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Last Updated: 2012/06/20
Summary of question
When is it permissible to follow an equally qualified mujtahid?
Salamun alaikum, I hope you and fine and my email reaches you in the best of your health. I have a few questions and I would like you to reply to them: I am a muqallid (follower) of Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei. He is of the view that leaving taqlid of one mujtahid and doing taqlid of another equally qualified one is not permissible, as an obligatory precaution. As far as I know, Grand Ayatollah Sistani has stated in his fatwa that it is permissible to follow an equally qualified mujtahid. Given the fact that Ayatollah Khamenei has exercised precaution in this regard, so I can follow Ayatollah Sistani in this regard since he has an explicit fatwa. Having said that, now my questions are as under: 1. When I turn to Ayatollah Sistani for taqlid in this regard, am I supposed to follow him in any juridical issues of my concern or, as per his fatwa which allows following an equally mujtahid, I can refer to another equally qualified mujtahid or marja such as Grand Ayatollah Saafi Gulpaigani or Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi? 2. As per the fatwa, if I am going to leave following Ayatollah Khameni in the juridical area of fasting and I turn to another mujtahid, is that new mujtahid going to be my marja in all juridical fields (that is to say, will the Supreme Leader be no longer be my marja?) considering that I am following him in all other issues except fasting? In fact, I want to know whether referring to an equally qualified mujtahid concerns only one or few issues or does that mean that he has started following the second mujtahid in all juridical issues completely? 3. If I refer from the Supreme Leader in a single issue to another equally qualified mujtahid, can I, after a while, follow the Supreme Leader once again or am I supposed to stay in taqlid of the second mujtahid for ever? 4. Generally speaking, when it comes to following an equally qualified mujtahid, can one refer to another mujtahid only in one issue or a completely independent jurisprudential chapter such as the entire subject of fasting or the entire subject of praying because praying, let us say, is an independent jurisprudential subject/chapter. 5. In closing, I request you to send me the views of the mujtahids who have been recognized as qualified for taqlid by Jame\'ah Mudarresin (Society of Teachers) of the Islamic Seminary of Qom in regards to issues of referring to another equally eligible and learned mujtahid. I appreciate your kind assistance and thank you in anticipation.
Concise answer
An answer to the foregoing questions by Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani, may Allah grant him long life, is as follows:
1. It is permissible to refer to another equally qualified mujtahid for taqlid and it is obligatory to follow a mujtahid who is the most learned and the most qualified of all the mujtahids. In fact, if the most qualified mujtahid's fatwa is different from other mujtahids' fatwa, the most qualified mujtahid's fatwa has to be acted upon because of his knowledgeableness and competence in inferring divine laws. In case of a difference between two verdicts, the one which belongs to a less qualified mujtahid will lose its value and weight and authority. That is why, we are faced with a number of highly qualified mujtahids all of whom can be followed.
2. When it comes to taqlid of many qualified mujtahid, you can follow anyone of them in any particular issues except for when following one of them results in obvious violation of Islamic laws. That is to say, you do something which is invalid according to all religious authorities.
3. The precaution is that you should follow one mujtahid in one issue except for when  acting upon that issue in accordance with another mujtahid's fatwa is based on precaution and it is considered allowable by the first mujtahid.
4. The answer is the same as the answer to question number two.
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