by Mawlana Khalid Dhorat
Taqlid refers to the practice of an unqualified, lay person (in a specific field of specialization) submitting to and accepting the authority of an expert in that field, without demanding proof and justification for every view, opinion or verdict expressed by such an expert authority.
Imitation is a natural tendency of human existence, practiced by millions of people worldwide in every facet of life. The simplest and most tangible example of Taqlid is that of a child learning his basic alphabets at school. Every child learning his alphabets is unconsciously practicing Taqlid. A learner driver taking instructions from a driving instructor is practicing Taqlid. People going to a specialist doctor for medical treatment and following his instructions is another example of Taqlid. A lay person soliciting a legal opinion from an advocate or following the advice of a tax consultant is another common case of Taqlid. A client at an engineering firm, asking for the engineer’s advice on complex engineering calculations is yet another instance of Taqlid in action. The millions of ‘facts’ in the myriad of sciences such as astronomy, archaeology, etc. are all distinct examples of Taqlid. Who ever questions the ‘fact’ that the sun is really 93 million miles away from the earth! It is taken for granted that this is the findings of the ‘experts’ in these fields and everyone simply accepts it as such. School teachers teach these to their pupils as ‘gospel truth’ and children learn and memorize these ‘facts’ with the hope of succeeding in their exams. There are countless such examples of Taqlid in everyday existence.
By way of extension, Taqlid is the easy option for ordinary people In the context of Islamic Fiqh or Law too. Taqlid in Islam simply refers to accepting and following the verdicts of expert scholars of Islamic Fiqh in their exposition and interpretation of Islamic Law, without demanding from them an in-depth explanation of the intricate processes (Ijtihad) required in arriving at such a verdict. It simply means that ordinary folk do not have to do Ijtihad. The duty of ordinary people is to trustingly accept the authority of the learned scholars in this matter and act upon their verdicts.
In this sense, Taqlid is a great blessing for common people, for it is beyond the capacity of everyone to understand the extremely complex and complicated mechanics of Ijtihad. The ability to do Ijtihad requires many long years of study and erudition and a great deal of exertion in acquiring a mastery of various Islamic sciences.