On the Tafsil of Taqlid(s) Barring the Dalils
By Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti

In answer to the question:

I have resisted till now, but am now succumbing to my desire to send you some questions. But please, these are unimportant in terms of when an answer might be forthcoming, so please don't feel obliged to respond until time affords you the inclination to do so.

--

1. We are taught as muqallid 'ammi our obligation is taqlid. Why then, when it comes to the actual argument for taqlid itself, do we tend to follow proofs/evidences? Is this not a double-standard?

2. I have often heard that there are things on which one cannot make taqlid because the nass is clear (i.e. muhkam), such as the ayat, "Laysa kamithilihi shay..." But then I wonder: how would a non-arabic speaker - who would then by definition be a muqallid - be able to determine that a nass is muhkam other than by making taqlid to one who tells him this?

3a. We don't question teachers - again, partly due to our status as muqallid 'ammi - on matters of 'aqida/fiqh. However, if the same protocol was applied to those who follow heterodox and/or deviant methodologies (e.g. the Salafiyyah), then how could we justify to them questioning and second-guessing what they are taught, without it seeming like a double-standard and hypocrisy? Surely there are circumstances governing such cases? What are they?

3b. The same problem arises on matters like Islamic Finance, where there is khilaf amongst respected 'Ulema over the "halalness" of certain contemporary Islamic Financial products/services; a good example being the Amanah Mortgage Scheme by HSBC Bank. Now, say if someone follows Mufti Taqi Usmani on this, they may go ahead and invest in such a product. But then they may find that another scholar considers this same thing to be non-Islamic. So what is the taklif of this muqallid ammi now? Is he absolved of responsibility before Allah ta'ala due to the shifting of that burden that taqlid provides?

Myself, I have heard Shaykh Al-Ya'qoubi - hafiDHahullah - say this scheme is not Islamic, and because I respect him more, I will trust his opinion over Mufti Taqi, whom I only know by secondary sources.

Additionally, Islamic Finance is also one of those areas where one tends to not accept mere taqlid, but wants to familiarise oneself with proofs/evidences. Is this justified for the muqallid 'ammi again? When I reflected on this double-standard, the only justification I could think of was that by its nature, such a commitment (i.e. to a mortgage) involves much money, which then makes it difficult to extricate oneself if one later discovers it was not halal as one originally thought. So one needs to examine the matter as thoroughly as possible beforehand. But then one naturally hits that same brick wall, that how "thorough" can the investigation of a muqallid 'ammi be anyway, given that it would be led by the juristic preponderances of a scholar anyway?


Bismillahi wa-l-hamdulillahi wa-s-salatu wa-s-salamu 'ala Rasulillahi wa-man qalladahu fi d-din wa-dunya wa-l-akhirah!

Ma sha’ Allah, your questions from last night are indeed no furu‘ ones (and alhamdulillah, they are not fiqh questions, for I cannot answer on behalf of a Hanafi) but are general and/or theoretical (yet can be practical enough) masa’il from the bab of Ijtihad/Taqlid in the mawdu‘ of Usul Fiqh, which are by themselves Fard Kifaya knowledge. I’m sure the theory below as understood by Shafi‘i Usulis will be essentially the same in the other schools, notwithstanding minor variations.

It is my sincere pleasure to try help remove some of your worries below; and I’m sure I have been unable to do so effectively; since issues relating above all to *trust* and amana should only really be dealt in their proper maqam: not in ink or bytes (the maqam of gha’ib which is far from baraka) but in the hadra of ru’ya at our homes.

O Allah, forgive me for my shortcomings: keep us away from useless knowledge, and from knowledge that does not benefit the one who possesses it, and from knowledge that will become a Hujja against us in the Next World!

1. We are taught as muqallid 'ammi our obligation is taqlid. Why then, when it comes to the actual argument for taqlid itself, do we tend to follow proofs/evidences? Is this not a double-standard?


In actual fact, it is a no and a yes to the statement that “the obligation of the ‘ammi is to do taqlid”.

Since it is a NO in matters of iman/faith: there is no obligation for taqlid, rather on the contrary, no one should trust (or ‘do taqlid blindly’ of) someone else even a specialist, if one has not achieved certainty/yaqin concerning God’s existence or of one of His attributes for example. (Hojja Note: This is the type of taqlid and blind-following attitude that was censured by Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him!) in many of his general works!)

Whereas it is a YES in matters of furu‘/practice: it is only with regards to the immense details of the Law that it becomes a practical necessity to trust the judgement of ‘a large group of specialists from different times’ when one does not have certain knowledge of WHY [which amounts to knowledge of the ta‘arrud adilla for X and also the ‘illa behind X] one must act in a particular way in a given mas’ala X. So the ‘taqlid’ you have in mind is the taqlid in matters of ‘amal/fiqh. (Another Hojja Note: This is the type of taqlid and the path that Imam al-Ghazali himself followed, a worthy example to emulate!)

The actual argument for the necessity of taqlid of such kind is itself empirically established and derives from a type of reasoning that every person of fitra could see (i.e., an argument from the laws of nature and the Sunnatullah; just as in the favourite illustration supplied by our jurists throughout the Middle Ages of its being akin to a relationship between a physician and a patient—where the muhaddith, for example, is merely the pharmacist in that association) without the need to seek recourse even to the most well known scriptural evidence for taqlid in the Qur’an.

In any case, the ‘ammi does not in fact need to know (or even ask to learn, and nor is it a part of Fard ‘Ayn to know) the scriptural arguments/proofs/evidences for the ‘need’ to do taqlid. He only needs to learn HOW [which includes knowledge of the rules (shart/rukn) and kayfiyya] to do the ‘amal, that is to say, follow (or ‘do taqlid’ with) someone else, the natural choice for whom is the teacher who taught him his Din (in the same way that someone learning arithmetic needs to learn the hows of it by following his teacher who taught him his M3).

The certain knowledge pertaining to the existence of our Creator (from the command: awwalu d-dIni ma‘rifatu Llahi!), which must not be through blind taqlid but originate instead from one’s own deep conviction, should in fact lead us to taste something of taqwa and help us not to waste time when it comes to doing our ‘amal, so that we adopt an attitude that can be described as: ‘it is the doing of it that is important, not the investigation (i.e., knowledge of the legal processes) of it.’ At the end of the day, as we and the other alien, the jinns, have only been created to do that one thing, what really matters therefore is that the ukhrawi accounts of our ‘amal will be dependent on how MANY brownie points we have acquired in this world, not how LONG it took us to understand them through knowledge of the proofs behind them. For those who understand, this is precisely the meaning of the saying of our own Mujtahid Imam: “laysa l-‘ilmu mA HafiZa al-‘ilmu mA nafa‘a” [Knowledge is what benefits, not what one has memorized].

That is why those who are unable to free themselves from drowning in the deep abyss of proofs, talk and investigation of the Ocean of ‘Amal have been described by our teachers as among those who are deluded and in the state of ghurur al-‘ilm to which every person who has laid a claim to knowledge, the ahl al-‘ilm and the ulema, is especially vulnerable in the Next World. Thus how true and how incalculably valuable are the reminders and how immense are the benefits we are now able to reap from this single but striking verse, composed by someone who followed the path of our Mujtahid, Imam Ibn Ruslan (may Allah be pleased with him and well pleased with the one he was following!):

fa-‘Alimun bi-‘ilmihi lam ya‘malan #
mu‘adhdhabun min qabli ‘ubbAdi l-wathan!
[Someone who knows but does not act on what he knows:
will be punished even before the idol worshipers!]

O Lord, we seek refuge from useless knowledge, and from knowledge that does not benefit the one who possesses it, and from knowledge that will become a Hujja against us in the Next World!

2. I have often heard that there are things on which one cannot make taqlid because the nass is clear (i.e. muhkam), such as the ayat, "Laysa kamithilihi shay..." But then I wonder: how would a non-arabic speaker - who would then by definition be a muqallid - be able to determine that a nass is muhkam other than by making taqlid to one who tells him this?


The mawdu‘ invoked here (the Mukhalafa verse quoted) is that which pertains to iman and not ‘amal (and therefore, again, there should be no muqallid in matters of i‘tiqad in the first place and it will be redundant to talk about ‘taqlid’-of-the-type-of-blindly-following-someone-even-if-an-‘alim here, but not necessarily ‘taqlid’-of-the-type-of-the-‘ammi-following-the-path-that-the-‘alim-has-taken here). Did someone really say verbatim what appears above? If so, perhaps what is meant is that one cannot make taqlid when the (i‘tiqadi) nass is clear—which in effect amounts to the same thing as there should be no ‘taqlid’-of-the-type-of-blindly-following-someone in matters of faith.

In any case, it is not a part of the Fard ‘Ayn knowledge even for an Arab speaking ‘ammi to know that among the Dalil Naqli for the fourth Necessary Sifat of Allah ta‘ala (Mukhalafatuhu lil-Hawadith) and Its opposite (Mumathalatuhu lil-Hawadith) is one based on a nass that is muhkam.

3a. We don't question teachers - again, partly due to our status as muqallid 'ammi - on matters of 'aqida/fiqh. However, if the same protocol was applied to those who follow heterodox and/or deviant methodologies (e.g. the [neo-]Salafiyyah), then how could we justify to them questioning and second-guessing what they are taught, without it seeming like a double-standard and hypocrisy? Surely there are circumstances governing such cases? What are they?


Firstly: On the contrary, we must ask our teachers questions (whether they are able to answer them or not) whether in matters of i‘tiqad/fiqh when we are beset with doubts and whenever we do not understand something that has been taught, especially if one is an ‘ammi; but yes, owing to adab, we do not raise objections to, or more exactly, interrupt a teacher’s teaching whether one is a Muqallid or not, just as one is expected to behave during a lecture on a secular subject at a University (so what more during a religious majlis when the students are supposed to act on what they know of adab).

(Note dear friend: Refraining from asking questions is not to be equated with Taqlid shar‘i (what logicians term “an appeal to authority”), and likewise, a teacher’s inability to answer something or being silent about it does not mean that he or she is wrong in that mas’ala!)

##Qa‘ida## The Sultan al-‘Ulama’, ‘Izz Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam (may Allah be pleased with him!) sums up this question best by saying:

yashrufu s-su’Ali bi-sharafi l-mas’Uli ‘anhu [The question becomes worthy through the worth of the thing asked].

O Opener! O All Knowing! Endow and teach us, by granting us the patience to know that which we know not, and through the humbleness of learning [dhull al-ta‘allum] lead us to the glory of this life and the next!

Secondly: Yes, tolerance in legal questions (the kinds where one can agree to disagree, out of mercy) is not extended to the mostly theological, or major and/or Usuli differences; yet, the mission of *actively* ridding this dunya of ahl bid‘a (by entering into a debate with them, for example) falls under the delicate bab of Amr bi-l-Ma‘ruf wa Nahi ‘an al-Munkar [the duty to intervene when another is acting wrongly], and only those who have the ability and have met all the shurut of a Muhtasib for a given situation will have the right to censure, and those who are experienced in this bab have long realized that in such cases, the persons usually capable of second-guessing the beliefs of the heterodox ‘awamm, are the orthodox teachers themselves.

(Yet Another Hojja Note: Dear friend, remember too the advice of Imam al-Ghazali here that this duty is an onerous one: the one whose responsibility it becomes will fall into sin if he ignores it and keep silent; but if he does not, he will be likely to end up in the position of someone who tries to prop up a wall that is keeling over, so that when it falls on him, he wishes that he had left it alone!)

Ya Allah, what a dilemma: there is nothing easy except what You make easy, and You will make the difficulty easy if it be Your will!

In any case, for those who understand, the question then becomes: “Can teachers correct the ‘awamm?”

3b. The same problem arises on matters like Islamic Finance, where there is khilaf amongst respected 'Ulema over the "halalness" of certain contemporary Islamic Financial products/services; a good example being the Amanah Mortgage Scheme by HSBC Bank. Now, say if someone follows Mufti Taqi Usmani on this, they may go ahead and invest in such a product. But then they may find that another scholar considers this same thing to be non-Islamic. So what is the taklif of this muqallid ammi now? Is he absolved of responsibility before Allah ta'ala due to the shifting of that burden that taqlid provides?

Myself, I have heard Shaykh Al-Ya'qoubi - hafiDHahullah - say this scheme is not Islamic, and because I respect him more, I will trust his opinion over Mufti Taqi, whom I only know by secondary sources.

Additionally, Islamic Finance is also one of those areas where one tends to not accept mere taqlid, but wants to familiarise oneself with proofs/evidences. Is this justified for the muqallid 'ammi again? When I reflected on this double-standard, the only justification I could think of was that by its nature, such a commitment (i.e. to a mortgage) involves much money, which then makes it difficult to extricate oneself if one later discovers it was not halal as one originally thought. So one needs to examine the matter as thoroughly as possible beforehand. But then one naturally hits that same brick wall, that how "thorough" can the investigation of a muqallid 'ammi be anyway, given that it would be led by the juristic preponderances of a scholar anyway?


This is the first time I have heard about the HSBC Amanah Scheme—and may this be a sabab for strengths rather than a weakness—but even if sometime in the future were I to study this scheme and end up issuing a negative assessment regarding it following the path laid down by the jurists of my school, when there is already another scholar who had earlier gazetted an opposite ruling—as long as that scholar himself follows one of the orthopraxy schools and issued his “Fatwa” according to the juridical processes of his school (which you will come to know in the Next world, but in this you only have to assume that he is doing so unless another jurist of his school makes clear that the fatwa was actually a fraud, which though possible is very unlikely)—then there is no question that in the event the Scheme is disclosed by Allah in the Next world to be illegal, all of the muqallids who followed the then wrong ruling will bear no burden whatsoever for not knowing something they could not have expected to know. (The scholar in question—as long as he was being true to himself [sidq] (e.g., not having any vested motive, about which only Allah can be the judge, in the Next world) in his intention [niyya] to seek the right answers but ended up giving a wrong answer—too will not be penalized, but rather, owing to his sincere efforts (i.e., his Ijtihad and ikhlas) he will be rewarded by it, and if not, only he alone will be penalized and none of his muqallids following his path.)

This is among the true beauties of this Umma and should bear fruit for us, as in the past, to a degree and in a manner of tolerance not witnessed during the inquisitions of Medieval and Reformation Europe, a tolerance which is so liberating a value and in which other religions were usually found wanting in those times:

al-muSIbu la-hu ajrAni wa-l-mukhTi'u la-hu ajrun wAHidun wa-kullun min-hum yaTlubu riDA LlAhi [the one (among the scholars) who is correct will have two points and the one who is mistaken will only have one point when every one of them was seeking the pleasure of Allah].

Taqlid cannot work without trusting one another, and the basis for this practical necessity and any other form of taqlid is ultimately derived from one of the Necessary Prophetic attributes, namely, Amana. Despite that, legal truths cannot be judged by our wahms and emotional faculties, while the thawabit of the Law are not influenced by our whims and impressions. Hence the great respect you have for your beloved teacher will in no way affect the right/wrong-value of the other less respected* ‘alim’s legal judgement.

(*How would you know one is *less knowledgeable* than the other? Put yourself in my shoes here. I ask myself now when I am neither a teacher to either of them and as someone who knows not about this and who is weak in knowledge, how could I possibly judge the one ‘alim to be more knowledgeable than the other—feelings aside? And even if it turns out to be the case in the Hereafter that the one ‘alim was indeed more knowledgeable than the other, it is still possible [jawaz ‘aqlan] that the one with less knowledge and piety may just be right in this mas’ala!)

I have explained the minimum legal standards—that absolve the ‘ammi from sin and responsibility—and if there remains shubuhat and controversy over the Scheme raised by one teacher against another (and it may be due to that that the ‘ammi starts to have doubts over the permissibility of such transactions or products), then the way of Ihsan is to avoid the controversial product. (A Final Hojja Note: Although as Imam al-Ghazali would have it, to fall from such a peak will not result in sin even with the shubuhat.)

Whatever the case may be, and whoever you decide to follow in the end, especially were you not to adopt your own teacher’s misgivings, it behoves you to always have a good opinion of him who first raised objections about it and assume therefore that he must in fact be taking the way of caution [ihtityat] that is beyond the minimum standards and that this may be among the reasons why there appears to be a khilaf.

If any reputable ‘alim who is also a jurist of one of the four madhhabs has thrown the towel, so to speak, regarding a matter today, and an ‘ammi decides to follow him in that legal question and this following is entirely a private and a personal decision on his part—even if that ‘ammi does not belong to the same school as the ‘alim—then it will only be a disadvantage to the follower when he begins to investigate the matter further—maybe into hair-splitting detail—since Shaytan is a past-master at finding some sabab and cause for great hardship. As the wisdom of the Prophetic Sunna goes: yassiru wa la-tu‘assiru [roughly: when it’s easy don’t make it harder!]. This is the meaning of ‘taqlid’-of-the-type-of-blindly-following-someone which is only permissible in matters dealing with ‘amal. The advantage of being a Muqallid here is indeed the rukhsa of not having to do *any* investigation whatsoever.

In any case, this episode shows why we have in the Sunna of our Prophet, and confirmed through the Athar of many of his companions and attested by the Ijma‘ of the Umma in the form of the following words of wisdom:

raHmatu l-ummati fI ikhtilAfi l-a‘immati [The Umma’s mercy is in the differences of the Imams] —but remember too, as long as he or she is among our Imams!

May this not be in waste; From the haqir in haste:

M. Afifi al-Akiti 9th Jumada I 1425 28 June 2004




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