Some people who are genuinely concerned say:
"...there are going to be 73 sects in Islam by the end of time. Only one is going to be right. We the Sunni's are already divided into four main madhabs. All four cannot be right..."
AN EXPLANATION HERE THUS IS IMPERATIVE
What is Taqlid or Ittiba ?
Taqlid or Ittiba' is Wajib (compulsory) upon Muslims.
Yet there are many Muslims in the present age who have hardly heard of the words Taqlid or Ittiba'. Others who may have heard about it, do not fully comprehend or understand its meaning. This has led to people even rejecting Taqlid - thereby rejecting a Wajib. As a general rule, man is suspicious and afraid of that which he does not know. Therefore a proper understanding of the issue of Taqlid or Ittiba' would dispel the ignorance surrounding it, InshaAllah.
Taqlid is a part of everyday life. Taqlid or Ittiba' in essence, simply refers to the practice of an unqualified, lay person submitting to and accepting the authority of an expert in that field, without demanding proof and justification for every view, opinion or verdict expressed by such an expert authority.
This is a natural state of human existence, practised by millions of people worldwide in every facet of life. The simplest and most tangible example of Taqlid or Ittiba' is that of a child learning his basic alphabets at school. Every child learning his alphabets is unconsciously practising Taqlid. A learner driver taking instructions from a driving instructor is practising Taqlid. People going to a specialist doctor for medical treatment and following his instructions is another glaring example of Taqlid or Ittiba'. A lay person soliciting a legal opinion from an advocate or following the advice of a tax consultant is another common case of Taqlid. A client at an engineering firm, asking for the engineer's advice on complex engineering calculations is yet another instance of Taqlid or Ittiba in action.
The millions of 'facts' in the myriad of sciences such as astronomy, archaeology, etc. are all distinct examples of Taqlid or Ittiba'. Who ever questions the 'fact' or asks for proof that the sun is really 93 million miles away from the earth! It is taken for granted that this is the findings of the experts in these fields and everyone simply accepts it as such. School teachers teach these to their pupils as facts and children learn and memorise these facts with the hope of succeeding in their exams.
There are countless such examples of Taqlid or Ittiba' in everyday existence. It is quite clear from the above, that Taqlid or Ittiba' is a natural way of life, and is not specific to Islam or Islamic Fiqh alone. Taqlid is the easy option for ordinary people.
In the context of Islamic Fiqh or Law, Taqlid or Ittiba' simply refers to accepting and following the verdicts of expert scholars of Islamic Fiqh in their exposition and interpretation of Islamic Law, without demanding from them an in-depth explanation of the intricate processes required in arriving at such a verdict, called Ijtihad.
It simply means that ordinary folk do not have to do Ijtihad, i.e. the intricate and complicated procedures involved in deriving Islamic rulings that scholars exercise when issuing a Fatwa (legal verdict). The duty of ordinary people is to trustingly accept the authority of the learned scholars in this matter and act upon their verdicts.
In this sense, Taqlid is a great blessing for common people, for it is beyond their capacity to understand the extremely complex and complicated mechanics of Ijtihad. The ability to do Ijtihad requires many long years of study and erudition and a great deal of exertion (Ijtihad means to exert one self) in acquiring a mastery of various Islamic sciences, among other varying requirements.