Are scholars allowed to practice juristic emulation (taqlid)?
Are scholars allowed to practice juristic emulation?
The mukalafun [legally responsible persons] are divided into two groups: Those who are capable of deriving rulings from evidences through ijtihad [analogical reasoning] and those who are not qualified for ijtihad. The former are the mujtahidun [diligent scholars] and the latter are the muqallidun [followers]. Both groups must be knowledgeable of the legal ruling to implement it as they were commanded to do.
By virtue of the general ordinance (taklif), the mujtahidun are commanded to employ ijtihad to act upon the legal rulings while the muqalidun are commanded to follow their legal opinions.
The majority of legal theorists maintained that a muqalid includes the absolute layman who is incapable of making ijtihad and the scholar who has acquired some considerable knowledge related to ijtihad but has not reached the status of a mujtahid; both are required to make taqlid.
Scholars agreed on the permissibility of taqlid and its obligatoriness whenever it is impossible to employ ijtihad. The luminary, Muhammad Hasanein Makhlouf, said in Bulugh' Al-Sawl under the title "Basing opinions of the mujtahidin on legal sources": "[Jurists and others consider that the opinion of a mujtahid is to the muqallid what legal evidences are to the mujtahid. This is not because the opinions of a mujtahid are considered proofs that establish legal rulings like the words of the Messengers (peace be upon them) but because:
- they formed their opinions after scrutinizing the evidences derived from legal sources;
- they have probity;
- they have capacious scholarship;
- they enjoy sound comprehension;
- of their concern towards regulating and preserving Islamic law and its texts.
(Scholars] have therefore stipulated that a person who utilizes evidences and deduces legal rulings from particular evidences (since they are speculative) must possess special qualifications and abilities to enable him to examine evidences in a manner that renders his speculation tantamount to definitive knowledge. The aim is to eliminate any mistakes from religious rulings as much as possible."
He added: "[Just as Allah the Almighty and His Messenger [peace be upon him] commanded those who are qualified for ijtihad to spare no effort in investigating legal sources to reach Allah's rulings, He likewise commanded those from among the scholars who are unqualified to employ ijtihad to follow the legal opinions of the mujtahidun and endeavor to attain [the knowledge] that enables them to attain this honorable position or even a lesser position according to their ability for knowledge and understanding. Allah likewise commanded the layman to resort to scholars and follow their opinions. He says:
Ask the people of knowledge if you know not. [Qur`an 16: 43)
This means that scholars are to offer rulings for certain issues which they have deduced from legal evidence from primary sources, whether or not they are substantiated.
It is not obligatory for a mujtahid or a trusted scholar to mention the evidence for someone who does not know the ruling of Allah concerning a certain issue. This is especially so if the inquirer is a layman who does not understand the significance of the evidence or if understanding the evidence is based on premises which are difficult for laymen to fathom."
During the time of the Prophet's Companions and their successors, whenever a layman faced a mishap he would hasten to the Companions and their successors to ask them for Allah's ruling on the matter and they would answer without repudiation. Nothing has been reported about the Companions or their successors commanding the layman to seek the legal rulings himself. This is considered a unanimous consensus from the Companions and their successors indicating that whoever is incapable of employing ijtihad to arrive at a ruling, is to ask someone who is qualified for it. Consequently, charging the laymen to practice ijtihad contradicts this tacit consensus.
Moreover, forbidding taqlid involves burdening those who are unqualified for ijtihad to deduce rulings from evidences beyond their capacity. This is prohibited due to the words of Allah Almighty Who says,
Allah doesn't burden a soul with beyond its capacity. [Qur`an 2: 286)
In addition, this will lead the people to neglect their necessary interests, abandon their crafts, and occupy themselves with seeking legal rulings. This is considered a corruption of circumstances.
It is indispensible to study and understand the followed four schools of jurisprudence. This is because they enjoyed privileges like no other. Scholars concerned themselves with:
- transmitting their legal opinions;
- verifying them;
- learning the dominant opinions from among them;
- substantiating them;
- writing the biographies of the Imams.
All of these factors made each an independent school with fixed principles (usul) and formulated branches (furu'). This necessitates anyone wishing to study religion to follow any of the four schools as a student and trainee. He will therefore start from the point where they left off.
Refusing to follow the four schools of jurisprudence under the pretext that the evidence we are required to follow is the Qur`an and sunna and not the opinions of the Imams.
The Qur`an and sunna do not constitute the only evidences. Others include ijma' [scholarly consensus], qiyas [analogical reasoning], the legal opinions of the Companions, the laws of our predecessors, 'urf [customs], istihsan [legal preference] etc...
Confining evidences to the Qur`an and sunna is a manifest misinterpretation. This is because the meaning of evidence is much more; a mujtahid deduces legal rulings from the Quran and sunna as well as from other evidences. Furthermore, the opinions of the imams are not part of the Qur`an and sunna but the result of their understanding of the primary texts i.e. they are an interpretation and clarification of the primary texts.
Following opinions of the imams does not mean disregarding Quranic verses and hadith. Quite the contrary, it is adhering to them because verses of the Qur`an and hadith would not have otherwise reached us. The imams were more knowledgeable than later scholars; they knew which hadith are authentic and which are fabricated, which are fair and which are weak, the marfu' [raised-chain hadith], mursal [incompletely transmitted hadith], mutawatir [mass-transmitted hadith], mash-hour [well-known hadith]. Moreover they were more knowledgeable of the chronological occurrence, the nasikh and mansukh [the abrogated and abrogating verses in the Qur`an], the occasion of their revelation, language and the rest of the sciences related to them with the highest degrees of accuracy and verification.
Apart from the above, the imams enjoyed perfection of comprehension, strong faith, piety, and depth of perception that enabled them to have a profound understanding of the Qur`an and sunna based on the principles of the sciences that are indispensible for this purpose. Furthermore, they extracted the mysteries of the Qur`an and hadith and deduced benefits and rulings from them. They expounded for the people what was ambiguous based on the rational and transmitted texts, thereby facilitating religion for them. They eliminated problems by extracting practical rules from principles, establishing universal good.
Some people would claim that the imams of the schools of jurisprudence forbade anyone from following their opinions whenever they contradicted an authentic hadith.
This is a false claim because no one reported this from them. Even if it were proved that the Imams did indeed forbid others from following their opinion, then doing so in compliance with them is the very essence of taqlid which is prohibited according to your allegation. Then how is it possible to abstain from following their legal opinion by following their opinion!? The command to do so is an affirmation of opposites and this is unsound.
If we accept this claim as true, then the purpose is to prohibit taqlid only for those who are qualified to employ ijtihad.