many different opinions than hanafi of Indo-Pak. People can not be following imam abu hanifa either, because 2/3 of his fatawas were not adopted by his immediate students. And it kept changing from place to place and time to time. So only thing possible for a layman when he says he follows a madhab, would be that he follow a scholar of that madhab at his place.

    Now personally I would not be comfortable following my local imam if I know he is going to reiterate fatawa of his madhab, regardless if its weak or strong. I would like to do taqlid of a true scholar who can say what opinion is stronger. I may do temporary taqlid of someone who may not be of that level, but would be looking for someone who knows in depth.

    Also I find it sad that some people go in lengths saying that I can proove that every position of my madhab has some basis in Quran and Sunnah. To me its reverse logic. We should not pick up madhab/opinion and find proofs for it, rather we should pick up Quran and Sunnah and try to adopt opinion and adjust madhab to it. I mean Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) and other scholars clearly said, this is my opinion, if you get hadith contrary to my opinion, then thats my madhab.

  20. Ibrahim

    June 13, 2007 at 6:35 PM

    No brother Amad, I disagree. Some might use it as a fashionable thing, but it is not. You can actually call it ittibaa’ or something else. That wasn’t the point of my post, but the point was what’s the correct and balanced approach. I don’t know how knowledgeable you are and may be you can decide for yourself a ruling on something. But, I can’t because I’m not that knowledgeable at all. But, still and Allah knows, I can say from experience that I do not do taqleed but rather ittibaa’ and there is difference, a major one. Take a mu’tassib follower of a madhab and he will stick to his madhab’s opinion regardless of whether he has heard a strong opposition to that opinion or not, and would not even try to find out about it. Now, take a mutabbi’ who is open to changing his belief with sincere intentions to follow what he finds to be strongest daleels in a fatwa. And, believe me, Allah subhanwataa’la, makes it easy for people if they are sincere. He will guide them to lean to daleels that he finds closer to Quran and Sunnah, no doubt about it.

    And, please read what I wrote above: It’s the intention and methodology that really defines if someone is doing taqleed or not. Clearly, the methodology Shaykh Lahori describes is not taqleed and is the balance approach of most—from ibn Taymiyyah, to Shawkani, many scholars of najd, of ahle hadith scholars in Pakistan, etc. In fact, I can say for sure this would be the opinion of al-Albani as well (although I haven’t read one) because there is no way he can say to normal people, open Quran and hadith and fiqh books and come to your own conclusion. Again, it’s the methodology, intention and belief that differentiates a muqallid and ghayr muqallid.

    I’ll give you a practical example: You know that Islamic Finder Adhan software—it gives the option of having Asr time by ‘Standard’ method, that’s the method of the last three imams, and the ‘Hanafi’ method. Now, I know people who will not want to change to Standard method or inquire about it or be curious about it—they will just keep it on Hanafi method. That is taqleed! Now, I won’t lie and say I’ve looked into the Hanafi ruling, but I intend to do so inshaAllah, and the only reason I haven’t is due to laziness and the belief that three imams say one thing and one imam says another and on this matter it would be extremely unlikely for three imams to reach a wrong conclusion while Hanafis alone reach at the correct conclusion.

  21. Abu Muhammad

    June 13, 2007 at 6:59 PM

    I do not think that anyone differs on the fact that the layman must follow the scholar.

    Ibn Hazm, The Ahlul Hadeeth, Shah Wali Allah, Shaukani and the staunchest people on this issue all agree that the layman who has no ability to study must go to the alim.

    But that only becomes taqleed if he obeys the alim without enquiring or recieving an indication that the ruling is from Allah and His Messenger.

    What’s the difference you might ask between asking for proof or not?

    The difference is that the one who seeks to follow the proof is trying to fulfill the command of Allah the Almighty in which slave is required to make ittiba’ of what has been revealed.

    But the one who obeys blindly is following Zann which Allah has forbidden.

    Anyhow I think it’s high time that something comprehensive was released in the english language which explains the stance in detail of those that hold taqleed to be prohibited.

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