Questions on Taqleed and Madh-habs

(Compiled by Admin)

This page will be regularly updated with answers to questions regarding the issue of Taqleed and following a Madh-hab. Initially, while it is in work-in-development, the questions and answers may be somewhat incomplete, and arranged a little haphazardly.

If there are questions that readers would like answered which haven’t been dealt with yet, they are welcome to post them in the comments section.  We will then endeavour, to the best of our ability, to compile answers to those questions insha-Allah.


(Click on the question for the corresponding answer)

Q. Did not the Four Imams command others not to follow them when there are authentic Hadith which on the face of it appears to contradict their findings?

A. Mufti Ahmed Sadeq Desai states:

“ In substantiation of their claim they [the Salafis/modernists] present the well-known statements of the Fuqaha and Aimmah Mujtahideen of the Salaf-e-Saalihoon such as:

“ When you find in my kitaab anything contradicting the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) then say (i.e. command) the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and leave aside my statement.” (Imaam Shaafi)

“ When the Hadith is established as authentic in opposition to my statement, then act according to the Hadith and abandon my statement.” (Imaam Shaafi)

“ When the authenticity of the Hadith is established, then that is my Math-hab.” (Imaam Shaafi)

Similar statements have been attributed to Imaam Abu Hanifah by Ibn Abdul Barr. Imaam Sha’raani too attributes similar statements to Imaam Abu Hanifah. In Raddul Mukhtaar, Allaamah Beeri narrating from Sharah Hidaayah of Ibn Shuhnah says:

“ When the Hadith is authentic then that is my Math-hab.” (Imaam Abu Hanifah)

The authenticity of these statements is not contested. However, neither do these salafis understand the meaning of these statements nor do their audiences. The audience being unschooled in the higher knowledge of the Shariah simply take in what is gorged out by the devious speakers of this sect. The salafis claim to be the followers of the Salaf. In their definition of the Salaf they quite rightly include the Fuqaha and Ulama of Quroon-e-Thalaathah (the first three glorious epochs of Islam)-the age of the Sahaabah, Taabieen and Tab-e-Taabieen. The Aimmah Mujtahideen which include the four illustrious Imaams of the Four Math-habs of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah are all part of the Salaf.

While these salafis seek to eke out unbridled rejection of Taqleed for every man in the street o­n the basis of the aforementioned statements attributed to the great Imaams, the great Ulama who follow these Aimmah Mujtahideen aver otherwise. Commenting o­n these statements, Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) says:

“ This which Imaam Shaafi has said does not mean that everyone who sees a Saheeh Hadith should say: ‘This is the Math-hab of Shaafi, thus practising o­n the zaahir (text/external or apparent meaning) of the Hadith.

This most certainly applies to o­nly such a person who has the rank of Ijtihaad in the Math-hab. It is a condition that he overwhelmingly believes that Imaam Shaafi was unaware of this Hadith or he was unaware of its authenticity. And this is possible o­nly after having made a research of all the books of Shaafi and similar other books of the Ashaab of Shaafi, those who take (knowledge) from him, and others similar to these (books). This is indeed a difficult condition (to fulfil). Few are there who measure up to this (standard).

What we have explained has been made conditional because Imaam Shaafi had abandoned acting o­n the zaahir (text) of many Ahadith which he saw and knew. However by him was established proof for criticism in the Hadith or its abrogation or its specific circumstance or its interpretation, etc. (hence he was constrained to leave aside the hadith).” (I’laaus Sunan, Vol. 2, page 225)

Shaikh Abu Amr (rahmatullah alayh) said:

“It is not easy to act according to the apparent (zaahir) text of what Imaam Shaafi said. It is not lawful for (even) every Faqeeh (qualified Aalim who has deep insight) to act independently with that which he opines to be proof from the Hadith.” (I’laaus Sunan, Vol. 2, page 225)

It also appears in I’laaus Sunan of Muhaddith Zafar Ahmad Uthmaani (rahmatullah alayh):

“Imaam Sha’raani has also narrated it (i.e. the statement ‘When the authenticity of a Hadith is established it is my Math-hab.’), attributing it to the four Imaams. It is not hidden (from understanding) that this is for the o­ne who has the ability (insight and qualification) in the Nusoos and the knowledge of its clear laws and its abrogations.” (Volume 2, page 226)

Discussing this statement in his treatise, Shaikh Yusuf Bin Ismaail Nibhaani says:

“ Verily, the statement: ‘When the Hadith has been authenticated, then it is my Math-hab’ has been narrated from each o­ne of these four Imaams who were free from personal opinion. The audience to whom this statement (‘When the Hadith is Saheeh it is my Math-hab.’) was directed, is o­nly his (the Imaam’s) Ashaab (the Fuqaha of his Math-hab) who were great and illustrious Aimmah fully qualified in the rational and narrational sciences (of the Deen). (And the statement is directed to) those who came after these illustrious Aimmah among the great Ulama of his Math-hab, those who were the Ahlut Tarjeeh (a high category of Ulama). All of them who were the Haafizeen of the Hadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) were fully aware of the daleels (proofs) of all the Math-habs………These are the o­nes whom the Imaam (of the Math-hab) had directed his statement: ‘When the Hadith is Saheeh, it is my Math-hab.’….Verily, they (these great Fuqaha) are able to reconcile between the Hadith from which the Imaam had derived proof, and the (latest) Hadith which was established as authentic after the Imaam. They (these illustrious Fuqaha) can see which of the two Hadiths is more authentic, stronger and which of the two Hadiths is the later o­ne so that the later o­ne can be the Naasikh (abrogator) for the earlier o­ne.” (Hujjatullah alal Aalameen)

It should now be crystal clear to every unbiased person possessing the least degree of Aql (intelligence) that the statement: ”When the Hadith is Saheeh it is my Math-hab.” , is directed to an audience of illustrious Fuqaha who were masters and experts in Ijtihaad; who had embraced all sciences of the Shar’i Uloom; who were Muqallideen of their Imaams, who were Huffaz of Hadith; who were experts of both narrational and rational (Manqool and Uqool) branches of knowledge; -in short, who were Ulama and Fuqaha of the highest category, whose likes did not again appear o­n earth after them nor will appear again o­n earth until the Day of Qiyaamah because those illustrious Fuqaha were a Band of Muhaqqiqeen whom Allah Ta’ala had specially created to formulate and systematise the Shariah for posterity in such a manner that no mudhil (deviate who leads astray) can ever hope to escape with his baatil interpolations and nafsaaniyat.

While the illustrious Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen directed their command to their Students (Fuqaha and Ulama of the highest category), these half-baked and raw salafi deviates direct the Aimma’s statements to an audience of juhala-people who have yet to become adept in the basics of Tahaarat, Salaat, Saum, etc.

Even the greatest Aalim alive today cannot avail himself of the statement of the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen, leave alone the myriads of half-baked Ulama. The masses cannot even be considered in this regard. Here in this context when we say ‘half-baked’ we are referring to even the present day Ulama-e-Haqq whose duty it is to safeguard the Shariah. Even these highly qualified Ulama of the present age are ‘half-baked’ and grossly under baked in relation to the giants and stars of the Shar’i Uloom who strode the Firmament of Islamic Knowledge and Piety during the Quroon-e-Thalathah.

The age for weighing the verdicts of the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen against the Ahadith has long passed. It is downright silly and stupid for anyone in this age to run away with the puerile notion of having the ability to rectify, amend or refute any of the rulings of the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen. Any such amendment to any of the rulings of the Aimmah-e-Arba-ah was affected many centuries ago-a thousand years ago-by their great Students and Ashaab. Indeed these deviate salafis are suffering from the disease of self-conceit and pride in their belief that ‘erroneous’ fataawa of the Aimmah had remained undetected for the past thousand years and that it was o­nly now in this age that a deviate like Al-Baani acquired the ‘honour’ to correct the ‘mistakes’ of the great Imaams of the Mathaahib.

It needs no deep wisdom to understand the reason for the Aimmah’s directive to their Ashaab/Students to review their rulings o­n the Standard of the Saheeh Hadith. The Shariah of Islam is the product of Wahi. It is not the product of anyone’s opinion, be he the greatest Faqeeh. In that early age of Islam the Shariah had not yet been fully codified in chapter form and systematically reduced to writing and all the Ahadith had not been compiled. The age of Hadith compilation came much later. It was therefore likely that an Imaam was not aware of all the Ahadith o­n a specific subject. He would issue his fatwa o­n the basis of all available Nusoos (Qur’aanic aayat and Ahadith). However, when later he was apprized of a Saheeh Hadith which contradicted his fatwa, he would immediately review his ruling and if the authenticity and other relevant aspects of the Hadith were established, he would revoke his fatwa and issue a new fatwa.

Similarly, if the Saheeh Hadith came to the attention of the Imaam’s Ashaab after the death of the Imaam or in his absence, they would adopt the same process of review and amend their Imaam’s ruling in obedience to his command to do so. Thus, the statement: “ When the Hadith is Saheeh, it is my Math-hab” , and similar other statements attributed to the Aimmah-e-Arba-ah, had their application during the age of Ijtihaad when the process of the formulation, codification and systematization of the Shariah was in progress. The authorities of the Shariah, viz., the Fuqaha-e-Mujtahideen, to whom the directive was issued by the Aimmah of the Mathaahib, had already given expression to this command.

Thus these statements have outlived their utility and are no longer applicable for the simple reason that all the Saheeh Ahadith have already been compiled 1250 years ago. Any reviewing which had to be done, was completed 1250 years ago. The statements of the Aimmah in this regard have o­nly historical importance, and cannot be considered any longer for practical expression. It is indeed ludicrous to run away with the assumption that for 1200 years any errors of the Aimmah Arbah remained undetected and a man like Al-Baani of this age came to rectify such ‘errors’.”
Close Answer


Q. Are the rulings of the Madh-hab the product of the ijtihaad of just one Imaam, or are they the end result of a process of verification, re-checking, and refinement undertaken by a galaxy of Mujtahids which constituted each madh-hab? What if a particular Hadith escaped the Imam of the Madh-hab?

A. Allamah Zafar Ahmad Uthmani states:

“It is known from the practice of Umar that he would, when anyone narrated to him [something] that he did not recognise from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace), say to him: “Do you have with you one who will corroborate you? If not I will punish you.”  Al-Dhahabi said: “In this is evidence that when a report is narrated by two trustworthy narrators, it is stronger and weightier than what one [narrator] is alone in [narrating]. In this is encouragement of multiplying the paths of hadith, in order that it rises from the degree of uncertainty to the degree of certainty, since one [narrator] may have forgotten or erred, and that is nearly impossible for two trustworthy [narrators] that none opposes.”  (Tadhkirat al-Huffaz 1:6)

I say: Hence, there is no reason therefore to say that Abu Hanifah performed Qiyas excessively in his madhhab only because he was present at a time before the codification of hadith, and had he lived till [the period when] the hadiths of the Shariah were codified, and after the huffaz travelled to collect them from the cities and borders, and he obtained them, he would have accepted them and abandoned every analogy he made, because we say: Had the Imam obtained them, he would not accept from them except what was widespread in the time of the four caliphs, and all that was widespread of hadith in their time, none of it escaped him, as he had encompassed the knowledge of Hijaz and Medina and the Iraqis, proven by the great number of his teachers, and his being the most learned of people in his time by the testimony of the Imams* as was previously mentioned; and all exceptions are anomalous (shadhdh) or from that which is not obligatory to act upon.

If we conceded that some hadiths which must be acted upon in the Shari„ah were hidden to him, we say: Muhammad, Abu Yusuf, Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl, Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Hasan ibn Ziyad and others of his companions lived until the time hadith was codified; and then al-Tahawi, al-Karkhi, al-Hakim the author of al-Kafi, Abd al-Baqi ibn Qani, al-Mustaghfiri, Ibn al-Sharqi, al-Zaylai and others from the huffaz of the Hanafis and the critics of hadith from them came later after there had been complete scrutiny of prophetic hadith; and they comprehended its authentic and its weak [reports], and its well-known and its singular [reports].

Hence, every analogy from the analogies of Abu Hanifah which he held in opposition to hadith, his companions like Muhammad, Abu Yusuf, Zufar and al-Hasan left it, and they disagreed with their teacher in half of his madhhab, and the madhhab of the Hanafis is the sum of the opinions of the Imam, and these disciples of his. Then the hadith-scholars of the Hanafis after them gave preference in some issues to the opinion of al-Shafi’i, and in some of them to the opinion of Malik, and in some of them to the opinion of Ahmad, and they issued fatwa according to what was preponderant according to them based on the evidence; and all of this is the madhhab of Abu Hanifah, due to it being consistent with his method and his principles on which he premised his madhhab, from which is his preference of [scriptural] text even if weak over analogy.

So there does not remain, and all praise is to Allah, in our madhhab an opinion contrary to hadith except we have with us another hadith supporting us, and that which we apparently oppose, it has with us an interpretation which we do not oppose; and all the Imams and their companions would do likewise. No one can claim to act on all hadiths in their entirety, and all only act on some of them and leave some of them, either because it is weak according to them or contrary to the text [of the Qur’an] or well-known or mass-transmitted report, or due to it being anomalous or defective or abrogated or interpreted according to a meaning most people have not comprehended, and the like of this.”

Mufti Ahmed Sadeq Desai states:

”It should be remembered that the two senior Imaams, namely, Imaam Abu Hanifah and Imam Maalik were in touch with Sahaabah. They had acquired their Islamic knowledge from Sahaabah as well as from numerous such senior Scholars who had studied under the Sahaabah. Thus, they were in close proximity to the age of Rasulullah (sallall~hu alayhi wasallam).

Secondly, the protection of the Qur’aan and Islam were undertaken by Allah Ta’ala Himself. He declares in the Qur’aan:

“ Verily, We revealed the Thikr (Qur’aan) and We are it Protectors.”

Thus the preservation of Islam is a Divine Responsibility. At no stage in the history of Islam was there a time that the full Shariah was not available. Islam was perfected during the time of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The Qur’aan is emphatic and explicit in making this claim. It is, therefore, Islamically unimaginable that the full and perfect Shariah did not exist with the illustrious Scholars until a couple centuries later when Imaam Bukhaari (rahmatullah alayh) appeared o­n the scene. Imaam Bukhaari appeared about 120 years after Imaam Abu Hanifah and about 200 years after Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). During this period, i.e. during the absence of Imaam Bukhaari, the Deen was flourishing. Every aspect of Islam was known to the Scholars. Nothing was hidden and unknown.

It is a ludicrous and a kufr supposition to assume that part of the Shariah was concealed from or unknown to the Salaf-e-Saliheen of the first epoch of Quroon-e-Thalathah (The first three noble ages of Islam), and that the supposed ‘unknown’ portion became known o­nly after Imaam Bukhaari (rahmatullah alayh) appeared o­n the scene 2 centuries later. This supposition is kufr because it militates against the Qur’aanic declaration of:

(1) The perfection of the Deen.

(2) The Divine Protection of the Deen undertaken by Allah Azza Wa Jal, Himself.

Thirdly, Imaam Bukhaari and the other Muhadditheen who compiled the Ahadith in book form did not do so for the benefit of the existing Scholars or for the Scholars before his time. The Scholars before his era were illustrious Fuqaha and Muhadditheen who were the direct students of the Sahaabah or of the Students of the Sahaabah. The Scholars of his time were his (Imaam Bukhaari’s) Ustaadhs and these Scholars were the Students of the Taabieen who in turn were the Students of the Sahaabah. Thus, it was Imaam Bukhaari who benefited from these illustrious Ustaadhs, not the other way around. The compilations of the Muhadditheen were for the benefit of posterity)for the Muslims of later generations. The Scholars before Imaam Bukhaari and those during his time were not at all reliant o­n his compilations. They were completely independent of the Hadith compilations of the later Muhadditheen. The authorities o­n which the Scholars (Fuqaha and Muhadditheen) before Imaam Bukhaari’s time relied were Taabieen and Sahaabah. Their knowledge of Islam was firsthand and did not depend o­n compilations and books. Their Ilm was from the Taabieen whose base of knowledge was the Sahaabah who were Rasulullah’s (sallall~hu alayhi wasallam) Students. The nonsense gorged out by the modernist and deviant Salafis of this age who blindly follow the half-baked so-called scholar, Al-Albaani is thus self-evident.

Fourthly, it is a well-known fact that the teaching of Imaam Abu Hanifah as well as of the other Imaams (Fuqaha) was that if an authentic Hadith is acquired with which his ruling conflicts, then such a ruling should be discarded and the ruling stated in the Hadith be accepted. It was made clear that the Math-hab of the Hadith was his (i.e. Abu Hanifah’s) Math-hab. Thus, if and whenever any of the Scholars who followed Imaam Abu Hanifah acquired a Hadith which in their opinion their Ustaad did not know of, immediately the ruling of the Ustaad o­n the specific issue would be adjusted to conform to the Hadith. But, this process of adjusting such rulings which could have been in conflict with the Hadith o­n account of all the Ahadith not having reached a particular Imaam, ended long before Imaam Bukhaari presented his compilation. We, therefore, find the Mutakh-khireen (i.e. the Hanafi Fuqaha of the third and fourth centuries) adhering to the rulings which the Hanafi Fuqaha of former times had issued despite them having the knowledge of all Compilations of Hadith prepared by the Muhadditheen. This in itself, is explicit evidence for the fact that the Fuqaha before Imaam Bukhaari were already fully apprized of the various Ahadith which the later Muhadditheen compiled in their Books.

Undoubtedly, the Sahaabah had scattered throughout the Islamic empire. But, long before the Hadith compilations of Imaam Bukhaari, the Scholars had already become aware of the Ahadith narrated by the different Sahaabah. The age adjacent to the age of the Sahaabah was an age of intense Islamic learning. The entire Shariah with its jurisprudence (Fiqh) was systematized and codified long before the age of the Muhadditheen. Such systematization and codification are impossible without a total knowledge of Hadith because Hadith is the Tafseer of the Qur’aan. Without Hadith, there can be no Shariah.

Thus, the Shariah which the Fuqaha had systematized was the Shariah which the Sahaabah had acquired from Rasulullah (sallall~hu alayhi wasallam). Just as the Sahaabah were not reliant o­n written books for the knowledge and recital of the Qur’aan, so too the next group of Scholars (the Taabieen) was not reliant o­n any book of Hadith for the systematization of the Shariah. Just as the Sahaabah had the Qur’aan in their memories, so too did the Taabieen have the Ahadith in their memories. Islamic history bears ample testimony to this incontrovertible fact.”
Close Answer


Q. Were not the Hadeeths used by the likes of Imam Abu Hanifah much stronger than those that eventually reached the likes of the Muhadditheen such as Bukhari more than a century later i.e. Hadeeths categorised as 'weak' by the likes of Bukhari would actually have been 'Saheeh' during the time of Abu Hanifah? Does that also not mean that some of the evidences used by the Four Imams to derive their rulings may actually not have made it to era of the Muhadditheen in a state that is admissible for use as evidence?

A. Mufti Ahmed Sadeq Desai states:

”The aim of the Muhadditheen was to sift out the narrations and to prepare books of authentic compilations for the benefit of posterity just as was the aim of the Sahaabah when they had compiled the Qur’aan in book form. The aim was not to benefit the Sahaabah because they were not in need of a book or a written compilation of the Qur’aan. They had the Qur’aan in their memories. The Sahaabah had compiled the Qur’aan in book form for the benefit of posterity.

From this it should be realised that Imaam Bukhaari’s compilation was not for the benefit of the existing Scholars as they were in fact the instructors of Imaam Bukhaari. It is quite possible that the Fuqaha and Muhadditheen prior to Imaam Bukhaari had greater knowledge of Hadith and had a greater advantage in regard to the knowledge of authentic Hadith. The chain of narrators between Imaam Bukhaari and the Sahaabah is very long.

In view of numerous narrators in a chain o­n account of the large time gap, it is possible that a Hadith which was authentic according to Imaam Abu Hanifah or Imaam Maalik became ‘weak’ in terms of the standard employed by Imaam Bukhaari. Imaam Maalik heard a Hadith directly from the lips of a Sahaabi. The authenticity was most perfect. However, the same Hadith could have reached Imaan Bukhaari two centuries later in a slightly different form or in the same form but with a long chain of narrators. Some of the narrators may not have passed Imaam Bukhaari’s strict test, hence he would be compelled to classify the Hadith as ‘weak’ whilst in actual fact it is an authentic Hadith.

Thus, if Imaam Abu Hanifah, for example, bases a ruling o­n the strength of a Hadith which according to Imaam Bukhaari is a ‘weak’ narration, the ruling of Imaam Abu Hanifah cannot be rejected o­n the basis of the designation given to the Hadith by Imaam Bukhaari because Imaam Abu Hanifah and all the early Scholars would not formulate rulings o­n suspect narrations nor were they reliant of the type of categorization of Hadith formulated by the later Muhadditheen.’
Close Answer


Q. Why are there only four madh-habs?

A. Mufti Muhammad Shafi states:

“Restricting taqleed to the four imams happened incidentally and was not a legal or rational choice. By the will of Allah (azza wa jal), every madhhab besides the four madhhabs disappeared over time and became as if they never existed. Even if ten, thirty, fifty, or hundred rulings from their madhhab are saved, one cannot establish a complete madhhab based on such a small number of rulings. If one decides to follow them in these rulings, then what is to be done in the thousands of other issues where there is no known opinion by them? As every madhhab besides the madhhabs of the four imams disappeared it became clear that following our Deen would be subject to following one of the four madhhabs. Therefore, Ibn Khaldun writes in his Muqaddimat al-Tarikh regarding the madhhab of the Literalists [Ahl al-Zahir]:

“Then the madhhab of the Literalists vanished because their imams died out and because the majority [Jamhur] rejected their followers and nothing remained of them except their names in the new books.”

Ibn Khaldun adds:

“All the different regions, only following of the four imams is observed while the followers of all other imams have died. When terminologies overwhelmed the sciences, reaching the level of ijtihad became difficult [because of the inability to fulfill its conditions]. When ijtihad was about to come in the hands of inept and untrustworthy people and those who did not possess the good character of Deen, the scholars declared the door of ijtihad closed.

They exhorted people to follow one of the four imams and prohibited them from conjoining madhhabs. The rulings and opinions of other imams, therefore, only survived in the books. Their madhhabs never developed and neither were there any books that preserved all their rulings. Once the principles had been laid out and the chain of transmission to the imam authenticated, every person took the madhhab of their imam. Then the word fiqh, in that time, became the epitome for following one imam only. The claim to ijtihad, especially in this age, is absolute nonsense and following such a person is unwarranted. The scholars of Islam are now unanimous upon following these four imams.”

Shaykh Zakariyyah Kandhelvi states:

“Now, for someone to ask for proof as to why taqleed is restricted to four imams is feeblemindedness. This is like the example of a father who had eight children of which four died in his life and four remained after his death. It is understood that any inheritance the father leaves behind will be distributed amongst the four children only, and the four children who died before the father will not receive any share of the inheritance. Of course, this is not a denial of their existence at some point in the past. In this case, you will never hear a person ask why the inheritance is being distributed amongst the four sons only and why the deceased children are not getting their share. But if anyone did ask, we would say that this is how fate had it.

Mulla Jivan wrote in his Tafsir al-Ahmadi:

“The truth is that the restriction to four imams is nothing but the grace of Allah (azza wa jal) and a sign of His acceptance of the four imams. There is no place for evidence and reasoning in this matter.”‘

Close Answer


Q. Is it not a form of Taqleed to rely on the judgement of Bukhari or Muslim or any other Hadith scholars regarding the authenticity and correct interpretation of a particular Hadith?

A. Allamah Zafar Ahmad Uthmani states:

“As for those who condemn taqlid, it is not possible for them to act on hadith according to their principle at all, because acting on it is not possible except by imitating some of the ulama in that “this hadith is sahih,”  and “this is da’if,”  and “this is obligatory to act upon,”  and “this is not obligatory to act upon, but it is permissible or desirable or impermissible to adopt,”  and this, as you see, is all taqlid in rulings, since a hadith being obligatory to adopt or vice versa, or impermissible to adopt or vice versa, is definitely from the rulings. This is why the jurists mentioned the discussion of the Sunnah, its acceptance and its rejection, its adoption and its abandonment, and the rulings of the narrators in [the books of] jurisprudence and its principles, due it being from the subject of laws. These people reject taqlid, Qiyas and ijtihad completely in rulings, so why do they do taqlid of the hadith-scholars in this? And why do they make their opinion and their ijtihad in authenticating hadiths and weakening them a proof?

And we have already explained many times that the authenticity and weakness of a hadith, and the trustworthiness and weakness of a narrator, all depend on the taste of a hadith-scholar, his opinion and his judgement. This is why ijtihad developed amongst them in this; thus, one weakens a hadith and another authenticates it, and one weakens a man and another declares him trustworthy. This is nothing besides differences in opinion. So understand, and do not haste in rejecting a reliable Imam to whose eminence the ummah have bowed, and whose greatness and excellence the imams have recognised. Allah has charge of your guidance…

By this the statement of those who say that Allah Almighty made the report of a truthful person a proof, and the testimony of a righteous person a proof, and the one following proof is not a muqallid, is refuted, because authenticating hadith and weakening it is not purely from the category of reporting, rather its pivot is on the judgement of the hadith-scholar and his opinion.

Ibn Abi Hatim transmitted in the book al-‘Ilal (1:10) with his chain to Ibn Mahdi, he said: “Knowledge of hadith is inspiration.”  Ibn Numayr said: “He spoke the truth. If you said to him: From where did you postulate [a particular opinion on hadith]? He would have no answer.”  And he transmitted with his chain to Ahmad ibn Salih, he said: “Knowledge of hadith is equivalent to knowledge of gold and brass, since the precious metal is only known by its experts, and the one knowledgeable in this will not have any proof when he is asked: How did you postulate that this is good quality or bad quality?”  He [Ibn Abi Hatim] said: “I heard my father say: Knowledge of hadith is like a bezel the price of which is a hundred dinar, and another with the same colour the price of which is ten dirham.”

I [Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-Uthmani] say: Just as the hadith-scholars know the chains of the hadiths and their wordings, similarly the jurists know their meanings and they are more aware of them than the hadith-scholars, so it is not permissible for a hadith-scholar to dispute the jurist in the meanings, just as it is not permissible for him to dispute a hadith-scholar in the chain and the text of the hadith, unless they combine jurisprudence and hadith like the four Imams and their companions that are followed in Islam.’

Mawlana Habib Ahmad al-Kiranawi states:

‘We implore you by Allah, assembly of abandoners of taqlid! Do you know that you err in authenticating and weakening hadith, criticising and accrediting narrators, understanding the indication [of texts] and the manner of reconciling between conflicting haidths and preferring some of them over others or not? If you say: “No,”  then you have claimed infallibility (‘ismah) for yourselves, and if you say: “Yes,”  then who has informed you that you have not erred in that which you claimed, of the authenticity of the hadith and its indicaton being in opposition to what the mujtahid opined and it not being abrogated and stronger than what the mujtahid adduced as proof for it? If you say: “None informed us but ourselves,”  we say: “The mujtahid opposes you in this and says: ‘You have erred,’ so how can we accept your opinion and leave his opinion when he is more learned than you?”

When you say, “Do not accept the opinion of anyone without proof,”  and you have no proof with you that you have not erred besides your opinion, so if we imitated you in your statement, “Do not accept the opinion of anyone without proof,”  it would be necessary for us to reject your statement, “This decree was hidden to the mujtahid and we are correct in this ruling,”  and if we accepted your opinion on the accuracy of your opinion and the inaccuracy of the mujtahid without proof it would necessitate for us leaving your statement, “Do not accept the opinion of anyone without proof,”  so what means is there for us to follow you while you contradict yourself in your statements? And what means is there for us to refer the matter to Allah and the Messenger and seek judgement from them?

It is clear that your principles require completely forsaking the religion, and leads us to pure deviation and absolute heresy, and Allah and His Messenger are free from them so they are free from your principles which lead to them. The rules premised on them are rules of desire and deviation, and are not the rules of Allah and the Messenger, so there is no safety, nor any recourse, but to taqlid, in which we take refuge. Allah guide us and you…

Just as the possibility of error exists in taking from a mujtahid, it similarly exists in taking from narrators and [accepting] the accreditation and authentication of the hadith-scholars because most of the narrators are not mujtahids and they transmit hadith using a meaning which they understood from his speech so there is a possibility of error in accepting [what they narrate], and added to this is the possibility of lying and inaccuracy; moreover, those who declared the narrators trustworthy and accredited them, they did not experience them for themselves as is apparent from their declaring those they did not meet trustworthy, rather most of their assessments of trustworthiness are based on assumptions and opinions which are not free from error; moreover, those who declare hadiths sahih and hasan, the basis of these assessments is mere assumpotion which are also not free from error.

With these possibilities, how is it sound to definitely consider hadith from the speech of an infallible and definitely [consider] the speech of a jurist to be from his own speech due to the possibility of error in ijtihad, while the possibility of error in hadith is more than its possibility in the speech of a mujtahid due to the small number of intermediaries between the mujtahid and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and their frequency between the one who extracts hadith and the one who authenticates it, and the nearness of the time of the mujtahid to Allah‟s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and his sharp understanding and his sound mind…

Why is the opinion of a mujtahid not a proof despite his being well-versed in the rules of Allah and His Messenger, skilful therein? Moreover, the narrator who says, “I heard so-and-so say such” or “I saw so-and-so do such” is not merely giving information from sense perception. Rather, ijtihad mixing with the report is more common, and [this is] more obvious than being hidden, because he does not transmit a narration like the transmission of the words of the Qur‟an, rather he transmits the outcome of what he heard or saw according to what he understood from the statement or action.

Therefore, since the report of the narrator, despite being mixed with opinion and ijtihad, is a proof that is obligatory to follow, how is the opinion of the knowledgeable mujtahid not a proof that is obligatory to follow, while most narrators are not mujtahids and the possibility of error in understanding is greater for them than the possibility of error for a mujtihad in [his] ijtihad?

Furthermore, it is possible the narrator lied but this is overcome by the apparent integrity which is premised on mere opinion and ijtihad. Since it is obligatory to accept the narration of a narrator due to his integrity that is suspected by an opinion that is possibly in error, then why is the statement of the mujtahid not accepted despite his expertise that is suspected by an opinion that is possible of error?”
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Q. Were not the Imaams whom the Salafis wish us to do Taqleed of, from the later generations, whereas the Imaams whom we follow are from the students of the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) and their students i.e. the greatest of generations?

A. Mawlana Habib Ahmad al-Kiranawi explains how the Salafis/modernists attempt to impose on us an inferior form of Taqleed i.e. that of the later generations:

“ In the worst of generations, a misguided group arose, insulting the Imams and criticising taqlid, and calling people to abandon it, although most of their invectives and all of their proofs are based on imitation (taqlid) of those who came before them, since when they say, “ In such and such an issue, Abu Hanifah opposed a sahih (authentic) hadith,”  and you ask, “ How do you know it is a sahih hadith?”  they reply, “ Hafiz [ibn Hajar al-„Asqalani] in Fath [al-Bari] authenticated it and so-and-so and so-and-so authenticated it.”

Do they not understand that since it is not permissible for them to imitate Abu Hanifah, how can it be permissible for them to imitate the likes of Ibn Hajar? Since you prohibit taqlid, why is it necessary for Abu Hanifah to do taqlid of Ibn Hajar and his likes in authenticating that which they authenticated and weakening that which they weakened? Why is it necessary for him to understand the hadith, assuming it is authentic, that which Ibn Hajar and others understood from it?

Therefore, these people are in reality stronger in imitation than the muqallids, because the muqallids only consider it necessary for a non-mujtahid to imitate a mujtahid, and these people consider it necessary for the mujtahid to imitate themselves by imitating those that they imitate even if he is a non-mujtahid. Moreover, they call people to abandon taqlid of the mujtahid Imams and deem it necessary to imitate them in authenticating what they authenticate and weakening what they weaken and understanding what they understand and saying what they say and permitting what they permit and prohibiting what they prohibit, in imitation of their predecessors, and cursing those they curse and praising those they praise.

Although the ignorance of these people and their misguidance reach such a degree that their opinions and deeds are self-contradicting, since they criticise something in others and prefer something worse than it for themselves and prohibit something for others and deem something uglier necessary, such that any sane person will have no doubt about their ignorance and misguidance, their misgivings and deceptions, however, they have misled those who are unaware and have spread amongst them, and thus we saw fit to expose their deceptions.”
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Q. Can you give some examples which demonstrate how abandoning rigid taqleed of the official rulings of the 4 madh-habs leads to the construction of a different religion?

A. The official rulings of the 4 madh-habs are in reality the culmination of an unsurpassable process of derivation of rulings from the source texts (i.e. Quran and Sunnah), intense scrutiny, re-evaluation, and refinement, administered by a galaxy of the most competent minds that had ever existed in this Ummah. Overriding rulings produced from such an unmatchable process which was clearly divinely ordained is tantamount to opening the door towards changing the Deen into another religion altogether.

Some of the rulings that have already proliferated widely today under the pretext of ‘stronger daleel’, ‘new ijtihad’, ‘valid minority opinions’, ‘revised rulings due to changing needs’, which supposedly supersede the strength of the official rulings of the 4 madh-habs include the legalisation of music and disco-like dancing, the equating of three talaqs (divorces) with one talaq, the mass genocide of women and children under new forms of warfare, the construction of monuments, tombs, and pyramids over graves, the mass displacement of the exact form of taraweeh approved by the ijma’ (consensus) of the Sahabah, etc. with absolutely no limit to the number of ‘new’ rulings that can be justified using such tools with which the scholars today are abrogating the original pure teachings of the Shariah.

While all of the examples cited above would be regarded as abominations by those who adhere authentically to one of the 4 madh-habs, each scholar (or layperson) who does not believe in such rigid adherence will come to a different permutation of rulings which they would regard as perfectly acceptable and those which they would regard as abominations – such is the chaotically varying capacities, natures and temperaments of intellects.

The following two articles highlight two such rulings that have become widely prevalent and accepted in many circles, within a matter of years, as a result of the abandonment of strict adherence to the official rulings of the madh-habs:

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Q. Why is it obligatory to follow just one Madh-hab?

A. Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanwi (rahmatullahi alayh) states:

“ …the pious predecessors did ask certain things from Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه and other rulings from Imam Awza’ee رحمة ﷲ علیه and others. Today’s people now wish to also do the same. While this is in itself permissible, it is forbidden because of another factor. However before understanding this, first understand the following introduction. What needs to be understood is that the overwhelming and prevailing condition of people should be noted. The distinct difference between the people of that period and today’s time is that the people of those times were overwhelmed by piety and religiousness. Therefore, if they asked several Mujtahideen, it was really coincidental or because they wished to follow the most cautious of opinions. Now if the same state of religiousness prevailed today. It would not be necessary to restrict Taqleed to the following of only one person. But this is not the case today and how would such a state remain until today? Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) explicitly mentioned that after the best of times, lying and dishonesty would become widespread and the condition of people would be much worse.

Such is the situation today when people worship their desires and every person includes his motives in his opinions. Allamah Shaami رحمة ﷲ علیه reports an incident of a Faqih who wished to marry the daughter of a certain Muhaddith. The Muhaddith however stipulated that he would allow the marriage only if the Faqih conformed to the practices of ‘Raf’ul Yadain’ and ‘Ameen bil Jahar’. The Faqih accepted and the couple was married. When the incident was mentioned to a saint of the time, he lowered his head and after a while he said, “ I fear for his Iman because he compromised what he was doing as Sunnah for worldly gain.”

If people are allowed to practice Taqleed Mutlaq, they would do so for their own ends. For example, if a person with Wudhu started to bleed. He would maintain that his Wudhu is not broken in accordance with the view of Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه. If he later happened to touch a woman he would then say that his Wudhu is still not broken because Wudhu does not break in this way according to Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه.

In such a situation, he neither has Wudhu according to Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه as well as according to Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه, even though he will be adamant that his Wudhu intact. People will therefore search for a ruling that appeases their whims and reject whatever does not. Deen will therefore be non-existent and all that will remain will be whimsical fancies.

Therefore, although Taqleed Shakhsi was not necessary during the best of times, it is necessary nowadays because of the differences of the people. Although it will not be said that Taqleed Shakhsi is Wajib or Fardh (obligatory), it must be noted that it secures the welfare of a person’s Deen and without it, his Deen will be destroyed. Therefore, together with such Taqleed securing safety of one’s Iman, it also makes life much more easier.”  (Ashraful Jawab Vol. 2 pg 89-96)
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Q. Granted that when following desires become rampant, as is clearly the condition now, restricting oneself to one Madh-hab becomes obligatory, is there any such precedent in our history for the imposition of this kind of restriction?

A. There is a very strong precedent for this as far back as over a millenium ago when the state of piety, taqwa, and waraa of the general populace was infinitely better than what it is today. More details will soon follow inshaAllah.


Q. What’s the explanation for the statement: 'The layman has no madh-hab'?

A. Mufti Ahmed Sadeq Desai states:

”This fact is not in conflict with the rigid stance of Math-hab adherence. When an ignorant person is confronted with an issue which requires a Shar’i ruling, and he is unable to locate a Mufti of his Math-hab nor does he have access to reliable information to guide him along his Math-hab, then he is not allowed to appoint his nafs as his ‘math-hab’, and follow whatever his stupid whimsical opinion decrees. He has to incumbently submit to the Shariah, and the only available relief for him in the circumstances he finds himself is to resort to any Mufti for guidance. When such a scenario prevails, then it becomes necessary for the Muqallid to acquire guidance from a Mufti of any one of the Four Math-habs available to him.

This methodology is not in conflict with the stance of the Ulama of Deoband regarding firm adherence to the Math-hab. It is an extraordinary situation necessitated by circumstances. The ignorant layman is confronted by two problems: (1) Following his own nafsaani desires, and (2) Following the ruling of a Mufti from one of the Math-habs of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah. There is no conundrum here. Every person whose brain has not become convoluted with copro-substances will understand the incumbency of adopting option No.2.’

More detail to follow insha-Allah.
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Q. In an era in which the laypeople, and even the scholars, are known to easily fall prey to their desires, could you give examples of how allowing Talfeeq (mixing between madh-habs) can cause the laypeople to follow their desires and/or break Ijma' (consensus), even inadvertently

A. Mufti Ahmed Sadeq Desai states:

“Talfeeq in simple terms is an ugly patchwork of mas’alas (rules). It is like a garment full of ugly patches of different colours which makes the garb extremely ugly and shameful to wear in public.

A fiqhi example of this ugly talfeeq is of a person who has made his nafs his math-hab. He cuts his finger and it bleeds. He dupes himself with the argument that his wudhu is valid in terms of the Shaafi’ Math-hab. Then he touches his wife, and bluffs himself by saying his wudhu is valid in terms of the Hanafi Math-hab. He has now combined two math-habs to satisfy his nafs and to justify his selfdeception whilst his wudhu in this scenario is not valid according to both Math-habs.

Another example of haraam talfeeq is that of a person who is a Shaafi. He wants to marry a girl whose father refuses permission. Nevertheless, he ‘marries’ her without her father’s consent and argues that in this mas’alah he follows the Hanafi Math-hab. After sometime, he gives her three Talaaqs in one statement. But he claims that his nikah is valid because in this mas’alah he follows the Salafis and the MJC juhala who say that three equals one if given in one statement. This man’s nikah is not valid in terms of all Math-habs. The combination of Math-habs on an issue which produces a consequence which is not permissible in terms of all Math-habs is haraam”
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Questions to be answered in future (requested by readers)

Why can’t we follow the Sahabahs (radhiyallahu anhum) directly rather than going through the madh-habs?

What advantages did the Mujtahids of the madh-habs have that will never be possessed by anyone ever again?

If each madhab is based upon quran and sunnah, why would it be haram to practise the sunnah of other madhab? How can following quran and sunnah be haram?

Relevant Material

Do I Need to Follow a Madhab?
(Mufti Muhammad Sajaad)

2 thoughts on “Questions on Taqleed and Madh-habs

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