How Does An Average Person Recognise A Mujtahid

The essence of Taqleed is that a person who doesn’t have the capability to reach a decision based on the Qur’an and Sunnah should adhere to an expert scholar and rely upon his judgement. A question may arise from this explanation. That is, if the person following has no academic merit, how is he to determine the expertise of the scholar whom he is asking and following?” [Tahreeke Azadi Fikr: page 130] In response to this question, we will suffice with an excerpt from Imam Ghazali:

“If it is asked, a lay person may base his choice on assumptions and hence, he may be deceived by appearances. This may lead him to give preference to a lesser Imam over one who is more suited. So if he is allowed to exercise his judgement (in choosing an Imam) and acts upon his assumptions, why can’t he then act upon his assumptions in the issue under discussion? Understanding the various degrees of scholarship is very intricate and a lay person cannot be the best judge for that. This question is valid. Our answer is that if a non-physician, whose child has become sick, decides to administer medicine as he sees fit will be held responsible and will be guilty of transgression. If he consults a physician, he will not be responsible and will not be transgressing. If there are two physicians in town and they differ over the prescription, then if the father of the son decides to take the prescription of the lesser over that of the better physician, he will be held accountable. He (the father) would know of the better physician by merely listening to the opinions formed by patients, by the lesser physician’s referral to the better physician and by overwhelming signs which will convince him (the father) that this physician is better than the other. The same is the case for choosing the best scholar from several. There is no need to look into the issue itself (just as it is not necessary to look into the prescription or medicine). This much, the lay person is quite capable of doing and determining. It is not proper to go against the overwhelming assumption merely because of likes and dislikes. This is the most correct opinion – in our view – and the most suitable for regulating people in God-consciousness (Taqwa) and accountability.” [Al-Mustasfa, by Al-Ghazali: vol. 2, page 126]

Is Taqleed a defect?

Taqleed was prevalent during the time of the Companions of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam Companions who were not able to practice Ijtihad themselves referred to those who were scholars. It has been argued by some quarters that Taqleed presumes a lack of knowledge (or ignorance) which is contrary to the belief of the Ahle Sunnah, that all Companions should be revered. Associating the Companions with Taqleed is tantamount to declaring them as defective and hence unworthy of following. All the Companions of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam had knowledge and they were all jurists in their own right. [Tahreeke Azadi Fikr, by Maulana Salfi: page 133-135] This criticism is merely emotional. Not being a jurist nor a Mujtahid is not a blemish on one’s personality. Conversely, being a jurist and or a Mujtahid does not guarantee merit in the Eyes of Allah. Allah says: “Certainly, the most noble amongst you – with Allah – is he who is the most God-conscious (the one who has the most Taqwa).” not the most knowledgeable. A person possessing all the elements of Taqwa, but devoid of any academic merit is not considered flawed for that reason. All acknowledge that the Companions were of the very highest Taqwa – which is the ultimate distinction in Islam. They were as a community the best community after the Prophets But to assume that all the Companions were jurists is totally against the Qur’an:

“So if a contingent from every expedition remained behind (and not participate in Jihad), so that they could devote themselves to understanding religion they could admonish their people on their return so that they (those returning) may guard themselves against evil.” (Surah Al-Taubah : 123)

This verse instructed the Companions that one group should study while the other is engaged in battle. Undoubtedly, this assumes that there was one group who would know more than the other. Thus, Allah himself has differentiated between the scholars amongst the Companions and the non-scholars. This is Allah’s law and one should seek refuge from associating this law with defects. Likewise, the explanation of the verse: “So those who deduce among them can know (and come to some conclusion)…” has also been discussed. Here again, Allah himself has differentiated between those Companions who could deduce and those who could not. Similarly, there is the statement of Prophet Muhammed sallalahu alaihi wa sallam :

“May Allah give life to the servant who listens to my speech, memorizes it and then transmits it. There are some people who carry knowledge but are void of it’s understanding. And there are some who carry this knowledge to those who understand it better than they.” [Ahmed, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Darami from Zaid ibn Thabit (Mishkaat vol. 1, page 35)]

This statement was addressed primarily to the Companions. Two things are clear from this Hadith. The first is that there may be people who narrate Hadith but they may not be experts in its understanding. The second is that, not understanding the implication of the Hadith is not a defect since the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam blessed both groups with his dua [of life]. The truth is that there were many who profited from the magnetic company of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam There were great leaders like Abu Bakr RA and Omar RA. And then, there were simple Bedouins like Aqra’ bin Habis RA and Salman bin Sakhrah RA. The simple Bedouins established their honour and virtue by being Companions of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam . Their virtue is such that thousands of great scholars and Mujtahids (who came after them) cannot equal their excellence, but to count these Companions in the same academic ranks as Abu Bakr,Omar, Ali and Abdullah ibn Mas’ood is denying the obvious. Shaykh ibn Qayyim has written that from among the 124,000 Companions of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam, only some 130 Companions actually have recorded opinions and Fatwas.[Ilaamul Muqi’een, by Ibn Qayyim: vol. 1, page 9] Again, to assume that the vast majority of the Companions fell incompetent on the basis of gaining knowledge from another Companion is prepostorous. These were people who never had impediments to learning. We have already enumerated several examples, in fact, we have evidence that some of the Companions learned from the Companions of the Companions. “Alqamah ibn Qais Nakha’ee was a Tabi’een (a companion of a Companion) and a student of Abdullah ibn Mas’ood. Several Companions sought knowledge from ‘Alqamah.[Tadhkiratul Huffaz: by Dhahabi and Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu’aim] lt has been established amongst scholars for Some time that the Companions practiced Taqleed.[The purpose of this passage was merely to highlight that they were scholars and non-scholars among the Companions. Qadi ‘Isaa ibn Abban has staled that if an opinion of a Companion is seen as against the legal process of analogy, then the Companion’s opinion should be discarded. This statement has been vehemently discarded by scholars who came after him. The details of this maxim cannot be explained in this treatise. ]

The Taqleed of an individual and following one’s whims and fancies It has been discussed earlier that both, absolute Taqleed and Taqleed of an individual is permissible. However, when the level of moral integrity and compliance with the spirit of the Quran and Sunnah deteriorated, scholars issued a Fatwa confining Taqleed to an individual only. The attitude, which the scholars hoped to curb with this Fatwa, was abuse of ambiguous issues in the name of Islam and Islamic legislation. Today, the whole Muslim world is in a frenzy of this kind of permissiveness and so-called modernisation.

In the name of Ijtihad and freethinking the edifice of classical Muslim scholarship is being dismantled. Academic institutions have been erected to bolster absurd interpretations legalising promiscuity, profane photography, dancing, usury and music. Articles quoting the Qur’an and Sunnah to justify such positions have proliferated throughout the Muslim world. [Prominent writers in this campaign include Muhammed Aabduh and his student Rashid Rida proof of unbridled pursuit of one’s caprices and passions. ] Denouncing Taqleed has been highlighted as one of the many means to achieve this profane goal. Ironically, in the effort to denounce the works of the classical scholars, these reformers have inadvertently confirmed the foresight of the very same scholars who had issued the Fatwa centuries ago. They have become the very As long as the Taqleed of an individual was the norm in Muslim communities, these ideas were not given any due attention. Vulnerability to unfounded propaganda and pseudo-intellectual claims of scholarship in the contemporary era has given rise to the acceptance that Taqleed of an individual is forbidden in Islam. The state of affairs today is that established principles of Islam and issues which are conclusively forbidden by the Qur’an and Sunnah have been targeted and treated with skepticism and even scorn.

The Taqleed of an individual and new issues

Arguments have been advanced that Taqleed of an individual impedes solutions to modern developments. The answer to such a contention is that modern issues, which demand Ijtihad, should be delegated to an expert scholar – whose Taqleed is very different from that of the lay person. such an expert scholar would be able to sift the principles of earlier Mujtahids and resolve new problems based on the same. This type of Ijtihad has been prevalent in all ages even with the concept and practice of the Taqleed of an individual. Moreover, scholars of one school may unite upon solutions to new problems, which arise. Where there is a severe need for an immediate national or social problem, scholars are given leeway and hence, they can resort to the Fatwa from another school.

This is the reason why, in the Hanafi school, scholars have resorted to following the opinion of Imam Malik in issues like accepting wages and salaries for teaching the Quran, making legal provisions for divorce for a wife whose husband is lost or whose husband is impotent. This has been elaborated by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi in his work Al-Hilyatul Najizah lil Hilayatul ‘Ajiza. If there is a social need for Muslims to find latitude in a certain issue, an expert scholar may go to any of the four Madhabs to find a solution. Under no conditions is the practice of “Talfeeq” permissible, which is to use the Fatwa offered by one Imam and following another Imam in the same unit of ibaadah. Individuals are advised to seek the advice of expert scholars through a council.

Taqleed of an individual, in reality, has never rendered the community incapable of resolving new issues: rather it has constantly been in a state of flux and development addressing new issues for more than a millennium.[The details of the methods to arrive at these solutions can be found in elaborate works like that of Ibn Abi Deen and the work of Maulana Ashraf Ali mentioned above] It is interesting to note that some contemporary orientalists have made the same allegation.[Refer to Montgomery Watt, Islamic Political Thought, Edinburgh University Press and N Coulson. A History of Islamic Law, Edinburgh University Press.]

The Hanafi School of Thought and Ahadith

The contention that the Hanafi school of thought bases its Fatwas upon weak Ahadith narrations is sheer ignorance. Reflection upon the books of Hanafi Fiqh impartially would leave no room for such an assertion. The following collections of proofs for the Hanafi Fiqh illustrate the deep and profound level of Hadith scholarship current amongst the followers of the Hanafi School of jurisprudence:

Sharah Ma ‘ani al-Aathar. by Imam Tahawi
Fathul Qadeer by Shaykh Ibn Hamam
Nasbul Rayah, by Shaykh Zala’ee
Al-Jawaharul An-Naqi. Shaykh Mardini
Umtadul Qari. by Shaykh ‘Aini
Fathul Mulhim by Shaykh Shabbir Ahmed Uthmani
Badhlul Majhood, by Shaykh Khalil Ahmed Saharapuri
Ma’ariful Sunan by Shaykh Binnori
Faidul Bari by Shaykh Shah Anwar Khashmiri

There are some fundamental points which demand clarification. Sound Hadith are not exclusive to Bukhari and Muslim, there are many books of Hadith containing thousands of sound Hadith. The basis for a sound Hadith is its chain of narrators (isnad) and text (main). Compilers of Ahadith other than Bukhari and Muslim have established sanands (plurul of isnad) as strong as the ones present in their respective collections. Ahadith not found in the collections of Bukhari or Muslim are not deemed weak by virtue of not being included in the two collections, this would reduce the science of Hadith to total conjecture, Ahadith narrated by transmitters other than Bukhari and Muslim are present in certain books of Ahadith which are infact stronger in their isnad than even the two most sound compilations of Hadith. For instance. Ibn Majah. which is the sixth of the canonical books of Hadith – has transmitted Ahadith, which in some regards are superior to those of his predecessors. The standard, therefore of measuring the authenticity of any Hadith is not whether it is present in Bukhari or Muslim, but rather the standards employed by these two great scholars of Hadith themselves. If a certain Hadith meets the same criteria as Bukhari or Muslim and is not necessarily found in the two collections, this Hadith nonetheless would be regarded as sound. Understanding this principle of Hadith would dissipate the somewhat misdirected criticism against the Hanafi fiqh immediately.

One of the main reasons why there are so many differences of opinion amongst Mujtahids in particular details of the law is that the method of analyses, reasoning and deduction, vary. If there is an apparent contradiction between two Ahadith, one Mujtahid may base his opinion on the stronger of the two Hadith – even though both may be sound in narration. Another Mujtahid. however, may base his opinion on the rule that no Hadith should be discarded even though it may be weak in narration. Hence, the latter Mujtahid will attempt to reconcile both Hadith by interpreting one as the basis and the other as it’s contingent, regardless of how sound or weak any of the two Hadith may be. While yet another Mujtahid may base his opinion of the Hadith upon the practice of the Companions and their followers. Thus, every Mujtahid will adopt his particular method and none can censure the other for abandoning Hadith. Imam Abu Hanifa attempted to reconcile contradictory Hadith and hence endeavored to apply every Hadith as long as it was not fabricated. Weak Hadith have also been utilised when no other Hadith was found to contradict it, even though it may be against legal reasoning and analogy, for example, the issues of wudu breaking if one laughs in salaat and Zakaat on honey, he has favoured even though their source Hadith is weak. Ruling over the authenticity of Hadith is in itself a process of Ijtihad. This is why this issue has always been disputed amongst the scholars who analyse the narrators of Hadith. The very Hadith, which is regarded as sound and good by one Imam of Hadith, may be regarded as weak by another.

There are occasions where Imam Abu Hanifa regarded one Hadith as worthy of application and the same Hadith was regarded as unreliable by another Mujtahid. Imam Abu Hanifa was a Mujtahid himself therefore he is not bound by the rulings of other Mujtahids. Occasionally a Hadith, which was transmitted to Imam Abu Hanifa with a sound narration, became weak after it passed him in the chain of narrators. In other words, the chain of narrators upto Imam Abu Hanifa is strong – but the chain from Imam Abu Hanifa to other scholars became weak because of a weak narrator entering the isnad. This sequence of events did not alter Imam Abu Hanifa’s reasoning. Sometimes a Hadith may be narrated with a weak chain of narrators by one Imam, however the same Hadith can be traced back with a sound chain by another Imam. For instance, the Hadith. which says that: “Whoever has an Imam (in salaat), the Imam’s recitation is enough” has been narrated with a weak chain- Then, we find that in Imam Tahawi’s and Ahmed ibn Muni’ee’s narrations, this Hadith is very sound. Occasionally a Hadith may be weak in its chain, but since there are several different chains narrated the Hadith, scholars will accept the Hadith as valid. This category of Hadith is known as “Good because of others”. This type of Hadith is not a weak Hadith and therefore valid for application within areas of Fiqh.

There is no doubt, several Hadiths which are infact weak. The weakness of the Hadith is determined by a weak narrator present in the sanad. However, it is not necessary that every weak narrator narrated a weak Hadith each time he narrated. In the circumstance of collaborating and supporting evidence to strengthen a weak Hadith, it will be accepted and applied. For example, if there is a weak narration in a book of Hadith upon which the Companions and their Successors have acted, then this practice demonstrates that the weak narrator has indeed narrated correctly. This is why the Hadith “There is no will for the heirs (who have pre-assigned shares in inheritance)” have been accepted by all the Mujtahids – even though the Hadith is regarded weak in its narration. In fact, this process can give preference to a weak Hadith over a strong one. For example, the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam’s daughter, Zainab RA was married to Abu Aas who did not accept Islam immediately, but did so later on. The question amongst scholars is that did the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam renew his marriage contract, or did he allow them to live as husband and wife without doing so. The narration from Abdullah ibn Omar RA says that the contract was renewed with a new mahr, while the narration from Abdullah ibn Abbas RA says otherwise. The narration from Ibn Omar is weak whereas the one from Ibn Abbas is sound. Imam Tirmidhi, who was a master of Hadith, gave legal preference to the weak Hadith over the sound one because of the practice of the Companions.[The Jami’ of Tirmidhi. The above cited example is only an example of the rule mentioned. Otherwise, the Hanafi opinion on this issue is very difficult.]

The objection against the Hanafi point of view is seldom due to scholarly study rather due to a lack of understanding and in certain instances even a want of attempting to understand the Hanafi point of view. Certain scholars have fallen into this indifference. For instance. Maulana Salfi has criticized Imam Abu Hanifa’s stand on the issue of offering salaat with due diligence and proper composure: “A man was told by the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam to repeat his salaat three times after he had failed to complete with proper tranquility and composure. The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam’s words were: “Pray for you have not prayed.”

This means that the salaat has no legal value which is the opinion of the Shaf’iee and the scholars of Hadith. The Shaf’iee scholars say that once the legal definition of ruku’ and sajdah is known, we cannot accept the interpretation of the Hadith, nor can we comment on whether the salaat has been accepted or not.”[Tahreeke: page 32]

The Hanafis, of course make no such claim. Hanafees likewise claim that salaat should be repeated if tranquility and composure is not established in ruk’u and sajdah, as implied by the Hadith. The problem is that the respectable critic has failed to understand the Hanafis position. Imam Abu Hanifa differentiates between what is Fard (obligatory and an essential component of an act) and Wajib or what is mandatory but not an essential component of the act. Other Mujtahids do not accept this division. Imam Abu Hanifa’s ruling is that those components which are Fard have to be conclusively established from the Quran and Sunnah whereas those which are Wajib are established by the sound Hadith even with a single narration (ahad Ahadith). If someone misses either a Fard (for instance recitation of the Qur’an) or misses a Wajib (like not offering salaat with tranquility) salaat will still have to be repeated. What are the legal ramifications of this great hair-splitting nuance? The distinction is that one who misses a Fard will be regarded as someone who has missed his entire salaat. All the harsh rules of a person who misses salaat – in a Muslim state – will be levied against him. This is because he has not performed salaat legally and for this person it is not a question of repeating the salaat, but rather a question of offering it. The one who misses a Wajib will not be regarded as someone who has missed his salaat, since legally he has offered his salaat – but incompletely and hence he needs to repeat it. This meaning is actually found in the Hadith itself. Imam Tirmidhi narrated that when the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam told this person to repeat his salaat, the Companions found this to be difficult that someone who offers his salaat in this casual manner would be regarded as one who leaves salaat. When the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam emphasised the importance of tranquility, after which the person repeated his salaat. the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said:

“When you have done this, then you have completed your salaat. If you reduce anything from this, you will have reduced from your salaat.”

Rifaah. the narrator of this Hadith remarked:

“This statement of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam was far easier [for the Companions to tolerate] than the previous one [where he said that he had not offered his salaat]. In this statement there is the impression that not all of the salaat has been annulled.” [Tirmidhi: chapter on the Description of Salaat]

The Hanafi ulama have applied the Hadith in its entirety. The first part by stating that omitting a Farad will render the Salaat incomplete and fiqh demands that the Salaat be repeated, and the second part is applied for missing a Wajib, and therefore will not be regarded. technically, as missing salaat completely. Such examples illustrate the deep level of scholarship required to understand each Fatwa of the Hanafi fiqh. Elaboration upon subtle points clearly uncovers the apathy by certain quarters to understand the reasoning for the positions of the Hanafi fiqh. Hence, the comment: “We cannot accept the interpretation of the Hadith. nor can we comment on whether the salaat has been accepted or not” is a great distortion of the viewpoint of the Hanafi school of thought.

Unfortunately, jumping to conclusions concerning the Hanafi point of view without doing due diligence to the issue in question has unfortunately becomes the norm. To understand the legal Islamic reasoning, the principles which have been outlined above have to be studied, to avoid blanket statements pertaining to the Hanafi legal interpretations and from incorrectly assuming that undue preference is conferred to analogy over Hadith. Both conclusions are a tremendous injustice. There have been many non-Hanafi scholars in the past who has defended the Hanafi approach to law. Sheikh Abdul Wahhab al-Sha’raani, who although a follower of the Shaf’iee school of thought, dedicated a few chapters exclusively to reprimand the detractors of Imam Abu Hanifa’s opinions:

“You should know, dear brother, that in these chapters. I will not be defending Imam Abu Haneefa merely out of sentiment or conferring the benefit of the doubt, but rather I have engaged in this endeavor after vigorous research and investigation into legal proofs and reasoning. His school of thought was the first to be documented and organised, and. as predicted by some savants, it will be the last to dissipate. In my book “The Proofs of the Legal Schools”. I have discussed his opinions and the opinions of his students and I have found that their views are based on a verse, a Hadith, a quotation from a Companion or something similar to it or a correct analogy which itself had a precedent. So whoever wishes to know more about those proofs should refer to that book of mine.” [Al-meezanul kubraa, by Abdul wahhab Sha’raani: page 63/64 printed in Egypt by Mustafa al-Babi]

Further, he refutes the idea that Imam Abu Hanifa preferred analogy to Hadith: Know that this allegation is based on prejudice, irresponsibly ascribing blanket statements. The Qur’an says: “Certainly, hearing, seeing and thinking all will be questioned.”

Then, he proceeds to relate an incident in which Sufyaan Thauri, Maqatil, Ibn Hayyan, Hammad ibn Salamah and Imam Ja’far As Sadiq (all who were great scholars of their time) came to Imam Abu Hanifa to substantiate directly whether or not he actually did give preference to analogy over Hadith. Imam Abu Hanifa responded that not only did he regard the Quran and Hadith stronger than analogy, but also he gave preference to the opinions of the Companions over analogy. He then proceeded to prove and substantiate his position for a few hours. The five great scholars departed with the following apology:

“You are the leader of scholars! Please forgive us for forming assumptions without due verification and out of ignorance.”

Sheikh Abdul Wahhab al-Sha’raani proceeds to refute the position that Imam Abu Hanifa’s proofs are weak and finally comes to the categorical conclusion that:

“I have, with all praise due to Allah, combed his school of thought with a fine brush and 1 have found that his school is extremely cautious and even ostentatiously virtuous.” These comments from Imam Sha’raani are merely to illustrate fundamentally that the Hanafi school is based on the Quran and Sunnah.[For further evidence please consult his book Al-meezanul kubraa]

Imam Abu Hanifa and his knowledge of Hadith

The fallacious contention that Imam Abu Hanifa either did not have access to many Hadith or that he was weak in the science of Hadith is based on prejudice and ignorance. The truth is that even non – Hanafi scholars and scholars of Hadith have testified to his acumen and expertise in the field. This short treatise does not permit the possibility of elaboration, but a selected number of quotations from a few scholars of Hadith will suffice.

Imam Ibn Juraij was a renowned scholar of Hadith. In fact. Imam Shaf’iee school of thought is derived mostly from his collections. Ibn Hajjar has narrated that when Ibn Juraij heard of Imam Abu Hanifa’s death he exclaimed in an anguished voice: “What knowledge has gone!”[Tadhibul Tahdeeb, vol. 10, page 540]

Makki Ibn Ibrahim, teacher of Imam Bukhari; and any Hadith which Imam Bukhari has narrated with only three narrators in it’s chain are mostly through Ibn Ibrahim. Makki Ibn Ibrahim was also the student of Imam Abu Hanifa, he stated

“Imam Abu Hanifa was the most knowledgeable person of his time.”[Narrated by Hafiz Muzzi in the footnotes of Tadhibul Tahdeeb above page 451]

It should be noted that the word for knowledge (‘Ilm) in the language of the early scholars referred to the science of Hadith exclusively. Shu’ba ibn Hajjaj was known as the “Commander of the Faithful” in the science of Hadith and he was also the first scholar who specialized in the evaluation of narrators (Jarh wa Ta’deel). Speaking of Imam Abu Hanifa: “He was, by Allah, a person with good understanding and excellent memory.” And when Shu’ba heard the news of Imam Abu Hanifa’s death, he said: “The light of knowledge has been extinguished in Kufa. They [the people of Kufa] may never see the like of him.”[Al-Khayratul Hisaan by Ibn Hajar of Makkah, page 32 and 71, also from Injaal watan, page 8 and 17] Abu Dawood said that Imam Abu Hanifa was an Imam.[Tadhkiratul Huffaz, by Dahabi: vol.1, page 160] Yahya ibn Mu’een. an expert in Jarh wa Ta’deel stated : “Imam Abu Hanifa was extremely reliable in Hadith as he never narrated any Hadith which he had not memorized.” Both Yahya ibn Mu’een and Ibn Sa’eed Qattan declared that they had applied many of his opinions.”[Ibid: vol. 10 page 450] Someone once asked Yahya ibn Mu’een if Imam Abu Haneefa was reliable in Hadith to which he retorted: “Yes. very reliable, very reliable.”[The virtues of The Great Imam (Imam Abu Hanifa), by Muwaffiq: vol.1, page 192 (printed in Hyderabad in 1321 H)]

These quotations are merely for elucidation, needless to say Imam Abu Hanifa had written his book: Kitabul Aathaar at a time when even the earliest of canonical books of Hadith such as Muwaata Imam Malik, the Musannaf of Abdur Razzaq and Ibn Abu Shaibah had as of yet not been compiled. Imam Zaranjari confirmed that Imam Abu Hanifa wrote his book (on the quotations of the Companions) from a collection of 40,000 narrations.[Ibid: vol. 1 :page 95/96] There have many scholars of Hadith who have compiled 70 books on the narrations of Imam Abu Hanifa (known as Musnad) which are no less voluminous than the compilations of Imam Shaf’iee. Ibn ‘Adi , a critic of Hadith, very much antagonistic to Imam Abu Hanifa initially. He realised his lapse in judgement only later, as a expression of remorse he compiled a Musnad of lmam Abu Hanifa’s narrations.[The issue of Imam Abu Hanifa and Hadith has been dealt with by Maulana Muhammed Ali of Khandala in his book “The Great Imam and the Sceince of Hadith” and also in Arabic by Maulana Zafar Ahamed Uthmani in his book Injal Watan. ] The great expert on Hadith Nawab Siddiqui Hasan Khan wrote: “Imam Abu Hanifa was a good scholar, a practicing and pious servant who was very devout in his worship and humble in front of Allah.”

He continued to quote many merits and achievements of Imam Abu Hanifa and then he wrote: “His merits are many. Khatib of Baghdad has mentioned quite a few in his tareeqh [history]. But, the Khatib followed this with a remark, which was totally inappropriate. The Imam was not doubted for his religiousness or his academic skills. However, he was sometimes accused of being deficient in the Arabic language.” [Al-Tajul Mukallal, by Nawab Siddiq: page 136-138 from the Bombay translation page 119 (printed 1383)]

It should be noted that even though Nawab has quoted the comment regarding Imam Abu Hanifa’s acumen in the Arabic language, objections regarding weakness in Hadith were not considered worthy of mention. In the introduction to Al-Tajul Mukallal. Nawab Siddiqui Hasan Khan has stated that he will discuss the scholars of Hadith, acknowledging Imam Abu Hanifa’s position in Hadith. As for Imam Abu Hanifa’s expertise in the Arabic language, it seems that Nawab Siddiqui Hasan Khan has narrated this from Qadi Ibn Khalikhan since the Qadi has used exactly the same words. However, the Nawab did not narrate the Qadi’s statement which followed the comment which would have removed any doubts about Imam Abu Hanifa’s ability in Arabic.

This comment is based on a famous incident. The famous grammarian, Abu Amr ibn ‘Ala went to Imam Abu Hanifa and asked him about a killing, which resembled murder. Imam Abu Hanifa told him that there were no grounds for legal retaliation (Qisas). Abu Amr asked him if that was the case even though he killed him with a catapult. The Imam replied in Arabic:…………………………………….Later, people objected to Imam Abu Hanifa’s reply and claimed that the correct reply should have been: ………………………………….. The truth is that in certain dialects, the phrase was spoken differently. Qadi ibn Khalikhan has narrated that the dialect of Imam Abu Hanifa was that of Kufa, which the people of Kufa accepted without hesitation. Hence, the comment on Imam Abu Hanifa’s acumen in Arabic or the lack of, is unfounded.

Inertia in Taqleed

Extremists exist within adherents of Taqleed and its antagonists; both, condemning the practice of Taqleed is reproachable as is remaining rigid in Taqleed. For example believing that the Imams and Mujtahids were infallible and that they held a position as legislators. Discarding a sound Hadith merely on the basis that ones Imam has not ruled concerning that issue, in this regard, raising the finger of testimony while sitting down in the second and fourth rak’at of any salaat during the recitation of Tashahhud has been proven by several sound Hadith. This was the Sunnah of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam . Rejecting this Sunnah by claiming that Imam Abu Hanifa did not rule in reference to this is also fanatical adherence to ones Madhab. The Qur’an and Sunnah condemn this type of lethargic Taqleed. Likewise performing academic gymnastics in order to reconcile a Hadith with the position of the Imam to the extent that the manifest understanding of the Hadith is distorted is similarly condemned. However, this may be subjective more than objective on occasions where the scholar in question may feel satisfied while others may not. It is similarly blameworthy, that an expert scholar discovering a sound Hadith, which is not contradicted by another equally sound Hadith, continues to follow the Imam’s opinion. Assuming that only one Imam’s opinion is correct and all others’ opinions are false and invalid, is erroneous. The truth is that all the Mujtahids fulfilled the conditions for Ijtihad and exercised their skills to reach conclusive judgments. In the event that certain opinions are wrong, the Mujtahids will be rewarded for their exertion as slated in the famous Hadith. The correct approach is to assume that the Imam’s opinion is correct with a possibility of error and the opinions of other scholars may be incorrect with a possibility of being correct. Presenting the differences of the Imams in a guise that it engenders friction and commotion within the Muslim community is reprehensible. Many of the differences between the Imams are merely based on which is the more preferred action. Very few differences arise over the classifications between haram and halal for the simple reason that such issues are not usually subject to Ijtihad.

For instance, the issues of raising hands when going into ruku’; reciting Ameen aloud and whether to place the hands on the navel or the chest are all issues attempting to establish the action which is of more virtue and what is less: all are agreed that the above actions are permissible and the nonperformance of the above actions would not invalidate Salaat. To present these differences in a manner which leads to instigating bitter sentiments is certainly haram. Differences concerning what is halal and what is haram are issues for scholarly circles only, opening such issues to the populace, where there exists the anxiety of friction and commotion, is not the intent of the Mujtahids who differed with each other. This is a despicable act, which has been highlighted by Imam Shatibi in his masterpiece Al-Muwafiqaat.[Imam Shatibi Al-Muwafiqaat (vol. 4: pages 220 to 240)]

THE FINAL WORD

Polemical debate was not the intent of this exposition. Rather it was an attempt to clarify the practice of millions of Muslims around the globe. An attempt has been made to offer evidence justifying the actions of the Muqallids so that people who often criticise the practice of Taqleed would be more cautious in their conclusions. If, inadvertently, any word or phrase offended any one person or group, I would like to offer my sincere apologies. For whatever reason, the antagonists of Taqleed may feel that their position does not deserve re-evaluation, that is their prerogative. However, to engage in classifying the great scholars and Imams as legislatures or innovators; or condemning those who follow the Imams as polytheists and innovators needs to be renounced. The famous scholar of Hadith Shaykh Nawab Siddiq Hasan from his work llqaa us Sunnan bi llqaail Mihan states:

“One of the favours which Allah has bestowed upon me is that I regard everybody within the Ahle Sunnah wal Jamaah as being saved and protected from Hell. This I hold regardless of whether a person is a Hanafi, a Shaf’iee, a Maliki, a Hanbali, a person following the literal Hadith or someone who follows suluk [sufismj. This I hold even though I know that some of the opinions of these scholars are against the proofs and evidences offered for some positions are very weak in their reasoning. This ruling is for the great majority of their opinions and not against the few exceptions, explanations concerning the exceptions can be found in the book of Jalbal Manfa’ah. Accusing the predecessors of going against the Sunnah is shedding the blood of justice. Yes. those who follow their Imam’s opinions even after they find out that they have strayed away from the Hadith are guilty of being inert and lethargic. Even then, I don’t regard them as being misguided, nor do I consider that salaat is invalid behind them. I do not consider them as non-believers.”

He continues:

“Having a difference of opinion in issues of the rituals of worship, social contracts and other areas of law does not justify denouncing people who differ, to be non-Muslims. The most that could be said is that there has been an error in judgement and discretion (Ijtihad), which is recognised by scholars. I believe that if someone acted out of this error, then Allah will forgive him if he was sincere and unbiased in his approach to the issue. However, if prejudice and inertia were influencing elements in that person’s decision, then I am afraid there may be grave consequences as this would lead to hypocrisy and severing lies with Allah and His Messenger. However, it is difficult to believe that a Muslim would resort to such an atrocity. We can only judge by the apparent and Allah knows that which is hidden” [Extracted from Faran Monthly (May 1963) by permission of Mahir Qadiry, the editor of Faran]

In this precarious age where Muslims are inflicted with problems and dilemmas across the globe, there can be nothing more detrimental for the Ummah than bickering over these particular and subsidiary details of law. What can be more sacrilegious than condemning each other as non-Muslims and polytheists because of non-essential differences and innocuous details. It would indeed be a great tragedy that while differing upon the subsidiaries of the Deen the enemies of Islam exploit these very differences to dismantle the fundamentals upon which the great edifice of Islam rests, which has withstood external onslaughts for more than fourteen hundred years. History bears witness that it was not the enemy from beyond the Muslim boundaries who destroyed Islam and Muslims, rather periodical internecine feuds precipitated abject deterioration and eventual collapse”.[For example it was the armies of the Muslims who finally subjugated the Mongols after the armies of Europe were helpless before the invading armies at the battle of Ain-e-Jalut (Goliath’s spring) in September 1260C.E.] Ironically it seems to be divisiveness that appears to be the outcome of attempting to “redress the errors” of the four Madhabs rather than harmony between the Muslims, which is the oft-quoted motive cited by some contemporary authors. Indeed if this is the outcome then it begs the question for what possible motive is such u course of action perused, especially when the Ummah is facing crisis the gravity of which has never as yet been witnessed. In all sincerity and seriousness disagreeing in the fundamentals of Islamic law amongst the masses is a luxury which the Ummah at the present juncture can no longer afford. Unfortunately while the Muslims are preoccupied with internal strife it appears that the enemies of Islam are exploiting this opportunity to the full.

We pray that Allah guides us on the right path; that He shows us the truth as the truth is and allows us to follow it and that He shows us falsehood as falsehood is and allows us to abstain from it. We also pray that He divert our religious zeal and efforts
from these internecine arguments towards aims and goals, which will elevate Islam and the Muslims.

“Our last call is that definitely all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”

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