What is Imitation (Taqleed) and why this and on which person it's obligatory
The Religion and religiousness means that human characteristics whether they are personal traits or related to dealings with other people in his etiquette of behavior towards others, are directed using a certain patterns (Amoor). This pattern would be called the persons religion.
Allah (SWT) after setting all these traits and characteristics said that the closet religion to Him is the religion of Islam. And any human being who accepts/applies any religion other than Islam and any action he performs based on this religion would not be accepted by Him.
If we give a moment of thought we would come to the conclusion that it is human nature to follow a religion. Even if a person says he is without religion and is not bound to any religious teachings, he too would have certain traits or characteristics and this would be his religion.
Therefore, the need for religion is very basic to human nature and no one is free from this need. And the Creator of the universe, founder of nature only understands what the right religion is for the people. This Creator of the worlds sent prophets and messengers from Hazrat Adam (a.s) to the last Prophet (PBUH) for the sake of this religion.
In the long history of mankind the necessities of life and human skills have been viewed from a perspective of additional orders. In them there were additions and deletions over time based on the requirements. When the human culture and humanity reached a certain degree the Lord of the Worlds through the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) brought a religion which was a complete religion and took into account every aspect of human needs from an additional and fundamental point of view. All these religious commands/instructions were given in the form of the Quran, the Haadi of the Prophet (PBUH) and traditions of the Imams (a.s).
It is obvious that every human being cannot understand the Quran and he can’t understand the ups and downs of the traditions. To understand the commands/instructions in light of the verses of the Quran and through traditions it takes several years by committing yourself to lessons at the religious schools. So if it was incumbent on every human being to learn every aspect of religion the whole world would come to a standstill. The farmers would stop farming, the engineers would not be able to make machines, or aero planes, or buses, or cars etc. And the biggest thing of all is that there would be no more religion, because religion means that your necessities of life and your natural tendencies should be directed/fixed using revealed law. If it becomes incumbent on every individual to become a religious scholar all life would stop and this is not just associated to the knowledge of religion but to all forms of knowledge (necessities of life). If everyone becomes a doctor or engineer or a farmer everything else would stop functioning.
So this means to satisfy all the necessities of life, business and duties/ essentials are properly distributed. Some people would become doctors and people would benefit from them when they fall ill and would seek their assistance to use the right medicine. In the same manner some people would become farmers and some strive religious director (Mujtahid) to gain knowledge of the religion. Thus to fulfill the necessities of life a person should either become a religious scholar (Mujtahid) or should rely on a religious scholar. This reliance on a scholar is called Taqleed. And if this is explained further in this way that Allah (SWT) has created man as a sum of two parts. The first is the body and the second is the spirit (Nafs), when both work together harmoniously it is called life and when they are separated from each other it is called death.
The same way a person is not allowed by his brain/logic or revealed law (Shariah) to treat himself of illness or prescribe himself medicine by his own will in the absence of a doctor. In the same way to cure the illness of the spirit (Nafs) or to rectify his spirit (Nafs) a scholar of the religion is necessary, because he is the doctor of the spirit (Nafs).
Taqleed is a natural instinct and that is why it is found referenced in the Quran, and the traditions of Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s). The verses of Quran are referenced by several religious scholars.
From these it is mentioned in Surah Al Toubah:
(Al Toubah: 122)
From this verse it is completely clear that it is obligatory (wajib-e-Kifai) on the people that they should try and acquire the knowledge of religion and to guide people so that people follow their Muslim case law (fatawa)/(religious rulings) and gain escape (nijaat).
In the same way Allah (SWT) says:
This verse is mentioned in the Quran in two places. The first time in Surah Al Anbiya and the second time in Surah Al Nahal. From this verse it is clear that to fix/correct man’s actions it is obligatory (wajib) (incumbent) on the people to ask their problems (masaayl) to a keeper of knowledge (ahl-ul-Ilm). Although from some traditions it becomes apparent that scholar (ahl-e-zikr) refers to the Imams (a.s). But that tradition does not limit “ahl-ul-zikr” to just the Imams. That is why the religious scholars have regarding both verses as mutlaq. And in the same way there are many traditions from which it is proved that Taqleed is wajib/incumbent. From these traditions some traditions are such that in them the Masoom/infallibles have directed people towards certain scholars for marajiat and religious rulings and have ordered them to their Taqleed. In the same manner as Yunas bin Abd-ur-Rahman and Zakriya bin Adam and Yunas Sulah from...and Umari and his son. These traditions Sahib and Sail have declared as Mughasil writings. And some traditions are such that the Imam has ordered to address the Mujtahideen. Imam Zamana (a.s) says:-
This means it is obligatory (incumbent) (wajib) on the people should direct their problems to the scholars for crisis of culture or any other impending problems. Imam has made them a guide to the people. In the same way as the Imam is a guide to not just the scholar but to the whole world. And there are some traditions where the imam has given permission to his students to issue religious rulings (fatwas). Imam said to Aban bin Taghlab
And in the same way he mentioned to some Muslim when they asked him the methods of giving fatwas/religious rulings
It is evident that a man is not Masoom until he is a prophet or an imam and he will always be susceptible to failure or error no matter how big a scholar he becomes. So like a person for his physical illness goes to the most qualified doctor in the same way for religious direction for the treatment of his soul to find the way to Heaven and to save himself from Hell he should go to the biggest scholar. And to fulfill this requirement it is incumbent/wajib on him to contact people with knowledge and understanding and with their guidance to evaluate and search for the Marja and the people with knowledge should have the following characteristics:
1) He himself is a scholar or is near Ijtihad. Therefore anyone who is at the initial stages of gaining knowledge of the religious they don't have the right to comment on the choice of the scholar.
2) He must have had conversations on religion with several scholars or he must be aware of their religious learning. Therefore that person who doesn't have this pleasure it is not his right to claim to be an expert in choosing a scholar.
3) He should be active thinker and should not be fooled by appearances thunder and lightning (zarqbarq), national and asheerati dedication (intisab) and it is obvious that without this bright thinking (smartness) a person can't make the right choice.
4) That person is religious, practicing, Momin, and pious so that he doesn't get influenced by his personal opinion in making a decision.
To select an Aalim/Scholar you should go to such people who hold the above traits. And to select a scholar the other method is that in a knowledgeable society, the person who gains greatness and acknowledgement and is not enough to gain fame in the eyes of the people of the world because there are several reasons for such popularity. The third way is that the person should be an expert in religion and religious studies and should review marajiat on his own and the scholars himself.
It is obvious those people who live very far from Najaf Al Ashraf they and don't have access to these opinions (ways) although it is possible the first method is available but that person who can't inculcate these characteristics which are mentioned above within himself it is not incumbent for him to develop the thinking capabilities, law, manhaisiat-e-Insani and fool people and show himself as an expert on selection of a scholar.
Therefore in light of these circumstances it is important for Momineen that until they are unable to evaluate and select a scholar based on the above methods they should select a scholar (Mujtahid) and his taqleed who can give them correct guidance based on their necessities of life, way of life, culture and language. In that manner they will be able to learn about their religious duties. It should be remembered that doing taqleed.... is to fool oneself and in the name of religion is separation from religion.
I pray to Allah (SWT) that my Shia people especially those living in the subcontinent to give them the ability that they may follow Allah's religion correctly and to guide these afflicted people and to protect them from the guile of the devils (shayateen), men and jinn and to provide the opportunity to all the scholars and ability to serve the people. And to also provide this servant of the people more and continuous opportunities to serve the people.
Basheer Hussain Najafi
Najaf Ashraf, Iraq