The Era Of The Mujtahid Imams and Some Principles Of Hadith and Jurisprudence

By Shaykh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (1391 AH)


Part Three: The Era Of Mujtahid Imams & Some Principles Of Hadith And Jurisprudence

  • The Main Reason For The Diffeences Between The Imams
  • Some Principles Of Hadith
  • Types Of Hadiths
  • The Basis Of Rejection And Preference
  • Assessment Of A Narrator
  • The Indispnsability Of The Principles Op Hadiths
  • Some Principles Of Fiqh: Principles Of The Jurists For The Validity Of Hadiths
  • The Most Basic Reason For Differences
  • The Four Schools Of Fiqh: The Opinions Of The Imams Are All From The Hadths
  • Examples Of The Multi -faceted Methods Of Inference
  • The Parable Of The Imams Of Hadith
  • Inference In Our Times
  • The Approach Of The Hanafi School Of Thought
  • Epilogue

The Main Reason For The Diffeences Between The Imams

As explained in the previous section, there were some changes made on the part of the narrators in reporting their hadiths. These changes were either intentional or unintentional, and occurred (within the narration itself) either in transmitting, or in a person’s understanding of the narration. To account for this, a need was felt by the Imams of hadith and jurisprudence to assess all the narrations and choose some of the narrations over the others. The Imams awarded preference to the correct and reliable narrations based on their own research. At the same time, they rendered the unreliable narrations unworthy of implementation. It is an accepted fact that the opinions of the mujtahids are extracted from the teachings of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). Often, their views were extracted from the explicit texts of the Shari’a. At times, certain injunctions were deduced on the basis of a particular cause found in the speech of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH).

In short, specific rules and principles are required for practicing on the hadiths which enable one to award preference to some hadiths over others. The Imams of hadith and jurisprudence have differed over the matter of which principles apply in awarding this preference. It is a very lengthy discussion which we would prefer not to discuss in detail (here). In fact, the principles of hadith and jurisprudence are taught even before the major hadith books in our madrasas.

Some Principles of Hadith

Types Of Hadiths

Some of these principles will be mentioned briefly. The Imams of hadith, due to the aforementioned reasons, have divided the hadiths into three different categories: mutawatir [continuously recurrent], mashhür [well-known], and khabaral-wahid [a single person’s report] or ahãd [solitary hadith]. A mutawatir hadith is one for which the narrators are so numerous in any given era that it is virtually impossible for such a large number of people to agree on a fabrication or an error. Examples of this include the existence of Bombay and Calcutta, the number of rak’ats in salat, or the number of fasts (to be observed in Ramadan). The second type of hadith is called mashhür. This category is similar to mutawatir in some respects, but since there is very little or no difference of opinion regarding these two types of hadiths, we will not discuss them in much detail here. The only difference of opinion lies in the number of narrators required for a mutawatir narration and whether a mashhür narration should be classified in the category of mutawatir or khabar al-wahid, or whether it should be a separate category.

At this juncture, we only wish to discuss the third type of hadith, i.e. khabar al-wahid. This category refers to those hadiths which do not reach the standards of mutawatir. Most narrations fall under this category. First of all, this type of narration is divided into two types: accepted [maqbul] and rejected [mardud]. The great hadith master Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani says, “Besides mutawatir hadiths—which are undoubtedly acceptable—all other types of hadiths can be divided into two categories: maqbul and mardud. Maqbul is that type of hadith upon which practicing is obligatory. Mardud is that hadith the reliability of which supersedes its unreliability. Therefore, a hadith which is comprised of contradictory angles, in other words some angles pointing to its authenticity and reliability and others indicating its unreliability, will fall under the category of rejected [mardud]. However, if the angles warranting its acceptability are predominant then the hadith will fall under the category of reliable [maqbul].”

Thereafter, Ibn Hajar says that a rejected [mardüd] hadIth is not necessary to practice upon [wäjib al-’amal]. However, acceptable [maqbul] hadiths are of two types: those that are necessary to practice upon [wãjib a1-’amal] and those that are not necessary to practice upon [ghayr wäjib a1-àmaI]. In other words, a hadith can technically be an accepted hadith [maqbul], but due to some reason or another it is not necessary to practice upon it. Ibn Hajar further states, “At times an accepted hadith is not necessary to practice upon in spite of it being an accepted hadith, because of its contradiction with another hadith. In such a case, both hadiths will be compared to see if some harmony can be brought about between both. For instance, the scholars have brought about some harmony in the following two contradictory hadiths. The first hadith states, ‘There is no such thing as contagious diseases in Islam,’ while another hadith states, ‘Flee from a leper as you would flee from a lion.’

There is an apparent contradiction between these two hadiths, (though) both of them are authentic and reliable. The scholars have brought about some harmony between these two hadiths in various forms. Our aim at this juncture is not to elaborate on their opinions. All we wish to say is that where there is an apparent contradiction, the first and foremost step will be to bring about some harmony between them. Conversely, if no harmony can be brought about between them, then we will assess whether one has precedence over the other, either in terms of its date or its occurrence. If this can be established, then the latter of the two will be accepted and practiced upon. If this is not possible, we would search for an external reason to grant preference to one over the other. However, if this proves futile, both narrations—in spite of being authentic—would be included in the category of rejected [mardud] hadiths, because of their apparent contradiction.

The Basis Of Rejection And Preference

At this juncture, two points have attracted lengthy discussions from the scholars: the basis of rejection, i.e. the causes that render a hadith weak and unreliable; and the basis of preference. In other words, on what basis will one narration have preference over another in the case of two narrations that, in spite of being apparently contradictory, are both authentic?

Under these two extensive points of discussion, there have obviously been many other minor differences of opinion among the scholars. This is evident from the rules mentioned above. Let us examine the case of two apparently contradictory hadiths. These two hadiths will not necessarily be considered contradictory to every single knowledgeable person. In fact, at the very outset, the meaning of one of the two hadiths, according to a mujtahid, may not be contradictory to the other hadith. However, even if there is some contradiction between the hadiths, it does not necessarily mean that there cannot be some harmony brought about between them. There is a possibility, according to some people that harmony can be brought between them, though others may disagree. Once it is established that harmony cannot be brought about between them, it is obvious that differences of opinion are bound to occur regarding which of the hadiths should be given preference over the other. This is so because there is a possibility that one of the mujtahids will present such an analysis that renders one of them to be the latter category [nasikh], thereby abrogating the other. On the other hand another mujtahid may not reach such a conclusion.

However, if it cannot be established that one is the abrogator and the other is the abrogated, then once again differences of opinion will occur as to whether one of the two narrations can be preferred over the other due to certain other reasons. We will discuss this briefly at a later stage. Such differences of perspective among the mujtahids are quite natural and understandable. For instance, a narrator narrates a hadith. Zayd considers the narrator to be a reliable person while Amr regards the narrator to be a liar. In another case, Zayd considers this narrator to be intelligent, whereas Amr regards him to be dull of perception. There could be many other reasons for these differences of opinion in this case; the narrator’s hadith is acceptable according to Zayd, whereas Amr dismisses him as unreliable. In short, due to the aforementioned reasons, many differences of opinion have occurred among the Imams of hadith and jurisprudence [fiqh] in many of the by-laws of Islam. Our objective in briefly explaining this is to expose the reasons for the differences of opinion among the scholars. In these circumstances, one has either of two alternatives. The first is that he has the capability to assess all the reasons for the differences of opinion and he is in a position to award preference to one over the other and practice accordingly. He has the authority to do this and, Allah-willing, he will be rewarded for his efforts. Such a person is referred to as a mujtahid. On the other hand, if he does not have this capability to grant preference to some of those opinions over others, the next option is to follow a knowledgeable person.

Even under normal everyday circumstances, if a person does not know the road, he tends to follow someone who knows. However, before following anybody, one should examine the person he is following. Is he himself aware, or is he lost like his followers? If a person changes his leader at every cross-road, there is nothing but misguidance in store for him. This is why the scholars have compelled the masses to follow one particular scholar, and they have prohibited them from following various scholars at random.

Assessment Of A Narrator

Nonetheless, due to the aforementioned reasons, the scholars have differed greatly on two different aspects of the hadiths.

First, they have differed on the basis of assessment [ta’n] of a narrator; in other words, on what grounds a hadith can be considered untenable. The hadith scholars have counted ten different reasons for the defectiveness of a hadith. Five of these are related to a narrator’s reliability [‘adala], while the other five are related to his memory [hifz]. The five relating to his reliability are as follows:

(1) He is a liar.
(2) He is accused of lying.
(3) He is a flagrant violator of Islamic law [fasiq]. This could either be in deed (e.g. he is a fornicator) or it could be in speech (e.g. he is a backbiter).
(4) He is guilty of reprehensible innovation [bid’ati].
(5) He is unknown.

As for the five relating to his memory; they are as follows:

(1) He narrates incorrectly in most cases.
(2) He has a tendency to be negligent when narrating.
(3) He has misgivings about his narration.
(4) He narrates contrary to other reliable narrators.
(5) His memory becomes impaired.

The scholars have differed on the aforementioned ten factors from two different angles. First of all, they have differed as to how these factors will render a hadith weak. For example, if a narrator is guilty of reprehensible innovation [bid’ati], will this render his narration unconditionally weak, or will his narration be unacceptable only when he narrates according to his innovation [bid’a]? The second angle from which the scholars have differed deals with whether or not a narrator actually possesses the defect mentioned about hint. If a narrator is accused of having one of the above ten defects, does it really mean that he has that deficiency? For example, if a narrator is accused of speaking lies, this may be true according to the opinion of some people while others may consider him to be truthful and consider the error to be that of other narrators (in the chain).

Apart from these, there are other angles of differences among the scholars. For example, according to some scholars, if a narrator removes one of the links from the chain of narrators, he is thereby considered unreliable and the hadith is rendered weak. However, according to others, it is not an absolute rule that wherever a narrator is removed from the chain, the hadith is weak. There is more detail to this point. The scholars will first examine who the missing link is. Is he a Companion or is he someone else? They will also examine the person who removed that link: is he reliable or unreliable? Similarly, there are many other angles from which the scholars have differed over which factors would render a hadith weak. One group may consider certain points as contributing to the weakness of a hadith. Hence, wherever one of those points is found in any of the hadith, that hadith will be considered weak and the injunction that hadith mentions will not be established On the other hand, another group of scholars may not consider these points as factors that weaken a hadith. Hence, the hadiths that contain these points are not weak according to them, and the injunctions mentioned in those narrations will be established on the basis of those hadiths. My heart desires to write more in detail on this subject, but since this is an academic topic which would bore the average layman, I have tried to be as brief as possible.

The Indispnsability Of The Principles Op Hadiths

To sum up, one of the major reasons for the difference of opinion found among the mujtahids is that different Imams have different criteria for establishing the reliability of a hadith. This is why the scholars of hadith consider it imperative to teach the principles of hadith [usul al-hadith] before teaching the actual books of hadith. This enables the student to understand the reasons why some hadiths have been disregarded. At the same time, he will understand why scholars, in spite of an explicit proposition appearing in a hadith, act contrary to it. This is why it has always been my fervent desire to request that the people who teach the translations of the hadiths would at least teach a brief summary on the principles of hadith. This would ensure that ordinary people, who zealously read the hadiths in translations because they are the speech of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) , are not led astray. It would also ensure that they do not become disinclined to the juridical rulings [masa‘il fiqhiyya], and that they do not develop any evil thoughts about the hadiths. All of these factors can lead to a fatal deficiency in their faith [din]. And Allah guides whom He wills to the straight path.

The author of the Tadhkira writes, “There is a very intricate and difficult issue in the field of hadith that, since the fabricators and the preachers have fabricated many hadiths, and many other pious people have misunderstood the meaning of the hadiths, the mujtahids felt a need to establish a set of principles to assess the validity of a hadith. This set of principles will differ from the principles set up by the Imams of hadith.” There are also other factors which render a hadith unreliable. Until a person has knowledge about them, it is not permissible for him to practice upon the hadiths directly. Some Principles of Fiqh

Principles Of The Jurists For The Validity Of Hadiths

The jurists [fuqaha’] have composed a set of rules for the assessment of the validity of a hadith. These are placed under the heading Bäb al-Sunna [Chapter on the Sunna] in the books on principles of jurisprudence [usül al-fiqh].

We will briefly explain a few principles of the Hanafi school (in this regard), which will enable us to recognize the necessity of understanding the hadiths. These principles will also expose how unaware the so-called “followers of hadiths” are.

The scholars of the principles (of jurisprudence) have clearly stated that just as a certain amount of knowledge is required for the understanding of the Qur’an, there is also a need to understand the rules and principles of hadith study [usül al-fiqh]. For instance, a certain word in the Qur’än may be common or general; it could have more than one meaning, or it could be confined to a certain meaning only. Is a certain word taken literally, or does it have a figurative meaning as well? Is a certain order given as a command, or is it optional or is the statement giving permission to perform this action? One has to be well-versed in all these principles which deal with the significance of the Qur’an and hadith. In exactly the same way, one has to be well-versed in the principles that deal exclusively with the 5adiths. These principles are divided into a few categories. The first of these categories deals with the chains of narrators linking us to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). These chains render a narration mutawatir, mashhür or khabar al-wahid. Mutawatir hadiths have already been explained [see page 39]. Mashhur is that type of hadith of which the narrators were only one or two individuals from the era of the Companions, but after them the number of narrators reached the level of mutawãtir. Khabar al-wähid refers to that type of hadith which fails to reach the status of mutawatir right up to the last set of narrators.

The scholars have differed greatly as to whether the latter type of hadiths compels one to act upon it or not. According to the Hanafi school of thought, at times it is necessary to act upon them, while at other times it is not. According to the Mãliki school of thought, if a hadith of this nature is illogical, it is not necessary to practice upon it. However, according to the Hanafi school of thought, if the narrator is perceptive and discerning (for example, the narrator is one of the Four Caliphs, Abdullãh ibn Masüd, Abdullãh ibn Umar Abdullãh ibn Abbs, Abdullãh ibn al-Zubayr, Zayd ibn Thãbit, Mu’ãdh ibn Jabal, A’isha the Truthful, and so forth), then that type of hadith will compel us to practice upon it, whether it is logical or illogical. However, if the narrator is not as well-known in the field of jurisprudence [fiqh], his narration will not be accepted if the narration is contrary to other more rational narrations.

This is why when Abü Hurayra said that the consumption of anything cooked over fire nullifies wudu, Abdullah ibn Abbãs, dismissed his narration by asking, “If water heated over fire is used for wudu, will it be necessary to repeat the wudu’?”

Hence, Abdullãh did not consider this narration worthy of establishing as an injunction. If the narrator of any hadith is unknown in the field of hadith, but the other narrators who are narrating from him are reliable, then he will also be considered as a known narrator and his narration will be accepted. However, there are four conditions for the reliability of a narrator:

(1) he should be a Muslim,
(2) he should be sane,
(3) his memory should be sound, and
(4) he should not be a flagrant violator of Islamic law [fasiq].

Each one of these conditions is mentioned in detail in its appropriate place. For example, that a person should not be a fasiq means that he should not perpetrate major sins, nor should he be guilty of consistently perpetrating minor sins. Similarly, that a person should be of a sound memory means that he heard the hadith with complete attention, he remembers it while he conveys it, and he understands the meaning of the hadith while listening to it.

The second category deals with the succession [ittisal] and interruption [inqita’] of a hadith. The specialists dealing with the principles of hadith have divided interruption into two types: apparent [zahiri] interruption and hidden [batini] interruption. Apparent interruption means that a link is missing in the chain of narrators, either among the Companions or the other narrators. The scholars have differed on this issue, as well as the issue of when a hadith is worthy of establishing as an injunction and when it is not. The second form of interruption is called, a hidden interruption, It is not exactly an interruption, at first glance, but due to their penetrative insight and their respect to the hadiths, the scholars have labeled it an interruption. This is why many scholars do not include it in the category of interruption. This hidden (or rather esoteric) form of interruption can be due to many reasons. It could be because the hadith is contrary to the Qur’an. For example, there is a hadith that states, “Salat is not permitted without Surat al-Fatiha.”

This hadith apparently falls in contradiction to the general verse of the Qur’an, “Read from the Qur’an whatever is possible for you [ma tayassara]” (Surat al-Muzzammil 73:20). This is why the scholars say that the hadith in question has an hidden form of interruption in it. This form of interruption could also be due to a particular hadith being contrary to a more famous authentic hadith. For example, there is a hadith that says, “Judgment can be passed with one witness and an oath.” In other words, instead of the compulsory two witnesses required in court, if there is only one witness, an oath will be taken by the plaintiff in place of the other witness and a judgment can still be passed. However, this hadith is contrary to an authentic hadith which specifies, “A plaintiff is compelled to produce evidence (in the form of witnesses, etc.) and if he is unable to do so, the defendant should take an oath.” On the basis of the latter narration, the first hadith would not be acceptable.

Similarly, if a narrator relates only a part of a famous incident and omits the other portion, this is proof enough that the narration is a bit dubious. In addition, if the Companions do not accept a certain hadith and, following discussion among themselves, they infer their own judgments, this indicates that the hadith is not acceptable. Likewise, if a narrator refutes his own narration, or he acts in contrary to his own narration, or he issues religious verdicts [fatawa] against his own narration, his hadith is considered dubious. I do not wish to lengthen this subject. The specialists of the principles of hadith have analyzed this matter in great detail. Whoever wishes to do so should consult their books.

The Most Basic Reason For Differences

In short, all the Imams—whether they are Imams of jurisprudence or hadith—have a specific set of rules for assessing whether or not a hadith should be practiced upon. This has contributed greatly to a difference of opinion among the Imams with regard to the hadiths. One hadith may be accepted by some scholars because it reaches the standards set by them, while the same hadith will be rejected by the others because it does not conform to their established standards. The only person who will be able to come to some decision is the one who is wholly aware of the standards and principles set out by both of these groups. As for the person who is unaware of both, he—as the Persians would say—’himself is astray, so how can he guide others?“

Quite frankly, I am surprised at the people who do not follow any particular school of thought [ghayr muqallidin] who, in spite of knowing what is right, provoke the masses into believing that those who do follow a school of thought do not give much weight to a hadith that is in opposition to the opinions of the Imams. The masses of those who do not follow a school of thought are, after all, ordinary laymen. I do not have any complaint against them. However, I do have a complaint against the people of knowledge who, in spite of having knowledge, conceal the truth from the masses. They are actually disguising the truth and deceiving the Umma.

The Four Schools of Fiqh
The Opinions Of The Imams Are All From The Hadths

The status of the Imams is extremely exalted. It does not befit their eminence to act contrary to the hadiths. Not even an ordinary, unlearned Muslim would accept the opinion of a great scholar if it were contrary to the hadiths of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). However, it is quite obvious that when it comes to bringing about harmony between two apparently contradictory hadiths or awarding preference to one over the other, the opinions of the four revered Imams will take preference over the contemporary scholars. This is an accepted fact, and to refute it is tantamount to unfairness and injustice. In short, one of the chief reasons for the differences of opinion among the Imams is the basis of preference. Some narrations may be preferred by one group of Imams while other narrations may be preferred by another group of Imams. The group that prefers a certain hadith might consider another hadith contrary to it as defective, baseless, or reinterpreted.

Those people who have studied books dealing with the subject of the differences of the imams, for instance, al-Mizan of Allãma Sharäni, Kitãb al-Mughni, Bidayat al-mujtahid, and Kashf al-ghumma, are quite aware of the fact that the opinions of the Imams are all extracted from the very teachings of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). The only difference lies in the deduction and inferring of rulings [masa’il]. We will reproduce in brief a portion. of one of the chapters of Ibn Rushd’s Bidayat al-mujtahid, which will elucidate the fact that the opinions of the Imarns are all extracted from the’verses of the Qur’an and the 1iadiths: Only the method of inferring differs.

Examples of the Multi -Faceted Methods of Inference

Ibn Rushd says, “The basis for the factors which invalidate wudü’ is the verse ‘[…] or if any one of you comes after relieving oneself or you touched women’ and the hadith ’Allàh does not accept the, salat of the person who has nullified his wudü’ until he performs wudu” On the grounds of this hadith the scholars are unanimous that the passing of urine, stool, wind, pre-coital fluid, etc., invalidate the wudu. However, there are seven other factors upon which the scholars have differed in this issue.

First, they have differed over the impure substances that are emitted by parts of the body other than the private parts. The scholars have three different opinions on this matter. One group of scholars considers the emission of impurity to be the cause of the breaking of the wudü’. They hold that the emission of impurity invalidates the wudu regardless of which part of the body emits it. This is so, according to them, because the cause (for nullifying the wudu i.e. the emission of impurity) is present. The people who hold this view are Imam Abü HanIfa and his school, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and Sufyan al-Thawri (may Allah be pleased with them all). A group of Companions was also inclined to this view, and their narrations support this view. According to this group, the emission of any impurity from any part of the body invalidates the wudu such as bleeding of the nose, blood-letting, vomiting, etc.

Another group of scholars consider the emission of anything from the private parts as the cause of the breaking of wudu’. Hence, according to them, whatever comes out of the private parts, whether it is blood or pebbles, and no matter how it comes out, in good health or due to some illness or the other, the wudu’ wi1l be invalidated. This rule, according to them, will not apply to anything that comes out of any other part of the body. This view is held by Imam Shãfi’i ‘(may Allah be pleased with him) and his school The third group has taken into account the emitted substances as well as the place of emission.. They are of the opinion that the emission of any normal substance from any of the two private parts, such as urine, pre-coital fluid [madhy], etc. invalidates the wudu’. However, if any abnormal substance emerges from any of the private parts, such as a worm or insect, the wudü’ will still be intact. This view is held by Imam Mãlik (may Allah be pleased with him) and his school.The very same verse has been employed by all four Imams in extracting the juridical rulings [masã’il] on wudu However, since they differed over the actual cause of the breaking of the wudü they subsequently differed over which rules are applicable to the factors that invalidate wudu’. Due to these differences in principles, the Imams have differed in the narrations as well.

Imam Abü Hanifa, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and Imam Shãfi’i (may Allah be pleased with them) maintain that even though the hadith only mentions, “whatever comes out of the two private parts” this is merely a sort of prototype or example. The injunction is a general one. Hence, a woman suffering from dysfunctional uterine bleeding [istihada] should also make wudu’. They also take support from the hadiths which mention that such a woman performs wudu’. On the other hand, according to Imam Mãlik (may Allah be pleased with him), the command in this verse is not general, but is confined to what is actually mentioned. Hence, the hadiths which mention a woman who suffers from dysfunctional uterine bleeding performing wudü’ are reinterpreted or found to be defective by him. He considers the excess wudü’ for this woman to be an unfounded practice. The second aspect of discussion regarding the aforementioned verse on the factors which invalidate wudü’ is sleep. Regarding this, there are three schools of thought among the scholars. Some of them are of the opinion that sleep unconditionally breaks the wudü while others assert that sleep does not nullify the wudü’ under any circumstance. The third group is of the opinion that sleep will break the wudü’ at certain times only, while at other times it will not affect the wudü’ at all. These differences appeared among the scholars because there are conflicting narrations regarding sleep. According to some narrations, sleep does not nullify the wudu’. Ibn Abbãs says that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) once went to Maymuna’s house and slept so deeply that they heard him snoring. When he awoke, he performed, salãt without performing wadu’. Similarly, there is another narration that mentions certain Companions sleeping in the masjid. They used to nap while waiting for salat, and then perform the salat without making wudu’. However, there are many other narrations in contrast to this Safwan ibn Assal narrates that the Messenger of Allah said, It is not necessary to remove the leather socks (to make wudü’) after passing urine or stool, or after sleeping. Wiping [masah] over them is quite sufficient. However, wiping will not suffice in a state of major impurity [janaba].” Similarly, Abu Hurayra narrates, “Wudu’ is obligatory upon one who lies down andsleeps.”

The scholars have assumed two different stances on these narrations. Some of them have taken up the path of granting preference to one narration over the other. This group has again been divided into two; some of them have found more angles of awarding preference to the first category of hadiths, while the second group awards preference to the second category of hadiths. Finally, the third group does not find any preferential factor to favor any one of the categories over the other. Therefore, they have brought about harmony between the hadiths by dividing sleep into various categories. Some types of sleep will invalidate the wudu’ while the others will not.

The third issue of contention between the scholars is whether the touching of a woman invalidates the wudü’ or not. One group is of the opinion that if a man touches a woman without anything separating them both, his wudü’ is broken. The second group asserts that this rule is not unconditional. They maintain that the wudü’ is broken only if there is touching by lust, otherwise it will remain intact. According to the third group of scholars, the wudü’ remains intact under all circumstances if one touches a woman. This issue has remained one of debate even among the Companions. This is what prompted the three differing schools of thought among the Companions and Followers . Among the Imams, Imam Shafi’i holds the first opinion and Imain Mãlik is of the second opinion, while the third opinion is held by Imam Abü Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with them all). The very basis for the differences found among these Imams regarding this issue is that the word Lams or “touching” (in the verse) is ambiguous; or rather, it is a homonym [mushtarak]. Allah says, “If you touched [lamastum] a woman” (Surat al-mã’ida 5:6). The word “lams” has a dual meaning in the Arabic language. It refers to sexual intercourse as well as literal touching with the hand. Consequently, the Imams differed over what sort of injunction should be extracted from this verse as well. According to some of them, the verse refers to sexual intercourse. Therefore, this verse does not deal with the factors which invalidate wudu’. This is the view of Imam Abü Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him). However, according to the others, this verse is dealing with the factors which invalidate wudu and the word “lams” refers to touching a woman. Within this group, once again, there is a difference of opinion as to whether this injunction is general or restricted. According to the Shãfi’is, the injunction is general. Hence, by merely touching a woman, a man’s wudu’ is unconditionally broken.

Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) is of the opinion that this is a restricted injunction. He restricts it to lust. Only when a person touches with lust will his wudü’ become invalid. Every one of these Imams has some proof or basis to substantiate his assertion. For instance, Imam Abü Hanifa and Imam Mãlik (may Allah be pleased with them) prove their opinions with the following narration: A’isha relates that on many occasions Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) used to touch her, either in salat or outside of salat, and he did not repeat his wudu’ after that. On one occasion, the Messenger of Allah was performing tahajjud salat in total darkness. At that time there was no lamp or any source of light in his house. Aisha was sleeping in front of him and whenever he wanted to go into prostration [sajda], the Messenger (PBUH) used to move her feet away to enable him to perform sajda (since the room was very small).

From this it is deduced that touching a woman does not nullify the wudu’ Now, the question arises as to whether all types of touching nullify the wudü’, or only specific types of touching. According to the Mãlikis, if one touches without lust, the wudü’ is not nullified. According to the Hanafis, this is a general rule: the wudu’ remains intact despite all types of touching. This is so because of another hadith in which ‘A’isha says, “At times Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) used to kiss his wives and, without performing wudü’ he used to observe his salat.” Obviously, this kissing stems from lust because a person generally kisses his wife out of desire.

In short, all these differences found among the Imams stem from the differences found in the narrations, as I have explained in detail in previous chapters. This is further compounded by the various differences regarding the grounds for preference and rejection among the Imams.

Summary of the Above Discussion

To sum up, the main reason for the differences among the Imams stems from their analysis and evaluation of the various hadiths. At times, one hadith may be regarded as authentic according to the research of one Imam, and he considers whatever to be established from it to be obligatory. However, the same narration may not reach the required stage of reliability according to another Imam. Hence, the second Imam does not consider that hadith strong enough to establish an injunction based on the contents of the narration. In reality, these differences are quite in order and are completely logical.

Since the basis of the weakness or reliability of a narration is based upon the conditions of its narrators, there are bound to be differences in practicing upon the narrations as well. The metaphor for this is a sick person who seeks the treatment of various doctors. One of them might say his illness is fatal, while the other might consider it mild. The third doctor might brush it off as a psychological problem, and he will not consider it an illness at all. In exactly the same manner, a narrator might be considered unreliable and rejected by some, while others might regard him as reliable, trustworthy, and truthful. In such circumstances, neither the doctors nor the Imams of hadith can be criticized. The nurse attending to the sick person or the followers of the Shari‘a will be advised to adhere to whomever they feel is reliable. Allah will assist them. Obviously, the patient who has visited various doctors cannot apply all of their treatments together. He only has to take the medication prescribed to him by the doctor he is currently seeing.

The Parable of the Imams of Hadith

The Imams of hadith have likened the critique of the narrators to that of a bullion dealer. The moment he sets eyes on the gold, he can ascertain whether it is genuine or artificial. Hãfiz ibn Hajar writes in his Sharh Nukhbat al-fikr, From all the various branches of the field of hadith, the most complex and intricate is that of (sifting through) the defective [mu’allal] hadiths. Only one gifted by Allah with an ingenious mind and a comprehensive memory can be proficient in this field. Together with this, he needs also to be cognizant of the status of all the narrators and extremely knowledgeable of the chain of narrators as well as the actual texts of the hadiths. This is why a very small group of people has ventured into this field. For example, Ali ibn al-Madini, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Imam Bukhãri, Daraqutni (may Allah be pleased with them all) are some of the few hadith scholars who ventured into this field.

He further writes,

At times, the hadith scholar relating the deficiency in a hadith does not explicitly specify whether any injunction can be deduced from the hadith or not. Similarly, ‘Allãma Suyutii (may Allah be pleased with him) writes in his Tadrib al-rawi, The eighteenth type of hadith is the defective [mu’allal] hadith. This type of hadith is the most important and intricate. Only those people who are of perfect memory and proficient in analysis are able to gain some control over this type of hadith.

Hlikim al-Naysãburi states, At times, a hadith is considered defective [mu’allal] even though there may not be any apparent factors rendering the hadith as such. According to us the only proof we have for its defectiveness is memory, comprehension, and deep understanding of the hadiths.

Ibn Mahdi states, It is better for me to learn of the defectiveness [‘illa] of one hadith than to learn ten new hadiths.

Allãma Nawawi states, The defectiveness [‘lila] of a hadith is a reference to a very subtle type of deficiency in a hadith. There might not be any type of apparent deficiency in the hadith, but there will be some inconspicuous flaw in it. This could be either due to the narrator being alone in the narration of this hadith, or due to his narration being contradictory to other narrators, or due to other reasons which the knowledgeable are aware of. Ibn Mahdi was once asked, “At times you consider some hadiths weak and some of them to be authentic. How do you go about determining this?” He replied, “When you take your coins to a bullion dealer, do you ask him why he considers some of them to be genuine and some to be counterfeit? In actual fact, due to excessive exposure with the hadiths and constant sifting through them, one builds up this proficiency.”

Abu Zur’a was once asked, “On what grounds do you consider same of the hadiths to be weak?” He replied, If I tell you that any hadith is defective, go and inquire from ibn Dara and then from Abü Hãtim. If they tell you the same thing, you will understand the reality of it all.” This person did accordingly and he found this to be true. I do not wish to encompass all their opinions in this regard. My only objective is to expose the fact that the Imams have differed mainly because of the apparent contradictions found in the narrations, as explained in. the above discussion. I have also explained that differences are obviously going to be found in their editing as well as their compilations.

Inference In Our Times

In our times, acquaintance with sacred knowledge [‘ilm] is a thing of the past. Hence, besides the ordinary layman, many deficient so- called “intellectuals” are deceptively led to believe that the inferences [ijtihad] of the Imams are contrary to one another (and therefore, their inferences are not reliable). In spite of the inferences of the Imams being in contrast to one another, it does not mean that they make inference [ijtihad] of the Islamic by-laws according to their own whims and fancies without any proof and basis. They primarily extract all the laws from the hadiths of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). They only differ in their angles of inference.

In short, the main reason for the differences found among the Imams is due to the difference of the status they give to the law- bearing narrations. A narration demonstrating a certain law might be accepted by one Imam, while another hadith contrary to the first one may be accepted by another Imam. The second Imam considers the second hadith authentic; hence, he accepts what it says. The Imams of jurisprudence [fiqh] are likened to doctors and bullion dealers; it is their profession to accept or reject a narration. Hence, it would be foolish to object as to why a certain Imam has rejected a certain narration.

Today, after thirteen hundred (now fourteen hundred) years, it is not possible for us to determine whether the narrations that we have before us have exactly the same chain of narrators as the narrations of the people of the past. Nor is it possible for us to verify whether the reasons for the rejection of a certain hadith which we are aware of, or which Imam Bukhãri or Imam Muslim mention, are the only reasons for the rejection of that hadith, or whether there were any other reasons for its rejection. Moreover, the status and era of the Imams precedes that of Imam Bukhãri and Imam Muslim. If this is the case with these two Imams, what about those that came after them, like Imam Abu Dãwud, Imam Tirmidhi, Imam Nasa’i, and Imam Ibn Maja. As for those who came even after them, like Daraquni and Bayhaqi, what status do they hold relative to the Imams? In spite of their magnificence in the field of hadith, they had no option in the field of jurisprudence [fiqh] but to follow one of the Imams, Memorizing a hadith is one thing, but to extract a juridical proposition or injunction from that hadith is another matter altogether.

The second angle of differences found between the Imams of jurisprudence is due to their various reasons for the preference of a hadith. Even though this was mentioned in brief in a previous chapter, I feel it is necessary to mention it separately in a bit more detail because this is one of the major reasons contributing to the differences found among the Imams. In spite of two apparently conflicting hadiths being authentic, there are differences among the Imams regarding the preference of one narration over the other. In other words, what are their reasons for awarding preference to one of the two conflicting narrations? This is also a very lengthy discussion. One may study the works of the four famous Imams and get an understanding of the reality of this topic. I will merely explain this briefly in the form of an example..

Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna says Imam’Abü Hànifa and Imam Awza’i (may Allah be pleased with them) once met in one of the bazaars of the blessed city of Makka. Imam Awzã’i said to Imam Abü Hanifa, “Why do yeu—the Hanafis—not observe the raising of the hands [raf’ al-yadain] while proceeding toward rukü’ and while rising from ruku’ Imam Abu Hanifa replied, “We do not observe this because its veracity is not established from Allah’s Messenger (PBUH).” Imam Awzã’i thereupon narrated the following hadith: “Zuhri narrates from Sãlim and he in turn from Ibn Umar that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) used to observe the raising of the hands while commencing the salat, while proceeding toward ruku’ and while rising from it.” Imam Abü Hanifa replied, “Hammäd narrates from Ibrãhim al-Nakh’ay and he in turn from ‘Alqama and Aswad and they narrate from Ibn Mas’ud that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) would not raise his hands in, salat except at the beginning of the salat while observing the opening takbir [tahrima].”

Upon this, Imam Awzã’i commented, “There are only three links of narrators between me and Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) in the hadith I have narrated, whereas there are four links in the hadith you have narrated. (Hence, the shorter link of narrators renders my hadith more authentic.)” Thereupon Imam Abü Hanifa, comparing the two chains of narrators, said, “Hammãd is amore superior jürist [faqih] than Zuhri, Ibrãhim Nakh’ay is also superior to Sälim and Alqama is also not inferior to Ibn Umar in jurisprudence. If Ibn Umar has the virtue of being a Companion, then Alqama also has certain virtues. As for the final link in my chain of narrators—Abdullah ibn Mas’ud—there s no need to mention his virtues.” Imam Awza’i was thereupon compelled to remain silent. Abü Bakr Ibn al-Arabi (may Allah be pleased with him) writes in his commentary of Sunan al-Tirmidhi, “If there are any contradictions in the views of Ibn Mas’ud and Ibn ‘Umar, then the view of Ibn Mas’üd will be awarded preference.”

My aim in quoting this debate between these two scholars is merely to expose the reasons for preference that each one of them held. According to Imam Awzâ’i and also according to the Shäfi’is, the narration with the shorter link of narrators is awarded preference over the narration with the longer chain. However, according to Imam Abu Hanifa, preference is awarded to a narration according to the degree of-expertise in jurisprudence among the chain of narrators.

According to the principles of the Hanafi school, if there is a contradiction found between two narrations, the narration of a jurist [faqih] is awarded preference over the other. This sounds quite logical because the more intelligent a narrator, the more perfectly he will narrate the hadith. Similarly, according to Imam Mãlik (may Allah be pleased with him), if there is a contradiction between some hadiths and the practice of the people of Madina Munawwara conforms to any one of them, that hadith will be awarded preference over the others. The practice of the people of Madina Munawwara is (to him) a preferential factor. This is quite evident from his book Al-Muwatta’. The Mãliki scholar Ibn al-Arabi writes in the commentary of Sunan al-Tirmidhi, “It is a principle of the Mäliki school of thought that if a hadith is popular among the people of Madina Munawwara, there is no need to analyze its chain of narrators.”

There are many factors by which some hadiths are awarded preference over others. Häzimi has mentioned fifty such factors in his book Kitab al-Nasikh wa ‘l-mansukh. Allama Iraqi enumerated over one hundred such factors in his Kitab al-Nukat. Obviously, not all these factors are unanimously agreed upon by all of the various Imams. Those who claim to follow the hadiths directly are urged to analyze the hadiths thoroughly and determine which of the apparently conflicting hadiths have more preferential factors than the others. This will enable them to practice upon the hadiths which have more preferential factors, as opposed to those which have less.

The Approach Of The Hanafi School Of Thought

Occasionally, the Hanafi school of thought awards preference to those hadiths which have a weaker chain of narrators or even to those hadiths whose chains of narration may not be as superior to the others. This is so because the narrations may possess some other more superior preferential factors. For example, the fact that a hadith is in greater conformance with the text of the Qur’an is one of the most noteworthy preferential factors that render a particular hadith superior to those that contradict it, according to the Hanafi school. This makes a great deal of sense, because the words of many of the hadiths are not the actual words of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). In most cases, they are the words of the narrators who narrated the meaning of the hadith, as explained previously. On the other hand, the words of the Qur’an are the actual words (of Allah) transmitted by the narrators. Therefore, from two conflicting narrations, the narration which is in greater conformance to the text of the Qur’an will obviously gain more preference over the other narration.

In one example of the above principle, the Hanafis award preference to the narration that does not mention raising of the hands in salat over the narration which does mention it. This is so simply because the Holy Qur’an declares, “And stand before Allah with ease and tranquillity” (Surat al-Baqara 2:238). Hence, from among the conflicting narrations, the Hanafis award preference to those hadiths which conform more closely to this form of tranquillity.

This ruling is also established from other previous occurrences. In the early days of Islam, it was permissible to speak (and to make salãm) in salat, but this was gradually abrogated and the salat metamorphosed into a more tranquil action. Hence, the narrations which conform more to tranquillity are more juridically preferable in the Hanafi school. In addition, the narrations which do not mention any recitation while performing salat behind the Imam are awarded preference over those narrations which mention this practice. This is so because of the Qur’anic verse, “And when the Qur’an is being recited, listen to it attentively and remain silent” (Surat a1-Araf 7:204).

Similarly, it is better to delay the Fajr and ‘Asr prayers because it is in greater conformance with the Qur’anic verse, “And glorify the praises of your Lord before sunrise and before sunset” (Sura Qaf 50:39). “Before sunrise” and “before sunset” means a time which is close to them. A period of three to four hours before sunrise or sunset is not normally referred to as being “before” sunrise or “before” sunset. Hence, the Hanafis are of the opinion that it is better to delay the Fajr and ‘Asr prayers. Furthermore, the Hanafis have chosen the qunut (a supplication made in the witr salat) of ‘Allahumma inna nastainuka…” in the witr salat because they were considered as two sürats of the Holy Qur’an.

There are thousand of examples of this nature, but out of fear of long-windedness, I will leave them out. All I wish to add at this point is that it is extremely important for those who claim to follow the hadiths directly to acquaint themselves with the elements that contribute to the weakness of a narration and to understand the factors which render a particular hadith more acceptable than the others. Without this, it is not possible to practice upon the narrations.

During my student days, I commenced compiling a summary on the basic principles of the Imams and a summary on the factors that render one hadith more acceptable than the others. However, time did not assist me in completing it. And Allah is the best of guides.


I had written more on this subject, but only managed to find rough manuscripts of these pages. Also, the magazine Al-Mazahir was terminated due to a lack of resources. (‘This was the magazine toward which the author used to contribute articles on this topic.) My colleagues insisted’ that I complete this book and; it was also my desire to do so. I had lengthy and detailed discussions in mind and I had initially decided to write about four to five hundred pages, but due to my extremely busy schedule, I was unable to complete it. Since this book before you is incomplete, I had no hope whatsoever of it ever coming into print. Whenever my friends insisted publish it, I used to put them off saying that it is incomplete.

Nonetheless, during one of my journeys to Hijäz, my friend Mawlãna Aziz unearthed those lost pages from Allah knows where. One or two parts were still missing from the original manuscript, but in spite of this he insisted on printing it, saying that even an incomplete book of this nature would still be beneficial. My other colleagues respected Mufti Mahmüd, Mawlanã Yünus, Mawlãnã Aqil, Mawlãnã Salman, and others had also insisted that this book be published. Hence, I permitted Mawlanã Shãhid to go ahead in printing this book. May Allah grant benefit to him as well as to those who read this book.

Muhammad Zakariyya
22 Jumada ‘l-Ulã 1391 AH


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