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The Methodology of the Salaf Concerning Ijtihad and Taqlid
  On Ijtihad and Taqlid
Author: Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Uthaimeen
Source: Al-Usool min `Ilimil Usool
Article ID : MNJ060001  

Shaykh Saalih al-Uthaymeen, may Allaah preserve him, says in his ‘Al-Usool min ‘Ilimil Usool’ (pp97-104):

Definition of Ijtihaad:

linguistically ijtihaad means: to expend efforts in order to reach some difficult matter. Technically it means: expending efforts to arrive at a Sharee’ah ruling. And the Mujtahid is the one who expends efforts for this purpose.

Conditions for Ijtihaad:

Being a mujtahid has conditions, from them:-

1) That he knows the Sharee’ah proofs which he needs in his ijtihaad - such as the verses and ahaadeeth pertaining to rulings.

2) That he knows what relates to the authenticty or weakness of a hadeeth, such as having knowledge of the isnaad and it’s narrators and other than this.

3) That he knows the abrogated and the abrogating, and the places where there is ijmaa - such that he does not give a ruling according to something that has been abrogated, nor give a ruling that opposes the (authentically related) ijmaa.

4) That he knows from the proofs that which causes the rulings to vary, such as takhsees (particularisation), or taqyeed (restriction), or it’s like. So he does not give a judgement which is contrary to this.

5) That he knows the Arabic language and usul al-fiqh, and what relates to the meanings and indications of particular wordings - such as the general, the particular, the absolute and unrestricted, the restricted, the unclarified, and the clarified, and it’s like - in order that he gives rulings in accordance with what this demands.

6) That he has the ability to extract rulings from the evidences.

And ijtihaad may be split up, such that it may be undertaken in one particular branch of knowledge, or in one particular issue.

What is essential for the Mujtahid:

It is essential that the Mujtahid strives in expending his efforts to arrive at knowledge of the truth, and to give rulings in accordance to what is apparent to him. If he is correct, then he has two rewards: one for his ijtihaad, and the other for arriving at the truth - since arriving at the truth means that it is manifested and acted upon. If, however, he is mistaken, then he has a single reward, and his error is forgiven him, as he (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) said, "when a judge judges and strives and is correct, then he has two rewards. If he judges and strives and errs, then he has a single reward." If the ruling is not clear to him, then he must withold - and in such a case, taqleed is permissible for him, due to necessity.

Taqleed - it’s definition:

Linguistically, taqleed means: Placing something around the neck, which encircles the neck. Technically it means: Following he whose sayings is not a proof (hujjah).

Exlcuded from our saying, "following he whose saying is not a proof" is: following the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) , following the ijmaa and also following the saying of the sahaabee - for those who consider the saying of a single sahaabee to be a proof. So following any of these is not called taqleed, since there is a proof for doing so. However this type of following is sometimes referred to as taqleed in a very metaphorical and loose sense.

The Place of Taqleed:

Taqleed is done in two cases:

1) when the muqallid is an ‘aamee (a common person) who does not have the ability to aquire knowledge of the sharee’ah ruling by himself. So taqleed is obligatory upon him, due to the saying of Allaah - The Most High, "ask the people of knowledge if you do not know." So he does taqleed of one whom he considers to be a person of knowledge and piety. If there are two such people who are equal in his view, then he chooses any one of them.

2) The mujtahid when he encounters a new situation, for which an immediate solution is required, but it is not possible for him to research into this matter. So in this case he is permitted to perform taqleed.

Some stipulate as a condition for the permissibility of taqleed, that the matter is not from the fundamentals of the deen - those matters which must be held as aqueedah - since matters of aqueedah require certainty, whereas taqleed only amounts to dhann (knowledge which is not certain).

However the correct saying in this matter is that this is not a condition, due to the generality of his - the Most High’s - saying, "ask the people of knowledge if you do not know." And this verse is in the context of affirming the Messengership - which is from the fundamentals of the deen. And also because the common person cannot aquire knowledge of the sharee’ah rulings with it’s proofs by himself. So if he is unable to arrive at the truth by himself, then nothing remains for him except taqleed, due to the saying of Allaah - the most High, "fear Allaah as much as you can"

Types of Taqleed:

Taqleed is of two types: general and specific.

1) The general type: that a person sticks to a particular madhhab (school of thought), accepting it’s concessions and non-concessions, in all matters of the deen.

The scholars have differed about such a state. So some amongst the late-comers have reported that this is obligatory upon him, due to his inability to perform ijtihaad. Others report it as being forbidden for him, due to its being a case of necessitating unrestricted following of other than the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) .

Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said,

"The saying that it is obligatory, causes obedience to other than the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) in every matter of command and pohibition, and this is in opposition to the ijmaa’. And the allowance of it contains what it contains."

He (RH) also said,

"He who sticks to a particular madhhab, and then acts in opposition to it - without making taqleed of another scholar who has given him a ruling, nor does he use an evidence as a proof which necessitates acting in opposition to his madhhab, nor does he have an acceptable Sharee’ah excuse which allows him to do what he has done - then such a person is a follower of his desires, doing what is haraam - without a Sharee’ah excuse - and this is evil and sinful."

However, if there becomes clear to him, something which necessitates preference to one saying to another - either due to detailed proofs if he knows and understands them, or because he holds one of two people to be more knowledgeable about this matter and having more piety with regards to what he says - and so he leaves the saying of that one for the saying of the other one, then this is permissible, rather, it is obligatory. And there is a text from Imaam Ahmad about this."

2) The particular type of taqleed is that he accepts a saying about a particular matter. This is permissible if such a person is unable to arrive at knowledge of the by ijtihaad - whether he is unable to in reality, or he is able, but with great difficulty.

Fatwaa of a Muqallid:

Allaah - the Most High - said, "Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know." And the Ahludh Dhikr are the Ahlul Ilm (the people of knowledge), whereas the muqallid is not a person of knowledge who is followed - rather he himself is a follower of someone else.

Ibn Abdul Barr (d.463) and others have said,

"the people are united in ijmaa that the muqallid is not counted as being from the Ahlul Ilm, and that knowledge is the realisation of guidance along with it’s proof."

Ibn al-Qayyim said,

" And it is as Abu Umar (Ibn Abdul Barr) said: Indeed, the people do not differ about the fact that knowledge is the realisation attained from proof, but without proof, it is only taqleed."

Ibn al-Qayyim then quotes,

"There are three sayings about the permissibility of giving fatwaa based upon taqleed:

1) It is not permissible to give fatwaa based upon taqleed, because it is not knowledge; since issuing a fatwaa without knowledge is forbidden. This is the saying of most of the Hanbalee scholars and the majority of the Shaafi’iyyah.

2) That it is permissible with regards to himself, but it is not permissible to give a fatwaa to others based upon taqleed.

3) That it is permissible when there is a need for it, and there is no mujtahid scholar. And this is the most correct of the sayings and is what is acted upon."’

Shaykh al-Albaanee says in his, ‘The Hadeeth is a Proof in itself’ after mentioning the statements of the Imaams on Taqleed as found in the introduction to ‘The Prophets Prayer Described’ brings a chapter heading, "Taqleed for whoever cannot search for proofs by himself" (pp94+),

‘"Some may ask: "Not everyone has the ability to be a Person of Knowledge, as explained before?" We say: yes indeed. No one disputes this fact. Allaah said, "So ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know." (16:43) and, "ask the knowledgeable about it" (25:59). The Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) , for those who issued fatwa without knowledge: "Could not they have asked if they did know? The cure for the confused one is to ask." However, we did not mention all of the above evidence to show who can and who cannot be a scholar. Our research is with regards to those few who are considered to be People of Knowledge....Taqleed is upon the common person and the ignorant one. The scholars, who can search for the evidence, are excluded from this group. They are the ones whose responsibility is not to do Taqleed. Rather, their responsibility is to perform Ijtihaad.

The following saying by Ibn Abdul Barr explains this matter further, "All these rules are for the common folk, they are the ones who have to perform Taqleed of their scholars when needed. They are not capable of understanding or comprehending evidence or knowledge. Knowledge has grades, one cannot attain the topmost grade unless he goes via the base...Scholars do not differ with regards to the common folk having to follow their scholars..."

However, I believe that to generalise about the common folk by saying that they all must perform taqleed is invalid. Taqleed is to follow others without evidence. Many intelligent people can clearly understand evidence if it is presented to them. Who can deny that a common person can understand the evidence contained in the hadeeth, "Tayammum is one strike (of the hands on the dust) for the face and hands"? Even people lacking intelligence can understand this hadeeth.

Therefore, the truth is that we must say that Taqleed is allowed for whosoever cannot search for or understand the evidence, Ibn al-Qayyim also was of this opinion. Even scholars are forced to do Taqleed sometimes, when a scholar cannot find a text from Allaah or His Messenger, but only sayings of more knowledgeable scholars."

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