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Picking A Marja' (serious)

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As-Salaamu Alaykum,

Everyone is telling me I have to pick a marja'. Okay, that's fine. Which one? Most people recommend Sistani, but there's others out there. Every time I try to ask how I'm supposed to pick one, the answer is you have to pick the most knowledgeable. How on earth do I know which one is most knowledgeable?! This is driving me crazy. I don't want to follow Sistani just because everyone else does. The majority is not always right. But how on earth do I pick one for myself?

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You have to basically ask someone who knows the marajas. Those people would be scholars themselves.

That's how I started following al-Khoei and then al-Sistani.

But you may want to start by identifying the marajas themselves. I would suggest by reading their biographies and get familiarized with their education qualification and their work.

Here's a brief bio about Sistani. They are other marajas like him. You just need to identify them.

http://www.sistani.o...ex.php?p=192257

You wouldn't know who is the most knowledgeable unless you asked trusted people, especially those who are very well versed and knows the howzahs.

Technical details if you feel like reading.

Ways to identify a learned Faqih (Expert in the Islamic laws)

I found the following Q&A at Sayyed Sistani website (najaf.org). Mostly, these questions are about learned men who are able to distinguished the most knowledgeable scholar (a’lam).

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.

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 'usûlu '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.

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 the a'lam?

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.

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. 9. 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.

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 marja'.

http://www.najaf.org/all/index.php?l=ENG&c=q_a&to=QUE

Edited by Gypsy

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Thanks go everyone for their posts. I have read each and every one, and I have come to a conclusion. After looking at sources on here and outside of ShiaChat, I have decided to follow Ayatollah Khamenei. He is the successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, and it seems as if he is very knowledgeable. I have sent him Istifa's before, and his English is fine for me. I thank everyone, once again, for their input. Hopefully I won't make any more retarded threads about stuff like this. I can email Khamenei to get my answer ;)

His website isn't very user friendly, and the paper version of his resalah (in english) is not very good at all.

Access to the information should be your main concern.

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I do Taqleed to him:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjzlymVWrQ0

For the precaution fatwas, then I refer to Al-Afasy (HA).

Narrated to me Abu'l Hasan Ammar b. Jabbar, from his brother, from Junayd b. Salman, from someone who heard Al-Afasy say: Verily the Marji'yya belongs to Dar'ul_Islam, and no one has the right to be an associate in his affair. So the companion asked: O Chief of the Ghalis! What about those who ignore him? Al-Afasy said: Those are the ones whom Allah (swt) condemned in his Book: "not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (1:7)", and no repentence will be accepted by those who trangress the limits of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. The man then asked: What about you then, may my soul be sacrificed for your cause? He (ha) then said: As for me, my affair is with Him سبحانه وتعالى, it is only upon you to follow Dar'ul_Islam, and not to question his authority. (Saheeh)

Edited by Al-Afasy

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His is like the second best I have seen. The only one better is Sistani. Or does another Marja' have a better website?

But seriously, the rest suuuuuck

As bro Dar ul islam pointed out, makarem shirazi's one is pretty good. http://makarem.ir/websites/english/

shaykh lankarani's one is also good, but he's dead, so if you are been strict about it, you can't start to follow him. http://lankarani.com/eng/

But aside from that, the resalah of sayed al-khu'i is also pretty easy to look through http://www.al-islam.org/laws/al-khui/

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I agree with the opening post, i dont understand how somebody can decide who the most knowledgable person is. People are giving their opinion about who the best marja are, how do you know? Its like GCSE maths students deciding which professor is the best at maths, what qualifies them to make the judgement?

I know people say that there are people who know the marja well etc and they nominate but even they are not more knowledgable so I dont see how they can decide.

Personally i dont follow any of them in particular. I dont see why we rely on the knowledge of someone like sistani, why dont we try to become as knowledgeable as him, do you think Allah is going to ask you why you didnt follow sistani or is he going to ask you why you didnt learn as much as him. God gave us all logic and intelligence so we need to take responsibility for our own learning.

But if someone disagrees (which i know they do) then it would be interesting to see your opinions because i am in the same position as the opening poster.

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Usually people who recommend following Khamene'i do so out of their political beliefs rather than him actually being the most knowledgeable scholar, with his jurisprudential output being fairly limited (at first his followers were advised just to follow Khomeini's Tahrir al-Wasila, and in the decades since he's still not come out with even a basic risala, though there's always the rumor of one being just around the corner). The ones that are usually deemed to be of a higher level of knowledge would be the four major maraji` of Najaf with Shaykh Ishaq al-Fayyad possibly being the topmost in knowledge, and Shaykh Wahid Khorosani in Qum. I'd also include Sayyid Sadiq Rohani to that list.

Mind you, I'm not really the one to decide since I don't align myself with the usooli school of thought which would require me to pick a marja` anyway. Personally, if you want to look at a jurist's works, I might suggest someone like Shaykh Mufid and others of the like to consider. Otherwise, someone like Sayyid Sistani, though I don't believe he's necessarily more knowledgeable than the others, is a fine reference point (fairly traditional, conservative fatawa, with accessible works available in English as well), or someone like his deceased teacher Sayyid al-Khoe'i, who many would rank as one of the most knowledgeable scholars of all time.

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I agree with the opening post, i dont understand how somebody can decide who the most knowledgable person is. People are giving their opinion about who the best marja are, how do you know? Its like GCSE maths students deciding which professor is the best at maths, what qualifies them to make the judgement?

I know people say that there are people who know the marja well etc and they nominate but even they are not more knowledgable so I dont see how they can decide.

Somebody doesn't decide who the most knowledgeable person is. We are only looking for the most knowledgeable among all the most qualified one. You are right that we don't know who the most knowledgeable is. That's why we are encourage to ask the people who may know/posses such information. The people who knows about the howzahs in Qum and Najaf may give you names of a number of people that they believe are qualified because those people have passed through the education system in the howzah. All you need to do is compile the list. And generally the list should include only the most established Grand Ayatullahs because those who have produced more works about Islam, and has graduated more students/have thought more classes should be on the top of the list, ideally.

Personally i dont follow any of them in particular. I dont see why we rely on the knowledge of someone like sistani, why dont we try to become as knowledgeable as him, do you think Allah is going to ask you why you didnt follow sistani or is he going to ask you why you didnt learn as much as him. God gave us all logic and intelligence so we need to take responsibility for our own learning.

But if someone disagrees (which i know they do) then it would be interesting to see your opinions because i am in the same position as the opening poster.

You can try to be as knowledgeable as Sistani. No one is stopping you. :shifty:

If you don't mind me asking, what steps are you personally taking to ensure that you are taking the responsibility of your own learning? Are you enrolled in the howzah? or studying independently?

Edited by Gypsy

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But does anyone realistically possess such information? If someone has produced more works on islam and graduate more students then does that mean they are most knowledgable and i should follow them? Im not comfortable doing that to be honest. The whole situation of less knowledgable people giving their opinion on who should probably be recognised as most knowledgable doesnt seem very logical.

I have thought about hawzahs but I think I am going to continue learning independently, I read and study quran everyday and believe that is a good start. I am aiming to be as knowledgable as it is possible to be.

Ive met too many shia who are more familiar with the works of sistani than they are with the quran and I feel we should encourage people to rely less on the marja and more on trying to be like them.

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But does anyone realistically possess such information? If someone has produced more works on islam and graduate more students then does that mean they are most knowledgable and i should follow them? Im not comfortable doing that to be honest. The whole situation of less knowledgable people giving their opinion on who should probably be recognised as most knowledgable doesnt seem very logical.

To me, if someone spent most of his adult life in nothing but learning, teaching and writing about Shia Islam and his character references are unblemished and his religious qualification are acknowledged by his superiors and his peers, then that's all the evidences that I need.

But you are free to do as you wish.

Ive met too many shia who are more familiar with the works of sistani than they are with the quran and I feel we should encourage people to rely less on the marja and more on trying to be like them.

Most people are familiar with Sistani risala which contains his work on Fiqh. You ought be familiar with his work on Fiqh since it's everyday thing.

The Quran is very important. Everyone should take it very seriously and read as much as they can and as often they can.

People are people. I'm sure you are also not perfect. Just like them, you have your own limitation and shortcomings.

Edited by Gypsy

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Everyone is telling me I have to pick a marja'. Okay, that's fine. Which one? Most people recommend Sistani, but there's others out there. Every time I try to ask how I'm supposed to pick one, the answer is you have to pick the most knowledgeable. How on earth do I know which one is most knowledgeable?! This is driving me crazy. I don't want to follow Sistani just because everyone else does. The majority is not always right. But how on earth do I pick one for myself?

You don't HAVE to 'pick' a marja' per-se. If you don't have the ability to become a learned scholar, learn arabic and know the science of ahadith and rijaal, then you choose to take the advice of a learned scholar, as they have had the chance to do the right religious studies. Obviously you'd want to go for the guy who's most learned and has demonstrated to an extent their knowledge. But if you're undecided as to whom is the most learned, you can choose to take the advice of several, and, out of precaution, when there is an issue of which they differ in opinion, to go with the most precautionary opinion.

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Narrated to me Abu'l Hasan Ammar b. Jabbar, from his brother, from Junayd b. Salman, from someone who heard Al-Afasy say: Verily the Marji'yya belongs to Dar'ul_Islam, and no one has the right to be an associate in his affair. So the companion asked: O Chief of the Ghalis! What about those who ignore him? Al-Afasy said: Those are the ones whom Allah (swt) condemned in his Book: "not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (1:7)", and no repentence will be accepted by those who trangress the limits of Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì. The man then asked: What about you then, may my soul be sacrificed for your cause? He (ha) then said: As for me, my affair is with Him ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì, it is only upon you to follow Dar'ul_Islam, and not to question his authority. (Saheeh)

Doesn't Sheikh Al-Maccy consider Junayd as a fabricator? (See his book on rijal for source)

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