Mujtahid and Ijtihad

Please be sure to read the section entitled: Where Do We Get Our Authority From? before reading this section


One of the great authorities of the past, Shaikh Sulaiman ibn `Abdul Wahhab an-Najdi as-Sudairi al-Hanbali (d. 1209 AH) – may Allah be pleased with him and accept his martyrdom – said the following on the topic of ijtihad and mujtahids:

We begin by saying that you should know that Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, sent Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, with the Guidance, the Religion of Truth, to exalt it over every other religion. He sent down to him the Book,[1] a clarifier of everything. Allah rewarded him with what He promised him and exalted His Religion over every other religion, and He established this affair until the end of time when the souls of all the believers will be raptured.[2]

He has made His Ummah[3] the best of nations just as He has said:

You are the best Ummah ever brought forth for mankind.[4]  

He (Allah) made them witnesses against humanity as the Exalted One said:

Likewise, We have made you a balanced Ummah, so that you might act as witnesses against mankind.[5]

In fact, He chose them, just as the Exalted One said:

He has selected you and not placed any constraint upon you in the religion.[6]

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,[7]Out of some 70 Ummahs, you were the best and most honourable of them in the sight of Allah.”[8]

The points of reference that necessitate this understanding[9] are innumerable, an example being where he, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The affair of this Ummah will always be established until the Hour comes.”[10]

He has truly made it compulsory for everyone to follow the footsteps of this Ummah according to the words of the Exalted One:

He who follows other than the path of the believers, We will hand him over to whatever he has turned to and We will roast him in the Fire. What an evil destination.[11]

In this text, the Consensus[12] has been declared to be a decisive proof by Him and it is not permissible for anyone to exit from it. The points of reference that we have mentioned are well known to anyone who has any practical knowledge of the faith. You should know that what Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, came with is that the ignorant one is not to rely on his opinion alone, but it is necessary for him to ask the People of Knowledge, just as the Exalted One has proclaimed:

Ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know.[13]

It has also been said by him, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that, “The only cure for when someone does not know something is that he ask a question.”[14]

All this is Consensus as mentioned[15] in the work, The Most Far Reaching Answer to the Question[16] The author mentioned that:

The scholars have made Consensus on the fact that it is not permissible for anyone to be an Imam[17] in the religion and the straight and upright way until he has gathered in himself the following characteristics, which are:

1. That he has mastered the Arabic language, its varying types, meaning, poetical metres, types and forms.

2. The differences of opinion of the senior scholars, masters of fiqh[18] and he is a scholar and a jurist,[19] memorising the Arabic, its’ classifications and varieties.

3. A scholar of the Book of Allah, having memorised it with its differing modes of recitation, as well as its different reciters.

4. He must also be a scholar of the meaning of the Qur’an, its verses of judgement[20] and the allegorical,[21] its abrogating verses and those that are abrogated,[22] and also its narratives.[23]

5. He must be an scholar in the Hadith of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, able to make the distinction between authentic[24] and baseless,[25] concurrent,[26] interrupted,[27] attributed,[28] documented,[29] well known as well as mass transmitted.[30]

6. He should also be a scholar of the statements of the Companions, which are found written in books that discuss the disrupted[31] and the documented.

7. He must be righteous in his religion and upon the true creed, safeguarding himself with truthfulness and righteousness, establishing his madhhab and his religion on the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.[32]

When all these characteristics are brought together in an individual, then it is permissible for him to be an Imam, that people make taqlid[33] of him, that he make ijtihad[34] in his religion and gives legal rulings. However, if he has not gathered these characteristics together in himself, or he is lacking one of them, he is deficient and it is not permissible for him to be an Imam, much less that the people follow him.

I will then say further that when these conditions are met, someone will be able to exercise ijtihad and hold the rank of an Imam in the religion. Whoever does not have these characteristics is not fit to be followed and depended upon in any manner. The scholars say, “People in the religion are of two categories: the one who does taqlid and the one who does ijtihad.”[35]

The people of ijtihad are specifically set apart by their knowledge of the religion, attached and connected to the Book and the Sunnah and Arabic, the language of transmission for the two sources.

Whoever knows the Book, the Sunnah, their particular phrases, is knowledgeable of how to establish their rulings and knows what has been narrated by established authority regarding abrogation or other things, such as ellipses, then his ijtihad is valid; such a one may have taqlid done to him by those who have not reached the rank of ijtihad. Whoever is not a mujtahid, it is compulsory to ask someone who is, and make taqlid of him. There is no difference of opinion in this matter at all.[36]

Look at his words! He clearly stated, “There is no difference of opinion in this matter at all!” Imam Ibn ul-Qayyim mentioned in The Notification of the Instructors in Knowledge of Revealed Law from the Lord of All Creation:

It is not permissible for anyone to take from the Book and the Sunnah when he does not meet the conditions of ijtihad, or possess all the sciences of Revealed Law. Muhammad ibn `Ubaidullah ibn al-Munadi[37] mentioned that when Ahmad ibn Hanbal was asked, “When a man has memorised 100,000 Ahadith, is he a scholar of fiqh?”

Ahmad replied, “No.” He said, “Then 200,000 Ahadith?” He said, “No.” He said, “Then 300,000 Ahadith?” He said, “No.” He then said, “Then 400,000 Ahadith?” He said, “Yes,” moving his hand to state the number was sufficient.

Abul Hussain[38] mentioned, “I asked my grandfather once how many Ahadith Ahmad had memorised. He said that he must have answered questions using some 600,000 Ahadith on different topics.”

Abu Hafs al-`Ukbari[39] mentioned that his teacher, Abu Ishaq,[40] said, “I was sitting in the Mansur Family Central Masjid[41] one day when for some reason this issue was mentioned. A man came to me and questioned if I had mentioned that amount so that I could give people rulings. I answered that I had not, but that I only give ruling based on the words of someone who has memorised this amount.”[42]

If we had desired, we could have continued quoting the narrations of the Consensus at great length, but this seems sufficient for the one seeking guidance. I have only mentioned this in the introduction so that as a rule, this point can be referred back to in whatever we will mention next. In this day and age humanity has been tested by those who claim to be going by the Book and the Sunnah and they attempt to extract rulings from its sciences, and they do not care who opposes them.


[1] Ar. kitab (KEY-TAAB). This is referring to the Qur’an. Allah says about his Revelation: That is the Book in which there is no doubt. It is a guide for those who are righteous. Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 2

Allah has said: No falsehood can approach it from the front or behind. It is a revelation sent down from the All Wise, the Worthy of Praise. Surah Fussilat (41), ayah 42

Allah says further: It is a Qur’an that We have sent down to you at intervals, so that you might recite it to people at intervals, revealed in stages. Surat ul-Isra’ (17), ayat 105-106

[2] The rapture of the believers referred to by the author is connected to the end-time prophecy where there will be no Muslims left upon the face of the Earth when the cool wind comes blowing from the Syria-Yemen location. The discussion of this will be dealt with later in the work, if Allah wills.

[3] This word has no satisfactory rendering into English that the translator could find, thus it will have to remain in its original Arabic. The linguistic basis of the word is discussed by Imam Ibn al-Mandhur: “People were upon one Ummah, meaning one faith… so the Ummah means the Way and the Faith.

If someone should say, ‘There is no Ummah for him’, they mean that there is no faith or religion for him. If someone should say that someone is the best Ummah, it would mean the best people of faith.” Lisan ul-`Arab, vol.12, pp.26-27.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, meant this and more by the term Ummah when he said, “I saw 120 rows in the Paradise, 80 of them from this Ummah.” Collected by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad, vol.5, pp.354-355, as narrated by the companion, Buraidah al-Aslamah, may Allah be pleased with him, and classed as authentic.

We can see that he is referring to those who believe in him and follow him when he said further: “My Ummah is an Ummah that has been bestowed mercy. There is no punishment for it in the Hereafter. Its punishment in this life is by trials, earthquakes and massacres.” Collected by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, vol.4, pp.410-418, and classed as authentic.

[4] Surah Ali `Imran (3), ayah 110

[5] Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 142

[6] Surat ul-Hajj (22), ayah 78

[7] This is a reference to the second form of Revelation, that being the Sunnah. The use of this word ‘Sunnah’ has both a linguistic and theological use. Linguistically the word ‘Sunnah’ refers to a path, a road that is taken. Our concern is with the theological impact. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy upon him, defined Sunnah as, “The ways and words of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. The Sunnah explains the Qur’an; it has indicators on how to practise the Qur’an. There is no analogy in the Sunnah, and one should not make likenesses to it. The Sunnah is not encompassed by intellect or vain desires. It is only for us to follow the Sunnah and abandon evil desires.” Usul us-Sunnah, point #2

[8] Collected by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, vol.15, pp. 111-112.

[9] Ar. dala’il (sing. dilalah).  Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the word carried the understanding, “So you should know that the dilalah of phrases posseses the meaning that can be put into the following points: 1) dilalah of agreement and complete meaning. So consider the use of the word ‘house,’ which is referring to all of the habitation that we know of when we use the word ‘house.’ 2) then there is the dilalah of the phrase that posseses part of the meaning.

This would include the use of the word ‘roof’ or the word human being for body. 3) the dilalah of necessary knowledge. Like when you use the expression ‘roof,’ which is what goes over the walls. It is not a part of the roof but one cannot conceive of a roof without walls under it. So it is a composite part of the point of speech. So this type of speech cannot be used in investigating matters of the intellect as there are things that prove certain necessary statements.

So there has to come a point when one understands another thing from just one word. Take for example the use of the word ‘roof,’ which necessitates that there must be walls under it. The walls are the foundation holding it up and the foundation of that is the Earth. So if there is a roof, there must be walls.

Thus if there are walls, the rest of the house must be present which in turn is held in place by the earth and rock beneath it. These matters cannot be defined in a limited fashion but on the contrary can be limited to two points, namely that which corresponds and that which is part of the meaning.” Please see Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, vol.1, pp. 70-71.

The basic summation of all the different forms of dilalah is that the dilalah refers to something that must necessarily lead to another thing or another conclusion. So in the case of the roof, this leads to the understanding that there must be walls holding it up. This is so as there is only one understanding of roof that we have and if there is a structure held aloft and not be walls, then it is not a roof. The statement that the author used that the affair of the Ummah always being established until the Hour comes has a dilalah in it.

If the Ummah is always established rightly, then this means that this was the case before, is present now and will continue until the Day of Resurrection. Anything that would contradict that can thus be rejected. This is how the reader should understand the use of dilalah.

[10] Collected by Imam Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari in his Al-Jami` us-Sahih, Book of Holding Fast to the Book and the Sunnah, under the chapter of There will always be a Group from My Ummah Manifest Upon the Truth Fighting for it and these are the People of Knowledge, and classed by him as authentic.

[11] Surat un-Nisa’ (4), ayah 115

[12] Ar. ijma`. Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah gives the meaning of Consensus: “The meaning of Consensus in the Revealed Law is the agreement of the scholars of the Ummah of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, on some matter of the faith at a point in time.” Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, vol.1, pp.375-376

An evidence for Consensus is where Allah has said: Whoever opposes the Messenger after the guidance has been made clear to him and follows other than the path of the believers, We shall turn him over to what he has chosen and burn him in the Great Fire, and what an evil end. Surat un-Nisa’ (4), ayah 115

Imam Ibn al-Jawzi, may Allah have mercy on him, comments on this ayah: ‘Whoever opposes the Messenger after the guidance of Tawhid and judicial rulings have been made clear to him, and follows other than the path of the believers, will be left to what he has chosen for himself’. Zad ul-Masir fi `Ilm it-Tafsir, pp.324-325

Indeed, the Ummah follows the scholars and has also been protected from falling into error. What this Ummah has understood has been passed down, as the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, told us: “The believers are the witnesses of Allah on Earth.” Jami` us-Sahih of Imam Muhammad al-Bukhari, Book of Witnesses, under the chapter of How many witnesses are needed for an upright testimony?

The Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, also said, “Whatever the Muslims see as good, Allah sees as good. Whatever they see as evil, Allah sees as evil.” Collected by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, vol.1, pp.378-379, and classified as authentic.

[13] Surat un-Nahl (16), ayah 43

[14] Collected by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, vol.3, pp. 328-329, Hadith# 3057, and classified as authentic.

[15] As a Qadi and a Grand Mufti of his madhhab, Imam Sulaiman begins to build up the unimpeachable argument that the Orthodox Muslims, when they are not scholars and masters of a science, are required to either quote one or follow one when they do not know something of a particular issue. He has taken his argument from many texts. This has been mentioned in the Prologue in the main body of the text.

[16] Ar. Ghayat us-Su’al

[17] The use of the expression ‘Imam’ here is not referring to the one who leads the prayer in houses of worship or does other activities that Muslims may see around them. Rather, the particular use of Imam in this way refers to the one who is a mujtahid. When differentiating between these and those other imams, one may encounter in the local masjid, the translator has put the latter in the lower care and the former in capitals.

[18] Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah states that this word denotes: “Knowledge of the rulings in Revealed Law in terms of actions, such as that which is permissible, impermissible, authentic and sound, or inauthentic and invalid.” Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, vol.1, pp.53-54

[19] Ar. faqih (FUH-KEY). This person would also by default be a master of what is known in Arabic as usul ul-fiqh. The definition has been given by Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah: “The evidences of the fiqh taken from the general points of the Revealed Law.” Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, vol.1, pp.53-54

[20] Ar. Muhkamat (MOOH-KAM-AAT). Al-Qadi Abu Ya`la the Elder, may Allah have mercy upon him, states, “The verse of judgement is the explained ayah, as Allah named the muhkamat the substance of the Book and the substance of the thing is the foundation which nothing is given preference to other than it. So if it is necessary to know that the muhkam is not in need of something else for explanation, then it is also necessary to know that it is the foundation in and of itself and it is not anything else according to what we have mentioned.” Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, vol.1, pp. 212-213

[21] Ar. mutashabihat (MOO-TA-SHAA-BI-HAT). Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah, may Allah be pleased with him, says the following of the allegorical passages, “The truth and the most preponderant view is that the allegorical passages are the ayat that speak of the Attributes of Allah, Mighty and Majestic.” Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, vol.1, pp.213-215

[22] Ar. nasikh wa mansukh. This in English is known as abrogation, or progressive revelation. This Arabic word means, ‘to abrogate, invalidate, revoke, supersede, repeal, replace or withdraw’. This is the linguistic sense of the word. In Revealed Law, it carries specific implications that should be known by the believer.

Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din, may Allah have mercy upon him, stated: ‘Abrogation in the Revealed Law has the meaning of when the ruling on something is removed or eliminated, so the removal of the established present judgement in speech is superseded by speech that revokes and unbinds it’. Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, vol.1, pp.218-219

[23] Ar. qasas (KA-SAUCE), Qissah (sing.)

[24] Ar. sahih (SAH-HEE). All the scholars of Muslim Orthodoxy have said, “The scholars have said that there are three types of Ahadith: 1) sahih, 2) hasan and 3) da`if, and every branch has its forms. As for the authentic, this is any Hadith that has a chain of transmission that is continuous, with trustworthy narrators all the way back without rarities or flaw. This is agreed upon as authentic.” Sahih Muslim bi Sharh in-Nawawi, vol.1, pp. 26-27

[25] Ar. saqim (SUH-QEEM). Imam Abu Sulaiman Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Khattabi, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “The people of Hadith are agreed that there are three branches of Hadith: a) sahih b) hasan and c) saqim. The sahih has a continuous chain of transmitters and narrators while the hasan is what is known and popular, bearing popular narrators, and most of the People of Hadith and scholars of fiqh know it and make use of it.

The saqim, however, has three branches, the worst of which is the a) mawdu`, then the b) maqlub and finally the c) majhul.” Sahih Muslim bi Sharh in-Nawawi, vol.1, pp. 26-27. Therefore, this shows us that not everything that is da`if or saqim is a lie or unusable. Indeed the mawdu` (Eng. fabricated) is certainly not fit for use, action or belief and can be rejected, but this is not the case for the others.

Imam Yahya an-Nawawi (d. 676 AH), may Allah be pleased with him, said, “The majhul reporters and reports have different branches, one of which is the narrator whose being upright externally and internally is not known, while there is the report where the narrator is upright externally and his internal is veiled and not known, then finally is the narrator whose identity is not known in the chain of transmission.

The first type of majhul is not valid to use as evidence, while the other two forms are utilised by many of the verifiers and researchers.”Sahih Muslim bi Sharh in-Nawawi, vol.1, pp. 27-28. Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab and his devotees will often use this against Muslim Orthodoxy and his laity by way of threatening, scaring or swaying the faith of these believers, but what the Orthodox believer must do is not immediately translate the word ‘saqim’ or ‘da`if’ as unreliable or untrue. Rather, the believer should begin to ask which type of da`if is being stated, as two of the three forms can be used and utilised with conditions.

[26] Ar. muttasil (MUT-TA-SILL). Imam Taha ibn Muhammad al-Baiquni (d. 1080 AH (AD 1670), may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Whatever possesses a statement in which every narrator has a connection to the Chosen One, then it is muttasil.” Al-Majmu`ah Ummuhat ul-Mutun: Al-Baiquniyyah fil Mustalah, pp. 43-44

[27] Ar. munqati` (MUN-QAT`AH). Imam Yahya an-Nawawi, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “The munqati` is when a chain of transmission is not connected due to one or two narrators being dropped from the chain of transmitters.” Sahih Muslim bi Sharh in-Nawawi, vol.1, pp. 29-30

[28] Ar. mursal (MUR-SELL). This has been defined by the scholars of fiqh and foundational principles, groups of Hadith scholars, including Al-Khatib Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as, “When the chain of transmission of a Hadith is interrupted in any way, according to them it has the same ruling as the munqata`. Groups of Hadith scholars, in fact most of them, say that a narration is only mursal when there is a tabi` narrating directly from the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, without mentioning the Companion.

The position of Imam ash-Shafi`ii and the Hadith scholars or the majority of these and a group of scholars of fiqh have the understanding that this cannot be used as evidence. However, the madhabs of Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and most of the scholars of fiqh say that one may use it as evidence to make ruling.” Sahih Muslim bi Sharh in-Nawawi, vol.1, pp. 29-30

[29] Ar. musnad (MOOSE-NED). Imam Taha al-Baiquni, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “The musnad is the one that is connected by its chain of transmission with one narrator and there is no one between him and the Chosen One.” Al-Majmu`ah Ummuhat ul-Mutun: Al-Baiquniyyah fil Mustalah, pp. 43-44

[30] Ar. mashahir (MA-SHA-HEAR) pl. and sing. mashhur (MESH-HOOR). Imam Taha ibn Muhammad al-Baiquni, may Allah be pleased with him, remarked, “Mashhur is a report with three or more narrators.” Al-Majmu`ah: Ummuhat ul-Mutun: Al-Baiquniyyah fil Mustalah, pp. 43-44.

There are different types of this report, with some scholars classifying Mutawatir/tawatur (MU-TA-WAA-TIR/TU-WAA-TUR) as a branch. This term mutawatir or tawatur is defined by Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah, may Allah have mercy upon him, as: “Knowledge of things like the existence of cities like Makkah or Baghdad and so forth.

This is not a knowledge that is felt, for that which is felt is only sensed. The truthfulness of information is what is known to the intellect, as it is widespread. This fifth principle of knowing information is one of the ways of knowing something for sure.” Rawdat un-Nazir wa Junnat ul-Munazir, pp.91-92.

This definition is the linguistic one. As for the definition when discussing points of Revealed Law, Imam Muhammad Ahmad as-Saffarini, may Allah have mercy upon him, observes: “This term refers to when so many people have come to know and agree upon something and establish that the thing agreed upon is impossible to be a lie due to the obvious nature of it.” Lawami` ul-Anwar ul-Bahiyyah, vol.1, pp.13-15

[31] Ar. mawquf (MAO-COOF). Imam Yahya an-Nawawi, may Allah be pleased with him, in quoting the authorities on the subject, gave the following statement, “Mawquf is when a statement or action, whether complete or interrupted in chain, is attributed to a companion.” Sahih Muslim bi Sharh in-Nawawi, vol.1, pp. 29-30

[32] Thus the cultist or the unbeliever could not possibly be a mujtahid, as one of the conditions is lacking.

[33] Ar. taqlid (TECH-LEAD). Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him, from the third blessed generation, said of the matter of taqlid, “Whoever says that he does not believe in taqlid and that he does not follow anyone in his religion, such is the statement of a rebellious sinner in the sight of Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

Such a one only seeks by doing so to nullify and strip the footsteps given before, and to nullify the knowledge and the Sunnah. They want to stay isolated and alone with personal opinion, speculative theology, innovation and contradiction, and opposition to what came before them.” Tabaqat ul-Hanabilah, vol.1, pp. 33-34.

Imam al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (d. 463 AH), may Allah be pleased with him, when commenting upon these and other statements of Imam Ahmad and other scholars, said: “We have already mentioned in detail the evidence that the mujtahid will use when he looks into knowing the rulings of the Revealed Law.

Now all that remains is to discuss what authority the common person returns to in acting on an issue, and this is known as taqlid. The general meaning is that taqlid refers to accepting the statement of someone without knowing any evidence for it. Rulings are built upon two matters; rational and those pertaining to the Revealed Law.

As for the rational, then it is not permissible to make taqlid in this area, in matters such as knowing the Creator, Exalted be He, and His Attributes, knowing the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, testifying to his truthfulness and other matters that have to do with judgements and punishments to come in the Hereafter. It has, however, been narrated from `Ubaidullah ibn Al-Hasan al-`Anbari, who said that taqlid in the foundations of the religion is permissible, but this is a mistake due to the Words of Allah the Exalted,

Follow what was sent down to you from your Lord and do not follow those besides Him as protectors. Little indeed do you reflect.  Surat ul-A`raf (7), ayah 3. Allah has also said, When it is said to them, ‘Follow that which Allah sent down,’ they say, ‘We shall follow what we found our fathers upon.’ And if your fathers did not know anything nor were they guided. Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 170.

The Exalted One has further said, Likewise, we did not send before you to any town a warner except that its inhabitants said, ‘We found our fathers upon a religion and we shall follow in their footsteps.’ Say, ‘What if I have come to you with more guidance than that which you found our fathers upon.’ Surat uz-Zukhruf (43), ayah 23.

When the following of their fathers prevented them from accepting that which is more guided, they said, We do not believe in that which you have sent to us. Surat uz-Zukhruf (43), ayah 24.

The Exalted One has said, Recite to them the news of Ibrahim when he said to his father and people, ‘What do you worship?’ They said, ‘We worship idols and we are steadfast in maintaining them.’ Say, ‘Do they hear you when you call on them and can they benefit or harm you?’ They said, ‘We found our fathers doing likewise before us.’ Surat ush-Shu`ara’ (26), ayat 69-74.

They, therefore, abandoned giving the answer to the issue due to their inablility to do so and the question actually exposed the falsity of their position. The people mentioned what they had not been asked regarding their fathers and their making taqlid of them.

The Exalted One has also said, ‘They said, Our Lord, we obeyed our leaders and senior folk, and they led us astray from the path.’ Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 67. The Exalted One also said, They took their priests and rabbis as lords besides Allah. Surat ut-Tawbah (9), ayah 31.

`Adi ibn Hatim said, I came to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, while I was wearing a crucifix around my neck made of gold. He said, Ibn Hatim, remove this idol from your neck. I took it off and then he recited the whole of Surah Bara’ah until he reached, They took their priests and rabbis as lords besides Allah. Surat ut-Tawbah (9), ayah 31.

I said, Messenger of Allah, we did not worship them. So the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, Did they make permissible the impermissible and you obeyed them and they made the permissible impermissible and you obeyed them? I said, yes and he said, Then that is worship of them.

Abul Bukhtari said that Hudhaifah was asked about the ayah, They took their priests and rabbis as lords besides Allah, how the people worshipped their priests and rabbis. Hudhaifah answered, ‘They made permissible what Allah declared impermissible and they made impermissible what Allah had made permissible’.”

Imam Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, may Allah be pleased with him, commented further after quoting all this, “So because the principles of the faith that we mentioned have to do with what is awareness and intellect, and the people all share in that matter, there is to be no taqlid in the foundations.

As for the judgements and rulings of the Revealed Law, then there are two points regarding taqlid:

1) One knows by necessity from the religion of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the compulsory nature of things like the five prayers, zakah, fasting the month of Ramadan, Hajj.

It is also known by necessity the impermissibility of fornication and adultery, taking intoxicants and other such things. In these matters, there is no taqlid, for all people share in knowing them and having knowledge of them, so taqlid has no basis in this matter.

2) There are the things that are not known except by investigation and gathering evidence, such as the branches of worship, transactions, marriage, divorce matters and other things that are connected to the foundational rulings. This is a matter in which one does taqlid, according to the evidence of the statement of Allah the Exalted, Ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know. Surat un-Nahl (16), ayah 43.

If we should stop taqlid in these matters that are from the branches of the religion, it would have been necessary for everyone to learn that knowledge, and by obligating this it would stop all occupations, the cultivation of the earth, whether it be crops, livestock or the movement of people from place to place. Thus it is necessary that everyone is not responsible for this knowledge. The one who does taqlid is the layman.

The layman does not know the different ways that the rulings of the Revealed Law are found, so it is permissible for such a person to make taqlid of a scholar and act by his words. Allah the Exalted has said, Ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know. `Amr ibn Qais said of the ayah, ‘Those to be asked are the People of Knowledge’.

It is narrated from Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, that there was a man with a head injury in the time of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who had a wet dream and was commanded to make ghusl, and upon doing so died. Once this reached the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, he said, ‘They have killed him. May Allah kill them. The only cure for when someone does not know something is to ask a question’.

When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was asked after that, he answered, ‘If he had washed his body, but left his head and wiped over it, this would have been sufficient’. Because that man was not from the people of ijtihad, it was compulsory for him to make taqlid just as the blind person makes taqlid regarding the direction of prayer.

If he does not have with him the tool of ijtihad in the direction of prayer, he is to make taqlid of the person with sight regarding the matter. It is narrated from one of the Mu`tazilah, who said that it is not permissible for the layman or common man to act by the statement of the scholar until he knows the ruling for it. When he has asked the scholar the matter, then he only asks him to know the ruling and when he finds the evidence behind it, he acts by it.

This is a clear mistake, as there is no way for the layman to go to the evidences except after studying for years and keeping the company of and mixing with the scholars of fiqh for a long period of time.

He will then have to investigate the rules and ways of analogy, know what validates and nullifies it and what is compulsory to give preference to in regards to other evidence and the preference of one evidence over another, but by making the layman responsible for this, one is charging him with what he is not able to do and has no way to reach it.

As for the scholar, is it permissible for him to make taqlid of another scholar? The matter has to be investigated. If there is plenty of time to look into the issue and it is possible for him to make ijtihad, then it is necessary for him to make ijtihad for the ruling and it is not permissible for the scholar to make taqlid.

There are some who have declared it permissible for the scholar to make taqlid, and this has been stated by Imam Sufyan ath-Thawri. He said, ‘Whatever the scholars of fiqh have differed in, I do not forbid any one of my brothers from taking hold of it. When the man sees an action being done that the scholars of fiqh have differed in and you have another position besides him, do not forbid him from the action’.

Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan ash-Shaibani remarked, ‘It is permissible for the scholar to make taqlid of the one with more knowledge than him and it is not permissible for him to make taqlid of the one equal in knowledge to him’. The reason for the principle that it is not permissible for him to make taqlid of one of the same calibre is because of the length of time that he has and the the tools of ijtihad that he can use to make the ruling sought.

In this case, it is not permissible for him to make taqlid of someone besides him as we have said of the matters of the intellect. Now if the time should be short and he believes that worship may be left if he spends much time in ijtihad, then there are two points to this matter:

1) It is permissible for him to make taqlid in that affair,

2) It is not permissible for him to make taqlid so long as he has the tools of ijtihad, so the ruling is the same as if he had plenty of time. It is said that this is the more correct of the two positions. Allah knows best.

Abu Ibrahim al-Muzani said of this affair, ‘It should be asked of the one who makes ruling by taqlid whether he has proof. If he should say that he does, then he has nullified the taqlid, as the proof makes that compulsory for him to follow and not taqlid. If the person should say that it is by other than the proof, then it should be asked about the rulings on judicial punishments and rulings on the lives of people and the charity in wealth Allah has made all that impermissible then you have made it permissible without evidence.

If he should say that he knows the proof and that if he does not know it he will ask his teacher, as he is from the senior scholars, and his opinion in the knowledge takes more precedence. Anything that he might say is only with proof that is hidden from me at the moment. It should then be said to to him that the taqlid of the teacher of your teacher is more befitting of taqlid than that of your very own teacher, as he does not speak except by the proof that has been concealed from your own teacher, and your teacher speaks of things and has the proof concealed from him.

If he should agree to this, he has abandoned taqlid of his teacher to taqlid of the teacher of his teacher and, likewise, whoever is higher until he reaches the scholars from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. If he should refuse to do that, he has contradicted his own words.

It should be asked of him how it is permissible for him to make taqlid of the one who is less than him and has less knowledge, and it is not permissible for him to make taqlid of one who is greater than him and has more knowledge? Is this not a contradiction?

If he should say that the matter is because the person is his teacher and that even if he has less knowledge, he has gathered knowledge of those above him and added it to his knowledge, so he has greater insight and more knowledge of what has been left. It should be said that, likewise, whoever learned from your teacher, has added the knowledge of your teacher and the knowledge of those above him to his knowledge.

It then becomes compulsory to make taqlid of him and abandon taqlid of your teacher. Likewise, you have more right to make taqlid of yourself than your teacher, as you have added his knowledge and the knowledge of those above him to his knowledge, so by the words of this person mentioned he has contradicted himself.

He has made the one who is less and speaks from the lesser in knowledge of the scholars greater than the taqlid of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and he put taqlid of someone less than a companion over them and the taqlid of the one who is higher, subservient to the one who is less, and this is the case in the analogy.

He has made it necessary for whoever is correct to follow other than his teacher in the mistakes of his teacher, and he is mistaken in this matter regarding his teacher and his taqlid alone’.” Kitab al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, vol.2, pp. 66-70.

Thus, those who are not people of ijtihad of any calibre are obligated in this area to accept the evidence that the scholars have given, even though we do not know all the texts on the topic. One example is Consensus.

Allah has indeed mentioned it in the Qur’an, And whoever contends with the Messenger after the guidance has been made clear to him and he who follows other than the path of the believers, We will hand him over to whatever he has turned to and We will roast him in the Fire. What an evil destination. Surat un-Nisa’ (4), ayah 115.

We know this is the case, but the scholars have given the verses and explained them in such a manner that means, if we ask them the evidence for an understanding (i.e. abrogation, the categories of strong, authentic, weak in Hadith science etc), they state that this is Consensus, but if we ask them for an explicit text upon that which they have all agreed, there is not one present, but just the general texts on Consensus.

This goes back to what the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said of the scholars, “Whoever travels a path seeking knowledge, Allah makes him travel a path to Paradise. The angels spread out their wings in pleasure for the one seeking knowledge. Every creature in the skies and the Earth seeks forgiveness for the scholar, even the fish in the sea.

The virtue of the scholar over the worshipper is like the virtue of the moon over the rest of the stars in the sky. Indeed, the scholars are the inheritors of the prophets. They do not believe behind any coin or measure of wealth, but it is the knowledge that they leave behind. Whoever should take hold of it, takes hold of much good indeed.” Musnad Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol.16, pp. 70-71

[34] This word is explained with two subcategories, depending on the one who is doing the ijtihad. For the Absolute Mujtahid, when he uses ijtihad, it has sometimes been translated, ‘Advanced Juridical Reasoning (AJR)’, while for every Mujtahid besides, it has been translated, ‘Restricted Juridical Application (RAJA)’, although both of them are doing ijtihad.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used this expression when he said, “When the judge makes ijtihad and he is correct, he has two rewards (ajr) and when he is mistaken, he has one reward.”

Collected by Imam Muslim ibn Hajjaj in his Jami` us-Sahih, Book of Giving Judgement, under the chapter of, Explanation of the reward of the Judge when he makes ijtihad and is correct or mistaken. This difference between the mujtahids will be explained further in the work, if Allah wills.

[35] Therefore, there are laymen and scholars. However, the scholars have different divisions, which is why the scholars have discussed this in some length. When discussing people on earth in terms of their knowledge, there are some seven types of people.

1) Mujtahid Mutlaq (Absolute Mujtahid): the scholar who derives principles directly from the text. This one has memorised all the Qur’an (6,236 lines) as well as all its subsciences. He knows all the verses for collective and individual rulings (some 500 in number).

He knows the fullness of the Sunnah (one million Ahadith), having full knowledge of the 500 collections that make up the Ahadith, mastering varying narrations and supporting texts along with all 18 sciences of Revealed Law. This is in addition to what has been mentioned in the main body of the text. Such a scholar has their own methodology for deriving principles from the Revealed Law, as he knows it entirely and completely.

2) Mujtahid Mutlaq fil-Madhhab (Absolute Mujtahid Within the School): a scholar in this case utilises the principles for deriving rulings from the Imam of his school, using these principles to derive new rulings from the text as well as executing them. Although he is using the evidence, he is only able to derive rulings using the principles of his Imam and legal school.

3) Mujtahid Murajjih (Preferential Mujtahid): someone of this category is able to tell the dominant and depended upon ruling in his school by examining the positions and statements of the scholars. After looking at the statements, he can come to the ruling, and quotes those most senior figures, with or without their evidence.

4) Mujtahid Mukharrij (Mujtahid of Derivation): they have gathered together the books, they comment upon them, extract their rulings in new situations as answers for the laymen. They do not engage in a great deal of ijtihad and only comment when there is no statement within the legal school as a precedent.

5) Mujtahid Ifta’ (Mujtahid of Legal Rulings): a scholar who can indicate and explain to an enquirer where a ruling is found, the evidence for it and the like.

6) Mujtahid Fil-Masa’il (Mujtahid in Specific Matters): he is able to give rulings in certain areas that he has mastered, such as language, inheritance and the like, but is considered a ‘lacking mujtahid’ in the sense that he does not encompass all the sciences. That in which he is proficient, he stands as a master. It should also be mentioned that in this case, both this category and the mujtahid ifta’ are not able to implement the law or exact the legal rulings; they may only indicate them.

Within these classifications, there are subgroups of lesser and greater capacity, but the point of this note was not to discuss these areas exhaustively, but only to make brief comment, so the words of the author could be understood in context.

7) Common Muslims (Laity): this includes most people from amongst the Muslims of all ages, as they have not all been commanded to become scholars of ijtihad. They may go directly to the texts for their creed, basic knowledge of what is impermissible and permissible, and enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong. For that which is more detailed or requires specialised knowledge, they must refer to one of the six mentioned.

This has been discussed at length by noble Imams, such as Ibn Hamdan (d. 695 AH (AD 1298) as well as al-Futuhi (d. 898-972 AH (AD 1493-1565) in his text, al-Muntaha, vol.3, under the Book of Giving Legal Rulings, which was commented upon by Shaikh ul-Islam Mansur al-Buhuti (d. 1051 AH (AD 1656). These classifications can be discussed at length in a separate research, but for now they are here for the general knowledge of the reader, so it can be ascertained what the author intends by his words.

[36] There is almost a word for word reiteration of this statement by Imam`Ala’ ud-Din Al-Mardawi (820-885 AH (AD 1417-1480) in Tahrir ul-Manqul Fi Tahdhib il-`Ilm il-Usul, may Allah be pleased with both of them, who both gave the conditions for ijtihad, “So the conditions for someone being a mujtahid are that:

  1. The one in question would be a jurist, the word jurist carrying the meaning of ‘the scholar of the principles of fiqh’, which means that he has the strength and ability to derive rulings from their primary sources and is knowledgeable about what is depended upon in principles of jurisprudence, that being the Book, Sunnah, Consensus and analogy from its many forms.
  1. He would know how to look for evidence, where it would be found, and the differing principles of the scholars of fiqh. What he must also do is look at the situation that requires the ruling. He would then look at the ruling for that situation and finally how to apply it. He would know when to give precedence to something that would normally be delayed and when to delay something that would normally be given precedence. That type of skill is the instrument of the mujtahid, just as much as the pen is the instrument of the writer.
  1. He would be a scholar of the textual evidence of revelation in all its elaborate detail along with the different ranks and levels of that evidence. While having all this, he would possess the ability and erudition to master the textual evidence with full power to bind, loose, arrange and declare what is authentic and also inauthentic. That is all the providence and responsibility of implementing fiqh. Hujjat ul-Islam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, may Allah have mercy upon him, stated: ‘When the jurist speaks and gives rulings in matters that he hears about, but does not speak with the same authority in matters he has not heard about, then he is really not a jurist’.
  1. The individual should be a scholar of the science of that which abrogates and that which is abrogated. He should know about the science of Hadith, whether it be authentic, weak, the point of the text or the chain of transmission.
  1. He would know grammar and syntax, which is the way of coming to know that which is in relation to the Book and Sunnah when one discusses an explicitly worded text, a dominant text, a passage clarified by another text, an independently clear passage, external, literal, figurative and other divisions that reach some 80 subcategories.
  1. The person should know the intent of phrases and statements that are used, and how sentences are structured grammatically. The way things are understood or how they should be understood are crucial, as some rulings are connected to how certain phrases and statements are applied. By knowing this, he is firmly acquainted with grammatical pauses and punctuation. An example would be the statement of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, “Follow these two after me: Abu Bakr and `Umar.” The way the Shi`ah relate it renders the punctuation, ‘Along with Abu Bakr and `Umar, you should follow those after me’. The way to know the correct understanding would be to comprehend the grammar and construction of the sentence. Situations like this often arise, so much so that in the areas of divorce and affirming evidence, and similar subjects, the jurists make a difference between the one who knows Arabic and the one who does not.
  1. He knows what is agreed upon and what is differed in, and the areas of Consensus, so that he does not contradict or oppose it by mistake.
  1. He would also know the reasons why ayat were revealed in the Qur’an and why the statements of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, were made, so he should know the intent and context of what was said. In this way he would also have access to this knowledge in relation to what is specific and what is general.
  1. More importantly, he knows Allah and His Attributes, His being free from resembling His Creation and other important knowledge. He knows that which is permissible to believe about Him, Exalted be He, and that which is impermissible to believe about Him. He would bear witness and testify to the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, what Revealed Law he came with that has been given to us and emphasised by definite evidence. He believes in the rest of the messengers, peace be upon them, and all other revelations previous to those mentioned, and what is authentically expounded in the books of the rightly guided Orthodox creed. Please see Sharh ul-Kawkab il-Munir: Al-Mukhtar ul-Mubtakar Sharh ul-Mukhtasar fi Usul il-Fiqh, vol.4, pp. 459-471, which quotes this passage and is discussed in detail by the commentator, Imam Ibn An-Najjar (d. 972 AH (AD 1565).

[37] d. 272 AH (AD 885). He is a student of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and teacher of Hadith to such students as Imams Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud as-Sijistani, `Abdullah al-Baghawi and more. Rumoured to have lived some 100 years, he is mentioned by Imam Al-Bukhari in his Al-Jami` us-Sahih under the title, Ahmad.

[38] d. 368 AH (AD 979). Abul Hussain Ahmad ibn Ja`far ibn Al-Munadi, the grandson of Imam Muhammad ibn `Ubaidullah al-Munadi, he wrote more than 400 works and was recognised in the field of creed, fiqh and Hadith analysis.

[39] d. 387 AH (AD 997). He is `Umar ibn Ibrahim ibn `Abdullah Al-`Ukbari, student of scholars of such high calibre as Abu Bakr an-Najjad and Abu Ishaq Ibn Shaqla, and teacher to Al-Qadi Abu Ya`la the Elder. He wrote numerous books such as Al-Muqni`, Sharh ul-Khiraqi and Al-Khilaf baina Ahmad wa Malik, and is remembered for his piety.

[40] d. 354 (AD 965). He is Ibrahim ibn Ahmad ibn `Umar ibn Hamdan ibn Shaqla, known as Abu Ishaq al-Bazzar. Known as a genius in the fundamentals of faith, fiqh, he kept the company of many noble scholars, such as Abu Bakr `Abdul `Aziz and others.

Students of this Imam included Abu Hafs Al-`Ukbari, `Abdul `Aziz Ghulam Az-Zujaj and Ahmad ibn `Uthman Al-Kabshi. As a champion of the faith and a caller to the simplicity of faith, he was always well known for making what were seen as complex things seem inherently simple.

[41] Ar. Jami` ul-Mansur

[42] I`laam ul-Muwaqqi`in `an Rabbil `Alamin, vol.2, pp. 84-85

Taken with Permission from Al-Hajj Abu Ja`far Al-Hanbali’s translation of:

The Divine Lightning: The Decisive Speech from the Lord of Lords, the Words of the Messenger of the King, the Bestower, the Statements of the People of Wisdom in Answer to Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab, from section marked, Prologue

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