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:]

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.


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


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?


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 ( 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]

Resolving Disparities In Hadith

Reading and pondering over hadith and acquiring knowledge directly from our Imams (as) is not the prerogative of the mujtahids only. It is a duty and responsibility of each and every muslim. We quote two hadith below from the Masumeen (as):

I heard Abu Jafar say: By Allah, that companion of mine is beloved to me, who narrates and ponders over our Hadith, and the evil one is the one who hears the Hadith which has been associated with us (as) and has been reported form us (as), so his mind does not accept it and his heart is constricted by what is contained in it, and he fights against it and denies it to make it his religion, and he does not know that it could be the hadith which is coming from us (as) and to us (as) is it’s link, so by that he has exited out of our wilayah (guardianship) [Source: Basair ul Darajat Chapter 22]

The Messenger of Allah (sawas) said: Seeking of knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim. Seek knowledge from its sources (i.e. Masumeen (as)) and take it from the People of Ahadith (i.e. narrators of hadith) [Source: Wasail us Shia H33127]

Unfortunately, the religious establishment has divided the society into two classes – clergy and layman. The layman are discouraged from accessing the hadith directly. One of the reasons often quoted is that the hadith literature has been corrupted and a layman will be unable to differentiate the sound (sahih) hadith from unsound (zaif). Nothing is further from the truth – our great collections of hadith are extremely reliable and a source of truth for us. Secondly we are not layman and should not consider ourselves as such. Knowledge of the hadith is an obligation on each and every one of us.

If we doubt our hadith (specifically the collections sourced from the Masumeen (as)) then God forbid we will have attributed a lie (false claim) to the Holy Prophet (as) who mentioned in hadith al thaqalayn that he (sawas) leaves behind two weighty things – the book of Allah and the Ahlul bayt (as). After Ghaibat-e-Kubra, the reference to Ahlul bayt (as) includes the vast amount of recorded hadith left behind. The Imams (as) had laid great emphasis on their companions the necessity of recording and preservation of hadith and this was acted upon meticulously by them.

We have already mentioned the fallacy of the subject of ilm-al-rijal in our previous post and proved its invalidity based on the hadith of the Masumeen (as).

Despite careful preservation, what should one do when encountered with contradictory hadith? The solution to this problem has also been provided by the Masumeen (as). In this post, we will quote a series of hadith by our Imams (as) which can be used to resolve disparities. What is most important to understand is that despite our best efforts if we are still not able to resolve the difference between two hadith then one can act on any one of them. We will be judged by Allah (swt) on our sincere efforts to follow the footsteps of the Masumeen (as). At least, we made the effort and did not resort to the short cut of acquiring religion from the mouth of men. At least we did not commit shirk by blindly following (taqleed) a fallible mujtahid.

Below are some of the hadith we have compiled that explain clearly how to resolve disparities. As you will see there is no mention of the concept of Ilm al Rijal anywhere and in fact, you will not find any hadith that advocate this concept. On the contrary there are numerous hadith (refer to my article on Ilm al Rijal) which speaks against using this concept.

1. Refer to the Book of Allah:

Abu Abd Allah (asws) said: The Messenger of Allah (saww) said: ‘Surely on every truth there is reality, and on every correct thing there is a light. Whatever is in agreement with the Book of Allah (azwj) take hold of it, and that which is against the Book of Allah (azwj), leave it’.
[Source: H33343 Wasail us Shia]

Abu Ja’far (asws) said: ‘If there comes to you from us (asws) a Hadith, you find a witness for it or two witnesses from the Book of Allah, take by it otherwise stand still, then return it back to us (asws), until its clarification comes to you’.
[Source: H33351 Wasail us Shia]

2. Prefer the one who has more knowledge of Hadith:

Abu Abd Allah (asws) said – Regarding two people who agree on the appointment of two just persons who issue decisions which are different, and they are happy with the fairness of the two judges, which of the two decisions have to be implemented? He (asws) said: ‘Look at their understanding and knowledge of our (asws) hadith and whoever is better, implement his decision and do not pay attention to the other one’.
[Source: H33351 Wasail us Shia]

Here the Imam (as) is referring to the ones who have knowledge of hadith. These are the narrators/compilers of hadith (defined as fuqaha by the Imams) – the ones who readily quote hadith and provide references to them. Not the mujtahids who perform ijtihad based on aql and ijma, who never quote hadith and require us to follow them blindly without asking for proof.

3. One Must Hold Back in Confusing Matters:

Abu Abd Allah (asws) said: ‘Holding back in confusing matters is better than falling into destruction. For every truth there is a reality, and on all correctness there is a light. Whatsoever is in agreement with the Book of Allah azwj, take it, and whatsoever is against the Book of Allah azwj, leave it’.
[Source: H33368 Wasail us Shia]

4. Flexibility in choosing one of them:

Imam Al-Reza (asws) said, when it was said to him (asws), ‘The Hadith from you (asws) are differing’, he (asws) said: ‘What comes to you from us (asws), compare it to the Book of Allah and our (asws) (other) hadith. If they are similar, then they are from us (asws) , and if they are not similar, then they are not from us (asws)’. I said, ‘There come to us two men – and both of them are reliable – with two hadith which differ, and we do not know which one of them is on the just’. He (asws) said: ‘If you do not know then you have been given the flexibility to take to whichever of them’.
[Source: H33373 Wasail us Shia]

5. Choose the one against the majority of Muslims:

And from Sama’at Bin Mehran, from Abu Abd Allah (asws) when it was said to him (asws), ‘Two Hadith get referred to us, one of them orders us for something, and the other one prohibits us’. He (asws) said: ‘Do not act upon any one of them until you meet your Master (asws), ask him (asws)’. I said, ‘If it is necessary to act upon one of them?’ He (asws) said: ‘Take to the one which is against the generality of the Muslims’.
[Source H33375 Wasail us Shia]

Ameerul Momineen (as) said, ‘Allah has made certain acts compulsory upon you. Do not waste them. He also has created boundaries for you. Do not cross them. He has forbidden from you certain things. Do not go against Him. Whatever has not been mentioned was not due to Allah forgetting. So do not try to know about them.’ [Source: Nahjul Balagha Saying No 835]

This proves that if you do not find an order regarding an issue in Quran or hadiths then you should refrain from performing that act because this is the will of Allah. If you attempt to create rulings from your own opinion, it is as if you are competing with Allah.

Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said, ‘In the case of doubt, it is better to refrain from performing an act than to become destroyed by performing it’.
[Source: Usool e Kafi Kitab e Aql chapter 22 hadith 10]

6. One Must Wait until he Finds the Authentic Hadith:

When it was asked from Abu Abd Allah (asws) about the man, for whom there is a dispute about the differing orders of two men of his religion, both of them narrate to him, one of them orders him to do something and the other one forbids him, how does he act? He (asws) said: ‘He should abstain until such time as he meets someone who gives him the Hadith. He should wait until he meets him’.
[Wasail us Shia H 33338]

7. One Must Act on a Hadith which is Closer to his Time:

And from him, from his father, from Usman Bin Isa, from Al Husayn Bin Al Mukhtar, from one of our companions, who have narrated the following from Abu Abd Allah asws: ‘If I (asws) were to give you a Hadith and a year later you come to me and I (asws) give to you a Hadith different to that previous one, which one of these will you act by?’ I said, ‘The latter one’. He (asws) said to me: ‘May Allah have Mercy on you’. [Wasail us Shia H 33340]

I said to Abu Abd Allah (asws) , ‘A Hadith comes to us from the former one of you (asws) and a Hadith comes from the later one of you (asws), which one shall we take?’ He (asws) said: ‘Take it until such times as one Hadith comes to you from a living one (asws). When you are told something by a living one (asws) grab his (asws) speech’. [Wasail us Shia H 33341]

H 33342 – Kulayni said, And in another Hadith it is “Take by the (new) Hadith”.

8. Choose An Arbitrator who has more Knowledge of Ahadith:

‘I asked Abu Abd Allah (asws) about two men from our companions who have a dispute about religion or heritage (inheritance), give us a verdict’ – until he said – ‘If each one of them chooses from our companions to represent his rights and they differ in their judgements, and they all dispute about your (asws) Hadith?’ He (asws) said: ‘The judicial decision will be by the one who has more understanding and is more truthful in the Ahadith and their narrations, and do not pay attention to the decision of the other’.

The narrator said, ‘I said to him (asws) : ‘Both of them are regarded as just amongst our companions, there is no distinction of one over the other’. He (asws) said: ‘Look at which of their narrations that they have used in making the decision that they have agreed upon, so take by that and ignore the one which is not well known among your companions, for the one which is known by all, there is no doubt about that’

The narrator asked: ‘If the Hadith used by them are all well known, then what?’ He (asws) said: ‘Look, at what is in accordance with the Book and the Sunnah and is opposite to what the generality of the Muslims do, take by that, and ignore what is against the Order of the Book and the Sunnah’.

I said, ‘May I be your (asws) sacrifice! I see both of them to be men of understanding who understand the Order from the Book and the Sunnah, and we find one of the two Hadith to be in accordance with the generality of the Muslims, and the other one to be in opposition to them, which one of these Hadith shall we take by?’ He (asws) said: ‘That, which is against the generality of the Muslims for there will be guidance there in’.

I said, ‘May I be your (asws) sacrifice, what if both the Ahadith are in accordance with the generality of the Muslims?’ He (asws) said: ‘Look to what their governors and judges are deciding by the most, ignore these and take to the others’.

I said. ‘What if their governors make use of both these Hadith equally?’ He (asws) said: ‘If that were to be the case, wait until you meet your Imam (asws) for staying away in doubtful matters is better than indulging in destruction’.

[Source: H33334 Wasail us Shia]

Lastly we would like to quote, Sheikh Yaqub al Kulayni (one of our greatest scholars of hadith who lived in the time of Ghaibat-e-Sughra) who writes the following in his introduction to Al Kafi:

Thus, you should know, my brother – may God [continue to] guide you – that nobody can resolve any of the disparities in the traditions of the Imams – may God’s peace be upon them – using his own opinion. Rather [these can only be resolved] according to the methods stated by one of the knowledgeable Imams – may God’s peace be upon him – when he said “Compare them to the book of God. Take whichever of them concurs with the book of God – almighty is he and sublime – and reject whichever of them contradicts the book of God;” and when he said “Abandon whatever concurs with the majority [i.e., Sunnis], for guidance is found in opposing them;” and when he said “Take what is unanimously agreed upon, for there is no [room to] doubt in what is unanimously agreed upon”. However, [despite these methods] we only know a few instances where true resolution is possible. Thus, we find no path more prudent, or easier than to refer the knowledge of all this back to the knowledgeable Imam of our time – may God’s peace be upon him – and to accept the freedom of choice that he gave to us when he said “Any one [hadith] that you act on out of submission is fine”

Fallacy of Ilm-al-Rijal

Ilm-al-rijal means “Knowledge of Men” and is also referred to as the “Science of Narration”. This science is a founding pillar of Ijtihad and thus the system of Taqleed. This science is used to grade and filter hadith by evaluating the biographies of the narrators instead of by examining the content (text). This science was invented by the Ahlul Sunnah. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (founder of the Hanbali Sunni School) was among the early specialists in this subject who also wrote the book Kitab al-`Ilal wa Ma‘rifat al-Rijal: “The Book of Narrations Containing Hidden Flaws and of Knowledge of the Men (of Hadeeth)”.

On examining our hadith literature, we find no support for this approach/science. On the other hand it is surprising that there are numerous hadith that oppose it. These hadith are never mentioned to the public. In fact, ilm-al-rijal can become a convenient tool to reject the very hadith which speak against it. If this subject is proven to be false, the system of Ijtihad (and thus Taqlid of fallibles) also collapses. This subject is taught in the islamic seminaries (hawza) and a working knowledge is expected from the students especially those who aspire to become mujtahids.

Foundations of ilm-al-rijal

Ilm-al-rijal has been founded on the following verse from the Holy Quran:

O you who have faith! If a fasiq (evil-doer, profligate person) should bring you some news, verify it, lest you should visit [harm] on some people out of ignorance, and then become regretful for what you have done. [Surah Hujurat, 49:6]

See the below references for example which state the foundation of ilm-al-rijal:

A careful reading reveals that the verse is actually opposed to the concept of ilm-al-rijal. The verse asks us to investigate the report even when the narrator is known to be a evil-person (fasiq). It is not asking us to evaluate the profile of the reporter. In other words, don’t simply reject a report even it is from an evil person. In addition, there is no tafsir of the above verse from the Masumeen (as) linking it to the promotion of ilm-al-rijal.

Common arguments supporting ilm-al-rijal

One common argument supporting ilm-al-rijal is as follows:

The goal of ilm-al-rijal is not about proving hadith as false. It is about determining the degree of hujjiyya of a hadith with respect to the narrators in its sanad, i.e. the likelihood of its being issued from the Imam (as) through that particular chain of transmission, which is then added to other evidence to help determine, not whether the hadith is a fabrication, false or deniable or not, but how certain we are that it is from the Imam (as). This is especially important where there is conflict of evidence or when determining whether or not one ought to act upon evidence below a certain threshold.

Religion is based on certainty not on doubt. Ilm-al-rijal creates doubt in hadith. Doubt destroys religion.

Hadith against ilm-al-rijal

Below are hadith that oppose the very foundations of ilm-al-rijal:

Abu Abdullah (asws) said: Do not belie the Hadeeth, whether it comes to you by (way of) the Murjiites, or the Qadiriyya, or the Harouriya, if it is referred to us (asws), for you do not know perhaps therein is something from the Truth, otherwise you would end up belying Allah (azwj) on top of His (azwj) Throne. [Source: Al Mahaasin V1 Bk 5 H 175]

I heard Abu Jafar say: By Allah, that companion of mine is beloved to me, who narrates and ponders over our Hadith, and the evil one is the one who hears the Hadith which has been associated with us (asws) and has been reported form us (asws), so his mind does not accept it and his heart is constricted by what is contained in it, and he fights against it and denies it to make it his religion, and he does not know that it could be the hadith which is coming from us (asws) and to us (asws) is it’s link, so by that he has exited out of our wilayah (guardianship) [Source: Basair ul Darajat Chapter 22]

And from Ali Bin Ibrahim, from his father, and from Ahmad Bin Muhammad Ibn Khalid, from Al Nawfaly, from Al Sakuni, from Abu Abdullah asws , said: ‘The Commander of the Faithful asws said; ‘When you narrate Hadeeth, then mention its chain (of narrators). If it was the truth then it is to you (its reward), and if it was false it is to them (its punishment)’. [Source: Wasaail us Shia – h23259]

Muhammad ibn Isma’il from al-Fadl ibn Shadhan fromibn abu ‘Umayr from Hisham ibn al-Hakam and others from abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, who has said the following: “The Holy Prophet saww once addressed the people in Mina (a place in Makka) saying, ‘O people, whatever comes to you in the form of my Hadith, if it agrees with the Holy Book of Allah, it is genuine, but whatever comes to you that does not agree with the book of Allah you must know that I have not said it.'” [Source: Al Kafi – H 203, Ch. 22, h5

From Ahmad son of Muhammad son of Eissa from Al-Hussein son of Sa’eed and Muhammad son of Khaled Al-Burqi from Abdullah son of Jundub from Sufyani son of Al-Simd he said I said to Abi Abdullah pbuh may I be your ransom a man comes to us with lies, he mentioned a hadeeth and we consider him disgusting. Abi Abdullah pbuh says, “Did he say to you that night is day and day is night?” He said no. He said, “If he said to you this do not say he is a liar or else you are calling me a liar.” [Source: Mukhtasar Basa’er Al-Darajat Hassan son of Suleiman Al-Hilli p.76 and in another print p.234 Bihar Al-Anwar v.2 p.211]

Al Safar narrated from Muhammad son of Al Hussein from Muhammad son of Ismael from Hamza son of Bazee from Ali AlSinany from Abi Al Hassan (as) that he (as) wrote to him in a letter “Do not say to what has been mentioned by us Baatil(false/void) even if you know that it is the opposite, you do not know why we have said it and on what face and description.” [Source: Basaer AlDarajat Muhammad son of AlHassan AlSafar p.558/AlKafi v.8 p.25/Bihar Al Anwar v.2 p.209]

Cyclical problem of ilm-al-rijal

There is an inherent flaw with the concept of ilm-al-rijal. It creates cyclical questions that can’t be resolved. It requires opinions of people regarding other people. For example, an opinion of a Mr. A regarding another Mr. B. But how do we know if Mr. A is reliable? We would need an opinion on Mr. A from another Mr. C. And so on. At the end it leaves us in complete doubt about the original narrator.

Opinions regarding other people

Everyone is entitled to have an opinion about people. Everyone’s opinion is personal and subjective. It is based on the nature of their interaction. It is based on the time of their contact. A person can change during his life from being truthful to dishonest. From being a disbeliever to become a believer. Opinions can change too. How can anyone (besides Allah) know with any guarantee whether a certain narration by a narrator who lived in the past was truthful or not?

In the books of rijal, one finds many contradictions regarding narrators. One expert of rijal for example will say that a certain narrator is reliable, faithful and had a good memory. But another expert will consider him (i.e. the same narrator) to be a liar, faithless, and having a poor memory. It becomes impossible to know whether a narrator is reliable or not based on this method. Now there will always be doubt in hadith narrated from him, and this is what has happened with those hadith which come to us through a single narrator (khabar-e-wahid). Because of this, hadith have lost their value and have become playthings in the hands of the scholars.

This subject has been practiced for 1000 years but even today there are disagreements among scholars on hadith. If this was a true science then scholars would have come to an agreement by now. There wouldn’t be so many differences between the fatwas of the mujtahids. One mujtahid would not declare something halal while another declares it as haram.

Views of early Shia scholars regarding ilm-al-rijal

The scholars who compiled our main books of hadith (kutub-e-araba, wasail-us-shia, etc) also provided the chain of narrators along with each hadith. However, the purpose of providing the chain was not to subject it to ilm-al-rijal. It was to comply with the commands of the Imam (as). Refer for example to the hadith by Imam Ali (as) above.

Sheikh Hurr Al Amili, the compiler of Wasail us Shia, says in his introduction:

  • The science of rijal (men) should not be used.
  • The science of rijal in Shi’ism is a recent innovation
  • It was invented because of the Ahl al Sunnah’s continual criticism of the shias for not having and following a system for deriving laws from hadith.
  • If the system was actually applied, very few, if any, Shia hadith would prove to be sahih (authentic), hasan (good) or muwathaq (trusted) – and the entire Shia collection of hadith would prove to be weak.

Esteemed scholar Baqir al Majlisi says:

“We do not need sanad (chain of narrators) for the four books (Kutub-e-Araba – the four early collections of hadith: Al-Kafi, Al-Istibsaar, Tahdhib Al-Ahkam and Man La Yahduruhu Al-Faqih) and when we place the sanad we do it just out of blessing and to follow the Sunnah of our predecessors” [Source: Rasael abi al Ma’ali lil Majlisi page 459]

Muhaqqiq Abu al Hassan al Sha’arani says:

“The majority of the hadiths of Usool (principle) in al Kafi are NOT sahih (authentic) in their sanad (chain of narrators) but they are adopted because their matn (text/content) agrees with the correct aqeedah (beliefs) and we do not need to look at the sanad (chain of narrators) in such narrations”
[Source: Miqyas al Hidayah 2/282, in the intro of Sharh al Jami’i Ala al Kafi]

Is ilm-al-rijal a science?

If the science of ilm-al-rijal is critical for us to be guided then should not Masumeen (as) have taught or at least mentioned it in a favorable light? Does this subject even qualify to be called a science? Even the hawza is not sure of the correct principles and rules of ilm-al-rijaal. See the “Advanced” tab at the following link:

Excerpt from above site:

“Although the science is one of the classical sciences, (al-Ulum al-Naqliyyah) that is taught and studied in traditional Islamic seminaries, it would be incorrect to assume that this science is in anyway uniformly rigid and there are varying views as to what the principles and rules of ilm al-Rijaal actually are. It follows therefore that whilst there are general agreed upon principles within the field, there is still debate over the scope of ilm al Rijaal, and even the particular methods of evaluating individual narrators’ reliability in the transmissions of reports.

In recent years, ilm al-Rijaal and its scope have been called into question by several controversies over whether or not the science is meant to be strictly applied to narrations in regard to Jurisprudence (as is practiced by the Jurists), or whether or not it has a broader scope, including the ability to call into question the authenticity of religious appeals.”

Embarassing contradictions in ilm-al-rijal

There are many embarassing contradictions in ilm-al-rijal where there are multiple opinions of the same narrator. For example regarding narrator Dawood Ibn Katheer Al Ruqa, Sheikh Al Toosi in his Rijaal (p.329 5003) considers him to be Thiqa (meaning reliable). Whereas, Sheikh Al Najashi said in his Rijaal (p.156 #410) that he (Dawood Ibn Katheer Al Ruqi) is very weak and the Ghulat (extremists) are narrating from him. Ahmad son of Abd Al Waahed said: I haven’t seen from him a strong hadeeth. And there exists a narration from Imam Sadiq (as) saying: “Consider Dawood Al Ruqi to me like the rank of Miqdad to the Messenger of Allah pbuh” [Source Mujam Rijaal AlHadeeth v.8 p.405]

In the face of such contradictions how can one ever find out the reality of a person?


It was necessary for the religious establishment to deter common people from learning the hadith in order to establish their rule over the masses. By creating doubt and confusion in the hadith, by placing complicated subjects as a pre-requisite to approaching hadith, the establishment succeeded in achieving it’s goal. Ilm-al-rijal is not based on the teachings of Masumeen (as). It is based on speculation and conjecture. It prevents common people from approaching the hadith, introduces doubt in religion and ultimately destroys it.

Meetings with Imam-e-Zamana (ajtf)

A common tactic used by the proponents of the religious (clerical) establishment to deceive the innocent followers and to impress on their minds that their leaders are rightly guided is to attribute to them stories about meetings with Imam-e-Zamanaajtf, and how through these meetings, the Imamajtf guides and corrects them. Many incidents have been narrated in books and they are widely used in lectures to gain popularity and support. The motive, through these incidents, is to claim a type of divine sanction for them being on the right path and to claim that they are the only sect out of the 73 for which salvation is guaranteed.

Can someone physically meet the Imamajtf
Can someone physically meet the Imamajtf in a way that the person recognizes himajtf either during or after the meeting and is sure that he has met the Imamajtf? Or can someone meet Imam-e-Zamanaajtf in a dream and be guided by himajtf? First of all to meet and recognize someone in a dream, one must have met the person physically at least once and have been introduced to him. And how can one be so convinced that the person they saw was indeed Imam-e-Zamanaajtf? What is the truth in these claims? Either these are a figment of imagination, hallucinations or complete lies in order to gain fame and notoriety. Even the scholars who listened to these false claims did not object and put a stop to them. On the other hand, they promoted and continued to popularize these incidents either because they help serve their purpose or because they themselves are planning to use these tactics to gain fame and popularity.

In this article we will examine if it is possible to meet Imam-e-Zamanaajtf in a way that one can recognize himajtf and also critically review a popular incident narrated frequently from the time of Sheikh Mufid where the Imamajtf intervened to correct his fatwa. First let us review a passage from the Tawqih Mubaraka (Book of Imam Zamanaajtf):

Imam al-Mahdi’s last letter to the Fourth Deputy

You will pass away within six days. So prepare yourself and do not leave your position (deputy of the Imamajtf) to anyone else, since the second Occultation has started and I will not reappear except by God’s permission. The reappearance will occur after a very long time when people’s hearts become inexorable and the Earth is rife with cruelty and brutality. Soon some of my, Shiites will claim they have met me. Be aware that anyone who claims to meet me before the rise of Sufyani and the Heavenly Cry is a kazzab (liar – one who makes false claims against Allah, the Holy Prophet and his Progeny). [Source: al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Kamal al-din, vol. 2, p. 516]

The above Tawqi (message of Imam Mahdiajtf) which is unanimously accepted by all is very clear and transparent and should remove all doubts concerning the possibility of having direct contact with the Imamajtf in a way that one can recognize him.

Surah Baqarah and Imaan bil ghayb (belief in the unseen)
Belief in the existence of Imamajtf is from the articles of faith and it is the belief in unseen. In Surah Baqarah, the very first condition of taqwa (piety) is imaan bilghayb (belief in the unseen). Those who believe in the ghayb (unseen) – that which is hidden from the sensory perceptions from the affairs which are an obligatory part of our belief like the day of resurrection, the reckoning, the angels, the shayaatin (satanic forces), the paradise, the fire, etc. All that cannot be perceived and witnessed but we must believe without having any doubt.

(It has been narrated) from Abu Abdullah asws regarding the Words of Allah azwj the Mighty and Majestic [2:2] Guidance for the pious [2:3] those who believe in the unseen, said: ‘One who accepts that the rising of the Al-Qaim asws is true’. [Source: Tafseer Noor Al Saqalayn Ch 2 – H 11]

Belief in the ghaibat (imaan bil ghayb) is a difficult test for mankind. If a person were to see an element from the ghaibat then would there be any test remaining for that person? Therefore we must accept that it is impossible to reach the ghaibat (except by the Imams – but that is a different discussion). Belief in the ghaibat of Al Qaim (Imam-e-Zamana) and belief in his rising is part of imaan bil ghayb. Can someone claim that they have met Prophet Isaas, Prophet Ilyasas or Hazrat Khidhr. When no one can reach these ghayabats, then how can they reach one who is the ghayab of all ghayab (hidden of all those things which are hidden)?

In spite of the clear Tawqih of the Imamajtf and clear interpretations from the Quran, we hear claims such as “When we find ourselves in any sort of problem, Imamajtf himself comes to us and informs us of the correct action to take”. Others claim to meet regularly with Imam Zamanaajtf and during these meetings they are taught knowledge. While some others go so far as to claim that the Imamajtf embraced one of the scholars so tightly to hisajtf chest, that all knowledge was passed into his heart making him into ‘bahr-ul-uloom’ (ocean of knowledge).

Incident of Sheikh Mufid and the Twelfth Imamajtf

A commonly quoted incident is about how the Imamajtf intervened to correct the fatwa of Sheikh Mufid. Once a person from a village in the neighborhood asked the Sheikh to advise him on the death of a lady in their village and that lady died while delivering her child. The Sheikh told him to bury the lady along with her live baby. The man expressed his gratitude towards the Sheikh and left. On his way, someone called him and said that the Sheikh has sent you a message: first take the baby out from the mother’s womb and then bury her. A few years later, that man and the child came to the Sheikh again and thanked him for sending that message. The Sheikh was now convinced that the man with the message was Imam Mahdi. The Sheikh understood his mistake, and sadly went to his house, closed the door, and decided not to issue fatwas anymore. The Imam then encouraged Sheikh Mufid (through a letter) to continue to do ijtihad and issue fatwas and assured him that he would correct/protect them.

See for example:

The above story is a concoction for the following reasons:
1. There are clear hadith in Al Kafi which say that the live baby should be taken out. Below are the hadith:

Ali Bin Ibrahim, from his father, from Ibn Abu Umeyr, from one of his companions, from Abu Abdullah asws regarding the dying woman and the child is moving in her belly, should her belly be split and the child taken out?’ So he asws said: ‘Yes, and her belly would be stitched’.

A number of our companions, from Ahmad Bin Muhammad Bin Khalid, from wahab Bin Wahab, from Abu Abdullah asws having said: Amir Al Momineen asws said: ‘When the woman dies and in her belly is a moving child, and it is feared upon him, so split open her belly and take out the child’.

And he asws said regarding the dying woman, and her child is inside her belly, so it is feared upon her: ‘There is no problem if the man (her husband) inserts his hand, cuts it off and extracts it, when the women are not gentle with it’

Al Kafi Volume 3 – The book of funerals part 2

It is unimaginable that Sheikh Mufid being a great and learned scholar well versed with the traditions of the Masumeenas was unaware of these clear hadith in the most reliable collection of Al Kafi.

2. Even if Sheikh Mufid was unaware of the above hadith, who in their right mind would issue such a verdict so as to cause an innocent baby to be murdered alive?

3. Were people so naive as to believe the word of any random horseman who came to reverse the fatwa? Would they not have asked for proof whether the person was really the agent of Sheikh Mufid.

4. If Imamajtf encouraged Sheikh Mufid to continue ijtihad, issue fatwas and that he would correct them then why is the Imamajtf not correcting the fatwas of the maraaje today? Why are there differences between them?

5. Sheikh Mufid was born in 336 AH which is 7 years after the major occultation of the Imamajtf. How was he able to receive a letter from him?

Agha Khomeini and Imam Mahdiajtf

These deceptions have reached new extremes and now claims are being made on how Agha Khomeini was being guided continuously by the Imamajtf As an example see the following link: At the beck and call of Imam Mahdi’s orders

The claims made in the above link are so outrageous that they are a disgrace and dishonor to our Masumeenas.

Marifat of the Imamajtf

Marifat is not necessarily gained through physical contact. If that were the case, then there were thousands of people present during the times of the Holy Prophet (sawas) and the Masumeenas who not only saw themas but also the miracles performed by themas. These people should have had a great level of marifat, but we find unfortunately except for a relatively few people all others remained kafir (disbeliever), munafiq (hypocrite), and munkir (deniers).

To experience the true Ziyarat of Imamajtf we must purify our nafs from worldly filth and turn our full attention towards the Imamajtf. We should suppress our worldly desires and ask Allah (swt) with total sincerity to be able to become one with the mission of our Imamajtf.

We need to directly connect with the Masumeenas through their hadith and we need to remove the false scholars and intermediaries between us and the Masumeenas. These false scholars are barriers which prevent us from accessing the Masumeenas and approaching closer to themas.

Once we are on the right path, we will be connected to Imam-e-Zamanaajtf that not even for a moment will we feel a separation from himajtf. The rays of the noor of Imamajtf will directly touch our heart and encompass our whole body. This is the true Ziyarat of Imam Zamanaajtf and this is the true marifat. The righteous people who saw the Masoomeenas and gained their marifat did not achieve it through physical contact, but rather through the purity of their heart and soul.