How may a Layman Recognise the Mujtahid?
(6) We have stated in the beginning that taqleed, whichever of the two kinds you consider, is nothing more than to ask one who is in adept in the science of Qur’an and sunnah and whose understanding, insight and juristic knowledge is reliable, that one who is incapable may know.
Some people wonder how an ignorant seeker will distinguish an adept imam? (Tahreek Azadi Fikr p13)
Let us suffice by reproducing Imam Ghazali’s text on the subject.
“Anyone may argue that the layman judges on doubts and can be deceived into raising the inferior over the superior and if he is able to decide then why can he not judge the actual issue? Deep reasoning is required to recognise the ranks of knowledge and excellence which a layman does not possess. Let us answer this with an example. The son of someone, who is not a physician, is ill. If he treats the child himself then certainly he is cruel, careless and responsible for his conduct. But, if he approaches a physician then he is no longer to blame. But, if there are two physicians in his locality and he opts for the lesser recognised then he is to blame. A common man can know of the ability of physicians from the recognition accorded to him by the- masses and he is the talk of the town. The lesser known physicians generally respect the senior among them and there are other signs too.
The same thing works with the ulama. The senior is more well-known. Thus if a layman finds a scholar of this kind then it is not proper for him to oppose him to satisfy his personal whims. This is a correct approach and more reasonable to keep Allah’s creation in check and to guide them to taqwa and to abide by Shari’ah.” (Al-Mustafa v2 p126)