By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
12 June 2016
In School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) it is compulsory to follow a mujtahid (expert of deen).
That is because it’s a rational concept based on common sense. For every field in life you depend on the expert in that field.
When you ill you consult a doctor.
When you build a home, you consult a builder.
Religion is no different – in the detailed matters on religion – you must consult an expert.
In Sunni schools they generally follow one of the 4 schools – Shafi, Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali.
But many people say “I follow nobody” – I only follow Islam which is to follow Quran and Sunnah.
So how do they practically follow Islam without following an expert??
This is nothing more than a nice slogan – being Anti-Mathab.
Islam requires interpretation – so whose interpretation do you follow? Even if it is your own interpretation, then that is your mathab!!
Thus Shia say that you should follow a mujtahid who is alive and living in your time who understands Quran and Sunnah in contemporary times.
So Taqleed means to rely on an expert in Religion.
This is rational concept and you don’t need Quran or Hadith to prove this.
BUT taqleed does not mean blind following.
You have to follow someone who is the most learned scholar of your time.
Even the great Imam Khomeini cannot be followed as a mujtahid today as research on deen is a dynamic movement and he has passed away.
While the sources of shariah which are Quran and Sunnah do not change – but the understanding evolves over time.
If you cannot become a medical specialist without spending a long time to study, how can you become an expert of Religion without years of study.
How Do We Determine Who Is Most Learned Expert to Follow?
Shariah teaches us to inquire from 2 reliable people who have some understanding of religion to get an idea.
If you don’t have access to such people, then follow the most well known.
In current times Ayatullah Khamenei or Ayatullah Sistani or others who have similar levels of academic excellence are acceptable muraji (mujtahids with a following) to follow.
Once you make taqleed of the one, then in principle you follow him for the rest of his life except in those matters where he allows you to follow another (in matters which are precautionary compulsory).
If somehow you realize that you made a mistake as he is not the most learned or not a just person, then you can go to another mujtahid (this is extremely unlikely)
If a mujtahid passes away and the next mujtahid who is alive allows you to continue to follow that person who passed away, then you can still follow him.