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Ruling 8

If a mujtahid whom a person is following [i.e. doing taqlīd of] dies, his authority after his death is the same as his authority when he was alive. Therefore, if he is more learned than a living mujtahid, the follower who has a general notion about there being a difference [of opinion between the two mujtahids] in rulings (masāʾil) that he commonly encounters, must continue following him. However, in the event that a living mujtahid is more learned than him, he must refer to the living mujtahid.

If it is not known who is the most learned among the mujtahids or they are equal, in case it is established that one of them is more cautious than the other – i.e. he exercises more caution in giving fatwas – then that mujtahid must be followed. However, if it is not established which one is more cautious, then the follower has the choice to act according to the fatwa of whichever mujtahid he wants, except in cases of ‘non-specific knowledge’ (al‐ʿilm al‐ijmālī) or the arising of ‘non-specific authority’ (al‐ḥujjat al‐ijmāliyyah) over responsibility. For example, in case there is a difference of opinion with regard to performing the shortened (qaṣr) or complete (tamām) form of the prayer [in a particular situation], he must, based on obligatory precaution, observe the fatwa of both mujtahids.5

The term ‘taqlīd’ mentioned at the outset of this ruling simply means undertaking to follow the fatwa of a particular mujtahid; it does not mean acting in accordance with his instructions.6

5 The terms mentioned in this part of the ruling refer to concepts discussed in the Islamic science known as the ‘principles of jurisprudence’ (uṣūl al‐fiqh). Although the scope of the present work does not allow for a detailed explanation of these concepts, it would be appropriate to expand a little on the example used in the text concerning ‘non-specific knowledge’. Suppose a person finds himself in a situation where he is certain that he must perform prayers but he does not know whether his duty is to perform prayers in their shortened form – as a traveller would be required to – or in their complete form. This state of knowledge (i.e. the certainty of the general duty to perform prayers) that is accompanied by doubt concerning one’s exact duty (i.e. whether to perform the shortened or the complete form of the prayer) is known as ‘non-specific knowledge’. In this example, the person would need to perform both possibilities – i.e. the shortened and complete forms of the prayer – in order to be certain that he has fulfilled his duty.

6 Therefore, one is considered to be a muqallid from the time he makes the intention

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