The Era Of The Companions And Absolute Taqleed

By Mufti Mohammed Taqi Uthmani


The Legal Status of Following a madhab: Part Two, The Era Of The Companions And Absolute Taqleed

  • The Era Of The Companions And Absolute Taqleed
  • The Need For Following A Particular Imam
  • The Taqleed Of An Individual
  • Why The Four Schools Of Thought?

Taqleed was prevalent during the era of the Companions. Companions who were not immersed with scholarship, or did not use their own judgment (Ijtihad) in certain issues would resort to the Companions who were acknowledged as jurists and act according to their advice. Evidence of absolute Taqleed and Taqleed of an individual during the successors era are copious, many volumes devoted entirely to this subject would not do it justice. However, for want of brevity here are a few examples of absolute Taqleed during the age of the successors.

Ibn Abbas narrates that Omar ibn Khattab gave a sermon at Jabiyah and said: “0 people! If you want to know anything about the Qur’an, go to Obai ibn Ka’b. If you want to know about inheritance, go to Zaid ibn Thabit. If you want to know about Fiqh (what is halal and what is haram), go to Mu ‘adh ibn Jabal. If you want to know about wealth, then come to me for Allah has made me a guardian and a distributor. ” (Tabarani in Al-Awsat)[ Al-Haithami has mentioned that there is Sulaiman ibn Dawood ibn Hussain in the chain whom no one has mentioned. (Majma’uz Zawaid page 131). I (the author) would like to point out that Ibn abi Hatim has mentioned him (Al-Jarh wa Ta’adeel – vol. 2, part 111) and also Khatib in the History of Baghdad (vol.10, page 62). Neither of them have either praised or discarded him]

Omar RA has addressed people in general in his Khutba (sermon) and advised that in matters of Tafseer, inheritance and Fiqh, they should refer to these distinguished scholars and learn from them. It is clear that not everyone is capable of understanding the proofs and rationale of the text. The instruction in this address is two folds. The first is that of those who are capable should refer to these scholars to understand the proofs and rationale and those who are not capable should refer to them for solutions and act upon their recommendations. Companions who did not regard themselves capable of extracting rules would refer to those who were jurists without investigating the proofs. They would merely follow their advice. The following is an example of this approach.

Salim ibn Abdullah narrated that Abdullah ibn Omar was asked about a person who owed another person some money and had to pay the loan at a fixed time. The creditor then agrees to forgive a portion of the loan if the debtor pays before the deadline. Ibn Omar disliked this agreement and forbade it.30[Muwaata of Imam Malik: page 279] There is no explicit Hadith of the Prophet, which has been offered as proof. It is clear that this ruling was the personal judgment of Ibn Omar. So neither did Ibn Omar volunteer any proof, nor was any proofsought.

Abdur Rahmaan narrated that he asked Ibn Sireen about entering public baths. Ibn Sireen said that Omar RA use to dislike the idea.[ Transmitted by Musaddad (Matalibul ‘Aaliyah, by Ibn Hajar – vol. 1, page 51)] Ibn Sireen – who was one of the most learned followers of the Companions – did not mention any proof except to say that Omar RA used to dislike the idea. This is despite the fact that there are several Hadith regarding the issue of public baths. Omar himself has a Hadith in this issue.

Sulaiman ibn Yasar said that Abu Ayyub Ansaari went for Hajj. When he reached a place called Naziyah – on the way to Makkah – he lost his camels – which were for sacrifice. He approached Omar on the Day of Sacrifice and mentioned his plight. Omar RA said: “Do what those who perform Umrah do (which is the Tawaf and Sa’ee) and then you will become halal [you may take off you Ihram]. Then, when you come for Hajj next year, perform your Hajj and offer whatever sacrifice you can offer.”[Muwaata of Imam Malik]

Again, Abu Ayyub did not request Omar’s proof and nor did Omar RA offer any. Abu Ayyub took his advice and acted accordingly. Mus’ab ibn Sa’d said that his father (Sa’d ibn Abu Waqqas) – when praying in the masjid – would shorten his prayers and complete his ruku and sujood. And  when   praying at home, he used to lengthen his prayers and also his ruku and sujood. Mus’ab asked:

”Father, when in the masjid, you shorten your prayers and when at home you lengthen them. Why is this?” His father replied: “My son, we are leaders and Imams who are followed by others.” (Tabarani in Awsaat – the chain of narrators are sound) [Al-Haithami in Majma’uz Zawaid – vol. 1, page 182]

The meaning of Sa’d’s reply is that since people look towards their leaders, they would assume that lengthy prayers are obligatory and make such a practice an essential component of the prayer.      

This narration demonstrates that the masses during the time of the Companions followed them, not only in their statements, but also in their actions. It is also clear that following an eminent companion proofs are not required and for this reason the Companions observed even the most meticulous details in their actions – such as not giving an incorrect impression that lengthy prayers are a religious duty. Omar ibn Khattab RA saw Talha ibn Obaidullah wearing a colored piece of cloth while he was in the state of Ihram. Omar RA asked him what he was wearing. Talha replied that it was made from fabric, which was not scented. [Unscented colored sheets for Ihram is permissible] Omar RA said;

“You are a group of leaders who are followed by other people. If an ignorant person saw this cloth he would presume that Talha ibn Obaidullah wore this type of cloth while he was in Ihram [and thus assume that even scented material was permissible]. Do not wear these colored garments.” (Muwaata Imam Malik) [Also, Imam Ahmed in his Musnad – vol. 1, page 192]

Likewise, Omar RA had advised Abdur Rahmaan ibn Auf RA to remove a certain type of socks, which he was wearing and said: “I implore you to remove them. I fear that others will look at you and follow your lead.” [Al- Isti’aab, by Ibn Abdur Barr – vol. 2, page 315. Al-Isaabah, by Ibn Hajjar – vol 2, page 361 and ‘Ilaamul Muqi’een by Ibn Qayyim – vol 2 page 171]

The previous three incidents adequately demonstrate that Companions were being followed in their actions and Fatwas. Following the Companions in actions did not require proof or reasoning, for this reason the Companions were very stringent concerning their actions and would emphasise others to be likewise. Omar RA sent Abdullah ibn Mas’ood RA to Kufa and sent the following letter to the people of Kufa:

“I am sending Ammar ibn Yaasir as your governor and Abdullah ibn Mas’ood as your teacher and adviser. They are amongst the most noble of the Companions of the Prophet. They are also amongst those who participated at Badr. So follow them and listen to them.”

Abdullah ibn Mas’ood explained some principles of ruling in cases and said:

“If anyone is faced with a case after today, he should judge according to the Qur’an. If there is a case where Quran has not ruled, then he should judge according to the Prophet. If a case appears where neither has ruled, then he should judge according to the rulings of the pious. If a case comes where no one has ruled, he should judge according to his own discretion.”[ Sunnan Nisaaai – vol. 2, page 305 and Sunnan of Darami – vol. 1, page 54]

Abdullah ibn Masood RA has expressed four levels of ruling in this narration. The Quran and Sunnah, the decisions of the pious and individual judgment. The point which is evident in this order is that no one would assume that while preferring to the Quran first, necessarily entails ignoring the Sunnah, while referring to the Quran to understand its meaning. The consensus of the scholars is that the explanation of the Quran should be sought through the aid of the Sunnah. Not articulating this premise would open the door to many predicaments, for instance, no direct reference is given in the Quran to flogging or stoning an adulterer. To forsake stoning due this type of reasoning would be absurd and totally against the consensus of the Muslim community (Ummah).

Referring to the rulings of the pious entails that their opinions should be comprehended as subsidiary sources facilitating to establish the meaning of the Quran and Sunnah. On the contrary, their views should not be used except to understand the meaning of the Quran and Sunnah. Taqleed requires that while trying to determine and fix one meaning out of several possible meanings of a primary text – which is ambiguous – the view of a Mujtahid is employed. For instance the fact that Abdullah ibn Masood was addressing someone who was already appointed as a judge, shows that Taqleed is not only valid and necessary for a lay person alone, but also for a scholar who should not rely merely on his acumen. (The variance in the type of Taqleed a scholar makes and the type a non-scholar makes that will be explained shortly.) [The above explanation refutes all the questions raised by Ibn Qayyim in ‘Ilamul Muqi’een – vol. 2, page 178 on trying to reason with this narration.]

Salim ibn Abdullah said that Ibn Omar did not recite behind the Imam. Salim asked Qasim ibn Muhammed about this and he replied:

“If you do not, then people who should be followed have also refrained from reciting behind the Imam. And if you do, then people who should be followed have also recited behind the Imam.”

Salim said that Qasim was amongst those who did not recite.[ Muwaata of Imam Muhammed, page 96 – printed by Asahhul Mataabi’. One of the narrators is Osamah ibn Zaid of Madinah who was regarded as authentic by Yahya ibn Mu’een and Ibn ‘Adi. Others have regarded him as a weak narrator. Hafiz in Taqreeb said that he is very truthful.]

Qasim ibn Muhammed was one of the Seven Great scholars of Madinah and a famous follower of the Companions. Even a great jurist of his stature regarded following the opinion of another scholar as permissible (even though there was an apparent contradiction in the proofs of both views). Ibn Sa’ad in his Tabaqat has recorded that someone enquired from Hasan of Basra whether he would drink water from a masjid which was provided as charity. Hasan said:

“Abu Bakr and Omar both drank from the water of Umme Sa’d – which was on the roadside. So what if I drink from this water?”[ Kanzul Ummal – vol. 3, page 317]

Of particular interest is the fact that Hasan’s only proof was the action of the two companions. These were merely selected examples from the lives and statements of the Companions and their followers. Ibn Qayyim states that the Fatwas of more than 130 Companions have been recorded and memorized. Including those of women.[‘Illamul Muqi’een – vol. 1, page 9] These Fatwas include both where proof is offered from the Qur’an and Sunnah and in other instances where it is not. Examples for each approach have been presented above. For other examples, one may refer to Muwatta of Imam Malik; Kitabul Aathaar of Imam Abu Hanifa; Musannaf of Abdur Razzaq and of Ibn Abu Shaibah; the commentary of Ma’aniul Aathaar by Imam Tahawi and Al-Mataalibul `Aaliyah of Ibn Hajar.

Taqleed Of An Individual During The Time Of The Companions And Their Followers

Companions did not make Taqleed rigidly adhering to one scholar in all issues but rather the Companions approached different scholars and adhered to the disparate Fatwas, which were received from the different scholars amongst the Companions. This is normally referred to as Taqleed in general. There are abundant references to Taqleed of a particular individual in the books of Sunnah. A few examples are offered below.

Imam Bukhari narrates from Ikrimah that the people of Madinah asked Ibn Abbas about a woman who – during Hajj – makes her first Tawaaf and then enters her menstrual period before she can make her final Tawaaf. Ibn Abbas told them that she could go home without completing her final tawaaf. The people of Madinah said:

“We will not take your opinion over the opinion of Zaid ibn Thabit.” This narration is found in the Mu’ajjam of Isma’ili from Abdul Wahhab Thaqafi.

The words of the people of Madinah in this narration are : “We do not care whether you give us this Fatwa or you don’t. Zaid ibn Thabit hold the opinion that this woman should not go home [but wait until she is able to complete the final tawaaf].”[ Fathul Bari – vol. 3, page 468 and Umtadul Qari – vol. 4, page 777]

Also, this narration is found in the musnad of Abu Dawood Tayalisi from Qatada where the words of the people of Madinah are:

“We will not follow you, O Ibn Abbas as you go against the opinion of Zaid.”

Ibn Abbas replied: “Ask your companion Umme Saleem when you reach Madinah [Whether my opinion is correct or not]” [Abu Dawood Tayalisi in his Musnad – page 229]

Two points are clear from this dialogue between Ibn Abbas and the people of Madinah. The first is that the people of Madinah regarded and followed Zaid ibn Thabit as an authority. His opinion was given preference over any other scholar. In fact, the narration in the Mu’ajjam of Ismai’ili tells us that Ibn Abbas gave the people of Madinah proof of his Fatwa by referring them to Umme Saleem.[ The people of Madinah met with Ibn Abbas again and informed him that the Hadith (from Umme Saleem) was as he mentioned. Umtadul Qari – vol. 4, page 777] Despite this proof, the people of Madinah still maintained that they trusted the opinion of Zaid ibn Thabit and his statement was proof enough. Ibn Abbas did not object to this behavior from the people of Madinah. He did not approach the people nor has anything different been narrated. He instructed them to return to Zaid and confirm the ruling with Umme Saleem. Zaid did confirm the opinion of Ibn Abbas with Umme Saleem and retracted his previous opinion. The latter part of the narration is confirmed in the books of Muslim, Nisaai, Baihaqi and others.[ Fathul Bari – vol. 3, page 468/469] Certain quarters contend that if the people of Madinah were among those who practiced Taqleed, why did they bother to confirm the Hadith from Umme Saleem?[ Tahreeke Azade Fikr, by Maulana Ismail Salfi – page 132]

This contention is based on the misunderstanding that while making Taqleed of a certain Mujtahid, continuing research into the Quran and Sunnah is somehow forbidden or dormant. Those who reject Taqleed base many arguments on this misconception. The nature of Taqleed in essence is that a person who does not have the immediate tools to derive Hukm Shari’ah from the Qur’an and Sunnah directly relies upon the opinion of a Mujtahid and acts upon it. The concept of Taqleed does not hinder seeking knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah. This seeking of knowledge continues even whilst practicing Taqleed. For this reason hundreds of scholars – who practiced the Taqleed of an individual – continued to write commentaries of the Quran and Sunnah and expand their scholastic horizons. If during research an opinion of a certain Mujtahid was conclusively proven to be against the Quran and Sunnah, the “unsound” opinion would be relinquished and the stronger evidence would be adopted.

If a Muqallid (someone who follows a Mujtahid) finds that the opinion of his Imam is contrary to a Hadith, this is not necessarily antithetical to Taqleed. The narration in question, rather, prove that both Taqleed and constant examination and re-evaluation of primary evidence were both in vogue simultaneously. The people of Madinah took counsel from Zaid who confirmed the Hadith with Umme Saleem and retracted from his original position. This approach enabled reconciliation between a confirmed Hadith and the opinion of an Imam, but the key to this narration is the firm stand of the people of Madinah:

“We will not take your opinion over the opinion of Zaid ibn Thabit”

If this is not following (making Taqleed of) an individual, then it begs the question what is?

Imam Bukhari has narrated from Huzail ibn Shurahbail that some people asked Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari a question on inheritance. Abu Musa replied advising them to ask Abdullah ibn Mas’ood. They did so and Abdullah gave them an answer, which was very different from that of Abu Musa. When Abu Musa heard of Abdullah’s Fatwa, he acknowledged his learning and said:

“Do not ask me anything as long as this great scholar is present amongst you.”

The fact that Abu Musa acknowledged the superior knowledge of Abdullah ibn Mas’ood and then actually instructed others to ask him all their questions concerning the Deen, is in fact a mandate for following an individual. Certain quarters contend that although Abu Musa instructed people not to follow him as long as Abdullah was present, this does not necessitate that he prevented them from asking other Companions who were still present. Abu Musa was merely emphasizing that since Abdullah is more knowledgeable than myself; people should refer to him in all matters. The answer to this contention is that this incident occurred in Kufa during the time of Uthman where Abdullah ibn Mas’ood was the established scholar. As of yet Ali had not arrived in Kufa. So of the understanding of Abu Musa’s statement is merely that “when a superior scholar is present, why go to a lesser scholar?” then it still refers to the fact that Abdullah should be followed in Kufa since there was no one who could match his knowledge. A narration in the Mu’ajjam of Tabarani tells us that Abu Musa was asked a question about suckling and he made a similar statement: “Do not ask me while this (scholar) from the companions of the Prophet is present amongst us.” So it is clear that the circumstances and environment under which Abu Musa made this statement supports the idea of following a specific individual. Taqleed of a specific individual was not unfamiliar to the Companions.

Imam Tirmidhi and Imam Abu Dawood have both narrated that when the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam sent Mu’adh ibn Jabal to Yemen (as a governor), he asked him:

“How will you judge if you are asked to do so?”

Mu’adh said: “I will judge according to the Book of Allah.” The Prophet: “And if you do not find it in the Book of Allah?”

Muadh: “Then I will judge according to the Sunnah of His messenger.”

The Prophet : “And if you do not find it in the Sunnah of the Messenger, or in the Book of Allah?”

Muadh: “Then I will exercise my opinion and I will not be negligent with it.”

The Prophet then patted the chest of Mu’adh with his hands and said: “All praise is due to Allah Who has guided the emissary of His Messenger towards that which He guided His Messenger.”[ Abu Dawood in the chapter of judgements by opinion]

The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam sent one of the best scholars from amongst the Companions. He appointed Mu’adh RA as a governor, judge, mentor and Mujtahid for the people of Yemen and ordered, him to be followed. He allowed him, not only to give Fatwas based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, but also to use and exercise his own judgment. It is clear that the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam decreed the people of Yemen to practice Taqleed of an individual.[ A certain critic – who has labelled myself and others who practice Taqleed as infidels – has written the following comments: “before offering the hadith as a proof, perhaps he should have examined whether the hadith was sound or not” (At-Tahqeeq fi Jabawab Taqleed: Page 47), Then, the above mentioned critic has quoted the famous objection stated by Shaykh Zurqaani from the footnotes of Abu Dawood. Perhaps the person in question himself would like to observe how – in the process of condemning Taqleed – he has used the principle of taqleed himself by quoting Shaykh Zurqaani’s objection to the hadith as sufficient proof against my argument. Morever, he seems to have found it sufficient to quote the footnotes of Abu Dawood in arguing in the integrity of the Hadith. If anything, perhaps he could have read and summarised the comments Ibn Qayyim has made on this hadith refuting Zurqaani’s objections. Ibn Qayyim has argued that none of the transmitters of this hadith have been classified as liars or as weak. Their memory and integrity have not been questioned at all. Besides, there is another chain from Khatib of Baghdad which links us directly to hadith of Mua’adh RA whose narrators are all known as authentic and reliable. Also, the Ummah’s acceptance of this hadith is a very important factor in seeing the authenticity of the hadith. (Ilaamul Muq’ieen vol.1 page 172)]

To argue that this Hadith deals with judicial practices and not with Ijtihad and Taqleed[as mentioned in Tahreeke Azadi Fikr, by Muhammed Ismail] is misguiding. Aswas ibn Zaid said that Mu’adh ibn Jabal came to us in Yemen as a teacher and as a governor. We asked him regarding how the inheritance should be distributed of a man who had died leaving behind a daughter and a sister. He ruled that both the daughter and the sister should receive half each.[ Bukhari vol. 2, page 99] Here Mu’adh RA ruled as a Mufti and did not offer any proof for his ruling. His view was implemented by merely accepting and following it as in Taqleed. However, even though Mu’adh RA did not offer any explanation for his ruling, his opinion was based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. There is another Fatwa of Mu’adh RA in which he used his discretion and exercised his Ijtihad. Abu Aswad Al-Dailami said that when Mu’adh RA was in Yemen, people came up to him with a case of a Jew who had died and left a Muslim brother him. Mu’adh said:

“I have heard the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam say that Islam increases (gives) and does not decrease (take away).”

So Mu’adh then ruled that the Muslim should inherit from the Jew.[ Musnad of Ahmed: vol. 5, page 230 and 236 Hakim has also narated this Hadith and classified as sound even though Bukhari and Muslim did not narrate it. Dhahabi said that it is a sound hadith (Mustadrak of Hakim vol. 4, page 345)] Here Mu’adh RA used a Hadith whose background had nothing to do with inheritance, but still used it to form an opinion which was accepted and followed by the people of Yemen.[ It should be noted that this ruling was Mua’dh’s own conclusion. The opinion of the majority of other Companions is based on a hadith which says that a Muslim does not inherit from a non-Muslim.]

There is yet another incident which has been narrated in the Musnad of Ahmed and in the Mu’ajjam of Tabarani which says that when Mu’adh came to Yemen, a woman from Khaulan met him and offered salaams to him.

“O dear man! Who has sent you?” she asked him. “The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam has sent me” replied Mu’adh.

“The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam sent you so that makes you the messenger of the Messenger of Allah.”

“So won’t you inform me of Islam O’ messenger of the Messenger?” she continued

“Ask me what you wish,” replied Mu’adh.[ Al-Haithami in Majma’us Zawaid vol.4 page 307/308. Also Ahmed and Tabarani from the narration of Abdul Hamid ibn Bahraam from Shahar who were known to weak, but they also have been authenticated]

It is clear that Mu’adh RA was sent as a representative of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam. People would ask of him questions about Islamic issues and he would answer. The above mentioned woman verified his status and then proceeded to ask him questions. Mu’adh RA obliged her and answered her questions. One of her question was “What are the duties of a wife towards her husband?” In reply to this question, Mu’adh RA did not quote the Quran nor Hadith, but merely explained the broad Islamic principles. He did not offer any proofs for his answer. After all, Mu’adh RA is the one about whom the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said that he was the most informed of what is Halal and what is Haram.[ Nisaai; Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah – all with sound narrators (Tadeebul Asmaa wal Lughaat by Nawawi vol 1, page 99)]

The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam also said:

“Mu’adh will be raised on the Day of Judgment far ahead of Scholars to a distance that one can shoot an arrow”.[ Musnad Ahmed from Omar RA (Fathur Rabbani: Vol 21, page 352)]

Not only did the people of Yemen follow Mu’adh RA, but so to did other Companions. Abu Muslim Khaulani said that he went to the mosque in Damascus and saw a group of Companions gathered there (and in the narration of Kathir ibn Hisham,[Musnad of Ahmed vol. 5 page 236] there were close to 30 Companions of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam ). Among them, there was a young man whose eyes had antimony in them and who had white teeth. Each time they differed in an issue, they would refer to the Young man. Abu Muslim asked who the young man was and he was informed that it was Mu’adh ibn Jabal.[ Ibid] In yet another narration of this incident, the words are: “And whenever they differed in an issue, they would refer it to Mu’adh and accept his decision as final.”[Ibid page 233]

Mu’adh ibn Jabal RA was among those Companions RA who were scholars and about whom the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said that: “the most informed about what is Halal and what is Haram.”

He was also followed by several other Companions. The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam sent him to Yemen as a governor, judge and as a scholar whose opinion should be listened to and followed. The people of Yemen obliged and this is the essence of Taqleed of an individual. There is a narration in the Sunnan of Abu Dawood in which Amr ibn Maimoon Al-Awdai said:

“Mu’adh ibn Jabal RA came to us in Yemen as the messenger of the Messenger of Allah. I heard his Takbeer in Fajr and found that he had a deep voice. I developed an affinity with him and I did not leave his company until I buried him in Syria. Then, I searched for the most learned scholar after him and found Abdullah ibn Mas’ood. I stayed with him until he died.”[ Abu Dawood: vol 1, page 62 and Ahmed: vol. 5, page 231]

In this narration, Amr ibn Maimoon searched for a scholar after Mu’adh RA passed away. He stayed with Mu’adh RA and Ibn Mas’ood RA merely to seek knowledge of Islamic Law. So as long as Mu’adh was alive, he consulted him and when he died, he consulted Ibn Mas’ood RA. Referring to only one scholar is known as following an individual.

Likewise, the Tabi’een followed individual Companions. The following are some examples:

Imam Sha’bi said:

“Whoever wishes to take an authority in rulings and judgments should apply the statements of Omar RA.”[ ‘Ilaamul Muqi’een vol.1, page 15]

Imam Mujahid said:

“When people disagree about an issue, they should see what Omar RA did and accept it.”[ Ibid]

Imam Aa’mush said about Ibrahim al-Nakha’i:

“Ibrahim did not consider anybody’s opinion to be better than Omar RA and Ibn Mas’ood RA when they both agreed upon an issue. When they disagreed, Ibrahim would prefer Ibn Mas’ood’s opinion over Omar’s”[ Ibid Page 13 and 14]

Abu Tamimah said:

“We came to Syria and found people were forming an entourage around one person. I asked someone who this person was and he told me that he was the most learned of the Companions of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam and who was still alive. He was Omar al-Bakkali RA”. [Ibid page 14]

Imam Ibn Jarir Tabari said:

“No scholar had students who wrote his Fatwas and arranged his views in Islamic except for Abdullah ibn Mas’ood. Even Abdullah used to forsake his view completely and give preference to Omar if he disagreed with him, but they disagreed very infrequently.”

Sha’bi said, “Abdullah did not recite the Qunut in Fajr. Omar had recited the Qunut, then Abdullah would have most definitely recited it also.”[ Ibid page 16]

The several examples provide ample evidence of following one particular individual during the illustrious era of the Companions RA. There are various degrees of Taqleed. These differ with the qualifications of a person. Following one particular Imam does not exclude the possibility of deferring to another in different issues. This would not impede the general permissibility of following or making Taqleed of an individual. For example, there are issues where Hanafi scholars have not applied the view of Imam Abu Hanifa and have in fact given Fatwas contrary to the Imam’s. However, they are still considered as followers of the Hanafi School of jurisprudence. This issue will be elaborated upon under the discussion and its various degrees. Shaykh Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyya has used these very examples to show the fallibility of Taqleed.[ Ibid vol. 2, page 170]

The argument for Taqleed is correspondingly advanced by the very same Ahadith[Maulana Habib Ahmed Kiranwi has in his work “Inhaa us sukoon”, the Introduction to ‘Ilaanus sunan (vol. 2, page 4-69) giving satisfying answers to the arguments raised by Ibn Qayyim] employed by Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyya.

The narrations above conclusively prove that both forms of Taqleed: absolute Taqleed (or Taqleed in general) and Taqleed of an individual both existed during the time of the Companions RA. The truth is that both forms of Taqleed are sanctioned and permissible for those who cannot extract rules directly from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Shah Waliyyullah of Delhi writes:

“The criticism against Taqleed does not apply to the person who acknowledges that he should follow only the Prophet’s sallalahu alaihi wa sallam statements, that is to say what Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam made halal and what he made haram. Since this person does not possess the knowledge enumerated by the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam and is not capable of reconciling apparent contradictions, nor does he have a structured method of extracting rules from those statements, he should follow a righteous scholar assuming that he is right in his opinion, provided that the scholar follows the Quran and Sunnah and give Fatwas based on them. However, if this assumption of the follower is found to be wrong, he must withdraw from following that scholar immediately without any questions of debates. How can anyone doubt this line of thinking since the practice of asking for Fatwas and giving Fatwas has been in vogue from the time of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam . There is no difference if he asks the scholar whom he follows all the time or whether he asks him sometime [as in following a particular scholar] and others on other occasions [or practicing Taqleed in general] as long as the scholar meets the criteria which we have mentioned.”[ Hujatul al Baaligah – vol 1 page 156 published by Salfiyah, Lahore 1395 and ‘Iqdul Jeed, page 39 – published by Maktaba Mujtaba, Delhi, 1344]

The Need For Following A Particular Imam

The Taqleed of an Individual

The passage of Shah Waliyyullah, quoted above, apparently condones that Taqleed is permissible. However, certain historical changes occurred and there was a need for systemisation. May Allah have mercy on the scholars who saw that there was a need to demarcate the practice of Taqleed. For reasons of administration and to avoid the possibility of contradictions amongst the scholars of differing Ijtihad over a primary source, the laity were encouraged to follow only one Imam and Mujtahid instead of referring to several. This idea gained hegemony during the third and fourth century AH. Hence, this has been the dictum of the vast majority of the Ummah for subsequent centuries, and scholars themselves have conformed to Taqleed of a particular Imam. In order to understand the reasons and benefits of the systemization of fiqh, the following premise has to be comprehended: following one’s desires and passions is a very grave form of misguidance. Following desires and passions in itself is a grave sin, however there still remains the prospect that such people may repent. Following desires and passions to the extent that they believe what is halal to be haram and what is haram to be halal is disastrous. Disobedience of this nature is fatal and makes religion and law a mere sham. These people are submerged in a sin, which is far more serious and fatal than that of the first group. The door to such evil obviously has to be avoided, as does the path, which facilitates it. This is an established principle in Usool ul Fiqh (principles of jurisprudence). The jurists were concerned at the decay of piety and devoutness amongst the Muslim populous, devoutness being the norm during the time of the Companions. They feared that subsequent generations scruples would not be as elevated as the generation of the first three generations (Salaf). If under these circumstances, the door of following an Imam in general were unconditional inadvertently desires would become the commanding principle. For example bleeding expatiates wudu according to Imam Abu Hanifa, but not according to Imam Shafi’ee. For the sake of convenience and ease a person, who usually follows Imam Abu Hanifa. may choose to follow Imam Shaf’iee’s opinion and offer salaat in this condition, which according to the Hanafis is not valid because he is without wudu. However touching a woman would invalidate his wudu according to Shafi’ees and does not according to Imam Abu Hanifa. According to both schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi and Shai’fee) such a wudu is expatiated and no school would accept Salaat of such a person as valid.

A person left freely to adopt the view which suited him best and abandon the Fatwa which did not meet his “standards” of comfort begs the question upon what basis is the “non-scholar” to choose between two contrary Fatwas if not ones own nafs (desires). It is clear that this line of action would result in people using Islamic law as a triviality to entertain the lower self. No Muslims scholar of any repute has validated this kind of practice. Imam Ibn Taymiyah discussed the deception of this approach and wrote:

“Imam Ahmed – among others – have categorically stated that it is not befitting for anyone to deem something haram at one time and then deem the same thing halal at another – merely on whim and fancy. For example, it is not proper for someone to believe that the neighbour has the right of preemption (when someone is buying his neighbour’s house) and then, when he wishes to sell his house to a non-neighbour declines to give his neighbour the right of preemption. Likewise, it is not proper for one to believe that a brother should inherit when the grand-father of the deceased is alive and when he becomes a grand-father he denies the brother of the deceased his share of the inheritance….So this kind of person who deems that something is permissible or forbidden, necessary or unnecessary merely because of whims and fancies is condemned and outside the boundaries of a just [reliable] person. Imam Ahmed and others have categorically stated that this practice is not permissible.”[ The Major Fatwas of Ibn Taymiyah: vol.2, page 23 – published by Darul Kutub al-Haditha, Egypt]

Ibn Taymiyah continues:

“They follow – at one point in time – those scholars who see the marriage as void and at another point of time; they follow those scholars who say that the marriage is still intact merely because of vested interest and desires. This kind of practice is not allowed according to the unanimous opinion of the Imams. An example of this is that the man considers the right of preemption to be valid for a neighbour when he is buying and not valid when he is selling. This is not allowed by Ijmaa’ (the consensus of the Ummah). Likewise, it is not allowed to believe that the patronage of a sinner is valid when he gets married and considers the same patronage to be invalid when he decides to divorce. And even if the one seeking the Fatwa claims that he did not know about the differences of opinion, he would not be given any discretion since that would open the doors of playing with religion and would open many avenues of permitting and forbidding based on fancies and desires.”[ Ibid vol. 2, page 285/286]

Subservience to desires and assuming something to be permissible or forbidden based on personal fancy is such a colossal crime that no scholar has allowed it. The Quran and Sunnah are replete with proofs for this argument. However, we have sufficed with Ibn Taymiyah’s quotes since he is highly regarded even by those who do not believe that following a particular Imam is valid. Ibn Taymiyah himself believed that following a particular Imam was not permissible, but despite that, he did not subscribe to the idea that a person can follow an Imam based on his fancies and desires. In fact, he said that it was not allowed by the consensus of the Ummah.

During the times of the Companions and their followers, the fear of Allah and the Hereafter was so prevalent that absolute Taqleed (Taqleed in general) did not pose a threat to the kind of behavior elucidated above. For this reason people followed different scholars at different times and this was deemed to be praise worthy and totally acceptable. However with each succeeding generation the level of piety dwindled and the likelihood of succumbing to ones desires greatly increased. Scholars and jurists concerned at the degenerating circumstances issued a general Fatwa based on public interest, asserting that Taqleed is restricted to a particular Mujtahid Imam only. Absolute or general Taqleed should be abandoned. This was by no means an irrevocable Islamic statute but rather it was a legal opinion dictated by the demands of the time and the needs of the Muslim community. Imam Nawwawi, the commentator of Muslim explains the necessity of following a particular scholar in the following words:

“The reasoning for this is that if following any school of thought was allowed, it would lead to people hand-picking the conveniences of the schools in order to follow their desires. They would choose between halal and haram and between necessary and permissible. This would lead to relinquishing the collar (burden) of responsibility, this was unlike in the early days of Islam where the schools of thought were not readily available, nor were they structured or known. So based on this reasoning, a person should strive to choose one school of thought which he follows precisely.” [Al-Majmu: the commentary on Muhaddhab, by Nawwawi, vol. 1, page 91 (Matba’atul ‘Aasima Cairo)]

We can elaborate upon Imam Nawwawi’s statement that opening the doors to this kind of practice would lead confusion regarding the distinction between halal and haram. Since the era of the Companions, until now there have been thousands of scholars and Mujtahids who have had very diverse and disparate opinions and concessions concerning different issues. There will always be concessions in one school of thought, which are not found in another, regardless of the fact that these were great jurists, they were not immune from errors. In fact, every Mujtahid has one or two opinions, which go against the whole Muslim Ummah’s position (Jumhoor). Allowing Taqleed in general (following any and every Imam) will inevitably result in what Imam Nawwawi has termed “relinquishing the collar of responsibility”.

For example, Imam Shaf’iee allows chess; Imam Abdullah ibn Ja’far (apparently) allowed singing with musical instruments70;[ Ithaful Sadaatul Muttaqeen, by Zubaidi: vol. 6, page 458/459]

Imam Qasim ibn Muhammed allowed pictures which did not have any shadows[Nawwawi in his commentary on Muslim: vol 2, page 199] ; Imam ‘A’amush held the opinion that fasting started with sunrise and not at dawn[Ruhul Ma’ani, by Aaloosi in the commentary of Surah-al-Baqarah, verse 187 – Aloosi wrote that only a blind person would follow ‘Amush (whose name means the one with the squinted eye) in this regard]; ‘Imam Ataa ibn Abu Rabaah maintained that if Eid fell on a Friday, both the Friday prayer and the Afternoon (Zuhr) prayers would be dropped and there would be no salaat un til ‘Asr[Tahdhibul Asmaa wal Lughaat by Nawwawi: vol. 1, page 334]; Imam Dawood Tai and Imam Ibn Hazm both believed that a person could see his potential fiancee in the nude[Tahfatul Ahwadhi by Mubarakpuri: vol. 2, page 170 and Fathul Mulhim, vol. 3, page 476]and Imam Ibn Sahnoon has supposedly allowed anal intercourse.[ Talkheesul Jeer, by Ibn Hajar: vol. 3, page 186/187] There are numerous instances in the books of Fiqh and Hadith which corroborate following every Imam would give rise to a new school of thought based on carnal desires and the devil’s temptations, making a mockery out of religion in this manner is not permissible. Thus Ma’mar wrote:

“If a man took the opinion of the people of Madinah with regards to music and anal intercourse; the opinion of the people of Makkah regarding Mut’ah (temporary marriage) and barter and the opinion of the people of Kufa regarding intoxicating drinks, he would be the worst of Allah’s servants.”[ Ibid abd Iqdul Jeed, page 62]

Despite being the worst-case scenarios, the above instances demonstrate the possibility of the abuse of the concept of Taqleed in general (following all Imams indiscriminately). The jurists following the first three golden generations advised that Taqleed should be exclusive only to a particular Imam avoiding the ambush of following ones desires and passions. Shaykh Abdur Raouf Manawi has discussed this issue at length and has quoted Shaykh Ibn Hamam:

“It is most probable that these types of restrictions are to prevent people groping for conveniences.”[ Faidul Qadeer, the commentary on Jami’ sagheer: vol. 1, page 211 while commenting on the Hadith: “Differences in my Ummah are a mercy.”]

Shaykh Abu Ishaaq Shatibi, the great Maliki jurist has outlined the reasons for not allowing people to search for conveniences by following different schools in his famous work Al-Muwafiqaat. He discusses the various inequities which would arise in such cases and in fact, he has cited several examples to show how those who followed other schools because of selfish desires merely did so to satiate their own selves. In this context, he quotes the famous Maliki scholar, Shaykh Mazari who refused to give a Fatwa against the accepted Fatwas of the Maliki School on one occasion. The scholar asserted:

“I am not amongst those who prompt others to act against what is known and popular from the school of Malik and his Companions. This is because piety along with God-consciousness are almost non-existent. Desires have multiplied as well as those who claim stake to knowledge and audaciously plunge into offering Fatwas. If the door to go against the prevailing school of thought is opened for them, there will be irreparable damage done. They will violate the cover of respect for following the school [meaning they will stop following]. This is amongst the inequities that are obvious.”[Al-Muwafiqaat: vol. 4, page 146]

Shaykh Shatibi comments on this reasoning:

“Note how this Imam – whose credentials were universally recognised – refrained from giving a Fatwa contrary to the prevailing opinion in the Maliki School. This was based on the necessary principle of public interest since many who claim to be knowledgeable and issued Fatwas fell short in piety and God-consciousness. The examples have been quoted earlier. If this door remained opened the whole of the Maliki school – in fact all the schools – would disintegrate.”[Ibid Page 146/147]

Shaykh Ibn Khaldoun explained why Taqleed prevailed:

“The Taqleed of four Imams became popular throughout Muslim cities and the Taqleed of other scholars was forsaken. The doors of diverse opinions were closed because so many academic terms were being used to denote so many different concepts and because it had become so difficult to reach the stage of a Mujtahid. There was the apprehension that the title of Mujtahid be attributed to one who was not worthy, or someone who is inauthentic (and cannot be trusted) in his opinion and in his religious practice. Scholars declared that attaining the stage of a Mujtahid was not possible and restricted people to follow a particular Imam. They prevented people from following Imams alternately as this was tantamount to playing [with Islam].” [Muqaddamah of Ibn Khaldoun page 448 published by Makatab Tijariyah Kubrah, Egypt.]

In brief, the level of piety and God-consciousness during the era of the Companions was intense. Pursuing desires and passions was the exception rather than the norm during that era, thus anxiety that desires would overcome the populous in matters of Islamic law was non-existent. Both types of Taqleed were practiced in that era – the Taqleed of an individual and Taqleed in general. The foreboding possibility that desires would become the leading principle governing the selection of Fatwas and not piety was a real one. To avoid this it was decided that Taqleed be necessarily restricted to following one particular Imam. If this was not implemented, imagination is the limit to the chaos and turmoil that would be inflicted upon Islamic law.

Shah Waliyyullah wrote:

“You should know that people – during the first two hundred years – were not restricted to follow one particular Imam. During the third century, the concept of following one particular Imam emerged. There were very few scholars who did not rely upon the opinion of a single Mujtahid and Imam. This was the necessary approach for them at that time.”[ Al-Insaaf fi bayan sabab Ikhtilaaf: 57/59. Published by Matba’ Mujtabai, 1935]

A question might arise from this analysis: How can something that was not necessary during the times of the Companions and their followers become necessary for people who came after them? An eloquent reply has been offered by Shah Waliyullah himself:

“It is mandatory that there should be someone in the community (Ummah) who knows details of particulars rules and laws with their reasoning and proofs. The people of truth have unanimously agreed to this premise. A science or action which is necessary to fulfill a mandatory action also becomes mandatory in itself. For example, the predecessors did not write the sayings of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam, Today writing and documenting Hadith has become necessary, because the only way we can know and learn Hadith is by knowing the books of Hadith. Likewise, the predecessors did not engage in studying syntax and etymology. Because their language was Arabic, advanced study of these ancillary sciences was not required. Today, learning these sciences has become mandatory since the language has drifted considerably from the original language of Arabic. Based on this account, one must draw an analogy for proving that following one particular Imam and Mujtahid is sometimes necessary and sometimes not necessary.”[ Ibid 69/71]

Based on this account, he later explained:

“If there is an ignorant person in India or in Central Asia where there are no expert scholars on Shafi, Maliki or Hanbali law, and if there are neither any books of those schools readily available, then this person must follow the school of Imam Abu Hanifa. It would not be permissible for him to leave that school because he would be effectively exonerating himself from the duties of Islam. He would be an anarchist. This would not be the case for a person who lived in the Two Sanctified Mosques [Makkah and Madinah where scholars of the three other schools would be readily available].[Ibid]

Shah Waliyyullah hinted toward the chaos and corruption which was prevented by restricting Taqleed to one Mujtahid:

“In short, following the Mujtahids was a subtle inspiration which Allah unveiled to the scholars. A consensus arose among the rightly guided scholars, to its indispensability. Knowingly or unknowingly, it was upon this inspiration which the vast majority of the ummah united.”[Ibid]

He wrote in another place:

“The Ummah has unanimously agreed upon the validity of following one of the four schools of thought – which have been organised and documented. There are many obvious benefits in this, especially today where determination has dwindled; where desires have penetrated our consciousness and gloating with ones own opinion is seen as a virtue.”[ Hujjatullah vol. 1, page 154]

A very clear example of what Shah Waliyyullah has stated can be found during the caliphate of Uthman RA regarding the compilation of the Quran. All seven dialects of the Qur’an were being recited. Uthman RA requested that all copies of the Quran be standardized upon the dialect of the Quraish whose Arabic was uncontaminated over successive generations. Hafiz Ibn Jarir Tabari – the great historian and commentator of the Quran – adhered to the opinion that Uthman RA abrogated the remaining six dialects and retained the dialect of the Quraish. All other copies of the Quran were discarded. From the time of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam Abu Bakr RA and Omar RA, people were accustomed to recite in any of the seven dialects. Uthman RA perceived, that failure to standardize the Qur’an would bring about a state of chaos and commotion in successive generations.

Uthman RA abrogated six and used the dialect of the Quraish for the official rendition of the Qur’an. Ibn Jarir wrote: “That was the community which was instructed to memorise the Qur’an and recite it. They were given the choice to recite it in any of the seven dialects they chose to do so. For what ever reason, it [the community] was ordered to maintain one standard dialect and to discard the remaining six.”[Taseer Ibn Jarir: vol. 1, page 19]

There still remains the question that how can an action be allowed during the time of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam (reciting the Qur’an in all seven dialects) and prohibited later. To paraphrase Ibn Jarir, the Muslim community was merely given the choice to recite in one of those seven renderings but no one rendering was made mandatory. The community later observed that there was benefit in restricting the dialects to only one. Ibn Jarir concludes: “What they did was mandatory upon them. Whatever they did, they did so out of concern for Islam and its adherents. Thus, their mandatory action was what was preferred for them, than to continue [reciting with all seven] with the status quo which would have lead the community towards more harm than benefit.” [ Ibid: vol. 1 page 22]

The account given above was based on Ibn Jarir’s view that Uthman RA had abrogated the remaining six renditions. There is another opinion about canceling the remaining six and that is the view held by Imam Malik. Ibn Qutaibah. Abu Fadl Razi and Shaykh Ibn Jazri. These scholars maintain that Uthman RA did not actually abrogate the remaining six renditions but rather standardized the script of the Qur’an to conform to one dialect which is the dialect of the Quraish. The other six renditions and dialects are still very much accepted as the Qur’an today.[ For a full detailed account of this view, read the commentary of the rare words of the Qura’n, by Nishapuri on the sides of Ibn Jarir (vol. 1, page 21) and Fathul Bari: vol. 9, page 25/26]

If we take this opinion, which is the opinion of the majority of researchers – then it still supports the case for following a particular individual. This is because before Uthman RA standardized the script of the Qur’an, people were writing the Qur’an with several different scripts and even the order of the Surahs varied.

Uthman RA annulled writing the Qur’an in different scripts, perceiving greater benefit to the Muslim community. The order of the Surahs was also standardized. He issued this decree throughout the Muslim world and had all other copies of the Qur’an discarded.[ For further elaboration on this issue, read the author’s book “The sciences of the Qur’an”] Uthman RA united the community on a standard script. This incident is an example of following one particular scholar and Imam. The action of Uthman RA proves that if the Muslim community decides to adapt a way – out of several – to achieve an ideal (like reciting or writing the Qur’an in a standard script), it may eliminate the other practice if there is greater benefit for the community and the avoidance of a harm. The same principle applies in the case of restricting Taqleed to the following of one scholar rather than following many.

Why The Four Schools of Thought?

This begs the question: if following one particular Mujtahid is indispensable, why the need to restrict Taqleed to only the four schools of thought? Several great Imams and Mujtahids have occupied the pages of Islamic scholastic history such personages as Sufyaan Thauri, Imam Awzaa’i, Abdullah ibn Mubarak, Ishaq ibn Rahwaih, Imam Bukhari, Ibn Abi Layla, Ibn Sibrimah, Hasan ibn Saleh and many others. Are all Mujtahids not equally qualified to be followed? Such a contention is valid in principle, but rather, it is not effectively possible. The schools of thought of the Mujtahids mentioned above are not systematically documented. Had their schools been formally codified and structured similar to the major four schools, then there would be no hindrance to following them. Unfortunately, their schools do not exist formally, nor have the original sources of the schools survived. To follow such schools would therefore prove difficult. Shaykh Abdur Raouf Manawi, the famous scholar of Hadith, has quoted Hafiz Dhahabi:

”We should believe that the four Imams, the two Sufyaans [Thauri and Ibn ‘Uyainah], Awzaa’i, Dawood Zahiri, Ishaq ibn Rahwaih and all other Imams were correct. The non-Mujtahid should follow one specific school. It is not permissible to follow the Companions, nor their followers – as stated by the Imam of the Two Holy Mosques – since their schools are not documented or organised. In court rulings and in giving Fatwas, it is not permissible to follow a non-documented or a non-organised school. Also, the following of the four schools has flourished and has been refined to the extent that absolute terms have become specific and their general words have become defined. This is unlike the other schools where their followers have disappeared. Imam Razi has quoted that it is the consensus of the scholars that a lay person cannot follow the Companions and their Companions.”[ Faidul Qadeer, the commentary of Jami Sagheer by Manawi: vol 1, page 210]

This point has been discussed by Imam Nawawi in the following words: “Although the knowledge and status of the Companions and their Companions is far superior than that of scholars who came after them, it is not permissible for any to follow their schools of thought. This is because they were not able to document their Fatwas nor arrange principles and details of their schools of thought. None of the Companions (or their followers) formed a structured school of law. This structuring was done by scholars who came after them who, being themselves ardent students of their predecessors, took on the task of formulating premises and rules of extrapolating and extracting laws before the incident occurred.”

Taqleed being restricted to these four schools of thought has been explained by several great scholars. At this point, however, I would like to draw attention to two scholars in particular. The first is Imam Ibn Taymiyah and the second is Shah Waliyyullah. Their opinions will be quoted since even those who do not agree with the concept of Taqleed hold them in great academic standing.

Ibn Taymiyah has written in his book of major Fatwas: “There is no difference, as far as the Qur’an and Sunnah is concerned, in following one Mujtahid and not others. So Malik, Laith ibn Sa’d, Awzaa’i, Thauri were Imams of their times. Following any of them is permissible. No Muslim can say that it is permissible to follow one but not the other. However, if anyone has not allowed following any of these scholars in our times it is for one of the following two reasons. There remains no one who knows that particular Imam’s school of thought. This would render that particular scholar [or his school of thought] dead. There is the famous difference of opinion regarding following a dead school [meaning a school of thought erased by time]. Following these Imams today is like following a dead person, which is not allowed. It would only be valid if knowledge of his school existed. The second reason would be to say that the consensus of scholars has determined that the opinions, which oppose those of these scholars, prevail today. If some scholar whose school is still alive today conforms with the opinion of those Imams whose schools do not exist today, then definitely, their opinions will be used as collaborating and secondary evidence.”[ The Major Fatwas of Ibn Taymiyyah: vol.2, page 446]

Shah Waliyyullah, has allocated a whole chapter to this discussion in his book: “Iqdul Jeed” and called it: “The Chapter of Emphasising following one of these four schools of thought and denouncing the idea of forsaking them.” He started the chapter by saying: “You should know that following these four schools has tremendous public advantages and benefits. Forsaking them is wrought with mischief and harms. We will explain this with many inferences….” [Iqdul Jeed: page 31]

He then goes on to explain the many reasons which I will paraphrase in points instead of translating a very lengthy passage. It is incumbent to rely upon the early predecessors if one is to understand Islamic law. The only way for us to do this is either to determine that the statements of the predecessors have been transmitted to us via sound chain of narrators or to read their statements, which are documented in reliable books. It is necessary to establish that these statements have actually been trusted and used by other scholars. Finally, if their statements are open to several meanings, then the most preferred meaning be adopted. Occasionally the statement of a certain Mujtahid may appear to be general but in fact it may be quite specific, which would be recognised by the scholars who have studied his school of thought. Thus, it is necessary that the statements of this certain Mujtahid be documented, understood and explained such that the rationale is emphasised. If a certain Mujtahid has not had his statements codified then such a Madhab should not be relied upon. In our age, the four prominent schools of thought share this advantage whereas other schools do not. The Imamiyah and the Zaidiyah schools of thought also have this privilege. However, since their opinions are non-Sunni, it would not be permissible to utilize their statements. The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said:

‘Follow the vast majority of the community.’ Since it is common knowledge that schools of thought besides these four have vanished, it would be going against the principle mentioned in the Hadith.

Finally, if giving a Fatwa based on any of the earlier scholars and their schools of thought were to be made permissible, then those corrupt scholars would take advantage of the Shari’ah and base their Fatwas on the statements of any of the predecessors. This would inevitably open the door to the abuse of their statements. Corrupt scholars would be asked to justify selfish desires by quoting pious predecessors. Relying upon following the vast majority of the community [ibid] would arrest the drift to chaos within the Shari’ah.


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