The Statements of The Mujtahid Imams

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The Statements of The Mujtahid Imams Regarding Taqleed


Contentions that the Imams themselves have prohibited the following of their
opinions until they have discovered the proofs and that if their opinions conflict with any
Hadith, they should smite their opinions against the wall and practice the Hadith, are of
course true. However, to do justice to such statements, one would have to conclude that
they are not addressed to people who do not possess the faculty of Ijtihad. Rather, they
were appealing to those scholars who were capable of Ijtihad.

Shah Waliyyullah of Delhi has summarised such statements thus:
“These statements can be assessed against those who have some ability to exercise
Ijtihad – albeit in one single issue; or against those who have conclusively determined that
the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam ordered this and prohibited that [and the issue is not
abrogated]. This may be achieved by researching the corpus of the Hadith, the statements
of those scholars who opposed and supported [the view in question] or this may be
acquired by realising that many expert scholars have opposed the view in question which
in itself can only be supported by analogy or deduction. If such is the case, then there is
no reason to go against the Hadith of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam.”

This meaning is clear. The Mujtahid Imams did not claim that Taqleed was not
valid. Their own lives were filled with incidents and occasions where lay people came to
them with hundreds of questions to which they answered without volunteering any
proofs. Taqleed’s permissibility was never questioned during the era of the Mujtahids. If
such a practice were held to be invalid the Imams would never have allowed themselves
to become its tools. Several statements from the Imams categorically state Taqleed to be
necessary for the non-Mujtahid. The following are a few examples:

“When the Mufti is such that he is a Mujtahid, then the lay person must follow
him, even if the Mufti has erred in his judgement. This is how Hasan has narrated from
Imam Abu Hanifa; Ibn Rustum from Muhammed and Bashir ibn Waleed from Abu

Imam Abu Yusuf continues:
“The lay person must follow the jurists since he is not capable of understanding
the Hadith independentl.”

Ibn Taymiyah reported that Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal used to:
“Instruct the lay person to ask Ishaaq, Abu Obaid, Abu Thaur and Abu Mus’ab.
However, he used to prohibit his own Companions like Abu Dawood, Uthman ibn Sa’eed,
Ibrahim al-Harbi, Abu Bakr al-Athrum, Abu Zar’ah, Abu Hatim and Muslim (among
others) to follow anyone. He would say to them:
“You must follow the sources of the Qur’an and Sunnah.”

This statement by Ibn Taymiyah makes it very clear that Taqleed was unsuitable
only for those scholars/students who themselves were jurists and had the potential to
become like their teachers in making decisions directly from the Qur’an and Sunnah. As
for those who did not possess the requisite qualifications, they are strongly implored to
follow a Mujtahid and practice Taqleed. In fact, Taqleed for the non-scholar was so
overwhelmingly accepted amongst the scholars that only the Mu’tazilah disagreed with
the idea.

Shaykh Saifuddin Aamodi wrote:
“The lay person and the scholar who does not possess the ability to exercise
Ijtihad – although they may possess some reliable skills in certain issues – must follow the
opinion of a Mujtahid according to experts in principles and foundations (Usool). Some
Mu’tazilah of Baghdad have differed on this issue and have prohibited Taqleed even for
these people.”

Shaykh Khatib of Baghdad wrote:
“It has been narrated from certain Mu’tazilah that it is not permissible for a lay
person to follow the opinion of a scholar until he knows the reasoning behind his opinion.
This is wrong because the lay person has no recourse to understanding the reasoning until
he has studied for several years; has actually participated in the discussions with jurists
and other scholars; has developed an understanding for analogy and realised what is
correct and what is not. For a lay person to go through all this is subjecting him to carry a
burden which is beyond his capabilities and that is not incumbent upon him.”

There has been a difference of opinion – among the Mujtahids – as to whether a person
who is capable of Ijtihad can follow another’s opinion. Khatib of Baghdad has narrated
Abu Sufyan as saying that indeed he may do so and Imam Muhammed as saying that he
may follow the opinion of someone who is more knowledgeable than he. [135]

Shaykh Ibn
Taymiyah has also narrated this opinion from Imam Muhammed. Imam Shaf’iee and
Imam Ahmed both say that this not allowed at all. [136] Maulana Abdul Hai of Lucknow
has recorded (while introducing Shamsul Aimah Halawani) Imam Imam Abu Hanifa’s
“It has been narrated from Imam Abu Hanifa that it is permissible for a Mujtahid to
follow someone who is more knowledgeable than himself.”

The details of this debate can be found in the books of Islamic principles of jurisprudence
such as al-Mustasfa of Al-Ghazali and Fawatihur Rahamut. In brief, other than a handful
of Mu’tazilah scholars, no one has disagreed that a lay person should practice Taqleed.

129 Hujjatul Baligah: vol. 1, page 155
130 Kifayah: the commentary of Hidayah in the chapter fasting
131 Abu Yusuf cited previously from Hidayah: vol. 1, page 226
132 Fatawa ibn Taymiyah: vol. 2, page 240
133 Ihkaamul Ahkaam, by Aamodi: vol. 4, page 197 also in Mustasfa of Al-Ghazali: vol. 2, page 124
134 Al-Faqith wal Mutafaqqih, by Khatib: vol 2, page 69
135 Ibid
136 Fatawa Ibn Taymiyah: vol. 2, page 24.
137 Al-Ta’leeqaat Siniyaah, page 96