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Some writers define talfiq as compound taqlid. The concept of taqlid closes the door of ijtihad, making it incumbent upon every Muslim to adhere to the doctrines of one of the four original schools of thought. However, ‘mere blind following’ is not favored and ‘following the opinion of a credulous mufti or jurist’ as an expert opinion is supported. Hence it is recommended for a lay-person to seek counsel of a trustworthy jurist in matters of a probable (zanni ) nature. On the other hand, in the matters holding a definitive (qat‛ī) proof from Shariah, there is no room for blind following as it is based upon knowledge of the five pillars of Islam and prohibitions regarding transactions.

Jurists trace the origin of taqlid to 2nd century hijri. Al-Shawkāni who places its evolution just after the sahaba, tābi‛īn and taba‛ tābi‛īn stresses that the conception of following one of the four established sunni schools of thought, developed after the period of the four Imāms, paid no heed to taqlīd and the four schools of thought were established without their permission. A contemporary jurist elaborates that taqlīd emerged gradually, its outset found in the era of the tābi‛ūn, and synchronized into three stages: first there appeared a general tendency of the masses towards dependence upon opinion of learned jurists, which followed through an abandonment of urge for learning and finally the stage of complete hardening of the hearts. This final phase is characterized by a total abandonment of juristic efforts to conduct ijtihād and people just relied upon previously established doctrines of established schools of thought.

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Juristic discourses on principles of Islamic jurisprudence usually discussed the concept of taqlīd in detail; elaborating its meaning, Sharī‛ah appraisal, viewpoints along with arguments of various schools of thought, on this issue. A brief discussion over the subject issue is reproduced below:

Taqlid - Definition: Al-Jurjāni defines taqlid “as a person's following of other’s words and actions, believing them to be based upon truth, and without having an insight into their legal evidence, in such a way as if the follower has braided the words or actions of the other as a necklace around his/her neck. It is accepting the words of others without legal authority or evidence. Another generally cited definition suggests that “taqlid is to act upon the words of another without legal evidence (hujja).” 

Thus, it excludes a sort of following which is exercised in the cases mentioned underneath:

• A person who follows the enjoining of Holy Prophet (SAW) or,

• Anyone's acting upon a consensus or,

• A layperson seeking consultancy of a mufti (juris-consult) in his personal issues, and thereby acting upon his verdict, and

• A judge’s credence of the evidence of a trustworthy witness.

In all these instances one’s acting upon the words or statements of other people is based upon legal proofs as per Islamic jurisprudence. A more encompassing definition provided by Kamāl Ibn al-Hammām states, “Without any evidence, acting upon the words of one, whose words are not (regarded as) proof

Referring to the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, a valid and permissible form of taqlīd denotes either:

• a following whereby a lay-person acts upon the opinions of a qualified scholar; or

• whereby an expert scholar (in any specific area of law only) seeks guidelines from a high caliber scholar.

It is emphasized by the majority of jurists that, in two cases mentioned above, people should seek guidance of experts on the subject. Al-Qarāfi quotes the opinion of Imām Malīk and that of the majority’s viewpoint stating it as mandatory upon lay-persons to follow mujtahidūn in their legal rulings, just as it is obligatory upon mujtahidūn to explore the sources of law through exercise of ijtihād. Whereas an opposite viewpoint is maintained by the Mu‛tazilites of Baghdad, and Al-Jibā’ī viewed it permissible in ijtihādi cases only.

Juristic Viewpoints on Taqlid: The followers are not considered to be the people who possess faculties of logical reasoning. Therefore a muqallid (the lay-person who follows a jurist) can never be a jurist. Islamic jurisprudence appreciates rational thinking and understanding for deduction of Sharī‛ah rulings in modern issues of law. On the other hand, mere following without reason is condemned. The jurisprudential perspective of taqlīd may be analyzed through two broader categories of matters, as discussed underneath.

Taqlid in Fundamental Principles of Creed (‛aqīdah): Majority of the jurists denounce blind taqlid in one's beliefs in the existence and unity of Allah and in obligatory religious rituals, etc. No jurists allow taqlid in fundamentals of creed except Hanābalah. Whereas Abū Ishāq calls it a condemnable act if someone believes in a dogma without knowing its source (dalīl). To him such people do not qualify for the merits of faith

Taqlid in Branches of Islamic Law (furū‛): In issues of Islamic law, there exists a difference of opinion amongst jurists. Two significant viewpoints are: The first opinion is that Taqlid in furu‛ is permissible While second opinion is that taqlid in furu‛ is prohibited.

Juristic Appraisal of Taqlid Shakhsi: Having established the need to follow a learned jurist, fiqh treatises discuss the controversy on following a specific (established) school of thought in its entirety, termed taqlīd shakhsi. The proponents allege it to be obligatory. Thānawī categorized the status of taqlīd shakhsi as wājib bi al-ghayr (extrinsically obligatory), which he explains to be the second kind of ‘obligation’ and includes such acts to be regarded as obligatory, non-fulfillment of which hinders the fulfillment of obligatory. Thus, the proponents do not claim it to be obligatory in itself for accomplishment of wajib bi al-dhāt (obligatory per se).

However, a middle course adopted by the majority of the jurists postulates: it is not obligatory to follow any specific school of thought (taqlid shakhsi), emulating its concessions (rukhas) and resolutions (‛azā’im) in their entirety. To put it differently, Muslim scholars have usually asserted it to be ‘allowed’ for believers but it is not at all ‘mandatory’ because for an act to be such, there must be Sharī‛ah texts obliging it.


Source: Application of Talfiq in Modern Islamic Commercial Contracts, Ghazala Ghalib Khan. Republished with permission.