Connect with us

Aqeedah and Fiqh

Understanding the Statements of the Illustrious Imams: ‘When a Hadith is Sahih it is my Madhab”


What is the meaning of the statement by the four Imams: Abu Hanifah, Malik, al-Shafi’i, and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, that ‘when a hadith is found to be authentic that is my adopted position (in fiqh)’?


  • Statements such as these by the illustrious Fuqaha are to be understood in their proper context. They were addressing them to their students and scholars alike and not to any lay people and non-specialists in fiqh and hadith.
  • The statements could also be interpreted to mean that an individual scholar will be given license to investigate Ahadith (if he is capable) but must not contradict the Usul or the principles of the Imam (madhab) in its entirety.
  • Language should not be (always) taken literally. Speech should be understood in their correct context by considering the addresser and the addressee of a particular statement(s).
  • Single or a group of Ahadith are not sufficient for deducing Ahkam (rulings) from the sources.
  • Those who are competent and fulfil the criterion of ijtihad are only suitable to directly investigate and deduce rulings from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
  • Those who are novices in the Arabic language and fiqh (jurisprudence) are required to conform to the views and investigations of qualified scholarship.
  • Each of the great mujtahidun scholars opined certain methodology when investigating Ahadith and fiqh. If a competent scholar ignores to apply a particular authentic hadith it does not necessarily imply that he is neglecting the narration intentionally nor does it necessarily mean that he was unaware of the narration.

Understanding language

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

One of the most important branches of Usul al Fiqh, Tafseer and other sciences is the study of language. Linguistics includes principles relating to the way in which words convey their meanings, and to the clarity and ambiguity of words and their interpretation. The knowledge of these principles is essential to the proper understanding of the sources of the Shari’ah, the Qur’an and the authentic Ahadith of the Prophet, which laws and rulings are deduced.

Language[1] is employed by people to communicate with each other; teach, express emotions and feelings. Without the correct understanding of language there would be much difficulty in the way in which people and civilisation develops.

However, although there are universal modes of language, the way in which we express our thoughts and communicate our speech will vary from country to country, culture to culture and person to person. An educated man, for example, will differ in expression and the method of articulation of his thoughts from the way a man who has a simple elementary education; a doctor’s level of communication will differ from that of a farmer; a lawyers method of expression and choice of phrases and words will differ with a student; a university professor’s writing and usage of prose and rhymes therein will differ from a beginner learning a language, so on and so forth.

Furthermore our language or the words and phrases we employ in our day to day conduct and communication with other people will differ immensely when we consider our environment, context or to whom we address our message etc. Our cognitive and emotional state of mind will also effect and influence, to a large extent, the way in which we communicate and express our feelings and inner understanding. An intelligent person will survey the listener and articulate his or her thoughts appropriately. Conversely and, depending on the level of the understanding of the audience, each person or group will determine or interpret the conveyed message in varied forms and elucidations.

Speech and its objectives

Ibn ‘Ashur explains this very succinctly in his treatise on Maqasid al-Shari’ah under the chapter heading ‘Insufficiency of the literal methodology without knowledge of the Higher Objectives’:

‘’Never has speech in any human language, nor of its genres and styles in a particular language, been sufficient by itself to indicate the intent (Maqsad) of the speaker in such a way that would preclude any possibility of doubt about the signification (dalalah) of his words. I mean the kind of signification referred to as explicit expression (nass) that is unequivocal in denoting one particular meaning to the exclusion of others. However, the meaning of words in different languages, and the meanings of different types of speech in the same language, vary greatly in the degree of doubt and probability (ihtimal) arising in the mind about the purport (murad) of that speech. Some types of speech are more open to interpretation than others, just as speech authors differ in their capacity to articulate in an unequivocal way the meanings they intend by the words they use. Hence, some speakers are described as fluent or eloquent.’’[2]

He also highlights that the understanding of the listeners or the audience of a particular speech will vary depending on their capacity to understand the various contours of language,

‘’Similarly, in so far as their understanding of its import is concerned, the share of listeners to a speech also varies according to their understanding and practice of the idioms of that speech and the styles of those who belong to the same category as the author of that speech. Likewise, neither speakers nor listeners can afford to ignore certain features that surround a speech act, namely the context, the capacity (maqam) from which that act flows as well as its background information. All these elements consolidate one another in such a way as would exclude some possibilities of interpretation that might concur to the listener’s mind concerning the speaker’s intention. This is the reason why the speaker’s direct words to his listeners express his intention more clearly than when they are conveyed by another person. Likewise, a speech conveyed to others in writing is more open to different interpretations that a speech conveyed verbatim, let alone speech that is addressed directly. This is because a written speech loses the connotations of context and the features of both the speaker and the conveyer, despite the fact that it is more accurate for it is less subject to distortion, omission, or having its meaning expressed in different words when the conveyer fails to retain the original words of the speaker.’’[3]

Additionally he clarifies the mistake of those who only take the literal words in a speech without considering the context and import of the conveyer and the variant capacity of the listeners.

It is in this light that the reported statements ‘when a hadith is found to be authentic then that is my adopted position’ (and similar statements) by the illustrious Imams of the four acceptable and popular schools of thought have been and should be understood and interpreted. Ibn ‘Ashur in his treatise on Maqasid further explained:

‘’It is here also that we can realise the inaccuracy and unsoundness of the statement attributed to al-Shafi’i, in which he is reported to have said: ‘’If a tradition (khabar) from God’s Apostle is proven authentic, then that is my adopted position,’’ for such as statement cannot be uttered by a scholar who has attained the level of a mujtahid. Moreover, evidence from al-Shafi’i’s juristic doctrines compels us to believe that this statement is either wrongly attributed to him or has been distorted, unless he means by authenticity the perfect signification based on the considerations that we have explained, and provided it is free from opposition from what we have warned against.’’[4]

Ibn ‘Ashur then clarifies how this statement from al-Shafi’i (and others) should be understood,

‘’Accordingly al-Shafi’i’s statement can be interpreted as follows: When you examine my juristic views, you should know that they are based on authentic tradition.’’[5]

The issue and the confusion

Unfortunately in recent times these statements by these great scholars of Islamic law have been taken out of context and sometimes used to substantiate an adopted methodology in fiqh by certain individuals and groups. Many books have been authored on denouncing the concept of taqlid (conformation) by all, even the non-specialists who may not have the basic understanding of the Arabic language or even unable appreciate the vast intellectual differences in the areas of Usul al-Fiqh, Usul al-Hadith, Usul al-Tafseer and other such disciplines in Islamic law.

Countless articles, YouTube videos, discussions on forums and even lectures have been produced to propagate the notion of completely rejecting the views of these scholars when an ‘authentic’ narration, according to them, is found which stands incongruity to the perceived authentic narration they have.

Much confusion and sedition (fitnah) arose from these inaccurate interpretations of these scholars to the extent that lay people or non-specialists in the sciences of the Arabic language and Islamic law have been going around shouting and screaming to shun conforming to the views of the four established schools of thought and take from where they took, i.e., directly from the Qur’an and Sunnah (prophetic traditions), without understanding or possessing the qualifications of the precepts and principle of language and methodology of deduction.

Henceforth I shall endeavour to further explain the correct and sound purport of these scholars when they uttered such statements and how we the audience and listeners should understand and analyse them.

Following are some of the reports by the heads of these schools of thought and their brief analysis:

Abu Hanifah:

  1. “When a hadith is found to be sahih (authentic), then that is my adopted position.” [6]
  2. ‘’It is not permitted for anyone to accept our views if they do not know from where we got them from.’’[7]
  3. ‘’It is not permissible for someone to give legal verdicts from my books that he should do so without knowing from where I took from.’’[8]
  4. ‘’It is prohibited for someone who does not know my evidence to give verdicts on the basis of my words.’’[9]
  5. ‘’For indeed we are human: we say one thing one day, and take it back the next day.’’[10]
  6. ‘’Woe to you, O Ya’qub! Do not write down everything you hear from me, for it happens that I hold one opinion today and reject it tomorrow, or hold one opinion tomorrow and reject it the day after tomorrow.’’[11]
  7. ‘’When I say something contradicting the Book of Allah the Exalted or what is narrated from the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), then ignore my saying.’’[12]
  8. ‘’What has come from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), then we take it without hesitation, and what has come from his companions we select from them as long as we do not depart from their sayings (in totality).’’[13]

Malik Ibn Anas:

  1. Indeed I am only a human: I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it.’’[14]
  2. ‘’Everyone after the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) will have his sayings accepted and rejected – except the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).’’[15]
  3. ‘’The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away and the affair has been completed; therefore the athar (narrations) of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) should be followed, and (mere) opinions should not be followed.’’[16]

Muhammad Ibn Idris al-Shafi’i:

  1. ‘’In every issue where the people of narration find a report from the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to be sahih which is contrary to what I have said, then I take my saying back, whether during my life or after my death.’’[17]
  2. ‘’Every hadith on the authority of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is also my view, even if you do not hear it from me.’’[18]
  3. ‘’For everything I say, if there is something authentic from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) contrary to my saying, then the hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) comes first, therefore do not taqlid of my opinion.’’[19]
  4. ‘’The sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reach, as well as escape from, every one of us. So whenever I voice my opinion, or formulate a principle, where something contrary to my view exists on the authority of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then the correct view is what the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has stated, and it is my view.’’[20]
  5. ‘’The Muslims are unanimously agreed that if a sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is made clear to someone, it is not permitted for him to leave it for the saying of anyone else.’’[21]
  6. ‘’If you find in my book (writings) something different to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), then speak on the basis of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and leave what I have said.’’[22]
  7. ‘’When a hadith is found to be sahih (authentic), then that is my adopted position.’’[23]

Ahmad ibn Hanbal:

  1. ‘’ Do not follow my opinion; neither follow the opinion of Malik, nor Shafi’i, nor Awza’i, nor Thawri, but take from where they took.’’[24]
  2. ‘’The opinion of Awza’i, the opinion of Malik, the opinion of Abu Hanifah: all of it is opinion, and it is all equal in my eyes. However, the proof is in the athar (narrations).’’[25]
  3. ‘’Whoever rejects a statement of the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is on the brink of destruction.’’[26]
  4. ‘’From the lack of understanding of a man is to follow his religion from men.’’[27]

Brief discussion:

  • Every scholar is bound to follow this precept of following the authentic narration over anything else. However, not all authentic hadith is to be implemented and actioned. Some could be abrogated; others could be specified or qualified. Furthermore there are varied opinions among the scholars in a given hadith as regards to the authenticity of it. Not all authentic Ahadith are in the same level of authenticity. There are countless number of Ahadith upon which the hadith specialists and Fuqaha have differed upon its authenticity and grade of authenticity. Therefore whose gradation does one follow? One who is not qualified to sieve through the corpus of hadith collections must conform to the experts and specialists in that field.

To perform ijtihad is a challenging task. Scholars cite some conditions:

– Knowing the Arabic Language which includes: Nahu [grammar] sarf [Arabic morphology], Balagha [science of rhetoric] and the knowledge of al-huruf [‘Ilm al Huruf]

– Knowledge of the Qur’an which includes: Ahkam al-Qur’an, the knowledge of the nuzul of the Qur’an, the science of Nasikh and Mansukh, the science of the Qira’at, and the science of tafsir.

– Knowledge of the Sunnah which includes: Mustalah hadith [also jarh wa ta’dil and the ilal of hadith], the legal ordinances contained in the Sunnah, the causes or instances of the ahadith [asbab wurud al hadith] etc.

– Usul al Fiqh which includes: Knowing the general and the specific texts, the mutlaq and the muqayyad, the abrogating and the abrogated, and the qawi’d al fiqhiyiat and their application, and the Maqasid ash Shari’ah.

– Knowledge of those matters that have consensus [ijma’ as sahih].[28]

  • The canons of hadith collections were not available during their era. Scholars were still collecting Ahadith from various locations and hadith masters, it was not till later that the books of hadith we have today were codified and written. The narrations were not available to the masses but mostly restricted to students and scholars. It is quite impossible to infer from the Imams that they were referring to non-specialists. Even if they were the statements of the Imams such as ‘when a hadith is found to be authentic then that is my adopted position’ are referring to competent scholars to make that judgement.
  • Statements such as ‘take from where they took’ suggest that the Imams are making it clear that one should investigate the root sources, i.e., the Qur’an and Sunnah directly and evaluate the verses and narrations. This surely is suggesting that the one who should do so should be well versed in the sciences of the Arabic language and possesses the tools of ijtihad and istinbat, does it not? The Imams are not referring to a novice in the Arabic language nor are they referring to ill-equipped and unqualified individuals.
  • Reading the writings and the Usul of Imam Malik, for example, makes it clear that he did not mean what some suggest in our times; he followed certain Usul or principles in fiqh and accepting Ahadith. For example, he would give preference to the ‘amal ahlal madinah when a narration contradicts the widespread action of the people of madinah.
  • Statements such as ‘do not follow my opinion but follow the narrations’ or ‘whoever is rejecting a narration is on the brink of destruction’ if taken literally from the Imams seems contradictory since they themselves disregarded certain Ahadith in their writings because they believed certain particular Ahadith have been abrogated or specified or even there are other more authentic Ahadith to a particular narration.

This has been clarified by many scholars. For example, Imam al-Razi explains why it is not possible to extract rulings from a single hadith or a group of Ahadith without looking at the verses and Ahadith in their entirety and comprehensively. This can be done only by a specialist in that field. The following is a summary of the reasons:

1. There is a possibility that the ruling that one conclude from the single evidence has been restricted to certain circumstances, without one’s knowledge.

2. There is a possibility that the expression of the single evidence is metaphoric.

3. Our reference in language is linguists, which are people who could err.

4. Arabic grammar is conveyed to us via ancient Arabic poetry, which was narrated through individuals’ narrations (riwayat ahad). These narrations are not certain and the original poets themselves could have made grammatical mistakes.

5. There is a possibility that one or more of the words of this single evidence have multiple meanings.

6. There is a possibility that one or more of the words of the single evidence have been altered, over time, in a way that alters the original meaning.

7. There is a possibility that the expression has a hidden (khafī) meaning that we do not understand.

8. There is a possibility that the ruling that we conclude from the single evidence has been abrogated, without evidence our knowledge.

9. There is a possibility that a ruling that we conclude from single evidence is at odds with ‘reason.’ In such case (al-Razi says), if both reason and narration are confirmed, then one of them is wrong. Moreover, reason is our means to confirm the validity of narration itself. Therefore, reason has precedence over narrations. Thus, we should follow reason, and not the linguistic evidence of the narration.[29]

  • Each of these mujtahidun were addressing competent students, who themselves were qualified to deduce rulings directly from the Qur’an and Sunnah; students like Abu Yusuf, al-Shaybani were qualified to make judgements on the sources.

Many scholars past and present have explained the correct way to understand these statements. For example, Taqi al-Din al-Subki’s Ma‘na Qawl al-Imamal-Muttalibi Idha Sahha al-Hadithu Fahuwa Madhhabi; Ibn al-Salah’s Adab al-Mufti waal-Mustafti; and the first volume of al-Nawawi’s al-Majmu’, all have understood these famous statements in the manner that have been clarified above. Please refer to these writings in particular for a more detailed discussion.

The correct way to understand these statements may be summarised as follows:

1. Is that the Imams restricted the instructions to qualified individuals in the various sciences who are capable of sifting the abrogating and sound Ahadith from the abrogated and unsound ones as well as extract the rulings from their collective evidence according to the principles of the Law and those of the Arabic language.

Al-Nawawi explained: ‘’What Imam al-Shafi’i said does not mean that everyone who sees a sahih hadith should say “This is the madhhab of al-Shafi’i,” applying the purely external or apparent meaning of his statement. What he said most certainly applies only to such a person as has the rank of ijtihad in the madhhab. It is a condition for such a person that he be firmly convinced that either Imam al-Shafi’i was unaware of this hadith or he was unaware of its authenticity. And this is possible only after having researched all the books of al-Shafi’i and similar other books of the companions of al-Shafi’i, those who took knowledge from him and others similar to them. This is indeed a difficult condition to fulfil. Few are those who measure up to this standard in our times. What we have explained has been made conditional because Imam al-Shafi’i had abandoned acting purely on the external meaning of many hadiths, which he declared and knew. However, he established proofs for criticism of the hadith or its abrogation or specific circumstances or interpretation and so forth. Shaykh Abu ‘Amr [Ibn al-Salah] said: “It is no trivial matter to act according to the apparent meaning of what Imam al-Shafi’i said. For it is not permissible for every faqih – let alone a layman (‘ammi) – to act independently with what he takes to be a proof from the hadith… Therefore, whoever among the Shafi’i’s finds a hadith that contradicts his School must examine whether he is absolutely accomplished in all the disciplines of ijtihad, or in that particular topic, or specific question. [If he is,] then he has the right to apply it independently. If he is not, but finds that contravening the hadith bears too heavily upon him–after having researched it and found no justification for contravening it–then he may apply it if another independent Imam other than al-Shafi’i applies it. This is a good excuse for him to leave the madhab of his Imam in such a case.”[30]

Ibn Abidin wrote: ‘’It is not hidden that this is for one qualified to examine the texts and has knowledge of its non-abrogated from its abrogated, so when the scholars of the madhhab deliberate on an evidence and act upon it, its attribution to the madhhab is sound due to it issuing by permission from the founder of the madhhab, since there is no doubt that if he knew the weakness of his proof, he would go back on it and follow the stronger proof.’’[31]

2. That the scholar should not contradict the Usul of the madhab in its entirety. As mentioned before each scholar is certain Usul in accepting or applying hadith etc. If a scholar wishes to implement a hadith then he should not go against the madhab in its entirety.

Ibn Abidin stated: ‘’That must be conditional within the madhab whether the view agrees to a view in the madhab. Since he is not given permission to perform ijtihad in so far as that goes against the school in its entirety in which the Imams (of the school) have agreed upon, because their reasoning (ijtihad) is stronger than his. Therefore the clear thing is that they saw evidence more strong than what he understood and did not act upon it.’’[32]

An example:

Abu al-Walid Ibn Abi al-Jarud, a scholar of the Shafi’i school pronounced that al-Shafi’i’s position in the issue of cupping while fasting is that one’s fast is nullified as per the rigorously authenticated hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him):

‘’The one administering the cupping and the one being cupped have both broken their fasts.’’[33]

However, the view of al-Shafi’i and other scholars including Abu Hanifah, Malik, al-Thawri, and Companions, like Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, Ibn Mas`ud, `A’ishah, and Umm Salamah, and Successors like `Urwah and Sa`id b. Jubayr, was that cupping does not invalidate the fasting nor the one who is administering it.

How did al-Shafi’i and others understand or interpret the above authentic narration?

A number of explanations have been forwarded by these scholars. One plausible justification they gave is that of abrogation. They argued that that the above hadith has been abrogated by other authentic narrations, for example, “The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) granted permission for a fasting person to sit for cupping.’’[34]

Here is a clear example of how scholars interpreted certain authentic narrations. If a person were to exclaim the slogan of ‘follow sahih hadith only’ and ignore the view of al-Shafi’i and others on this particular issue without knowing and understanding the scholastic heritage and Usul al-Hadith interpretations, how silly would he sound!

1. If indeed the Imams were ignorant of a particular hadith around a given issue the scholars of the school or competent masters of hadith and fiqh later came and adjusted the position of the madhab. This arduous task has been carried out by scholars over the centuries, and of course this can only be done by qualified and competent scholars.

An example:

In the Hanafi school the Sunnah of bathing (ghusl) before going to Friday prayer (Jumu’ah). The position of the school is that the validity of this Sunnah bath is nullified if one’s ablution (wudhu) is broken between the bath and the Friday prayer, in which case one needs to bathe again to attain the reward of the Sunnah.

Yet we find in the Radd al-muhtar of Ibn ‘Abidin, the foremost fatwa resource for the late Hanafi school, that Imam ‘Abd al-Ghani Nabulusi, after mentioning the above ruling, notes that there are two positions about it among scholars of the madhhab: The first is the position of those who hold the legal reason for this bath is purification (Taharah), in which case nullifying one’s ablution between it and the prayer would invalidate it. The second is the position of those who hold that the reason for the bath is cleanliness (nadhafa), in which case nullifying ablution and repeating it between the bath and the prayer would not invalidate it, for the extra ablution, if anything, increases cleanliness. Nabulusi adopts this second position because in his words “the hadiths on this matter imply that the aim is attaining cleanliness alone”,[35] and Ibn ‘Abidin inclines towards it also, because of the Ahadith about the merit of coming to the mosque from the first hour on Friday morning to wait for the congregational prayer (Jumu’ah). Abu Hurayra relates that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

‘’Whoever bathes on Friday as he would for major ritual impurity (janaba), then goes early [to the mosque] is as though he has sacrificed a she-camel. Whoever goes in the second hour [of daylight] is as though he has sacrificed a cow. Whoever goes in the third hour is as though he has sacrificed a ram. Whoever goes in the fourth hour is as though he has sacrificed a chicken. Whoever goes in the fifth hour is as though he has offered an egg. And when the imam comes out [to begin the sermon], the angels [stop recording, and] come to listen to the remembrance.’’[36]

Ibn ‘Abidin says of Nabulusi’s position (that the bath (ghusl) on Friday is not invalidated by having to renew one’s ablution before the Friday prayer):

‘’It is attested to by the demand to go early to the prayer, best done in the first hour of the day, which extends till sunrise. When doing this, it might prove difficult to keep one’s ablution (wudhu) until the time for the prayer arrives, especially on the longest days of the year. Repeating the bath would be even more arduous, while [Allah says in Surah al-Hajj:] “He has not placed any hardship upon you in religion” (Qur’an 22:78). It might also lead to holding back from going to the bathroom while praying, which is unlawful.’’[37]

Here we see an early position of the Hanafi School (that the Friday bath is nullified by having to renew one’s ablution after it) re-evaluated in light of a hadith by two of the school’s principal later scholars, ‘Abd al-Ghani Nabulusi and Ibn ‘Abidin.

This is not exclusive to the Hanafi madhab but all other schools have similar evaluations and developments made by their leading accolades.[38]


From the cursory discussion above it is evidently clear that the statements by the four illustrious Imams ‘when a hadith is found to be authentic then that is my adopted position’ and similar remarks are to be understood in the proper context as explained above. A), they were instructions to qualified individuals in fiqh and language. B), they are encouragement for people to study language and fiqh with scholars.

To understand these statement in any other light than the way in which has been clarified is trying to interpolate the comments of the Imams, which no classical scholar understood, to a meaning they did not intend.

Allah knows best.


[1] There has been much debate surrounding the origins of Language. A number of theories have been forwarded. As far as Islam is concerned. It is the believe and conviction of all believers that God, Almighty, taught and instructed Adam (peace be upon him), the first human on earth, the names and manufacturing of all things, “And He taught Adam the names of all things then he presented them to the angels…”  Thus from the Islamic and Qur’anic paradigm language is a divine providence bestowed upon man from the beginning of the human creation and not merely intelligent human codification. The difference between human beings and animal: Human beings, in contrast to other Animals, are capable of far more complex communication and thinking. Communication is not unique to humans, but the level of communication is of such a profoundly more rich and subtle nature as to give rise to a shared conceptual world. This is the one of the most important feature that distinguishes us from the animal kingdom.  The authoritative Atlas of Languages confirms this fact and also the fact that animals can never be taught to speak. ‘’Language is perhaps the most important single characteristic that distinguishes human beings from other animal species. . . . Because of the different structure of the vocal apparatus in humans and chimpanzees, it is not possible for chimpanzees to imitate the sounds of human language, so they have been taught to use gestures or tokens in place of sounds . . . but chimpanzees never attain a level of linguistic complexity beyond the approximate level of a two-year-old child.’’ (Stephen Matthews, Bernard Comrie, and Marcia Polinsky, editors: Atlas of Languages: The Origin and Development of Languages Throughout the World (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1996), p. 10.)

Similarly, Lewis Thomas, the distinguished medical scientist who was the long-time director and chancellor of the Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in Manhattan has affirmed that: ‘‘. . . Language is so incomprehensible a problem that the language we use for discussing the matter is itself becoming incomprehensible.’’ (Lewis Thomas, “On Science and Uncertainty,” Discover (vol. 1, October 1980), p. 59).

Dr. Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes, ‘‘Human language appears to be a unique phenomenon, without significant analogue in the animal world. . . . There is no reason to suppose that the “gaps” are bridgeable. There is no more of a basis for assuming an evolutionary development of “higher” from “lower” stages in this case, than there is for assuming an evolutionary development from breathing to walking.’’  (Noam Chomsky, Language and Mind (New York: Harvourt, Brace, Jovan-ovich, 1972), pp. 67, 68).

Not only is there no animal that is capable of achieving anything like human speech, but also there is, at the other end of the scale, no human tribe that does not have a true language. ‘No language-less community has ever been found.’  There are no normal humans that cannot speak and no animals that ever can. This is the great unbridgeable gap between all mankind and every component of the animal kingdom. Therefore language is a unique characteristic of the human creation and cannot be fully and comprehensively imitated by any other known species in the universe.

[2]Ibn ‘Ashur, Maqasid p, 26 IIT,

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibn ‘Ashur, Maqasid p, 27 IIT

[5] Ibid

[6] Hashiya of Ibn ‘Abidin, Vol 1 p, 63. Iqadh Himam Ulil albab by Imam Salih al Fulani, p.62.

[7] Ibid

[8] Iqadh Himam Ulil albab by Imam Salih al Fulani, p, 52

[9] Ibn Abd al Barr, Al-Intiqa fi fadhail ath-thalatha al-aimmah al-fuqaha, p.145.

[10] Al-Bani, Sifat Salatun Nabi, p.46.

[11] Ibid

[12] Iqadh Himam Ulil albab by Imam Salih al Fulani, p, 50.

[13] Ibn Abd al Barr, Al-Intiqa fi fadhail ath-thalatha al-aimmah al-fuqaha, p.144.

[14] Ibn Abd al Barr, Jami’ Bayan al-Ilm wa fadhlihi, Vol 1, p.775 no, 1435.

[15] Al Bani, Sifat Salatun nabi, p.49.

[16] Iqadh Himam Ulil albab by Imam Salih al Fulani, p, 18.

[17] Ibn Naim, Hilyatul Awlaiya, vol 9, p.107.

[18] Ibn Abi Hatim, Adab al-Shafi’I, p.94, al-dhahabi, Siyar ‘alam al-nubala, vol 10, p.35.

[19] Ibn Abi Hatim, Adab al-Shafi’I, p.94, Hilyatul awliya, vol 9 p.107, al-Bayhaqi, Manaqib al-Shafi’i, vol 1 p.473.

[20] Al-Bayhaqi, Manaqib al-Shafi’i, vol 1, p.475, al-Fulani, 63,100.

[21] Ibn al-Qayyim, I’lam al-Muwaqqi’in, vol 2, p.361

[22] Ibid

[23] An-Nawawi, Majmu’, vol 1, p.63

[24] Ibn al-Qayyim, ‘Ilam al-Muwaqi’in, vol 2, p.201

[25] Ibn Abd al-Barr, Jami’ Bayan al-‘Ilm, vol 2, p.1072 no:2107

[26] Ibn al-Jawzi, Manaqib Imam Ahmad, p.172.

[27] Ibn al-Qayyim, ‘Ilam al-Muwaqi’in, vol 2, p. 201

[28] Al-Judai, Usul al-Fiqh, p.381

[29] Cited. Muhammad Ibn Umar al-Razi, Al-Mahsul, ed. Taha Jabir al-Alwani, vol.1, p.547-73.

[30] Al-Nawawi, al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab (1:64), citing Ibn al-Salah’s Fatawa wa Masa’il (1:54, 1:58-59). Cf. al-Tahanawi, I‘la’ al-Sunan (2:290-291).

[31] Hashiya of Ibn ‘Abidin 1:68

[32] Ibn Abidin, Rasm al-Mufti, p.56.

[33] This is an authentic hadith that has been related by at least fifteen different Companions. The most authentic narrations of these hadith, perhaps, are the ones that reach us from the following Companions: Shidad b. Aws [Sunan Abi Dawud (2368, 2369) and Sunan Ibn Majah (1681)] Thawban [Sunan Abu Dawud (2367, 2370, and 2371) and Sunan Ibn Majah (1680)]. Rafi` b. Khadij [Sunan al-Tirmidhi (774)]. This hadith is also related from Companions like `Ali b. Abi Talib, Sa`d b. Abi Waqqas, `Abd Allah b. `Umar, Ibn `Abbas, Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, Abu Hurayrah, Bilal, Usamah b. Zayd, `A’ishah, and Safiyyah. Its chains of transmission are indeed numerous.

[34] Sunan al-Nasa’i al-Kubra (3224, 3228) and Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah (1967)

[35] Radd al-muhtar (9.00), 1.114

[36] Bukhari (9.00), 2.3–4: 881

[37] Radd al-muhtar (9.00), 1.114

[38] This part was taken from the article linked. For a further detailed discussion please refer here:

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Sh. Abdullah Hasan holds an Imam Diploma, BA, and Ijaza Aliyah in Islamic Studies from a European seminary. Disciplines include fiqh, usul al-fiqh, Ifta, and other traditional subjects. He also has a diploma in Arabic from Zarqa Private University and studied at the college of fiqh wa usuluhu at the same university, receiving private training from renowned Scholars in Jordan and the Middle East. With a background in counselling and psychology, he has provided therapy for individuals, couples, and families for over a decade. He holds certificates and diplomas in person-centred psychotherapy, marriage and youth counselling, and SFBT psychotherapy. Sh. A. Hasan is currently pursuing a doctorate in applied psychology after completing a Master's degree in the same field, and also Masters Programme in Medical Psychology. His expertise also extends to Zakat and Islamic philanthropic studies. Having served as an Imam in various UK Muslim communities, Sh. A. Hasan is deeply committed to community and people development. He brings over 10 years of experience in management, leadership, and training within the third sector. Currently, he serves as a teacher of Islamic psychology and counselling, a Consultant Counselling Psychologist at Gift Foundation. Additionally, he provides Chaplaincy counselling from multiple mosques in London, UK. Sh. A. Hasan is the founder of significant initiatives such as Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA), the British Imams, Scholars Contributions and Achievements (BISCA Awards), and the British Institutes, Mosques, and Associations (BIMA Awards). He is a member of The Association of Islamic Mental-Health Specialists (AIMS) and actively contributes to numerous other community organisations and projects, nationally and globally.



  1. Qurantutor

    December 4, 2012 at 6:06 AM

    Thanks for such an enlightening piece. it has great many reminders. really my kind of thoughts on the thriftiness.Any notice of fiqh can’t be causing without to be talking concerning the four noteworthy imams of fiqh and their schools of contemplation. Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik ibn Anas,Imam Shafi`i, and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal are the radiant stars of the sky of Islamic statute. It is exceptionally imperative to note and acknowledge that notwithstanding the distinctions of conclusion in the matters of fiqh, these favored souls had just the utmost appreciation for one another.

  2. Zemar

    December 4, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Not bad article overall. A few comments:

    -I think the whole anti-madhab movement is a reaction movement of the extreme madhab-ism taught in certain countries. We all know the fatwa “whoever does not follow a madhab is a kafir” (not saying all muqallids believe this) and a particular time when people of one madhab would not pray behind the imam of another madhab in the haram. I agree that in general being anti-madhab is not correct nor a wise approach.

    -I don’t believe in absolute taqleed, rather, it is restricted to the layman. As for the student of knowledge, he should follow what is in accordance to the Qur’an and Sunnah and that which is stronger. And yes, this is going to take time for him. At times one particular issue may be clear to him but another may not in which he may still be doing taqleed. The problem is that nowadays muqallids have made taqleed unrestricted and absolute. Even if a person becomes a scholar of top notch, they STILL expect him to do taqleed and don’t believe any mujtahids live in our times. This type of thinking developed later on. The early scholars did not have any problem leaving something from their madhab which contradicted their knowledge of a matter. For example:

    At-Tahaawee’s son, ‘Alee narrated from his father that he and another scholar, a judge by the name of Aboo ‘Ubaid ibn Harbawaih would revise their Fiqh together. At-Tahaawee said:

    “Once, Ibn Harbawaih asked me about an issue, and upon hearing my answer exclaimed: “But this is not the view of Aboo Haneefah!” So I said to him:

    “My dear judge, do I have to uphold each and every view of Aboo Haneefah?” Ibn Harbawaih said: “I thought you were one of his blind follwers (or muqallids).” I replied:

    “Does anyone follow blindly (or do taqleed) unless he is afflicted with bias and bigotry?” Ibn Harbawaih said: “Or if he is foolish!”

    Soon this statement travelled around in Egypt until it became a proverb which the people preserved.”

    Reported by Ibn Zoolaaq in Qudaat Misr from at-Tahaawee’s son, as cited by Ibn Hajar in Lisaan-ul-Meezaan (Vol.1, p.626, #771, Daar-ul-Bashaa’ir, Beirut, 1423 AH/2002 CE).

    Such type of thinking has led to fiqh being extremely stagnant. We need to revive this.

    -Also you used lots of quotes from pro-muqallid scholars. It would have been better if you used quotes from the other side as well, otherwise, it makes the article very one-sided and biased.

    -I don’t know how much I agree with “reason has precedence over narrations. Thus, we should follow reason, and not the linguistic evidence of the narration.” If that’s the case I shouldn’t believe texts telling me about existence of Jinns and angels sitting on my left and right writing down my deeds because both of these contradict reason. Rather, narrations are given preference over reason as long as they are authentic.

  3. Mahmud

    December 5, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    The Messenger of Allah recited this Ayah;

    ﴿اتَّخَذُواْ أَحْبَـرَهُمْ وَرُهْبَـنَهُمْ أَرْبَاباً مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ﴾

    (They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah). `Adi commented, “I said, `They did not worship them.”’ The Prophet said,

    «بَلَى إِنَّهُمْ حَرَّمُوا عَلَيْهِمُ الْحَلَالَ وَأَحَلُّوا لَهُمُ الْحَرَامَ فَاتَّبَعُوهُمْ فَذَلِكَ عِبَادَتُهُمْ إِيَّاهُم»

    (Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshipped them.)

    This religion is not so complicated and difficult that we require scholars for everything. I do not follow a madhab as I do not view it as sunnah. However I don’t go the other extreme and not take from scholars. I am open to viewing various opinions and picking the one which will be best for me inshaa Allah when I meet Allah.

    And I will not stop condemning those who justify riba even though they may say “It is a matter of ijtihad.”

    Allah’s laws have more right to be obeyed than this scholar system that has developed.

  4. Anon

    December 7, 2012 at 5:04 AM

    Asalamualaykum wrwb,

    This was a very important and well written article. JazakAllah khair. Growing up in Saudi, I never understood why people followed madhabs. Then, after I started studying Shaf’i fiqh properly, my eyes opened up. It was so humbling.

    Just like everything else, the more you learn, the more you realize how ignorant you were and still are. There is so much to learn. A person could never read the Quran and Hadith and understand the complexities and structure of fiqh. It is truly an amazing Islamic science. And it needs just as much effort as mastering the basic levels of balagha, nahw, mustalah al-hadith, mantiq, tafseer, and every other science. Our scholars were unbelievably intelligent and amazing people, and the work they did is uncomparable. Look at Nawawi’s Riyad-us-Saliheen, and what a beloved book that is to all Muslims. He died in his forties and yet his legacy is precious. Scholars nowadays are not like the scholars of the past. With all our advanced technology, we can’t produce anything as pure and beautiful as Sahih Al Bukhari.

    Whenever we tell our shuyookh that we are amazed by their knowledge and so on, they always look so sad and quote this Arabic poem that (roughly translated) says : When the water ran out, the people had to resort to the dust.

    One of my teachers warns us often “We don’t say like the people nowadays say : They are men, and we’re men too!” and I think the secret to understanding this is actually learning some the legacies those men – rahimahumullah – left behind. When you learn a little bit of it, you’ll realize that you could just never do that. In grade school and high school growing up, I always thought I was pretty smart as far as things go, but when you learn from real scholars you’ll realize is that first – you’re not smart at all because they were veritable geniuses, and secondly – all knowledge is dependent on tawfeeq that comes out of one’s relationship with Allah – and we all know that the best were in the time of our beloved prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and then those who followed after, and then those who followed after.

    All of the scholars of the past (not just fiqh scholars) followed a madhab. Hadith scholars, Bukhari, Muslim, (ironic thinking that most people who avoid madhabs are getting their hadith from these complilations) etc, all of the Saheeh Sitta, Tafseer scholars, all of them. Did they understand something we didn’t? Abandoning madhabs and starting from scratch is a very new thing.

    I want to follow in the footsteps of the great people whose knowledge I take from and whose lives I hope to emulate. People who don’t understand madhabs should seriously think about this.

    • Mahmud

      December 10, 2012 at 9:06 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      And I want to follow in the footsteps of Nabi sallallahualayhiwasalam whose is superior to all of these men and it is he who I hope to emulate. I was never ordered to follow a madhab. I was ordered to follow Nabi sallalahualayhiwasalam.

      And I don’t believe I am doomed to be outstripped by the earliest generations. No-on the contrary I will definitely become nearest to Allah and Rasulullah in the akhirah inshaa Allah.

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      • Abidawud

        January 24, 2013 at 1:16 AM

        Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh, it goes without saying that to follow madhab / scholars is obviously to follow Rasulullah sallallaahu alaihi wassalam in a correct way, needless to say that these great scholars of madhab knows better how to follow Rasulullah sallallaahu alaihi wassalam. If great scholar of hadits and fiqh of the past confined themselves to a mdhab eventhoguh they were qualified to make ijtihad, then who are we with our limited knowledge. may Allah SWT guide us to the right path.

      • ALI

        August 13, 2016 at 10:49 AM


    • poohead

      May 16, 2014 at 5:33 PM

      Enlightning or brainwashing? Think about it… “Humbling” as you quote. Well I don’t think of your character as very “humbling” when you speak like ” ironic thinking that most people who avoid madhabs are getting their hadith from these complilations” now THAT sounds just pure arrogant. There are two sides of a story and just growing up in Saudi doesn’t mean you’ve experianced the other. Stop talking about things you don’t know. Thank you.

  5. Ok

    December 10, 2012 at 11:04 PM

    Ghusl does not ranslate to bathing. Ghusl has the following points.

    1. Clean any impurity on the body
    2. Gargle 3 times with water that fills the whole mouth
    3. Rinse the nose 3 times where it reaches to the back
    4. Wash the body in a way where not an inch of the entire body is left dry.

    This will enable purity after which a person can pray.

  6. Arif

    December 15, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Who said that only limited individuals are qualified to take directly from Qura’n and Sunnah ? Isn’t Qura’n revealed for everyone ? Didn’t Allah say that he has made Qura’n easy to understand ? Then I do not understand why some people are bent on complicating this simple religion..

    • S.J

      December 22, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      Asalamu Alaikum Arif,

      It’s funny because I was just thinking about this issue very recently and I think it confuses folks a bit. Yes, the Quran was revealed for everyone and everyone should have a deep personal, reflective relationship with it that will strengthen/boost your iman/yaqeen/taqwa/love/awe/etc, one of taddabur.

      The scholars that this article alludes to use the Quran and other sources as a means of deriving fiqh and ahkaam which requires some kind of training or specialization. If things were always as clear cut and simple, then differences would not arise [unless you want to attribute those differences to the scholars’ lack of intelligence, sincerity, or bad/personal motives.. astaghfirrlah]

      Wa Salaam :-)

    • Asad

      January 27, 2013 at 6:37 PM

      Everybody can take from the Qur’an and Sunnah. But if you mean that everyone should be able to derive rulings on halal and haraam directly from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Then it’s clear that this is obviously not the case unless they know the sciences of the Arabic language, the Qur’an it’s rulings, the verses abrogating and abrogated, the sciences of Hadith and the sciences of legal methodology in interpreting the Qur’an and Hadith. If they know all these sciences then well and good.

      Also you said, “didn’t Allah say he made the Qur’an easy to understand?” No, actually the Qur’an doesn’t say that. It says that Allah made the Qur’an easy to remember. 54:17. That is, Allah made the Qur’an easy to remember Him. When reciting the Qur’an it’s easy to remember Allah, His Attributes, Jannah and Naar.

      But does that mean we’ll easily understand the division of shares for people in a will? No.

      Also Allah said he made the Qur’an clear – mubeen. But clarity does not necessarily mean simplicity. The solution to a complex calculus problem could be clear, that doesn’t mean it will be as simple as 2+2 = 4.

      There are scholars of tafsir who have struggled with the meaning of ayat of the Qur’an for years. This is after years of study and solid grounding in the Arabic language.

      How can we as laymen be so arrogant to think that we know better than them with our English translations of the Qur’an?

      • mustafa

        January 28, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        The problem occurs when we find justifications for riba, marrying without a wali, drinking wine, etc.

  7. Moegammad Allie

    August 30, 2015 at 2:58 AM

    I am in agreement. keep up the good work. Inshaa Allah. This is good and real Tabligh.

  8. Abjal

    March 2, 2016 at 5:35 AM

    Subhanallah we have people today trying to bring their own way understanding Quran and sunnah. I’m more comfortable following these madhabs than people of todays time. Just research on the adhab and the understanding and stories of these 4 scholars and you’ll understand why these scholars were more pure than today’s generation of fitnah and fasad

  9. Peace

    November 21, 2016 at 9:29 AM

    MashaAllah very good article !

    Umar(ra) once tried to set the cap for dowry charged by women– When a women challenged him he said that he was incorrect and the women is right.

    When the imams emphasis to investigate, analyze and follow the saheeh hadith, they are still some who follow unapproved hadeed and purchase the curse of the Imams and Allah.

    May Allah unite us all !

  10. Online Quran Tutor

    July 1, 2020 at 11:27 AM

    Mashallah Good article, really very helpfull for me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *