“So, ask the people (having the knowledge) of the Message, if you do not know.” (16:43 & 21:7)
This verse outlines the principle of guidance that those people who are not experts in knowledge and sciences may ask the specialists in this field and act accordingly. This is known as taqleed. Allamah Aalusi wrote:
“This verse is cited to prove that it is wajib to refer to the ulama for such things in which one lacks knowledge. Allamah Jalaluddin Suyuti wrote in Ikleel that it is deduced from this verse that taqleed is allowed to the common men for branch issues.” (Ruh-ul-Ma’ani, v14 p148)
Some people argue that this verse is specific to a particular situation. The idolators of Makkah used to ask why an angel was not sent to them as a Messenger. In answer, this particular verse was revealed and all its words are:
“And We sent not (Messengers) before you (O Prophet) but men to whom We sent revelation — ask the people (having the knowledge) of the Message, if you do not know.” (16:43)
Some exegetes say that the words ahi uz-Zikr (people- having the knowledge — of the message) are the scholars of the People of the Book, but some others hold that they are those of them who became Muslims in the Prophet’s times. Yet others contend that they are the people of the Qur’an, Muslims. The verse implies that everyone knows that all the past Prophets (AS) were mortal and none of them was an angel. So — those who disavow taqleed argue — that the context of the verse does not embrace the subject of taqleed and Ijtihad.
Our answer is that from the point of view of the text the verse is evidence of taqleed. We may take whatever meanig of ahl uz-Zir (people havig knowledge of the message), but we are instructed to turn to them because of our personal lack of knowledge. This can be correct only when we concede that ‘every unaware should refer to the aware.’ It is to this principle that the verse guides us and it is on this basis that we know that taqleed is valid. We have made it clear earlier that:
“Reliance is placed on the general words of the verse, not on the specific condition for which it is relvealed.” Therefore, we deduce from the verse the principle that those people who lack knowledge must refer to the knowledgeable. This is taqleed. Khateeb Baghdadi wrote:
“As for the question who may make taqleed, it is the masses who do not know the methods of Shari’ah commands. It is allowed to them to make taqleed of a scholar and conduct themselves on this directions because Allah says (Ask the people of the message).” (Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutataqqih, v2, p68)
He has then reported on his chain of transmission that Amr ibn Qays said that ahl uz-Zikr in the foregoing verse means people of knowledge (scholars).