In the times of the Sahabah, taqleed was observed much. Those of them who could not give much time to acquire knowledge, or could not decide a particuir issue on their own ijtihad, consulted other jurist Sahabah and conducted themselves on that. We find that they observed both Absolute Taqleed and Taqleed Shakhsi, the examples of the former could fill a whole volume. Here are some examples of ‘taqleed mutlaq’ (Absolute Taqleed):
(I) Sayyidina Ibn Abbas (RA) said that Sayyidina Umar (RA) delivered a sermon at Jabiyah, saying, “O People! If anyone wishes to ask anything about the Qur’an, he must go to Ubayy ibn Ka’b . He who wishes to know about injunctions on inheritance, must go to Zayd ibn Thabit. And one who intends to learn about fiqh must go to Mu’az ibn Jabal And if anyone wishes to know about wealth and property he must come to me because Allah has made me its guardian and distributor.” (Khateeb)
Sayyidina Umar (RA) named the subjects and the scholars whom people should approach for knowledge. Those who were qualified might even learn the arguments while the others might simply rely on their words and act on them. This is taqleed. Thus, the Sahabah conducted themselves on the rulings given and, if they were not qualified, did not ask for evidences and reasoning.
(2) Sayyidina Saalim said that someone asked Sayyidina Abdullah Ibn Umar (RA) that a man borrowed some amount of money from another for a specified period. The creditor was willing to waive a portion of the debt if the debtor repaid before the due date. Sayyidina Ibn Umar (RA) did not like it and he disallowed it. (MUwatta Imam Malik p279)
There is no clear Hadith on this question traceable to the Prophet (SAWS). So, this is the ijtihad of Sayyidina Ibn Umar (RA) and his own analogical conclusion. Neither the person enquiring asked for reasoning nor did Sayyidina Ibn Umar (RA) disclose it. This is taqleed.
(3) Abdur Rahman said that he asked Muhammad ibn Sireen (RAh) whether it was allowed to enter the
public bath (for having a bath). He said that Sayyidina Umar (RA) regarded it to be makruh (disliked). (Al-Matalib al-Aaliyah, Ibn Hajar, v1 p51)
The great tabi’ee of the calibre of Muhammad ibn Sireen (Rah) thought it enough to say that Sayyidina Umar (RA) called it makruh, but did not offer any reasoning. In fact, there are marfoo’ Ahadith on this subject, one of them narrated by Sayyidina Umar himself. (Fath al-Bari, v2 p150)
(4) Sulayman ibn Yasar (Rah) said that Sayidina Abu Ayub Ansari (RA) began his journey for Hajj. When on the route to Makkah, he reached Naziyah, he lost his riding beasts. On the Day of Sacrifice (10th Zul-hajjah, when Hajj was over) he came to Sayyidina Umar (RA). He related to him his predicament. Sayyidina Umar (RA) instructed him to perform those duties that a pilgrim performing Umarah performs. In this way, he would come out of the ihram and next year he should return in the months of Hajj and perform Hajj and offer tle sacrifice that he would afford. (Muwatta Imam Malik p149)
Neither was reasoning requested nor offered. He acted on the ruling of Sayyidina Umar (RA). This is taqleed.
(5) Mus’ab ibn Sa’d said, “When my father (Sa’id ibn Abi Waqqas RA) offered salah in the mosque, he performed the bowing and prostration carefully, but he was nevertheless brief about them. But, at home, he prolonged them (and other postures of salah). I asked him respectfully why he did that. He said that he was the imam of the people who followed him. (They would think that they too should prolong their salah if they saw him do that: That would soon become necessary.) (Majma Az-Zawaid v1 p182)
This discloses that the masses did not merely follow the sayings of the Sahabah but also emulated their actions, that is they made taqleed. Thus, there was no question of seeking reasoning on making taqleed of deeds. They were very careful people.
(6) Sayyidina Umar RA saw Sayyidina Talhah ibn Ubaydullah RA wearing a coloured cloth while in a state of ihram. So, he asked him why, and Talhah RA, said, “0 Ameer ul-Mu’mineen! This is a fabric unscented (which is allowed while assuming the ihram).” Sayyidina Umar RA said, “You people are imams and leaders. People follow you. If one who is unaware observes you, he would presume that since you were wearing it in a state of ihram (so it is permissible, and he too would wear scented coloured cloth).” (Ahmed v1 p196)
(7) Also Sa’yidina Umar RA saw Sayyidina Abdur Rahman ibn Awf RA wearing socks (of a particular kind), and said:
“I adjure you that you must remove them because, I fear, the people might see you and follow you.” (Asabah, Ibn Hajar v2 p361)
The foregoing events prove clearly that people made taqleed of the Sahabah, who were distinguished in knowledge and understanding, not only of their sayings and rulings but also of the deeds which meant that they did not seek to know the reasonings. This made it all the more necessary for the Sahabah to be careful and they impressed upon others too to be careful.
(8) Sayyidina Umar RA sent Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Mas’ood RA to Kufah and he wrote a letter to the people of Kufah,
“I have sent Ammar ibn Yasar RA as ameer and Abdullah ibn Mas’ood RA, as a teacher and minister. Both of them are the superior Sahabah of the Prophet SAWS . They are also the participants of Badr. So, follow them and obey them.”
(9) Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Mas’ood RA explained the principles of judgement:
“Whoever has to pass judgement after today must judge by Allah’s Book. If he does not find it in Allah’s Book then he must decide according to the judgement of Allah’s Messenger SAWS. But, if he does not find it in Allah’s Book or in the judgements of the Prophet SAWS then he must decide according to the judgements of the righteous. But if he has a case in which he does not find it in Allah’s Book, in the Prophet’s and the righteous men’s judgement then he must make his own ijtihad.”
He has mentioned four stages. The Qur’an, the Prophet’s sunnah, judgements of the righteous and ijtihad. However, no sane person can deny that even though Allah’s Book is to be consulted first, it does not mean that the sunnah should be overlooked completely and Allah’s Book should be interpreted by one’s own opinion. Rather, the ulama are agreed that Allah’s Book should be interpreted in the light of the sunnah. If this is not done then it would be argued that the punishment of an adulteror is a hundred stripes according to the Qur’an, so it is not neëessary to turn to the sunnah and the command of rajam (stoning to death) being contrary to the Qur’an is void (we seek refuge in Allah from this evil thought.) This line of argument is wrong accordingly to the concensus of the ummah.
Exactly in the same way, the judgements of the righteous are not totally ignored when judging by the Qur’an and sunnah. Rather, the Book and sunnah are interpreted in the light of their views. In fact, the essence of taqleed is that when a command of the Book and sunnah is not clear, then to choose one of the several differing meanings, help is sought in the sayings of one of the mujtahideen, as we have discussed earlier.
Besides, Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Mas’ood RA gave this command to one wbo was appointed to the office of judge. This means that it is not only the ignorant and illiterate who have to make taqleed, but even the ulama must have recourse to the more learned of their predecessors. (It is quite another matter that there is much difference in the taqleed of an ignorant and of a scholar, as we shall observe later.)
(10) Saalim ibn Abdullah said:
“Sayyidina Ibn Umar did not recite behind the imam. So, I asked Qasim ibn Muhammad RAh about it and he said, “If you (too) give it up then people who are worthy of being emulated have given it up. And if you recite it then people worthy of being emulated have recited it.” And Qasim was one of those who did not recite it.’ (Muwatta Imam Muhammad p96)
Observe! Sayyidina Qasim ibn Muhammad Rah – was among the elder tabi’een of Madinah, one of the seven jurists. His words say clearly that when an issue is debatable, it is proper to follow any imam (with sincere intention.)
(11) There is a report ascribed to Tabaqat lbn Sa’d:
Someone asked Sayyidina Hasan RA if he drank water from the Umm Sa’d though it is sadaqah. He said, “Abu Bakr and Umar RA, drank from the well of Urnm Sa’d so what is wrong (if I drink)? (Kanz ul-Ummal v3 p318)
Observe that he did not cite anyone else’s conduct but that of Sayyidina Abu Bakr RA and Sayyidina Umar RA. In other words, he followed them (made their taqleed).
These are a few random examples though there are innumerable such in books of aathar. Allamah Ibn al-Qayyim wrote:
“Of the Sahabah, those whose edicts are preserved, number a hundred and thirty. They include men and women.” (I’lam al-Muqi’een v1 p9)
The Sahabah offered references to the Book and sunnah sometimes and refrained from offering them sometimes simply stating the ruling. There are more examples, than offered by us, in Muawatta Imam Maalik, Kitab al-Aathar of Imam Abu Hanifa, Musannaf Abdur Razzaq, Musannaf Ibn Abu Shaybah, Sharah Mu’ani al-Aathar by Tahawi, Mutàlib al-Aaliyah by Hafiz ibn Hajar and so on.