Who is a Faqih?
As it is not in our capacity to discover laws concerning physics and logics unless we are well acquainted with - the same idea can be said concerning Ijtihad and formulating Islamic laws.
In order to be Faqih, one should be able to discover secondary legal laws from their original sources including the Holy Qur'an and the pure Prophetic tradition and other sources.
In other words the Faqih is a person who has the greatest expertise in deriving the rulings of the Shari'ah from the sources. He should be familiar with Arabic language to an extant that he understands the Qur'an and the sunnah both linguistically and legally and which fits the spirit of revelation and the Message.
He should be absolutely well-acquainted with the Holy Qur'an and its
sciences to an extent which enables him to understand and discover
legal laws and judgements.
He should be well-versed with the Prophetic tradition to the extent
he should distinguish true and satisfactory hadiths trough studying
them and their chain of transmitters in addition to his understanding
of the sunnah and its circumstances and having the ability to discover laws which go with the Qur'anic concepts.
Among the qualities necessary for a Faqih is his being
acquainted with what other scholars discover in the studies and
sciences which help in organizing and comprehending the
jurisprudential thought and deepening the procedure of Ijtihad
(exercising of independent judgements) like the science of principles
of jurisprudence, dogmatic theology, logics, philosophy,
Thus, the experts (fuqaha') of Shari'ah today upon whom Muslims
depend for laws as did those before them are the most excellent
example in science, comprehension, and legislation.
Another important qualification which should be found in the Faqih
(mujtahid) is faithfulness, loyalty, honesty, integrity, objectivity
because he is the seeker of the truth and the one who is responsible before the Almighty Allah concerning his judgements, and
He should also be well known (distinguished) for intelligence,
literary taste, an accurate comprehension manners and ability of
discovering and extraction in order to practise his responsibility
(post) successfully and precisely.
Consequently, Ijtihad and its distinguished experts and scholars are
those who spend all their efforts and abilities sincerely in order to supply instinctive knowledge of Ijtihad and the skill of discovering the laws.
In addition to this, Islamic law lays down that a mujtahid should be
a free man and of legitimate birth who is past the age of puberty, and
is sane, and just besides possessing other moral and legal qualities,
such as piety and abstention from all that the Shari'ah forbids and
fulfillment of all its obligation.
However, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish whom among all the
mujtahids is the most learned and as a result more than one mujtahid may be followed in taqlid at one time (though not, of course, by the same person), as is the case at present, but any such multiplicity does not result in any practical disagreement on legal matters among the
followers of the school of Ahlul-Bait.
What is Taqlid?
Taqlid literally means `to follow and to imitate'. In Islamic legal terminology it means to follow a mujtahid or faqih in religious laws and commandments.
In our everyday life we follow and imitate others in many things. We
like to feel that we are taking the advice of experts in matters
outside our own knowledge. Someone who wishes to build a house
explains the basic idea of what he wants to his builder and then
submits to his advice as to how he should go about the actual
construction; the invalid follows the treatment advised by his doctor;
a litigant consults a lawyer, when drawing up his case for presentation
in court. The examples are abundant; in most cases the advice is taken
voluntarily, but sometimes the citizen in a country may be required by
law to seek expert advice and act upon it.
For example, he is allowed to take some particularly dangerous drug. The clearest example is obviously in case of a legal dispute between two parties, where they are required to take their grievance to a judge and
abide by his decision if they cannot settle their dispute amicably.
The practice of taqlid is an example of the same kind: the person who
is not an expert in jurisprudence is legally required to follow the
instructions of the expert, i.e. the mujtahid.
The Holy Qur'an instructs Muslims to seek guidance from the people
of learning in matters about which they lack knowledge:
"Question the people of remembrance if you do not know."(21:7).
It is an obligation in Islamic law to study everything which is necessary for the spiritual and material development and well-being of an Islamic
community, but it is an obligation which is known as a Wajib Kifa'i. In
the present instances, for example, the Islamic society has need of experts in the medical science, in physics, chemistry, engineering, education, and so forth, and as long as there is a lack of knowledge in these areas it is an obligation for the community as a whole to acquire it, which means that a group of Muslims should devote themselves to research so as to benefit the Islamic people as a whole.
Similarly, an Islamic society without experts in the field of Shari'ah
cannot properly consider itself Islamic, and so it is an obligation for a
group of persons from this society to devote themselves to the study
of the religious sciences, so as to provide divine guidance for all
Muslims. This is the meaning contained in the Qur'anic verse which
"But why should not a party from every section of them (the
believers) go forth to become learned in the religion, and to warn
their people when they return to them, that they may beware?"
Holy Qur'an ((:124)
Through the research, it became obvious for us that every act (deed)
a man does or a situation in which he stands or anything with which he deals with should be according to a legal law of Islam.
It is also obligatory for every Muslim to be familiar with Islamic laws and decrees which organize man's activity and movements including performance of rituals and business dealings...etc.
So it is obligatory for every Muslim either to be a mujtahid or
to follow a particular mujtahid who is well-qualified in giving
verdicts and acts according to his rulings and thus performs his duty;
organizes his activity and affairs related to him. This process of
depending upon the mujtahid's religious rulings in performing one's
So taqlid is the relation of Islamic sciences between a mujtahid and
the followers of his legal rulings. And it is a necessity (an obligation) which must be practised by the one who is not qualified as faqih or who has not reached the degree of Ijtihad.
As long as this practice needs an expert (a mujtahid) in jurisprudence and Shari'ah, it becomes necessary to rely on him (the mujtahid) and ask of him whatever difficulty we face in Islamic jurisprudence in the same manner as we depend on a doctor, pharmacist, an expert in other sciences when there is such need to consult them because of their knowledge in this domain concerning what should be done and what should be abstained from.
Therefore, it is obligatory for every mukalaf, to follow a mujtahid who
is well-qualified in delivering verdicts in order to be able to act
and practise according to the Creator's will and Guidance.
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.