Praise be to Allaah.
In Arabic, al-qaa’if (the tracker) refers to the one who
follows tracks and recognises them, and he recognises similarities between a
man and his brother and father. The shar’i terminology does not differ from
the linguistic meaning that has to do with following tracks and recognising
similarities. See: al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (34/92).
Qiyaafah or following tracks is something that is well known,
and some tribes are famous for it, such as Banu Madlaj in the past and the
al-Murrah tribe today.
Getting it right depends on instinct, intuition and
experience. Hence the tracker may mention very precise matters and get them
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem Aal al-Shaykh (may Allaah have
mercy on him) said: Tracking is not limited to Banu Murrah and Banu Madlaj.
Banu Madlaj were famous in the Hijaz and those who are famous for it now are
the people of Murrah, who are not from Banu Madlaj, but they are famous for
that and seem to be becoming more so. But experience in tracking is to be
found in others, both city dwellers and desert dwellers. Among city dwellers
are people who are known for it. Those who are most famous are the people of
Murrah, as stated above, who have great skill in that field as is well
known. Some of them confirmed concise details which have been proven to be
true. But some of them are skilled in finding out thieves, and not
everything they say is based on the skill of tracking. Just as they base
their skill on tracking, their skill also involves intuition; if a person
shows some fear, they persist in putting pressure on him until he admits
Finding things out has to do with tracking, but it should not
be used in disputes having to do with proving lineage, because that is
something else. But if there is a need to look at their footprints on the
ground, that is fine, but similarities in the face and so on are more
accurate than anything else.
The second matter [the first is using tracking to prove
lineage] is: that which has to do with finding out the offender in the case
of theft or murder or accusation. This is based on examination and skill,
and is based on smartness, because many of these cases are examined not on
the basis of tracking but rather by means of skill and experience, and they
may get confused at times but this occasional confusion should not lead us
to disregard what they say, because regular evidence may lead to wrong
conclusions. The tracker should be of sound character as is required in the
case of the witness, judge and ruler. Experience is essential. End quote
from Fataawa al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem (9/31).
With regard to relying on them, the fuqaha’ have said that
trackers may be relied on with regard to proving unknown lineage, such as a
child who results from a marriage that was not done properly, or a
foundling, and so on.
They differed concerning relying on their views to determine
the identity of the criminal or thief.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
The opinion of the tracker with regard to lineage carries weight, but does
the opinion of the tracker carry weight with regard to wealth? - in the
sense that if the tracker sees the footprints of the thief and says, This is
So and so the son of So and so, is that to be relied upon or do we say that
this is circumstantial and that the man has to be brought and questioned,
and if he admits it (then he is to be punished), otherwise he is to be
declared innocent? There is a difference of opinion among the scholars
concerning this. Some of them say that if the tracker is known for accuracy,
based on his track record, then his opinion is to be accepted, and as we
have mentioned, these trackers may offer testimony that this is the foot of
So and so, and they have no doubt concerning that, so it is circumstantial
evidence. In the case of Dawood and Sulaymaan (peace be upon him) it says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“And (remember) Dawood (David) and Sulaymaan (Solomon),
when they gave judgement in the case of the field in which the sheep of
certain people had pastured at night; and We were witness to their
79. And We made Sulaymaan (Solomon) to understand (the
[al-Anbiya’ 21:78, 79].
From the effects he found out the one who caused the effect.
End quote from al-Sharh al-Mumti’ (10/399).
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him)
was of the view that the opinion of the tracker carries weight in business
transactions and criminal offences. He mentioned as an example of that one
who claims that he has lost some of his wealth and proves that, then the
tracker follows the footprints from one place to another. The testimony of
the tracker that the wealth entered this place implies one of two things:
either to base the ruling on that or to base the ruling on that if the
claimant swears an oath, which is more likely to be correct, because these
signs make the claim stronger, and swearing an oath is prescribed for the
one whose case is stronger. See: al-Fataawa al-Kubra (5/508).
In all these cases, whether tracking is to be relied on is
something to be decided by the judge and what he sees fit, and depends on
fulfilment of the conditions of good character and experience with regard to
the tracker; it also depends on there being no evidence that is contrary to
what the tracker is saying.
And Allaah knows best.