What is Taqlid? and why it is Necessary to Follow one Specific Imam? Is Taqlid an Innovation in Religion? By Maulana Yusuf Ludhianvi Shaheed
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani
The meaning of Taqlid
(1) The meaning of “Taqlid” is to accept the ruling of some reliable and trustworthy persons research without making any investigation into the matter, seeking proofs. If one accepts and follows one person, and his views are not more trustable than another, then it is clear that it would be incorrect to follow to him. And if this person, whom one follows, is an expert in his field, then it would be totally incorrect for an ordinary person to seek proof from him. Understand this by the following example, assume you go to a doctor or specialist and he prescribes a treatment for you. But this doctor is not an expert in his field, in fact, he has merely acquired the practice, then in the first place it would be incorrect for you to have gone to him. And if this doctor is a qualified expert in his field, and then to investigate and query his every prescription and to debate it and seek proof for it, would be totally incorrect and unacceptable.
The reason being that an ordinary person would only go to an expert when his intellect, comprehension and understanding of the issue at hand are insufficient. In a similar way the matters of Religion and Shariah can be understood. Hence, those issues in the Religion which were transmitted authentically and continuously from Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam), and which every Muslim knows about that this is the issue, in such matters it is not unnecessary for any person to go to any Religious Scholar for clarification. With regard to Religious issues, the only time it will be necessary to refer to the knowledgeable and learned ones will be when an issue is beyond the understanding and comprehension of laypeople like us. In such a case there are two possibilities:
the first being that we open the Quran and Hadith and seek the issue for ourselves, and whatever comes to our minds we accept as being “Deen” and practice thereupon.
The second option being that we refer to those persons who are expert at the Quran and Hadith, and we rely on whatever ruling they issue which they have done after their expert reflection and understanding of the Quran and Hadith and also their lengthy experience and foresight. The first option is “one’s own opinion” and the second is called “Taqlid”, which is the logical need of reasoning and the obvious solution.
“Taqlid” is the logical need of reasoning and the obvious solution
To leave aside the research of the experts of Shariah and for a layman to seek for every ruling by contemplating on the Quran and Hadith is like the similitude of a person who has a very complicating illness and he deems it to be below his dignity to refer to the experts in the medical field. So in order to alleviate and solve his problem he purchases the bests and most authentic books on the subject of medicine and he relies on his own understanding and research of these books and seeks a cure for his illness.
I am quite certain that no intelligent person will resort to such foolishness. If any person is silly enough to carry out his treatment in this fashion, in that he does his own research and leaves aside the medical experts, then it is almost certain that he will never gain good health or a cure. In fact, he should first make arrangements for his burial before attempting to cure himself.
In a similar fashion, will a person who subjects the Deen to his own understanding fall into the pit of deviation and waywardness. It is for this reason that as many deviant sects we have before us are all the result of such abandonment of Taqlid and subjecting the Deen to whims and understandings.
What will be the standard of our likes and dislikes in religious matters?
(2). From this discussion the following question arises as to why an ordinary layman needs to make Taqlid of a specific Imam? That person who has gained such expertise in the science of the Quran and Ahadith that he has attained the stage of making his own Ijtihad, will no longer be regarded as a layman but a Mujtahid. For such a person it is not merely not necessary to make Taqlid of another expert in this field, in fact, it is not permissible. (However nowadays, students like us should not languish this false notion that we have become Mujtahid by seeking the assistance of the Urdu translated versions of the major Books).
And for that person who has not attained the rank of a Mujtahid, will remain a layman regardless of how many Books he has read. He will, however, have to refer to and consult the rulings of a Mujtahid. So, therefore, when a person has chosen a specific Imaam and he has faith in his (Imam’s) rulings and he practices thereupon, then he has fulfilled the duty and necessity that the Shariah has placed upon him. But, if he takes from another Imam what suits him, then the question arises that what is the distinguishing factor which allows him to choose between what he likes and dislikes? If it is said that this person has made the Quran and Hadith his distinguishing factor, and he opts for that ruling which (he finds to be) in conformity with the Quran and Hadith, then in reality such a person has made his intellect the distinguishing factor. It is exactly for this reason we had outlined that for such a person who is an expert in the sciences of the Quran and the Hadith and he is able to distinguish and find proof directly from theses sources, such a person is a Mujtahid himself and for him it is not permissible to make Taqlid of another expert. And if such a person is not an expert in the sciences of the Quran and the Hadith and he uses his intellect as a distinguishing factor, then such a person is a one who follows his own base whims and fancies. This will lead to the destruction of his Deen.
Following the desires of the self or the Qur’an and Hadith?
(3). It was the habit of many Auliyaa-ullaah that they gather the statements and rulings of the Aimmah. They would then choose from all the rulings those rulings wherein there is the most precaution. For example, if according to one Imam a certain thing was necessary and according to another it was not, so they would choose the ruling of necessity and practice thereupon. Also, for example, if a certain act was Makrooh according to one Imam and not so according to another, then these personalities would opt for the ruling of Karahat (being Makrooh) and consider it such, thereby abstaining from that thing. This is the sign of the true Allah –fearing servants. However, nowadays, abstaining from any Madhhab means that a person would opt for that ruling which best suits his naffs and desires, and practice thereupon. This, in reality, is not following the Quran and Hadith, it is following one’s own desires and passions. Shaitaan has given it the hue of following the Quran and Hadith.
Self or Personal Opinion causes harm
(4). Shah Waliullaah Muhaddith Dehlwi (R.A) stated that prior to the fourth century it was not a norm in any society to follow any specific Imam. The custom in those days was such that if any person needed to know any issue, he would refer to an Aalim and get his answer, whereupon he would practice. However, after the fourth century, Allaah gathered the Ummat in making Iqtidaa (Taqlid) of the four Imams. It was then understood to be necessary to make Taqlid of one of the four Imams. During those times, there was much goodness in this. The reason being that the Taqwa and Allaah-fearing in the people became less and was steadily decreasing. If it was not necessary to make Taqlid of only one specific Imam, then the masses would pick and choose between all the rulings and opt for what their fancies desire. The Deen would then have become a toy.
Hence, a cure for this “personal opinion” was that every person chooses one expert in the Shariah and remains steadfast upon his rulings. This is what is termed “Taqlid-e-Shakhsi”.
Is Taqlid an innovation in religion?
(5). The argument of the Ahl e Hadith is that since the “custom” of Taqleed came about after many centuries, therefore they say it is an innovation (Bid`ah). However, it is their error to term Taqlid a Bid`ah, because:
1: Firstly, if this was the case then the entire Ummat, besides the Ahl e Hadith – who only sprang up around the thirteenth century – is astray, Nauthubillah! This is precisely the same claim and argument presented by the Shiahs with regard to the Companions (radhiAllaahu anhum). Since, Islam has come until the day of Qiyamah, for anyone to accept that it did not exist for even one second, is spurious.
2: Secondly, this custom and habit existed even during the era of Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) and the Companions (radhiAllaahu anhum), that if any ordinary person was unaware of a ruling he would refer to the learned, and he would practice thereupon without seeking any proof. This is what is termed as “Taqlid”. Even though this system was not termed as Taqlid in those days, in practice it was exactly this. So, you also, do not call it “Taqlid”, term it “Iqtidaa” or “Ittibaa”.
3: Thirdly, let us assume that the pattern of Taqlid did not exist in those days, even then one cannot term it a Bid`ah. The reason being that it is Fardh for every person to follow the Religion and Shariah, and as I have illustrated above that nowadays if any person attempts to tread the path of the Shariah, without making Taqlid of a specific Imam, then he is almost certain to fall prey to the snares of shaitaan and the naffs. Therefore, to tread the correct path of the Shariah, without any pitfalls, this is one of the only ways, that is, to make Taqlid of an expert Imam of the Shariah. If one views the condition of the Ahl e Hadith, then it will be see that besides a few issues, they follow the Muhadditheen. Even though they refute the term “Taqlid” they are also “guilty‟ of this very same concept, without admitting to it. This Deen is not an invention of the mind and intellect; in fact, it is based upon Revelations and transmissions. For this chain of transmissions to remain intact, it is necessary for every latter generation to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors. This is a natural phenomenon, without which it would be difficult to tread upon the Shariah.
(6). The birthplace and origin of the Ahl e Hadith is un-segregated India, the reason being that previously, the Hanafi Madhhab was widespread here. It is for this reason that all their objections, from the first to the last, is directed at the Hanafi Madhhab. This was not sufficient; they even attacked the personality of Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi alaih).
I regard this attitude of theirs to be extremely destructive for themselves, because a significant sign of his lofty status and rank is that personalities such as Mujaddid Alfe Thani and Shah Abdul Azeez Dehlwi (rahmatullahi alaihima) are amongst his Muqalliden. The objection and dissention of a few limited-intellect persons will make no difference to the loftiness of Imam Saheb. However, the impending harm that is sure to befall people who slur and revile the Salf-e-Saaliheen is to their peril.
Another point of the theoretical differences of the Ahl e Hadith, is that sometimes these people, through their enthusiasm of making their own Ijtihad, tend to separate themselves from the Ijma (consensus) of the Ummat. Here I will quote two such examples:
20 rakat taraweeh Salat
a). You may be well aware that the practice of twenty Rakats Taraaweeh Salat has continued amongst the Ummat since the Khilafat of Hadhrat Umar (radhiAllaahu anhu) until the present time. All the four Imams of the Madha-hib are unanimous on this also, but the Ahl e Hadith crowd have branded this practice a Bid`ah. Regarding this issue, I have heard with my own ears, some people using distasteful words for Hadhrat Umar (radhiAllaahu anhu).
b). The second example is that of three Talaqs in one sentence. That is, if a husband gives his wife three Talaqs in one sentence or one sitting, then all three Talaqs will be effective. This Fatwa was passed by Hadhrat Umar (radhiAllaahu anhu) and all the Companions and Tabieen accepted this ruling. I know of not a single Sahaabi or Tabiee who disagreed or differed with this ruling. This is also the unanimous ruling of all the four Madha-hib. However, the Ahl e Hadith state very vociferously that in such a case only one Talaq comes into effect.
In citing these two examples, I do not wish to discuss their objections and views, I am merely making this point that in such issues these Ahl e Hadith people differ with the consensus of the Ummat and in doing so they bear a great similarity to the Shiahs. Nabi (sallAllaahu alaihi wasallam) had ordered the Ummat with following the path chalked out by the Khulafaa-e-Raashideen. This connection and string has slipped from their hands.
I deem the following scenario as being the root of deviation, that any ruling of the Companions, Taabien, Aimmah and pious predecessors of the Ummat is not regarded as being correct, and the so-called well-studied individuals of today regard their differences to the rulings of the pious predecessors as being more correct and their views as being authentic. Nauthubillah!
Derived From: Differences in the Ummah & the straight path
To read this article in Urdu, click on the link below: