Within this question, two points must be discussed: i) how a muqallid (one who does taqlid) chooses which Marja’ to follow and ii) how the Maraaji’ themselves attain that position.
i) What are some circumstances through which one can choose a Marja’ to follow?
A) When a person is certain that a particular person is a mujtahid, or the most learned one. For this, he should be a learned person himself in the field of Islamic jurisprudence, and should possess the capacity to identify a Mujtahid or an A’lam (most learned).
B) When two persons, who are learned and just and possess the capacity to identify a Mujtahid or the A’lam, confirm that a person is a Mujtahid or an A’lam, provided that two other learned and just persons do not contradict them. In fact, being a Mujtahid or an A’lam can also be established by a statement of only one trusted and reliable person.
C) When a number of learned persons who possess the capacity to identify a Mujtahid or an A’lam, certify that a particular person is a Mujtahid or an A’lam, provided that one is satisfied by their statement.
ii) The characteristics of a Marja’ must include being:
- Shia Ithna Ash’ari
- Of legitimate birth
- Just (adil) (A person is said to be just when he performs all those acts which are obligatory upon him, and refrains from all those things which are forbidden to him. And the sign of being just is that one is apparently of a good character, so that if enquiries are made about him from the people of his locality, or from his neighbors, or from those persons with whom he lives, they would confirm his good conduct.)
Currently the most learned Mara’ji of our time include:
- Ayatullah Sayyid ‘Ali Sistani (Iraq)
- Ayatullah Shaykh Wahid Khurasani (Iran)
- Ayatullah Sayyid ‘Ali Khamane’i (Iran)
- Ayatullah Shaykh Fazil Lankarani (Iran) = deceased
- Ayatullah Shaykh Jawad Tabrizi (Iran) = deceased
- Ayatullah Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi (Iran)
Al-Seestani, A. (2013, January 24). Taqlid: Following a Mujtahid. Retrieved from https://www.al-islam.org/islamic-laws-ayatullah-ali-al-husayni-al-sistani/taqlid-following-mujtahid
Rizvi, M., & Rasheed, A. (1997, October 27). Retrieved from https://www.al-islam.org/organizations/AalimNetwork/msg00464.html