Is Taqleed The Only Option For The Common Person?

Shaikh Muhammad Naasirud-Deen al-Albanee (rahimahullah)

Does the common person even have the ability to refer to the proofs of
the scholars or is Taqleed (blind following) his only option?

Common people are not all the same when it comes to comprehending the
meanings of the texts of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. The assumption that a
common person has absolutely no ability to distinguish between the strength of
arguments in two opposing positions of scholars is incorrect. In the words of
Shaikh al-Albanee (rahimahullah),

‘Scholars do not disagree concerning the obligation upon the common people to
imitate their scholars. They are the ones mentioned in the verse, ‘And ask the
knowledgeable about it.’

Scholars agree that the blind must follow others, whom he trusts, if he seeks to
know the direction of the Qiblah (direction of prayer) when he cannot find it by
himself. Likewise, those who are ignorant and are not capable of understanding
the religion, have to follow their scholars. Also, the scholars do not disagree on
the issue of not allowing the commoner to issue a fatawa. This is because
commoners do not understand the meanings of evidences that detail permissible
or impermissible acts nor do they know knowledge in general.’

‘However, I believe that to generalize about commoners, saying that they all
must perform Taqleed, is invalid. Taqleed is following sayings of others without
evidence to prove these sayings. Many smart commoners can clearly understand
evidence if it is presented to them. Who can deny that a commoner can
understand the evidence contained in the Hadeeth, ‘Tayammum (performing dry
ablution with sand when water is scarce) is one strike (on the sand) for the face
and hands!’ Even those people, who are of minor comprehension, can
understand this Hadeeth.

Therefore, the truth is that we must say that Taqleed is
allowed for whoever cannot search for or understand the evidence. Allah does
not burden any soul but with what it can bear. Ibnul-Qayyim said that which is in
agreement with this rule. Even scholars are forced to indulge in Taqleed
sometimes, when a scholar cannot find a text from Allaah or His Messenger, but
only sayings of more knowledgeable scholars.
Therefore, this scholar will be forced to refer to Taqleed. Imam Shafa’ee referred to Taqleed in some matters.
This is why Ibnul-Qayyim said, ‘And this is the way of people of knowledge. It is
also an obligation. Taqleed is permitted for whoever has no other choice. As for
those who refer to Taqleed and shun the Qur’aan, the Sunnah, sayings of the
companions and searching for evidence, they are like the one, who prefers to eat
the meat of a dead animal (not sacrificed according to Islamic Law) to a duly
sacrificed animal. Correctly, one must not accept sayings of anyone without
proof. Followers of men, made Taqleed, which is the exception, their first
[Al-Hadeeth Hujjah bi-Nafsihi fil-Aqeedah wal-Ahkaam, by Muhammad Nasiruddeen al-Albanee]