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In the Name of God بسم الله

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This is a reference post, as all this Basic information can be obtained on the Internet. 


What is Taqlid?

Taqlid literally means "to follow (someone)", "to imitate". In Islamic legal terminology it means to follow a mujtahid in religious laws and commandment as he has derived them. A mujtahid is a person who is an expert of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh); he is also called a faqih. 




Following a Mujtahid

1. It is necessary for a Muslim to believe in the fundamentals of faith on the basis of proof and he cannot follow anyone in this respect i.e. he cannot accept he word of another with regard to the fundamentals without demanding proof.

However, in order to act on Islamic code (except in those matters which are considered by all to be indisputable e.g. the obligatory nature of the five daily prayers, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan etc.) a person must adopt one of the following methods:

    i) The man concerned should be a Mujtahid (jurist)1 himself and should know the Articles of Acts on the basis of Ijtihad2 and reason (i.e. he should be a man of such high learning and scholarship that he can solve problems from his study of the Qur’an and Hadith).

    ii) If he is not a jurist himself, he should follow a jurist i.e. he should act according to the judgment (fatwa) of the jurist without demanding proof.

    iii) If he is neither a jurist nor a follower (muqallid) he should act after taking such precaution that he should become sure of his having performed his religious duty. For example, if some jurists consider an act to be unlawful and some others say that it is not unlawful, he should not perform that act and in case some jurists consider an act to be obligatory (wajib) and others consider it to be recommended (mustahab) he should perform it. Hence it is obligatory for those persons who are not jurists and cannot also take precautionary measures (ihtiyat) to follow a jurist.3

2. Following (taqlid) means acting according to the judgment of a jurist. It is necessary that the jurist who is followed is male, Shi’ah Ithna ‘Asha’ari,4 adult, sane, legitimate, alive and just (‘adil). A person is said to be just when he performs all those acts which are obligatory for him and refrains from all those things which are prohibited for him. And the sign of a man’s being just is that he is apparently a good man so that if enquiries are made about him from the people of his locality or from his neighbours or from those persons with whom he associates, they should confirm his goodness. And if it is known that the judgments of the jurists differ with regard to the problems which we face in everyday life, it is necessary that the jurist who is followed should be a’lam (the most learned jurist) who possesses better capacity to understand religious matters as compared with his contemporary jurists.

3. There are three ways of identifying a jurist or the most learned jurist:

i) When a person personally believes that such and such person is a jurist or the most learned jurist. For confirming this he should be a learned person himself and should possess the capacity to identify a jurist or the most learned jurist.

ii) When two persons, who are learned and just and possess the capacity to identify a jurist or the most learned jurist, should certify to a person’s being a jurist or the most learned jurist, provided that two other learned and just persons do not contradict them. And apparently the fact of a person’s being a jurist or the most learned jurist is also proved by the statement of only one person who is reliable.

iii) When many learned persons who possess the capacity to identify a jurist or the most learned jurist should certify to a person’s being jurist or the most learned jurist and when one is satisfied by their statement.

4. If it is not possible to identify the most learned jurist on account of some difference of opinions among the jurists, a person should take precautionary measures and if it is not possible to do so, he should follow that jurist whom he himself considers to be the most learned jurist. In fact even if there is a weak possibility of a person being the most learned jurist and one knows that as compared with him there is no other most learned jurist, one should follow that jurist.

5. There are four ways of obtaining the judgment of a jurist:

i) When a man hears the judgment direct from the jurist himself.

ii) When the judgment of the jurist is quoted by two just persons.

iii) When a man hears the judgment of a jurist from a person whose statement satisfies him.

iv) By reading the judgment of a jurist in a book written by him on various problems (masa’il) provided the reader is satisfied about the authenticity of the book.

6. So long as a person is not satisfied that the judgment of the jurist has been changed, he can act according to what is written in his book. And if there is a possibility that the judgment has been changed, investigation in the matter is not necessary.

7. If the most learned jurist gives a judgment about some matter his follower cannot act in that matter on the judgment of another jurist. However if he does not give a judgment and says that according to precaution (ihtiyat) a man should act in such and such a manner, for example if he says that as a precautionary measure in the first and second Rak’at (unit) of the prayers he should read a complete Chapter (Surah) after the Chapter of ‘Hamd’, the follower may either act on this precaution which is called obligatory precaution (ihtiyat wajib) or he may act on the judgment of another jurist whom it is permissible to follow. Hence if he (the second jurist) considers only Surah Hamd to be enough, he (the person offering the prayers) may drop the second Surah. The position will also be the same if the most learned jurist says that the matter needs deliberation (ta’ammul) or is objectionable (ishkal).

8. If the most learned jurist observes precaution after or before giving a judgment about a matter – for example if he says that if an impure vessel is washed once with Kurr water (about 388 litres) it becomes pure, although as a precautionary measure it should be washed thrice, his follower can abandon acting according to the precaution. This precaution is called recommended precaution (ihtiyat mustahab).

9. If a jurist, who is followed by a person, dies and the follower has committed his judgments to memory, he can act on them as he acted during his lifetime. However, if he had not committed his judgments to memory or has forgotten them, he must refer to a jurist who is alive.

10. If a person commits to memory the judgments of a jurist about some problems and after the death of that jurist he follows a living jurist in that matter according to his duty he cannot act again upon the judgments of the jurist who has passed away.

11. It is obligatory for a follower to learn the judgments about the problems which are usually faced by him.

12. If a person faces a problem about which the orders are not known to him, it is necessary for him to observe precaution or to follow a jurist according to the conditions mentioned above. However, if he is aware of the difference of opinions between the most learned jurist and the jurist, and it is not possible to postpone the matter or to act according to precaution, and it is also not possible to approach the most learned jurist, it is permissible to follow a jurist who is not the most learned jurist.

13. If a person informs another person about the judgment of a jurist and then that judgment is changed, it is not necessary for him to inform that person that the judgment of that jurist has been changed. However, if after informing that person about the judgment he comes to know that he has made some mistake in reporting the judgment, he should rectify that mistake, if possible.

14. If a person performs various acts for some time without following a jurist and later follows a jurist, his former actions will be valid if that jurist declares them to be valid, otherwise they will have to be treated as ‘invalid’.


1. A Mujtahid is a jurist competent enough to deduce precise inferences regarding the commandments from the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the holy Prophet by the process of Ijtihad.

2. Ijtihad literally means striving and exerting. Technically as a term of jurisprudence it signifies the application by a jurist of all his faculties to the consideration of the authorities of law with a view to find out what in all probability is the law. In other words, Ijtihad means making deductions in matters of law in the cases to which no express text is applicable. (See Baqir Sadr, A Short History of ‘Ilm al-Usul, ISP, 1984)

3. The minimum age limit for mukallaf (adults) bound to perform religious precepts is 15 lunar years for boys and 9 lunar years for girls.

4. A Muslim who believes and follows the twelve successors (Imams) explicitly expressed by the Holy Prophet of Islam through Divine Will.


Islamic Laws by Sayyid Abul Qasim al-Khu'i

Sayyid Abulqasim al-Khui


A third hadith is from the Present Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, peace be upon him, who said in a reply to Ishaq ibn Ya'qub:

"As far as newly occurring circumstances are concerned, you should turn (for guidance) to the narrators of our ahadith, for they are my proof over you just as I am Allah's proof."6


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What is ijtihad?

The question of ijtihad is a very topical one these days.10Many people ask, either aloud or to themselves, what form ijtihad takes in Islam, and from where Islam got the concept. Why should one practice taqlid? What are the conditions for ijtihad? What are the duties of a mujtahid?

Broadly speaking, ijtihad has the meaning of being an authority in the matters of Islam; but there are two ways of being an authority and deriving opinions in the matters of Islam in the eyes of us Shi`i Muslims: one which is in accordance with the shari`a, and one which is forbidden by it. Similarly, taqlid is of two kinds: one which is in accordance with the shari`a, and one which is forbidden.



The kind of ijtihad which is forbidden by the shari'a

Now, the kind of ijtihad which, in our opinion, is forbidden is that which means “legislating” or “enacting the law”, by which we mean that the mujtahid passes a judgment which is not in the Book (the Qur'an) or the Sunna, according to his own thought and his own opinion - this is technically called ijtihad al­ra'y. According to Shi`i Islam, this kind of ijtihad is forbidden, but in Sunni Islam it is permitted. In the latter the sources of legislation, and the valid proofs for determining the shar`ia, are given as the Book, the Sunna and ijtihad. The Sunnis place ijtihad, which is the ijtihad al­ra'y explained above, on the same level as the Book and the Sunna.




Ijtihad permitted by the shari'a


Ijtihad permitted by the shari'a

The word ijtihad was used until the fifth hijri century with this particular meaning, i.e., with the meaning of qiyas and ijtihad al­ra'y, a kind of ijtihad which is prohibited in the eyes of the Shi`a. Up to that time, the Shi`i `ulama included a chapter on ijtihad in their books only because they wanted to refute it, to emphasize that it was null and void, and to proscribe it, as did the Shaykh al­Tusi in some of his works.

But the meaning of this word gradually extended beyond this specific meaning, and the Sunni `ulama themselves began not to use 'ijtihad' in the specific sense of ijtihad al­ra'y, [as a source] which was on the same level as the Book and the Sunna. [Such a shift in the meaning of the word can be seen with] Ibn Hajib15in his “Mukhtasar al­usul”, on which `Adud al­Din al­Iji wrote a commentary known as al­`Adudi, and which has been till recently, and maybe still is, the authoritatively approved book on [Sunni] usul, and before him with al­Ghazali 16in his famous work “al­Mustasfa”.

It then became used rather in the unqualified sense of effort or exertion to arrive at the rulings of the shari`a, and was defined as “the maximum employment of effort and exertion in deducing the rulings of the shari`a from the valid proofs (adilla, sing. dalil, see below ). However, it is another matter to decide what the valid proofs of the shari`a are: whether qiyas, istihsan, and so forth, are among them or not.

From this time onwards, the Shi`i `ulama also adopted this word because they accepted this [general] meaning. This kind of ijtihad was a kind approved by the shari`a. Although the word had originally been one to be avoided among the Shi`a, after its meaning and the concept it denoted had undergone this change, their `ulama, discarded their prejudice and subsequently had no reservations about using it. It seems that in many instances the Shi`i `ulama, were careful to consider unity of method and conformity among Muslims as a whole. For example, the Sunnis came to recognize ijma` (consensus of opinion among the `ulama) as a proof leading to certainty, and, in practice, they also held it to be fundamental and substantive (mawdu`i) just like qiyas, whereas the Shi`a did not accept it. However, to protect the unity of method, they gave the name ijma` to a principle which they did accept17. The Sunnis said that the valid proofs were four in number: the Book, the Sunna, ijma and ijtihad (qiyas); the Shi`a said the valid proofs were four: the Book, the Sunna, ijma` and `aql (reason). They merely substituted `aql for qiyas.

At any rate, 'ijtihad' gradually found a wider meaning, i.e., the employment of careful consideration and reasoning in reaching an understanding of the valid proofs of the shari`a. This, of course needs a series of sciences as a suitable preliminary basis on which to develop the ability to consider and reason correctly and systematically.

The `ulama of Islam gradually realized that the deduction and derivation of the precepts from the combined valid proofs of the shari`a necessitated [the learning] of a series of preparatory sciences and studies such as the sciences of literature, logic, the Qur'anic sciences and tafsir (Qur'anic exegesis), the science of hadith and the narrators of hadith (rijal al­hadith), the science of the methodology of usul al­fiqh, and even a knowledge of the fiqh of the other sects of Islam. A mujtahid was someone who was a master of all these sciences.

I think it extremely likely, though I cannot state this categorically, that the first person among the Shi`a to use the words ijtihad and mujtahid [positively] was the

`Allama al­Hilli.18 In his work “ Tahdhib al­usul'', he puts the chapter on ijtihad after the chapter on qiyas, and there he uses the word in the same sense in which it is used today.

[We can therefore say that] the ijtihad which is forbidden and rejected in the eyes of the Shi`a is ra' y and qiyas, which were originally called ijtihad, whether this is counted as a source of the shari`a and as an independent basis for legislation, or taken as a means for deriving and deducing true precepts; whereas the ijtihad which they deem correct according to the shari`a is that which means effort and exertion based on expert technical knowledge.

In answer to the question: what is the meaning, the use and the place of ijtihad in Islam, it can thus be said that it is ijtihad in the meaning that it is used today, i.e., competence and expert technical knowledge. It is obvious that someone who wants to refer to the Qur'an and hadith must know how to explain the meaning of the Qur'an, he must know the meaning of the verses, which verses abrogate which verses, which ones have clear meanings and which ones ambiguous meanings19 - and he must be able to distinguish which hadith is valid and authoritative and which not.

In addition, he must understand, on the basis of correct rational principles, incompatibilities between hadiths to the extent that it is possible for him to resolve them, and he must be able to distinguish the cases in which the `ulamaof the Shi`a sect have consensus (ijma`). In the verses of the Qur'an themselves, and similarly in the hadith, a series of general principles [for verification and interpretation] are laid down, and the use and exercise of these principles need training and practice, just as in the case of all other basic principles in every science.

Like the skilled technician who knows which material to choose from all the materials available to him, the mujtahid must have proficiency and ability. In hadith, especially, there is a great deal of fabrication, the true and the false are mixed together; the expert must have the power to distinguish between them. In short, he must have enough preliminary knowledge so that he can exercise competence, authority and technical expertise.


The Principle of Ijtihad in Islam

Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari

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