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

Taqleed of The Masses

This is the first level of taqleed. By masses, we mean:

(i) Those who are completely unaware of the Arabic language and the Islamic sciences though they may be well educated and adept in other sciences.

(ii) Those who though they know Arabic and can understand Arabic books, but have not acquired knowledge of tafseer, Hadith, fiqh and related religious matters from a teacher in a proper way.

(iii) Those who though they have accomplished Islamic sciences formally but have not gained proficiency in tafseer, Hadith, fiqh and their fundamentals, nor do they have insight in them.

These three kinds form the masses and are governed by a uniform command.

They have no option but to make an unquestioned taqleed. They have no qualification and ability to judge directly from sources, so they have to attach themselves to a mujtahid to learn the rulings of Shari’ah.

Allamah Khateeb Baghdadi writes:

“As for the question, who is allowed to make taqleed, he is of the masses who is unaware of the workings of the injunctions of Shari’ah. It is proper that he practice taqleed of a scholar and conduct himself on his teachings.”

…Then he cites evidence from the Quran and Ahadith and writes:

“Also, because such a man is not capable of making ijtihad. So, he must make taqleed as a blind man makes taqleed of one with sight in verifying the qiblah, for he has no other means to find the direction on his own. It is, therefore, wajib on him to seek guidance from one with eye-sight.” (Al-Fiqh wal-Mutaffaqih p68)

The muqallid of this level should not indulge in argument and evidences. He need only select a mujtahid and rely on him in every matter. In fact, even if he comes across a Hadith that seems to him to contradict his mujtahid imam, he must continue to obey him, telling himself that he has not understood the Hadith or that his imam would have a strong evidence for the difference.

This may seem strange, but the muqallid whom we are discussing has no option but to do this, for, if such a muqallid is allowed to forsake his imam when he comes across such a Hadith then there would be a terrible confusion and misguidance. To draw conclusion from the Qur’an and Hadith is a deep science which not everyone can master even if a whole life is devoted to it. The words of a Hadith may seem to mean something but read with the Qur’an and sunnah, an altogether different interpretation is forthcoming. It is my personal experience that many people have gone astray after conducting themselves on their own reading of the Ahadith without first acquiring a deep proficiency in the sciences of the Qur’an and Hadith.

A friend of mine who is a graduate is accustomed to reading books of Ahadith. He often said that he would give up anything from the teachings of Hanafi mazhab if he found a Hadith against that. Accordingly, he once taught another man that ablution is not made void on passing wind unless there is a bad odour with it or it emits a sound. I was there and I understood where he got his material from. Much as I tried to explain, he insisted that he had read a Hadith in Tirmizi. Finally, when I explained to him the Hadith in detail, he did repent that he had been observing that for a long time and had offered salah many times without repeating ablution.

He had seen this Hadith in Tirmizi:

Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah reported that Allah’s Messenger said that ablution becomes wajib when there is a sound or bad smell.

He also read this Hadith in Tirmizi:

If one of you is in a mosque and he feels air passing between his buttocks, he should not go out of the mosque (to perform ablution) till he has heard the sound or felt the bad smell (of the air). (Tirmizi v1 p24)

He understood from it that the nullifier of the ablution is a sound or bad odour. But, all the jurists are agreed that this Hadith does not mean that. Rather, the Prophet’s saying is for those people who are always in doubt who unnecessarily imagine that their ablution has become void. The meaning is that one must be so sure of it as indeed one is of the sound and bad smell, only when he is that sure the ablution is void. Thus, this meaning is very clear in another version:

If one of you is offering salah, and he feels sensation at his back which makes him doubt whether he has blown wind or not, then he must stay there till he hears the sound or smells the odour. (Abu Dawood v1 p24)

Besides, Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Zayd has made it clear that the Prophet had spoken these words to a man who was prone to doubts and suspicion, as transmitted in Abu Dawood.

Only one adept in the sciences of Hadith and who considers the different versions of the Hadith can arrive at a proper conclusion. If one looks only at a single hadith or its translation then one can risk being misled, as my friend had been.

If everyone were authorized to go against his imam on seeing a Hadith contradicting him then he might come across this Hadith:

“Sayyidina lbn Abbas reported that Allah’s Messenger without there being fear or rain in Madinah, offered the Zuhr and Asr salah together and also the Maghrib and Isha salah together. Sayyidina Ibn Abbas was asked, “What did the Prophet mean by that?” He said, “His aim was that his ummah may not get tied up in difficulty.” (Tirmizi v1 p46)

Now, anyone might argue that it is correct on this basis to offer the Zuhr salah at the time of Asr and Maghrib at the time of Isha without a compelling reason. He might even argue that he would go against his imam’s mujtahid whose teachings are different from the Hadith. In fact, none of the scholars interprets this Hadith to allow bringing together two salahs without a valid reason. In the light of the Qur’an and Ahadith, all scholars, to whichever of the four schools of thought they belong, and even those of the Ahle-Hadith, see it as a case of combination only in sight. (The Zuhr was offered at the very last time of the salah and the Asr at its very onset so that they appeared to have been offered together).

There are many other examples of this kind where anyone without deep knowledge of the religious sciences can go astray. The ulama insist that if anyone has not pursued religious knowledge in a proper way then he should not study the Qur’an and Hadith without supervision of an expert teacher.

Besides, we have already stated earlier that a mujtahid is followed for the very reason that the apparent contradiction in the Qur’an and Hadith may be explained. If there is a seeming difference in the teachings of Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Shafi’ee on a specific question then neither is that without evidence. Taqleed is done only because one who cannot reconcile the variations, attaches himself to the imam. There can be different interpretations on a question- by two imams, but the level of taqleed we are discussing now is for a person who is not competent to evaluate the intricacies of evidence and must submit to his imam unflinchingly.

It is just like a man who goes to a lawyer to satisfy his urgue of legal interpretaion, but he will not refer to books on the subjects of jurisprudence. His lawyer may tell him something about law but he subsequently finds a diferent thing in a law book, yet he will continue to trust the lawyer. It is not within everyone’s capabilities to extract results from law books. Much competence is required for that. So, in the case of the sciences of the Qur’an and Ahadith, the standard of competence and experience is much higher.

This is why the jurists insist that the masses should seek interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith from the ulama. If a mufti happens to give a wrong fatwa then he will be a sinner, not the person seeking it, but if this person interprets a Hadith on his own and is wrong and acts on that then he is not excused, for he should have gone to the scholar.

For example, the fast of a person is not invalidated by cupping. If a Mufti tells a person who has cupped himself that his fast is invalid and the person eats and drinks on the assumption that he is not fasting anymore that day then the burden falls on the Mufti for his mistake. It is stated in Hidayah that the man will only have to redeem his fast, not have to make an expiation. The author of Hidayah explains it thus: (because the mufti’s ruling is an evidence of Shari’ah for that layman).

But, if a layman reads the Hadith that the Prophet passed by a man during Ramadan who was cupping his blood and he said:

“The fast of the one who cups and one who is being cupped is invalidated.”

He now goes by it and thinks that his fast is void because he had cupped himself and eats and drinks during the day then, according to Imam Yusuf it is wajib for him to make an expiation, because it was fard on him to seek a mufti’s guidance, and he did not discharge his fard. Imam Yusuf said:

It is the duty of a common man that he follow the jurists, because he is not capable of arriving at a correct decision.

In short, the masses have to abide by the imam mujtahid in all circumstances. Even if they find a Hadith which contradicts what the imam says then they must convince themselves that they cannot fathom it and the imam has studied it from all angles. He may have other evidences too. The masses have no option other than this conduct of action, otherwise there would be utter confusion in commands of Shari’ah.

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