Ijtihad and Taqlid
Ijtihad literary means effort and its terminological meaning is: Making effort in deriving the laws of Shariah from the authorized reliable sources like Quran, traditions of the Prophet, traditions of the Holy Imams (a), reason, principles of practice and fundamental laws, whose finality of proof has been proved through legal reasoning.
On the basis of this, Ijtihad is not a part of sources of Shariah; on the contrary it is a means of deriving the laws from religious sources.
During the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (s), Ijtihad did not exist in the present form and there was no need of it, because Muslims had direct access to the Prophet and through direct or indirect contact got the solutions of their problems. This period is known as the period of legislation.
From the tenure of Imamate of Imam Ali (a) till the time of the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari (a) also, there was not at all any need of Ijtihad, because people were having access to the Holy Imams (a) and the bearers of prophetic sciences. Followers of Ahle Bayt (a) directly or indirectly established contact with the Holy Imams (a) and inquired about the solutions of their problems. During this period, the Holy Imams (a) put in most efforts to propagate the fundamentals of belief and laws of religion. Their companions also tried their best to preserve and propagate the traditions. By the blessings of efforts of the Holy Imams (a) and through the endeavor of companions, Shia culture became popular and Shia became very self-sufficient from the aspect of beliefs and laws of religion. Hundreds of books were compiled on different subjects. In the period of Imam Muhammad Baqir and Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a), the holy city of Medina became a university of Islamic knowledge, where different kinds of religious sciences were taught and from there they were issued to the other centers of Shiaism. During this bountiful period, thousands of intellectuals were trained who made efforts in propagating the sciences of Ahle Bayt (a).
In the presence of these possibilities Shia did not have any need of Ijtihad at all, but at the same time there existed among the narrators of traditions, jurisprudents whom others referred to in secondary legal matters. These persons were owners of opinion and verdict and their views became known among the companions and writers; like Yunus bin Abdur Rahman and Zurarah etc.
The Holy Imams (a) also encouraged and supported them in various ways. When a man from Syria said to Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a): I have come to debate with you about jurisprudence. Imam (a) said to Zurarah: Have a debate with this man about jurisprudence. Imam Muhammad Baqir (a) said to Aban Taghlib: Sit in the Masjid of Medina and issue verdicts to public, because I like to see persons like you among Shia.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) says: It is our duty to explain the fundamentals to you and it is your duty to derive the secondary laws from them. It is known that the Holy Imams (a) paid special attention to necessary requirements of jurisprudence. As a result of their concern and efforts of companions, a number of Islamic jurisprudents (Mujtahids) came into being, who wrote books on jurisprudence and answered queries of people. Some of their names and the books they have authored are mentioned in Fehrist Ibne Nadeem.
Even though during the period of Imamate, among the companions of the Holy Imams (a), there existed jurisprudents who had reached to the level of Ijtihad, however referring to the Imams and directly referring to them had priority.
But in the period of the minor occultation, the circumstances of Shia Imamiyah changed, because on one hand the number of Shia had increased in cities and towns of the country, on the other hand the general circumstances of people had undergone a change and new religious problems had appeared which needed solutions. But regrettably, the Twelfth Imam had disappeared and there was no possibility for Shia to contact him directly, except through the four deputies of the Imam, who were appointed to this post one after another throughout this period of Imamate. These contacts also didn’t reach to such a level that they should be sufficient to fulfill the extensive and different needs of Shia.
In this period, there was need of scholars and great jurisprudents who through their knowledge and Ijtihad may fill the void during the occultation of the Imam and derive and convey to them the needed solutions of widespread problems from the sources of jurisprudence through the process of Ijtihad, and that they serve as points of reference and defend the existence of Shiaism. Existence of such intellectuals for the sake of providing a point of reference in the matter of faith for the Shia youth was very much needed and which gradually developed by the grace of God.
A great scholar of that period was Ali bin Husain bin Musa bin Babawayh Qummi. This great jurisprudent was born in the beginning period of the Minor Occultation. He lived during the tenure of three special deputies of the Imam Zamana (a). He met Husain bin Ruh, the third deputy of Imam Zamana (a) in 328 A.H. and passed away in 329 A.H. in Qom, and his grave is situated at the same place. At that time, he was the point of reference and a prominent face of Shiaism. He wrote numerous books on different sciences; like for example: Sharai, a book on jurisprudence. This scholar rendered valuable services to the Shia.
After him, his son, Muhammad bin Ali bin Husain bin Babawayh, alias Saduq was a jurisprudent and authoritative Shia scholar. He also wrote books on various subjects, including jurisprudence; like for example: Muqna, Man Laa Yahzaharul Faqih etc. This great jurisprudent also lived in Qom. He spent a period in Baghdad as well, in pursuit of knowledge. In his final years, he resided in the city of Rayy and passed away in the year 381 A.H. and his grave is situated there.
These two important jurisprudents mostly based their legal judgments on traditions.
Another jurisprudent, who lived at the end of the period of the Minor Occultation and the beginning period of the Major Occultation was Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Aqeel Omani. He was a great jurisprudential scholar, who was a Shia point of reference during his lifetime and he disseminated the sciences of Ahle Bayt (a) through his speeches and writings. This great and important scholar wrote a large number of books on different sciences, like jurisprudence; the most important of them being: Al Mustamsik bi Habli Aali Rasool.
Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Junaid Iskafi also lived during the early period of the Major Occultation. It seems that this great jurist also lived for sometime during the period of the Minor Occultation. He is a scholar and jurisprudent of the fourth century. He has written numerous books on different subjects and one of his works on jurisprudence is: Tahdhibu Shia Li Ahkamul Shariah.
Ibne Junaid followed the style of Omani in deriving the laws of Shariah. These two great jurisprudents were the true founders of Ijtihad. They also employed reason in deriving the laws of Shariah; and they have contributed to all the sources and dimensions of subjects and problems.
It was this style of Ijtihad, which was followed and perfected by Shaykh Mufeed (336-381 A.H.) one of the prominent disciples of Ibne Junaid. One of the jurisprudential writings of Shaykh Mufeed is Kitab Muqna, which has fortunately survived the upheavals of time and which is useful for those who are interested.
After Mufeed, Sayyid Murtaza (died 436 A.H.) wrote Intisar and Nasiryaat and Salar bin Abdul Aziz (died 463 A.H.) wrote Kitab Marasim on the method of Ijtihad.
Most important of all, Shaykhut Taifah, Muhammad bin Hasan Tusi (385-460 A.H.) made efforts and displayed initiative in the reformation and perfection of the method of Ijtihad. He studied under Shaykh Mufeed and Sayyid Murtaza for 23 years in Baghdad and after them succeeded to the post of final point of reference (Maraja) and leadership of Shia. After the tragical events of Baghdad, he moved to Najaf and laid the foundation of the religious university of Najaf. He is the author of books like, Khilaf, Tadkira and Mabsut on the subject of jurisprudence. Shaykh Tusi was the first of those who designed the Shia reasoning of jurisprudence in an extensive form and derived laws from fundamental principles.
Jurists after the Shaykh also in improving and compiling of jurisprudence and science of principles, which are the sources of deriving the laws of Shariah, made efforts for years so that Ijtihad may take an extensive and detailed form.
Requirements of Ijtihad
Science of jurisprudence and its principles developed gradually till it assumed the present shape. Therefore, Ijtihad and deriving the laws is a cumbersome job having great responsibilities, which requires much preparation and specialization. Following are the necessary requirements for being an Islamic jurist (Mujtahid):
1. Specialization in sciences related to the deriving of the laws; like Arabic language and grammar, knowledge of traditions, identification of narrators of traditions, science of Quranic commentary, complete and perfect command on traditions of the Prophet and the Holy Imams (a); specialization in science of the principles of jurisprudence and having clear sources of principles.
2. Intelligence, liberal mindedness and valor in expression of truth.
3. Awareness of progress of sciences and technology and their effect on circumstances and on individual and social, political and economic conditions of the Muslim Ummah.
4. Attention to the demands of time, place and modern problems.
5. Complete and perfect awareness of all chapters and books of jurisprudence and even knowledge of the four schools of jurisprudence of Ahle Sunnat.
One who spends years in attending lectures and debates in the religious colleges is able to reach to the position of Ijtihad and deriving the laws of Shariah. Such a person has the capability to derive the laws of Shariah from its reliable sources.
Mujtahid, is the real knower of Islam, having full awareness of the events that have taken place in the world, which have influenced individual, social, ethical, cultural, political and economic conditions of the Muslim Ummah and who solves the problems of jurisprudence through a broad point of view and guides the Muslim Ummah for success in the world and the hereafter.
The true jurist, through his profound insight, is able to bear the responsibility of fulfilling the needs of people in every time and place. Moreover, he keeps away from deviation, harshness, wrong interpretations and innovations of the deviated. He derives legal and suitable ways and entrusts it to the government and Islamic society and through this, practically proves the perpetuality of Islam.
In traditions, such a Mujtahid is described as inheritor of prophets and outpost of defense of Islam.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said: Confusion does not frustrate one who possesses the know-how of his time.
Ali bin Abi Hamza says: ‘When a true believer dies, the angels and the parts of earth where he worshipped Allah, weep because of his death. Also the doors of the heavens through which his good deeds had been taken up weep and it causes an irreparable damage in the Islamic system. It is because the true believing Fuqaha, people of proper understanding in religion and its laws are the strongholds of the Islamic system just as the fortress around a city is a stronghold for it.’”
Taqlid implies following a jurist and taking laws of Shariah from him. A fully qualified Mujtahid is a person who has specialized in deriving the laws of Shariah. Persons who do not have this specialization have no option, except to refer to the jurist in learning their duties and laws of religion, because referring of the ignorant persons to experts is logical; like a patient consulting a doctor, a student to a teacher, farmer to the agricultural engineer etc.
 Al-Kafi, Vol. 7, Pg. 83
 Qamusar Rijal, Vol. 4, Pg. 156
 Qamusar Rijal, Vol. 4, Pg. 73
 Wasailush Shia, Vol. 27, Pg. 61
 Fehrist Ibne Nadeem, Pg 317-328
 Bahjatul Amaal, Vol. 5, Pg. 416
 Bahjatul Amaal, Vol. 6, Pg. 495
 Bahjatul Amaal, Vol. 3, Pg. 150-154
 Bahjatul Amaal, Vol. 6, Pg. 241-250
 Bahjatul Amaal, Vol. 3, Pg. 150-154
 Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 26
 Islamic jurists
 Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 38