What is Taqleed?

  • Taqleed means to accept someone’s statement simply on the basis of a favorable opinion about him, that is, he speaks on the basis of proof and hence there is no need to question him about his proof.
  • The object of Taqleed is to practise on the Qur’aan and Hadeeth with ease.
  • The rejecters of Taqleed whose standard is held precariously in these times by the sect styling itself Salafiyyoon or Salafiyyah insolently dub Taqleed ‘blind-following’.

‘Blind’ bears the following connotations:

  • without foresight, discernment, intellectual perception, or adequate information
  • not governed by purpose or reason
  • reckless

The very nature of Taqleed demands discernment, intellectual perception and adequate information as a favourable opinion of an Imam being qualified in the field of Shar’i Uloom (Islamic Sciences) and thus being worthy of being followed is dependent on these factors. Taqleed, therefore, can never be blind-following in this sense.

The object and purpose of Taqleed have been clarified in 1.2. Thus the accusation of Taqleed being ‘blind-following’ in the sense of ‘not governed by purpose or reason’ is palpably false.

When the muqallid or person making Taqleed follows an Imam or Math-hab he understands the Imam and Math-hab to be a trustworthy guide and the safest course to obedience to the commandments of Allah Ta’ala and the teachings or Sunnah of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). He (the muqallid) understands his lack of competency in understanding the Qur’aan and Hadeeth. For him to resort to a self-study of the Qur’aan and Hadeeth and thereby form his own opinion is akin to bartering away his Imaan. He thus opts for the safest and surest path to the obedience and pleasure of Allah and His Rasool (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), and that is in Taqleed. Is this being reckless? Is this blind-following? May Allah Ta’ala save us from the deception of Shaitaan and the evil schemes of the nafs, Aameen.

When none of the connotations of ‘blind’ portray true Taqleed, the usage of this word in relation to Taqleed of the Math-habs is therefore crass ignorance or malicious obstinacy. May Allah Ta’ala save us from the evils of the tongue and nafs


by Hazrat Moulana Zafar Ahmad Saheb Uthmaani

(Rahmatullahi Alaih)


A nephew (sister’s son) of our Hazrat Moulana Khaleel Ahmad Saheb (Quddisa Sirruhu) graduated from Mazaahir-e-Uloom Saharanpur and went to Aligarh where he served as assistant to a doctor. This doctor saheb was a Salafi. He thus endeavoured to convert his assistant to Salafism. Towards this end he encouraged the assistant to study the kitaabs of this sect.


For a period of three years he studied the books of this sect. Eventually he became a Salafi/Ghair Muqallid.


After three years he came to meet Hazrat Moulana (Rahmatullahi Alaih) [his uncle] in Saharanpur and immediately upon his arrival he blankly said: “I am not a Hanafi anymore. I have joined the ranks of the Ahl-e-Hadeeth.” [Ahl-e-Hadeeth is the misnomer used by Indo-Pak Salafis.]


Hazrat Moulana was deeply hurt. He told the Ulama of Mazaahir-e-Uloom to explain to their pupil and clear his doubts. He [the nephew spoke with Mazaahir-e-Uloom’s Ulama for three days, but he remained firm on his newly-found dogma.


Coincidentally during that time this bandah [Hazrat Allaamah Zafar Ahmad Saheb Rahmatullahi alaih] came to meet Hazrat in Saharanpur from Thanabawan. Hazrat was very happy and he said: “You have come at a very opportune time. This pupil of yours has turned his back to reality and has joined the Ahl-e-Hadeeth. Mazaahir-e-Uloom Ulama have been explaining to him for three days, but he is firm over his belief. You should also explain to him.”


While we were discussing this he [the nephew of Hazrat Moulana Khaleel Ahmad Saheb who had reneged from the Hanafi Math-hab] came to meet me. I told him to meet me after Isha. After giving his word and departing Hazrat Moulana commented: “He has been studying the books of the Ahl-e-Hadeeth for three years. He therefore has a broad view of the issues. In your conversation with him you will have to bear this in mind.” I replied: “Insha Allah, I will bear that in mind. Hazrat should assist with du’aas.”


Accordingly, he came to me as promised after Isha. The following conversation took place:

(Moulana) Zafar: Tell me my son, what ideology do you currently subscribe to?

Pupil: Practice on Saheeh Ahadeeth.

(Moulana) Zafar: Practice on only Saheeh Ahadeeth! Not practice on the Qur’aan?

Pupil: Hazrat! Practice on the Qur’aan is first and foremost. Thereafter practice on Saheeh Ahadeeth.

(Moulana) Zafar: If that is your ideology then you would have firstly stated, “Practice on the Qur’aan” and then you would have mentioned “practice on the Hadeeth.”

Pupil: It being obvious, I did not see any need to mention it.

(Moulana) Zafar: You’re trying to cover up. As a matter of fact, the Ahl-e-Hadeeth do not apply the Qur’aan. On the other hand, the golden rule of the Hanafiyyah is to look firstly at the Qur’aan and then the Hadeeth. We give preference to the Hadeeth which we find in consonance with the explicit declaration of the Qur’aan, and we give suitable interpretations to the other Ahadeeth [which outwardly do not conform to the explicit declaration of the Qur’aan].

Now let me tell you about the well-known Masaail in regard to which we and the Ahl-e-Hadeeth have conflicting views. We firstly looked at the Qur’aan, giving preference to those Ahadeeth which we found in consonance with the explicit texts of the Qur’aan.

Qiraat Khalfal Imam

Consider the mas-alah of Qiraat Khalfal Imam. Here, as well, we firstly looked at the Qur’aan. In Surah A’raaf Allah Ta’ala declares:

“When the Qur’aan is recited, then listen to it attentively and maintain silence. You can then hope for mercy to come down on you.”

This clearly evinces that there should be no Qiraat simultaneously with the Imam’s Qiraat. Rather, one should listen to the Qur’aan and maintain silence.

That the Aayat was revealed in regard to reciting behind the Imam is a fact unanimously agreed upon as stated by Imam Ahmad Bin Hambal (Rahmatullahi Alaih). (Those Ulama who aver that it is connected to the Khutbah of Jumu’ah, what they intend is that the Khutbah has the same ruling. This is their obvious purport as the Aayat is Makki and in Makkah there was neither Jumu’ah nor Khutbah.—Zafar)

Then we took a look at the Ahadeeth. No Hadeeth states: “When the Imam recites, you should also recite.” But we do find: “When the Imam says, ‘Allahu Akbar’ then you should also say, ‘Allahu Akbar’. When he makes Ruku’ then make Ruku’. When he says, ‘Sami’allahu Liman Hamidah’ then say, ‘Rabbana Lakal Hamd’. When he makes Sajdah then you should also make Sajdah.”

But no where is there: “When he recites (makes Qiraat) then you should also recite.” In fact, if there is anything, it is: “When he recites then you should maintain silence.” Imam Muslim, Imam Ahmad and numerous other Muhadditheen have authenticated this Hadeeth [i.e. they have declared it to be Saheeh]. The Hanafiyyah have endorsed this Hadeeth and have taken the other Ahadeeth [on Qiraat Khalfal Imam] to have other appropriate purports.


Even regarding the Mas-alah of Aameen the Hanafiyyah firstly looked at the Qur’aan. In view of Aameen being a du’aa, as Imam Bukhari has documented in his Saheeh, we looked at what the Qur’aan says about du’aa. We found this declaration of Allah Ta’ala: “Call unto your Rabb humbly and silently.” Thus we gave preference in this Mas-alah to the narration of Shu’bah in which it is said: “He [Rasoolullah Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam] recited Surah Faatihah and after completing it he said, ‘Aameen’ and he lowered his voice with it.” That is, he said it softly. This Hadeeth appears in Tirmithi.

Raf’ul Yadain

We have even looked at the Qur’aan firstly in regard to raising the hands (rafa’ yadain) in Salaah. We found these commands of Allah Ta’ala:

“Stand before Allah in silence.”

“And those who have khushoo’ in their Salaah.”

The first Aayat states that we should stand in the presence of Allah Ta’ala silently and with tranquility. The second Aayat states that those who have khushoo’ in their Salaah are successful. Khushoo’ means nothing other than tranquility.

Next we looked at the Ahadeeth. There is a narration in Saheeh Muslim in which is mentioned that the Sahaabah would lift their hands in Salaah at the time of Salaam and say: “Salaam to so-and-so, Salaam to so-and-so.” Reprimanding them Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “What is the matter? Why are you raising your hands like how horses raise their tails? Be tranquil in Salaah!”

We learn from this Hadeeth that to raise the hands even during Salaam is in violation of tranquility, whereas the time of Salaam falls within Salaah, and also out of Salaah. [In other words, the position of Salaam is such that in some aspects it falls within the Salaah and in some aspects it is considered to be upon the termination of the Salaah]. Thus, how can it be proper to raise the hands at the time of Ruku’, when Ruku’ falls only within the Salaah?

Yes, it is proper to raise the hands at the time of Takbeer-e-Tahreemah in view of it [Takbeer-e-Tahreemah] not being a part or rukn [constituent] of Salaah. In fact, it is a shart [precondition] of Salaah. Hence the Hanafiyyah have favoured those narrations which advocate abstention from lifting of the hands at the time of Ruku’.

In like manner one can judge the other Masaa’il. The Hanafiyyah firstly look at the Qur’aan and then the Ahadeeth. The Hanafiyyah then give preference to those [Ahadeeth] which are in consonance or close to the explicit declaration of the Qur’aan.

Pupil: Really, I did not reflect over this point. Nevertheless, the doubt still remains of the Hanafiyyah’s practice being in conflict to Saheeh Ahadeeth in certain Masaail?

(Moulana) Zafar: My Dear Son! Firstly define Saheeh Hadeeth.  But, remember; do not make anyone’s taqleed in your definition.

After listening to this the pupil was silent for a while. He was perspiring. He then said: “It is all fitting into place now. Truly, without making Taqleed it is not possible to call any Hadeeth ‘Saheeh’. Further, how is it possible for taqleed of Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmithi and others to be permissible, whilst taqleed of Imam Abu Haneefah, Imam Maalik and Imam Shaafi’i is claimed to be impermissible. I henceforth repent from plodding the path of the Ahl-e-Hadeeth and I opt for the Hanafi Math-hab.

(Moulana) Zafar: You have understood very quickly! I am happy. Nevertheless, I wish to expand on this. Those who reject and criticise Taqleed cannot say whether a Hadeeth is Saheeh, or Dha’eef or Hasan without making Taqleed.

Ittiba’-e-Hujjat is Taqleed

The excuse they present is that Allah Ta’ala has declared the report of an honest person and the testimony of a reliable person to be Hujjat [Shar’i proof]. “This [acceptance of the verdicts of the Ulama in the field of Hadeeth categorization], is therefore not taqleed, but Ittiba’ of Hujjat [obedience to Shar’i proofs].”

My response is that, declaring a Hadeeth to be Saheeh or Dha’eef is not merely a report. In fact, the roots of it lie in the presumption and deduction (zann and ijtihaad) of the Muhaddith.

Sometimes the narrators of the chain are all thiqah [reliable], however the Hadeeth is mu’allal [flawed]. And the illat [flaw] can only be detected by experts in Hadeeth, not by just any Muhaddith.

Ibn Abi Haatim has reported in Kitaabul Ilal that Abdur Rahmaan Bin Mahdi said: “Recognition of [the authenticity of] a Hadeeth is inspirational.” Ibn Numair further added: “That is absolutely true! If you ask the Muhaddith: ‘What is your basis (for saying that the Hadeeth is Saheeh or Mu’allal)?’ he will not be able to answer.”

Ahmad Bin Saalih states; “Recognition of Hadeeth is just like recognising gold from brass. A gem-dealer recognises a true gem. If you question an appraiser: ‘Why do you say that this [stone] is pure and this one is false?’ He will not be able to furnish you with proof.” [In former times, the instruments utilised nowadays by gemmologists were not available and hence gems were recognised through natural perception and flair.]

This proves that the Aimmah of Hadeeth saying in regard to any Hadeeth, “Saheeh” or “Mu’allal” is not just a matter of reporting. In fact, these statements of theirs are the products of their zann and Ijtihaad. Thus, to rely on their statements here is precisely Taqleed.

Allaamah Ibnul Qayyim’s averment that this is not taqleed in the Ahkaam is not correct because it is waajib in the Shariah to apply a Hadeeth-e-Saheeh, it is not obligatory to apply a Dha’eef Hadeeth and it is haraam to apply a Mowdhu’ Hadeeth. This is Taqleed of the Ahkaam per se. It is not Taqleed of non-Ahkaam. It is precisely for this reason that the Fuqaha discuss in the Science of Usool-e-Fiqh the Sunnah and principles governing its acceptance and rejection.

Calling this Ittiba’ and not Taqleed, as Allaamah Ibnul Qayyim has averred, is a mere spin of words. The reality is the same.

Taqleed in Qiraat

My Dear Son! Is it waajib to recite the Qur’aan correctly or not? Of course it is waajib! And to recite incorrectly is haraam. Now tell me whether you can recite the Qur’aan correctly without Taqleed of the Imams of Qiraat? One can never! And this is also Taqleed in Ahkaam.

Similarly, recognising the Hadeeth and sifting out Saheeh from Dha’eef is also waajib. And here too there is no alternative other than to make Taqleed of the Aimmah. What audacity do the Ahl-e-Hadeeth [and the Salafis] have in rejecting Taqleed!!!

The Criterion

Furthermore, you should take note of the fact that, the Muhadditheen did not formulate the principles of judging a Hadeeth to be Saheeh or Dha’eef on the basis of Divine Revelation. That formulation was the product of their zann and ijtihaad. Our Fuqaha have likewise formulated principles of the authenticity and weakness of Ahadeeth, which are mentioned in the chapter of The Sunnah in Usoolul Fiqh. It is therefore possible that a certain Hadeeth is Saheeh on the standards of the Muhadditheen, but Dha’eef on our standards. Or it could be Saheeh on our standards and Dha’eef on the standards of the Muhadditheen. To initiate argumentation in this regard is therefore an error. The dalaail should be studied; whose principles are strong on the basis of dalaail?

The True Rejecters and Followers of Hadeeth

In conclusion, I must point out that no one follows the Hadeeth on par to the Hanafiyyah. The Hanafiyyah even accept Mursal and Munqati’ Ahadeeth of the Khairul Quroon to be hujjat, whereas the Ahl-e-Hadeeth reject such Hadeeth. The volume of Maraaseel and Maqaatee’ is no less than Marfoo’ Ahadeeth. In fact, it is slightly more. Thus, these people [the votaries of abandonment of Taqleed] omit half of all Ahadeeth!!!

Furthermore, they only select Saheeh or Hasan Ahadeeth from the Marfoo’aat and they reject the Dha’eef narrations. But according to the Hanafiyyah a Dha’eef Hadeeth deserves precedence in contrast to Qiyaas. [What this means is that where no Saheeh or Hasan Hadeeth is available on any issue, the Hanafiyyah do not discard Dha’eef Ahadeeth and come to intellectual deductions. The Dha’eef Hadeeth is employed provided that it is not in conflict with any established tenet and practice of the Deen.]

In fact, even the statement of a Sahaabi and the statement of a senior Taabi’i are given priority [by the Ahnaaf] over Qiyaas. Now you tell me who practices on Hadeeth and who discards the Hadeeth?

The Sanad is Not the Only Determinant for Saheeh Hadeeth

The question of the Hanafiyyah omitting Saheeh Ahadeeth in certain Masaail has been addressed earlier. The Ahadeeth which the Hanafiyyah have employed are Saheeh according to their standards, regardless of them being Dha’eef in the opinion of the Muhadditheen. According to the Hanafiyyah the condition for the authenticity of a Hadeeth is not restricted to its sanad [chain of narrators]. In fact, there are other conditions as well which are mentioned in Usool-e-Fiqh and we have also set them out in the introduction of I’laaus Sunan. In the second part of the Introduction of I’laaus Sunan we have furthermore elaborately discussed Taqleed and Ijtihaad…

Pupil: Al-Hamdulillah, my eyes have now opened and I have been set free from the deception and fallacy of the Ahl-e-Hadeeth.


Wal Hamdu Lillaahi Rabbil Aalameen

Al-Balaagh Monthly, Karachi—Shawwaal 1387H