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

Taqleed For The Erudite Scholar

He is a scholar who though has not attained the degree of ijtihad, yet has learnt the Islamic sciences from expert teachers and imparts education and writes books under the supervision of leading ulama for a long period of time. He is proficient in tafseer, Hadith, fiqh and their fundamentals. He is capable of deriving benefit from the worthy predecesors in examining an issue and is well-conversed with their temperament and style and gets to the correct conclusion. Shah Waliullah described him thus:

“Mutabahhar fil mazhab (learned deeply in religion) is one who has committed the books of the school of thought (or his imam). He is sound of understanding. He knows Arabic and its nuances and recognizes the preferred levels (of the sayings of his imam). He knows well the meanings of the language of the jurists which are apparently absolute with some catch giving a concealed meaning.” (Aqd al-Jeed p51)

Though such a man continues to be a muqallid because he has not attained the degree of ijtihad, yet he can be a mufti of his mazhab. His taqleed is different from that of the masses in the following respects:

He is also aware of the evidences of the religion while the layman is aware of religion alone.

Being a mufti, he is competent to choose an opinion out of several from his mazhab to suit his times and useage or to explain his school of thought. Those issues that are not treated in the books, he is able to explain them in the light of the fundamentals and rules of his mazhab.

In certain peculiar cases he can adopt the opinion of a mujtahid other than his imam and issue rulings thereon. Conditions for these are enumerated in books of fundamentals of fiqh and of fatwa.

Shah Waliullah said about such a person if he finds a Hadith that contradicts his imam’s edict and there is no stronger evidence:

…is it then proper for him to act on the Hadith at the cost of his mazhab? There have been long discussions on this subject. We reproduce the words of Dastur us-Salikeen as cited by the another of Khazanatur Riwayat (to the end)

The Shah then mentions that a section of the ulama hold that he should not give up his imam’s mazhab because he has not attained the degree of ijtihad. The imam might have observed an evidence which escaped this man. However, a large number of the ulama hold that if he has tried to embrace all aspects of the question and its arguments then because of the authentic Hadith, he may ignore the imam’s opinion provided the following conditions are kept in mind:

(1) He is the erudite scholar possessing the attributes mentioned earlier.

(2) The Hadith on which he relies to ignore his imam’s opinion is authentic in the eyes of all the ulama because the mujtahids sometimes differ on the authenticity of a Hadith. Those who regard it as Saheeh, act on it but those who consider it to be weak, leave it alone. So if his mujtahid has omitted it then he may have found it weak and for a non-mujtahid it is not proper to act on it.

(3) There is no verse of the Qur’an or hadith with a contradictory meaning.

(4) The meaning of the Hadith is very clear and explicit. It may not have another meaning which is satisfactory. For, often a Hadith bears many interpretations. The mujtahid then selects one meaning with his ijtihad insight, so his mazhab cannot then be said to contradict the Hadith. In such cases a muqallid cannot correctly adopt another meaning because the essence of taqleed is to go by the meaning elected by the mujtahid when the Qur’an and sunnah offer more than one meaning. So in making taqleed of the mujtahid one is not said to contradict the Hadith.

(5) It is also necessary that the opinion adopted because of the Hadith is not contradictory to the consensus of the four imams. To exit beyond the mazhabs of the four imams pose dangers which we have mentioned previously.

An erudite scholar may ignore his imam ‘s opinion if he meets these conditions. The explanations of the religious leaders are given below.

Allamah Nawawi said:

“Shaykh Abu Umar said that if a man of the Shafi’ee school finds a Hadith that is against his mazhab then it will be seen if this man meets the conditions of ijtihad, or he has the rank of ijtihad in this chapter or this affair. Then he may conduct himself according to the Hadith. But though he does not meet the conditions fully yet does not find a thorough answer to the Hadith and he finds it unbearable to oppose the Hadith then too he may act on the Hadith provided another regular imam, besides Imam Shafi’ee has acted on it. This thing will become an excuse for him to leave his imams mazhab in this case.”

Allamah Nawawi said that this opinion of Shaykh Umar (Ibn as-Salah) is excellent and must be observed. (al-Majmoo, Sharah al-Muhazab v1 p105)

Shah Waliullah also adopted this opinion. He said:

“In this issue, the preferred opinion is the third. It is what Allamah Ibn as-Salah has adopted, and Allamah Nawawi has supported it and called it excellent. (Here, he has reproduced the above text of Allamah Nawawi). (Aqd al-Jeed p57)

Further, the scholars have debated whether ijtihad can be limited or has to be complete, always. A man may not be a mujtahid on all Shari’ah matters but may specialise on certain issues. Some scholars have rejected such specialisation, but many of them hold that ijtihad can be in a limited field Allamah Tajuddin Sabki, for instance wrote:

“Ijtihad can be limited and some people may have ability to make ijtihad in some fields, like obligations. They acquire complete mastery over the subject.”

Allamah Banani writes in the marginal notes of Sharah Jami’ al-Jawami:

“Religious ijtihad is acquired sometimes in a limited manner and some such people who are below the rank of mujtahid al-fatya also acquire it.” (Marginal notes Jami’al Jawami v2 p403-404)

Allamah Abdul Aziz Bukhari writes in his Sharah to usul Fakhr al-Islam Bazdawi:

Generally the ulama do not regard ijtihad as undivisible. A scholar may acquire ability of ijtihad in some departments, and not in others. (Kashf al-Asrar v3 p137)

Imam Ghazali wrote:

Ijtihad is not a subject that cannot be divided and a scholar may have this ability in some fields and not in others. (Al-Mustafa v2 p103)

Allamah Taftazani wrote:

These conditions are for a complete mujtahid who is qualified to give fatwa on all issues. As for him who is mujtahid in some fields, he must have knowledge in those fields only….. (Al-Talweeh ma’l at-Tawdeeh v2 p118)

Mawlana Ameer Ali wrote as its marginal notes:

“He who is a mujtahid in specialised fields, it is necessary for him that he should be aware of the fundamentals of deduction of the imam he follows, for he will observe them in his deduction. Hence, a new ruling is called ijtihad fil hukm and a new evidence for a mujtahid’s ruling is takhreej.” (At-Tawsheeh ala at-Talweeh p604)

Allamah Ibn al-Humam also agreed that ijtihad can be divided or specialised. For such a mujtahid, taqleed is wajib in only these issues in which he practices ijtihad. His text is:

(Tayyassar at-Tahreer v4 p246)

Exactly the same thing is written by Allamah Zayn ud-din Ibn Nujaym (Fath at-Ghifar bi Sharahal Manar v3 p37). However, Allamah Ibn Ameer al-Haj has ruled that the conditions of ijtihad are of whole nature and cannot be divided. So it is necessary to acquire them even for partial ijtihad. However, the ability to rule in every issue on the evidences can be divided. So, it is possible to have that in some issues, and not in others. (At-Taqreer wat Tahreer v3 p294)

Anyway, in the light of the foregoing, if an erudite scholar has attained limited ijtihad in a particular field then he can decide that the ruling of his imam is contrary to a certain authentic Hadith. He must conduct himself according to the Hadith. Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi has written (Sabeel ur-Rasheed p30-31) that it is essential for every Believer to give up the imam’s ruling if it is established to be against the Book and sunnah. But, how can the masses know that?

However, Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s word is the most excellent and final on the subject. We reproduce his full text:

“If a broad minded, intelligent scholar learns through his own investigation, or a layman through such a scholar, provided he is God-fearing, that the preferable course in an affair is the other (weaker) one then he must see whether it is possible to act there through legal evidence. If so, then he must act on that to protect Muslims from differences. We have support for it in this Hadith.

Sayyidah Ayshah reported that Allah’s Messenger said, “You do not know that your people, the Quraysh, reduced the Ka’bah when they rebuilt it from the foundations of Ibrahim.” She asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Get it built on that foundation.” He said, “I would have done it, if the times of disbelief of the Quraysh had not been so recent. People will wonder that I dismantled the Ka’bah. So, I have not to interfere, here.”

Observe! Although it was preferable to have it built on the foundation of Sayyidina Ibrahim, but it was also proper in Shari’ah to leave it incomplete, though disinclined, the Prophet chose the disinclined course to avoid public unrest and mischief.

It is reported that Sayyidina lbn Mas’ood offered four raka’at fard (during a journey). Someone reminded him that he had objected to Sayyidina Uthman (for not offering the qasr) but he did the same thing. He said, “To do otherwise might have caused mischief.” So, though it is qasr that is offered in salah in journey yet he chose the other course to avoid mischief and it seems he regarded that to be allowed. In short, these Ahadith prove that if the disclined course is lawful, it is better to choose that (at such times).

However, if there is no support to act on the unpreferred course and giving it up is wajib — or doing it would be unlawful — and an authentic hadith supports the preferrable course then one must conduct oneself on the Hadith. Taqleed is not then lawful on this question in any way, for, the rçal religion is the Qur’an and Hadith, and taqleed only aims to allow smooth and safe conduct on Qur’an and hadith. When both do not concur, opt for Qur’an and Hadith. To stick to taqleed in these circumstances is the taqleed that Qur’an and Hadith have condemned, but, it is not allowed to criticise the mujtahid even in one’s heart. For, he may not have learnt of this Hadith, or he may have seen it with a weak sanad. Not having learnt of the Hadith, in no way diminishes his stature, for even the elder Sahabah did not sometimes know of some Ahadith for long and that in no way detracted their scholarly competence.

Similarly, the muqallid must not be criticised for continuing to follow a mujtahid of the belief that his opinion does not contradict the Hadith. He does not reject the Hadith and aims to abide by Shari’ah.

Again, it is not proper to blame the muqallid who ceased to make taqleed for the aforementioned reason. Their difference is handed down by the predecessors. It follows the principles laid down by the ulama: “My mazhab, I imagine to be correct with a possibility of mistake; the other mazhab, I imagine to be wrong with a possibility of being right.” When all are right then why act on only one?

However, one who opposes in beliefs or condemns the predecessors is outside the folds of ahl us-Sunnah and jama’t. For, they are those who hold the belief held by the Sahabah while this conduct is against them and it includes one among the pursuers of bid’ah (innovation) exaggerates taqleed and questions the Qur’an and Hadith is like that. Both these kinds must be avoided as far as possible. Also shun debates.” (Al-Iqtisad fit-Taqleed wal-Ijtihad p42-45)

The Mawlana has shown a moderate course which, if acted upon, should end many mutual confrontations of the Muslims.

As we have seen, an erudite scholar may give up an opinion of his imam on the basis of an authentic Hadith under certain circumstances. But, even this partial difference retains him as his muqallid on an overall basis. Hence, many Hanafi jurists have discarded Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinions and adopted those of other imams. For instance, Imam Abu Hanifah holds that consuming intoxicants in small quantities that do not cause intoxication, but are stimulating, are allowed. But, jurists of his school of thought have differed from him and adopted the majority opinion. Similarly, they differ with him on the question of crop-sharing between landlord and cultivator.

These are examples where all the jurists did not see eye-to-eye with him. There are many examples of individuals differing with him because of a Hadith.

Nevertheless, this issue is very delicate and must be treated with caution. Not everyone is allowed to assume this role. The conditions mentioned must be adhered to strictly.

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