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Taqlīd (Arabic: التَقلید) is an Islamic jurisprudential term which means to follow a mujtahid in practical rulings of the religion. Taqild is not permissible in usul al-din and one must accept them by research, study and inquiry. However, in Islamic rulings one can be either mujtahid or act according to caution or follow an expert in Islamic jurisprudence - who is called mujtahid al-jami' al-shara'it (the qualified mujtahid) or marja' al-taqlid. This term is also used by other meanings in jurisprudential texts.

Lexicological and Terminological Meaning

Taqlid is Arabic word literally meaning putting something along with another thing or a person, submission to do something or to follow.

Terminologically, it means to follow a mujtahid's fatwas about the practical ruling of Islam i.e. acting according to the jurisprudential opinion and deduction of a qualified mujtahid in furu' al-din (ancillaries of the religion) such as salat and hajj.

The term "taqlid" is also used in other meanings. One of which is "taqlid al-hady" in hajj which means marking a camel, cow, or sheep (by putting a rope or belt or … around its neck) which was prepared for sacrificing in hajj al-qiran. According to majority of faqihs (jurists) this action is wajib al-takhyiri (optionally incumbent duty).


In Shi'a, taqlid started from the time of the Infallible Imams (a). They referred their followers to the narrators of hadiths or their close companions such as Zurara b. A'yan, Yunus b. 'Abd al-Rahman, Aban b. Taghlib, Zakariyya b. Adam, Muhammad b. Muslim, and Abu Basir. Sometimes, Imams (a) encouraged their companions to go to mosques and public places for guiding people, answering their questions and issuing fatwas. Difficulty of having access to Imam, because of the long distance between the cities and lack of proper facilities for traveling, taqiyya in most of the cases, and causing difficulties for Imams resulted in emergence of taqlid in their time. On that time, deducing religious rulings from the sources were not difficult for Imams' companions as they were close to the time of the Prophet (s) and the method of deduction was not complicated.

During the minor occultation, the need to taqlid arose more. Therefore, Imam al-Mahdi (a), in his famous tawqi', introduced narrators of hadiths (faqihs) with certain qualifications as references for Shi'a.

The topic of taqlid continued to exist among Shi'a during major occultation as well; although there were some disagreement between Usulis and Akhbaris in its conditions and rules.


Apparently, studies about ijtihad and taqlid began from the time of emergence of usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence). This topic has been discussed in early books of usul al-fiqh such as al-Dhari'a ila usul al-shari'a (written by Al-Sharif al-Murtada, d.436) and continued to contemporary books.

Moreover, in the works on demonstrative jurisprudence, issues about taqlid and the qualifications of marja' al-taqlid were sometimes discussed in chapters such as al-amr bi-l-ma'ruf wa l-nahy 'an al-munkar (enjoining the good and forbidding the evil) and qada' (judgment). From the 10th/16th century, independent works about this topic were written. After al-Shaykh al-Ansari it became common for the books of Islamic practical laws (Tawdih al-masa'il) to start with a chapter about rulings of taqlid. Likewise, the topic of ijtihad and taqlid was discussed at the beginning of jurisprudential books after the book "al-'Urwat al-wuthqa" written by Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Tabataba'i Yazdi (d. 1918).

In Shi'a Jurisprudence

According to majority of Shi'a faqihs (jurists) Taqlid is Wajib al-Takhyiri (Elective Compulsion) which means either Taqlid or Ijtihad or Ihtiyat (caution) is compulsory (Wajib) for a Muslim, i.e. for gaining the Islamic rulings one must be even Mujtahid, who can deduce the rulings from jurisprudential sources, or acts according to caution or refer to a qualified Mujtahid and acts according to his fatwas.


Shi'a faqihs believe that following a mujtahid in practical rulings is permissible in Islam. For proving the permissibility and even compulsion of taqlid they have adduced the four sources of Shi'a jurisprudence - namely Qur'an, hadith, 'aql (reason) and ijma' (consensus).


Every Muslim knew that if he commit a forbidden or leaves a wajib (compulsory acts in Islam) he will be punished in the hereafter; so he must have an excuse for what he does in this world that saves him from the punishment. This immunity is gained through ijtihad or ihtiyat or taqlid. So if he is not a mujtahid nor acts according to caution; he must choose taqlid.


Qur'an talked about two kinds of taqlid (following): liked and disliked. In various verses of Qur'an following the leaders of polytheism, the arrogant and the ancestors based on bias and ignorance were disliked. In addition, it counted the slavish imitation in usul al-din (roots of faith) as an act of ignorance and against reasoning. In the verse 31st of Sura al-Tawba, Qur'an criticized the Jews who blindly follow their Rabbis.[1]

Exegetes of Qur'an and faqihs mentioned other verses in relation with permissible and liked taqlid. For instance, they said the 122nd verse of Sura al-Tawba, which denote the compulsion of traveling for learning the teachings of the religion and then letting the other Muslims knew them, is one of the Qur'anic evidences for taqlid.[2]

Moreover, exegetes of Qur'an perceived the necessity of taqlid and referring to scholars and mujtahids from the 43rd verse of Sura al-Nahl and the 7th verse of Sura al-Anbiya'.[3] 'Allama Tabataba'i believed that the 43rd verse of Sura al-Nahl mentions a general and rational principle which is referring to experts in every field.


Shi'a faqihs used several hadiths for proving the permissibility of taqlid.

  • A hadith narrated from Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a) in which a derivative of the word "taqlid" is used. It reads, "… and whoever from faqihs is preserving his soul, protecting his faith, opposing his whims, obeying his master; the ordinary people must follow him." However, some scholars mentioned that some of the narrators of this hadith are not reliable.
  • Hadiths in which Shi'a infallible Imams (a) referred Shi'a to the narrators of hadiths such as Imam al-Mahdi's tawqi'.
  • Hadiths in which Shi'a infallible Imams (a) referred Shi'a to some certain narrators by mentioning their names.
  • Hadiths in which Shi'a infallible Imams (a) encouraged their companions to issue fatwas or approved their fatwas.
  • Hadiths in which issuing fatwa without proper knowledge or based on ra'y (personal opinion) or qiyas (deductive analogy) was forbidden which shows issuing fatwa based on reliable religious source is permissible.
  • Hadiths which imply Shi'a infallible Imams (a) approved following a person who issues fatwas based on accepted conditions and rules.


Ijma' or "consensus of Faqihs" is another proof of permissibility of taqlid in practical rulings of Islam. All Shi'a faqihs believe that a Muslim, even who do not know anything about practical laws of Islam, can take all the Islamic practical rulings from a mujtahid and act according to his fatwas.

Acts or Worship without Taqlid

Taqlid is not the condition of validity of an act; rather the method for finding the correct way of performing that act. Therefore, if the deeds of someone, who is not a mujtahid nor follows a mujtahid (or has chosen his marja' based on wrong criteria) are coincidentally accordant to the fatwas of a qualified marja', his acts of worships are valid. Thus, for knowing whether his acts were valid in past or not, he must choose an alive qualified marja' according to accepted criteria and check the consonance of his acts with the marja's fatwas. And if his acts does not match the fatwas of the marja' whom he has chosen, he must asked his marja' about his duty toward his past actions.

Prohibited Taqlid

Taqlid in furu' al-din is prohibited for a mujtahid. Likewise, taqlid is prohibited for non-mujtahids in following cases:

  • Taqlid is prohibited for a person to whom the rulings are axiomatically clear (e.g. he has heard it from the Prophet (s)); because according to the reason, the subject of taqlid is ignorance or not having knowledge, so when someone is certain about a ruling he is not allowed to follow others.
  • Taqlid is prohibited in topics that one has to have absolute faith about them, such as usul al-din; because taqlid does not lead to absolute certainty. Although sometimes referring to a knowledgeable person may lead to certainty, like referring to the Prophet (s) for appointing the Imam (a), but this is not terminological taqlid. Sunnis, also, do not allow taqlid in theology, as in this kind of issues thinking and finding the truth is desirable and taqlid is undesirable. The 23th verse of Sura al-Zukhruf disliked following ancestors without any reason.[4] Furthermore, the Prophet (s) told us to think about the signs of God.

Among Sunnis

The topic of taqlid had many ups and downs among Sunnis. During a period of time several jurisprudential schools appeared among Sunnis which led to disputes and conflicts. Thus, the idea of closure of the gate of ijtihad and limitation of jurisprudential schools were introduced. Eventually in the 7th/13th century, only four jurisprudential schools were announced official and following the other ones was forbidden.

However, some early Sunni scholars, such as Abu al-Futuh al-Shahristani (d. 548/1153-54) and Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi (d. 790/1388) opposed the idea of "closure of the gate of Ijtihad" and demanded the opening of it.

In recent centuries some Sunni scholars including those of al-Azhar refuted the limitation of jurisprudential schools in four arguing that all Muslims unanimously agree that following any of the Companions of the Prophet (s) was permissible in the early period of Islam; therefore, the process of ijtihad has become prevalent among Sunnis again.


  1. اتَّخَذوا أَحبارَهُم وَرُهبانَهُم أَربابًا مِن دونِ اللَّهِ وَالمَسيحَ ابنَ مَريَمَ وَما أُمِروا إِلّا لِيَعبُدوا إِلٰهًا واحِدًا ۖ لا إِلٰهَ إِلّا هُوَ ۚ سُبحانَهُ عَمّا يُشرِكونَ: They have taken their scribes and their monks as lords besides Allah, and also Christ, Mary's son; though they were commanded to worship only the One God, there is no god except Him; He is far too immaculate to have any partners that they ascribe [to Him]! (Quran 9:31)
  2. وَما كانَ المُؤمِنونَ لِيَنفِروا كافَّةً ۚ فَلَولا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرقَةٍ مِنهُم طائِفَةٌ لِيَتَفَقَّهوا فِي الدّينِ وَلِيُنذِروا قَومَهُم إِذا رَجَعوا إِلَيهِم لَعَلَّهُم يَحذَرونَ: Yet it is not for the faithful to go forth en masse.1 But why should not there go forth a group from each of their sections to become learned in religion, and to warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware? (Quran 9:122)
  3. وَما أَرسَلنا مِن قَبلِكَ إِلّا رِجالًا نوحي إِلَيهِم ۚ فَاسأَلوا أَهلَ الذِّكرِ إِن كُنتُم لا تَعلَمونَ: We did not send [any apostles] before you except as men to whom We revealed —ask the People of the Reminder if you do not know (Quran 16:43 and 21:7)
  4. وَكَذٰلِكَ ما أَرسَلنا مِن قَبلِكَ في قَريَةٍ مِن نَذيرٍ إِلّا قالَ مُترَفوها إِنّا وَجَدنا آباءَنا عَلىٰ أُمَّةٍ وَإِنّا عَلىٰ آثارِهِم مُقتَدونَ: And so it has been that We did not send any warner to a town before you, without its affluent ones saying, 'We found our fathers following a creed and we are indeed following in their footsteps.' (Quran 43:23)


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from تقلید in Farsi WikiShia.