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In the Qur'an, God exhorts us to "ask the people of the message if you do not know. [al-'Anbya' 7]" Taken literally and in context, "the people of the message" in this ayah seems to be referring to the ahl ul-kitab. I have, however, often seen it quoted as a clear Qur'anic evidence supporting and/or commanding the practice of taqlid.

How authentic is this claim? In particular, I would like to know if there are any direct correlations between 21:7 and taqlid in either the hadith literature or any of the major tafsir.

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What exactly do you mean by taqlid? is it like Taqlid the 4 Imams? –  Zeina Jan 29 '13 at 11:20
    
I alwasy thought the ones spoken to here are the ones who claim that Prophet (s.a.v) is an ordinary men like them. Quran says them earlier prophets were men like them too and asks unbelievers to ask people of message about it. –  yasar11732 Jan 29 '13 at 11:35
    
@zeina I mean taqlid as it's described on Wikipedia. In short, "following the decisions of a religious expert without necessarily examining the scriptural basis or reasoning of that decision." –  goldPseudo Jan 29 '13 at 15:58
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2 Answers

Yes it has a direct relation, see the followings:

source: البرهان في تفسير القرآن، ج‏3، ص: 802,803

علي بن إبراهيم، قال: آل محمد (عليهم السلام) هم أهل الذكر.

Ahlul Bayt --peace be upon them-- are those who posses the massage.

محمد بن العباس، قال: حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن سعيد، عن أحمد بن الحسن، عن أبيه، عن الحصين بن مخارق، عن سعد بن طريف، عن الأصبغ بن نباتة، عن أمير المؤمنين (عليه السلام)، في قوله عز و جل: فَسْئَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ. قال: «نحن أهل الذكر».

The commander of the believers --peace be upon him-- said about the saying of Allah that: "If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message" that "we are those who possess the Message"

ثم قال: حدثنا محمد بن جعفر، قال: حدثنا عبد الله بن محمد، عن أبي داود سليمان بن سفيان، عن ثعلبة، عن زرارة، عن أبي جعفر (عليه السلام)، في قوله: فَسْئَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ من المعنون بذلك؟ فقال: «نحن و الله». فقلت: فأنتم المسؤولون؟ قال: «نعم». قلت: و نحن السائلون؟ قال: «نعم». قلت: فعلينا أن نسألكم؟ قال: «نعم» قلت: و عليكم أن تجيبونا؟ قال: «لا، ذاك إلينا، إن شئنا فعلنا، و إن شئنا تركنا- ثم قال- هذا عَطاؤُنا فَامْنُنْ أَوْ أَمْسِكْ بِغَيْرِ حِسابٍ».

Imam Baqir --peace be upon him-- was asked about "If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message" who are those addressed by that? Imam said: "We, by Allah". Te masn then asked: "so you are those questioned?" Imam said: "yes". He asked: "and we are those who question?", Imam said: "yes". He asked again: "so is it obligatory for us to ask from you?" Imam said: "yes". He asked again: "and is it obligatory for you to answer?" Imam said: "no, that has been left up to us, if we want we do and if we don't want we don't" [because not everyone can be told of every facts, it depends on the capacity of the questioner and the listeners, also it addresses the occultation of Imam Mahdi --peace be upon him-- for example] then Imam recited "Such are Our Bounties: whether thou bestow them (on others) or withhold them, no account will be asked" [38,39]

و عنه: عن سليمان الزراري، عن محمد بن خالد الطيالسي، عن العلاء بن رزين القلاء، عن محمد بن مسلم، عن أبي جعفر (عليه السلام)، قال: قلت له: إن من عندنا يزعمون أن قول الله عز و جل: فَسْئَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ، أنهم اليهود و النصارى؟ قال: «إذن يدعونكم إلى دينهم». ثم قال: ثم أومأ بيده إلى صدره، و قال: «نحن أهل الذكر، و نحن المسؤولون».

Imam Baqir --peace be upon him-- was asked about the fact that there were some people thinking by "If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message" it is meant the Jews and the Christians? Imam said --peace be upon him-- said: "if it was so they were inviting you to their own religions", then he nodded with his hand to his chest and said: "we are those who possess the Message and we are those who are [or must be] questioned"

According to these Ahadeeth, following Ahlul-Bayt --peace be upon them-- (Imams of Shi'ite) is obligatory to all the Muslims, and this is in good coincidence with the famous Hadeeth of the arc, see this answer:

مَثَلُ أهلِ بَیتی کَمَثَلِ سَفینَهِ نوحٍ مَن رَکِبَها فَقَد نَجی وَ مَن تَخَلَّفَ عَنها فَقَد هَلَکَی

My household is alike the arc of Noah, whoever that got in it has been survived, and whoever that avoided it has been demolished.

This Hadeeth says not only whoever thet gets in to this arc will survive, but also whoever that avoid the arc will be demolished, and Allah is the Just, no one will be demolished unless he has been warned previously. Another witness for that is the famous Hadeeth of the two weighty things, Qur'aan and the household of the holy prophet --peace be upon him and his household-- will never separate from each other, whoever that deny one of them has no way to deny also the other, and whoever that accept one of them has no way to accept also the other.

Therefore, Taqleed (following someone and learn the rules from him) is meant by this verse, as far as I can say.

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As mentioned in Tafsir Ibn Kathir, which I believe that is a trusted Tafsir, that this verse is related to the preceding ones, where people was saying that Prophet Mohammad PBUH is not a messenger because he was just an ordinary human just like them in verse 21:3. So God answered in this verse that:

And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed 
[the message], so ask the people of the message if you do not know.

The meaning of ask the people of message is indeed Ahl-ul Kitab during that period, but those who were before the Prophet PBUH, but the reason of asking them is to make sure that all the messengers who came before were also human beings, neither magicians nor angels.

In this Answer from IslamWeb they said that Ahl Al-Thikr are the people who knows in Islam, whom are Ahl- Al-3ilm, if you wanted to ask them about something you don't know concerning a certain fatwa or tafsir, rather than asking who doesn't know.

I believe that it is related somehow to taqlid, because if you didn't know about a certain case then you will refer to your reference and see his point of view concerning it.

God knows better.

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