The Holy Quran is a book of guidance and a sea of knowledge for those…
It is reported that the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “Seeking knowledge [of religion] is an obligation upon every Muslim, indeed, God loves the seekers of knowledge.”1 Among the unequivocal and most evident obligations of a Muslim is learning the rules of Islam, and by doing so, they can fulfill their religious duties that are prescribed in the Holy Quran and the honorable traditions of the Holy Prophet and his purified progeny (pbut).
Method of Acquiring Islamic Rulings
Deriving Islamic rulings from their sources is a process that entails a profound textual study of God’s Holy Book and the authentic narrations of the Prophet and his purified progeny (pbut). In other words, a person must be equipped with a high level of knowledge and expertise in identifying the meanings of Islamic texts, and this requires a thorough study of various subjects including, but not limited to, Arabic grammar, syntax, and morphology; rhetoric or the written manner spoken and visual language is used; logic (mantiq); theology(kalam); commentary of the Holy Quran (tafsir); and principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh). Naturally, this type of pursuit would not be practical for many people, nor would it serve the productivity of a well-functioning society, which requires a diversity of specialties (i.e., medicine, engineering, law). Moreover, the practical method of rational people throughout history is to seek guidance and advice in any given matter from those who have expertise. For example, when a person encounters a legal issue, they reach out to a law firm and consult an attorney. Similarly, when someone requires medical attention they resort to a physician, or they go to a mechanic when they experience a problem with their vehicle. Alluding to this approach, Imam al-Sadiq (p) is reported to have said, “The people of every land are in need of three [types of experts] to resort to in the affairs of their world and hereafter, if they lose them, they become rabble; a pious religious scholar, a qualified governor whom [people] obey, and a wise and trusted medical expert.”2 As such, the required and effective approach in acquiring religious rulings is to emulate an expert in deriving Islamic rulings.3 This practical solution is clearly highlighted in the Holy Quran: “Not all believers have to become specialists in religious learning. Why do not some people from each group of believers seek to become specialists in religious learning.”4 In fact, this is the rational approach towards every specialized issue a person encounters, and although we admit and accept, for example, that we cannot treat ourselves for a grave medical condition like cancer, we refuse to do so for our religious practices, which are the most crucial elements of not only this life but the hereafter as well.
Conditions of a Qualified Jurist
In every field of expertise there are precise criteria and conditions that define a qualified expert. As such, Islam prescribes a number of required conditions that must be met in order for a jurist to be qualified for emulation.5 The jurist must be a living Muslim follower of Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) who has reached the level of ijtihad,6 and he must possess a high level of piety. Furthermore, when there are multiple jurists who meet the conditions, one must emulate the most learned.
Identifying the Most Learned Jurist
To identify the most learned jurist, one must search the opinion of the experts from the main Islamic seminaries (i.e., Najaf, Qom) who are themselves well known for their knowledge and piety. It is enough to consult one expert provided that their testimony does not oppose that of an equally qualified expert, and that a person attains contentment about the identity of the most learned from the testimony. Moreover, a person can resort to any rational means through which they attain contentment, such as referring to widely spread news from the righteous and prominent scholars and teachers in the Islamic seminaries who are known for their justness and piety. Alternatively, especially for those who reside in the Western parts of the world or the areas that are far from the Islamic seminaries, a person may rely on the reports of a qualified pious scholar who is endorsed by the Islamic seminaries and who is capable of accessing qualified experts who can identify the most learned.
Obtaining the Edicts of the Jurist
After identifying the most learned jurist, one must learn the rulings that are applicable to their daily worship and transactions by referring to reliable sources. It is very important to rely on trusted sources only, especially with the presence of widely disseminated and easy-to-access digital networks where anyone can spread information without scrutiny, regardless of credibility or authenticity. Thus, among the reliable means through which a person can gain contentment is to contact the jurist through their authorized offices, representatives, official websites, or by reading their practical treatise, which is also known as the manual of Islamic laws. Additionally, one may resort to a trusted source such as a local resident scholar or even any believer who is acquainted with Islamic rulings if one is able to gain contentment from their report.
A believer should be very keen on learning the Islamic rulings that are relevant to them, especially rulings on acts of worship. For example, a person would want to know such things as whether they had been performing their ablution (wudu) correctly, whether they had been starting and ending their fasts at the right times, under what circumstances they must go to hajj, and so forth. That way they could be certain that they are performing these important rituals correctly and could learn what expiations they would have to perform if they had not been correct.
1. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 1, p. 30.
2. Al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-uqul, p. 321.
3. Also known as a jurist (faqih).
4. The Holy Quran 9:122, Muhammad Sarwar translation.
5. Emulation is to act according to the edicts of a qualified jurist in matters of Islamic law.
6. The established ability to derive Islamic rulings from the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet and his purified progeny (pbut).
1. روي عن رسول الله (ص): “طلبُ العلمِ فريضةٌ على كلِّ مسلم، ألَا إنَّ اللهَ يحبُّ بُغاةَ العِلْم”
2. روي عن الإمام الصادق (ع): “لا يستغني أهلُ كل!ِ بلدٍ عن ثلاثةٍ يُفزَعُ إليهم في أمرِ دنياهم وآخرتهم، فإنْ عُدموا ذلك كانوا هَمَجاً: فقيهٌ عالمٌ ورعٌ، وأميرٌ خيّرٌ مُطاعٌ، وطبيبٌ بصيرٌ ثقةٌ”.
4. قال تعالى: ﴿وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُوا كَافَّةً ۚ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ﴾