The World Federation One Stop Fiqh

Ruling 8

If a mujtahid whom a mukallaf 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, a mukallaf who has a general notion about there being a difference of opinion between the two mujtahids in rulings (masāʾil) that he commonly encounters, even though he may not know what these differences are, 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 in matters pertaining to than the other – i.e. he exercises more caution in matters pertaining to giving fatwas, deriving legal opinions, and is a person who thoroughly researches and investigates – 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.6

Taqlīd’ simply means an undertaking to follow the fatwa of a particular mujtahid; it does not mean acting in accordance with his instructions.7

6. 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.
    As for ‘non-specific authority’ (al‑ḥujjat al‑ijmāliyyah), this is similar to ‘non-specific knowledge’ except that the mukallaf is not certain himself about there being a duty in general but comes to know it though other authoritative evidence that he is obligated to follow. (See Tawḍīḥ al Masāʾil i Jāmiʿ, vol. 1, p. 47, Ruling 12, footnotes 1 and 2.)
7. Therefore, one is considered to be a muqallid from the time he makes the intention to follow a particular mujtahid, even if he has not yet acted in accordance with that mujtahid’s fatwas.

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