In Shia Islam, marjaʿ (Arabic: مرجع; plural: marājiʿ), also known as a marjaʿ taqlīd or marjaʿ dīnī (Arabic: مرجع تقليد / مرجع ديني), literally meaning "source to imitate/follow" or "religious reference", is a title given to the highest level Shia authority, a Grand Ayatollah with the authority to make legal decisions within the confines of Islamic law for followers and less-credentialed clerics. After the Qur'an and the prophets and imams, marājiʿ are the highest authority on religious laws in Usuli Shia Islam.
It is not a personal opinion to identify the best Marja' to follow, nor matter of publicity or media etc, but it must be taken from the highly experienced scholars in the Islamic teachings (Hawza) who are known as Ahlul Khibra or Ahlul Khubra who identify the most learned (A'lam) among the Mujtahid scholars. You need to seek the witness of at least two of Ahlul Khubra that this Marja' is the most learned in the Fiqh and Osool and other fields of Islamic studies.
From what our respected 'Ulama in the Hawzah say, it is a bit difficult to specifically pinpoint who exactly is the "most learnt" from among our esteemed living Maraji', may Allah prolong their lives.
On the topic of selecting a Marja', it is best that you refer to the rulings and following the correct criteria for your selection. It is not a difficult process, and it should not take a lot of your time.
With prayers for your success.
The term, "Marja" refers to a highly skilled and experienced scholar of Islam who has reached a superior level of ijtihad (the ability to derive the laws of the shari‘ah through a deep analysis of its sources) and alamiyyah (achieving a high level of scholarship in relation to all other mujtahīdīn).
To understand the concept in the most simplest way, consulting a Marja is akin to consulting a very high-level medical specialist whose expertise is beyond that of our family doctor’s knowledge.
Thus, the marja may be seen as a very high-levelled and skilled specialist in Islamic law, jurisprudence, ethics and philosophy who helps individuals to not only deal with often unique, unprecedented and often unusual religious issues, but also helps to guide the Islamic ummah by delivering verdicts based on contemporary societal issues which may come up in the life of believers.
A thorough and comprehensive analysis of the concept of Marjaiyyah (including a discussion of the various quranic ayah and ahadith that have provided a basis for the development of this notion) has been recently published by the World Federation in addition to a 4 part series of video lectures on the topic of Marjaiyyah.
4 part video series:
All the livelihood expenses of the people who have dedicated their life to teach or learn or serve Islamic knowledge is from the Islamic Fund which is from Islamic dues including Sahm Imam ( AS). Usually the pious scholars do not take more than the real need for them and their families. Many Ulama and Maraaji' of Taqleed do not take from Sahm Imam (AS) but utilize gifts which some believers send to them, or their family resources.
As Muslims, we know that gambling is forbidden, and we also know that any instruments that have been made exclusively for gambling is also haram, whether betting is involved or not.
As for chess, there are numerous narrations from Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) that speak of chess in a negative reprehensible way. These traditions refer to chess as being bad not in itself as chess, but for 'gambling'.
This is where each Jurist, according to their Ijtihad, derives whether the ruling is applicable to chess and its prohibition, exclusively, regardless of betting on it or no. Or, if it is free of any betting and not seen as gambling at all, then it would be permissible.
Some say that chess is viewed as a mind game, and not as an instrument of gambling. Jurists who see chess in this particular way allow chess to be played, whereas there are jurists who, because of the many narrations, view chess itself to be haram.
The important point here is that this is similar to any other matter in fiqh, where each individual must refer back to their Marja' taqleed for their details and fatwas.
And Allah knows best.
Language is never a condition or reason in Taqleed. The conditions of Taqleed are mentioned in the books of Fiqh and in answers of few questions on this website.
Nevertheless, There is one Marja' of Taqleed in Najaf Ashraf who is originally from Pakistan but studied and taught in Najaf Ashraf since mnay decades. His name is Ayatullah Shaikh Basheer Al-Najafi, may Allah grant him and all the Maraaji' long life.
The Marja' of Taqleed must be the most or one of the most knowledgeable scholars in Islamic knowledge who has:
1. Full understanding of the verses of the Holy Quran with the Hadeeths related to the meaning of Quranic verses.
2. Full understanding of all the Hadeeths from the Prophet (SAWA) and his Holy Progeny (Ahlul Bayt)(AS) including the narrations of different meanings and choosing the meaning which is more authentic.
3. Full understanding of Arabic language which is the language of Quran and Hadeeths. With out full understanding of Arabic language the scholar will not be able to reach full understanding of the meanings of Quranic verses and Hadeeths.
Many non Arab scholars understand the Arabic language very well but do not speak it fluently due to no practice or little practice. This does not harm their ability to be a Marja'.
4. The ability and the practice of deriving the Islamic rules from its evidence, which is called Ejtihad. The Mujtahid is the highly learned Islamic scholar who is able to derive the Islamic rule of every matter in Shariah from its evidence in the Four Islamic sources which are: Quran, Hadeeth, Aql ( Reason) and Ejmaa'( consensus).
5. The high degree of God fearing (Taqwa) as one of the most crucial conditions of the Marja' of Taqleed as mentioned in the Hadeeth narrated from Imam Al-Askari (AS) ( Wasa'il al-Shia, Vol.18, P.131).
6. Being male born from valid marriage طيب الولادة.
The ability of giving speech in Arabic is not a condition of A Marja' as far as he has the all the above conditions.
There is no doubt that Imam Al-Mahdi (AS) guides many sincere scholars and believers when ever and where ever it is required. Many of our great Marji's are been guided by the Imam Al-Mahdi (AS) when ever Allah (SWT) wants the Marji’ to be guided by the Imam Al-Mahdi (AS).
No Marji’ tells people that Imam Al-Mahdi (AS) told him or gave him a message to people because this is forbidden during the major occultation, but after the passing away of someMarji’s it can be inspired through authentic sources who lived with him, that he met the Imam Al-Mahdi (AS) and was guided by him in certain matter or situation.
This guidance is not only for some Marji’s but also for many sincere believers all over the world. Those sincere believers who get this great honour will never make it public.
Every believer is responsible to follow the verdicts of the Marja' of Taqleed whom he follows provided that the (Marja') has enough evidence from leading scholars (Ahlul Khobra) that he is a real Marja' of Taqleed.
This is in the verdict (Fatwa) which is binding only on believers who follow that Marja', but if the Marja' Al A'laa issues a Hokm (Order), then the Order is obligatory on every believer whether he follows him or other Marja'.
The Marja' Al-A'la is the Marja' who is been followed by majority of the Shia scholars in the Hawzas (Islamic seminaries and religious knowledge centers). Now a days the majority of scholars refer to Ayatullah Al-Udhma Sayyed Ali Al-Sistani is the Marja' al-A'la.
Every Mujtahid acts upon his own verdicts because Taqleed is not on the Mujtahids but on the public.
The main four Marja's in Najaf Ashraf are:
1. Aytullah Seestani who is followed by the majority of the Shia Muslims all over the world.
2. Ayatullah Sayyed Mohammad Saeed al-Hakeem.
3. Ayatullah Shaikh Eshaq al-Fayadh.
4. Ayatullah Shaikh Basheer al-Najafi.
The Marja' who is been followed by the majority of the Shia is called ( Al-Marja al-A'la) ( The highest Marja).
We have a system of our religious leadership based on highest degree of knowledge and piousness, which is quite different from Vatican.
The Quranic verses regarding timing of obligatory Prayers ( Al-Israa 78 and Hood 114) are very clear that there are three timings only; Fajr and Midday and Maghrib.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) had prayed Zohr and Asr together, and Maghrib and Isha together according to authentic Hadeeths in Saheeh al-Bukhari (Mawaqeet al-Salaah , Hadeeth number 516, 529) and Saheeh Muslim, Hadeeth number 1146, 1147).
We follow the Prophet (SAWA) in each and every matter, and combine when we need to combine but separate the Prayers as well because both ways is allowed.
Many of our Ulama say that combining the Prayers is better while some Ulama say that separating the Prayers is better if you can.