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

Taqleed of Ahbar & Ruhban

2. Some people cite the following verse to renounce taqleed of imams and mujtahids:

“They have taken their rabbis and their monks as their Lords besides Allah.” (9:31)

However, we have made it clear in the previous pages that taqleed of a mujtahid, or obedience to him, is not as a maker of laws. Rather, he is an exponent of law. He is not bound to be followed. Rather, his explanations are believed and the Qur’an and sunnah are followed.

Mawlana Muhammad Isma’il Salfi commented on my article. He said:

“This is exactly what the Barelvis say, ‘We do not regard the grave-dwellers and the Khanqahs as Gods by themselves, but as His deputies or metaphors.” Then the route to polytheism is opened through etiquette, respect, wasilah (intermediaries) intercession, etc.” (Tahreek Azadi Fikr p128)

Now, if the Believers have misused those terms, it does not follow that everyone will misuse them. Allamah Ibn Taymiyah is not regarded by anyone to be anywhere near the Barelvi cult, but what does he say:

“Obedience to Allah and His Messenger is wajib for man. And the people in authority (the ulama or the rulers obedience) to whom Allah has commanded, their obedience follows obedience to Allah and His Messenger and is (subsequently) wajib — not as a separate entity by themselves.” (Fatawa Ibn Taymiyah v2 p461)

Ibn Taymiyah has himself differentiated between the terms. Can we say that it is the same phrase as the Barelvis use? The Allamah says elsewhere:

“It is wajib on the jinn and mankind in every condition, secretly and openly, that they obey only Allah and His Messenger. They should declare as lawful what Allah and His Messenger have made lawful. And what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful, they should declare as unlawful. And that which Allah and His Messenger have declared wajib, they should regard as wajib. However, since there are many commands of Allah and His Messenger which many people do not understand, so they turn to such scholars who can teach them the commands of Allah and His Messenger because they know better the sayings of the Prophet and their true meanings. Hence, the imams whom the Muslims follow are actually a wasilah (means) path and guide between the people and Allah’s Messenger . They convey to the Muslims the sayings of Allah’s Messenger , and according to their ijjtihad and abilities, explain the Prophet’s meanings. And sometimes Allah blesses a scholar with such knowledge and understanding which others do not possess.”

What more do the muqallids say? The reality of taqleed mentioned by us earlier is not a wee bit more than this.

Actually, the terminology is wrong when they are used in a narrow sense. For, otherwise all commands have been passed down through an intermediary. The muqallid never believe nor practice that the imams and mujtahids are liable to be obeyed biz-zaat (in person). We have stated previously that the muqallid:

do not regard taqleed as base of religious belief,

There is no taqleed in commands of Shari’ah that are established by continuous handing down.

There is no need to make taqleed of clearly evidenced text of the Qur’an and sunnah and there is no contradictory report.

Taqleed is made only when different interpretations are possible from the Qur’an and sunnah, so to arrive at a correct conclusion, one may not rely on one’s own reasoning but on a mujtahid’s.

The mujtahids are not innocent and free of sins. Rather, they are liable to err every time they make ijtihad.

An erudite scholar may ignore his mujtahid’s opinion and abide by a Hadith which is authentic and which rejects the mujtahid and there is no other Hadith or report with a contradictory message.

If this procedure is also polytheism and it can be described as raising the ulama to the level of God then perhaps no worldly action can escape this accusation.

Those people who are against taqleed, practice taqleed in one way or the other in actuality. Every new born of these people is not a mujtahid nor a scholar. Even the scholar does not have competence over every issue of the Book and sunnah nor does he get the time for it. So those among them who are not scholars, do ask guidance from scholars and follow them — make taqleed of them. They have published collections of their edicts which do not have evidences for their conclusions, and, if they are anywhere, a layman cannot determine how far they are authentic, so, he has to rely on their knowledge and understanding and then conduct himself accordingly. This itself is taqleed.

As for the scholars of the exgesis of the Qur’an, and the Hadith, can they say honestly that they can extract conclusions and answers for every new problem from the Qur’an and sunnah? Honestly, the answer would be ‘no’! They too turn to the works of predecessor ulama, not, of course the books of the Hanafi, Shafi’ee etc. but of Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn Hazm, Ibn al-Qayyim, Shawkani, and they adopt their findings because they have no time to compare them with their own.

They again, if they do have the time to make a comparison, they have no means to evaluate the Ahadith whether it is authentic, weak, etc. except to rely on the earlier scholars in taqleed. Sometimes, they reject a Hadith as weak on the basis of earlier findings for none of which is there ever an evidence with them. Reliance has to be placed on the scholars of this science. Sometimes of two Ahadith which disagree with one another they reject one again because the specialist scholars have rejected it. This entire way of conduct is nothing but taqleed. Now, if we ask them if the verse of surah at-Tawbah (9:31) quoted above applies to them then they would say surely that they are not following the imams as ‘liable to be obeyed’ but as experts in the science.

In fact, no aspect of life is without taqleed of experts of the sciences. If we were to disallow this without restriction then nothing of the religion and world will ever be done.

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