Evolution of Taqleed

Over the centuries, as Usulism evolved so did the definition of Taqleed and its practical implications. Had this definition been based on hadith it would not have evolved over time. It has been defined and manipulated by clerics in a constant effort to assert juridical authority over the masses in the absence of the Imam (ajtf).

After the major occultation of our Imam (ajtf), the Usuli scholars started to produce treatises on Usul al-Fiqh. In the earliest works there was no connection between Taqleed and Ijtihad since Ijtihad was condemned by the Imams and therefore not practiced by the Shia scholars. Taqleed at that time was used in conjunction with seeking legal rulings solely based on hadith. See for example, the Usul al-Fiqh treatises such as those of al-Sharif al-Murtada (d. 436/1044), Shaykh Tusi al-Taifaa (d. 460/1067), where the subject of Taqleed is found under the heading ‘sifat al-mustafti’ — attribute of him who [must] seek legal opinions (fatwa). By the time of al-Muhaqiq al-Hilli (d. 676/1277), author of the Ma’arij-al-Usul, the emphasis is no longer on seeking of legal opinions (iftaa’ and istiftaa’) but rather on following the results of the newly introduced “Ijtihad” redefined as legal reasoning using “aql” (to differentiate it from the condemned Sunni version based on “qiyas”). Taqleed now became the corollary (a natural end result) of Ijtihad.

Subsequently, the authority to perform Ijtihad was limited to those few scholars who were deemed to be experts in the discipline of complex legal reasoning (i.e. simply a good knowledge of hadith was no longer sufficient) and this gave rise to the “mujtahids” – literally those who perform ijtihad. In the process, it also created an illegal two fold division of society – the mujtahids and the muqallids (those who are bound).

The history of Taqleed thus appears to represent, in its general sweep, an ever-increasing assertion and rigidity of juridical authority (clerical power).

Taqleed a blind following

Taqleed (in its current definition) is a contract between the mujtahid and the muqallid. An important aspect of this contract is that the muqallid must NOT demand proof from the mujtahid on how he has arrived at a particular ruling. The excuse provided by the mujtahid is that the muqallid lacks the training (and time) to review and comprehend his “complex research” since it is not just simply based on hadith. The Usulis argue that this is not a blind following because the muqallid has selected the mujtahid by first researching his reputation and thereafter has placed his full trust and reliance on him. This argument only proves that the selection is not blind. Although in reality it too is blind because majority of the muqallids have no personal relationship and direct one-on-one knowledge of the mujtahid they follow.

Evolution of Taqleed

You can see the evolution of Taqleed in the statements of the Usuli scholars over the last few centuries. In the beginning, blind following was considered disgusting:

عرف الشيخ الطوسي التقليد في كتابه الاقتصاد فقال : (التقليد إن أريد به قبول قول الغير من غير حجة – وهو حقيقة التقليد – فذلك قبيح في العقول) الاقتصاد – الشيخ الطوسي – ص 10
Shaikh Tusi defined taqleed in his book al Iqtisad, so he said: “If I intend by taqleed to accept the other’s word without proof, and that is the reality of taqleed, then that is disgusting for the intellects.” (Page 10)

ذكر المحقق الحلي التقليد في معراج الاصول فقال : (التقليد : قبول قول الغير من غير حجة ، فيكون جزما في غير موضعه ، وهو قبيح عقلا) معارج الأصول – المحقق الحلي – ص 199
Muhaqqiq Hill mentioned in Mi’raj al Usool: “Taqleed: Acceptance of the other’s word without proof, so making it binding wrongly, and it is disgusting intellectually.” (Page 199)

Later it was acceptable to follow blindly:

عرف الشريف المرتضى التقليد قائلا : ( قبول قول الغير من غير حجة أو شبهة ) رسائل المرتضى – ج 2 – ص 265
Sharif al Murtada defined taqleed by saying: “Acceptance of the other’s word without proof or skepticism.” (Rasail al Murtada, Volume 2, Page 265)

ذكر المحقق الكركي التقليد قائلاً : ( قبول قول الغير من غير حجة ولا دليل يسمى تقليدا) رسائل الكركي – ج 1
هامش ص 59
Muhaqqiq al Karki mentioned taqleed saying: “Acceptance of the other’s word without argument and proof is termed taqleed.” (Rasail al Karki, Volume 1, Footnote on page 59)

قال العلامة الحلي في تعريفه : ( التقليد : قبول قول الغير من غير حجة ، ويسمى تقليدا ) الرسالة السعدية – العلامة الحلي – هامش ص 9
Allama Hilli said in its description: “Taqleed: Acceptance of the other’s word without proof is termed taqleed.” (Al Risala al Sa’diyah, footnote on page number 9)

Sunni definition of Taqleed

The Sunni definition of Taqleed also concurs with the above. And why should it not concur when the Shias have borrowed it from them? In the Hanafi Usul books, Taqleed is defined in the following words:

Acting on the opinion of a mufti (the one who issues fatwa) without knowing his evidence or demanding proof.

The Issue of Taqlid and Adopting a Madhhab

See also for example:

Taqleed: uncritical and unqualified acceptance of a traditional orthodoxy or of an authoritarian code of a particular religious teacher. – Merriam Webster definition of taqleed

Taqleed, in Islamic law, the unquestioning acceptance of the legal decisions of another without knowing the basis of those decisions. – Encyclopedia Britannica


Taqleed was introduced in a subtle fashion as a means to access knowledge (legal statements) based directly on hadith. However, with the advent of Ijtihad (which no longer is based simply on Quran and hadith), it effectively transformed into a “blind” following of a mujtahid who employs rational reasoning to extract or derive law and who no longer is obligated to provide proof (i.e. hadith) to his followers.

Aql as explained by the Imams (as)

Aql is normally translated as “reason” or “intellect”. However, the traditions of the Imams, present Aql as a very different concept. It is a lofty concept that covers a great semantic field. It is both a complex and delicate concept that needs to be understood correctly in the light of the teachings of the Imams (as). It consists of cosmogonic, mystic, and esoteric elements that are mostly non-rational or elements that can be said to transcend the domain of the intellect and rationality.

1. Meaning of Aql before the advent of Islam

Before the advent of Islam, the word Aql merely meant “good sense”. Etymologically, Aql means a hobble – that what was tied to an animal’s feet to restrain it. It’s abstract meaning might thus be said to refer to that faculty that restrains human beings from foolishness. Although the term Aql itself is absent from the Qur’an, the derived form aqala/ya’qilu alone appears over fifty times. From these forms (in the light of hadith) we can understand Aql as a tool for the perception of the divine, simultaneously consisting of a quality of meditative and intuitive reflection. Aql implies a type of deep intuitive knowledge that makes a person assent and submit to divine authority.

2. Aql a gift of Allah (swt)

On the human level, Aql is not just an acquired quality, but a gift from Allah (swt). One might call it an innate faculty of transcendent knowledge, developed to a greater or lesser extent depending on the individual. On this level it is nevertheless different from adab, a good education. “Aql is a favor from Allah (swt)” says Imam Ali Reza, the eight Imam, “whereas good education (adab) is a quality acquired with difficulty. He who works to achieve a good education can succeed, while he who works to attain Aql only increases his ignorance” [1]. Aql cannot be acquired by human effort; man has no control over its presence.

Aql is the “organ” through which the Islamic and Imami doctrine is understood. According to the Imams (as), Aql is the best if not the only way to approach and understand their teachings [2]. Quite often in the speeches of the Imams (as) one encounters expressions like “Aql is the axis of our religion” (al-aql qutb deeninaa), “Aql is the axis around which the truth turns (al-aql huwa l-qutb alladhi alayhi madaar al haqq), “Aql is what one leans upon in our teaching” (al aql huwa ma yuhtajj bihi fi amrinaa). In other words, without Aql the sayings of the Imams (as) remain incompletely understood, ineffective or even incomprehensible.

Another aspect of Aql is illustrated by a dialogue between the sixth Imam (as) and one of his disciples [3]. The latter said, “one man knows the totality of my message after a few phrases; another does not understand me until my explanation is completed; a third after having heard all that I had to say, asks me to explain again”. Imam Jafar (as) responds, “Do you know why that is? It is because the first is he whose embryo was kneaded with his Aql at the time of conception. The second is he whose Aql was instilled at the breast of his mother. The third is he whose Aql was composed in adulthood [4].

3. Aql is useless without ilm (hadith)

The divine gift of Aql is in a potential state. All man can do is to develop it in order to “actualize” it; it is actualized with the aid of ilm , the initiatory knowledge taught by the Imams (as) in different fashions. “Under the direction of his Aql” says Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as), “which Allah (swt) has bestowed upon him as a support, an ornament, and a guide to salvation, the possessor of Aql realizes that Allah (swt) is Truth, that Allah (swt) is his Lord, that there are things that Allah (swt) loves and others that He does not love, that both obedience and disobedience toward Allah (swt) exist. He also finds that by Aql alone one cannot grasp (the depth of) all this; that only the sacred Knowledge (ilm) and its development can help man and that without this Knowledge, Aql is of no assistance [5].

4. Spiritual aspects of Aql

In a long speech addressed to the famous Hisham b. al-Hakam, our seventh Imam, Musa al Kazim (as) outlines the different spiritual aspects of Aql. He discusses almost all Quranic references where the root aqala/ya’qilu appears, and presents Aql as a faculty for apprehending the divine a faculty of metaphysical perception (identified with basar, interior vision), a “light” (nur) located in the heart, and through which one can discern and recognize signs from Allah (swt) [8].

While the prophets and the imams constitute the “exterior proof” (hujja zahira) of Allah (swt), Aql is the “interior proof” (hujja batina) [9]. The highly spiritual and religious dimension of Aql stands apart from the constant parallels established between the imam (exterior Aql) and the Aql (the interior Imam). Imam Ali al Naqi (as) elevates Aql, in its function of proof, to the same level as the miracles of the prophets (the magical powers of Moses, Jesus’ powers to heal, the power of Muhammad’s words) [10]. “The proof between Allah (swt) and his servants is the Prophet and the Imams (as), and the proof between the servants and Allah (swt) is Aql [11]. It must be added that the very term “hujja” (plural: hujaj) is one of the titles of the Imams (as).

5. No religion without Aql

Aql is a subtle organ of religion, without which man is cut off from his relationship with the divine plan. Without Aql, man is without religion; that is, without that which can “tie” him back to Allah (swt), man forgets his condition as creature and falls into an impious selfishness. It is undoubtedly in this sense that Imam Jafar’s (as) words must be understood: “He who has Aql has a religion, and he who has a religion wins Paradise” [12].

In the absence of Aql, the “organ” of religion, there can only be false religiousness, an appearance of piety, hypocrisy. When someone mentioned the Aql of a man obsessed by prayers and ablutions, Imam Jafar (as) replied that such a man could not have Aql, since he was obeying Satan [13]. Later, responding to the question “What is Aql?” he said: “That by which the All Merciful is worshipped and through which Paradise is won”. Then he was asked, “Then what was it that Mu’awiya had”? He replied: “It was trickery, a satanic attitude resembling Aql but it was not Aql” [14].

6. Men will be judged by their Aql

The quality of the religion of each thus depends on the quality of his Aql, which is why it is the criterion by which men will be judged on the day of Judgement. Imam Jafar (as) says “When you hear talk about someone’s religious qualities (husn haal), consider the quality of his Aql (husn ‘aqlihi), for he will be rewarded according to his Aql” [15]. Imam Jafar (as) reports from the Prophet (s): “When you see someone who prays a lot and fasts several times [a year], do not admire him; first consider his Aql” [16]. Imam Al Baqir (as) says: “At the Judgement on the Resurrection Day, Allah (swt) judges His servants according to the degree of Aql that He has given them in this world [18].

7. Aql as a Cosmic Entity

The Imams (as) defined Aql as the axis of the religion, like an indispensable key opening the mysteries of their teachings and for opening oneself to these teachings.

According to a tradition reported by the fifth and eight imam, Muhammad al Baqir (as) and Ali al Rida (as), when Allah (swt) observes Aql‘s submission and desire for proximity to Him, He will solemnly announce: “By My Glory and My Majesty, I have not created any creature dearer than you, and I offer you in your entirety only to him whom I love. It is taking only you into consideration that I command and that I forbid, that I punish and that I reward” [17].

In Imamite doctrine the coming of the resurrection is intimately tied to the “Return” of the hidden Imam and to his final mission of definitively conquering the forces of Ignorance; one of the phases of this mission consists in completing and unifying the Aql of the handful of faithful who have resisted this period of spiritual darkness: “At the time of the Return, Allah (swt) will place the hand of our Qaim on the head of the faithful; through this hand, they will have their Aql unified and their hilm completed [19]

This Aql is thus a cosmic entity, the “Imam” of the forces of Good in perpetual struggle against the forces of Evil directed by Ignorance. It is reflected in man as an intuition of the Sacred, as a light in the heart, making him a soldier of the “imam”, of religion, and thus of Allah (swt); it helps man to fight against the darkness of impious ignorance, and guarantees him salvation. “The beginning of all things”, says Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as), “their origin, their force and their prosperity, is that Aql without which one can profit from nothing. Allah (swt) created it to adorn His creatures, and as a light for them.

It is through Aql that the servants recognize that Allah (swt) is their creator and that they themselves are created beings, that He is the director and they are the directed, that He is the eternal and they are the ephemeral; they are guided by their Aql when they observe Allah (swt)’s creation, His heavens, His earth, His sun, His moon, His night and His day. It is thanks to Aql that they can distinguish what is beautiful from what is ugly, that they realize that darkness is in ignorance and that light is in Knowledge [20].

8. Aql as “super-intelligence”

Aql as explained by the Imams (as), could also be translated as a type of “super-intelligence” and as a type of “sacred-intelligence”. For the theologians (including the mujtahids), Aql is the “organ” of the rational, while for the Imams (as) it is the “organ” for perceiving the suprarational (that which transcends rationality). It is also the human counterpart to the cosmic entity – the first entity created by Allah (swt).

The theologians have downgraded and reduced Aql by translating it as “reason”, “rational thinking”, “faculty of intellectual reasoning”, “discernment”, etc. Whereas, the Imams (as) have defined it as superior entity that enables a person to grasp that which transcends rationality. It is through a kind of phenomenon of “resonance”, of mystic synergy, that the “interior imam” (Aql) of the the true Shi’ite (the Momin), recognized and believed in the truth of the words of the Imams (as), regardless of how incredible and non-rational they were. Through the “light” of Aql, the religious consciousness of the Momin not only perceived cosmogonic data, inspired Knowledge, or the miraculous powers of the Imams (as) and other esoteric elements, but this light elevated these elements to the level of articles of faith.

9. Who first corrupted the definition of Aql?

In the Imamite milieu, al Shaykh al Mufid (d. 413/1022) seems to be the first theologian to found his theological argumentation on Aql in its new definition, that is, as intellectual reasoning [21]. He is forced to adapt the definition of the Mu’tazilites in order to be able to confront them in theological polemics [22]. For his disciple al Sharif al Murtadha (d. 436/1044), also a disciple of the famous Mu’tazalite thinker Abd al Jabbar (415/1025), Aql appears to be completely devoid of its early meaning and becomes a synonym of “reasoning” (istidlal) [23] and “faculty of intellectual speculation” (nazar) [24].

Limiting Aql to intellectual reasoning is all the more serious, since intellectual reasoning, which exists at a different epistemological, perceptual, and conceptual level, naturally rejects the non-rational; therefore religious consciousness is modified, since intellectual reasoning, can neither perceive nor accept Aql’s intuitive and mystical “resonance” with the “supra-rational”.

Al Mufid criticizes his master Ibn Babuye Shaykh Saduq in the name of reason [25]. Al Sharif al Murtada, even more intransigent, goes so far as to censure al Kulayni and others, accusing them of having introduced into compilations a great number of traditions which appear absurd in the light of reason [26]. Al Shaykh al Tusi (d 460/1067) did likewise in his compilation of traditions about the hidden imam, by saying nothing about all the traditions of esoteric or mystical character, traditions which he knew through one of his own sources, the Kitab al Ghayba written by al Numani Ibn Abi Zaynab (d 345/956). These thinkers neglected the lofty semantic side of the idea, and mistakenly (or purposely) believed they were working in the name of the Aql so lauded by the Imams (as).

The intellectual influence of these early theologians was such that the “rationalist” tendency became, thereafter, the majority and dominant view within the Imamis; this view has existed up to the present day in the name of Usulism. This is how they laid the seeds of corruption in the pure Madhab (deen, religion) as taught by our Imams (as).

10. Usuli Ijtihad based on Aql

The Usuli school is predominantly a “rationalist” school as opposed to a “traditionalist” one. The mujtahid in this school can use reason or rational thinking (which he terms as Aql) to derive/deduce new law. For the Usuli mujtahid, the application of Aql means the application of rational thought or logical reasoning when the revelatory sources (i.e. Quran and Hadith) are silent on a matter.

Aql (reason or human intellect) is one of the four main sources of Islamic law for the followers of the Shi’ite Usuli school. The jurists of the early period, however, did not mention it as a source of the Sharia. The earliest legal work in which Aql is mentioned along with the other three sources is al-Sara’ir by Ibn Idris al-Hilli, although he did not explain what it meant. Those scholars that did explain Aql each described it in a different way. What is now meant by Aql, as a source of the Shari’a, is discovering a law by reasoning using the obvious rules. This involves categorical judgment drawn from both the theoretical and practical intellect. [Ijtihad in Twelver Shi’ism, Esmat al-Sadat Tabatabaei Lotfi]

The Usuli mujtahid is triply deluded:

  1. He neglects the explanations of Aql as provided by the Imams.
  2. He mistakenly redefines it to mean “reason”, “intellect”, and “rational thinking”.
  3. He then uses this erroneous definition to practice an illegal ijtihad in which one of the sources of law is the independent use of “Aql”.

There is no scope for an independent use of rationality because as the Imams (as) have explained, Aql can at no time be disconnected from the revelatory sources (i.e. Quran and Hadith) – in fact it is utterly useless without them.

11. Notes and References:

1. “Al-‘aql hiba’ min Allah wa l-adab kulfa fa-man takallafa l-adab qadara ‘alayhi wa man takallafa l-‘aql lam yazdad bi-dhalik illa jahlan”, al Kulayni, Usul, Vol 1, p. 27
2. Al Kulayni Usul al Kafi vol 1, p 10; Ibn Babuye Illal Sharaa’i, vol 1, pp 88, Ibn Babuye, Amaali, p 418
3. Al Kulayni Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p 30. The disciple in question is Ishaq b Ammar, who knew the teachings of the sixth and seventh Imams.
4. “.. dhaaka man ujinat nutfatuhu bi-aqlih… fa-dhaaka lladhi rukkiba ‘aqluhu fihi fi batn ummih… fa-dhaaka lladhi rukkiba ‘aqluhu fihi ba’da maa kabura…”
5. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p34
6. The expression “recognition of sacred knowledge is made through ‘aql” (ma’arifat al-‘ilm bi-‘aql), al Kulayni Usul al Kafi, vol 1, pg 20, words of the seventh imam, Musa al Kazim; Ibn Babuye, Illal al Sharai, vol 1, p100, Imam Ja’far’s words; Ibn Babuye, Maani al Akhbar, 78, words of the eighth Imam, Ali Ridha.
7. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p 20
8. Sell also al Kulayni, al Rawda min al Kafi, vol 1, p274 and vol 2, p 50; Ibn Babuye, Illal Sharaai, vol 1 pp 98 and 107-108; Ibn Babuye, al Muqni wa-al hidaaya, p 68. This idea takes on a particular importance in the Imamology of early Imamism because it appears to constitute the speculative basis of a spiritual “technique”, perhaps the most important of the early doctrine: that is, the practive of “vision with (or through) the heart” (al-ru’ya bi’l-qalb).
9. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p19
10. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p28
11. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p29
12. “Man kaana ‘aqilan kaana lahu dinun wa man kaana lahu din dakhala l-janna”, Al Kulayni, Usul Vol 1, p12.
13. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p13
14. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p11
15. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p13
16. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p31
17. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p10; and Ibn Babuye, Amaali, 418
18. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p12
19. “Idhaa qaama qaa’imunaa wada’a Allah yaduhu ‘ala ru’uusi l-‘ibaad fa-jama’a bihaa ‘uqulahum wa kamalat bihi ahlamuhum”, Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, p29; Ibn Babuye, Kamaal al-din, 675.
20. Al Kulayni, Usul al Kafi, vol 1, pp 33-34
21. Al Mufid, al Fusul al-mukhtaara min al-uyun wa l-mahasin
22. The Theology of Shaikh Mufid, Chapters 2, 12 and 17
23. See his “al-Usul al-itiqaadiyya” in Nasfa’is al Makhttaat, ed. Al Yasin, 1954, pg 79
24. Jumal al-‘ilm wa l-‘amal, Najaf, 1967, p. 36 ff.
25. See especially his Sharh ‘aqaa’id al-Saduq, particularly pp. 26f, 46f and 66f.
26. See, for example, his Amaali, Cairo, 1954, p. 81 and especially his Kitab al Shaafi fi l-imaama, the entire introductory section and pp. 98f.

Shrimp – Morsel of Shaitan?

There are two hadith on “Irbiyaan” which is the term used for Shrimp in Arabic. One hadith says that it is a morsel of Shaitaan. Another says that it is a type of fish and it is permissible. Let us look at them carefully to arrive at what is the safest approach that we can take on the issue of Shrimp.

Shrimp – Morsel of Shaitaan

وعن محمد بن الحسن عن الصفار عن أبي طالب عبد الله بن الصلت عن عثمان بن عيسى عن سماعة بن مهران عن أبي عبد الله (عليه السلام) قال: لا تأكل جريثا ولا مارماهيجا ولا طافيا ولا اربيان ولا طحالا لانه بيت الدم ومضغة الشيطان

Imam Abdullah ( peace be upon him ) said: DO NOT EAT (1) the eel (jareesa) (2) and the dead floating fish (marmahiga) (3) and the snake fish (taafiya) (4) and SHRIMP (IRBIYAAN) (5) and spleen (tahaala) because these harbor the blood and are THE MORSEL OF SHAITAN. [Reference: Wasailushia Vol-24 Page-185, Bihar Vol-62 Page-177 and 205 Ilalusharia Vol-2 page 562]

Shrimp is a type of fish

وباسناده عن محمد بن الحسن الصفار ، عن محمد بن عيسى بن عبيد ، بن يونس بن عبد الرحمن ، عن أبي الحسن ( عليه السلام ) ، قال : قلت له : جعلت فداك ، ما تقول في أكل الاربيان ؟ قال : فقال لي : لا بأس بذلك والاربيان ضرب من السمك ، قال : قلت : قد روى بعض مواليك في أكل الربيثا ، قال : فقال : لا بأس به

Yunus bin abdurrehman narrates that I asked Imam Musa Kazim (as) about eating IRBIYAAN. He (as) said: ‘There is no problem because Irbiyaan is a type (species) of fish’. The narrator said: ‘Some of your followers (mavaali) are also narrating about RIBBITHA (that it is permissible to eat)’. He (asws) said: ‘Yes there is no problem with it too’. [Reference: Wasail us Shia Urdu volume 16 page 271)

Before we can analyze and reconcile the above two hadith let us also look at the hadith on Ribbitha and general seafood.

Hadith on Ribbitha (Shrimp Fish)

There are several hadith on a type of fish called ribbitha. What exactly is ribbitha? From the hadith we can gather that it is a type of fish that has scales. In Arabic, scales are called Qishr. Most likely ribbitha is a type of fish that has some physical resemblance to shrimps such as the ones in the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrimpfish

ـ محمد بن يعقوب ، عن علي بن ابراهيم ، عن أبيه ، عن ابن أبي عمير ، عن هشام بن سالم ، عن عمر بن حنظلة ، قال : حملت الربيثا يابسة في صرة ، فدخلت على أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ، فسألته عنها ، فقال : كلها ، وقال : لها قشر

Umar b. Hanzhala said: I carried a dried ribbitha in a package, and I entered upon Abu Abdillah (as), so I asked him about it. And he said: Eat it. And he said: It has a qishr (scales). [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30181

ـ وعنه ، عن أبيه ، عن حنان بن سدير ، قال : أهدى فيض ابن المختار إلى أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) ربيثا ، فأدخلها عليه ـ وأنا عنده ـ فنظر اليها ، فقال : هذه لها قشر ، فأكل منها ونحن نراه .

And from him from his father from Hanan b. Sadir. He said: Fayd b. al-Mukhtar gave Abu `Abdillah a ribbitha as a gift, so he brought it in to him – and I was with him – so he looked at it. So he said: This has a qishr (scales), and he ate from it and we were seeing him. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30184]

ـ وعن السياري ، عن محمد بن جمهور ، عن رجل ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) ، أنه سأله عن الاربيان ، وقال : هذا يتخذ منه شيء يقال : له الربيثا ، فقال : كل ، فانه جنس من السمك ، ثم قال : أما تراها تقلقل في قشرها .

And from as-Sayyari from Muhammad b. Jumhur from a man from Abu Abdillah (as), that he asked him about shrimp. And he said: This, something is taken from it, which is called the ribbitha. So he said: Eat, for it is a species of fish. Then he said: Do you not see it quivering in it’s qishr? [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30190]

In the above hadith, the person asks the Imam about Shrimp. Imam responds that it is in fact ribbitha (and not irbiyaan). That it is a type of fish and it has a qishr.

General hadith on seafood

The hadith on seafood prohibit everything except fish with scales (qishr).

ـ محمد بن يعقوب ، عن عدة من اصحابنا ، عن سهل بن زياد ، وعن محمد بن يحيى ، عن أحمد بن محمد جميعا ، عن ابن محبوب ، وأحمد بن محمد بن أبي نصر جميعا ، عن العلاء ، عن محمد بن مسلم ، عن أبي جعفر ( عليه السلام ) ـ في حديث ـ قال : قلت له : رحمك الله ، إنا نؤتى بالسمك ليس له قشر ، فقال : كل ما له قشر من السمك ، وما ليس له قشر فلا تأكله .

Narrated from Abu Ja’far (as) in a hadith wherein he said: May Allah have mercy upon you. We are brought the fish that does not have a qishr (scales). So he (as) said: Eat that which has a qishr from the fish, and that which does not have scales, then do not eat it. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30146]

ـ وعن الحسين بن محمد ، عن معلى بن محمد ، عن الحسن بن علي ، عن حماد بن عثمان ، قال : قلت لابي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) : جعلت فداك ، الحيتان ما يؤكل منها ؟ قال : ما كان له قشر الحديث .

I said to Abu Abdillah (as): May I be made your ransom, the fish, what do we eat of it? He said: Whatever has a qishr (scales). [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30147]

ـ وعنه ، عن أبيه ، عن عبد الله بن المغيرة ، عن عبد الله بن سنان ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) قال : كان علي ( عليه السلام ) بالكوفة يركب بغلة رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) ، ثم يمر بسوق الحيتان ، فيقول : لا تأكلوا ، ولا تبيعوا ما لم يكن له قشر من السمك .

Imam Ali (as) would be at Kufa riding the mule of the Messenger of Allah (s) then he would pass by the fish market, saying: Do not eat and do not sell whatever does not have a qishr (scales) from the fish. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30149]

ـ وعنه ، عن أبيه ، عن حنان بن سدير ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) ـ في حديث قال : ما لم يكن له قشر من السمك فلا تقربه .

Abu Adillah (as) in a hadith said: Whatever does not have a qishr (scales) from the fish then do not come near it. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30150]

ـ وعنه ، عن هارون بن مسلم ، عن مسعدة بن صدقة ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) : أن امير المؤمنين ( عليه السلام ) كان يركب بغلة رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) ، ثم يمر بسوق الحيتان ، فيقول : الا لا تأكلوا ، ولا تبيعوا ما لم يكن له قشر .

And from him from Harun b. Muslim from Mas`ada b. Sadaqa from Abu `Abdillah (as) that Amir al-Mu’mineen (as) would ride the mule of the Messenger of Allah (s), then pass by the fish market, and he would say: Indeed do not eat and do not sell whatever does not have a qishr (scales).
[Reference: Wasail us Shia H30151]

Shrimp in Jewish Law

Of the things that are in the waters, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. Lev. 11:9; Deut. 14:9. Thus, shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams and crabs are all forbidden. Fish like tuna, carp, salmon and herring are all permitted. [Reference: http://www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm%5D

Seafood in the Bible

These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you.
[Reference: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+11%3A9-12&version=ESV%5D


To draw a conclusion we must review all the hadith on a given topic collectively (as opposed to picking one of them in isolation). When there is conflict or confusion in hadith, we must adapt the safest course and do “tawaqquf” i.e. suspend judgement until we can seek clarification from our Imam (as) on his reappearance.

Based on a review of all the hadith on seafood we can derive a general principle. Permissibility of seafood is based on two conditions: 1. It must be categorized as fish and 2. It must have scales. Is Shrimp a type of fish with scales? It is not according to scientific categorization. Shrimp is classified as a crustacean (in the same category as crabs, lobsters, etc). Neither does it have scales. Now, even if we want to categorize it as fish based on the one hadith of the Imam then we still can not afford to ignore the other hadith that blocks it as being a morsel of shaitaan. We can also not ignore the numerous general hadith on seafood.

Therefore, the safest approach is to suspend judgement, avoid consuming it, and wait for the Imam (as) for further clarification. We will be safer on the day of Judgement for taking this stand.

Fatwa based on personal opinion

Regarding the verse from Holy Quran: “And who is more erring than he who follows his low desires without any guidance from Allah?” (Holy Quran 28:50), Abu Abdullah (as) said “It means the one who takes his religion by his own opinion without the guidance from the guiding Imams (as)”. [Source: Basair Ul Darajat Chapter 8]

What is a Fatwa?

Plainly speaking a fatwa simply means a “statement”. In the matters of religion, any fatwa (statement) must be fully backed by hadith. The person issuing it must be able to clearly explicate it using the hadith. Otherwise it is in danger of becoming personal opinion. When questioned, the “fatwa issuer” (mujtahid) must also immediately produce all the hadith on which the fatwa is based on. Lacking all this any one following a mujtahid will always be in the dark and uncertain if he is in fact following the ahlul bayt or the mujtahid’s opinion.

Notice the cover of the book “tawdhi-ul-masaail” (or risaalah) of the mujtahid. It often says “According to the fatwas of his eminence so and so..”. This clearly gives away that the risaalah is not completely based on hadith. Rather it is mixed with personal opinion. No wonder all the fatwas of such a mujtahid dies along with him. Had the risalah of a mujtahid been based fully on hadith, a more appropriate title would have been “Fatwas according to the hadith of Ahlul Bayt (as)”.

Abu Jafar (as) said: “He who follows a religion not coming from a truthful source Allah will let him get misguided until the Judgement day.” [Source: Basair Ul Darajat Chapter 8]

Source of Fatwa

The mujtahid mixes truth and falsehood in such a way that the lies are not discernible. What are the sources of the fatwas of the mujtahid? For questions where he does not find hadith or when the hadith does not align with his interests what does he do? He relies on two other dubious sources “his own aql” and the “ijma (and thus the aql) of other scholars”.

When someone questioned Abu Abdullah (as) about the statement of Allah (swt) “Then whoever follows my guidance, he shall not go astray nor be unhappy”. Imam (as) said: “The one who speaks by the Imams (as) and follows their (as) orders and not (the orders of) those whose obedience is not permissible”. [Source: Basair Ul Darajat Chapter 8]


The people are being subjugated to become Shia of the mujtahids and obey them (through acting on their fatwas) without questioning. Do the mujtahids speak by the Imams (as) and follow their orders? If they were following the orders of the Imams (as) they would have abandoned the practice ijtihad itself in the first place and bound themselves tightly to the hadith.

Only Allah (swt) has the authority to create religious rulings (shariat). Not even the Holy Prophet (s) or the Imams (as) dare intervene in this matter. They simply communicate the shariat through the medium of hadith. Anyone who issues a fatwa based on his opinion is following his low desires. He has violated the limits set by Allah (swt) who is the sole source of shariah.

I said to Abu Abdullah (asws), ‘On what basis does the Imam (asws) issue a verdict?’ He (asws) said: ‘By the Book’. I said, ‘What if it is not in the Book?’ He (asws) said: ‘By the Sunnah’. I said, ‘What if is it not in the Book and the Suunah?’ He (asws) said: ‘There is nothing but it is in the Book and the Sunnah’. He (asws) reiterated it once or twice. He (asws) said: ‘He (asws) shows the right way and he (asws) acts accordingly. No, It is not as you think it to be’. [Basair ul Darajat Part VIII, Chapter 6, Hadith 1]

Wearing Black Clothes In Muharram


Wearing black clothes to express grief of Ahlul Bayt is an innovation in religion (biddat). Not only is it a biddat, but it is also opposed to the teachings of Ahlul Bayt (as) who have severely denounced it. Black clothing has been associated with the clothes of Pharoah, enemies of Ahlul Bayt, Banu Abbas and the inhabitants of the fire. The hadith are unconditional and make no exception for periods of mourning like Muharram. Neither has Islam ever associated the color black with grief. Are we Shias unwittingly donning the clothes of our enemies?

Scope of this article

This article is concerned with the dress of men and not of women, as the hadith on black clothes are addressed to men. In Islam there are different rulings for dress for men and women anyways (for example, silk is allowed for women but not for men). In addition, whenever we mention the word “mourning” we mean the mourning for Ahlul Bayt (s).

Hadith on Black Clothes

Following are the hadith on black clothes collected by Sheikh Saduq in his book Illal Sharaei (refer to chapter 56). These same hadith are also found in our other reliable collections like Al Kafi (Vol 6 Book of Outfits) and Faqih. (Click here for the Arabic text)

I said to Abu Abdullah (as), “Can I Pray in the black headgear (cap)?” He (as) said: “Do not Pray in it, for it is an apparel of the inhabitants of the Fire”.

Amir Al-Momineen (as) said in what he (as) taught his (as) companions: “Do not wear the black, for it is a clothing of Pharaoh”

Abu Abdullah (as) has said: “Rasool-Allah (s) used to dislike the black (clothes) except in three – the amaamah (turban), the khuff (a type of light footwear or socks), and the kisaa (cloak)”.

I was in the presence of Abu Abdullah (as), when a messenger of the Caliph Abu Al Abbas came over, calling him (as). So he (as) call for a rain coat of his (as). One aspect of it was black, and the other was white. So he (as) wore it. Then Abu Abdullah (as) said: “But, I (as) am (compelled to) wear it, and (although) I (as) know that it is a dress of the inhabitants of the Fire”.

Abu Abdullah (as) has said: “Allah (azwj) Mighty and Majestic Revealed to a Prophet (as) from His (azwj) Prophets (s): Say to the Believers, “Neither wear the clothings of My (azwj) enemies, nor eat the food of My (azwj) enemies, nor travel upon the ways of My (azwj) enemies, for you (also) would end upon being My (azwj) enemies just as they are My (azwj) enemies”.

Jibraeel (as) descended unto Rasool-Allah (s) wearing a black turban and a belt in which was a dagger. So Rasool-Allah (s) said to him: “O Jibraeel! What is this outfit?” He said: “This is an outfit of the sons of your (s) uncle Al-Abbas, O Muhammad (s)! Woe be unto the children of Al-Abbas as they will (kill) your (s) children”. So the Prophet (s) went out to Al-Abbas, so he (s) said: “O uncle! There would be harm to my (s) children from your children”. So he said, “O Rasool- Allah (s)! Shall I destroy myself?” He (s) said: “The Pen has dried up with was regards to it (meaning that the matter is ordained)”.

Ruling of the scholars on black clothes

The religious scholars have declared that wearing black clothes for mourning of Ahlul Bayt (s) is mustahab (recommended) and carries reward. For example, the following question has been posed in Agha Sistani’s Istiftaat (Replies to Inquiries about the Practical Laws of Islam),

Question: What is your opinion about wearing black clothes in mourning for Imam Hussein (AS)?

Answer: Wearing black clothes in mourning for Sayyid al­Shohada (AS) is a commendable act.

[Source: Istiftaat (jurists’ decrees), al­Sayyid al­Sistani, p. 192.]

Other scholars have the same opinion (refer to Wearing Black In Shia Culture). There are no hadith to support this however. Neither will the scholars provide you with hadith if you enquire – because there aren’t any.

To declare an act as mustahab requires either one of the following:

  1. Amr/Hukm (command) or Qawl (saying) of Imams (s). Usually such hadith will also mention the reward/merit of performing that action.
  2. An action (Fayl) of the Imam (as) (performing the same act) consistently recorded again usually through hadith.

Without hadith (expressly prohibiting it) an action can at the most be declared as permissible. But never mustahab. This is another instance where the religious establishment have mislead the people and involved them in detestable acts.

To explain this point further, let us take the example of the act of performing Ziyarat of Imam Hussain (as). Is it mustahab to perform Ziyarat? Yes of course it is. The proof is in the countless hadith of the Imams (s) who have encouraged and commanded us to do so. In addition they have also mentioned the reward for it. For example refer to the following hadith from Kamil uz Ziyarat:

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: Ziyarat of Imam Husain (a.s.) is equivalent to twenty Hajjs and even more. [Source: Kamil Uz Ziyarat]

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: Allah will record the reward of freeing a thousand slaves for a one who goes to the Ziyarat of Imam Husain (a.s.).

Where is that single hadith to prove that wearing black is mustahab? Ask your religious scholar for the hadith.

No mention of black clothes in Kamil uz Ziyarat

The book Kamil uz Ziyarat is one of the oldest, reliable, and most comprehensive collection of hadith on the etiquettes of performing Ziyarat of Ahlul Bayt (as). There is no mention of black clothes. The book is available here for download. One would expect to see at least one hadith to support black clothes.

Association of the color black with mourning

Again this is a man-made association and not Islamic. There are no hadith to support this it.

Justification through historical events

The practice of wearing black clothes did not start as a result of hadith or teachings of the Imams (s). But it has become so widespread in the culture so as to become a symbol of Shia religion. It is now considered an integral part of the mourning (azadari) rituals. We are not sure when this practice first started but through many generations it is now firmly established in the Shia societies. No scholar dare question it without the risk of being defamed and ostracized.

Since there are no hadith to justify it, the scholars have scoured the books of history to search for an incident where the Imams (s) were clad in black during Muharram. Unable to find it, they then searched for other occasions where the Imams (as) were seen wearing black. Or perhaps, people wearing black in the presence of the Imam (as). Refer to the following lengthy article compiled by a scholar:

Wearing Black In Shia Culture – By Vali-e-asr Institute, Qum, Iran

The justification produced in articles such as the above, are all post-justification reasons. They were not strong enough to become the basis for the practice. They are attempts to justify an action after the fact. Most of the evidence advanced are historical events which mention black clothes. Unfortunately, the majority of them are about women wearing black. One widely quoted incident for example to justify permissibility is the following:

“When Hussain bin Ali (as) was killed, the women of Bani Hashim wore black and smeared/wiped, and they did not complain from heat nor cold, and Ali bin al-Hussain (as) made for them (women of Bani Hashim) food for mourning” [Source: al-Barqi, al-Mahaasin, vol. 2, ch. 25, pg. 420, hadeeth # 195]

The above incident raises the following pertinent questions: 1) What were the men wearing? 2) What was Imam Sajjad (s) himself wearing? 3) Were the women wearing black outer covering (hijab) or black inner dress? 4) How does this event make wearing black a mustahab (commendable) act for men?

It is a futile pursuit to search for justification in the books of history when there are clear hadith in our reliable collections condemning black clothes unconditionally. It is also important to note that the Prophet (s) and Imams (as) never had a particular religious dress. They wore customary dresses of different colors throughout their lives. White was the preferred color but they also wore other colors. Again, simply finding an instance of the Imam wearing a particular color does not necessarily make it mustahab – unless the Imam (as) explicitly said so, as in the case of the color white.


It does not take a 100 page article to justify the merits of Ziyarat. A single hadith decisively answers the question. Where is that single hadith exhorting the Shias to wear black to mourn Ahlul Bayt (s)? The religious scholars have produced detailed historical analysis when all it takes is a one line hadith.

Where do we derive our fiqh from? Should a Shia base his actions on the unequivocal amr/hukm/qaul (command) of the Imams (s) or on fiqh based on interpretations from historical books by dubious authors?

Would you be rewarded for wearing black? Not at all – since there is no mention of the rewards in the hadith. Would you be punished for wearing black? Highly likely – due to the presence of the unconditional hadith denouncing black. What should a true Shia of Ahlul Bayt (s) do in this situation? Simple – just avoid wearing black. A Shia acts on the basis of conviction not on doubt.

Who are the Ulama?

This article discusses one particular hadith from Basa’ir ul Darajat (see brief note on this book at the end of the article) under the chapter titled “The Ulama are Aal-e-Muhammad”. Following is the hadith:

The Ulama (knowledgeable ones) are the inheritors of the prophets (as), they (as) do not bequest (give as inheritance) Dirhams and Dinaars, for they (as) bequest Hadeeth from their (as) Hadeeth. The one who takes anything from these it is as if he has taken abundant good. Take a look at your knowledge, if you have taken this from us (as) the Ahlul Bayt (as) then you will be able to oppose (khalafa) every enemy; (you will be able to identify) every distortion (tahrif) of the exaggerators (ghaali’een), and the plagiarism of the falsifiers and the explanations (tawil) of the ignorant (jaahileen). [Source: Basair ul Darajat, Part 1, Chapter: The Ulama are Aal-e-Muhammad]

This hadith is compiled under the chapter titled “The Ulama are Aal-e-Muhammad”. It has important messages and lessons. First of all, the title of “Ulama” should be used exclusively for the Ahlul Bayt (as). The hadith confirms that the Ulama are only those who have inherited the knowledge of the Holy Prophet (s). Who besides our Imams (as) qualify for this position? Did not the Prophet (s) say “I am the city of knowledge and Ali (as) is it’s gate”?

In another hadith :

People are of three types the scholars (aalim), the students (mutaalim), and rubbish (ghisaa). We are the scholars (aalims), our followers (shias) are the students (mutaalim), and the rest of the people are worthless. [Reference: Wasail us Shia, H. 33092]

Based on these hadith, a true Shia would would never approve of being addressed as an Ulama. Neither would a true Shia ever consider any one besides the Ahlul Bayt (as) as the Ulama. However, the term Ulama has been degraded and is being used freely to refer to the clerical class – the fallible mullahs and mujtahids. This is yet another instance of how the rights and position of our Imams (as) are being usurped. A person can be considered knowledgeable only to the extent of the knowledge of hadith that he has acquired. And even then, a true Shia would dislike to be called an Aalim as he would consider himself to be a humble student and slave of the Ahlul Bayt (as) at all times.

In addition, a true Shia of Ahlul Bayt (as) would never speak about any matter of religion independently without first quoting the hadith. However, we find the mujtahids freely issuing fatwas (their own verdicts) without leading the people to the door step of the Masumeen (as).

The hadith mentions that when we take our knowledge directly from the Ahlul Bayt (as) then we will be able to identify:

  • every enemy and oppose him
  • every distortion (tahrif) of the exaggerators (ghaali’een)
  • every plagiarism of the falsifiers
  • every explanation (tawil) of the ignorant (jaahileen)

A pre-requisite step to opposing our enemy is to first recognize him. How can we oppose an enemy that we haven’t recognized? An enemy who pretends to be our friend and well wisher. The deception of Satan is strong and subtle. His armies have infiltrated the religion through the mullahs and have been successful in doing all the evil mentioned in the above hadith. They have distorted the religion by introducing innovations and exaggerations. They have plagiarized it by pretending to be the Ulama. They provide their own opinions and fallacious interpretations. All the while keeping us away from the hadith and true teachings of the Ahlul Bayt (as).

We Shias are no longer Shias of Ahlul Bayt (as). We have become Shias of the mullahs and the mujtahids. We have taken them to be our masters. We are obedient to them. We follow them blindly. They don’t guide us to the hadith of Masumeen (as) anymore. We need to wake up and realize who our real enemies are!

Brief note on the book Basa’ir ul Darajat

Basa’ir ul Darajat is a collection of 1,881 hadith compiled by Abu Ja’far Muhammad al-Saffar (d. 290/903), a trustworthy companion of Imam Hasan Al Askari (as). Muhammad al-Saffar was a true muhaddith (narrator/collector of hadith) and fits the profile of a faqih as defined by Ahlul Bayt (as). Basa’ir ul Darajat is his collection of hadith on the virtues (fazeelat) and recognition (ma’arefat) of Ahlul Bayt (as). Each hadith is mentioned along with it’s chain of transmitters. The compilation is organized into ten parts each containing multiple chapters.

Aalim-e-Rabbani (Divine Scholar)

The word ‘knowledge’ in the scientific sense means the information or skills gained through experimentation, learning and experience. In the religious sense it means the guidance that leads us to salvation in the hereafter. Scientific knowledge is applicable to our worldly life and religious knowledge to our permanent life. Scientific knowledge is acquired through our senses whereas religious knowledge can be acquired only from the divine guides. No amout of personal endeavor can help us obtain this knowledge independently. Scientific knowledge is not obligatory and required only to the extent that it satisfies our worldly needs and helps us secure our livelihood. Religious knowledge on the other hand is obligatory on all of us.

Imam Musa (as) said: “There is no salvation (najat) without obedience (ita’at); no obedience without knowledge (ilm), and no knowledge without studying (ta’alam), and no studying without an intellect (aql) accompanied by belief (aqidah); and there is no knowledge except from the divine scholar (aalim-e-rabbani)”. [Source: Wasail us Shia  H33095]

The above hadith requires a careful reading. By connecting the dots in the hadith we can conclude that there is no salvation except through learning the hadith.

We all want to be obedient servants of our Imams (as), yet we are far away from their teachings. How can we obey our master when we don’t know his commands? How can we please our master when we don’t know his likes and dislikes. How can we be followers of Ahlul Bayt (as) when we have not read their words? How can we be protected when we don’t heed to their advise? How can we hope for salvation in the hereafter when we have abandoned them in this world?

Nowadays we have taken a convenient shortcut and surrendered ourselves to the mullahs and mujtahids. We take our religion from them blindly without demanding proof from hadith. They manipulate the religion and introduce innovations based on their selfish desires. They are a barrier between us and the Ahlul Bayt (as). They have cast doubt on the authenticity of hadith – when most of our collections (specifically the kutub-e-araba) are compiled by reliable and trustworthy people. As a result, we have stopped reading the hadith. We have cut ourselves off from that knowledge which was made obligatory on us.

We all need to build a personal connection with the Ahlul Bayt (as) by reading and acting on their hadith. We need to take our religion directly from them. We need to take their words seriously for our success and protection in this world and the hereafter. When our actions are based on hadith we will be on a sound and secure footing. No power or force can shake our faith. No enemy can weaken or destroy us. Without knowledge of the hadith we are weak and lost.

The hadith quoted earlier states clearly that the religious knowledge can only be gained from the aalim-e-rabbani (the divine scholar). Without this knowledge we have no idea of how to conduct our life. We have no idea about the commands which we should obey. We have no idea about the guidelines on which to base and structure our life upon. We have no idea about how to become obedient servants of our Imams (as). Without this knowledge we are doomed.