Wearing Black Clothes In Muharram

Summary

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.

Conclusion

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.

Clerics and the Clergy System

Nowadays we consider a clergy system to be an essential part of religion. The clerics define the identity of the religion and we regard them as the official representatives. Our religious lives revolve around clerics. After all how can religion function without the services of the priests, the mullahs and the rabbis? We have accepted this system to be a normal function of society and never question it’s origin. But did you ever think how this system came into existence? Is it divinely prescribed? Did God or the Prophets ever intend to create one?

A clergy system is founded on the premise that society can be divided into two classes – clergy and laity (layman, common man). Each class having a distinct set of responsibilities. The clergy class should dedicate their life to religious studies and services. While the laity concern themselves with worldly pursuits. The clerics are the authorized representatives of the religion. They should develop a deeper understanding of the divine scriptures. They should be well-versed with the religious law. They must apply the laws and principles on themselves and lead a pious life. The common man should rely on them for guidance in all aspects of religion.

Is this division authorized by God? This system exists as a major force in every religion. Yet you will find that the founder or divine messenger has not defined the rules and regulations to establish one. Not prescribed by God, yet it claims divine sanction. It creeps into every religion and is foisted upon an unsuspecting population. Over time it gains influence and becomes well established. Since it is not based on divine law, it keeps evolving to adapt to the changing needs and circumstances. This is a man-made system as we will also prove through hadith. Now the question is, whether it serves to protect or corrupt religion? Does it propagate or hide the truth? Is it needed for the continuity of the divine message?

If a clergy system is crucial for guidance of mankind the Prophet would have laid its foundation. If without this system, the common man is at a risk of misguidance, he would have exercised his energies in creating one. Hadith-e-Thaqalayn mentions that the Messenger of God has left behind the Ahlul Bayt for guidance. Surely the Ahlul Bayt should guide us on the validity of a clergy system. Are there any hadith that supports this system?

On the contrary, we find abundant hadith against establishing such a system. I will quote you five hadith from our reliable sources that refute this system.

Hadith 1: The categories that God has divided us into:

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 ul Shia, H. 33092]

This is how God has divided mankind. The infallible Imams, being directly chosen by God, belong to a distinct category. The rest of us are at best the students of the Imams. There is no scope for further division in this hadith.

This hadith also clarifies the definition of Aalim. This title should be exclusively used for the Imams. They are the Aalims. They are the knowledgeable ones. They can answer any question. No true Shia would call himself an Aalim, even if he spent his entire life studying religion in some obscure seminary.

Hadith 2: Religious knowledge is obligatory on all believers

The Holy Prophet said: Seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female. [Al-Majlisi Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 1. p. 177]

This hadith is clear in it’s import. The Holy Prophet did not say: “Seeking knowledge is incumbent on a small group of people among you. The rest should refer and seek knowledge from them”. No, it is the duty of every believer to acquire knowledge. And to acquire it directly from the sources. The sources being the Prophet and Imams. Unfortunately the clergy system promotes a large class of people to remain ignorant in religion. It also provides opportunity for the clerics to monopolize knowledge and interpret it to suit their interests.

Here is another hadith from Imam Ali which should remove all doubt:

O people! Know that religion becomes complete through seeking knowledge and acting accordingly. You must know that seeking knowledge is of a stronger imperative nature for you than seeking wealth. In wealth everyone’s share is guaranteed. As, the Just One (meaning God) has already divided wealth among you. He (God) Himself and through my sword will guarantee that you receive your share. Knowledge, however, is stored with those who possess it. You are commanded to seek knowledge from them. You must seek the knowledge. [Reference: Wasail ul Shia, H. 33111]

Who are the possessors of knowledge from whom we are commanded to seek knowledge? Would God ever command us to follow anyone but His representatives – the Imams?

Hadith 3: Religion can not be a profession

The clergy system produces religious professionals. Whereas, the Imams have prohibited us from earning livelihood through religion. Below are three hadith from Amir-ul-Momineen Imam Ali:

The one who holds on to religion while engaged in worldly striving secures his religion. But the one who earns his sustenance through the means of religion loses his religion all together. [Reference: Mastadrak ul Wasail, vol. 12, ch. 6, h. 52]

Making progress in the religion through worldly means will be rewarded whereas improving worldly affairs through religion will be admonished. [Reference: Mastadrak ul Wasail]

The seeker of the ‘World’ by the means of religion is rebuked and disgraced. [Reference: Ghurar-al-hakam, Ad’deen wa duniya]

Neither the Imams nor their companions made religion as their profession. We find Imam Baqir, for example, working on a farm to support his family.

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir was a man with many qualities of greatness, reverence and piety. He was the greatest scholar of his time and his life was the best model of good manners and piety. He used to work on his farm. He put in hard labour to earn enough to support his family, and to help the poor and the needy. [Reference: www.al-islam.org]

Hadith 4: True knowledge is not acquired through learning

True guiding knowledge is a light that God sends in to the heart of a believer. It is not acquired through lengthy study in a seminary.

The Prophet said: Knowledge is not (acquired) through extensive learning. Rather, it is the light that Allah `sends in the heart of whomever He wishes to guide. [Reference: Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 67, p. 140]

Any sincere believer that God chooses can be the recipient of this guidance. This believer is a better guide and more valuable then any priest who has spent his entire life studying religion.

Hadith 5: Prohibited to distinguish oneself by dress

Why do the clerics have a special dress code that differentiate them from the common men? So that they can be acknowledged as learned in a gathering? This is again prohibited:

If a person wears a certain dress in order to become famous (known), then on the day of judgment Allah will make him wear the dress of the fire of hell. [Reference: Sayings of Imam Hussain (asws) Wasail ul Shia Third Edition pg 278 chapter 12 Hadith 4]

The Prophet and the Imams put on customary attire never distinguishing themselves from the rest of the people. There are numerous incidents in history where the people had to ask “Who among you is Muhammad?” or “Who is Ali ibn Abi Talib from amongst you?”. They were unrecognizable (through dress) by people who did not know them.

A dress can never be a sign of knowledge. Knowledge does not have a dress code. It is perceived through interaction and understanding. It is a light in the heart of the believer.

Conclusion

The seat of the cleric is a powerful position from which the masses can be controlled. That is why we usually find the clerics in alliance with the political rulers of their times, allowing them to jointly control the destinies of people.

Every divine messenger arrives to destroy the corrupt systems of their times and the clergy system is an integral part of it. In history, when do you see the clerics whole heartedly accepting the divine guide without any opposition? Who corrupts religion other than the clerics? They being the official interpreters and representatives. When the divine guide appears what option do they have but to challenge him in order to protect their rule and authority.

The clergy system in all the world’s religions operates to exercise power and control over people. It is based on an invalid division of mankind. It produces religious professionals and at the same time an ignorant class of people who are encouraged to be lethargic and indolent in pursuing religious knowledge. Nowhere in the traditions of the Prophet or the Imams can we find justification to create this system. It is an innovation. It is a system of deception laid by Satan whose goal is to drive the believers towards polytheism.

The Obligatory Taqleed

Abstract

Taqleed demands absolute submission to the dictates of a Mujtahid. Whereas, only those appointed by God qualify for unconditional submission. Yet the Mujtahids have appropriated this function of the Imams. Moreover, it is impossible for people to identify a person who is all together pious, trustworthy and the most knowledgeable. Even Prophet Moses, when charged with identifying pious men, ended up selecting hypocrites. How can an ordinary Shia be expected to make the right choice in identifying a qualified Mujtahid?

Definition of Taqleed

The word Taqleed is based on the verb qallada. It means to encircle the neck with a band or belt. The term originates from the idea of allowing oneself to be led “by the collar”. In Islamic legal terminology it means to follow a Mujtahid in religious law as he has derived them. The one who performs Taqleed is called a Muqallid.

Submitting to the Mujtahid

Taqleed goes further than mere following or referring to someone. It requires the Muqallid to submit to the fatawas (verdicts) of the Mujtahid without questioning. He must follow without examining the scriptural basis or reasoning of the decisions. He must accept the verdicts without demanding an explanation. And he must not inquire about the processes and techniques used to arrive at them.

A Muqallid has no knowledge of how the Mujtahid has arrived at the fatwa (verdict). Is it based on Qur’an? Or Hadith? Or Aql? Or Ijma? Or a combination of them? Such knowledge is neither expected nor necessary. Nor is it encouraged.

The system is founded on trust of a fallible individual. The Muqallid enters into an informal but binding agreement with the Mujtahid, who now becomes his master in religion. The Muqallid tightens the binding leash of Taqleed around his neck and agrees to be pulled in the direction that his master takes him. It is mandatory for him to live his life in this complying state, obeying the dictates of his master in all religious matters.

A Mujtahid is neither infallible nor divinely appointed. Despite this, the Muqallid submits to him in the same way that one would submit to a divinely appointed Prophet or an Imam.

Qualifications of a Mujtahid

What are the qualifications of a Mujtahid in this factitious system? In this scheme, not every Mujtahid is qualified to lead the people. He must be the most knowledgeable one. At any given time, more than one Mujtahid lays claim to be the most knowledgeable. Thus one needs to differentiate between them to make the right choice.

The Mujtahid must at the same time be completely trustworthy. He should never cover up the truth nor interpret the verses of the Holy Qur’an or the hadith for personal gain. No one would accept a Mujtahid who is less than a hundred percent trustworthy. Or else, a doubt could be cast on any of his fatwa turning him into an uttterly useless guide.

The Mujtahid must have a high level of intelligence. Ijtihad, it is claimed, is an onerous undertaking demanding decades of study at the seminary. Islamic jurisprudence is a complex area and requires mastery of a wide range of difficult subjects. A Mujtahid must apply all his faculties and use all the resources at his disposal to determine the correct ruling. It is evident that this calls for extraordinary intelligence.

A Mujtahid must keep himself engaged in study and research. He must continue to perform Ijtihad on new issues, which is no easy task by any means. He must ensure that he is the most Aalam (the most knowledgeable) lest another overtakes him in his knowledge. As long as he has at least one follower, he must be confident that he is the most Aalam.

Finally the Mujtahid must be pious and have the best deeds. If the Mujtahid, with his level of knowledge and commitment is not the most pious individual then who is?

Selecting a Mujtahid – A Formidable Task

To summarize, suitability for Taqleed requires the Mujtahid to be:

  1. The most knowledgeable among the competing pool of Mujtahids
  2. Completely trustworthy
  3. Pious and righteous
  4. Have superior intelligence
  5. Ability to keep up with new challenges.

Surely no one would choose a Mujtahid who is lacking in any of the above qualities. Is it reasonable to expect a Shia Muqallid to identify such an individual? Are the above attributes quantifiable? Can people be entrusted to make the right choice? Has God ever left the choice of His Prophets and their successors to the whims of the people?

Every attribute in the list is non-quantifiable. God alone knows the hidden aspects of people. No one can be certain about the sincerity of a person except God.

The task of identifying a qualified Mujtahid is several orders more difficult then the one placed before Prophet Moses. Let us see how this Uul-ul-amr Prophet fared when mandated to select 70 pious men from his community.

As part of a longer hadith, Imam Reza (asws) said:

.. even when High Ranked Prophets (as), i.e., Musa (as) and Isa (as) selected people, they could not select pious people, and hypocrites were among their (as) selection. Imam (asws) said: Look, Prophet Musa (as), who has (the title of) Kalimullah (the one who spoke with Allah), when he (as) selected seventy pious people (from his nation) for the al-Miqat (a fixed term), surely, he (as) had not an element of doubt in their Iman and sincerity, but all turned out to be hypocrites. That is why Allah (azwj) says: And Musa chose out of his people seventy men for Our appointment (7:155) but these hypocrites said instead: we will not believe in you until we see Allah manifestly (2:55), as a result: so the lightning overtook them on account of their injustice.(4:153). [Reference: Kamal-ud-din, 2-461-43, Bab-e-zikr Min Shahid al Qaim, Hayat Al Qulub, Volume 3 By Baqir Al-Majlisi]

Prophet Moses had a much simpler task at hand and he failed. He had to search for men with a single quality – piety. And from among his own community. From among people he lived and interacted with. Not only did he fail to identify pious men, but instead ended up choosing hypocrites!. How treacherous this undertaking is!

An ordinary Shia, on the other hand, is challenged to identify a pious Mujtahid with whom he has had no personal experience, from among men who are remote, and purely through word of mouth! Over and above, he must search for an individual with many qualities – piety, knowledge, intelligence, and sincerity among others. And these qualities must exist in the person to the fullest extent. Would God impose such a tall order on us?

False message spread from the pulpit

To deceive people, a false message is being spread from the pulpit without any proof from the Qur’an or hadith. Let me quote the Urdu phrases used in the lectures in the Indo-Pak communities. (I am forced to quote the Urdu due to difficulty in translating them):

  • Imam ki Taqleed nahi hoti” (translation: there is no such thing as Taqleed of an Imam.)
  • Imam ki Ita’at hoti hai” (translation: only obedience is required of the Imam, implying Taqleed of him is not required)
  • Taqleed to sirf Mujtahid ki hoti hai” (translation: Taqleed is exclusively reserved for the Mujtahids)

If Taqleed means blind emulation, why is it not applicable for the Imams? As we will see in the hadith literature, both Taqleed and Itaa’at are exclusively the right of the Imam. All our deeds will be rejected if both of these are not observed at all times.

Sermon of Ghadir – Taqleed of Imam Ali

We have been ordered to do Taqleed of the Infallibles. The first proof is in the sermon of Ghadir. In this sermon, the Holy Prophet makes the Taqleed of Amir-ul-Momineen obligatory:

The Holy Prophet (saww) said in his (saww) Sermon of Ghadir: ‘And he is my brother Ali (asws) Ibn Abi Talib and he (asws) is among you of the same status as I (saww) am, so do his (asws) Taqleed in your religion and obey him (asws) in all your affairs.’

Sheikh Tabrisi in his famous book Ihtijaj-al-Tabrisi has recorded the complete sermon along with the chain of narrators. Refer to the link and you will be convinced of the authenticity of his work.

Next time you hear a speaker spreading lies about Taqleed, counter him with the above hadith.

One Becomes Mushriq without referring to the Masomeen (asws)

It obligatory to refer every matter to the Masumeen else one becomes a Mushriq.

Abu Abdullah (as) said: The affairs of the people are on recognizing us (as) and referring to us (as) and accepting us (as). And if they were to observe fast and pray and bear witness that there is no god but Allah (awt), and if they have it in their hearts that they will not refer to us (as), then they will be among the ‘Mushriqeen’ (polytheists). [Reference: Wasail ul Shia H. 33221]

People have been ordered three things recognizing the Imams (as), submitting to them (as) and referring to them (as) in everything that they differ in. [Reference: Wasail ul Shia H. 33216]

Absolute obedience is only for the Masumeen

The Mujtahids have made Taqleed obligatory on the people. They proclaim without providing proof: “None of your deeds will be accepted without Taqleed (of a fallible Mujtahid) and if you die in that state all your acts of worship are doubtful”. Following is a quote from the website of Agha Sistani:

Therefore, it is obligatory upon those persons who are neither Mujtahids, nor able to act on precautionary measures (Ihtiyat), to follow a Mujtahid. [Reference Islamic Laws – Sistani]

Now compare the above with the words of Imam Ali who said:

How can Allah make obligatory upon His servants, obedience to someone who is veiled from the mysteries of the heavens and the earth. [Reference: Bihar Ul Anwaar Vol 25 Ch 4 Hadith Tariq, pg. 172]

Does a Mujtahid have access to the mysteries of the heavens and the earth? Who else besides the Infallibles are implied in the above hadith?

Conclusion

An act, depending on who it is performed for, can be honorable or deplorable. Take Sajdah (prostration) for example. Prostrating to Allah is an honorable act that elevates the status of a human being. On the other hand, prostrating to somebody else is a despicable act which degrades the invdividual.

The same is true for Taqleed. God loves the believer who performs Taqleed of the Masumeen. Complete submission (Taslim) to the authority and dictates of the Imams is counted as a great virtue. It is the characteristic by which a true believer is recognized and through which his heart is purified. But, submitting to a fallible individual, who is not appointed by God, is abominable. It devalues the believer and draws him towards polytheism and idol worhip.

Who are the Fuqaha?

1. Who are the Fuqaha?

The Mujtahids claim to be the Fuqaha (plural of Faqih), but do they fit the definition of Fuqaha as defined in the hadith literature? In the hadith, we find the Imams (as) describing the Fuqaha as the Muhaddithin (which literally means the narrators of their hadith). They have almost equated the terms Faqih and Muhaddith. Let us look at the following narration from Imam Jafar al Sadiq (asws):

Recognize the status of our (asws) Shia in accordance with how many good narrations they relate from us (asws), for we do not consider the ‘Faqih’ from them to be a ‘Faqih’ unless they are narrators of hadith (Muhaddith). It was said to him (asws), “Is a believer a narrator of hadith? He (asws) said: “He is an understanding one (mufhim: meaning the one who has fahm, which means understanding, the who uses his innate God-given ability to think, reflect and perceive the reality of things); and the understanding one is a narrator of hadith (al Mufhim al Muhaddith)”. [Imam Jafar al Sadiq (as), Wasail ul Shia, H. 33453]

The above hadith makes the following points clear:

  • A Faqih is a Muhaddith (narrator of hadith) and vice versa – a Muhaddith is a Faqih. The terms can be used interchangeably.
  • A Momin is a Mufhim and a Mufhim is a Muhaddith.
  • A Momin who has ‘fahm’ (understanding) will seek and narrate Hadith.
  • The Imam (as) has not differentiated between hadith of usul and those of fiqh.

2. Qualities of a Muhaddith

The word ‘Narrator’ by definition and meaning naturally implies the following:

  • A narrator is a carrier and transmitter of the narration in the original words.
  • A narrator provides references when demanded.
  • A narrator does not speak independently.
  • A narrator does not seek to take the place of the Aalim – which in our case are the Ahlul Bayt (as)

In short, a Muhaddith compiles/quotes hadith with references – otherwise he cannot be termed as a ‘Narrator’ of hadith.

3. All knowledge emanates from Masumeen (as)

A true Faqih always presents himself as a humble student of the Imam (as) from whom he acquires his knowledge. He acknowledges that the source of all knowledge are the Masumeen (as) and they themselves are simply the bearers of that knowledge:

I heard Abu Abd Allah (asws) say: Whoever loves to have a complete Iman (faith, belief) must say: ‘Everything that I say is from the family of Mohammed (asws), whether they (asws) kept it secret or made it public, whether it has reached me from them (asws) or it has not reached me. [Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, H. 1013, Ch. 95, h, 6]

A Faqih should direct you towards the words of the Masumeen(as). A non-Faqih will direct you towards himself in order to gain fame and popularity.

4. Compulsory to provide reference to hadith

What if a person speaks on the basis of hadith but does not provide reference? Is this person a Faqih? No! On the contrary, by not quoting hadith, he has violated the orders of the Masumeen (as) – the very people whose hadith he is supposed to be familiar with. Proof is in the following hadith from Usool-e-Kafi:

Abu Abd Allah (asws) said: “Beware of the branched-out lies.” They asked the Imam (asws), “What are the branched-out lies?” The Imam (asws) replied: “It is when you narrate a Hadith of an Imam (asws) without mentioning the Imam’s (asws) name.” [Reference: Usool-e-Kafi, Vol. 1, Chapter 17, Hadith 12]

I said to Abu Ja’far (asws), “I narrate from you (asws) a Hadith and some of us say ‘Our words are their (asws) words’. He (asws) said: What do you want? Do you intend to be Imams to be followed? One who refers the words to us (asws) is safe.” [ Wasaail ul Shia – Vol 27, H 33400]

5. The Librarian Metaphor

An example that we can draw upon to understand the current situation is that of a school with professors, a library, students and a few librarians. Imagine that the library houses the books of the professors and the librarians have access to the books and are also the safe keepers. The professors are not currently available but they have provided all the essential knowledge required by students to be successful. The professors have not stated that comprehension of their material requires an additional body of experts, who should develop an interpretive science (based on their own reasoning) in order to correctly decipher the meanings, and the students should refer to this body of pseudo-experts for guidance. The professors have made it mandatory for ALL students to seek their knowledge and be directly attached to them. In this example, the professors are the Imams (as) but what is the role of the librarians? Let us play out the two possibilities – one when the librarians conduct themselves as narrators of hadith (Muhaddith/Fuqaha) and the other alternative when the librarians operate as Mujtahids taking on the role and position of the professors.

When the librarians conduct themselves as Muhaddithin, they become spokespersons for the professors, and either quote their material (with references) or direct the students to the relevant sections within the books of the professors. They know very well that all knowledge ultimately originates from the professors and at no time do they pretend to be scholars. They provide free and direct access to the material at all times never covering up any material. Due to their years of service and familiarity with the matter, they can save you a lot of time by either quoting (with references) or quickly directing you to the particular books and sections that are relevant to the question you have at hand. For the questions whose answers are not to be found in the books – they will admit their helplessness. These questions are not critical for success anyway. What is critical for success is the sincere effort of the students to study and take full advantage of the material that has been left behind. The librarians understand that they can never take the place of the professors since they just don’t have the required capacity and knowledge. In actuality, the librarians are students themselves who have spent more time studying compared to others. This system categorizes everyone as students, does not differentiate between them except on the basis of how much each has memorized and is well-versed with the words of the professors. This system obligates all the students to acquire knowledge, pursue and study the words of the professors and drives them to become acquainted and conversant with the material and their message.

Now imagine the situation if the librarians turned into Mujtahids. They now pronounce that the majority of the students do not possess the capacity to grasp the words of the professors. In addition, the enemies have corrupted the books with false information and it is going to be impossible for the students to differentiate between right and wrong. To take advantage of the material, one now needs to go through another prolonged course of study. It first requires many years of advanced study of secondary subjects like linguistics, etymology, logic, philosophy, etc. All students simply do not have enough time for this. So let us create a categorization among us – the scholars and the students. The scholars will sacrifice their time and life to master the secondary subjects and the students should then turn towards them for guidance. Therefore, we the librarians are the scholars and you are the layman. We are now the general representatives of the professors, we occupy their vacant offices, and you can now approach us with questions in the same way that you would have approached the professors. Not all answers are to be found in the books, as a result we have developed an umbrella science through which we have understood the general principles used by the professors and based on this science we can derive correct answers to even those questions that are not addressed by them. In fact, many times we don’t even bother to refer to the books, as these principles are much easier for us to apply. We have formulated our own new laws to extract the meanings. These laws, in addition to the books, allow us to use our own reasoning (aql) and are based on a general consensus (ijma) among us which provides internal checks and balances. We understand that this new system that we have put in place is not based on the teachings of the professors, since they did not have the foresight to anticipate this current situation. Rather we have established this based on necessity and ‘aqli dalil’ (proof of reason). Our approach to come up with answers (even to the simple questions) is so complex and intertwined that we cannot make our detailed analysis available to all of you easily. The analysis is recorded in a language that you don’t speak, and even if you did, you would first have to join the scholar class, study for many years, and then perhaps you would be able to understand it. Therefore, do not ask for proof of how we have arrived at the answer. Put your trust in us and take the answer we provide with full confidence. Even if it turns out to be wrong you will not lose any points. Logic now dictates that the best solution for you is to follow us as your guides (some of us have even adorned ourselves with the title of ‘professor’ due to our service to them). Even for simple matters it is best to refer to us. As a matter of fact, we have made your task even more easy – you do not need to study the books of the professors as we will provide you with all the direct answers required to pass the examination. Ask us the questions and we will present you the answers. Don’t ask us for proof as that is beyond your understanding. As we do all the hard work in decoding the knowledge of the professors, you can devote yourself to extra-curricular activities, enjoy the other opportunities provided by the school, spend time on your day job, and other day to day chores.

6. Who should Shias consult for newly emerging issues?

Following is the response of our twelfth Imam (ajtf) to this question in the form of a letter:

As far as newly occurring circumstances are concerned, you should refer to the narrators of our hadith, for they are my proof over you and I (asws) am Allah (azwj)’s Proof. [Letter of Imam-e-Zamana (ajfj) to his representative, quoted by al-Tabarsi, in his book Al-Ihtijaj al-Tabarsi, Vol. 2, pg. 469]

Again if you read the above hadith carefully, our Imam (as) is asking us to follow the narrators of hadith and not the ‘scientists’ of hadith. This implies that the answer to all our problems exist in the hadith.

7. Examples of Faqih from history

One of the best example of a Faqih and Muhaddith is that of Sheikh Yaqub Kulayni who compiled one of the greatest and most authoritative collection of hadith called Al-Kafi. Sheikh Kulayni was not a Mujtahid, he did not derive laws, apply science, etc. He was a pure Muhaddith and thus fits cleanly in the definition of a Faqih as defined by the Imams (as). In fact, he is among a special class of Muhaddithin known as Rihalah-ye hadith i.e. those who travelled far and wide in order to collect ahadith from the persons considered to be the authority on hadith during his time.

Another great example is that of Sheikh Hurr Al Amili who lived in the 17th century. He compiled Wasa’il al-Shī’a based on The Four Books (Al-Kafi, Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih, Al-Istibsar, Tahdhib al-Ahkam) and other major shia sources. It as a multi-volume Hadith collection based on 20 years of effort. It is one of the most comprehensive books containing about 36,000 hadith. Sheikh Hurr Al Amili was against the concept of Taqleed and Ijtihad and when he saw people migrating towards the Mujtahids and their Tawdhi-ul-Masail (in which they don’t quote hadith), he produced this single collection categorizing all the hadith by topic for easy reference – so that people could directly follow the hadith.

8. Is Fatwa based on Hadith?

Let us examine the word fatwa. In english it can be translated as a ‘verdict’ or a ‘ruling’. A fatwa is the final conclusion or determination that the individual has arrived at based on his personal findings and his own understanding.

In the man-made system of Ijtihad, a fatwa is issued in the absence of a hadith. Therefore, in such cases it is definitely not based on hadith. And if the fatwa is based on hadith, why is it called a fatwa? There should be nothing personal about it. In the presence of hadith, there is no room for Ijtihad and there is no need for a fatwa. The Mujtahid should simply provide the reference to the hadith.

Why is the Risalah-e-Amaliya (also known as Tawdhih-ul-Masail or Islamic Practical Laws) produced by every Marja called the book of fatawas (plural of fatwa)? Are there not hadith for ANY of the rulings mentioned in it?
Even if a fatwa is based on hadith, the moment it is labeled as a fatwa it becomes a personal opinion and can no longer be termed as qawl-e-Masumeen (words of the Masumeen).

According to the Usuli school of thought, Ijtihad (the process of deriving law and establishing fatwa) is based on four sources: Qur’an, Hadith, Aql and Ijma. For any given fatwa, it is not known which among the four sources and what combinations of the four have been used to derive it. Is the fatwa based purely on hadith? Purely on Aql? Or a combination of Hadith, Aql and Ijma?

In defense of the above statement, it is argued that detailed analysis is available in the so called ‘dars-e-kharij’ lectures conducted usually in farsi or arabic. They are not made readily available to the public. First of all, why is detailed analysis required for the majority of day to day issues which have been practiced by the Shias for thirteen hundred years? They should all have clear references to the hadith. Secondly, for new issues the Marja must atleast provide a reference to the hadith that were used to determine the ruling, even if they do not provide the exposition. As we mentioned, earlier it is compulsory to provide reference to hadith.

9. Is a Mujtahid also a Muhaddith?

Either the fatwa is based on hadith or not. In both the cases, the Mujtahid does not quote hadith, and has not functioned like the Muhaddith. Therefore, a Mujtahid who issues fatawas can never be classified as a Muhaddith or a Faqih.

10. Difference between a Mujtahid and a Muhaddith

The major difference between the two of them is in the terms “following” and “referring to”. One refers to the Muhaddith whereas in the case of a Mujtahid one follows him. The word “follow” is a strong word – we should strictly only “follow” the Masumeen (as). The reality is that in today’s world, ask any ordinary Shia the question “Whom do you follow?” and inevitably the response will be the name of his/her Marja.

In the case of a Muhaddith, we don’t “follow” him – we simply refer to him in order to get access to the words of the Masumeen (as). The Muhaddith leads us towards the path/words of the Masumeen (as) and referring to him is equivalent to following on the footsteps of the Masumeen (as). The Mujtahid on the other hand does not quote hadith, and does not provide proof of his statements from hadith (to the general public). Therefore, in reality we have “followed” the Mujtahid and not the Masum Imams (as). Now a Mujtahid can claim that their statements are based on hadith – but without proof how can we trust them? Specially, since it is forbidden to make statements from hadith without mentioning the name of the Imams (as).

On the day of judgement, we must confidently be able to say that we have followed the Ahlul Bayt (as). If we are not aware of their hadith and teachings then how have we followed them?

Futility Of Ijtihad

1. Abstract

Islamic laws can simply not be “derived” – they are exclusively created by Allah (swt) and conveyed to us through the Masumeen (as). Ijtihad, where the aim is to derive new law, is forbidden and denounced by Masumeen (as) who declared it as an evil concept. Acting without hadith leads to destruction. Human mind is incapable of determining halal and haram using reason and logic.

2. Preliminary note

This article assumes that the reader is familiar with the concept of Ijtihad, its sources and evolution. For those who perform Taqlid of a fallible Mujtahid they should already know the detailed definition, background, and history of this process. Unfortunately, there are many followers who are double blind – they not only follow a Mujtahid blindly but are also blind to the sources, process and techniques used by the Mujtahid to arrive at his fatwas. There are good resources online (http://al-islam.org) on Taqlid and Ijtihad which you can refer to (for example Ijtihad: Its Meaning, Sources, Beginnings). Nevertheless, we will provide a brief overview and history here.

3. Important note on the scope of Ijtihad

When Ijtihad started to be initially practiced by Shia mujtahids, it’s scope and domain was limited to those issues where there were no clear rulings (zawahir) in the Book and the Sunnah. The reason is that the meaning of the word Ijtihad carries with it a sense of hard work and struggle. Thus the derivation of a hukm from zawahir, which did not involve any great effort, was not counted as part of ijtihad.

However since all man made systems are defective and continue to improvise and evolve, in the same way, the meaning of Ijtihad grew in scope and came to include deduction of ahkam from zawahir of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This was because the scholars of the ‘invented’ subject of ‘usul al fiqh’ (principles of jurisprudence) came to recognize that even deduction from the zawahir required a lot of scholarly effort; that it could not be done without the knowledge of the principle of hujjiyyat al‑zawahir (another invented term that means “the legal validity of literal meanings”) and the mode of its application and the related problems. [Reference: See section: Delimitation of the Meaning of Ijtihad by al‑Muhaqqiq al‑Hilli]

In this discussion, however, we want to address the area of Ijtihad which attempts to derive rulings where there is no express text in Quran or Hadith. This is the area in which a Mujtahid clearly competes directly with Allah (swt) as he applies his reasoning and logic to determine halal and haram.

4. Brief history of Ijtihad

The term Ijtihad, according to the Arabic dictionary, is derived from ‘juhd’, which literally means to exert effort (struggle) for the purpose of making progress towards a goal in the hope to achieve an outcome. The generally understood definition of Ijtihad is that – it is the process employed by a Mujtahid to determine and/or derive the laws of the Sharia (islamic legal rulings). According to the Shia Usuli school of thought the Mujtahid uses four sources of law to perform Ijtihad – Qur’an, Hadith, Aql and Ijma. There is no hadith which says that the laws should be derived from these four sources and neither are there any teachings of the Masumeen (as) where they have taught the principles of Ijitihad on how laws can be derived from a combination of these four sources.

Ijtihad was an innovation practiced by Ahlul Sunnah after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s). The deviant companions of the Holy Prophet (saww) started making use of it soon after taking into their hands the reign of Government in order to justify their un-islamic actions, but later on it was extensively used by their religious leaders not only to issue fatwas to public but also to support and cover up the mistakes of the rulers who started distorting the true picture of Islam.

The first Ijtihad was based on analogy and its foundation was laid down by Iblis, since then it has been used by the enemies of Allah (azwj). The Ahl al Sunnah based the practice of Ijtihad on a fabricated Hadith of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As (a well known enemy of Ahl Al-Bayt), who narrated that the Holy Prophet (s) said:

“When a judge gives a decision by Ijtihad and gets it right, there are two rewards for him; and if he gave a Judgement by Ijtihad but erred, there is one reward for him”.

5. Ijitihad denounced by Masumeen (as)

Sunni Muslims continued to practice Ijtihad after the Holy Prophet (saww) but Ahlulbayt (as) persistently denounced it as can be found in numerous of their (as) traditions. During those times the Shia (who were actually the true Shia) used to narrate hadith and act upon religion purely by referring to ahadith of the Infallible Imams (as).

Ahl al-Bayt (as) clearly declared Ijtihad as an evil concept, which was used by evil spirits to gather support to refute Divine Commands. The first one who used Ijtihad was Iblis, (7:12)5 as per from the following Hadith:

Once, abu Hanifa came to see Imam Abu ‘Abd Allah (asws) who said to abu Hanifa, ‘O abu Hanifa, do you practice analogy as I hear you do’? Abu Hanifa replied, ‘Yes, I do practice analogy.’ The Imam (asws) then said to him, ‘Do not practice it; the first person who used analogy was Iblis when he said, “Lord, you have created me from fire and created him from clay.” He analogised fire with clay. If he had compared the light in Adam (as) and light of the fire, he would have learned about the difference between the two lights and the excellence of one over the other.’ [Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, – H 176, Ch. 19, h20

I said to Abu Jafar (as): “Matters get referred to us whose existence we do not find in the Book and the Sunnah, and we speak on them by opinion’. Imam (as) said: “If you get it right you will get no reward for it, and if you make a mistake you will have forged a lie against Allah (azwj). [Reference: Wasail ul Shia, H. 33185]

Abu Ja’far (as) said (in a reply to arriving at a best judgement-fatwa): If you get it right you will get no reward for it, but if you get it wrong you will have ascribed a lie to Allah (azwj). — Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Wasail ul Shia H. 33185

However, after the Greater Occultation of Imam-e-Zamana (ajf), power greedy and fame hungry Shias scholars reinvented and embraced what the Sunnis had done before, by essentially replicating and slightly redefining the same term ‘Ijtihad’ declaring it as ‘permissible’ if it is based on ‘Aql’ unlike that of Sunnis which, they accused, was based on ‘Zan’ (conjecture).

6. Start of Ijtihad by Shias

The first Shia Mujtahid who came forward, by amending the Sunni originated version of Ijtihad (which was first formulated by their Imam Shafi), was Ibn-e-Junaid. He received stern resistance and opposition but eventually through the use of force and co-ercion Shia Ijtihad was gradually accepted and it’s adoption served the purpose of bringing Shias closer to the Sunnis and their system. That is how Sunni Ijtihad became Shia! It then became the norm to criticize the beliefs of Ahlul Sunnah but to continue to emulate them in Ijtihad and get a firm grip on the possibility of introducing one’s own judgement on those aspects of religion which were fully covered and extensively discussed in both the Book and the Hadith of Ahlul Bayt (as). Hence, Shia Ijtihad was incepted, which after strong opposition found its way into the main stream twelver-Imami Shia community, as it is found in its present form.

Ijtihad is a purely man-made system replacing a divine system, where a Muqallid (follower of a Mujtahid) does not know the source of a fatwa and the Mujtahid is never ever sure of his judgement (as he writes ‘Wallah ho Alim bil sawab’), consequently resulting in ‘a blind following a blind’!

7. The fundamental problem with Ijtihad

The fundamental problem with Ijtihad and the primary reason why it is an ill-founded concept is that it is humanly not possible for reason and intellect to derive the divine laws. The laws of Allah (swt) can never be determined by human reasoning and logic, simply because the processes of the law are beyond human ken.

“Allah will not be asked how He makes halal and how He makes haram.” [Imam Musa Kazim, Barqî, Mahasin, p. 114, hadîth #94; Kulaynî, al-Kafî, vol. l, p. 75].

The reasons on which the laws are based cannot be determined by us; or perhaps it would be better to say that Allah (swt) is not bound in what He commands by what we see as reason or logic. Therefore reasoning not only does not lead toward the truth; it actually makes it more distant.

Abu Ja’far (asws): “One who issues Fatwas to the people by his opinion, has made his lack of knowledge to be the religion of Allah (azwj), and who makes the Religion of Allah (azwj) through his lack of knowledge, has gone against Allah (azwj) in what He (azwj) has Made to be permissible, he makes it prohibited due to his lack of knowledge”. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H 33162]

Amir-ul-Momineen (asws), said in his (asws) speech: “Islam is submission”, until he (asws) said: “The believer takes his religion from his Lord (azwj), and does not take it from his opinion”. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H 33171]

And from Muhammad Bin Abu Abdullah, from Yunus Al-Rahman who said that he said to Abu Al-Hassan (asws) the First, “How do I explain the Unity of Allah (azwj)?” He (asws) said: “O Yunus! Do not resort to innovation. The one who ponders by his opinion gets destroyed, and one who avoids the people (asws) of the Household of the Prophet (saww) goes astray, and one who avoids the Book of Allah (azwj) and the Statement of His (azwj) Prophet (saww), becomes an infidel”.[Reference: Wasail us Shia H 33157]

“The practitioners of qiyas seek knowledge using their analogies; but that puts them only further away from the truth, for God’s religion is not determined through analogies! [Imam Jafar al Sadiq Barqi, Mahasin, p. 211, hadith #79; Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. l, p. 72 ]

8. Did the Imams (as) practice Ijtihad to derive laws?

We believe that the Holy Prophet (s) and Imams (as) possessed the highest intellect and the best human mind. If the laws of Shariah could be derived through reasoning and logic then there was no need for Allah (swt) to send wahi/revelation to them. They could have deduced the laws through the use of their intellect. Not only that but, they would have taught us these rules comprehensively so that we could apply them to new situations to derive the legal rulings. But the reality is that the laws of Shariah are determined solely by Allah (swt) (who will not be questioned) and the Masumeen (as) have simply conveyed those laws to us.

Think about it – if Ijtihad was going to be so crucial to the guidance of Shia community, then would not the Imams have taught usul-e-fiqh (and all the other subjects that the mujtahid relies on) to the Shias? Why was it required for the scholars to later on invent this subject? Did the Imams, God forbid, neglect to do their duty or were they, God forbid, oblivious/ignorant of this critical future need of the community?

First the Shia scholars opened the forbidden door of Ijtihad and then they themselves started to write down the rules of this game and these rules are continuously evolving and changing over the centuries. They argue that Ijtihad requires a sound intellect – but who is going to guarantee soundness of intellect of an individual? There is no criteria to measure it unless guaranteed by Allah (swt), as is the case of Masumeen (as). Since the Prophet (s) or the Imams (as) never defined the rules of Ijtihad, what prevents someone from making their own rules and justifying their rulings and decisions? How dangerous this tool of Ijtihad is!

9. What should one do in confusing matters?

For those confusing matters (which are non-emergency and non-life-threatening) and there are no clear hadith we have been asked abstain/refrain from the action or wait until we can find a clear hadith or get the answer from the living Imam (as).

Rasool Allah (saww) said: “Permissible is clear, and Prohibition is clear, and confusing ones are between that. One who avoids the confusing matters will be saved from the Prohibitions, and one who takes to the confusing matters will get involved in the Prohibitions, and will be destroyed without even knowing about it”. Then he (saww) said at the end of the Hadith: “Surely abstaining during confusion is better than indulging in destruction”. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H 33472]

Abu Abdullah (asws) said: “Had the servants abstained during ignorance, they would not have struggled nor would they have disbelieved (denied). To abstain during confusion is better that indulging in destruction” [Reference: Wasail us Shia H 33474, H 33476]

Abu Abdullah (asws) said: “The most pious of the people is the one who pauses during confusion”. [Reference Wasail us Shia H 33492]

For life-threatening situations, as you know we are even allowed to consume carrion in order to save life. Also for medical conditions, there are hadith where the Imams (as) have allowed even the use of poison to seek a cure.

10. Conclusion

The use of judicial reasoning to derive ahkam is futile and ultimately leads to bid’ah (innovation of legal rulings). The legal innovations introduced by fallible mujtahids are particularly dangerous because, being cobbled with truth and untruth, they are all the more attractive to the followers of Satan. They splinter the Shias into factions and introduce differences (ikhtilaf) although the divine law is one and there can never be any contradiction in the commandments and prohibitions. Despite clear hadith, the Shias have fallen into confusion. They follow leaders whose judgements, even though they may believe that they have arrived at the right determination, is riddled with ikhtilaf. The multiplicity of sub-divisions among them demonstrates their failure to travel together on the one true path.

However the biggest danger and thus the biggest victory for Satan (who waits in ambush at the entrance of sirat al mustaqim) is that it promotes shirk by establishing fallible individuals as leaders (whom people obey and follow blindly without asking for proof) as sources of divine law defining halal and haram, thus displacing the position of the Imams (as) whom the Shias have been asked to directly and tightly adhere to (refer to hadith-e-thaqalayn).

Imam Ja’far Al Sadiq (as) said: “Beware of taqleed! Whosoever adorns this in religion is destroyed! Surely Allah (azwj) has said: ‘They took their Scholars and their Rabbis as Lords besides Allah (9:31). By Allah (azwj)! It is not that they fasted for them or prayed to them, but their (Rabbis) made permissible for them what was prohibited and prohibited to them what was permissible. They (the people) emulated (did taqleed) them (their Rabbis) in this and obeyed them and they did not realize (that they have infact worshiped them).” [Tas’heeh ul Itiqaad (Correction Of Beliefs) – Sheykh Al Mufeed, pg. 72]