The School Of Ahl Al-Bayt
We are certain that the Prophet neither commanded Muslims nor recommended that they follow any of the four imam's verdicts. There is no reported statement by the Prophet that he commanded us to follow one of the four imams (Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi'i, or Ibn Hanbal).
However, the Sunnites and the Shi'ites recorded in their authentics that the Messenger commanded Muslims to follow the members of his House. Al-Tirmidhi and others from the authors of the Sihah (authentics) reported that Zayd Ibn Arqam reported that the Messenger of God said:
"Certainly I am leaving for you that which if you follow, you will never go astray after me: the Book of God, a rope extended from heaven to earth, and the Members of my House. They will never part with each other until they come to me on the Day of Judgement while I am standing at the Hawd (basin). Be careful how you treat the two after me." Al-Tirmidhi, his Sunan, part 5, page 329)
Al- Tirmidhi also said:
"There are on this subject hadiths of Abu Dharr and Abu Sa'id and Zayd Ibn Arqam and Hudhayfah Ibn Usayd."
This hadith clearly indicates that the Messenger commanded Muslims to follow the Book of God and the instructions of the members of his House concerning Islamic law. He informed us that the instructions of the Members of his House always agree with the Qur'an. He declared that the Qur'an and his Itrah (Members of his House) will never part with each other until the Day of Judgement.
Muslim scholars may argue about the indication of this hadith that the Prophet Muhammad appointed the members of his House to be the caliphs after him. But it is not logical to argue about the indications of this hadith that the Prophet wanted Muslims to follow the instructions of the Members of his House concerning Islamic rules.
It is needless to emphasize the authenticity of this hadith after it was reported by about twenty companions. [Ed. Please see Hadith al-Thaqalayn, a study of its tawatur] The Sunnite Muslim scholars say it is mandatory to follow one of the four schools and their verdicts. Yet it was never reported that the Prophet said that the duty of Muslims is to follow the verdicts of these four schools. Knowing this, we find no justification for the refusal of the Sunni scholars to follow the instructions of the Members of the House of the Holy Prophet Muhammad after the Prophet Muhammad himself testified that the members of his House are allies of the Qur'an and will never part with it.
The least that the Muslims should do toward the teachings of the members of the House of the Holy Prophet Muhammad is to consider their teaching equal to the four schools (if not better).
The fact is that the followers of the four schools took a negative attitude towards the teachings of the Imams from the House of the Prophet without knowing their teachings. They thought, without any research, that their teaching is not worthy of consideration and respect. This tells us that the followers of the four schools did not agree with their imams, and that they were more kingly than the kings. Abu Hanifah was a student of Imam Ja'far, and he believed that Imam Ja'far was the most knowledgeable in Islamic law among all the people of his time.
The Abbasid Al-Mansur commanded Abu Hanifah to prepare for Imam Ja'far a number of questions concerning Islamic law and to ask the Imam those questions in the presence of Al-Mansur. Abu Hanifah prepared forty difficult questions and asked Imam Ja'far about them in the presence of Al-Mansur. The Imam not only answered all the questions but also informed him of the opinions of the Iraqi scholars and the Hijazi scholars. Abu Hanifah commented on this episode saying:
"Certainly, the most knowledgeable among people is the most knowledgeable of their different opinions." Abu Hanifah described his feeling (when he entered the palace of Al-Mansur and found Imam Ja'far with him) by saying:
"When I saw Imam Ja'far, I felt that his personality commands more respect than that of the caliph himself. Yet the caliph was ruling the Muslim world, and Imam Ja'far was a private citizen." (Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahra, AI-Imam AI-Sadiq, page 27)
Imam Malik was also one of the students of Imam Ja'far, and it is reported that Malik said:
"I used to come to Ja'far Ibn Muhammad and went to him for a long time. Whenever I visited him, I found him praying, fasting, or reading the Qur'an. Whenever he reported a statement of the Messenger of God, he was with ablution. He was a distinguished worshipper who was unconcerned with the material world. He was of the God- fearing people."
Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal reported the famous hadith of Thaqalayn (the two valuables) through more than one source. He reported through his channel to Zayd Ibn Thabit that the Prophet said:
"Certainly I am leaving for you two Caliphs: The Book of God, a rope extended between the heaven and the earth and the members of my House. They will never part with each other until the Day of Judgement" (Imam Ahmad, his Musnad, part 5, page 181).
Imam Ahmad also reported through his channel to Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri that the Messenger of God said:
"Certainly I am about to be called upon (by God), and I will respond (by departing from this world), and I am leaving for you the two valuables: The Book of God and the members of my House. The Book of God (which) is a rope extended from heaven to earth and the members of my House. The Almighty informed me that the two will not part with each until they meet me near the Basin. Beware how you treat them after me (same source, part 3, page 17).
Imam Ahmad also reported this hadith through his channel to Zayd Ibn Arqam (same source, page 371). Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahra who was one of the outstanding Sunni contemporary scholars said:
"The Muslim scholars of various Islamic schools never agreed unanimously on a matter as much as they agree on the knowledge of Imam Ja'far and his virtue. The Sunni imams who lived during his time were his students. Malik was one of them and those who were as contemporary as Malik such as Sufyan Al-Thawri and many others. Abu Hanifah also was his student in spite of their being close in age, and he considered Imam Ja'far the most knowledgeable in the Muslim world." (the same source, page 66).
Imam Al-Shafi'i was truly attached to the members of the House of the Prophet. His love and adherence to their way is well known and conveyed by scholars who were in the place of confidence of Muslims. Imam Al-Razi recorded in his commentary on the following Qur'anic verse:
"Say (to the Muslims) 'I ask from you no reward (on my endeavor in leading you to the right path) except your love for my close relatives.'
Imam Al-Shafi'i in his poetry said:
"Members of the House of the Prophet, your love is a Divine duty on mankind. God revealed it in His Qur'an. It is of your high distinctions that whoever does not pray on you has no prayer." He also said "If the love of the members of the House of the Prophet is Rafd (rejection), let mankind and the Jinns testify that I am a rejecter."
Adapted from the book: "The Shi'ites Under Attack" by: "Imam Muhammad Jawad Chirri"
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