Contents > Chapter 12: The Deobandi’s Understanding of Taqleed > Is “Asking the Scholars” a proof for Taqleed?


Is “Asking the Scholars” a proof for Taqleed?

The Deobandis justify the practice of Taqleed by claiming that Taqleed is…

(1) Simply a matter of following transmitted knowledge.

(2) Asking the scholars believing that they are the most knowledgeable of the religion.


As proof, they quote the verse, “So ask of those who know the Scripture, if you know not…”[1] therefore, we have to analyze whether this Qur’aanic verse commands the Muslims to blindly follow a single Imam, as the Deobandis claim. Furthermore, we will compare ‘the meaning of asking the scholars and following transmitted knowledge’ with ‘the Deobandi’s definition and conditions of Taqleed’ to see whether these two concepts are one and the same.


The Meaning of Asking the Scholars

Allah says in the Qur’aan: “And We sent not (as Our Messengers) before you (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)) any but men, who We inspired, (to preach and invite mankind to believe in the Oneness of Allah). So ask of those who know the Scripture, if you know not…”[2]


The basic source of the religion of Islam is the Qur’aan and the example of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), who was sent as a teacher and a guide. Every saying, action and silent approval of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) is part of the religion and is authoritative proof in itself.


The basic mode of education of the Sahabah (radhi allahu anhu) was to listen and memorize the verdicts which Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) pronounced. They would follow these verdicts memorize them and communicate them to others, who were not present. The Sahabah who spent the most time with Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) learnt more rulings and verdicts than others.


After the death of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), the Sahabah acted upon what they saw and heard from Allah’s Messenger, and referred to the more knowledgeable Sahabah when they were unaware of a particular ruling. If they could not find the answer to their problem from a clear verse of the Qur’aan or from the Sunnah, they would resort to Ijtihad. The following generation of the Tabioon learned the religion from the Sahabah in the same manner, as the Sahabah had studied from Allah’s Messenger. Since, the Sahabah traveled to different parts of the Islamic Empire, the Tabioon would learn Hadeeth and verdicts of the religion from the Sahabi who was found in his respective city. Similarly, among the generations that followed the people of each city would refer to the well-known and authoritative scholars of their respective cities to seek knowledge and to ask for a Fatawa (religious verdict).


This practice of the common people in asking the most knowledgeable scholars of their city has continued from the time of the Tabioon to this day. This is the practice that is in accordance with the saying of Allah, “Ask of those who know the Scripture, if you know not…” This is also the practice of following transmitted knowledge, by following all that is authentically reported from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).


The Deobandis do not accept this practice of “Asking the knowledgeable” or ‘following transmitted knowledge’ as Taqleed. They do not consider someone as a Muqallid (a follower of the Madhhabs) unless he adheres to the following conditions (as summarized from various books and articles on the subject):


1. Of all the exemplary scholars, the Muslim Ummah has been blessed with; Taqleed is restricted to just four scholars or Imams.


2. The follower of the Madhhab (way) of one Imam has to compulsorily follow the Madhhab in all matters of the religion.


3. The Muqallid does not need to know the proof from the texts, behind the ruling he is supposed to follow, and it is sufficient for him to know that Imam could never have said anything without proof. The saying of the Imam is itself proof for the Muqallid.


4. The Muqallid cannot follow the other three Madhhabs even in minor issues. To follow the other Madhhab is a punishable offence. Even if a Muqallid finds a verse of the Qur’aan or an authentic Hadeeth, which rules different from the ruling of his Madhhab, he still has to stick to his own Madhhab.


These conditions show that Taqleed is not the same as asking the knowledgeable and cannot be compared to the practice of the Sahabah and the later generations. As mentioned earlier, the Sahabah would refer to the most knowledgeable amongst them, because those who were the most in the company of the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) had the most knowledge and understanding of the religion. They however, did not consider it obligatory to specify one such knowledgeable Sahabi to take every matter of the religion from him. Hence, they were merely ‘Asking the knowledgeable’ and were not making Taqleed. Even if one considers that this practice of the Sahabah amounted to Taqleed as the Deobandis argue, then it only proves the Taqleed and blind following of a Sahabi and not of a particular Imam or scholar.


Likewise, the Deobandis also claim that the people of Yemen used to make Taqleed of the Sahabi, Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (radhi allahu anhu), when he was sent there by Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). In this case, the people of Yemen did not consider it obligatory to follow only the opinions of Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (radhi allahu anhu) and prohibit to take from the ruling of any other Sahabi. Here too, the conditions of Taqleed are not fulfilled. The people of Yemen accepted all that which reached them authentically from the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).


Now, however, the Deobandis consider it compulsory for the people of Yemen to abandon the Taqleed (which according to them) was prescribed by Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) and make the Taqleed of the four Imams.


To add to this, they also bring the fabricated narration in support of Taqleed that says, “My Sahabah are like stars. Whomever among them you follow, you will attain the road of guidance”[3] So, in light of this fabrication too, people of Yemen should be allowed to continue upon the Taqleed of Mu’adh Ibn Jabal but this is unacceptable to the Deobandis. Is there any limit to self-contradiction?

[1] Soorah an-Nahl (16): 43-44.

[2] Soorah an-Nahl (16): 43-44.

[3] Irshaadul-Mulook (Eng. Trans.), p.46 and at various places in the Fazaail-e-Aamal.