Q: How can a person not make Taqleed and still at the same time follow the teachings of one of the madhhabs – Hanafi, Maaliki, Shaafi and Hambali (may Allah have mercy on them all). Did Allamah Ibn Baaz (rahimahullah) follow the madhhab of Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal (rahimahullah), yet he did not do Taqleed?
Firstly: The followers of the madhhabs are not all the same. Some of them are mujtahids within their madhhab, and some are followers (muqallids) who do not go against their madhhabs in any regard.
Al-Buwayti, al-Muzani, al-Nawawi and Ibn Hajr were followers of Imam al-Shaafa‘i, but they were also mujtahids in their own right and differed with their imam when they had evidence. Similarly Ibn …Abd al-Barr was a Maaliki but he differed with Maalik if the correct view was held by someone else. The same may be said of the Hanafi imams such as Abu Yoosuf and Muhammad al-Shaybaani, and the Hanbali imams such as Ibn Qudaamah, Ibn Muflih and others.
The fact that a student studied with a madhhab does not mean that he cannot go beyond it if he finds sound evidence elsewhere; the only one who stubbornly clings to a particular madhhab (regardless of the evidence) is one who lacking in religious commitment and intellect, or he is doing that because of partisan attachment to his madhhab.
The advice of the leading imams is that students should acquire knowledge from where they acquired it, and they should ignore the words of their imams if they go against the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam).
Imam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) said: ’This is my opinion, but if there comes someone whose opinion is better than mine, then accept that.“
Imam Maalik said: ’I am only human, I may be right or I may be wrong, so measure my words by the Qur‘aan and Sunnah.“
Imam Al-Shaafa‘i said: ’If the hadeeth is saheeh, then ignore my words. If you see well established evidence, then this is my view.“
Imam Ahmad said: ’Do not follow me blindly, and do not follow Maalik or al-Shaafa‘i or al-Thawri blindly. Learn as we have learned.“ And he said, ’Do not follow men blindly with regard to your religion, for they can never be safe from error.“
No one has the right to follow an imam blindly and never accept anything but his worlds. Rather what he must do is accept that which is in accordance with the truth, whether it is from his imam or anyone else.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:
“No one has to blindly follow any particular man in all that he enjoins or forbids or recommends, apart from the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam). The Muslims should always refer their questions to the Muslim scholars, following this one sometimes and that one sometimes. If the follower decides to follow the view of an imam with regard to a particular matter which he thinks is better for his religious commitment or is more correct etc, that is permissible according to the majority of Muslim scholars, and neither Abu Haneefah, Maalik, al-Shaafa‘i or Ahmad said that this was forbidden.”
Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 23/382.
Shaykh Sulaymaan ibn …Abd-Allaah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Rather what the believer must do, if the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) have reached him and he understands them with regard to any matter, is to act in accordance with them, no matter who he may be disagreeing with. This is what our Lord and our Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) have enjoined upon us, and all the scholars are unanimously agreed on that, apart from the ignorant blind followers and the hard-hearted. Such people are not scholars.”
Tayseer al-…Azeez al-Hameed, p. 546
Based on this, there is nothing wrong with a Muslim being a follower of a certain madhhab, but if it becomes clear to him that the truth (concerning a given matter) is different from the view of his madhhab, then he must follow the truth.
Students of religious knowledge, especially those who focus on Islamic Law, soon become aware of the great variety of opinions and the vast amount of disagreement that exists on most Islamic legal issues. Students react in different ways. Some try to explain away the differences as being due to a lack of knowledge, believing that with access to the right information, all of these disagreements will just go away. Others becomes suspicious of the scholars and blame disagreements on the vested interests impiety, and insincerity of those who hold certain opinions.
Alas, this is not true.
You will find the most knowledgeable of people, the greatest religious scholars, and the most sincere, unbiased individuals, disagreeing among themselves.
Consider the disagreements that Prophet Muhammad’s Companions had with each other. Even during the Prophet’s lifetime, there were disputes. On one occasion, a feud erupted between the inhabitants of two adjacent neighbourhoods in Madinah inhabited by the clan of Banū `Amr b. `Awf.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) spent so much time brokering a reconciliation between them that he was delayed in going to the the congregational prayer and Abū Bakr led the prayer instead. [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (684) and Sahīh Muslim (421)]
At the time of the Prophet’s death, the Muslims experienced their first great controversy, disagreeing about who should lead them. The native inhabitants of Madinah nominated Sa`d b.`Ubādah after conferring together in the assembly room of Banū Sā`īdah. Afterwards, the Companions all agreed to appoint Abū Bakr as the leader of the Muslims, afyer they learned that the prophet (peace be upon him) had instructed that the person to lead them should be from the tribe of Quraysh.
When the wars of apostasy broke out in Arabia during Abū Bakr’s reign, there was considerable disagreement regarding whether it was permissible to fight against all of the breakaway rebel tribes or only those tribes which openly denounced Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Abū Bakr was resolved to fight against all the rebellious tribes, and was ultimately able to persuade the other leading Companions, including `Umar, that he was correct in this policy . He thereby succeeded in uniting the Muslims in the cause against the apostate rebels.
This was the case with a number of crises and challenges that the Muslim community faced during the era of the Companions. At first, they disagreed and then usually in the major issues they were ultimately able to arrive at a consensus. As for disagreements on legal matters and the finer points of religious knowledge where there is no clear or decisive evidence, those disagreements persisted.. If disagreement was normal for the best generation of Muslims, how can it not be the case for those who came after them?
Even if we concede — purely for argument’s sake — that sincerity coupled with greater religious knowledge will lead to the resolution of all disagreements, this only assures us that disagreements will be on the rise! People, taken as a whole, will always be subject to incomplete knowledge and to outright ignorance. There will always be those who are weak of understanding, or insincere, or biased.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us: “Each generation will be better than the one that comes after it, until the day you return to your Lord.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (7068)]
At the same time, there are some students who have a predilection for controversy, relishing disagreement for its own sake, regardless of whether or not there is a legitimate basis for it. This is also not the right attitude to have. Disagreements cause tension and should not be sought after or capitalised upon for trivial reasons. When someone has a disagreement with a classmate, co-worker, relative, or neighbour on some matter, consider how often it leads to a lawsuit, or to estrangement between them.
People can become part of a controversy simply by quoting the opinion of this person and the disagreement of that person. They can become preoccupied with some minor point of debate at the expense of more serious and relevant matters that deserve their attention.
There is a story about the great jurist and legal scholar Ahmad b. Hanbal which illustrates this point nicely:
A young man named Abū Ja`far Ahmad b. Habbān al-Qatī`ī approached Ahmad b. Hanbal and asked him: “Can I perform ritual ablutions with limestone-saturated water?”
Ahmad replied: “I dislike this practice.”
The young man then asked: “Can I perform my ritual ablutions with the runoff water from soaking beans?
Again, Ahmad replied: “I dislike this practice.”
The young man then asked: “Can I perform my ritual ablutions with water infused with safflower?
Yet again, Ahmad replied: “I dislike this practice.”
At this point, the student got up to leave. Ahmad, gently tugged on his shirt to bid him to stay. Then he asked the young man: “Do you know the supplication you should say when you enter the mosque?” The man remained silent. Then Ahmad asked: “Do you know the supplication you should say when you leave the mosque?” Again, the young man could not answer.
Then Ahmad said: “Go and learn these things.”
Ahmad showed his understanding of interpersonal dealings by politely answering all of the young man’s questions before doing anything else. These questions were all about uncertain matters where no one’s opinion was sure to be correct. They were not essential, inviolable religious teachings.
The way Ahmad answer is quite telling. He chose his words carefully, saying: “I dislike this practice.” This humility is reminiscent of another great jurists way of answering, Abū Hanīfah, who used to say: “This is my opinion. It is the best I can come up with, if anyone comes with something better, I will give up this opinion for that better one.”
Finally, Ahmad used a very tactful and indirect approach to explain to the young man that it is wrong for a novice student of religion to be preoccupied with controversial trivialities. This is why Ahmad waited for the young man to finish with all of his questions, and then gently tug his shirt when he showed his readiness to leave. He asked the young man relevant questions about the supplications he needed to be aware of. When the young man could not answer, Ahmad did not scold him. He just told the man that needed to go and learn these things. In this gentlest of ways, Ahmad was actually telling the young man saying: “Do not pursue controversial and contentious issues. You are not qualified for that. Busy yourself for the time being with practical matters that will help you practice your faith, until you reach the level of a serious student of religion.
One of the indispensable skills a student of knowledge must have is to be able to gauge the proper value of things, to know what is important and what is trivial.
As the Qur’an says: “And for all things Allah has appointed a due proportion.” [Sūrah al-Talāq: 3]