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Every adherent of the faith cannot be expected to know all the minutest details about religion, nor be able to draw correct inferences from the Word of God (the Holy Qur’an), and the traditions of the Infallibles; therefore, the divinely prescribed course to guide a Muslim on the right path, as well as to protect him from going astray by misgivings from the ill-informed or less-informed, is Imitation (Taqleed).
In the light of following traditions, we can evaluate the profound importance of imitation.
Hazrat Imam Hassan Askari (P.B.U.H.) said: “And as for those amongst the qualified jurists who guards himself, protects his faith, opposes his illegitimate personal desires, and obeys his Lord, then it is necessary for the people to follow him.”
The Imam of the age (P.B.U.H.) said: “And as for those things which will occur (in the future during the Major Occultation), revert towards the narrators of our traditions, as they hold our authority over you all, and we hold God’s authority over them.”
Therefore, according to the above mentioned traditions, it is obligatory on everyone who has not reached the stage to make decisions regarding every detailed point in the laws of Islam, the Quran and the traditions, to follow a qualified jurist, who fulfils all the relevant conditions. Otherwise, all the acts of worships and all other acts in which Imitation is necessary would be void.
The detailed knowledge and understanding of divine laws, rules and regulations from the Quran and traditions, or from religious sources and evidence with proofs and reason is called Ijtihad, and imitating in religious laws means acting according to the verdicts of a qualified jurist.
Whoever has reached the stage of Ijtihad has to follow his own decisions; it is not permissible to him to follow anyone else. One who is not a qualified jurist himself, must follow a qualified jurist. Besides Ijtihad and Imitation, one can also act upon precaution, but it also almost as difficult as Ijtihad. So there remains the two ways, to be a qualified jurist or be an imitator (muqallid).