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Ruling 1

A Muslim’s belief in the fundamentals of religion (uṣūl al‐dīn) must be based on personal insight [i.e. grounded in reason], and he cannot follow anyone in the fundamentals of religion; i.e. he cannot accept the word of someone who knows about the fundamentals of religion simply because that person said so. However, in the event that a person has certainty (yaqīn) in the rightful beliefs of Islam and expresses them – even though this certainty may not be based on insight – then that person is a Muslim and a believer and all the laws (aḥkām) of Islam and the faith are applicable to him.

However, in matters concerning the laws of religion – apart from those that are indispensable and indisputable [such as the obligation to perform prayers (ṣalāh)] – a person must either be a jurist (mujtahid)1 who is capable of ascertaining laws based on proof, or he must follow a mujtahid [i.e. do taqlīd], or he must exercise precaution (iḥtiyāṭ) by performing his duty in a way that he is certain to have fulfilled his responsibility (taklīf ).

An example of exercising precaution: if a group of mujtahids consider an act unlawful (ḥarām) and another group say it is not unlawful, the person must not perform that act.

Another example of exercising precaution: if a group of mujtahids consider an act obligatory (wājib) and another group consider it recommended (mustaḥabb), the person must perform it.

Therefore, it is obligatory on those who are not mujtahids and who cannot act on precaution to follow a mujtahid.

1 A mujtahid is a person who has attained the level of ijtihād, qualifying him to be an authority in Islamic law. Ijtihād is the process of deriving Islamic laws from authentic sources.