“O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.” (4:59)
The ‘ulul amr’ (those in authority) are said by some to be the Muslim rulers and governors and by others to be the jurists. The second explanation is by Sayyidina Jabir ibn Abdullah, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Ata ibn Abu Rabah, Ata ibn as-Sa’ib, Hasan Basri, Abu al-Aaliyah and many others. Imam Razi has preferred this explanation citing many arguments.
“It is preferrable to apply the meaning ‘ulama to ulul amr’ in this verse.” (Tafseer Kabeer v3 p334)
Imam Abu Bakr Jassas found no contradiction in both the Ahadith. Rather both meanings are valid. The rulers need to be obeyed in political matters while the ulama must be obeyed in issues pertaining to Shari’ah. (Ahkam ul Quran; Jassas v2 p256)
Allamah Ibn al-Qayyim Al-Jawzi saiçl that:
“Obedience to the rulers leads finally to obedience to the scholars of religion because the rulers obey the ulama in matters of Shari’ah.” (I’lam ul-Muqi’een; Ibn Qayyim v1 p7)
Anyway, the verse asks the Muslims to obey Allah and His Messenger and the ulama and jurists who explain the words of Allah and His Messenger and this (last) obedience is taqleed.
The next portion of this verse is:
“Then if you quarrel on anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the last day.” (11:59)
According to the above explanation, it is a continuous sentence in which the mujtahideen are addressed. Abu Bakr Jassas wrote in support of ulama as ‘those in aurhority’.
“That, Allah’s words, ‘if you quarrel’ follow immediately His statement about ‘ulul amr (those in authority)’ is evidence that ulul amr are the jurists, because Allah has commanded all men to obey them. Then, after saying, if you quarrel , He commanded the ulul amr that they should refer back to Allah’s Book and His Messenger’s sunnah that in which they differ. This command could be directed only to the jurists because the masses and the unknowledgeable cannot be of that standard and they do not know how they have to refer back any matter to Allah’s Book and the sunnah. And they do not know how to derive evidence for new issues. So, it is the ulama who are addressed here.” (Ahkam ul-Quran v2 p257)
The famous scholar of Ahle Hadith, Allamah Nawwab Siddiq Hasan Khan has also confirmed in his exegesis that the words of the Qur’an in this verse are addressed to the Mujtahadeen.
“And obviously this is an address by itself and it is directed to the Mujtahids.”
So, it is not correct to conclude that those who are not competent to make ijtihad may refer to the Qur’an and Hadith directly in connection with disputed issues and derive their conclusions. Rather, the first sentence of the verse addresses those people who cannot derive commands directly from the Qur’an and sunnah. It is their duty to obey Allah and His Messenger by asking for rulings and explanations from the ulul amr and conducting themselves on it. The second sentence addresses the mujtahideen. They are directed to turn to Allah’s Book and the Messenger’s sunnah and deduce commands. So, in the first sentence the muqallid is commanded to make taqleed and in the second the mujtahid to make ijtihad.