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747 I have come across many sayings of the Four Imams of the Madhabs where they seem to be implying that one should not follow their opinion (their Madhab) if one doesn't know with what reasoning and evidences they have used to come to the conclusion that their view is what it is.

One of these quotes is "It is not permitted (Ar.: Halaal) for anyone to accept our views if they do not know from where we got them." (Ibn al-Qayyim in I'laam al- Mooqi'een (2/309)) IMAAM ABU HANEEFAH (R.A)

"For everything I say, if there is something authentic from the Prophet (S.A.W) contrary to my saying, then the Hadeeth of the Prophet (S.A.W) comes first, so do not follow my opinion." (Ibn Abi Haatim, Abu Nu'aim & Ibn 'Asaakir (15/9/2).) IMAAM SHAAFI'I (R.A).

I want to know the context in which these and other similar comments were made by them all.
Our youngsters have been misinformed by certain Muslims through lectures, DVDs and websites on the issue of following Mazhabs. The above quotes are such examples where innocent Muslims are being confused.

To answer the actual quotes first, they were not directed at you and I but the contemporary Mujtahids and Scholars of their time. They are the ones being addressed in these quotes, not ordinary Muslims. Mujtahids are the ones who have gained expertise in all fields of the religious sciences (Sarf, Nahv, Balagha, Adab, Qur’an, Ilm Qur’an, Tafsir, Shaan Nuzul, Hadith, Ilm Hadith, Fiqh, Usul Fiqh, Aqida, Ilm Kalam, Mantiq) and thus can derive principles from Islamic sources competently.

Also, the second quote from Imam Shafi (R.A) does not negate having Mazhabs; it is just a warning that religious decrees MUST be incompliance with the Quran and Sunnah. If a fatwa does not have such foundations, then as Imam Shafi (R.A) points out, there is no reason to adhere to it.

The Ghair Muqallids (those who do not adhere to one of the Four Imams) claim that we should read Salah according to how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did it, not how Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A) and Imam Shafi (R.A) taught us to do it. But identifying how to live our lives according to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is not as easy at it seems. Consider the small example of whether Ameen should be recited quietly or loudly behind the Imam in congregational Prayer;

• Imam Abu Daud (R.A) reports,

‘Wa’il ibn Hajr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would recite Wa La-Dhaalin, he would then read Ameen loudly.’ (Sunan Abu Daud. Vol. I, p. 134-5. Mat’ba Mujtaba’i Publications, Lahore, Pakistan. 1405)

• Imam Nisa’i (R.A) reports,

‘Wa’il Ibn Hajr (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that,
‘I performed Salah in the Imamate of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He raised his hands until his ears as he read Allahu Akbar. Then he recited Surah Fatiha and upon its conclusion, he read Ameen loudly.’ (Sunan Nisa’i. Vol. I, p. 140. Nur Muhammad Kharkhana Tijarat Kutub Publications, Karachi.)

• Imam Tirmidhi (R.A) reports,

‘Wa’il ibn Hajr (may Allah be pleased with him) reports,

‘The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) read Ghair al-Maghdub
Alaihim Wa La-Dhaalin and then read Ameen quietly.’ (Jami Tirmidhi; p. 63, Nur Muhammad Kharkhana Tijarat Kutub Publications, Karachi. )

• Imam Baghwi (R.A) reports,

‘Shu’ba narrated from Salma that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) read Ameen quietly.’ (Sharh al-Sunna. Vol. II, p. 208. Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya Publications, Beirut. 1412)

Can a normal person reach a conclusion from these reports? In light of these (seemingly) conflicting reports, is it possible for ordinary Muslims to give preference to one practice over the other? If a Muslim wants to identify which practice is correct and preferred, he will have to;

-have a comprehensive understanding of Arabic.
-proficiency in Qira’at, Tafsir (exegesis), Ilm Qur’an, Hadith (prophetic reports), Ilm Hadith, Fiqh, Usul Fiqh, the abrogating and the abrogated, Seerah and so on.

Only then will a Muslim be able to identify the preferred position in any theological issue. And this is precisely why 90% of Muslims follow Mazhabs. The likes of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (R.A) and Imam Malik (R.A) have gone through the pain-staking and difficult process of learning exactly how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) lived his life and performed his worship, and left this as a guide for us uneducated and incompetent Muslims.

For the last one thousand three hundred years, Muslims have followed the Mazhab system without quarrel. Great Scholars of our past – Imam Bukhari (R.A), Imam Muslim (R.A), Imam Tirmidhi (R.A), Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (R.A), Imam Fakr ud-Din Razi (R.A), Imam Ghazali (R.A) – all adhered to the one of the great Imams. It is said to see that only recently, a minority of Muslims think they are in a better position to deduce a religious principle than Imam Shafi (R.A).

(Answered by: Alims at Islamic Centre, Leicester, UK.)
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