Fiqh, The Legal Status of Following a Madhab / Monday, August 18th, 2008

Like the Qur’an, many Ahadith also confirm the validity of taqleed. We reproduce some of them:

Sayyidina Huzayfah (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said, “I do not know how long I will survive among you. So, after me, follow two of them — Abu Bakr and Umar.” ( Tirmidhi, Ibn Maja, Ahmed)

The Hadith uses the word iqtida (follow). It is not used to follow anyone in administrative affairs, but to follow someone in religious matters. Ibn Manzoor wrote:

(Qudwah is the person whose sunnah one pursues).

He wrote further:

(qudwah means uswah) (Lisan ul-Arab v20 p31)

The Qur’an also uses this word to mean following the Prophets (AS) and the righteous in religious matters.

“Those are they whom Allah guided, so follow their guidance.” (6:90)

We also read in the account of the Prophets death.

Sayyidina Abu Bakr followed the Prophet’s salah and the people followed Abu Bakr’s salah. (Bukhari)

Sayyidina Abu Wa’il reported:

“I sat near Shaybah ibn Uthman and he said, ‘(One day) Sayyidina Umar (RA) was sitting at the same place as you are now sitting and he said that he intended to distribute among the people all the gold and silver found in the Ka’bah. I told him that he had no authority to do so because both your predecessors (the Prophet (SAWS) and Sayyidina Abu Bakr (RA)) did not do so. He said that indeed both of them are such as must be followed.” (Ahmed)

It is reported by Sayyidina Anas (RA) that the Prophet (SAWS) said in a gathering, “Shortly a person entitled to admittance to Paradise will come to you.” Indeed, an Ansar Sahabi came in. The same thing happened on the second and third days. So, Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Amr (Amr) went to him and stayed overnight with him, imagining that he would find him occupied in worship exceptionally.But, after some devotional exercises, he slept all night until Fajr. So, Abdullah ibn Amr (RA) said to him:

“I had come to you to watch your deeds and follow you.” (Ahmed)

In all these Ahadith, the word ‘iqtida’ is used for following anyone in religious matters, particularly in the first two Ahadith. This is called taqleed.

(2) Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Amr (RA) reported that the Prophet said:

“Surely, Allah will not take away knowledge by removing it from (hearts of) men, but He will take away the ulama (to Him) till when there are none of them left, then people will make the ignorant their chiefs. They will be asked and they will issue fatawa (edicts, rulings) without knowledge. Being misguided themselves, they will misguide others, too.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Mishkat)

This Hadith clearly says that to give fatawa is the work of the ulama. This in turn means that people must ask them for religious rulings and they must issue commands on which people must conduct themselves. This is the aim of taqleed.

Another thing worth considering in this Hadith is that the Prophet (SAWS) foretold of a time when the scholars would disappear. The ignorant will issue fatwa. The question arises, what other option people have of observing Shar’iah in those times than in following the expired ulama because neither is anyone qualified to seek direct guidance from Qur’an and sunnah nor is there a surviving scholar to refer to. Hence, the only option available to them is to follow the departed scholars through their writings and so on.

Therefore, the Hadith is evidence that as long as the mujtahid ulama are available, they must be consulted and their rulings must be observed. When there is no scholar left, instead of regarding the unworthy as mujtahid and acting on their fatawa, taqleed must be made of previous ulama.

(3) Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said:

“If anyone gives a ruling without knowledge then the sin for it will be on him who gives the ruling. “ (Abu Dawood)

This Hadith is an explicit evidence in support of taqleed. If taqleed was not proper and conducting oneself on a fatwa without examining evidence was not proper then why was there sin on one who issues fatawa? Rather, just as the mufti was a sinner for issuing an edict without knowledge, so too the person acting on it without investigating its soundness should be called a sinner. Thus, the Hadith made it clear that if anyone is not a scholar then his responsibility is only to the extent that he enquires from one whom he thinks is a scholar of the Qur’an and sunnah. If the scholar gives a wrong answer then no sin will fall on the person asking the question, but on him who answers.

(4) Sayyidina Ibrahim ibn Abdur Rahman al-Uzri (Rah) has reported that Allah’s Messenger said:

“The trustworthy people of every generation will be the bearers of the religious knowledge. They will remove the manipulations of those who exaggerate in it, false claims of the liars and the interpretations of the ignorant.” (Mishkat Al-Masabeeh, Bayhaqi)

This Hadith scorns on the interpretation of the ignorant and says that it is the duty of the ulama to refute them. Thus those who do not posses the insight of the mujtahid must not rely on their understanding to interpret the commands of the Qur’an and sunnah. Rather, they should get in touch with the scholars. This is taqleed. Besides, though only those who have some understanding will try to interpret the Qur’an and sunnah, yet the Hadith calls them ignorant and condemns his interpretation. Thus, a little knowledge of Arabic is not enough to extract commands and rulings from the Qur’an and sunnah. Rather, it requires the insight of the mujtahid.

(5) Sayyidina Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (RA) has reported that some Sahabah began to come late for salah. So, the Prophet (SAWS) encouraged them to come early and join the front rows in prayer. He also said:

“Observe me and follow me and those after you will observe you and follow you.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Of course, it does mean that worshippers in the front rows will watch him and follow him while those in rows behind will watch and follow them. The other meaning apart from that could be that they should come early to be able to obseve the Prophet’s (SAWS) method of salah carefully, so that those who succeed them will make their taqleed and follow them.

Ibn Hajar explains this Hadith:

“Some people have said that this Hadith means, you learn the commands of Shari’ah from me and the tabi’een following you will learn from you and this would go on one after another till the world ends.” (Fath al-Bari v2 p171)

(6) Sayyidina Sahl ibn Mu’az (RA) reported on the authority of his father:

“A woman came to the Prophet (SAWS) and submitted: 0 Messenger of Allah! My husband has gone away participating in jihad. When he offered salah, I followed him, and I followed all his deeds. Now, you teach me a deed that may make me equal to his deed (which is jihad) till he returns (to the end)……..” (Ahmed)

The woman disclosed that she followed her husband not merely in salah, but in all deeds. However, the Prophet did not disallow her in any way (to do so).

(7) Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Amr (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “If anyone has two characteristics than Allah will record him as grateful and perseverant.” The two characteristics are:

“He watches someone higher in rank than him in matters of religion and follows him, and watches a person lower than him in worldly matters, and thanks Allah that He has kept him better off than him.” (Tirmidhi, Sharah Ibn al-Arabi v9 p317)

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