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The Blind Following of Madhhabs

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The Obligation of Referring to the Book and the Sunnah for Judgment

By Sheikh Saleem al-Hilaalee


People were a single nation upon the religion of Aadam  for fourteen generations then the devils dislodged and diverted them from their Deen and forbade for them what Allaah had made permissible. They disagreed and differed, so Allaah sent His Messengers in succession so that they would worship Allaah alone and so that His saying would be the deciding factor in any disagreement and the proof for this is the saying of Allaah, that “Mankind were one community and Allaah sent Prophets with glad tidings and warnings and with them He sent the Book in truth, to judge between people in matters wherein they differed”

Sooratul-Baqarah (2): 213

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) came, after a gap in the succession of Prophets, to explain the Straight Way to the people and to guide them, by Allaah’s permission, in those matters of the truth about which they differed, to the Way of the Mighty and the One worthy of all praise. He, the Mighty and Majestic, says: “We sent down the Book to you (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) that you may make clear to them those things in which they differ and that it should be a guide and a mercy to those who believe.”

Sooratun-Nahl (16): 64

This aayah confines the reason behind revelation which is that the Messenger’s duty is to proclaim the clear message. Therefore, the clear decisive aayaahs come from Allaah ordering His Prophet to follow what was revealed to Him. He, the Most High, says: “O Prophet! Fear Allaah and obey not the disbelievers and the hypocrites. Verily Allaah is full of knowledge and wisdom. But follow that which has come to you by inspiration from your Lord: for Allaah is well acquainted with (all) that you do.” Sooratul-Ahzaab (33):1-2

“Follow what has been inspired to you from your Lord; None has the right to be worshipped but He and turn aside from those who join others in worship with Allaah.” Sooratul-An’aam (6):106

He says, “Then we put you (O Muhammad) on the (right) Way of Religion, so follow you that and follow not the desires of those who know not.” Sooratul-Jaathiyah (45):18

The Messenger (Peace be upon him) who knew Allaah, obeyed his Lord. Allaah witnessed to that saying: “Nor does he speak of his own desire. It is no less than revelation sent down to him.” Sooratun-Najm (53): 34

From that which Allaah ordered his slave and His Messenger with, was that he should propagate and explain to the people that which was revealed to him by his Lord. He, the Most High, says: “O Messenger! Proclaim that which has been sent to you from your Lord. If you did not, you would not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. Allaah will defend you from men (who mean mischief). For Allaah guides not those who reject faith.” Sooratul-Maa’idah (5): 67

The Messenger did indeed completely propagate all the revelation from his Lord without the slightest deficiency, Allaah bears witness to that and also the believers. Allaah says: “This Day have I perfected your Religion for you, completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islaam as your Religion.”

Sooratul-Maa’idah (5): 3

The Mother of the Believers, ‘Aaishah - radiallaahu ‘anhaa - said to Masrooq, “Whoever says to you that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) kept secret anything sent down to him, has lied.”

Reported by al-Bukhaaree, Muslim, at-Tirmidhee and others

All the Muslims upon the final Hajj when they were asked by the Messenger (Peace be upon him), “You will be questioned about me, so what will you say?” They said, ‘We bear witness that you have fully conveyed the Revelation from your Lord, have done your duty and sincerely advised the Ummah and fulfilled that which was upon you.’ So he pointed with his forefinger and raised it towards the heavens and pointed it at the people and said, “O Allaah bear witness, O Allaah bear witness.”
[Part of the Hadeeth of Jaabir. Its various narrations have been collected by the muhaddith Shaykh al-Albaanee in his book Haajjat un-Nabee p. 73]

Allaah ordered His Messenger to follow the revelation and to propagate it to the people. To explain the revelation, so that the judge by it in any dispute. Allaah is the One who knows fully the laws and regulations which are fitting for His creation, for everything created is known best by its Creator and all humans are the creation of Allaah. So Allaah knows best the way in which their affairs will be set aright and kept in order. He, the Mighty and Majestic, says: “Should He not know what He created? He is the most kind and Courteous (to His slaves), All-Aware (of everything).” Sooratul-Mulk (67):14

If He  had left mankind to pass judgements upon actions and sayings themselves, then judgement would change from person to person and in different times and it is not possible for a human to pass a definite and unchanging ruling. Since that is the case, He has made it binding upon the servants to obey Him and to obey the Messenger and warned them against disobedience and placed the guidance in His Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet. He, the Most High, says: “It is not fit for a believer, man or woman, when Allaah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. Whosoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger has indeed strayed in a plain manner.” Sooratul-Ahzaab (33): 36

Allaah, the Most Perfect, says: “He who obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allaah..”

Sooratun-Nisaa (4) 80

“Say: Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and you for that placed upon you. If you obey him, you shall be on right guidance. The Messenger’s duty is only to convey in a clear way.”                 Sooratun-Noor (24 ) 54

The Messenger of Allaah (Peace be upon him) said; “He who obeys me enters Paradise and he who disobeys me has refused.”             Reported by al-Bukhaaree (Fath ul-Baaree: 13/249).

The truthful and trustworthy Messenger also (Peace be upon him) said, “I have left amongst you two things. You will not go astray as long as you hold to them: The Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.” Reported by Maalik  (2/899). See the checking of  al-Mishkaat (1/66) by Shaykh al-Albaanee

From what has preceded it becomes clear that it is obligatory to refer back in judgement to the Book and the Sunnah, if we desire the correct way. Allaah has ordered that matters be referred back to Him and His Messenger when there is a disagreement and difference, so that the final judgement is that of the Book and the Sunnah. He, the Mighty and Majestic, says: “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority. If you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allaah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allaah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determinations”                 Sooratun-Nisaa (4): 59

This aayah explains that disputes and unknown matters are to be referred back to the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger so that the Muslims settle their disputes with them. This being a sign of truthfulness and the proof of Eemaan; while he who does not refer back in judgement to the Book and the Sunnah in disputes and take judgement from them then he is not a believer in Allaah and the Last Day. Perhaps the clearest proof of this great matter which is counted as the crux of Eemaan is His saying: “But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith until they make you judge in all disputes between them and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions and accept (them) with full submissions”     Sooratun-Nisaa (4): 65

Just this earth-rending oath is sufficient to cause the mountains to fall to the ground and for the believer’s jugular vein to tremble in terror and his limbs to shake with fear and for the hearts to rise to the throats and the eyes to roll up in their sockets. The Most Just of all judges has sworn by Himself that no one believes until he makes the Messenger (Peace be upon him) judge in all affairs. So whatever judgement he has passed then it is obligatory to submit to it, outwardly and inwardly, since it is the truth and what is there besides the truth except misguidance.

Tafseer Ibn Katheer (Tafseer of verses 59 and 85 of sooratun-Nisaa).

This is the unrestricted authority; that no man-made law, custom, opinion of the elder of the tribe, saying of a man without a proof, any judgement reached by intellect or any personal experience is given precedence before Allaah and His Messenger (Peace be upon him), who calls to that which gives them life. Rather, they should not turn aside, hesitate or delay; they should submit fully outwardly and inwardly. Anything less than that is lame and half-hearted submission leaning upon the walking stick of blind-following and opinions of men.

The Companions – radiallaahu’anhum - submitted themselves and the reins of their intellect to the truthful and trusted Messenger whilst they were indeed men of great wisdom and intellect. This because to the Messenger information came from the heavens and upon him the Qur’aan was sent down. He (Peace be upon him) knew its explanation due to that which Allaah showed him.

And whatever the Companions did then Allaah was pleased with them and they were pleased with Allaah. Then after them came the Taabi’een continuing upon this correct path and this straight way.

The affair continued in like manner for three generations; with scholars who were satisfied in this world with little. Thus, their hearts were free from any desire of position with a ruler and their souls were free from self-adoration. So they did not see their success except in worshipping their Lord. Their students took knowledge and wisdom from them in this agreeable atmosphere. Their hearts and minds were therefore cleansed from following desires and from obstinate refusal of following the Hadeeth of the Messenger (Peace be upon him), about which none of the creation have excuse and there is no escape from following the Sunnah of the chosen one.

When they saw the ruling for a matter in the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (Peace be upon him), then they would cling to that. If they did not (find the ruling in the Book or the Sunnah) then they would look for the ijmaa’ [1] of the Ummah, since it does not unite upon misguidance

This saying is based upon the Hadeeth, “Indeed Allah will never unite this Ummah upon misguidance”

[Reported by at-Tirmidhi  (no.2269)]

 If they could not find the ijmaa’, then they would compare it (the matter) against the Book and the Sunnah using qiyaas [2] and would strive hard to arrive at the Sharee‘ah ruling by deduction (this is the process called Ijtihaad). So in this, some of them arrived at what was correct and others erred but were still deserving of reward

The Prophet  said, “Whoever makes a reasoned decision (Ijtihaad) and is correct will receive two rewards, while he who does so and is incorrect will receive one reward.” [Collected in Saheeh al-Bukhari (english trans.) vol. 9, p.330, no.450) and Sunan Abu Dawood, vol. 3, p.1013-4, no.3567).]

and had excuse due to many reasons. Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee - rahimahullaah - summarised in excellent terms in ar-Risaalah (p.219), saying, “As for contradicting an established Hadeeth from Allaah’s Messenger, then I hope that we cannot be charged with that, if Allaah wills. And that (contradicting an authentic Hadeeth) is not allowed for anyone, but that one is ignorant of something from the Sunnah and may therefore hold a saying contrary to it, not knowingly opposing it and a person may also overlook and make mistakes in interpretation.”

These reasons are also set out by Shaykh ul-Islaam (Ibn Taymiyyah) in Raf ul-Malaam‘anil-A‘immat il-A’laam, where he quoted the excuses for these great scholars, saying, “Know that there is not a single one of the great scholars, who were acceptable to the Ummah in general, who deliberately conflicted with the Messenger (Peace be upon him) in anything from his Sunnah be it small or great. Since all of them definitely agreed upon the obligation of following the Messenger (Peace be upon him).

As for the sayings of any man, some are taken and some are to be rejected, except for Allaah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him). But if a saying of any of them is found to conflict with an authentic Hadeeth, then the scholar must be excused for not having followed it and the excuses are of three types:

1.  Not believing that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said it.
2.  Not believing that this matter is what is referred to in that Hadeeth.
3.  Believing the ruling to have been abrogated.
These three classes branch off into many reasons.”
But this excuse of the Imaam is not an excuse for his students when the truth becomes clear or is explained to them and this is affirmed by the sayings reported from the four Imaams explaining their position regarding the blind-following of them and that they disassociated themselves from that. This was due to their knowledge and piety since they indicated that they had not comprehended all of the Sunnah.

Their students have reported various sayings from them, with different wordings; all affirming one thing: that it is obligatory to act upon the Hadeeth when it is found to be authentic and to abandon blind-following of the opinions of men which conflict with it. Such as the saying of Abu Haneefah - rahimahullaah - when he said to Abu Yoosuf - rahimahullaah - “Woe to you! O Abu Ya’qoob. Do not write down everything which you hear from me, for I may hold an opinion one day, then abandon it the next, then hold an opinion and abandon it the following day.”
Reported by Abbaas and ad-Dooree in al-Tareekh by Ibn Mu’een, vol.6, p.88. See The Characteristics of the Prophet’s Prayer Described by Shaykh al-Albaanee (p. ix).

The like of this is also established from the rest of the Imaams and they all agreed that, “If the Hadeeth is authentic, then that is their madhhab.” Ibn Hazm - rahimahullaah - said, “The scholars whom they blindly follow have rejected blind-following and forbade their companions from blindly following them.”

Al-lhkaam fee Usool il-Ahkaam (6/118).

Therefore, the followers of the Imaams did not accept all their sayings. Rather, they abandoned many of them when it became clear that the truth and the Sunnah was made clear to them. So the two Imaams Abu Yoosuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaibaanee differed with Imaam, Abu Haneefah in a third of the entire madhhab
Haashiyah lbn ‘Aabideen (1/62), Istanbul edition. This point will be discussed later in details.

This was also the practice of some of the later people, despite their being ascribed to a madhhab. This did not prevent them from differing with the madhhab when they knew of a proof which contradicted what the head of the madhhab held. For example, an-Nawawee who contradicted ash-Shaafi’ee with regard to making wudoo from eating camel meat. Al-Majmoo’ (2/58 60) and Sharh Saheeh Muslim (4/4849).

 However, people from the later generations closed the doors of Ijtihaad and made the Blind-Following of their Imaam obligatory on the people. The author of Taqleed and Ijtihaad writes, under the heading Taqleed Restricted to the Four Madhhabs: “It was realised from the exposition of the Wujub of Taqleed that adoption of different verdicts leads to anarchy. It is therefore, imperative to make Taqleed of a Madhhab which has been so formulated and arranged in regard to principles (Usul) and details (Furu’) that answers to all questions could be  obtained .... thereby obviating the need to refer to an external source. This all-embracing quality, by an act of Allaah, is found existing in only the four madhhabs. It is therefore, imperative to adopt one of four Madhhabs.” Muhammad Maseehullah Khan Sherwani’s Taqleed and Ijtihaad  p.13.

The Pious Predecessors regarded blind-following as submission of one’s will to others and the blind acceptance of their opinions to be matters which Islaam rejected and censured and it is not fitting for any Muslim, male or female, to do this except in cases of necessity.

Therefore Ijtihaad cannot be turned into something foreign to the life of the Ummah when it used to be the norm?! Many factors have lead to this dreadful reversal in thought, which has disfigured peoples’ thinking and turned their heads away. There is no doubt that the Deen is not amongst these factors. Rather the common denominator between these factors is built upon political considerations, since many rulers feared Ijtihaad which  represents the peak of free thought, within Islaamic principles. So some of the rulers did not forget the trouble caused to them through Ijtihaad. Did not the fatwaa of Imaam Maalik - rahimahullaah - deal a blow to the position of the Abbasid Khullafaah, when he gave the ruling that divorce pronounced under duress is invalid? It was this form of divorce which was introduced by the Abbasids to secure the peoples’ adherence to their pledge of allegiance and they wished to make the people follow particular madhhabs but this was opposed and criticised by the scholars for they did not fear anyone but Allaah. Al-Mansoor wanted to make the people follow the madhhab of Maalik and Imaam Maalik himself was one of the first to reject that, saying, “O Chief of the believers! Do not do that, because the people have previous sayings and have heard Hadeeth and narrations. So each people have accepted what came to them and acted upon it and have accepted what they found from differences between the Companions of Allaah’s Messenger  and others. To turn them away from that which they believe is very difficult, so leave the people as they are and what the people of each land choose for themselves.
al-lntiqaa’ fee Fadlith-Thalaathatil-A’immatil-Fuqaha of lbn ‘Abd ul-Barr (p. 41) and al-Madkhal fee al-Ta’reef bil-Fiqh al-Islaamee by Muhammed Shalabee.

Then after these noble men came scholars, who responded to the wishes of the rulers, since their concern slackened and their resolve weakened because they merely stuck to that which they had learnt in childhood without any eagerness for it. Rather they were happy to eat the crumbs dropped from the table by those before them. Their own incapacity fooled them into thinking that the Ummah of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) became barren after the fourth century and in this manner the rulers who feared Ijtihaad attained their wish. Through the inability of the scholars and ignorance of the commoners, the gates of Ijtihaad were closed.

Ibn Khaldoon said “When it was feared that (ijtihaad) would be attributed to those who were not befitting and to those whose opinion was not to be relied upon, they stated that it was something that people were now incapable of. Instead they turned them to blind-following and warned from accepting from more than one Imaam since that would be to make a game of it. So nothing remained except for the madhhabs to be passed on and for each blind-follower to stick to his own madhhab. And after the Madhhab’s principles had been settled and its ascription affirmed by narration, there is no means of attaining fiqh today except through their way. The claim of ijtihaad today is rejected and is not followed and the people of Islaam today blindly follow these four Imaams.” Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldoon (p. 448).

If we analyse the arguments of those who prevent ijtihaad, we do not find in it, from the day they closed its gate to this day a single proof from the Sharee’ah, neither from the Book, nor the Sunnah nor ijmaa’. (We find) nothing except their saying that their scholars closed the gates of ijtihaad fearing that this Ummah would fall into error and misunderstandings. They would be mislead by following claimants of ijtihaad who did not have the required knowledge and piety for that and so corrupt the Deen and play with its rulings and cause anarchy within the Deen. Shaykh Muhammad al-Haamid says, “But in order to prevent those claimants of ijtihaad, who are not from its people and the resulting widespread religious anarchy, just as occurred with the nations before us, the pious scholars decided to close this gate as a mercy for the Ummah, so that it would not fall into error and misunderstandings

Luzoom Ittibaa’ Madhaahib il-Aimmah of Muhammad al-Haamid (p. 10)..” [3]

This saying has no share of the truth and if it had the weight of a mustard seed of truth in it then Allaah would have guided us to it, since He knows whatever is beneficial to the people in their Deen and worldly affairs; likewise He knows better what will harm them. Therefore, He did not leave a major or minor matter from their lives except He included it in an order or a prohibition and this was conveyed by Allaah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) without any addition or deletion.

He (Peace be upon him) said, “I have not left anything which Allaah has ordered you with except that I have ordered you with it, nor have  I left anything which He forbade you except that I have forbidden you from it.”
 Reported by ash-Shaafi’ee in his Sunan (1/14) and ar-Risaalah (p. 87 and  93), al-Baihaqee quotes it in his Sunan (7/76) from ash-Shaafi’ee. Reported also by al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (1/93) and by at-Tabaraanee. It is declared Saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaanee due to its chains and by Shaykh Ahmad Shaakir in his notes in ar-Risaalah

Can it be imagined that Allaah knows of a great danger and widespread evil which will encompass the Muslims from one time to the next and cause anarchy within the Deen, thereby leaving none unaffected and cause the Muslims to run around in disarray and that He  would not inform them of what awaited them and warn them? How far is He from that!

 “Your Lord is never forgetful”                       Soorah Maryam (19): 64

It is enough for you, O Muslim to know that Allaah knew that a danger would confront a single generation of the Muslims before the Last Hour. The danger (Fitnah) of the greater dajjaal and so He warned all of the Muslims through the last of His Prophets and Messengers. In fact every Prophet warned his nation about the one-eyed liar.

The Messenger of Allaah (Peace be upon him) said, “There was not a Prophet except that he warned his nation about the one-eyed liar; indeed he is one-eyed and your Lord is not one-eyed and there is written between the place of his eyes  Kaafir (or disbeliever)”
Reported by al-Bukhaaree (Fath ul-Baaree: 13/91), Muslim (Sharh Saheeh Muslim of an-Nawawee: 18/59) and at-Tirmidhee (Shaakir: 4/156)

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), however informed his nation about the details unknown to the previous nations. He (Peace be upon him) said, “ Shall I not inform you of something about the dajjaal which no Prophet told his people; indeed he is one-eyed and will bring the like of the Paradise and the Fire, so that which he says is Paradise is the Fire.”
Reported by al-Bukhaaree (Fath ul-Baaree: 13/90) and Muslim (Sharh Saheeh Muslim of an-Nawawee: 18/62).

This misfortune which will be faced by a single generation of the Muslims has so many Hadeeth reported about it that they reach the level of being mutawaatir [4] So how is it that we do not find in the Sunnah of the chosen one, a single mention of this alleged anarchy within the religion which is supposed to remove the Muslims from the pure guidance?! Does this not indicate that this is in fact forging lies about the Deen of Allaah and speaking falsely about Allaah and lying upon Allaah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him). Bearing in mind that this alleged error and misunderstanding which it is said would be caused by opening the door of ijtihaad and its continuance throughout the ages would be a greater trial than that of the dajjaal.

This mistake is rebutted by the saying of the Messenger (Peace be upon him), “There is not from the creation of Aadam to the establishment of the Hour a creation (and in a wording: a matter) more serious than the dajjaal.’
 Reported by Muslim (Sharh Saheeh Muslim of an-Nawawee: 18/86) and Ahmad. Imaam an-Nawawee said “What is meant is causing more trial and having greater strength.”

 ‘Amr ibn Qays as-Salkoonee reports from ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr who said, “I went out with my father in a deputation to Mu’aawiyyah, and I heard a man narrating to the people, saying, ‘From the signs of the Hour is that the wicked will be raised in position and the good lowered and that action will be concealed and sayings manifested and that Mathnaat are read amongst the people and none amongst them tries to change or criticise them.’ It was said, ‘What are Mathnaat? He said, “Those things which are written besides the Book of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic’.” Reported by al-Haakim (4/554-555) who said, “Its isnaad is Saheeh” and adh-Dhahabee agreed and so does al-Albaanee who said, “Even though it is mawqoof but still it has the ruling of being marfoo’, since it is an affair of the Unseen, something which cannot be spoken about from opinion


[1] Ijmaa’: The unanimous agreement of the Sahabah or scholars in general, on a point of Islaamic law

[2] Qiyaas :Analogical deduction of Islaamic laws, by which new laws are deduced from earlier laws based on similarities between their causes

[3] This concern is unjustified because Allaah has promised to protect the Deen, and He alone will provide for the means of its protection, as the Messenger of Allaah  said, “This ilm (Deen) will be carried by the trustworthy ones of each generation. Negating from it the tahreef (alterations) of the ones going beyond bounds, the false assumptions of the liars, and the ta’weel (false interpretations of the ignorant).” [Reported by al-Baihaqi and Authenticated by al-Albani in Mishkat no.248]

[4] A Hadeeth that is reported by a group of people in every stage of its chain of narration (Sanaad). For details, see the course’s section on Hadeeth

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