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Sayings of Madhahib Imitators

After completing the speech of those who refuted Ibn al-Salah, I am going to cite a number of sayings about imitators of madhahib and their standpoint in respect of hadith, so as to perfect what al-Izz ibn Abd al-Salam previously said.

The indisputable fact being that a certain hadith may be adopted by some Hanafi due to its good fame, but some Shafi’i may come then and reject it due to weakness (he claimed) in its sanad! While some Maliki follower may neglect the same hadith since the practices and acts proceeded in its contrariety, with a Shafi’i acting according to it due to strength of its sanad in his view, and so on and so forth.

In Mir’at al-usul and its exposition Mirqat al-wusul, there can be found principles laid by the Hanafis on investigating the position of the narrator. They hold that if he was a faqih, all of his narrations will be approved, whether he agreeing with the analogy (qiyas) or contradicting it. But if he was not a faqih, like Abu Hurayrah and Anas, his narration would be rejected when disagreeing with the hadith he reported.

Some ulama’ hold: Riwayah of akhbar from the Messenger of Allah (S) is not accepted but only when being khabar by common people from common people, or the ulama’ of all regions concurring on acting according to them. This method was followed by the fuqaha’ of Iraq: Abu Hanifah and his companions.

This matter was elucidated by al-Imam Abu Yusuf, the companion of Abu Hanifah, in his book which he compiled from al-Awza’i. And in the book al-Umm of al-Imam al-Shafi’i692 the following statement was quoted from Abu Yusuf the disciple of al-Shafi’I: “You have to take the hadith which is widely-known by common people (‘ammah)693 and beware of the odd one, as Ibn Abi Karimah related to us from Ja’far that the Messenger of Allah has one day summoned the Jews and put to them some questions, when they related to him some traditions in which they told lies about Jesus Christ. Thereafter he assumed the pulpit and addressed the people saying:

Verily the traditions ascribed to me will spread among you. When what is reported to you from me agrees with the Qur’an, it is certainly from me, but when it contradicts the Qur’an it is verily not from me. And as we were told, Umar was not approving of any hadith reported from the Messenger of Allah (S) but only with two witnesses (confirming it). Ali ibn Abi Talib also used to reject every hadith reported from the Messenger of Allah. The narrations are multiplied, producing strange things unknown by the fuqaha’, and inconsistent with the Book and Sunnah, so avoid the odd traditions, and take only the traditions approved unanimously by men of hadith and fiqh, and which agree with the Book and the (Prophetic) Sunnah.694 So you have to measure everything according to this rule, whatever contradicting the Qur’an is verily not uttered by the Messenger of Allah, even if cited through narrations. And even if related by trustworthy narrators from the Messenger of Allah (S), that he said when was on death-bed: I forbid — in another narration: I never forbid but only — what is forbidden by the Qur’an and Allah, and they never retain anything against me.695 Make the Qur’an and the Sunnah your Imam and leader, and keep on this, and take it as a criterion for measuring whatever is cited to you, of that which was never clarified in the Book and the Sunnah!

Al-Imam Alam al-Din al-Maliki, in his book Iqaz al-himam,696 writes:

We may see someone that when coming across some hadith agreeing with his madhhab, he would be delighted and would admit and yield to it. But if coming across a correct hadith free from abrogation and contradiction, supporting the madhhab of other than his imam, he would open wide the door for remote probabilities, turning away from it, seeking for his leader’s madhhab aspects of preponderation, despite its contradiction with the Suhabah, Followers and express text; when failing in all this he would claim abrogation697, without any evidence, or specification, or non-acting according to it, or any other plea presented by ill-minded people. When being unable to do all this, he would allege that his imam had knowledge of all the narrations or most of them, and he (imam) had left this noble hadith only when coming across a refutation against it in his view. Hence he would take of the ulama of his madhhab as lords, opening for their excellences and noble acts many doors, thinking that whoever opposing this to be mistaken and misled. And if he being counselled by anyone of the Sunni ulama, he would take him as an enemy, even if he was an intimate friend before!


692. Al-Umm, vol. II, pp.307, 308.

693. With the words ammah (common people) the jumhur (Sunnis) not the opposite of khassah (the upper class).

694. The Sunnah is the practical one (acts), which was comonly known among them in this way.

695. See Sirat Ibn Hisham, vol.IV, P.332.

696. Qawa'id al-tahdith, p.72.

697. Al-Zuhri says: The weariest and most incompetent among fuqaha' is that who failed to recongnize the abrogating hadith and abrogated one of the Messenger of Allah.

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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