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Last Updated: 2007/10/23
Summary of question
What is the correct and easy way of choosing the most learned marja’ for those Muslims who have recently converted to Islam and don’t have access to other scholars?
question
Please define the term when following a marj'a taqlid when the ruling is to trust two just witnesses. Does this mean that those witnesses themselves must be mujtahids? If a person is converting to Islam and neither has access to Farsi-speaking ulema (scholars) nor personally knows any mujtihids, how does he/she then go about determining who is the most knowledgable of the mujtahids to follow? Also, why do the English risalas confuse the ruling by saying one should ask two just learned witnesses? The term 'learned' in English can mean anyone who is educated--not necessarily another mujtihid who is learned in the Islamic sciences.
Concise answer

What is meant when it is said that the most knowledgeable marja must be followed, is that those who aren’t experts in fiqh, need to refer to the most learned and knowledgeable fiqh expert and learn their religious duties from him. There are three ways of identifying the most learned mujtahid and marja:

1- When a person is certain that a particular person is the most learned one.

2-When two persons, who are learned and just and possess the capacity to identify the most learned, confirm that a person is the most learned, provided that two other learned and just persons do not contradict them.

3-When a number of learned persons who possess the capacity to identify the most learned, certify that a particular person is the most learned.

Fortunately today, a group of the instructors of the Islamic seminary of Qom have introduced a number of scholars who are qualified to be marja’s. Therefore, Muslims can choose one of these marja’s as their marja’ and act according to his fatwas. In this case, one can be sure that he/she has fulfilled his/her religious duties. Taken into consideration the various forms of collective communication that we have today, those who have recently converted to Islam can easily learn about these different issues and their religious responsibilities using these forms of communication.

Detailed Answer

It is a completely normal and reasonable thing for those who don’t have an expertise in a certain field to refer to the experts in that field for advice and assistance. This is something that all societies have accepted, because one single individual isn’t capable of becoming an expert in all fields, resulting in him/her referring to the experts of other fields whenever needed. In fiqhi (jurisprudential) terms, practicing taqlid to the most knowledgeable marja’ means for those who aren’t experts in the field of fiqh, to refer to those who have a complete expertise and are more knowledgeable than others in it, learning their religious responsibilities according to their fatwas from them.

There are three ways one can identify the most learned of all marja’s; 1- When a person is certain that a particular person is the most learned one, eg. by asking other learned individuals, or in the case that the person himself is a learned one, able to identify the most learned without anyone’s help. 2- When two persons, who are learned and just and possess the capacity to identify the most learned, confirm that a person is the most learned, provided that two other learned and just persons do not contradict them.

3- When a number of learned persons who possess the capacity to identify the most learned, certify that a particular person is the most learned, and one becomes sure from their saying that that person is the most learned (note that there is a difference between this method and the previous one; here what is important is for the person to become sure, while in the previous, the criterion is for two just witnesses to “testify” to that person that a certain mujtahid is the most learned, regardless of whether one becomes sure from their saying or not, all that is needed is for them to be just meaning that they have to pious individuals who perform their wajib acts and stay away from sins and haram acts). [1]

Considering the great development in the field of technology the world has gone through, it is easy to get in touch and communicate with those who are aware of the different issues regarding taqlid and choose one’s marja’. Luckily, a group of the instructors of the Islamic seminary of Qom have introduced a number of those mujtahids who are qualified to be marja’s of taqlid and followed by other Muslims. These marja’s are as follows:

1-The Grand Ayatullah Bahjat

2- The Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Kadhim Ha’iri

3- The Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamenei

4- The Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Sistani

5- The Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Musa Shubairi Zanjani

6- The Grand Ayatullah Lutfullah Safi Gulpaygani

7- The Grand Ayatullah Nasir Makarem Shirazi

8- The Grand Ayatullah Husein Vahid Khorasani

Any Muslim who chooses any of these mujtahids as his/her marja and acts according to his fatwas has surely fulfilled his/her religious responsibilities and duties.

Concerning the translation of the different risalahs of the marja’s to English, despite the many efforts that have been made on this subject, there are still many deficiencies that we hope will be fixed in the near future.



[1] The risalah of Imam Khomeini, vol. 1, pg. 15. Clearly, what is meant by those who are learned in this statement, is those who are learned in Islamic fields.

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