The Foundational Principles Of The Four Imaams

We shall briefly look at the foundational principles that the four Imaams used to derive Laws from the Sunnah.

The Principles of the Hanafi Madh-hab

Imaam Abu Hanifah and his board of qualified students would derive from the Qur’an and the Sunnah using the following principles:

1. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.

2. The Sunnah: Imaam Abu Hanifah and his students had two conditions for the acceptability of a hadeeth. Firstly that it be authentic [Saheeh] and secondly that the hadeeth be widely known [Mash-hur].

3. The Ijmaa’a [Consensus]: If the Qur’an and the Sunnah was unclear on any matter, then before arriving at their own opinion they would look to the consensus of the companions [Sahaabah].

4. Invidual opinions: If there was not a consensus on a particular matter, then the Imaam and his students would look at each opinion of the Sahaabah and stick to that which seemed to be most accurate.

5. Qiyaas [Analogical Reasoning]: In absence of any of the mentioned above, Imaam Abu Hanifah and his students would then turn to their own ijtihaad. They would make an analogy, and derive a ruling based on something from the texts in which they could deduce a ruling from due to its similarity.

The Principles of the Maaliki Madh-hab

Imaam Maalik lived in Madinah in the time of the Salaf, and he saw how the people of Madinah practiced Islam from a very young age. Imaam Maalik’s madh-hab heavily leans upon the amaal [actions] of the people of Madinah and has been coined as the madh-hab of the third Khalifah ‘Umar. Imaam Maalik’s principles of deriving from the Qur’an and the Sunnah are as follows:

1. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.

2. The Sunnah: Imaam Maalik would only refer to hadith that was Mutawatir to derive a ruling. More than often, he would only refer to Ahaadeeth from a certain chain of narrators which came to be known as the “golden chain”. However, the Imaam would give precedence to the actions of the people of Madinah if there seemed to be a conflict between a Saheeh hadeeth and the actions of the people of Madinah. Madinah, the home and heart of the Holy Prophet meant everything to Imaam Maalik and he showed great respect to the people of Madinah due to the Prophets words of goodness about them. The Prophet spent the last years of his life in Madinah and the people of Madinah are also blood relatives of the Sahaabah and from amongst the best of generations. Therefore, the Imaam adopted their way as thee Sunnah, and their knowledge as the secondary source of deriving the rulings for his madh-hab.

3. The Ijmaa’a [Consensus]: Imaam Maalik, as a third principle would look to the ‘Ijmaa’a – the consensus of the Sahaabah on an issue.

4. Individual Opinions: If there was a lack of Ijmaa’a on an issue he would then look to the individual opinions of the Sahaabah. As seen from his Muwatta, where he has recorded the opinion of individual companions regarding many issues.

5. Qiyaas [Analogical Reasoning]: If the Imaam could not derive a ruling from any of the above, only then would he turn to analogical reasoning.

The Principles of the Shafi’ Madh-hab

Imaam Shaafi’ was born in Sham, and from a young age journeyed to Madinah to study under the tutelage of Imaam Maalik, and then later studied under the students of Imaam Abu Hanifah in Iraq. He had memorised the whole of Qur’an and memorized many Ahaadeeth, including the whole of Imaam Maalik’s al-Muwatta. Imaam Shaafi’ used the following principles whenever deriving a ruling:

1. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.

2. The Sunnah: Imaam Shaafi’ is known for setting the standards for hadith criticism; he would only use Saheeh Ahaadeeth to derive a ruling on a particular issue.

3. The Ijmaa’a [Consensus]: Like the other Imaams, Imaam Shaafi’ would use the Ijmaa’a of the Sahaabah as a third principle.

4. Individual Opinions: Imaam Shaafi’ would then look to the individual opinions of the Sahaabah, and if they differed he would take the view closest to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

5. Qiyaas [Analogical Reasoning]: the Imaam would use his qiyaas only as a last resort.

The Principles of the Hanbali Madh-hab

Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal would use the following principals in their following order for deriving any ruling:

1. The Divine Texts –The Divine texts are two in number:

a. The Qur’an: The Qur’an being Allah’s Speech was the first and foremost source. Any hadeeth found to be in contradiction with the Qur’an was therefore rejected.
b. The Sunnah: Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal
is said to have memorised a million of Ahaadeeth, however, he only used thirty thousand of them to compile his collection al-Musnad. Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal would only use Ahaadeeth with a reliable chain of narrators whenever deriving a ruling from the Sunnah.

2. The Ijmaa’a [The Consensus]: The ijmaa’a according to the school of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal refers solely to the he unanimous agreement amongst the Sahaabah.

3. Individual Opinions If there was no consensus upon an issue, Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal would then establish a ruling upon each opinion and allow choice for the people to choose from whichever ruling they wanted to follow.

4.Mursal and Da’eef Ahaadeeth: In the absence of evidence from the Qur’an, saheeh or hasan Ahaadeeth, and ijmaa’a of the Sahaabah, Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal would then use a mursal or da’eef hadeeth before exercising any Qiyaas of his own. This is due to his statement in which he said the weak hadeeth is dearer to him than his own opinion.

5.Qiyaas – [Analogical Reasoning]: Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal would only turn to his own analogical reasoning as a last resort.

Later Scholars in Each Madhhab Built upon these Principles.

The four schools and their differences are in fact a mercy for this community. We know this from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah in which he said:

“The differences in my community is a Mercy”

This hadeeth is widely quoted by numerous outstanding scholars and agreed upon, mentioned in texts such as Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din’s Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad, Imaam Suyuti’s Jazil al-Mawaahib fi-Ikhtilaaf al-Madhaahib; Imaam Abu Hanfiah’s al-Fiqh ul-Akbar; and Imaam Bayhaqi in his Madkhal. These are just few out of many.

Imaam Maalik said:

“Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz said: ‘I would not like it if the companions of Muhammad did not differ between themselves [on issues of fiqh], because if they did not differ, we would not have as much leeway.”

Imaam al-Bahaqi said:

“The differences between the Sahaabah are a mercy for the worshippers of Allah”

Source.

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