As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 5


Taqleed Defined

Taqleed in Theory
Taqleed is defined in Hanafi Usool books in the following words;

‘To follow the statements of an individual whose statement is not from the four proofs (Hujjah) of the Sharee’ah and the statement is without evidence (Daleel).
To refer to the (Hadeeth of) Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) and the Ijma is not from Taqleed because these two are from the four proofs (Hujjah) of the Sharee’ah (Qur’aan, Sunnah, Ijma and Qiyaas). Likewise, a common man’s following (the fatawa of) a Mufti and the Qadhi's (judge’s) basing his judgment on the testimonies of witnesses is also not Taqleed, for, even though, these are not from the (four) Hujjah of the Sharee’ah, following them is proved from the texts of the Sharee’ah and the Qur’aan and the Sunnah legitimize following them.’
[Taqreer wa-Tahbeer, pg. 340] (*7)

‘Taqreer wa-Tahbeer’ is the sharah (explanation) of, ‘Tahreer’ of Allamah Ibn al-Hummam - the Hanafi scholar and author of Fath al-Qadeer (9 volumes) which is the explanation of al-Hidayah.

As the definition of Taqleed shows, excluded from Taqleed are; (1) Referring to the scholars for a ruling, (2) Referring to the books of scholars like their Tafaseer (pl. of Tafseer) and Hadeeth collections and (3) to accept the Ijtihadi positions of the scholars based on the evidence they provide.

This definition of Taqleed is approved and accepted by the contemporary Deobandis, as Taqi Usmani says, ‘Taqleed is to follow the opinions of a person, whose opinion is not a proof in Islamic law – without asking for his proof (i.e. the Muqallid does not ask the proof from the person whose opinion he follows).’ Quoted from, ‘The Legal status of following a Madhhab’ by Moulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani. The definition is attributed to Ibn Hummam and Ibn Nujaim.


The Foundation of Taqleed
The concept of Taqleed is based on the assumption that it is not possible that an Imam would have given his opinion on a particular issue, without him having evidences for it.

In general, this assumption is acceptable but it does not rule out the possibility of error or the fact that certain ahadeeth did not reach a particular Imam who gave an opinion in the absence of relevant proofs. If errors of this nature occur, excuses are made for the scholar who errs but the mistakes are not to be followed.

In this regard, Shaikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) says,

‘It must be known that there is not one scholar, who is accepted widely and willfully by the Ummah, that purposely intends to oppose the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) in any aspect of his Sunnah, whether small or large. For indeed, they all agree on the obligation of following the Messenger (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) upon a firm and certain understanding. They also agree that one can accept or reject the statement of any individual from mankind, except that of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam). Therefore, when it is found that an opinion, held by one of them, contradicts an authentic hadeeth, there is no doubt that excuses must be made for him, in explanation to his abandoning of it. These excuses can be divided into three categories;
1. The lack of his believing that the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) said it,
2. The lack of his believing that particular issue was affected by that statement,
3. His belief that the ruling was abrogated.’
[Raful-Malaam anil-A'immatil-A'laam (Removing the Harms from the Noble Imams)]

The immediate students of the great Imams did not dispute with this possibility of the Imam falling into mistakes. This is the reason why, for example, the students of Imam Abu Haneefah differed with their teacher and took positions contradictory to that of the Imam.(*8) The intellectual stagnation seen in the Madhhabs today does not have precedence from the era of the Imams or their students.(*9)

Having established that Taqleed is not about adherence to the proofs of Islam but to Ijtihadi opinions that are not infallible, one can see the gross exaggeration in the Deobandis statement, ‘Taqleed is essential for the protection of Eeman. Without Taqleed, one cannot obtain a true understanding of Eeman and Islam.’

It was mentioned by al-Kamal bin al-Humam in his book al-Tahreer wa al-Taqreer that it is not obligatory to follow a certain school of law (madhhab) because there is no evidence for doing so. Obligation is only set by Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam).

Imams Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hassan differed from their teacher Imam Abu Haneefah in about one third of the rulings of the Madhaahib (pl. of madhhab). [The Evolution of Fiqh by Dr. Bilal Philips. Quoted from al-Hashiyah (vol.1, p.62)]

*9: Al-Buwayti, al-Muzani, an-Nawawi and Ibn Hajr were followers of Imam Shafa’ee, but they were also mujtahids in their own right, and differed with their Imam when they had evidence. Similarly, Ibn Abd al-Barr was a Maliki, but he differed with Imam Malik if the correct view was held by someone else. The same may be said of the Hanafi Imams such as Abu Yosuf and Muhammad ash-Shaybani, and the Hanbali Imams such as Ibn Qudamah, Ibn Muflih and others.

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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