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Ruling 12

If for a period of time a mukallaf performs his actions without following a mujtahid, there are two situations to consider: the first is that his actions were in actual fact correctly performed, or they happened to be in accordance with the fatwa of a mujtahid who at present could be his marjaʿ;8 in this case, his actions are valid (ṣaḥīḥ). The second is that he was inculpably ignorant (al‐jāhil al‐qāṣir),9 and his defective actions were not elemental actions (arkān)10 and suchlike; in this case as well, his actions are valid.

Similarly, [one’s actions are deemed to be valid] if he was culpably ignorant (al‐jāhil al‐muqaṣṣir)11 and his defective actions were of the type that if performed unknowingly they are valid, such as reciting [Sūrat al-Ḥamd and the second surah in prayers] aloud (jahr) instead of reciting them in a whisper (ikhfāt), or vice versa.12

Similarly, if a person does not know how he performed his actions, they are deemed to have been performed correctly, apart from a few cases that are mentioned in Minhāj al-Ṣāliḥīn.13

It is worth mentioning that with regard to many of the recommended acts (mustaḥabbāt) mentioned in this manual, their recommendation is based on ‘the principle of leniency in evidence for recommended acts’ (qāʿidat al-tasāmuḥ fī adillat al-sunan).14 As we do not regard this to be an established principle, if a mukallaf wishes to perform these acts it is necessary he do so ‘rajāʾan’, i.e. in the hope that they are desired by Allah. The rule regarding many disapproved acts (makrūhāt) is the same, meaning that the mukallaf should avoid doing them ‘rajāʾan’, i.e. in the hope that their avoidance is desired by Allah.15

8. A marjaʿ is a jurist who has the necessary qualifications to be followed in matters of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). See Ruling 2.
9. ‘Inculpably ignorant’ (al‐jāhil al‐qāṣir) is a term used to refer to someone who has a valid excuse for not knowing; for example, he relied upon something that he thought was authoritative but in fact was not.
10. Arkān is plural of rukn and refers to the elemental components of ritual acts of worship. There are specific rules that govern the validity of ritual acts of worship if a rukn is omitted or added. For example, with regard to prayers, the omission of a rukn renders the prayer invalid (bāṭil). See Ruling 928.
11. ‘Culpably ignorant’ (al‐jāhil al‐muqaṣṣir) is a term used to refer to someone who does not have a valid excuse for not knowing; for example, he was careless in learning religious laws.
12. See Ruling 981.
13. Minhāj al‐Ṣāliḥīn is al-Sayyid al-Sistani’s more detailed work on Islamic law.
14. According to this principle, traditions attributed to an Infallible (maʿṣūm) whose chains of transmission are weak can be relied upon if these traditions state a certain act merits reward and there is no evidence to indicate it is not permitted.
15. In Islamic jurisprudence, when a jurist declares something ‘mustaḥabb’ or ‘makrūh’, it means that in his or her opinion the action has an established legal status, i.e. it is something that the sharia has legislated as being ‘recommended’ or ‘disapproved’. A jurist will only make such a declaration if he or she is convinced that there is sufficiently strong evidence to support it. If, on the other hand, the jurist deems the evidence weak but finds no reason to suggest the act should not be performed / avoided, then he or she may say, just as al-Sayyid al-Sistani has done here, that it can still be enacted but with the intention of ‘rajāʾ’ (shorter form of ‘rajāʾ al-maṭlūbiyyah’), i.e. in the hope that it is desired by Allah. In this way, the jurist has not attributed something to the sharia that may not have actually been sanctioned by it, nor has he or she dissuaded their followers from performing / avoiding the action just in case in reality it is something that has been divinely legislated and carries with it abundant blessings and rewards.