The hadith of the sixth Imam concerning the kind of taqlid which is illicit
Adopted from the book : "The Principles of Ijtihad in Islam" by : "Shahid Murtadha Mutahhari"
The following hadith is connected to the previous verse. Someone said to the Imam al-Sadiq that the ordinary, illiterate Jews had no other alternative but to take in everything they heard from their religious scholars and to follow them. If there is any blame, it should be directed towards the Jewish scholars themselves. Why should the Qur'an censure helpless ordinary people who knew nothing and were only following their scholars? What difference is there between the common Jew and the common Muslim? If taqlid by ordinary people and their following of the learned is forbidden, we Muslims, who follow our scholars, this person reasoned, must also be the objects of reprehension and censure. If the former should not have accepted what their scholars said, then the latter should not accept what their scholars say.
The Imam said : In one respect there is a difference between the ordinary Jew and the Jewish scholars, and the ordinary Muslim and the Muslim scholars, and in another respect there is a similarity. In so far as there is a similarity, God has commanded the ordinary Muslim also not to practice that kind of taqlid of scholars, but in so far as there is a difference, He has not. The person who had asked the Imam then said: O son of the Messenger of Allah, please explain what you mean.
Then Imam said : The ordinary Jews could see from their scholars and the way that they behaved that they were quite clearly lying: they did not refrain from accepting bribes, they changed the laws and the rulings of the courts in exchange for favours. They knew that they displayed partiality to certain individuals. They indulged their personal likes and dislikes, they would give one man's right to someone else. .. On account of natural, common sense, which God has created in everyone, we all know that we must not accept the speech of people who behave in such a way as this; we must not accept the word of God and the prophets from the tongues of such people as this. What the Imam meant here was that no-one can say that the ordinary Jewish people did not know that they should not act in accordance with what had been said by those of their scholars who acted contrary to the divine commands of their religion. This is not something that someone might not know. Knowledge of this kind is put by God into every person's nature, and everyone's reason acknowledges it. In the terminology of logic, it is a 'inborn' proposition; its proof is contained within itself. According to the dictate of every intellect, one must not pay any attention to the utterance of someone whose philosophy of life is purity and the rejection of the human passions but who pursues what his desires tell him to. Then the Imam continued : It is the same thing for our people: they too, if they understand or see with their own eyes that there is behaviour contrary to the shari'a on the part of their scholars, strong prejudices, a scramble after the ephemera of this world, preference for their own supporters however irreligious they may be, and judgement against their opponents even when they deserve verdicts in their favour, if they perceive such behaviour among them and then follow them, they are just the same as the Jewish people and should be reprimanded and censured.
So it is clear that unquestioning allegiance and shutting one's eyes to the truth is not the kind of taqlid which is encouraged or permitted by the shari'a. Licit taqlid means having one's eyes open and being observant and alert; otherwise it is accepting responsibility for, and being an accomplice to, an illicit act.
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