Islam, as a Divine religion, realizes the needs of people in order to set their lives in order, and lays down regulations and rules that give workable solutions to all problems. Every Muslim who reaches the level of understanding the arguments of legal deduction and jurisprudence is encouraged to investigate the works of the great Imams of Islamic jurisprudence and see which of them attracts him most. With the help of the arguments of that Imam and the proven opinions of trustworthy scholars of his own age, he should be able to increase his knowledge of Shari`ah and find the Islamic solutions to the contemporary problems of his society. Those Muslims who are unable to do so are permitted to follow the stances of the great Muslim scholars or Imams.
The Standing Committee for Islamic Research and Ifta’ issued the following Fatwa:
Definition of Taqlid
The scholars of Usul Al-Fiqh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence) have mentioned definitions to clarify the true meaning and essence of Taqlid, part of what they say is that Taqlid is the acceptance of a saying of a person without knowing its evidence. And some of them [the scholars] held the view that taqlid is the acceptance of the saying of a person without argument. And Abu Ma`ali Al-Juwayni defines Taqlid as the act of following a person’s opinion without resorting to proof in addition to lacking knowledge. These definitions of the scholars of Usul Al-Fiqh, which are all close in meaning, have in it controversial points which originate in the skill of enunciation, but the point here is to clarify the essence of Taqlid in the manner of approximation.
Categories of Taqlid
1) Mujtahid’s following other scholars’ Ijtihad despite that the truth has been made clear to him with confirmed evidence from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him: Such Taqlid is not permissible for it contradicts that which has reached him from evidence and Ijma` (Consensus of Muslim Scholars).
2) Mujtahid’s following a scholar from among the Mujtahidin (scholars who practice Ijtihad) before he establishes a ruling through his [own] Ijtihad: Taqlid is not allowed for such a person. This is the view maintained by Ash-Shafi`i, Ahmad and others, may Allah have mercy on them; and it’s regarded as more correct view due to the ability of such a person to arrive at a ruling by himself. His duty is to do Ijtihad to know Shari`ah’s rulings concerning a given case, for Allah says,” So keep your duty to Allah as best ye can,” (At-Taghabun: 16) and the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “When I issue any command, follow it as much as you can.”
3) A person lacking power of Ijitihad following a Mujtahid: This is permissible, due to Allah’s saying, “Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear,” (Al-Baqarah: 286) and “Then ask the people of remembrance [scholars] if you do not know,” (An-Nahl: 43) and other similar texts.
4) Blind abidance with forefathers, leaders and rulers’ views that contradict the Shari`ah: This is prohibited by Ijma`. In this context, Allah says, “And when it is said to them: ‘Follow what Allah has sent down.’ They say: ‘Rather we shall follow what we found our fathers following,’ even though their fathers did not understand anything, nor were they guided.’” (Al-Baqarah: 170) “But no, by your Lord, they cannot have faith until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and they find in themselves no resistance against your decisions and accept with full submission.” (An-Nisa’: 65) “And it is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision.” (Al-Ahzab: 36)”