Taqleed is a hotly debated issue, some see it as a central part of daily religious life, others see it as the quickest way out of the religion all together. This article will uncover the truth about Taqleed, which may upset some people, however the truth needs to be heard.
The word ‘taqleed’ is from the root word ‘qallada’ which means a strap which is put around an animal’s neck so that it is under the full control of its owner, so the one who follows is called a muqalid, and the process of following is called Taqleed. In the context of Islam, taqleed is the process of a lay person following someone else’s opinion in a particular matter. Now, for most people the definition is left at that point and if that is so, Taqleed is often heavily criticized.
So what is the real definition and usage of Taqleed?
Taqleed is when a lay person can refer to an expert for religious legal advice. So Taqleed does not apply in terms of belief, or questions about belief, but only in matters of the law eg Is such and such halal.
The process is as follows:
- A layperson identifies the most knowledgeable scholar.
- The layperson then refers their legal questions to him.
- The advice given is now binding on that layperson.
How to Identify the Alaam?
One of the major issues people have with Taqleed is the concept of finding the Alam – the most knowledgeable. People often feel that they can never find the real most knowledgeable, instead they will only find someone who is thought of as to be the most knowledgeable. For example, lets imagine a man wants to know who is the Alam, he may go to a local Islamic Institution and ask a Mujtahid there who is the Alam, he does that and he finds two people that give the same name. So now he has a name, now does this mean that this person is necessarily the Alam? No it does not, but what it does mean is that from the lay persons perspective, he has reached a position of certainty that the name given as the Alam is really the Alam. Its important to distinguish between something being necessarily, or absolutely true and someone being certain about something. Certainty is a property of an individuals mind, it means that they are sure it is true based on what they know and in this case that certainty is based on the testimony of at least two mujtahids, so it is reasonable to accept this as true. For something to be necessarily true, it has to absolutely true and independent of human opinion and thought.
Why use Taqleed?
Just like in any field, there are people who are more knowledgeable than others, for example, when you are sick, you go to an expert on health, a doctor, when it comes to Law, people seek the advice of a lawyer. Ideally they would seek the advice of the most knowledgeable lawyer, however they tend to be more expensive, but in an ideal world, they would get the best, the most knowledgeable lawyer. The same is true of any advice, engineering etc the concept is simple, the one with more knowledge is not the same as the one with less. So when it comes to Islamic Law, why should things be any different?
The Quran explains many times that those who know more are not the same as those who know less.
39|9|Is he who worships devoutly during the watches of the night, prostrating himself and standing up, mindful of the Hereafter, and placing his hope in the mercy of his Lord? Say, “Are those who know and those who do not know equal?” Only those possessed of reason will remember.
9|122|It is not advisable for the believers to march out altogether. Of every division that marches out, let a group remain behind, to gain understanding of the religion, and to notify their people when they have returned to them, that they may beware.
What is the Alternative?
The alternative is to follow someone with less knowledge, eg yourself or a simple local scholar. This is in fact what happens most of the time, how can this be better? Perhaps someone who follows this method could explain…