Is Taqleed a Defect?
(7) We have established in the beginning of the book that even the Sahabah observed taqleed. Those of them who could not make ijtihad turned to the more learned among them. Some people alleged that taqleed was a defect created by poor knowledge, so to say that the Sahabah practiced taqleed is to find fault with them (we seek refuge in Allah from such thought). “They were all learned and there was no difference among them of jurist and non-jurist.”
However, this downpour is emotional. If anyone is not a jurist or mujtahid then that is not a defect. The Qur’an says:
“Surely the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the most pious of you.” (49:13)
It did not use the word (more learned of you), or (more able to understand). Thus if a person measures correctly on the scale of taqwa (righteousness) then he has not a little bit of defect from the religious point of view though he may possess nothing of fiqh and ijtihad.
All the Sahabah without exception, had attained the real excellence in religion that taqwa is. This is why they are known as (the best of creatures after the Prophets). However, to say that all of them were equal in knowledge is to contradict the Qur’an and Hadith.
“Why, then, should not of every section of them, a party only go forth, that they may become learned in (the knowledge of) religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, that they may be aware?” (33:122)
The verse instructs the Sahabah that a section of them must engage in jihad while another in learning. This verse is evidence that some of them engaged in jihad instead of acquiring knowledge, at Allah’s command. Thus Allah Himself created difference in the Sahabah in the field of knowledge and to consider it a defect is something from which we must seek Allah’s refuge.
We have also explained in the earlier pages the verse of surah an-Nisa:
“then those among them who can search the truth about it would have known… “(6:83)
Thus, the Qur’an has called some of them, ‘qualified to deduce.’ It commanded some others to refer to those ‘qualified to deduce.’ So, this difference is known from the Qur’an
Further, this is the well-known saying of the Prophet:
“May Allah brighten the man who hears my saying, memorises it, retains it and passes it on to others. For, there are some who though they bear knowledge, are not learned, and some who bear it but convey it to one more learned than they.” (Ahmed, Tirmizi, Abu Dawood)
The Sahabah are addressed in this saying. Two things are clear from it: A narrator of Hadith can be one who is not learned, and, that is not a defect because the Prophet has prayed that Allah may brighten him!
So, different kinds of people benefitted from the companionship of the Prophet SAWS. They included people like Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Umar , and like Sayyidina Aqra’ ibn Habis and Salamah ibn Sakhrah , the pious and simple villagers. As far as these simple, village-dweller Sahabis are concerned, they had the honour of the Prophet’s company, and also were righteous and pure and excellent. Thousands of learned people after them — even the greatest of mujtahids — cannot even touch their high station. But, it is to deny obvious facts, if we try to place them in the same row as Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Umar, Ali, Ibn Mas’ood and other jurists among the Sahabah . This is why of the a hundred and twenty four thousand Sahabah, according to Ibn Qayyim, rulings of only a little over a hundred and thirty are preserved. (I’lam ul Muqi’een v1 p9)
And, of course, it is very far-fetched to say that it was against their standing to make taqleed of anyone. They were the people who never hesitated to derive benefit from anyone in matters of religion. We have already cited examples of Sahabah making taqleed of one another. They were so unselfish and God-fearing that some of them did not even feel shy of making taqleed of the tabi’een and asking them questions on religious matters. Alqamah ibn Qays Nakh’ee was a student of Sayyidina Ibn Mas’ood. He was a tabi’ee, but many Sahabah approached him for knowledge. (Tuzkarat ul-Huffaz, Zahabi)
Hence, it is not a correct approach to reject the examples of taqleed by the Sahabah on the impression that it is a blot on their name.