Category Archives: Principles for the non-Mujtahid.

What should the layman do when he cannot find a mujtahid?

(Part 10)

7. What should the layman do when he cannot find a mujtahid?

The scholars have differed about what the layman should do if he cannot find a mujtahid to ask. Some scholars are of the view that he should implement the ruling that was known in previous scriptures. Others believe this matter should be treated in accordance to what someone should do when the mujtahid cannot find an answer to the apparent conflict of evidences, whilst others are of the view that he should fear Allāh (swt) as much as he possibly can.

However, in reality this matter is extremely rare in this era due to the availability of technology and means of communication. So if a person is in the USA or the UK he can easily contact a scholar from the KSA for example. So praise be to Allāh (swt) who made such means available to us to help us worship Him.[1]

8. Making Taqlīd (blind-following) to someone who is known to be negligent (Mutasāhil)[2]

If a layman knows that a particular mujtahid is negligent in deriving rulings it becomes prohibited for him to act upon his verdicts. This is because the layman acts in accordance to the statement of a mujtahid due to his belief that the mujtahid’s statement is likely to be in accordance with the actual ruling of the sharīʿah. Therefore, if a person is known for being negligent in passing fatāwa then the layman should assume that the fatwa is likely not be in accordance with the ruling of the sharīʿah. Thus the very ʿillah (legal reasoning) that made acting in accordance with his verdict being obligatory becomes void.[3]

[1] Sharh al Kawkab al Munīr 4/553,  al Musawwadah p.550 etc.

[2] The Mutasāhil is someone who passes verdicts without researching adequately into the matter.

[3] Sharh al Kawkab al Munīr 4/588, al Majmūʿ 1/81 etc.

6.Who should the layman ask when there are a number of mujtahidūn?

6.Who should the layman ask when there are a number of mujtahidūn?

(part 9)

The majority of the scholars viewed the permissibility of a layman to ask any mujtahid when there are a number of them, and to act upon his verdict whether he be the more distinguished and virtuous amongst them or not. They cited as proof for that a number of different evidences such as:

“And ask the people of remembrance if you do not know.” (an-naḥl: 43).

The mujtahid who is less distinguished and learned (mafḍūl) is considered to be from the people of remembrance and so it is permissible to ask him.

Also, according to the consensus (ijmāʿ) of the salaf, the mafḍūl can pass verdicts whilst the more distinguished and learned scholar (fāḍil) is existent. This reality became a well-known matter and continued to exist without any form of condemnation and thus it became a consensus i.e. to ask the mafḍūl for fatwa whilst it was possible to ask the fāḍil.

The scholars also cited as proof that at times the layman cannot outweigh opinions (tarjīḥ) due to his inadequacy. This is because tarjīḥ between individual scholars requires ijtihād and knowledge.

However, the last point can be objected to since the ability to make tarjīḥ between scholars can be possible for the layman if he carefully listened to their arguments and constantly referred back to the scholars (with rebuttals etc), or due to the multiplicity of scholars that adopt a particular view or by other scholars giving preference to that view.[1]

[1] See: Sharḥ al Kawkab al Munīr: (4/571), al Majmūʿ 1/94, al Musawwadah p.462, al Mustaṣfā 2/390 etc.

5. What should the layman do when the scholars he asks differ?


(This part of an ongoing translation of Sheikh Shithrī’s treatise pertaining laws and principles for the non-Mujtahid).

(Part 8)

If a layman asks a group of scholars a question and their answers differ from one another, it becomes incumbent upon his to give preference to one of the opinions based upon the righteousness and scrupulousness of the scholar. This is because there is no other distinguishing way to choose between the variant opinions and also because it is more likely that the more righteous and scrupulous scholar is, the more likely he will be correct. Therefore it is not permissible for him to go against what he thinks is most likely to be correct.

Also, one of the two opinions is bound to be incorrect since the truth will always lie in only one of the opinions. Therefore, when there is a conflict of views the layman must adopt an opinion that is more likely to be correct in accordance to the righteousness and scrupulousness of the scholar just as the mujtahid must choose the strongest of two evidences.

The layman is required to follow the law of Allāh (swt) and it is not possible for him to know what the law of Allāh (swt) is unless he knows the statement of the scholars. Therefore, if he comes across a variety of different opinions, he must act in accordance to what he thinks is the law of Allāh (swt), whether that be due to the great number of scholars that adopt a particular opinion or due to the virtue and righteousness of them or due to the evidence that is available to him.[1]

[1] Sharḥ al Kawkab al Munīr 4/573, al Majmū’ 1/97, al Mustaṣfā 2/391, al Muwāfaqāṭ 4/132.

Who is entitled to be asked by the layman?

(Part 7)

2.    Who is entitled to be asked by the layman?

If a layman falls into a situation and wants to know the Islamic ruling regarding it by asking someone, he must be aware that not every individual is qualified to be asked such questions. Rather there are specific conditions which must be fulfilled in order to qualify to be asked. From amongst these conditions: He must have knowledge of the evidences of the shari’ah in general and in detail. He also must be capable of applying the principles of usul to the evidences. However, there still remains a pertinent question: how can a layman know whether the person he asks has met all the conditions of ijtihad?

The scholars have mentioned a number of ways how the layman can know that:

  1. 1.    The layman may have known from before that the person he asked was known for his knowledge and integrity.
  2. 2.    The one asked could hold an official position of giving fatwa or teaching as well as being generally respected by people. This is all an indication of his competence to issue verdicts. This is especially true if the layman knew that nobody holds such an official position unless they are a mujtahid, otherwise they would not hold such a position.
  3. 3.    A person of integrity and experience could inform the layman about the scholar’s competence.
  4. 4.    It could be the case that it is widely accepted that the scholar is qualified to issue verdicts.
  5. 5.    Referring back to scholars regarding his statements and verdicts.

If the layman does not know whether the person he asks is qualified to do ijtihad, then he should not be asked. In addition to that, the layman must feel contentment and feel assured that the fatwa he is given is in accordance with the ruling of Allah (swt).[1]


3.      Adhering to the fatwa of a mujtahid.

If a layman acted upon a fatwa that was issued to him by a mujtahid regarding a particular circumstance, it is binding upon him to continue acting upon it. In addition to that, it is not permissible for him to go back on the fatwa for another fatwa in that issue. A consensus has been reported regarding this[2] unless the layman knew that the fatwa opposed the shar’i evidences.

If the layman however did not act upon the fatwa of the mujtahid, then it is not binding upon him to adhere to it, unless he believed it to be in accordance with the ruling of Allah (swt) in that issue. In such a situation it will be compulsory for him to act in accordance to that fatwa.[3]

4. What the layman should do if the mujtahid he initially asked changed his opinion.

What should a layman do if a mujtahid issued a verdict regarding a matter to him and then changed his opinion? Should the layman remain upon the original fatwa or should be act in accordance with the new ijtihad? In such a case, he will fall into one of two situations:

  1. Either he had acted upon the original ijtihad, which would imply the permissibility for him to remain upon the initial ruling and it not being compulsory to act according to the new ijtihad. This is because it is from the established principles that an “ijtihad is not annulled by another ijtihad.” An example of that being if a judge passed a ruling and then changed his opinion thereafter.
  2. Or he had not acted upon the initial ijtihad. In this situation he should act upon the second ijtihad and not the first.[4]


[1] Sharh al Kawkab al Muneer 4/574.

[2] Sharh al Kawkab al Muneer 4/579, Tayseer at-Tahreer 4/53.

[3] Ibid 4/580.

[4] Ibid. 4/512.

Etiquettes of the layman with the mufti.

(Part 6)

Chapter two: The Fundamental Principles that a layman must learn with regard to seeking a fatwa (istiftaa’)


Etiquettes of the layman with the mufti.

There are a number of characteristics that the layman must adorn himself with when dealing with a scholar. From amongst the more prominent ones:

  1. He must observe good manners with him.
  2. He should honour and respect him. Thus it is not deemed correct that a person behaves with him like the way people usually behave with one another such as pointing with one’s finger to his face or to say inappropriate words.
  3. He should not ask him questions when he seems to be irritated, worried or angry etc.
  4. Some scholars mentioned that it is not befitting for the layman to ask the scholar for the evidence of his judgement in the same gathering where the question was asked. This is in order to prevent a sense of distrust with his statement whereas the legislator has commanded him to ask him and act in accordance with his statement. Moreover, it is possible that the layman may not understand the evidence or how the ruling is extracted from it. It has also been stated that it is permissible for the layman to ask for the evidence without there being any dislike. This is on condition that the person asks earnestly wanting to know the correct position without being obstinate and stubborn. In such a situation the scholar should supply the evidence if it is very decisive in meaning and easily comprehendible by most minds.[1]


[1] Sharh al Kawkab al Muneer 4/593, al Faqeeh wal Mutafaqqih 2/98-180.

3. How to arrive at a ruling.

(Part 5).

3.    How to arrive at a ruling.

A mukallaf who faces a particular circumstance and wants to know the ruling of Allah (swt) regarding it will fall into one of two situations:

  1. Either he is capable of doing ijtihad, thus necessitating that he derive the ruling from the evidences by using the principles of usul.
  2. Or he is not capable of doing ijtihad. In this situation he has to become acquainted with the ruling by asking the scholars.[1]There is ample evidence to prove this point:
    1.                                                i.     The saying of Allah: “Then ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.” (an-Nahl: 43). Here Allah (swt) commands those with no knowledge to ask the people of knowledge.
    2.                                               ii.     Allah also says: “For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.” (at-Tawbah:122).
    3.                                             iii.     The hadith of the one who acted recklessly and asked the people of knowledge resulting in them issuing a fatwa for him. The Prophet (saw) was aware of this and did not condemn him asking. [2]
    4.                                             iv.     The saying of the Prophet (saw): “Why did they not ask if they did not know? For indeed the cure to ignorance is to ask.”[3] Ash-Shatibi said: “If a muqallid comes across a matter pertaining to the religion then he has no choice except to ask about it.”[4]



[1] At-Tahmeed 4/399. Al Musawwadah p.459.

[2] Agreed upon.

[3] Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah & others.

[4] al Muwafaqat: 4/261.

2. The reason why the mukallaf adheres to shar’i rulings.

(Part 4)

2. The reason why the mukallaf[1] adheres to shar’i rulings.

It is from the mercy of Allah (swt) to His servants that He has made the application of shar’i rulings a means to obtain the benefit & welfare of creation in both the dunya and the hereafter. Thus, it is considered that the shar’i rulings are mu’allalah[2]for the welfare of creation as an act of generosity from Allah and as an act of mercy for his servants.

The specific reason behind an action could sometimes be apparent to the mukallaf whereas at times it could be obscure or sometimes unknown to him. [3]

It is important to note however, that it is not befitting for the mukallaf to implement a ruling with the sole intention of attaining a worldly gain from it. Rather it is imperative that he intends by that action to please Allah (swt) and to obtain reward in the hereafter.

Thus if a person intended by an action worldly gains only, he will not deserve any reward in the hereafter[4]as Allah said:

Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornments – We fully repay them for their deeds therein, and they therein will not be deprived. Those are the ones for whom there is not in the Hereafter but the Fire. And lost is what they did therein, and worthless is what they used to do.”(11:15-16).

“Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished.” (17:18).

If a person purely intends by his action worldly gains, he will fall into one of two categories:

  1.       I.     Either the action is a type of worship that can only be considered an act of worship like prayer for example. In this case the action will be invalid and will not be legally recognised.
  2.     II.     Or the action could be considered to be an act of worship or other than that such as providing for one’s family, keeping family ties and leaving prohibited matters. In this case the action will be valid (saheeh) by which the obligation is fulfilled and the sin removed. However he will not deserve the reward for that in the hereafter.

[1] Someone who is legally responsible. (T).

[2] A ruling where its specific reason is intelligible. (T).

[3] Qawaa’id al Ahkaam 1/43

[4] Tayseer al ‘Azeez al Hameed 475, Fath al Majeed 333.

The ruling of doing an act whilst not knowing its ruling.

(Part 3)

Chapter One

1.    The ruling of doing an act whilst not knowing its ruling.

The scholars have determined that it is obligatory upon a person to know the ruling of every action before they do it in order to be sure that it is not prohibited. A consensus has been mentioned about the prohibition of doing an action whilst not knowing its ruling.[1]

It was reported that Umar bin al Khattab (ra) would not permit anyone who did not know the rulings of buying and selling to trade in the market. He used to say: “No one should trade in our markets unless he has learnt the fiqh of the religion (tafaqqaha fid-deen).”[2]

The scholars have also mentioned that if a particular country did not have a mufti and it was not possible for the layman to consult mujtahideen; it becomes obligatory upon him to make hijrah and it is not permissible for him to remain in such a country.[3]

However, in reality this issue does not apply to today’s circumstances due to the widespread availability of modern means of communication.

[1] Kashshaf al Qinaa’ 3/135, Matalib Uli an-Nuhaa 3/3, Hashiyah ar-Rawdh al Murbi’ 4/325.

[2] Tirmidhi, 487.

[3] Al Musawwadah p.550, al Majmoo’ 1/94, Mudhakkirah fi ‘ilm al Usul p.4.

The Benefits of Learning general Usul al Fiqh For the Layman

(Part 2 – all new posts related to this topic will be added to the Principles for the non-Mujtahid page.)

The Benefits of Learning general Usul al Fiqh For the Layman

Since it is incumbent upon the layman to learn some of the fundamental usuli principles it should be known that this entails great benefits. From amongst them:

  1. The knowledge of usul is a shar’i knowledge and therefore the reward for seeking sacred knowledge can be obtained with a sound intention.
  2. The knowledge of usul can help to qualify a person to extract/obtain shar’i rulings and thus rise from the level of a layman to the level of the mujtahid.
  3. The knowledge of usul gives a person the ability to understand shar’i texts.
  4. The knowledge of usul clarifies the technical terms that the scholars use in their verdicts and works.
  5. The knowledge of usul enables a person to be more precise with their choice of words thus one will use the exact words that convey the intended meaning.
  6. The knowledge of usul gives a layman a sense of confidence in the validity of the ijtihad of the mujtahid who he follows.
  7. The knowledge of usul clarifies how one should pose questions to the scholars and also clarifies who is entitled to be asked.[1]

[1] To see further benefits refer to the book: Diraasat fi Muqaddimaat ‘ilm Usul al Fiqh p.162 & Usul al Fiqh, al Bahseen. P.128.