1. A person’s belief in the fundamentals of Islam must be based on his own research and knowledge. TaqlÐd—following others in an issue without knowledge of the issue—in these fundamentals is invalid. In issues other than these, including those which are not self-evident nor amongst the necessities of the religion, and also in issues which necessitate deduction from primary sources, one has to either be:
a. A mujtahid who can deduce his responsibility from the primary sources;
b. A muqallid who acts according to the verdict of a mujtahid, the conditions of whom will be mentioned later;
c. A muÎtÁt who acts in a precautionary manner which ensures that he has fulfilled his responsibility. For example, if a number of mujtahids consider an act to be prohibited while others consider it to be permissible, he should abstain from performing it. Similarly, if some mujtahids consider an act to be obligatory while others deem it to be permissible, he should perform the act.
Hence, a person who is not a mujtahid and is not able to act on precaution either, must to do taqlÐd of a mujtahid.
2. In the issues alluded to previously, taqlÐd in religious laws means to act according to the verdict of a mujtahid. Such a mujtahid, whose verdicts have authority for a muqallid, should be male, sane, a twelver Shi’a, of legitimate birth, just, alive—even if the muqallid was a discerning child during the mujtahid’s lifetime—and based on obligatory precaution he should also be bÁligh.
A just person is one who performs the acts which are obligatory upon him and abstains from the ones which are prohibited. The sign of being just is that one is apparently of good character, such that if one were to inquire about him from the people in his area, his neighbors or those who have had social interactions with him, they would attest to his good character.
In the event that a person knows in a general manner of a difference in the verdicts of the mujtahids in the precepts that concern him, then the mujtahid whom he follows should be the most learned. The most learned mujtahid is one who is better than all the mujtahids of the time at understanding the laws of God, and the injunctions ordained by the intellect and the sharia. This applies unless the verdict of the one who is not the most learned conforms to precaution.
3. A mujtahid or the most learned mujtahid can be identified through one of the following ways:
a. A person himself attains certainty that a particular individual is a mujtahid or the most learned one, such as a person who is of an adequate scholarly capacity to identify a mujtahid or the most learned one;
b. Two just scholars who are capable of identifying a mujtahid or the most learned one, attest that a particular individual is a mujtahid or the most learned one, provided that their testimony is not contradicted by that of two (other) just scholars. In fact, a mujtahid or the most learned one can be identified through the testimony of one trustworthy expert only when there is no reasonable doubt that his word is inaccurate;
c. A group of scholars who can identify a mujtahid or the most learned one, and their opinion brings about satisfaction, attest that an individual is a mujtahid or the most learned one.
4. If one knows—albeit in a general manner—of a difference in the verdicts of two or more mujtahids, in the event that he personally has knowledge of them being equal in knowledge, or a religious authority is established to that effect, he should act according to the verdict of one whose verdict coincides with precaution. If the verdict of neither of them coincides with precaution, such as the case wherein one mujtahid obligates a complete prayer while the other obligates qaÒr (shortened prayers), he should act on precaution by performing both.
If acting on precaution is not possible, such as a case wherein one mujtahid obligates an act while another prohibits it, or acting upon precaution entails hardship, he should act upon the verdict of one who is more wary in issuing verdicts. If they both be equal in this respect as well, he is free to choose between them.
The ruling is the same in cases other than these, be it the case wherein the presence of the most learned is substantiated but not determined in any particular individual, or the case wherein the presence of the most learned is considered probable, provided that acting upon precaution is possible and does not entail hardship.
If acting upon precaution is not possible or it entails hardship, in the event that the presence of a most learned is known but not individualized, if the probability of being more learned is greater in one individual, he should act upon his verdicts. If they both or all be equal in this respect, then based on precaution he should act according to the verdict of the one who is more wary in issuing verdicts. If they also be the same in this respect as well, he is free to choose between them.
In the event that the presence of a more learned is considered probable, based on precaution he should act upon the verdicts of one whom he reasonably speculates or considers it possible that he be the most learned, or the probability of that individual being the most learned is higher. If none of these are possible, based on obligatory precaution he should act upon the verdicts of one who is more wary in issuing verdicts. If they be equal in this respect as well, he is free to choose between them.
5. There are four ways of acquiring the verdicts of a mujtahid:
a. Hearing it from the mujtahid himself;
b. Hearing it from two just individuals who relate the verdict of the mujtahid;
c. Hearing it from a trustworthy and reliable person, provided that there is no strong reason to assume otherwise, or he attains satisfaction with respect to his statement;
d. Seeing it in the risÁlah (book of Islamic laws) of a mujtahid, provided one is satisfied with the accuracy of the risÁlah.
6. One can continue to act upon the verdict of a mujtahid as long as he is not certain that it has changed. If he speculates that the verdict may have changed, it is not necessary for him to investigate.
7. If the most learned mujtahid issues a verdict on an issue, one who has the responsibility to act upon that mujtahid’s verdict cannot refer to another mujtahid on that issue. However if he does not issue a verdict and states that based on precaution one should act in a certain manner—for example, if he states that based on precaution one should recite the tasbÐÎÁt al-arba‘h three times in the third and fourth rak‘ah of the prayers—the follower should either act upon that precaution, which is the obligatory precaution, or act upon the verdict of a mujtahid who is the most learned after him and that mujtahid states that reciting the tasbÐÎÁt once is sufficient. The ruling is also the same in cases wherein the mujtahid states that a ruling is open to further reflection or is problematic.
In the case of recommended or reprehensible acts which have been mentioned in this book, one should perform them with the intention of rajÁ’ .
8. If a mujtahid issues a precautionary verdict before or after issuing a definite verdict—for example, if he were to state that washing a najis vessel once in kurr water renders it ÔÁhir, although based on precaution it should be washed three times—his follower may forgo acting upon that precaution, which is a recommended precaution.
9. If the mujtahid whom one was responsible to follow passes away, in the event that he ascertains the mujtahid who is alive to be more learned than the one who passed away, and is aware of a difference—albeit in a general manner—in the verdicts of the two mujtahids, it is obligatory for him to refer to the one who is alive. In the event that he knows of the mujtahid who passed away to be the most learned, and does not establish for himself that the living mujtahid is more learned, he must continue to act upon the verdicts of the one who has passed away, irrespective of whether he had obligated himself to act upon the mujtahid’s verdicts while he was alive or not, or had actually acted upon them or not, or had knowledge of those verdicts or not.
10. If a person’s responsibility in a particular issue is to act upon the verdicts of a living mujtahid, he cannot once again refer to the verdicts of one who has passed away.
11. It is obligatory for a person to learn the verdicts of the issues which he commonly faces in his day to day life.
12. If a person comes across an issue for which he does not know the ruling, he should act upon precaution, or do taqlÐd based on the aforementioned conditions. However, if he is aware, in his daily affairs, of a difference in the verdicts of a mujtahid who is the most learned and the one who is not—albeit in a general manner— and the verdict of the most learned is not accessible to him, in the event that he cannot delay the action until he acquires the verdict, or delaying it entails hardship, he can act upon the verdict of one who is not the most learned.
13. If a person informs another of the verdict of a mujtahid and the verdict then changes, it is not necessary for him to inform the other person of the change. However, if he realizes after informing the other person that he made a mistake in relating the verdict, and it leads to contravening a compulsory ruling, he must rectify his error if it is possible to do so.
14. If the actions of a mukallaf (one subject to religious obligations) who performed his actions without doing taqlÐd for a certain period were according to the real verdict or the verdict of the mujtahid whom he is currently responsible to follow, his actions are valid.