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['Aalim Network QR] Taqleed & Ijtihaad

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|       In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful       |\
|  Greeting of Allah be upon Muhammad and the pure members of his House |\

Salamun `Alaykum

The following was kindly answered by Mulla Bashir.

Fee Amaanillah,

Akil Karim
Moderator - 'Aalim Network

---------- Forwarded message ----------


In short, I am seeking an explanation, and justification, for many of our
beliefs. I seek a better understanding of Shia Islam or Islam from those
that know it better. 

I would appreciate it if Mulla Bashir could respond to my questions and
the issues raised in the quotes from the text of "From Imams to
Ayatollas" that I have included below. I have numbered the paragraphs for


1) In the book "Living Islam" by Ahmed S. Akbar he makes a strange
remark: "When the Safavids came to power in 1501, Shah Ismail was
proclaimed ruler..... The state was to be a theocracy and the Shah was to
personify the twelfth Imam (the hidden Imam) in the flesh." [Pg 84] He
then says that the Shah's behavior turned out to be unIslamic and "Their
unIslamic behavior did not go unnoticed. It encouraged the ulema to
challenge the royal notion that the Shah was "the shadow of God on
earth". The ulema developed an alternative theory that only a Mujtahid,
one deeply learned in the Shariah, and one who has led a blameless life,
can rule." [Pg 84]

2) I believe that what this author is suggesting is that the theory of a
Mujtahid only being capable of ruling, was developed after the Shah's
rule in 1501, and as an alternative theory to the Shah's rule. I,
however, have always believed that this theory was not developed by
ulemas but is rather implicit in Islam, and was also proposed by our Imam

3) I am aware that although the author is generally objective he seems to
be inclined, may be unconsciously, against the Shias. I think, however,
that a referenced discussion would be appropriate. When did the Ayatollas
become the Guides in the absence of the Imam, and by what authority? This
is important because all Ithnashris are supposed to do taqlid. I would
like to know about this to have a better understanding of our history
from a Shia perspective. If we are not intellectually prepared to defend
our beliefs then it will be very easy for outsiders to attack us and
create a serious doubt about the chain of authority. 

4) A related theme to taqlid is that of conscience. What if an Ayatollah
gives a fatwa for or against something, and your conscience, not just
thinking, disapproves of it. The traditional answer is that one should
obey the Mujtahid, and no sin would be involved. But did not Allah say in
the Holy Quran that each person is accountable for only his own soul, and
following leaders will not be a defence for doing the wrong thing? 

5)I am greatly respectful of the concept of Taqlid, generally speaking. I
have not heard of one Ayatollah that has conducted himself
inappropriately. If our Shia concept of Taqlid, and obedience to the
leader, founded in ch4:59 was not there it would have been impossible for
the beloved Imam Ayatolla Khomeini to oust the American and Western
influence and exploitation from Iran, and continue to fight, literally,
against the Super Powers. 

6) Having said this, I believe that a person should make his conscience
the last authority on any subject. A conscience is Allah's voice within
each person. Obedience to one's conscience, and not just wishes or
intellect, may be obedience to Allah in terms of the meaning of ch4:59 of
the Holy Quran. Remember Allah is mentioned first, and then the Holy
Prophet, and then those in authority in that Ayat. Am I, or could I, be
correct in equating conscience with the voice (inspiration; "wahy"?) of
Allah? Aren't there examples in the Holy Quran of persons knowing the
"right thing" by inspiration? 

7) Then there is also the question of why our Imam (pbuh) continues to be
hidden. Although his initial disappearence may be explained in terms of
the danger that he faced, why doesn't he give direct access to his
followers now? Why continue with the ghaibah, or the unseen presence? 

8) When our Imam comes will we recognize him? Or will we be like the Jews
who continue to pray for a savior despite the fact that Prophet Jesus, as
well as Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on both of them, came as prophets
of Allah but they failed to recognize them? The Bahais argue that the
Mehdi has appeared and Muslims have failed to recognize him. I personally
do not find the arguments of the Bahai satisfactory because they claim a
new prophet whereas Allah says that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the seal
of prophets. The fact that no political activity is allowed in Bahaism
also makes me skeptical about it. Moreover, the religious headquarters of
Bahais is Israeli. However, the interesting question is: Who will
recognize the Imamat of our Imam when he appears? How strong are the
ahadiths in that regard i.e in terms of our ability to recognize our



Thank you for posing the above questions. They raise important issues and
we need to examine them carefully. 

I have grouped the related question together and responded to each group. 

[QUESTIONS 1, 2 & 3]

As for the Safavi monarchs, they did play an important role in the
establishment of Shiah supremacy in Iran and other contiguous regions. In
1500 of the Christian era Ismail, the sixteen year old pir of the Safavi
tariqa (a sufi sect) set out with a group of devoted followers to avenge
the murder of his father. He conquered Azerbaijan and Persia and
vigourously established the Shiah creed. 

I do not wish in this posting to enter into a debate of Shah Ismail's
vision of his spiritual role. Suffice it to say, that the Shiahs were
able after a long time to practise their faith without fear. Their Ulemah
could preach the Shiah tenets without any let or hindrance. (See Vol.3 of
Marshall Hodgson's 'The Venture of Islam' pp.22 to 38)

Ijtihaad was an institution which had been known to Muslims since at
least 8th Hijrah (630 C.E.). The following episode is related in Seerah-i
Ibn Hisham, Vol.II p.500.  You will also find it in the book entitled
"the Message" by Ja'far Subhani p.679: 

After the conquest of Mecca in the 8th Hijrah the Holy Prophet (SAWAW)
decided to return to Madinah. In words of Ja'far Subhani, "It was
necessary that he should appoint some persons to manage the political and
religious matters of the newly conquered region so that no crisis might
take place in his absence ..... In view of this he appointed a forbearing
and wise young man named 'Atab bin Usayd who was not more than twenty
years old, as the Governor of Mecca .....  (The Holy Prophet) appointed
Mu'az bin Jabal to teach Qur'an and the ordinances of Islam to the
people. He was distinguished amongst the companions of the Prophet for
his knowledge of the Holy Qur'an, jurisprudence and the commands of
Islam. (Referring to an earlier incident the author adds:) When the
Prophet deputed him to Yemen in the capacity of a judge, he asked him:
"On what will you rely for resolving the differences?" To this he
replied: "On the Book of Allah, the Qur'an." The Prophet said: "If
nothing specific is found on the point in issue?" He replied on the basis
of the judgements of the Prophet of Allah ....." The Prophet asked: What
course will you adopt when a problem crops up about which there is
nothing specific in the Book of Allah or in my judgements?" He replied:
"In such cases I shall resort to Ijtihaad and give a decision on the
basis of the Holy Qur'an and your traditions with equity and justice."
The Prophet then said, "Thanked be Allah that He has enabled His Prophet
to choose for the administration of justice a person whose actions are
commensurate with His Will." 

In the booklet entitled "Fiqh and Fuqaha" published by the World
Federation, the learned author has this to say at page 11: "For two
obvious reasons we begin the history of Shiah Fuqaha from the era of
Ghaybat-e-Sughra i.e. the minor occultation. (260 AH - 329 AH).  First,
the era preceding Ghaybat-e-Sughra is an era during which the holy Imams
were present, and although there were many men of knowledge and
accomplishments who were trained by the Imams themselves, people always
tried their best to refer to the Imams rather than to the Ulemah .....
Secondly, the literature we have at our disposal on FIQH commences from
the era of Ghaybat-e-Sughra." 

This booklet which in my respectful opinion is a 'must' reading for all
the youths of the community, gives a brief account of all the fuqaha as
well muhadditheen from the time of the ghaibah till to-date. I sincerely
hope that we shall soon see it on all our web-sites. 

[The DILP committee is working on this, and Inshallah it shall soon be
available - Moderator]

Dr. Jassim M. Hussain in his "the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam" deals
extensively with the institution if wikala which existed at least from
the time of the sixth Imam.  He also suggests the possibility that the
wakils had, during the times when because of the atrocities of the regime
access to our Imams was impossible, been authorised to exercise some
jurisprudential powers on the basis of ijtihaad. I trust I have not
misunderstood the learned author. If so I beg Allah's forgiveness. On the
post-ghaybah period, however, the learned author gives us a very useful

At pages 150-152 he states that during the last quarter of the fourth
century hijrah (tenth century of the Christian era) the Imamite fuqaha
acquired authority to give legal judgements (fatwas) to a much greater
extent than those who had been contemporary with the beginning of the
second occultation and the dissolution of the wikala institution.  Dr.
Hussain suggests that this might have been because the earlier fuqaha
expected the Holy Imam to reappear soon. 

As the basis of the fuqaha assuming the duty to do ijtihaad and issue
verdicts Dr. Hussain cites the following traditions: 

(a) The 12th Imam (a.s.) issued a pronouncement in reply to Ishaq bin
Yaqub via second safir: As for the events which will occur (after
ghayba-e-kubra), turn to the narrators of our traditions, because they
are my proof to you, while I am the proof of Allah to them." 

(b) The eleventh Imam said: "It is obligatory for the populace to follow
the jurist who refrains from committing wrong, mentions his faith,
opposes carnal desire and obeys Allah's command." 

(c) Al-Tabarsi reports the transmission from the tenth Imam: "After the
occultation of your Qaim a group of the 'ulemah will call upon people to
believe in al-Qaim's imamah and defend his religion by using proofs sent
by Allah, so that they might save the weak minded faithful from either
the deceptions of Shaitan or the deceptions of those opposed Hadhrat Ali

There are many other traditions in the same vein as above dating back to
our sixth Holy Imam. In the interest of brevity I prefer to limit myself
to the above. 

The institution of Taqlid and Ijtihaad can thus be traced back to the
times of our Imams. Ayah 7 of suratul Anbiya (XXI) provides an
irrefutable basis for taqlid " Ask the people of remembrance
(ahl-dhdhikr) if you do not know". Also relevant is Ayah 36 of chapter
XVII: "O man, follow not that of which you have no knowledge." 

If the author of the Living Islam is seriously suggesting that ijtihaad
and taqlid came into existence as a protest against Shah Ismail's
ambition to assume the mantle of the heir of the 12th Imam (a.s.) he must
have got his facts badly mixed up. Ofcourse there was a time after the
death of the Holy Prophet when the khulafah came up with the doctrine
that all the sahaba had a right to ijtihaad regardless of their merit,
knowledge or imaan to the extent of altering the sunnah of the Holy
Prophet. Alhamdulillah our ulemah were able to rescue the doctrine of
ijtihaad and save the Shiah community.(See Allamah Sayyid Tabatabai'z
'Shia' pages 45, 48 and 104). I quote below some of the most relevant

"(During the reign of the first three khulafah) the companions were
considered to be independent authorities (mujtahids) in matters of Divine
Law, being able to exercise independent judgement (ijtihaad) in public
affairs. It was also believed that if they succeeded in their task they
would be rewarded by Allah and if they failed they would be forgiven by
him because they were amongst the companions ..... Because of the
emphasis laid by the Shiahs on the sayings and the sunnah of the Holy
Prophet the writing down of any hadith was completely banned. This ban
was lifted almost a hundred years later by Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz." 

[QUESTIONS 4, 5 & 6]

In the matters of beliefs it is your intellect, rather than conscience,
which has to accept the beliefs and lead you to the stage of conviction.
You cannot believe in the Unity of Allah or the doctrines of risalah or
imamah or even in the existence of the day of judgement on the basis only
of some mujtahid whose muqallid you are, saying so. These are matters of
your intellect and belief as a result of reflection and intellectual
acceptance. On the matters of fiqh, what matters is knowledge, knowledge
of the Holy Qur'an, the ahadeeth and the sunnah. Then the ability of
distinguishing between a weak hadith and an unreliable one. For this one
needs to have 'ilm-e-rijal and 'ilme 'usool. If one is at that stage then
one can on the basis of reason and deductive as well as inductive logic
formulate one's own conclusion on any given issue. If one does not have
these qualifications then one must enter into the taqlid of a mujtahid.
He can of course always exercise his right to decide whether he can risk
disobedience of any given law. The principle is not far removed from the
question of obedience to the state law. At least there you may escape
punishment if not caught. Here, in religious matters, one must cultivate
an Islamic conscience as all our acts and omissions are within the
knowledge of Allah. In this regard I would refer you to another excellent
booklet by Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi entitled 'Taqlid' which deals
with the subject extensively. 

[The booklet is available on the Web at the following URL:
                                                            - Moderator]


The ghaibah of our Holy Imam (A.S.) is not because he wished to avoid
danger to himself. His ghaibah is an event designed by Allah to try the
ummah. As far as the shariah is concerned the Holy Imam has left it upon
the fuqaha. The fuqaha are for us. They are proof of the Holy Imam over
us. Let us examine our conscience and inquire into whether our
relationship with this trust left by our Imam is such as he would wish us
to have. 


Let us pray that we are sufficiently prepared spiritually to recognise
our Imam. Let us pray that his sword does not seek us out as the
hyocrites. I do not know much about the strength of the ahadeeth but I do
know of my own weakness. All I pray for is that when the time comes, I am
able to respond to his call. 

Please do not hesitate to seek further clarification should any of you
require it. On the panel of scholars we have, alhamdulillah, scholars far
more learned than I. 

May Allah forgive any error I may have made in writing the above.

With salaams and du'aas from an humble servant of Ahlul Bayt and their
followers, and with a request to be remembered by you in your prayers,

Bashir Rahim

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