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What is Imitation (taqleed), and what is following the evidence (daleel)

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.

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