The Era of The Prophet (pbuh), The Nature Of Taqleed

By Mufti Mohammed Taqi Uthmani


The Legal Status of Following a madhab: Part One The Era of The Prophet (pbuh), The Nature Of Taqleed

  • Prologue
  • The Nature Of Taqleed
  • The concept of Taqleed in the Quran
  • Verse Number 1
  • Verse Number 2
  • Verse Number 3
  • Verse Number 4
  • Taqleed in the Sunnah


Much has been written on the subject of “Taqleed and Ijtihad” – or following a Madhab and legal discretion. In fact, I was adamant that I could add nothing further to this vast subject. However, the article arose quite coincidentally.

In 1963, the respected brother Mahirul Qadri, the editor of Faran the monthly journal, asked me to pen an article on the issue of Taqleed due to some immediate and pressing concerns. Like my dear respected father, Mufti Shafi, I do not like to engage in controversy. However, I wrote a brief tract on the subject with the view that the issues are made clear so that those who endeavour to precipitate strife amongst Muslims by calling each other infidels and polytheists should be asked to re-evaluate their conclusions. The article was published in ‘Faran’ in May 1963 and was received with extra ordinary popularity, it became published in several magazines throughout the Asian subcontinent, infact it was published as a separate book in India.

Surprisingly, even though the approach of my article was far from being polemical those who are hostile to following Imams of Ijtihad, criticized the work. One of those criticisms was written by Maulana Muhammed Ismail Salfi and was published in thirteen issues of Al-I’tisaam. This criticism later became the basis for two of his books namely, The movement for independence of thought and The Revivalists Efforts of Shah Wulliyullah. The second criticism was published in The Exposition: An answer to Taqleed. This was written by a person who openly condemned the Imams of Ijtihad as fabricators of Islamic Law; their followers as infidels and polytheists and denounced Islamic jurisprudence as a concoction. The third criticism was written in Hyderabad, India and published in a local monthly. But since my intentions were not to get tangled into a bitter or lengthy debate. I did not see it fit to prolong the discussion and consequently withdrew from writing on the issue for thirteen years.

This article was well received, many desired that it should be published as a separate book as was done in India. As a result I decided to revise certain areas so that critics could be answered and doubts removed. Academic contentions are also examined. As I am not in favor of debating. I have included the replies to such contentions at various places as part of the overall response.

To reiterate the purpose of this book is not to create an atmosphere of disputation but to clarify the position taken by the majority of Muslims for the best part of thirteen centuries on Taqleed – which is to follow the Imams of Ijtihad. By avoiding the extremes, the goal is to show the balanced position which the majority of the scholars from the Ahle Sunnah wal Jama’ah have adopted. Therefore, this tract should be read with a view to study the scholastic evidence of the issue, rather than to dispute upon the issue void of knowledge. There is a great deal of propaganda against Taqleed. I hope that this treatise helps to make clear the issue of Taqleed to the doubtful.

“My reconciliation is with Allah alone.
It is Him that I trust and to Him that I turn
Mufti Mohammed Taqi Uthmani
Servant of Darul Uloom, Karachi
Friday Night, 4th Jamadiul Thani, 1396

The Nature Of Taqleed

No Muslim can deny that Islam’s real message is to obey Allah alone. Emphasis has been placed upon following the Prophet Muhammed sallalahu alaihi wa sallam because he represented Allah’s commandments through his words and actions. Allah and His Messenger have to be unequivocally followed in what is halal (permissible) and what is haram (forbidden): what is allowed and what is not. Whoever believes in following anyone besides Allah and His Messenger and regards that person as independent (of Allah and His Messenger) is surely outside the fold of Islam. Thus, every Muslim should attempt to follow the commandments of the Qur’an and Sunnah (the traditions and norms of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam). There are certain commandments in the Qur’an and Sunnah which a lay person can understand. Such commandments are not intricate, ambiguous or contradictory. Understanding these commandments and their implications can be effortlessly achieved without confusion. For instance, Allah says:

“Do not back bite” (Surah Al-Hujuraat: 12)

Anyone familiar with the Arabic language will immediately understand the verse, since there is no ambiguity in the statement, and nor does it clash with any other Islamic value it is readily understood.

Likewise, the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said: “There is no preference of an Arab over a non-Arab”

This Hadith is also clear and uncomplicated. A rudimentary knowledge of Arabic would enable its understanding. Conversely, there are many commandments in the Qura’n and Sunnah which are ambiguous. In fact, there are some statements which seem to contradict other verses of the Qura’n or a Hadith. For Example, the Quran says:

“And those women who are divorced should wait for three ‘Quruu’.” (Surah Al-Baqarah:228)

The verse has stipulated that the waiting period for a divorced woman, in order to remarry, is three ‘Quruu’. The word Quruu in the Arabic language is used to denote both the monthly menstruation period (Haydh) and the time in between the monthly period (Tuhr). If the former meaning were taken, then the rule would be that a divorced woman should wait for three monthly menstruation periods (Haydh) to elapse. If the later meaning is taken, the rule would be that the divorced woman should wait until three months in between her monthly menstruation period (Tuhr) have expired. The question is which one of these two meanings applies. Similarly a Hadith of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam says:

“Whoever does not stop the practice of Mukhabarah should hear the proclamation of war (against him) for Allah and His messenger.”

Mukhabrah is a specific kind of farming in which a landlord makes an agreement and a farmer, who is hired by him, to cultivate his land. The agreement stipulates the amount of produce, which is to be divided by each party. There were several forms of Mukhabarah practiced during the time of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam. This particular Hadith is brief and vague as to which particular kind of Mukhabarah is forbidden.

The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said in another Hadith:

“Whoever has an Imam, then the Imam’s recitation is his recitation.” [Muwaata of Imam Muhammed, Page 96]

This seems to indicate while the Imam is reciting in salaat, the follower should remain silent. However, another Hadith says:

“There is no salaat for he who does not recite Surah Al-Fatiha.” [Bukhari Vol. 1, Hadith no. 723]

This seems to indicate that everyone should recite Surah Fatiha. The question arises whether the first Hadith should be taken as the primary source referring to the Imam or the one who offers salaat individually and the second Hadith explained as a corroborating evidence; or should we make the second Hadith the base and that the first Hadith refers to the Imam’s recitation after he recites Surah Fatiha.

Needless to say from the above examples, the process of extrapolating rules from the Qura’n and Sunnah can be complicated. One solution is that we exercise our understanding and insight in such issues in order to make our judgments and rulings. Another solution could be that instead of making independent rulings ourselves, we look into what the predecessors ruled concerning these issues. After investigating the opinions of the scholars whom we know to be more qualified and more adept in these issues than ourselves, we rely on their understanding and insight and act according to their rulings. If we consider with fairness, from the two options (mentioned above), the former option (of exercising our own understanding) is fraught with difficulties, which will be examined later. The second option (of relying on the opinion of a scholar from the past) is much more cautious. This is so not merely because it seems like a humble approach but because it is an undeniable reality that we have very little resemblance with the scholars of the first Muslim era. We fall short of their knowledge, understanding, intelligence, memory, morals and piety. In addition, the scholars of the first era were close to the environment and time when the Qura’n was revealed which allowed understanding the Qura’n and Sunnah in its entirety. We, on the contrary, are so distant from the time when the Qura’n was revealed that we are not disposed to a comprehensive understanding of the Qur’an’s background, to its environment, the social norms of that time and to the language of that era. The factors listed above are indispensable if anyone is to understand the Qura’n and Sunnah.

After considering all of these points, if we do not rely upon our own understanding but instead follow the opinion of a scholar of the past in matters which are ambiguous or complicated, then it will be said that we are following, or making Taqleed of that scholar. This is the essence of Taqleed. Taqleed of an Imam or a Mujtahid is only valid in areas where understanding a rule of the Qura’n and Sunnah is difficult or complicated, regardless of whether this is because an additional meaning may be drawn from the text or there is some intricacies in the text, or even if there seems to be a certain contradiction in the text. An absolute and conclusive text where there exists no ambiguity, brevity or apparent contradiction in the text of Quran or Sunnah, there is no Taqleed of any Imam or Mujtahid. The famous Hanafi jurist, Shaykh Abdul Ghani Al-Nablusi states:

The issues which are agreed upon – without any doubt and by necessity – do not require any Taqleed of any of the four Imams like the obligation of Salaat. Fasting, Zakaat and Hajj, etc. and like the prohibition of adultery and fornication, drinking wine, murder, stealing and usurping. The issues which are debated are the issues where Taqleed becomes necessary.”[ Khulasataul Tahqeeq fi Hukm at-Taqleed wa at-Talfeeq – page – 4 printed by Al-Yasheeq, Istanbul]

Shaykh Khatib Al-Baghdadi writes:

“As far as the Islamic rules are concerned, there are of two types. The first are those which are known by necessity to be part of the Deen of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam like the five prayers, Zakaat, fasting in Ramadhan, Hajj; the prohibition of adultery, wine and so on. Taqleed is not allowed in these issues since they are such that everyone should know and understand. The second type are those rules which need to be understood and extrapolated such as the details of the rituals of worship, transactions and weddings, for example, Taqleed is allowed in these issues since Allah says:

“So ask the people of remembrance if you know not.” (Surah Al-Nahl: 43)

If Taqleed was not allowed in these issues it would mean that everyone would have to learn these particulars (directly). This would cut off people from their work and livelihood; ruin crops and destroy cattle. Thus, this requirement [of learning these details should be dropped.” [Al-Faqih wal Mutafaqqihah – page 67, vol.2 printed by Darul Iftaa, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 1389]

The statements above clarify that following an Imam or a Mujtahid does not entail believing the Mujtahid to be an independent source of law (Shari’ah), who has to be followed in totality. Rather the idea is that the Quran and Sunnah should be followed, however, a particular Imam’s understanding of the Qura’n and Sunnahis being followed. The Mujtahid is regarded as a commentator of the law and his interpretation is held as authoritative. This is why, Taqleed is not an issue in those rules, which are conclusive since the purpose of following Allah, and His Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam is readily achieved without Taqleed. The Imam whose opinion is followed is regarded as an interpreter and not a lawmaker is in fact implied in the meaning of the word Taqleed itself. Ibn Humam and Ibn Nujaim, both define Taqleed thus:

“Taqleed is to follow the opinion of a person – whose opinion is not a proof in Islamic law without asking for his [the person followed] proof.” [Tayseerul Tahreer by Amir Badshah Bukhari – page 246, vol. 4 printed in Egypt 1351 and Fathul Ghaffar, the commentary on Al-Manar, by Ibn Nujaim – page 39, vol 2 printed in Egypt 1355]

This statement has clarified the fact that a person who practices Taqleed (the Muqallid) does not hold the opinion of the one whom he follows (the Mujtahid) as a source of Islamic law because the sources for Islamic law are confined to the Qura’n and Sunnah (both Ijma and Qiyas [analogy] are derived from the Qura’n and Sunnah). The only reason why a Muqallid follows an Imam is because of the conviction that the Mujtahid has insights into the Qura’n and Sunnah (which he, the follower, does not possess) by which the Mujtahid is able to understand their meanings, in this regard the follower has relied upon the Imams’ opinion. Perceived in this perspective Taqleed cannot in all fairness, perceived be equaled with shirk nor blind following. Believing that the Imam (Mujtahid) is a lawgiver and maker and to regard obedience to him as binding, this is most definitely an act of Shirk. To believe one as an interpreter of the law and trust his opinion rather then one’s own isnecessary, if one has not reached the level of a Mujtahid and indispensable in this age of scholastic bankruptcy.

Resorting to the Mujtahid (legal expert) is necessary to understand the complex interpretations of the Qura’n and Sunnah. Thus, there are no grounds to accuse those who practice Taqleed of following the Imams of Ijtihad rather than the Qura’n and Sunnah, rather Taqleed facilitates the following of the Qura’n and Sunnah. There are two types of Taqleed. In the first category, the follower does not appoint any one Imam or Mujtahid, but instead follows the opinion of one Imam in one issue and the opinion of another in a different issue. In the second type of Taqleed, the follower chooses the opinion of one particular Imam and Mujtahid and does not resort to anyone else besides him in any issue. The former is known as Taqleed in general and the latter is known as Taqleed of an individual. The essence of both types of Taqleed is nothing more than the fact that someone who does not have the academic capability to extract rules from the Qura’n and Sunnah chooses someone whom he regards as an expert in the interpretation of the Qura’n and Sunnah, relies upon his understanding and adheres to his opinion. The validity – if not the mandate – for this approach appears in numerous proofs from the Qura’n and Sunnah.

The concept of Taqleed in the Quran

Both classifications of Taqleed, in the form mentioned above, are found in the Quran. The following verses of the Quran demonstrates this:

Verse Number 1:

“O you who believe! Follow Allah; follow the Messenger and those of authority (Amr) amongst you.” (Surah Al-Nisaa: 59)

That of authority (Amr) has been explained by some as Muslim rulers while others have viewed them as jurists. The latter view was the opinion of Abdullah ibn Abbas [This explanation of Abdullah ibn Abbas has been narrated from Mu’awiyah ibn Salah from Ali ibn Talha which is regarded as a very sound chain (Ibn Jarir Vol. 5 Page 88 c.f. Al-Itqaan: Number 80)], Mujahid, `Ataa ibn Abi Rabah, `Ataa ibn Saib, Hasan of Basra, Abu ‘Aliyah and many others. After substantiating the proofs for this second view, Imam Razi gives preference to it and writes:

“So taking those of Amr to mean scholars is more appropriate.” [Tafseer Kabir: Vol 3, page 334]

Imam Abu Bakr Jassas position is that there is no contradiction between the two opinions. In fact, both are implied. Rulers should be followed in political matters and jurists should be followed in legal issues. [Ahkaamul Qura’n, by Jassas. Vol.2, page 256]

Imam Ibn Qayyim says that following the rulers is in effect following the scholars since rulers are also required to follow scholars in legal issues. Hence, “…following rulers is subject to following scholars.” [‘Ilaamul Muqi’een, by Ibn Qayyim. Vol.1, page 7]

In short, this verse requires Muslims to follow Allah and His messenger and those scholars and jurists who interpret the primary sources. The legal term for this following is Taqleed. These remain the query regarding the remainder of the verse:

“And if you dispute, then refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you really do believe in Allah and in the Last Day.” (Surah Al-Nisaa:59)

Based on the second view of those of Amr (to mean jurists and scholars), the address in the verse would be a separate command to the Mujtahids (the legal experts). Justifying the interpretation of those with Amr as jurists, Imam Abu Bakr Jassas says: “Allah’s statement subsequently “if you dispute…” prove that those of Amr are indeed jurists because He has ordered everyone else to follow them and then proceeded to say that “if you dispute…..”. Hence Allah has ordered those of Amr to refer the disputed issue to the Book of Allah and the traditions of the Prophet. The Lay person is not a person of knowledge, he is not of this caliber. The lay person would be unaware of how to refer the disputed issue to the Book of Allah and to Sunnah and how their proofs would apply to situations and events. Thus, it is established that the second command, is for the scholars.” [Ahkaamul Qura’n vol. 2, page 257]

The famous scholar of the Ahle Hadith, Shaykh Nawwab Siddiq Hasan Khan Sahib has also acknowledged that the address in this statement (“If you dispute….”) is to the Mujtahids. He writes in his Tafseer: “It is apparent that this is a separate and a new address directed towards the Mujtahids.”[ Tafseer of Fathul Bayan – vol. 2 , page 308, printed by Al-‘Asimah, Cairo]

It is not valid to conclude that those who are inept of Ijtehad should refer directly to Qur’an and Sunnah in disputed issues. In reality, the command in the first part of the verse (to follow those of Amr) is for those people who cannot extract any rules from the Quran and Sunnah directly. They are required to follow the Quran and Sunnah by asking those of Amr (meaning jurists) and following their guidance. The second statement is exclusively for the Mujtahids that is to say disputed issues should be referred to the Quran and Sunnah. The Mujtahids should exercise their skills of legal judgment and extract rules. So there are in fact two commands, the first statement is to those who adopt Taqleed and the second is directed to the Mujtahids to practice Ijtihad.

Verse Number 2.

“And when there comes to them a matter concerning (public) safety or fear, they relay it. If they had only referred it to the Messenger and to those of authority (Amr), those who can investigate and extract (information) among them would know (the rumor’s validity)….” (Surah Al-Nisaa: 83)

The background to this verse is that the hypocrites of Madinah would spread rumors regarding war and peace. Simple-minded Muslims would believe these rumors and exacerbate the situation, creating an atmosphere of insecurity and panic in the city. The verse quoted above prevented Muslims from taking this approach and advised them to refer news of war and peace to those of Amr and not to spread rumors. Thus, capable individuals investigating the rumors would be able to reach the truth of the issue and inform others concerned. The role of the lay person was not to take any action except to refer such rumors and reports to those of Amr.

Although this verse was revealed for a specific reason – it is very well established in the principles of Tafseer and jurisprudence that in extracting rules and laws from specific circumstances of revelation, the specific details gives way to the general meaning of the text – such a general principle is contained in the verse quoted above. The principle is that: Those who do not possess the tools of investigation should refer to those who can. This is precisely Taqleed.

Imam Razi writes concerning this verse:

“So it is established that Istinbaat [the legal process of extracting rules from the Quran and Sunnah] is a proof. Analogy is either Istinbaat in itself or is included in it. So analogy (Qiyas) should also be a proof. This verse denotes several rules. The first is that there are some incidents and issues, which are not apparent from (Divine) text. The second is that Istinbaat is a proof. The third is that a lay person should follow scholars in the rules of events and in issues”[ Tafseer Kabir – vol. 3, page 272]

Certain people have objected to this line of reasoning claiming that this verse is peculiar to the state of war and should not be analogous to a state of peace.[ Tahreeke Azadi Fikr, by Maulana Muhammed Ismail Salfi – page 31] A response has already been furnished previously to this question that specific circumstances of the verse extend to the general principles of the verse. Imam Razi writes:

“Allah’s statement: `And when there comes to them a matter….’ Includes all affairs relating to war and to any other incident relating to Islamic Law. This is because the states of war and peace include very legal command. Hence there is nothing in the verse which restricts the command to the state of war only.” [Tafseer Kabir – vol. 3, page 273]

Imam Abu Bakr Jassas has also given a similar detailed answer to this question, he has also refuted many doubts which relate to this question.[ Ahkamul Qura’n, by Jassas – vol. 2 page 63] This is the reason why the famous scholar of the Ahle Hadith, Nawwab Siddiq has allowed Qiyas (analogy) giving his reasoning based on this verse:

“There is a hint in this verse to the permissibility of Qiyas and that there are some issues of knowledge which can be perceived by intellectual deduction.” [Tafseer of Fathul Bayan, by Nawwab Siddiq vol. 2, page 33]

If there is no guidance in the verse regarding the state of peace, how would substantiating Qiyas from the verse be permissible?

Verse Number 3

“….If a contingent from every expedition remained behind in order to understand religion (Deen), and so that they could admonish their people when they return to them (from war) that thus they (may learn to) guard themselves (against evil).” (Surah Al-Taubah : 122)

The verse supports that not all Muslims should go out and become preoccupied in jihad. There should be a group who devote themselves exclusively to learning and understand Deen so that they can teach Islamic rules and regulations to those who are not able to dedicate themselves    to    learning.    This    verse    has    ordered    those    who    learn    and understand,  to  impart  knowledge  of  Islamic    law  to  others  and   it  has  also  instructed    others to  act   upon   the   instructions   to   avoid   the    disobedience   of   Allah.   Imam   Abu   Bakr    Jassas comments on this verse:      

“So Allah has commanded people ( who do not learn ) to take heed of the scholars’ warnings and to act upon their advice.”[ Ahkamul Qura’n, by Jassas – vol. 2 page 262]

Verse Number 4.

“….So, if you do not know, ask those of remembrance.” (Surah Al Nahl:43)

There is an academic principle in this verse, which is that those who are not experts in a field should resort to seeking advice from those who are and act accordingly. Shaykh Aloosi writes in the commentary of this verse:

“This verse has been used to prove that referring to scholars is necessary in cases where one does not have knowledge of the issue in question. Imam Suyuti in his `Ikleel’ writes that this verse has been used to prove the point that the lay person may follow another

Imam [Make Taqleed of] in details of Islamic Law.”[ Ruhul Ma’ani – vol. 14, page 148]

The question often raised concerning this verse is that it pertains to a specific incident; the polythesists denied the prophethood of Muhammad sallalahu alaihi wa sallam and they would mockingly request as to why no angel was sent as a Messenger. In reply the following verse was revealed:

“And We have not sent anyone before you except that they are men (humans) to whom We revealed. So, if you do not know ask those of remembrance.” (Surah Nahl : 43)

Some commentators take ‘…. Those of remembrance (Dhikr)’ to mean the scholars of the People of Book. Others claim that it refers to the people of Book who were present during the era of the Prophet. Few other scholars believe it is in reference to the `Ahle Quran’ [People of the Quran], the Muslims. Whatever the meaning of the verse people were aware of the fact that Prophets were human beings and not angels. It is claimed that in this context of the verse has no relation with Taqleed or Ijtihad. However, Taqleed is implied in this verse. The command to ‘…ask those of remembrance’ implies the principle that `every unlearned person (or non-expert) should refer to the one who knows’. The verse directs towards following qualified scholarship and a case of Taqleed is clearly established from this verse. As previously mentioned, the salient principle while interpreting the Quran and Sunnah is that `the consideration for the general meaning of the text is not limited to its specific background incident.’ Although the specific background incident pertains to the polytheists of Makkah, the unrestricted wording of the verse is still applicable and considered. Khatib Al-Baghdadi writes:

“As for the question; who is allowed to follow (and make Taqleed)? It is the lay person who does not have the tools to understand the laws of Islam. The lay person is allowed to follow a scholar and act upon his advice. Allah says:

“So, if you do not know, ask those of remembrance.” After quoting this verse Khatib has narrated with his chain of narrators from Amr bin

Qais that in this verse, “…. Those of remembrance” are those of knowledge.[ Al-Faqih wal Mutafaqqih, by Khatib of Baghdad – vol. 2, page 68, printed by Darul Iftaa, Saudi Arabia, 1389 Hijri]

Taqleed in the Sunnah

The Sunnah, correspondingly to the verses in the Quran, are replete with references to Taqleed, a few are mentioned below.

Hudaifah said that the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said “I do not know how long I will remain with you. So follow these two people (Who will remain) after me : Abu Bakr and Omar.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ahmed)[ Mirqaatul Mafateeh – vol. 5, page 549]

In this Hadith, special attention should be given to the word “Iqtidaa” (follow) which is used in the Arabic text. “Iqtidaa” is not used to mean following in the organizational sense, but rather it is used to refer to religious following. Ibn Manzoor, the famous expert on the Arabic language writes:

“The words Qudwah and Qidwah are used for people who are followed in their traditions. `Qudwah means Uswah (an example or a role model)’.[ Lisaanul ‘Arab – vol. 20, page 31 under the root word Qada]

This word has been used in the Quran to mean following prophets and good people in religious affairs: “There are the ones whom We guided, so follow their guidance.” (Surah Al-An’aam: 90)

The following Hadith narrated during the last moments of the Prophet’s life is ample proof of this approach:

“Abu Bakr was following the prayer of the Prophet and people were following the prayer of Abu Bakr.” (Bukhari)

Imam Ahmed has narrated in his Musnad from Abu Wail:

“I sat with Shaibah the son of Uthman who said: `Omar sat in this very place where you are sitting. Omar said: `sometimes I want to distribute every piece of gold and silver that is here in the Ka’bah. ” I[Shaibah] asked him [Omar]: “Don’t you have the authority to do so?” Omar said: “Your two companions [the Prophet and Abu Bakr] preceded you and did not do so. They are two great personalities who should be followed.’ [Musnad Ahmed – vol. 3, page 410]

Imam Ahmed, also, narrated in his Musnad from Anas that the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam was sitting in a gathering and stated:

“A person who is entitled to Paradise will shortly enter this gathering”

So a person from the Ansaar entered. The next day, the same incident occurred and the third day, the same thing happened. Abdullah ibn Amr decided to follow the Ansaari one day and observe him. Abdullah assumed that the Ansaari was absorbed in worship during the night, but the only thing he noticed was that the Ansaari made some Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) and went to sleep until Fajr. In the morning Abdullah said to the Ansaari:

“I wanted to spend the night with you to see your actions so that I could follow you., But I

did not see you excessive in worship.” [The Ansaari replied that although he did not do a lot of formal worship, he never kept any grudges against a muslim, nor did he envy anyone. Narrated with a sound chain in Musnad Ahmed – vol.3 page 166]

In all of these instances, the word “Iqtidaa” has been used to mean following someone in a religious sense – especially in the first two Ahadith where the word has been used for Abu Bakr. The Hadith in question “…follow these two people after me….” Speaks

about following Abu Bakr and Omar in religious issues, which is the essence of Taqleed.

Abdullah ibn Amr narrated that the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said:

“Allah will not snatch away knowledge abruptly from people, but rather He will snatch knowledge by removing scholars. This will happen to the extent that when no scholar remains, people will take ignorant leaders as their guides. These leaders will be asked and they will give opinions (Fatwas) without knowledge. So they will be misguided and they will misguide.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This Hadith clearly states that giving religious and legal opinions (Fatwas) is the occupation of a scholar. People enquire concerning religious and legal issues and act according to the answers received. This is the gist of Taqleed. The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam foretold that there would come a time when scholars will become extinct and ignorant people will issue Fatwas. In this scenario, where there are no living scholars to refer to and hence there will remain none to extract rules from the Quran and Sunnah directly, what other process will there be for people to follow the Quran and Sunnah except to rely upon the decisions of previous scholars. This Hadith informs that as long as the Mujtahids remain, reference should be directed to them alone and when no scholar remains, instead of resorting to the incompetent and unqualified for solutions, Taqleed should be made of previous scholars.

Abu Hurairah said that the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said: “Whoever gives a Fatwa (legal opinion) without knowledge, the sin will be on the one who gives the Fatwa” (Abu Dawood)[ Mishkatul Masaabih – the chapater of knowledge, page 27]

This Hadith is also very clear about the validity of Taqleed. If Taqleed was not permissible, then just as there is a sin for offering an opinion without knowledge and investigation, there should be an equal amount of burden on the person asking if he did not perserve to reach his own conclusions, but the Hadith states that the burden is on the one giving the Fatwa and not on the one asking. It indicates that the responsibility of a person who is not a scholar is to ask someone who has knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah. If that knowledgeable person gives him an erroneous Fatwa, the burden of sin is on the Mufti and not on the questioner.

Ibrahim ibn Abdur Rahman narrated that the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said:

“Reliable people from each succeeding generation will carry this knowledge. They (the reliable people) will refute the distortions of those who exaggerate and the (erroneous) explanations of the ignorant.” (Bahiqi in Madkhal)[ ibid: page 28]

This Hadith condemns the erroneous explanations of the ignorant and makes it clear that the refutation of these explanations is the responsibility of the scholars. Again, this shows that those who do not possess the acumen of a Mujtahid should not venture into explaining the Quran and Sunnah according to their own understanding. Rather they should refer to the scholars in order to understand the correct meanings of the Quran and Sunnah. It is recognized that in order to explain the Quran and Sunnah a person needs to be extraordinarily qualified. Rudimentary knowledge of the Arabic language does not qualify one as a Mujtahid and hence such explanations by a non-professional would be regarded as spurious.

Imam Bukhari has narrated as a suspended narration and Imam Muslim has narrated with his chain of narrators from Abu Saeed Khudri that certain Companions made it a habit to join prayers late. The Prophet emphasized that they should come early and join the first row and then said:

“Follow me (by observing what I do) and those who come after shall follow you

(by observing what you do.”

This Hadith has multifarious interpretation, one possible interpretation is that those in the front row should observe what the Prophet is doing and follow him in prayers and those who are behind should follow the front row. A further possible meaning of this Hadith is that the Companions were advised to come early so that they could observe The Prophet’s prayer in totality. Those who come after the Companions will learn their prayers by observing and following them. Ibn Hajar writes in the commentary of this Hadith:

“It is said that the meaning of this Hadith is that the Companions should learn the rules of Islam from the Prophet and those who follow the Companions (the Tabi’een) should follow the Companions and so on until the world comes to an end.” [Fathul Bari – vol. 2, page 171. Printed by Meeriyah 1300 H]

Imam Ahmed narrates in his Musnad that Sahal ibn Sa’d narrated from his father that:

“A woman came to the Prophet and said: “My husband has gone out in war and I

used to follow him in his prayer when he prayed and in all other affairs. Show me an act which will match his act of jihad until he returns” [Musnad Ahmed – vol. 3, page 439 Al-Haithami has also narrated it (in Majma’uz Zawaid) and then says: Ahmed has narrated it from Dhabban ibn Faid whom Ibn Hatim has classifed as weak. Everyone in the chain is reliable. (Fathur Rabbani – vol 14, page 16)]

In this Hadith, the lady has explicitly informed the Prophet that she follows her husband – not only in prayer but in all acts. The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam did not see any reason to rebuke her actions. Imam Tirmidhi narrates that Abdullah ibn Amr narrated from the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam:

“Whoever has two qualities in him, Allah will make him a grateful and patient person. (The first quality) Whoever looks towards someone who is higher than him in religion and follows him and (the second quality) whoever looks towards someone who is lower than him in the world and then praises Allah” [Jami’ Tirmidhi with Ibn Arabi’s commentary – vol. 9, page 31]

The Hadith praises the quality of adhering to others; there is not an inkling of disapproval within this Hadith to following the good in others.


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