Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuHu,
After Allah’s saying, “Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know,” (Surah al-Nahl: 43) there is a scholarly consensus (from the companion’s generation) related on the permissibility of taqlid. In al-Bahr al-Muhit 8/327, Zarkashi related that Shaykh Abu Hamid mentioned there is no difference of opinion on that seeking certain types of knowledge are communal obligations: when some see to this task, the obligation falls away from others. If taqlid was not permissible, it would be necessary to count seeking all types of knowledge as a personal obligation. In the companions’ generation, they allowed the laity to seek religious edicts from scholars. They did not obligate everyone to reach the level of learning required to perform independent legal reasoning (ar: ijtihad). If ijtihad would be made obligatory on every Muslim it would prevent some from other pursuits that are necessary to maintain a coherent existence in the world; things such as medicine or trade would become non-existent due to the burden of such an obligation. The requisite skills and knowledge required to perform ijtihad are many and only some from the community are required to master them.
It is related that some scholars, like Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri (may Allah have mercy on him) held a differing opinion. He inclined to taqlid being prohibited and based his view on precedent found with earlier scholars, such as Imam Shafi’i. There are various statements from Imam Shafi’i related, like what is stated in the introduction to Mukhtasar al-Muzani. The As-hab al-Wujuh -from them is Abu Bakr al-Sayrafi- explained that Imam Shafi’s statement is specific to one who has reached the level of being able to perform independent level reasoning, but not specific to every Muslim. In fact, for one who has not reached this level, it is necessary for him to make taqlid. (Tashnif al-Masami’ 4/604)
And Allah knows best.
Answered by: Shaykh Yaqub Abdurrahaman