Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee (rahimahullah) writes in his book “mudhakkirah”:
Linguistically, taqleed is defined as, placing a collar on someone’s neck, and it is used to denote a person who entrusts his affair to another, as if it is tied to his neck like a collar.
ِAnd the shari’ definition according to the fuqaha is “accepting the opinion of another without knowing the evidence (for his opinion)”.
Know that their saying “opinion of another” is used to refer only to the ijtihad (juristic reasoning) of another. As for those (matters) for which there are nusoos (clear-cut textual evidences from the Qur’an and sunnah) then, in such matters there can be neither be a madhhab for anyone, nor an opinion, as it then becomes obligatory to follow the clear-cut textual evidence directly, according to all the scholars. This is ittiba’ (following the texts) not an opinion, so there is no taqlid in this.
When does a scholar resort to ijtihad?
The sheikh (rahimahullah) writes:
And ijtihad is done only in two cases:
- When there is no nass (clear-cut textual evidence from the qur’an and sunnah).
- When there are texts available, but they appear to contradict, so then the scholar is required to resort to ijtihad, either by reconciling the contradictory evidences or by giving preference to one over the other (tarjeeh)
However, following a statement of the Prophet ﷺ or following that for which there is scholarly consensus is not called taqleed, because that is the daleel (evidence) by itself.
None differed on the permissibilty of taqleed with regards to the layman, except some of the Qadariyya (those who deny predestination).
The basis for taqlid is found in the verse where Allah ﷻ says, “And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.” (Surah al-Tawba: 122)
And also where Allah ﷻ says, “So ask the people of the understanding if you do not know.” (Surah al-Nahl: 43)
Also, there was consensus among the sahabah in this matter, i.e., the validity of taqleed for the laymen.
The layman should not seek a fatwa except from the one whom he can ascertain beyond a reasonable doubt to be from its people. If he is in a land where there are many mujtahidoon (scholars who have reached the level of ijtihad) then he can ask anyone from among them. And it isn’t binding on him to ask the most knowledgeable from among them, due to the permissiblity of asking the less knowledgeable from among them. It is also said that he is obligated to ask the one who is most knowledgeable.