Sacred Islamic laws include:
- Wajibat (obligatory acts of worship)
- Muharamat (forbidden acts)
A Mukallaf (a person considered in Islam to be competent and therefore responsible to perform religious duties) must ensure that he/she is following the above laws. This will not be accomplished if the person does not have the capability of Ijtihad (the ability to deduce what is the right thing to do in accordance with religious principles).
If one does not have the capability to deduce the laws (Ijtihad) that person should follow one of two methods:
1. Taqleed : A Mukallaf acts according to the Fatwa (religious verdicts) of a Mujtahid (a jurist who has studied sufficiently and achieved the level of competence necessary to interpret Shari‘ah law suitable for Taqleed verdicts).
2. lhtiyat : A Mukallaf acts in a precautionary manner that he/she will ensure compliance of what is required of him/her.
For example: If he/she supposes that Iqama (the second call to prayer) is Wajib (obligatory) or Mustahabb (recommended) then he/she should perform the Iqama on the basis of precaution.
While if he/she suspects something is Haram (for example smoking) then he/she must abstain from it.
In another situation, Ihtiyat might require repetition of the same act in different ways, such as repeating Salat al-dhuhr (noon prayers) as Qasr (a shorter form of prayers) or Tamam (full form of prayers) in some cases when travelling.
Knowing the way to perform according to Ihtiyat requires a deep understanding of jurisprudential knowledge (Fiqh).
There are difficulties in performing Ihtiyat in certain situations and therefore the Taqleed method is the practical and ideal way for most Mukallafs to ensure they follow Shari‘ah (Islamic Law) edicts.
Issue 1: Turning from a child to an adult. The age of Takleef (religious maturity) for females commences when a girl reaches nine lunar years, and in males when they reach fifteen lunar years. However, a male will be considered religiously mature before the age of 15 if he witnesses the signs of puberty.
Issue 2: It is valid to do Taqleed of a Mujtahid, if the Mujtahid is:
- Legitimately conceived i.e. he was conceived according to religious guidance (not from adultery)
- Faithful i.e. has to be a follower of the Twelver Imami sect
- Just, meaning sincerity in following the Islamic path and not deviating from it. Performing what is Wajib and abstaining from Haram
- In control, meaning he should not be forgetful, or make mistakes regarding his religious deductions
Issue 3: If the rulings of two, or more, Mujtahid differ (which can occur because of Itjihad differences) then there are several situations which may emerge:
First situation: If it is evident to the Mukallaf that one of the Mujtahids is more knowledgeable than the others. In this case, the Mukallaf should follow the ruling of that Mujtahid.
Second situation: If it is evident to the Mukallaf that two Mujtahids, are more knowledgeable than the others. In this situation, if it is evident to the Mukallaf that one is more religiously cautious then it is obligatory to follow that Mujtahid. If that was not evident, then the Mukallaf can follow either Mujtahid, except in some situations mentioned in detail in the books of law.
Third situation: If it is evident that one of the Mujtahids is more knowledgeable than the others, but the Mukallaf cannot identify which one. In this case, the Mukallaf must observe precaution among Fatwi (edicts) of the Mujtahid. Exceptions to this ruling are found in the books of law.
Issue 4: The most knowledgeable Mujtahids are confirmed by:
A. The witness of one trusted person, if the person is an expert on identifying those capable or performing Ijtihad, such as another Mujtahid or a person similarly knowledgeable. This is on the condition that there is not an equally knowledgeable witness who differs. In such a case, the witness of the more experienced person should be acted on.
B. Assurance based on trusted and common sources, such as a majority of knowledgeable and religiously cautious persons.
Issue 5: If a person followed a Mujtahid after believing he is the most knowledgeable, and later it became evident that another Mujtahid was more knowledgeable. He/she must change his/her Taqleed and follow the most knowledgeable Mujtahid.
Issue 6: If a Mukallaf's Mujtahid dies, and he was more knowledgeable than all living Mujtihids, then the Mukallaf must continue to follow the deceased Mujtihid. Taqleed who is the most knowledgeable, whether alive or deceased, should be followed.
Issue 7: Initially, it is not allowed to begin Taqleed of a deceased Mujtahid, even if he was more knowledgeable than all living Mujtahids.
Issue 8: If a Mujtahid does not have a ruling on a particular issue, or if it is not possible for the follower to obtain the ruling, then the follower is to follow the ruling of another Mujtahid on that issue by identifying the next most knowledgeable after his/her Mujtahid.