Following a Madh-hab

Following a Madh-hab

The four traditional schools of fiqh have come under much attack in the past few hundred years by those who attempt to re-interpret traditional Islam and establish a new order. With the takeover of our holy lands and the wealth that the vampires gain by sucking of the blood of the earth, many books have been published and propagated for free promoting the false notion that the four traditional schools of fiqh are bid’ah and at worst, kufr and shirk.

This claim has arisen under the pretext that the adherents of the four traditional madh-habs are following “the rule of men” and their “blind opinions” and upon this premise, the adherents of madh-habs are likened to the Jews who took their Rabbis as Lords, and deemed as Mushriks. From such you will hear the repetitive slogan “Qur’an and Sunnah” which is very similar in nature to the Khawaarij cry “Judgement is for Allah only”.

What many people seem to misunderstand in this day is that the adherence to one of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence does not merely consist of following an Imaam and everything what he has said hook line and sinker. Rather it is the following of a certain methodology that the Imaam has applied when deriving directly from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. All of the four Imaams had strict principles that are firmly grounded in a deep understanding of the texts they were deriving from.

The four Imaams were qualified experts who had mastered the ‘Arabic language, having memorised the seven qiraat to the very last letter, which prevented them from misinterpreting the Qur’an or the Sunnah linguistically.

They had profound knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, knowing its reason for revelation and exegesis, situation and circumstances concerning each ayah, and hadeeth.

They also knew very well how to classify and break down the isnaad [chain of transmission] of a hadeeth to know whether it is authentic, weak or fabricated, knowing the biographies, and reliability of all of the narrators mentioned in the chain. The Imaams, However, just had different principles in deriving from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Those who merely utter the catchphrase “Qur’an and Sunnah” belligerently belittle these very principles, suggesting that the following of qualified scholarship is the “rule of men” and at the most extreme case, shirk [polytheism].

We shall briefly look at the foundational principles that the four Imaams used to derive from the Sunnah.

The Principles of the Hanafi Madh-hab

Imaam Abu Hanifah (رحمه الله) and his board of qualified students would derive from the Qur’an and the Sunnah using the following principles:

1. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.

2. The Sunnah: Imaam Abu Hanifah and his students had two conditions for the acceptability of a hadeeth. Firstly that it be authentic [Saheeh] and secondly that the hadeeth be widely known [Mash-hur].

3. The Ijmaa’a [Consensus]: If the Qur’an and the Sunnah was unclear on any matter, then before arriving at their own opinion they would look to the consensus of the companions [Sahaabah].

4. Invidual opinions: If there was not a consensus on a particular matter, then the Imaam and his students would look at each opinion of the Sahaabah and stick to that which seemed to be most accurate.

5. Qiyaas [Analogical Reasoning]: In absence of any of the mentioned above, Imaam Abu Hanifah (رحمه الله) and his students would then turn to their own ijtihaad. They would make an analogy, and derive a ruling based on something from the texts in which they could deduce a ruling from due to its similarity.

It is clearly seen from these following principles that those of the Hanafi madh-hab are far from blindly following the “opinion” of Imaam Abu Hanifah and his students. Clearly what the Hanafi madh-hab consists of is nothing but Qur’an and Sunnah.

The Principles of the Maaliki Madh-hab

Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله) lived in Madinah in the time of the Salaf, and he saw how the people of Madinah practiced Islam from a very young age. Imaam Maalik’s (رحمه الله) madh-hab heavily leans upon the amaal [actions] of the people of Madinah and has been coined as the madh-hab of the third Khalifah ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه). Imaam Maalik’s (رحمه الله) principles of deriving from the Qur’an and the Sunnah are as follows:

1. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.

2. The Sunnah: Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله) would only refer to hadith that was Mutawatir to derive a ruling. More than often, he would only refer to Ahaadeeth from a certain chain of narrators which came to be known as the “golden chain”. However, the Imaam would give precedence to the actions of the people of Madinah if there seemed to be a conflict between a Saheeh hadeeth and the actions of the people of Madinah. Madinah, the home and heart of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) meant everything to Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله) and he showed great respect to the people of Madinah due to the Prophets words of goodness about them. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) spent the last years of his life in Madinah and the people of Madinah are also blood relatives of the Sahaabah and from amongst the best of generations. Therefore, the Imaam adopted their way as thee Sunnah, and their knowledge as the secondary source of deriving the rulings for his madh-hab.

3. The Ijmaa’a [Consensus]: Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله), as a third principle would look to the ‘Ijmaa’a – the consensus of the Sahaabah on an issue.

4. Individual Opinions: If there was a lack of Ijmaa’a on an issue he would then look to the individual opinions of the Sahaabah. As seen from his Muwatta, where he has recorded the opinion of individual companions regarding many issues.

5. Qiyaas [Analogical Reasoning]: If the Imaam could not derive a ruling from any of the above, only then would he turn to analogical reasoning.

Again, it is clearly seen from these following principles that those of the Maaliki madh-hab are far from blindly following the “opinion” of Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله). Clearly the Maaliki madh-hab consists of is nothing but Qur’an and Sunnah.

The Principles of the Shafi’ Madh-hab

Imaam Shaafi’ (رحمه الله) was born in Sham, and from a young age journeyed to Madinah to study under the tutelage of Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله), and then later studied under the students of Imaam Abu Hanifah (رحمه الله) in Iraq. He had memorised the whole of Qur’an and memorized many Ahaadeeth, including the whole of Imaam Maalik’s (رحمه الله) al-Muwatta. Imaam Shaafi’ (رحمه الله) used the following principles whenever deriving a ruling:

1. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.

2. The Sunnah: Imaam Shaafi’ (رحمه الله) is known for setting the standards for hadith criticism; he would only use Saheeh Ahaadeeth to derive a ruling on a particular issue.

3. The Ijmaa’a [Consensus]: Like the other Imaams, Imaam Shaafi’ (رحمه الله) would use the Ijmaa’a of the Sahaabah as a third principle.

4. Individual Opinions: Imaam Shaafi’ would then look to the individual opinions of the Sahaabah, and if they differed he would take the view closest to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

5. Qiyaas [Analogical Reasoning]: the Imaam would use his qiyaas only as a last resort.

Again, it is clearly seen from these following principles that those of the Shaafi madh-hab are far from blindly following the “opinion” of Imaam Shaafi’ (رحمه الله) . Clearly the Shaafi’ madh-hab consists of is nothing but Qur’an and Sunnah.

The Principles of the Hanbali Madh-hab

Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (رحمه الله) would use the following principals in their following order for deriving any ruling:

1. The Divine Texts –The Divine texts are two in number:
a. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.
b. The Sunnah: Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal (رحمه الله) is said to have memorised a million of Ahaadeeth, however, he only used thirty thousand of them to compile his collection al-Musnad. Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (رحمه الله) would only use Ahaadeeth with a reliable chain of narrators whenever deriving a ruling from the Sunnah.

2. The Ijmaa’a [The Consensus]: The ijmaa’a according to the school of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (رحمه الله) refers solely to the he unanimous agreement amongst the Sahaabah.

3. Individual Opinions If there was no consensus upon an issue, Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (رحمه الله) would then establish a ruling upon each opinion and allow choice for the people to choose from whichever ruling they wanted to follow.

4.Mursal and Da’eef Ahaadeeth: In the absence of evidence from the Qur’an, saheeh or hasan Ahaadeeth, and ijmaa’a of the Sahaabah, Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (رحمه الله) would then use a mursal or da’eef hadeeth before exercising any Qiyaas of his own. This is due to his statement in which he said the weak hadeeth is dearer to him than his own opinion.

5.Qiyaas – [Analogical Reasoning]: Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (رحمه الله) would only turn to his own analogical reasoning as a last resort.

Again, it is clearly seen from these following principles that those of the Hanbali madh-hab are far from blindly following the “opinion” of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (رحمه الله). Clearly the Hanbali madh-hab consists of is nothing but Qur’an and Sunnah.

Given the fact that all of the four Imaams had memorized the whole of the seven different recitations of the Qur’an, thousands of Ahaadeeth, etc and used the principles above to derive from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and only resorted to analogical reasoning as the very last resort, how then can the accusers even dare to say that the people who follow the four schools are upon bid’ah, or at worse are committing kufr and shirk?

How can they even stand and say that this is not Qur’an and Sunnah? Those who belittle the expertise of the four Imaams in their ijtihaad actually violate the ijmaa’a of the Muslim scholars and also the creedal point stated by Imaam Tahaawi (رحمه الله) in which he said:

“The early scholars from before [the Salaf], and those after them, from the Taabi’een, being the people of knowledge, tradition, jurisprudence, etc, must not be mentioned except with beauty, and whomsoever mentions them with evilness, then he is upon a different path [other than the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah]”

Those who oppose the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah argue that following their qualified opinion is blind following, hence haraam; however, the people of the four Madh-habs are simply following the Salaf. If it is expected of common Muslims, and new Muslims alike, to dive headlong into the Qur’an and Sunnah and derive rulings for themselves, without the adequate prerequisites , then this would be in comparison to a common person to walk into a pharmacist and start mixing the medicines – in which they have no knowledge of – to cure himself.

Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله) is reported to have said “A Scholar should not derive rulings until he is competent to do so and given permission by scholars who precede his knowledge”.

This is concerning the scholar, let alone the layman with little knowledge. This la madh-hab attitude presents a clear and real danger. The calling away from the four legal schools of fiqh is the in fact a calling away from the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the Salaf, their consensus and expert opinion.

Those who oppose the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah in this regard should pay close attention to both Imaams Ibn Taymiyah (رحمه الله) and his student Imaam Ibn Qayyum (رحمه الله). Have to say.

Imaam Ibn Taymiyah (رحمه الله) said:

“That which the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah is agreed upon is that the Ahl us Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah are in consensus in the fact that ijtihaad and taqleed are totally permissible. They do not compel ijtihaad on everybody, thereby forbidding taqleed. Nor do they forbid ijtihaad upon the scholars, compelling taqleed upon them. They are in agreement that ijtihaad is permissible for the scholar of adequate qualification and likewise taqleed is permissible for the people incapable of performing ijtihaad”

Imaam Ibn Taymiyah’s student Imaam Ibn Qayyum (رحمه الله) concurs by saying:

“There is a taqleed that is waajib to follow and a taqleed that is forbidden. The taqleed that is obligatory is the taqleed of those who know better than us. This is where a person does not know the evidences from the Qur’an and the Sunnah regarding an issue. Such taqleed was performed by Imaam Shaafi where in places [of his texts] he clearly stated that he made taqleed of ‘Umar, ‘Uthmaan etc, in a certain matter. Imaam Shaafi’ said about the Companions “their opinions are better than ours”

To add authentic Hanbali scholarship to the evidences given, we will quote from Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudaamah (رحمه الله), who said:

“Taqleed in branches of Shari’ah is permissible by ijmaa’a and there proof therein is the consensus”

The Differences in Fiqh Are a Mercy

The four schools and their differences are in fact a mercy for this community. We know this from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in which he said:

“The differences in my community is a Mercy”

This hadeeth is widely quoted by numerous outstanding scholars and agreed upon, mentioned in texts such as Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din’s Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad, Imaam Suyuti’s Jazil al-Mawaahib fi-Ikhtilaaf al-Madhaahib; Imaam Abu Hanfiah’s al-Fiqh ul-Akbar; and Imaam Bayhaqi in his Madkhal. These are just few out of many.

Imaam Maalik (رحمه الله) said:

“Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz said: ‘I would not like it if the companions of Muhammad did not differ between themselves [on issues of fiqh], because if they did not differ, we would not have as much leeway.”

Imaam al-Bahaqi (رحمه الله) said:

“The differences between the Sahaabah are a mercy for the worshippers of Allah”

Even Imaam Ibn Taymiyah (رحمه الله) says:

“The Ijmaa’a of the Imaams is a definite proof and their differing is a vast mercy”. [He says further]: “If one does not follow any of the four Imaams, then he is upon misguidance, for the truth is not to be found outside of the four legal schools”

Therefore, the following of a madh-hab is not only permissible, but, it is a mercy for the community of the last Prophet and there is a big giant stamp of consensus on this issue, and those who differ are not deemed to be from the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, as they have rivalled themselves against the Ijmaa’a of the believers. To any such person, the evidences given should suffice in calling your heart back to the truth. And Indeed Allah is Most Merciful to you.

Madh-habism – Going to extremes in madh-habs

Let us turn to the claims of those who oppose madh-habs under the pretext they cause much fitnah and disunity. We often find this claim drifting about, whether it is two or three brothers raising their voices in the masjid, or the often repeated over used argument daily parroted on internet forums. Their argument is that the four madh-habs are four different sects, and to support this narrow view they will then present a string of ignorant statements made by an extreme Madhabists.

Madh-habism is when a person considers his madh-hab to be the most God-favoured one, and upon the most correct path, whilst he deems all the other madh-habs to be in error at some point. Unfortunately this mentality does exist amongst Muslims. You may hear chants being thrown around too loosely almost like football supporters waving the flag of their team. Chants of “Imaam-e Azaam” from a select few of Hanafis, “Amaal-e Madinah” from a select few of Malikis and “Imaam Ahl us-Sunnah” from rarity of the Hanbalis. Although these statements stand true respectfully in their own context, they do not serve as evidences that one madh-hab is better than another.

However does this give us enough reason to claim that all madh-habs are in error under the pretext that they are causing disunity to this Ummah?

Concerning this illness Imaam adh-Dhahabi (رحمه الله) said:

“Do not think that your madh-hab is the best and the one that is most beloved to Allah, for you have no proof of this. The Imaams [may Allah be pleased with them all] all follow great goodness; when they are right, they receive two rewards, and when they are wrong they shall receive one reward”

It has also been claimed that at one time there was four separate prayer niches around the Ka’bah in which the followers of each madh-hab would pray under. This accusation was concocted in an attempt to suggest the people of the four madh-habs refused to pray together even at the Ka’bah. This is simply not true. There were four pavilions, in which people would seek knowledge and fatawaas according to their madh-hab, and when the prayer times arrived they was put away. This was traditional Islam in practice. Classes being taught by the Ka’bah until a group of Muslims from the eastern region of the desert came and destroyed this tradition under the false pretext they was uniting the Ummah under one Imaam.

and certainly Allah knows best.

2 thoughts on “Following a Madh-hab

You are welcome to comment and ask a valid questions, however there are a few guidelines and conditions to your comments being approved. Messages like "your a heretic, you do not know what you are talking about, you have no knowledge, you are an enemy of Islam, stupid Sufi" are usually rejected. Consider your words carefully..

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