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Last Updated: 2011/04/06
Summary of question
We have a Marja (source of emulation) to follow but we are not following him in our lives. I believe we are following him only nominally, aren't we?
question
We have a Marja and when they ask us as to whom we are following, we say that "we are following a certain grand scholar". We show him his Resalah (epistle) but we are not following him in the real sense. It is a just a nominal emulation. We are not following him in practice? Are we?
Concise answer

Taqlid does not mean choosing a Marja, buying his Resalah (Epistle of Islamic Laws), keeping it in your house and then telling others that he is your Marja. In real sense, Taqlid means acting in accord with the fatwa (verdict) of the Marja. Wherever a person faces a situation about which the religion has a say, be it essential or unessential or a prohibited act, he turns to him to seek his advice in that regard. In Islamic terminology, this is called "istifta" or seeking the fatwa of a Marja and acting upon it.

Detailed Answer

To clarify the answer, it is necessary to first give a brief explanation of the concept of Taqlid.

As was said in the foregoing passages, Taqlid does not mean choosing a Marja, buying his Resalah (Epistle of Islamic Laws), keeping it in your house and then telling others that he is your Marja. In real sense, Taqlid means acting in accord with the fatwa (verdict) of the Marja. Wherever a person faces a situation about which the religion has a say, be it essential or unessential or a prohibited act, he turns to him to seek his advice in that regard. In Islamic terminology, this is called "istifta" or seeking the fatwa of a Marja and acting upon it.

The following example can help you better understand the concept of Taqlid: If an ailing person refers to a doctor, he has not yet followed him and if he takes a prescription from the doctor, he has not yet followed him. And when he takes the prescription to a medical store, he has not yet followed the doctor! When he takes the medicine or the dose within the specified time limit in the same way as the doctor has prescribed, he has acted according to the doctor's advice.

To some individuals, it may look very simple to visit a doctor because he thinks that the doctor checks his health and then prescribes a few medicines whereas the same simple task, which you see, is done by a doctor who has studied for ten or fifteen years and gained experience and competence in diagnosing and treating diseases. The position is the same with jurisprudential issues.  One feels like he can give his opinion in regards to permissibility or impermissibility of a certain action just a Marja can whereas the difference between him and the Marja is as the difference between an ordinary person and a doctor. He who gives a fatwa as to the permissibility or impermissibility of something has studied and given lectures in the Islamic seminary at least for 10 – 15 years. He may have worked for thirty years to gain the ability to issue a fatwa. Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that "you should respect the grand jurists because Marja'eyah (religious authority) is not a simple position to be attained by any individual. One has to work hard throughout his life until he finally becomes a Marja.

It may seem to someone that something is permissible and there would be no problem in doing it but the Marja says that it is not permissible. It is like an ordinary person telling you not to take a certain medicine. What would you say when it comes to comparing between him and a doctor? Taqlid is also of a similar nature. As you know, Taqlid is an action. That is to say, you set your life and action on the fatwa of a jurist. Unfortunately, we are not heedful of the rationale and the concept of Taqlid. That is why we face difficulties in our lives.

Some people enquire as to what will happen, if we keep performing our religious duties without following a qualified jurist?

The answer is that if a person has been performing religious acts e.g. prayers, fasting and other religious duties, in case now the Marja whom he is following considers those acts as valid, the religious duties which has performed become valid. He can say that he has performed his religious duties in accordance with the edicts of that Marja even though he himself might not know that his actions were in conformity with the views of his Marja. Therefore, his actions become valid and he should not worry. However, he should thereafter follow a qualified and eligible person as his Marja and should try to act according to his juristic views in the hope of attaining prosperity and salvation in this world and in the Hereafter.

For further information about Taqlid, the following articles are useful:

1. The Wisdom behind doing Taqlid of Maraje' and the Unexplained References and Proofs 2441 (site: 2991).

2. Acting upon One's Own Research Findings instead of Following a Marja, 11178 (site: 11062).

3. The Reasons for Necessity of Following the Maraje' 974 (site: 1045)

4. Taqlid and Its Denouncement 8165 (site: 8320).

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