Taqlid or Ittiba is Wajib (compulsory) upon Muslims
Taqlid or Ittiba is Wajib (compulsory) upon Muslims. Yet there are many Muslims in the present age who have hardly heard of the words Taqlid or Ittiba. Others who may have heard about it, do not fully comprehend its meaning. This has led to people even rejecting Taqlid thereby rejecting a Wâjib. As a general rule, man is suspicious and afraid of that which he does not know. Therefore a proper understanding of the issue of Taqlîd or Ittibâ would dispel the ignorance surrounding it, Inshâ Allah.
Taqlid is a part of everyday life
Taqlîd or Ittibâ in essence, simply refers to the practice of an unqualified, lay person (in a specific field of specialisation) submitting to and accepting the authority of an expert in that field, without demanding proof and justification for every view, opinion or verdict expressed by such an expert authority. This is a natural state of human existence, practised by millions of people worldwide in every facet of life. The simplest and most tangible example of Taqlîd or Ittibâ is that of a child learning his basic alphabets at school. Every child learning his alphabets is unconsciously practising Taqlîd. A learner driver taking instructions from a driving instructor is practising Taqlîd. People going to a specialist doctor for medical treatment and following his instructions is another glaring example of Taqlîd or Ittibâ. A lay person soliciting a legal opinion from an advocate or following the advice of a tax consultant is another common case of Taqlîd. A client at an engineering firm, asking for the engineer’s advice on complex engineering calculations is yet another instance of Taqlîd or Ittibâ in action. The millions of ‘facts’ in the myriad of sciences such as astronomy, archaeology, etc. are all distinct examples of Taqlîd or Ittibâ Who ever questions the ‘fact’ or asks for proof that the sun is really 93 million miles away from the earth! It is taken for granted that this is the findings of the ‘experts’ in these fields and everyone simply accepts it as such. School teachers teach these to their pupils as ‘gospel truth’ and children learn and memorise these ‘facts’ with the hope of succeeding in their exams. There are countless such examples of Taqlîd or Ittibâ in everyday existence. It is quite clear from the above, that Taqlîd or Ittibâ is a natural way of life, and is not specific to Islam or Islamic Fiqh alone.
Taqlid is the easy option for ordinary people
In the context of Islamic Fiqh or Law, Taqlîd or Ittibâ simply refers to accepting and following the verdicts of expert scholars of Islamic Fiqh in their exposition and interpretation of Islamic Law, without demanding from them an in-depth explanation of the intricate processes required in arriving at such a verdict, called Ijtihad. It simply means that ordinary folk do not have to do Ijtihâd, i.e. the intricate and complicated procedures involved in deriving Islamic rulings that scholars exercise when issuing a Fatwâ (legal verdict). The duty of ordinary people is to trustingly accept the authority of the learned scholars in this matter and act upon their verdicts.
In this sense, Taqlîd is a great blessing for common people, for it is beyond their capacity to understand the extremely complex and complicated mechanics of Ijtihâd. The ability to do Ijtihâd requires many long years of study and erudition and a great deal of exertion (Ijtihâd means to exert one self) in acquiring a mastery of various Islamic sciences, among other varying requirements.
Misunderstandings regarding Taqlid
Recently, misunderstandings have arisen regarding the issue of Taqlîd. It has become a theme of major debate in many parts of the world among Muslims. This debate has naturally resulted in arguments being promulgated by both the protagonists and the antagonists of Taqlîd.
The best way of removing such misunderstanding is to view the original sources of Islam – the Qurân and Hadîth and the teachings of the learned elders of Islam on this subject. After a study of this subject, the correct interpretation and understanding of Taqlîd and Ittibâ would emerge. This would lead to a better understanding and analysis of the arguments and counter-arguments of protagonists and antagonists.
Mufti Zubair Bayat