The Official Website of the Office of His Eminence Al-Sayyid Ali Al-Husseini Al-Sistani

Question & Answer » Following a Mujtahid

1 Question: What are the ways through which I can identify the most learned of Mujtahids?
Answer: There are three ways of identifying a Mujtahid, and the A'alam:
* when a person is certain that a particular person is a Mujtahid, or the most learned one. For this, he should be a learned person himself, and should possess the capacity to identify a Mujtahid or an A'alam;
* when two persons, who are learned and just and possess the capacity to identify a Mujtahid or the A'alam, confirm that a person is a Mujtahid or an A'lam, provided that two other learned and just persons do not contradict them. In fact, being a Mujt ahid or an A'lam can also be established by a statement of only one trusted and reliable person;
* when a number of learned persons who possess the capacity to identify a Mujtahid or an A'lam, certify that a particular person is a Mujtahid or an A'lam, provided that one is satisfied by their statement.
2 Question: What does Taqlid mean in religious laws?
Answer: Taqlid in religious laws means acting according to the verdict of a Mujtahid. It is necessary for the Mujtahid who is followed, to be male, Shi'ah Ithna Ash'ari, adult, sane, of legitimate birth, living and just ('Adil). A person is said to be just whe n he performs all those acts which are obligatory upon him, and refrains from all those things which are forbidden to him. And the sign of being just is that one is apparently of a good character, so that if enquiries are made about him from the people of his locality, or from his neighbours, or from those persons with whom he lives, they would confirm his good conduct. And if one knows that the verdicts of the Mujtahids differ with regard to the problems which we face in every day life, it is necessary t hat the Mujtahid who is followed be A'lam (the most learned), who is more capable of understanding the divine laws than any of the contemporary Mujtahids.
3 Question: Who is a Mujtahid? What are the specific criteria a Mujtahid should have?
Answer: Mujtahid is a jurist competent enough to deduce precise inferences regarding the commandments from the holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the holy Prophet by the process of Ijtihad. Ijtihad literally means striving and exerting. Technically as a term of jurisprudence it signifies the application by a jurist of all his faculties to the consideration of the authorities of law with a view to finding out what in all probability is the law. In other words Ijtihad means making deductions in matters of law, in the cases to which no express text is applicable.
4 Question: What does Taqlid mean?
Answer: Taqlid means acting according to the opinion of the jurist (mujtahid) who has all the necessary qualification to be emulated. So you do what the mujtahid's expert opinion says you should do, and refrain from what his expert opinion says you should refrain from without any research [in Islamic sources] on your part. It is as though you have placed the responsibility of your deeds squarely on his shoulders.
Among the conditions which must be found in a jurist (mujtahid) who can be followed is that he must be the most learned (al-a'lam) jurist of his time and the most capable in deriving the religious laws from the appropriate sources.
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