Taqlid (imitation) is the acting upon the saying of others,
without direct knowledge of the mandatory evidencing. It is the following by a Muqallid of the opinions of a Mujtahid Aalim in the issue of jurisprudence (Fiqh), in order to act upon what the Aalim said.
He follows the opinion of the Aalim because he trusts that the Aalim’s saying emerged from the evidence, which the Mujtahid examined. The Muqallid does not have to know this evidence, or the knowledge of the derivation (istinbat), ijtihad and the process of decision, whilst not even knowing what the Aalim mentioned, memorized and preserved. The Muqallid acts upon the action, without deriving the ruling from the Shariah evidences for himself.
One who does not possess the capability for ijtihad, even if he gains some significant knowledge of ijtihad, must imitate one of the mujtahid and follow his fatwas (rulings) for practical issues. This is unlike the claims of some of the scholars from amongst the Mu’tazila and others. What we assert is indicated by the Divine texts and Unanimous Consensus of the Companions (ra).
As for the divine text, Allah (swt) said:
"So ask the people of the message if you do not know.” (Quran 21:7].
The saying here is general about asking anything which one does not know.
As for the Consensus, the general public during the time of the Companions (ra) of the Prophet (saw) used to ask mujtahids from amongst the Companions, about the practical Shariah rulings. Those of the Companions (ra) who were mujtahids responded to them, without a reference to the evidencing, whilst both the questioner and responder did not object to it. Amongst the evidence for this is the sound narration of As-Sha’bi.
There were six amongst the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (saw) who used to give fatwa to people, they are: Ibn Masud, Umar bin Khattab, Ali bin Abu Talib, Zaid bin Thabit, Ubay bin Ka’b (ra). Three used to attribute their sayings to the other three. Abdullah attributed his saying to (his father) Umar, Abu Musa attributed his sayings to the statement of Ali and Zaid attributed his sayings to the statements of Ubay bin Ka’ab.
Thus there is Consensus amongst the Companions of the Prophet (ra) for the permissibility of Taqlid (Imitation).
All of these statements in this issue are related to the imitation for the branches (furoo’).
As for the imitation in the foundation of the Deen, the Aqeedah, it is not permissible as Allah (swt) says:
"And they have thereof no knowledge. They follow not except assumption, and indeed, assumption avails not against the truth at all." (Quran 53:28)
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