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Last Updated: 2009/08/22
Summary of question
Does God accept converting to Islam by way of Taqlid (following a religious expert)?
question
What is necessary to answer in the hereafter when we are asked why we chose to be Muslims? Whereas we are Muslim since our fathers were/are Muslim.
Concise answer

We will not be excused in the hereafter if we have no reason for our beliefs except for a blind taqlid and the following of our fathers, whereas we know neither our fathers are men of learning, insight and thinking, nor have been led to the right path by intellectual and aware persons. Because this kind of behavior and thoughts are against the human nature (it is in our nature to follow aware people in our beliefs or to reach conclusions on them on our own and through thorough research). Of course, the aforesaid matter which was that a person’s beliefs must be in conformity with learning and sure knowledge doesn’t mean that it is obligatory on one to have philosophical and scientific reasoning for every single thing he believes in; Allah (swt) only wants from us what we can bear, nothing more. It also doesn’t mean that one can't benefit from other experts’ advice to reach a sure and certain conclusion for his/herself.

Detailed Answer

In order to shed some light on the answer to this question, a few points need to be made:

1- God has created man in a way that he is constantly seeking to find new facts and gain complete scientific awareness regarding the truth surrounding him. There is not a time that he isn't engaged in some sort of scientific activity or understanding of the truth. Of course, this scientific activity is in conformity with his age and physical conditions and his mental and behavioral domain. In other words, God has put man on the earth with enough resources to reach perfection and welfare and to understand the truth, enabling him to reach his goal and achieve the ultimate objective of his creation through it. The Holy Quran says: “By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-Truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it!”[1] Now, on the ground of this fact that man is the most distinguished creature of God as a result of his ability to acquire knowledge and scientific advancement, how can a person be excused[2] if he does not use theses existential resources for his most fundamental need which is to reach the goal of creation which is a means to please God and he neglects and acts sluggishly and chooses not to go a way which leads to this destination (and contents himself with his fathers' opinions and thoughts and manners and customs whereas he knows that his fathers are not conversant with knowledge and thinking and the manner of their living is not based on the guidance of learning and knowledge). In fact, his behavior is condemned by the same conscience he has neglected, which is his own. Concerning this matter, the Quran says: "Many are the jinn and men we have made for Hell: They have hearts where with they understand not ,eyes where with they see not, and ears where with they hear not. They are like cattle,-nay more misguided for they are heedless (of warning).[3]

2-It is obligatory on every Muslim who considers himself a real follower of Islam, to have some reasoning for his beliefs instead of just blindly following of his fathers. It is because of this that is has been noted at the outset of Islamic laws books which every Muslim is obliged to learn, that it is necessary for every Muslim to believe in the fundamentals of faith with his own insight and understanding, and that he cannot follow anyone in this case, that is, he can not accept the word of another who knows [and has to strive to find the truth by him/herself].[4] Furthermore, the soul of Islam rules is conception and knowledge too and it invites us to think and ponder for ourselves.[5]

Of course, it is obvious that the level of thinking and understanding varies in proportion to the knowledge the individual possesses; it is expected from an illiterate person to give reasons that correspond with his thinking and his life's conditions. There is a famous hadith on this matter that says: The prophet of Islam (peace upon him) asked an old woman spinning thread: “How would you prove the existence of God?”  She stopped working for a moment and said: “Through this.”

The old woman wasn’t able to and didn’t give a philosophical answer and wasn’t expected to either; rather she noted this understandable point for all that if there is someone needed to whirl this wheel, how would not this world need a creator and a director? In another story,  an Arab gave a similar response saying that the track of a camel testifies the existence of a camel, so all skies and the earth will testify the existence of a gracious and omniscient God.[6]

But it seems that the simplest and the most general reasoning for the rightness of Islam is it's conformity with the nature of man. If a person does not put this God given nature under the dark layers of dustiness by sin foul behavior and immorality, he will acquire learning and certainty regarding rightness of Islam and may also use in addition to using his own intellect and thinking as a way to find true beliefs.

3- It is true that one must reach a sure and certain conclusion on the fundamentals of religion, and that the slightest doubt regarding these fundamentals defeats the whole purpose, and that it won’t suffice for one to follow others on these issues and he/she must do research for him/herself and reach a certain conclusion. Nevertheless, this surety and certainty which is the criteria for our beliefs regarding the fundamentals of religion can be acquired through argument and logic, and can also be acquired via listening to Quranic verses, etc.[7]

One of the ways one might reach certainty is through consulting scholars.[8]

What the Quran has reprehended is blindly follow others regarding these beliefs:

“When it is said to them: "Follow what God hath revealed": They say:" Nay! We shall follow the ways of our fathers". What! Even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance?”[9]

Verse 104 of surah Ma’idah conveys the same message.

It can be concluded from these verses that if their fathers were learned individuals possessing insight and guidance, they would have been qualified to be followed.[10] Nevertheless, despite the fact that they knew they weren’t qualified, they followed them and consequently, what they did was considered the following of an ignorant person by an ignorant person.[11]

How can one be considered a Muslim while he blindly follows people who are neither men of knowledge and thinking, nor their behaviors are based on divine and natural guidance.  It is obvious that true Muslims are either men of knowledge and thinking, or their behaviors are based on divine and natural guidance which comes through taqlid which is backed by knowledge and comprehension, not bias and grudge. Clearly, if it isn't so, one won't be excused on the Day of Judgment.



[1] AL shams (THE sun), 7-10.

[2] Unless we are really defective not offender in this case .To gain more information refer to index:" Defectives and being saved from hell", question 323.

[3]   Al ARAF (THE heights), 179

[4] Islamic laws books, question1.

[5] QURAN which is our most basic religious source; has invited to thinking in any case; e. g, at least 17 times has persuaded and admired to thinking except those cases in which has used through the article "science" , or the word " jurisprudence" or the word "wisdom" and… .

[6] حیث قال:البعرة تدل علی البعیروأثرالأقدام علی المسیرفسماءذات أبراج وأرض ذات فجاج لاتدلان علی اللطیف الخبیر"",BAHAR AL ANVAR(the seas of lights), volume 66, page 133.

[7] To gain more information, refer to translation of AL MIZAN, volume 9, page 209.

[8] The NEMOONEH TAFSIR states in this case: some of narration commentators have narrated from Imam SADEG (hail to him) that contains noteworthy points, the narration is: A man told Imam SADEG (hail to him), how does God upbraid the Jews for TAGHLID of the learned persons and accepting them!? While the Jewish people had not any information about their divine book except through their learned persons, (it points the verses in question). Are the Jewish people different from our common people who follow their learned persons? Imam prescribes: There is a likeness between our common people and the Jewish people in one case and a difference between them in another case. The likeness is that God has upbraided our common people like the Jewish people. But the difference is that the Jewish people were informed about the position of their learned persons, they knew that they frankly lie, eat unlawful things and take bribe and change the divine rules. They had found out this fact with their nature that such persons are lover and it is not allowed to accept their words about God and its rules and it is not deserved to accept their attestation about the prophets, God has upbraided them for this reason. But our common people are not follower of such learned persons. However, if our common people find their learned persons to be obviously lover and severely zealous and greedy for world and illegal properties, whoever follows them, he will be like the Jewish people who have been upbraided by God on conviction of following lover learned persons who keep the cleaning of their spirits, and support their religion, oppose to desire and passion and obey their superior, etc. It is obvious that the narration does not indicate to a blind TAGHLID, rather the purpose is to follow the learned persons' advice to acquire learning and sure knowledge about the principles of religion, because the narration discusses about knowing the prophet which subject is indeed included in the principles of religion and a blind TAGHLID is not allowed in its view. (NEMOONEH TAFSIR, volume 1, page 320). And it is also written in some part else:

Some verses of QURAN state that Abraham invited AZAR to follow him, even though his uncle was very older than him and also more famous in that society. And his reasoning was that I have acquired the sciences which you have not.

.(قدجائنی من العلم مالم یأتک) Of course, this is a total rule ordered to all people that if they are not aware of something, they will have to follow those who are aware and in fact, this specifies a plan to refer to experts of every branch of knowledge and as an example specifies the matter of following a MOJTAHED in relation to the minor Islamic rules. Of course, the discussion about Abraham was not about the subjects related to the minor principles of religion, but it was discussing about most fundamental subjects of religion principles, however, the learned person's guidance are even necessary in this case in order to be led into a right way truly. NEMOONEH TAFSIR, volume 13, page 81.

[9]  SURAH   AL BAGAREH   (THE HEIFER),170

[10] In fact, it can be told that such TAGHLID is learnedly and wisely supported and it is not a mere TAGHKID.

[11] NEMOONEH TAFSIR, volume 1, page 576.

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