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Last Updated: 2010/11/28
Summary of question
Does the prohibition of Taqlid in beliefs not require the impermissibility of Taqlid in religious laws?
It is said that Taqlid in the fundamentals of faith is not permissible. I have problem using narratives (textual proofs) in matters related to beliefs. There have been a lot of debates between Usulis and Akhbaris as to the permissibility and impermissibility of using the narratives to get knowledge of the fundamentals. Indeed, if I need the narratives in jurisprudential issues, then I should also need them in matters related to the fundamentals of faith. I do not deny the fact that he who issues edicts or passes judgments should be the most learned. There is also no doubt as to the fact that one should refer to religious scholars where there is a new incident or a new issue. I discuss with Akhbaris in this regard and I have concrete proofs to reject their arguments.
What seems to me to be an explicit cycle is that we should turn to the narrations to accept or substantiate the fundamentals of faith because a major part of the narrations are based on reason. And if we do not refer to the narrations to prove them, then according to me reliance on mere reason is not acceptable. It is the reason that commands an ignorant person to turn to a knowledgeable individual for guidance but this is not sufficient.
When it comes to identifying the most learned jurist, it is said that he who identifies the most learned jurist, himself should be a jurist. In my view, this will lead to a vicious circle. How one should go about these issues?
Concise answer
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Detailed Answer

In order to give a clear-cut answer to your question, we must mention the following points:

1. The impermissibility of Taqlid in the fundamentals of faith means that we cannot suffice to conjectures and speculation. In fact, it is necessary to have faith in them with insight and understanding.[1] As for religious laws and the branches of faith, Taqlid would suffice even though one may not become certain of the actual injunction and he may suspect that the real injunction with God might be something other the ruling of the jurist (Mujtahid) whom he follows.

2. What has been mentioned in the beginning of the books titled “Islamic Laws” is the impermissibility of following a jurist in the fundamentals and tenets of faith not in all ideological issues.[2]

To further explain the above, Islamic beliefs are divided into two parts: One part is the roots and fundamentals of faith. In order for a person to be Muslim, it is necessary for him to believe in them. The second part consists of certain issues which despite being a part of the beliefs do not have anything to do with one’s being Muslim. That is to say, it is not necessary to believe in them and if a person does not believe in them, he is not considered to have gone out of faith.

The fundamentals of faith are belief in God, prophecy, prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), Hereafter or Resurrection. Hence, one’s belief in these tenets should be with insight and understanding because speculation and immolation in this regard would not be sufficient.

As was stated earlier, the second part of Islamic beliefs consists of the details and characteristics of faith such as God’s attributes and inerrancy of the prophets. Are God’s attributes the same as His Essence? What are the different types of attributes? What are the attributes of action? What are the attributes of God's essence? How is God’s knowledge of things? Is infallibility concomitant with prophecy? Is it necessary for a prophet to be immune to error? What is the extent of infallibility? Does resurrection take place in a physical form or in a spiritual form? What is Paradise like? Do those who go to Hell perpetually dwell there? It is not necessary to believe in these details as they do not have anything to do with one’s being Muslim. Indeed, if a person wants to ascribe something to Islam in this regard, it should be based on research and reliable deduction or it has to be with reference to the saying of an expert in religious matters.

3. It is clear that one cannot refer to verses and narratives – as textual proofs – to become certain or to get surety because it would result in a cycle. Unlike the fundamentals of faith, it is not possible to know the religious laws and the branches of faith except through the Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions. Therefore, it is inappropriate and out of place to compare the principles of faith with the practical laws of Islam. What the religious laws can be compared with are the details and characteristics of the fundamentals. When it comes to the details, it is not necessary to follow a jurisprudent, but it is permissible.

Referring to a religious authority (i.e. a jurist) does not lead to a vicious circle because identifying the most learned jurist is not restricted to being an expert in the field of jurisprudence or to associating with the jurist; rather there are other ways also through which one can identify the most knowledgeable jurist. For example, if a jurist is widely known in the society as the most learned, it is sufficient. Similarly, if a few reliable people testify that a certain jurist is the most learned of the jurists, it is permissible to trust them. This is the case with all other technical fields. For example, a skilled doctor is identified when he is widely known in the society as such or when a few trustworthy individuals report on that.

[1] - Tauzihul Masail of Maraje’, vol.1, pg.11.

[2] - Ibid.

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