Sheikh Ibrâhîm Rahîm, professor at al-Imam University, Qasîm Branch
No one should entertain any doubt that Allah, in His infinite wisdom, has bestowed upon His servants different abilities and bestowed these abilities upon them to varying degrees. He has not obliged them all to focus on the same activities. In this way, humanity can carry out all of the duties required of them as the custodians and developers of the Earth.
With respect to Islamic legal rulings, there are some rulings that every legally accountable Muslim is responsible to know about. For instance, a Muslim needs to know how to carry out the required acts of worship in a proper manner and how to carry out his affairs properly. As for knowledge of Islamic Law to a greater depth than that, it is obligatory for some Muslims in society to possess it, but it is not the obligation of each and every individual.
Without a doubt, a layperson will not have the ability to deduce legal rulings from the texts or to engage in the exercise of juristic discretion (ijtihâd). Consequently, he has no choice but to follow someone else by way of taqlîd.
However, it is his duty to make every effort to ensure that the one he chooses to follow in matters of religion is more pious, more God-fearing, and more knowledgeable than himself. This can be determined by a person if he makes a proper effort to investigate the matter, just like he would for his worldly concerns. Matters of religion warrant even more thorough scrutiny.
In this day and age, matters have become quite confused with many sources of fatwâ available to the public. Because of this, caution must be exercised and anything that appears dubious must be avoided.
When a person is confronted with two conflicting rulings on a matter coming from two scholars of comparable repute, he should take the more cautious ruling. There is nothing wrong if he demands to know the evidence behind those rulings to help him to decide which of the two opinions to rely upon.
As for a scholar who is astray or who is engaged in innovations, it is categorically prohibited to accept legal rulings from him, even if his ruling is supported by evidence. The fact that he is a scholar of misguidance and innovation is enough reason to reject his statements. The scholars from amongst our pious predecessors warned against accepting Islamic legal rulings rulings from such people, because doing so affords them undue recognition, elevates their status, and increases their fame. This contradicts what the sacred texts instruct us to do regarding such people.
As for matters of faith and creed, the scholars point out to us that these are not matters wherein we are allowed to follow others. Every person must know the truth of such matters with the evidence for it. These matters, however, are all quite clear. They are the matters that Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamâ`ah have concurred upon regarding Allah, the Prophets, and matters of the Unseen. All of this has been preserved for us in an easy and clearly understandable manner.
This topic deserves to be dealt with in greater depth. Those who wish to investigate this topic further should refer to I`lâm al-Muwaqqi`în by Ibn al-Qayyim.
Source: Islam Today