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Refuting the Errors of the Muqallidīn and Madh`habīn (Blind Imitators and Blind Followers of Madhhabs)

Imām al-Shawkānī, Imām Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī, Imām Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī, Imām Muḥammad al-Amīn al-Shanqītī, Al-ʿAllāmah Muḥammad Taqī al-Dīn al-Hilālī , Al-ʿAllāmah Ḥammūd al-Tuwayjirī

A series of points addressing partisanship and blind following of Imams and Madhhabs.

As for the one who has alleged the permissibility of blind imitation, he stands as one who has made an unverified claim for which it is incumbent that he provides evidence.

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī [d. 1250 AH]

Part 1 — The Impermissibility of Blind Following
Part 2 — The Misinterpretation of Evidences to Support Blind Following
Part 3 — Allegiance to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) Supersedes the Opinions of Men

Part 4 — Examples of the Salaf in Differing with Their Imams When Shariʿāh Evidence Required Such
Part 5 — Refuting the Claim: Differing Is but a Mercy
Part 6 — The Balanced Atharī Approach of the Student of Knowledge in Following His Shaykh
Part 7 — Refuting the Claim That Abandoning the Stance of One’s Imām on Account of an Error Is Disrespectful
Part 8 — One’s Following of an Imām Must Coincide with the Truth
Part 9 — Displaying Blind Fanaticism for a Specific Madh`hab
Part 10 — Answering the Claim: Some of the Ṣaḥābah Blindly Followed Other Ṣaḥābah Due to Their Seniority

Part 11 — Refuting the People of Innovation: Those Who Adopt Opinion Over Narration
Part 12 — Misinterpreting the Verse Commanding Obedience to Those in Authority
Part 13 — Answering the Doubt: Emulating Abū Bakr and ʿUmar is Obligatory, so We Blindly Follow Our Imams Likewise
Part 14 — The False Claim That Taqlīd Is Permissible by Ijmāʿ(Consensus) of the Scholars
Part 15 — Answering the Claim: The Muslims Must Make Taqlīd or They Become Unqualified Mujtahidūn
Part 16 — The Bigoted Partisan Hatred of the Blind Followers for the Scholars of Islām
Part 17 — An Exhortation and Call to the Path of Reason and Intellect
Part 18 — Misconstruing the Inauthentic Ḥadīth, “My Companions are Like the Stars…”
Part 19 — Even Blind Imitation That Coincides with the Truth Leads to the Fire


Part 1 — The Impermissibility of Blind Following

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī [d. 1250 AH] said:1

As for the one who has alleged the permissibility of blind imitation, he stands as one who has made an unverified claim for which it is incumbent that he provides evidence. They have come to us with several pieces of evidence. From them is the saying of the Most High:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ‎﴿٧﴾

“So ask the people of the (prior) remembrance if you do not know”
[Al-Anbiyāʾ, 21:7].

They say: The Exalted has commanded the one who does not possess knowledge to ask those who are more knowledgeable than him. We answer: This blessed verse pertains to that which is outside the sphere of this discussion as proven by the preceding and succeeding context of the verse specified as evidence. Ibn Jarīr [al-Ṭabarī] and al-Baghawī and most other interpreters of the Qurʾān have elucidated the fact that the verse was revealed as a refutation against the polytheists in light of their objection that a messenger [of God] could be a human being. This fact has been clarified very succinctly by al-Suyūṭī in Al-Darr Al-Manthūr and such is the meaning that is explicated from the verse’s context. Allāh the Most High says:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُّوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ‎﴿٤٣﴾

“And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know”
[Al-Naḥl, 16:43].

And the Most High says:

 أَكَانَ لِلنَّاسِ عَجَبًا أَنْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ رَجُلٍ مِّنْهُم

“Have the people been amazed that We revealed [revelation] to a man from among them”
[Yūnus, 10:2]

and the Most High [also] says:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُّوحِي إِلَيْهِم مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَىٰ ۗ

“And We sent not before you [as messengers] except men to whom We revealed from among the people of cities”
[Yūsuf, 12:109].

Even if we were to acquiesce that the meaning of these verses is general [rather than contextual], its meaning would be to ask the people of remembrance. This remembrance is monopolised by the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Messenger (ﷺ) only, there is none than these two sources. Moreover, I do not reckon opposition to this fact as all unadulterated legislation comes either from Allāh the Exalted in Power, which is the Glorious Qurʾān, or from the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ), which is the pure sunnah. There exists no third [source]. Thus, if the command [as in the verse] is to pose all queries to the people of the Qurʾān and the Sunnah, then the specified verse is evidence against the blind imitators, not in favour of their view. This is because the verse proves their requirement to ask the people of remembrance who, when asked, will reply with: Allāh has said such-and-such or His Messenger (ﷺ) has said such-and-such. The poser [of the question] must then act in light of what has been clarified.

However, this is not what the blind imitators desire from using this verse as evidence. Rather, they have attempted to use the verse to prove the efficacy of their methodology of blindly following the opinions of men without seeking evidence for their expressed opinions. For such is blind imitation. In fact, they have clearly defined it as such; acceptance of the opinion expressed by another without requesting proof/evidence. Thus, the reality of blind imitation is that one never needs to ask about the Book of Allāh or the Sunnah of His Messenger (ﷺ). Instead, he needs to only seek clarification concerning the madh`hab of his imām. If he was to only add to this and ask concerning what has been related in the Book [of Allāh] and the Sunnah, he would not be considered a blind imitator.

This is an ideal that is unchallenged and unobjectionable by all blind imitators. It is an established fact that the one who seeks clarity from the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Messenger [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] is not considered a blind imitator. Even if you were to recognise that the verse is not contextual, rather it pertains to asking about any issue of jurisprudence like the blind imitators allege, this evidence would still be unrelentingly thrown back in their faces and used to spitefully break their backs.

Part 2 — The Misinterpretation of Evidences to Support Blind Following

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī [d. 1250 AH] said:2

As for the one who has alleged the permissibility of blind imitation, he stands as one who has made an unverified claim for which it is incumbent that he provides evidence. They have come to us with several pieces of evidence. From among what they have utilised as evidence is the sound narration that the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] in the ḥadīth of the companion of al-shujjah [a head wound which lays open upon the skull]: ‘If they had but asked if they did not know. Indeed, the only cure for ignorance is to ask.’ Also, the ḥadīth of al-ʿAsīf [one who acts recklessly or unjustly] in which a man fornicated with a female employee of his, the father of this man said: ‘I asked the people of knowledge and they told me that my son is deserving of one hundred lashes and the woman is to be stoned.’ This is an authentic, sound narration they claim concerning: he [the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him]] did not object to his imitation of one who possesses more knowledge than him. We reply: [The Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him]] did not guide them in the ḥadīth of the companion of al-Shujjah towards merely seeking the arbitrary opinion of men, rather he guided them towards seeking the rule of judicial [Islamic] law that has been confirmed from Allāh and His Messenger [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him]. Thus did he invoke [Allāh] against them in reprimand for issuing a judicial Islamic rule without knowledge saying: ‘They have killed him, may they be killed.’

In this instance, they issued a law based on their own opinion. Thus is this ḥadīth evidence against them [blind imitators], not in favour of them. The ḥadīth comprises two matters: The first is guiding towards seeking a confirmed [Islamic] ruling with its evidence. The second: blame falls upon one who chooses to wholly support himself with his own opinion and issues laws in light of it. This is a well-known ideal to all scholars. For the one who is guiding towards seeking clarity is the Messenger of Allāh [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] while he was still among them. This guidance towards asking, even if it be general [as in the ḥadīth], holds no other meaning than asking himself [i.e. the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him]] or one who knows the ruling from him. The blind imitator, as is well known, is not considered an imitator unless he does not ask concerning evidence. If he was to ask concerning it, he is not an imitator.

Hence, how can one rightly use these aḥādīth as evidence [for blind imitation]? Can one who is in his right mind use that which refutes his very claim as evidence to confirm it? Or to prove his own efficacy with that which clarifies the corruption of his methodology? For we do not seek from you, O party of blind imitators, except that which clearly proves the integrity of what you have come to us with. We say to you: ask the people of remembrance concerning the remembrance; the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Messenger [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him], then act in accordance with only it, and leave forever the opinions of men, and hearsay. We say to you what the Messenger of Allāh [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] has said: ‘If they had but asked. Indeed, the only cure for ignorance is to ask concerning the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Messenger [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him], not to ask concerning the opinion of so-and-so or the madh`hab of so-and-so. For, truly, if you were to ask purely concerning opinions, then the one supplying you with their views has [proverbially, as in the ḥadīth] slaughtered you, as the Messenger of Allāh [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] said in the ḥadīth of the companion of al-Shujjah: ‘They have killed him, may they be killed.’

Part 3 — Allegiance to the Prophet(صلى الله عليه وسلم) Supersedes the Opinions of Men

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab [d. 795 AH] said:3

It is obligatory upon all those to whom the order of the Messenger (ﷺ) has reached, who fully comprehended it, to clarify it to this ummah, to advise them, and to order them to follow this order. Even if [this order] is contrary to the opinion of an individual of great repute from this ummah. Truly, the order of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) is more deserving of glorification and imitation than the opinion of any renowned personality who has chosen to defy his order in some matters, even if it be unintentional. Thus the ṣaḥābah and those who came after them refuted every contrarian to the authentic sunnah.

In some instances they would show harshness in their refutation. [This harshness] was not born of hatred, rather they [their opposers] were beloved to them, and were venerated by them to their very souls. However, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was more beloved to them [his companions]; his order earned a place above the order of all other creation.

So if there was ever a contradiction between the command of the Messenger [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] and the command of any besides him, then the order of the Messenger (ﷺ) is more deserving of being brought to the forefront and enacted. This does not prevent the honouring of those who [unknowingly] act contrary to his order. For they are forgiven [for the judicial strife they have employed]. Rather, those [unknowing] contrarians who are forgiven would themselves hold no hatred for any who would defy them, if it becomes clear that the command of the Messenger (ﷺ) is contrary [to their own opinion].

Part 4 — Examples of the Salaf in Differing with Their Imāms When Shariʿāh Evidence Required Such

Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Naṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī [d. 1420 AH] said:4

[The scholar and jurist] ʿIṣām ibn Yūsuf al-Balkhī—who was from among the close companions of Imām Aḥmad and a close adherent of Imām Abū Yūsuf [one of the most prominent jurists under Imām Abū Hanīfah]—would frequently issue Islamic edicts contrary to that of Abū Ḥanīfah [his teacher]. Simply because he [Abū Ḥanīfah] was unaware of the evidence [for those issues]. For this reason, he used to raise his hands [in ṣalāh] when entering the rukūʿ and when he would rise from it, as this is the authentic sunnah confirmed from multiple independent lines of inquiry [mutawātir] to him (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). He did not desist from enacting this simply because three of his teachers espoused that which was contrary to it. It is obligatory on every Muslim to act thus; by the testification of the four Imāms themselves and other than them [all of whom they claim to follow].

To summarise: I sincerely hope that none from among the muqallidīn rush to criticise the origins of this book [Ṣifat Ṣalāh], or that they leave benefiting from the Prophetic sunnah it contains through alleging that it contradicts their madh`hab. Rather, I hope that they remain mindful of the excerpts from these imams that clearly show the obligatory nature of acting in accordance with the sunnah, and to leave their opinions that contradict it. Let them know that any criticism they procure towards the way this book has been put forth [from not confining the opinions expressed to one madh`hab], is truly a criticism against the very Imām they claim to imitate, whoever he may be. For we have only taken this methodology from them.

Whoever objects to being guided by them in their own methodology has put himself in grave danger. For it stipulates contrariness to the sunnah itself while we have been ordered that any disputes should be returned to it, and to seek support from it, as the Most High says:

فَلَا وَرَبِّكَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىٰ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَجِدُوا فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِّمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا ‎﴿٦٥﴾‏

‘But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muḥammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission’
[Al-Nisāʾ, 4:65].

Part 5 — Refuting the Claim: Differing Is but a Mercy

Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī [d. 1420 AH] said:5

Some [of the Muqallidīn and Madhhabiīn] say: There can be no doubt concerning the obligatory nature of returning to the guidance of the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] in matters that pertain to our dīn, especially those among them classified purely as acts of worship. For there could be no conceivable place for opinion or judicial strife [ijtihād]6 of any sort regarding such acts. They would be termed tawqīfiyyah [acts that are implemented as described] like ṣalāh for example. However, we almost never hear any of the leaders of blind imitation encouraging [the implementation of judicial strife in these issues]. Rather, they fully acknowledge the existence of differing opinions but claim this difference is a means of respiteful accommodation for this ummah. They proffer, as evidence of this, the ḥadīth which they perpetually parrot when addressing the defenders of the sunnah: ‘Differences among my ummah are but a mercy.’ It appears as if this ḥadīth contradicts the methodology you preach, upon which you have orchestrated this book [Ṣifat al-Ṣalāh] and others like it. So what is your opinion regarding this ḥadīth?

The answer is from two standpoints:

The first is that the ḥadīth is not authentic, rather it is false; possessing no origin. Al-ʿAllāmah al-Subkī said: ‘I have not come across a chain [of narrators] for it that is authentic, nor weak, nor [even] fabricated.’ I say concerning it: it is narrated with the wording: ‘The differences that occur amongst my companions are a mercy for you’ and ‘My companions are like the stars, whichever one you choose to imitate you will be guided’ and both wordings are likewise inauthentic. The first being extremely weak and the other completely fabricated. I have fully elaborated on this issue in ‘Silsilah al-Aḥadīth al-Ḍaʿīfah’ (No. 85, 59, and 61).

Secondly, in addition to this ḥadīth being weak, it also contradicts the Glorious Qurʾān. Indeed, the verses that prohibit differing in matters of this dīn and ordering agreement regarding it are more widely known than to be mentioned. We shall mention but a few as examples; Allāh says:

وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ ‎﴿٤٦﴾

‘And obey Allāh and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart’
[Al-Anfāl, 8:46]

and He said:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ‎﴿٣١﴾‏ مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا ۖ كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ ‎﴿٣٢﴾‏

‘And do not be of those who associate others with Allāh [or] of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has’
[Al-Rūm, 30:31-32]

and He said:

وَلَا يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَ ‎﴿١١٨﴾‏ إِلَّا مَن رَّحِمَ رَبُّكَ ۚ وَلِذَٰلِكَ خَلَقَهُمْ ۗ وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَبِّكَ لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ ‎﴿١١٩﴾‏

‘But they will not cease to differ except whom your Lord has given mercy’
[Hūd, 11:118-119].

So if the ones whom your Lord has chosen to have mercy upon do not differ with one another; rather, only the people of falsehood differ; how, then, could anyone fathom that differing with one another is mercy?

Thus, it is confirmed that the ḥadīth is not authentic, not its chain [of narrators], nor its text. Hence, it becomes abundantly clear that it is impermissible to take a matter of confusion as a means to avoid acting in accordance with the Book [of Allāh] and the sunnah, as ordered by the Imāms [themselves].

Part 6 — The Balanced Atharī Approach of the Student of Knowledge in Following His Shaykh

Imām Muḥammad ibn Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī [d. 1420 AH] said:7

Al-ʿAllāmah Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr said: O my brother! I encourage you to protect the foundations [of this dīn–the Qurʾān and Sunnah] and to pay it due attention and care. Know that whoever attends to the protection of the Sunnah and the rulings contained within the Qurʾān, and becomes acquainted with the views of the [Islamic] jurists making their opinions a means of aid for him in his own judicial strife [ijtihād], and a key to avenues of reasoning [in a debated judicial issue], and a means used to interpret the parts of the Sunnah that have differing meanings, all the while not blindly imitating any one person the way he imitates the Sunnah, which is obligatory in every situation without question, and never simply acquiescing to the the scholars’ attention to the Sunnah and their contemplation of it, rather he imitates them in their research, their seeking to gain a deeper understanding and a well-rounded opinion, while feeling the utmost gratitude for their perpetual strife that allowed them to cause him benefit and from which he is cautioned [from certain matters], and he praises them for their correct opinions that represent the vast majority of their discourse, while never alleging anyone of them as being completely free of all error, just as they themselves never made such a claim – such is the student who truly holds fast to the path of the pious predecessors.

He has prosperously attained the mark: an onlooker towards the path of goodness, a follower of the Sunnah of his Prophet (ﷺ) and the guidance of his Prophet’s companions (may Allāh be pleased with all of them). As for the one who vehemently refuses to look into any [judicial issues of debate], obstinately turning away from what we have mentioned, commensurating the Sunnah to his own opinion, desiring only to reject it in light of his own views, then he is misguided and seeks only to misguide others.

As for the one who is completely ignorant of all we have mentioned, forcibly hurtling himself into Islamic rulings without knowledge, he is even more blind and has taken an even more severe path of misguidance.

Part 7 — Refuting the Claim That Abandoning the Stance of One’s Imām on Account of an Error Is Disrespectful

Imām Muḥammad ibn Nāṣīr al-Dīn al-Albānī [d. 1420 AH] said:8

There is a misconception that has become rampant among the muqallidīn which prevents them from following the Sunnah when it becomes clear to them that the madh`hab [they follow] is contrary to it. It is the idea that their following of the Sunnah stipulates the claiming of an error on the part of the companion [i.e. Imām] of the madh`hab.

This alleged error according to them further stipulates brazen defamation of their imām. So, if defamation towards any individual from among the Muslims is impermissible, then how could the same principle not apply to an imām from among their imams? The answer: is that this implication is false.

The reason for this [misconception] is their abandonment of gaining proper, beneficial, judicial knowledge from the Sunnah. Otherwise, how could a Muslim with any degree of intellect engage in such utterances? The Messenger of Allāh [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] is the one who has said: ‘If a jurist issues a ruling while implementing judicial strife [Ijtihād] [to that end], and he is correct [in his ruling] he is deserving of two rewards. If he issues a ruling out of the implementation of judicial strife [ijtihād] but is mistaken, he has but one reward.’ This ḥadīth completely refutes their misconception. For it clarifies, without question, that the saying of an individual, ‘So-and-So has made a mistake’ is the same as stating: ‘So-and-so is deserving of only one reward.’ If he is deserving of reward even according to the one who highlights his mistake, then how could one fathom that clarifying one of his errors stipulates defamation of him?

There can be no doubt that such an implication is a completely false notion. It is, therefore, obligatory upon all those who hold this supposition as true to rescind it. Otherwise, they are the ones who have engaged in the defamation of the Muslims. Not in any individual from among them, but rather in one of their most renowned imams from among the ṣaḥābah, the tābiʿīn, and those after them from among the imams who were implementers of judicial strife [mujtahidīn] and other than them. For we know with certainty that those exalted scholars used to highlight the errors of one another, just as they would reply to [the criticisms] of one another. So can an intellectual person actually make the claim that they were engaging in the defamation of one another? As the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] pointed out the error of Abū Bakr in his interpretation of a dream a man had seen, as it comes in the authentic narration: ‘You are correct in some [of its interpretation] and you are mistaken in some of it.’ So, would these words be considered a form of defamation from him (ﷺ) towards Abū Bakr?

Among the most surprising effects of this misconception upon the ones who adopt it is that it prevents them from following the Sunnah which is contrary to their madh`hab. For if they were to follow the Sunnah, it would be as if they defamed their imām. If they follow their imām–even if they act contrary to the Sunnah–it would be as if they respected and glorified their imām! Thus, they are perpetual in their blind imitation [taqlīd], constantly attempting to escape this supposed defamation.

Part 8 — One’s Following of an Imām Must Coincide with the Truth

Imām Muḥammad ibn Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī [d. 1420 AH] said:9

Ash`hab said: Imām Mālik was once asked concerning the person who acts in accordance with a ḥadīth narrated by one who is trustworthy from the companions of the Messenger of Allāh [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him]: Do you view this person as being free [to act or desist from acting in accordance with it]? He replied: “By Allāh No! Until his act coincides with the truth. The truth [in any judicial issue] is but one. Two contrary opinions [in the same issue] will both be true? The truth and that which is upright is but one.” If someone was to say this: What you have mentioned from Imām Mālik concerning the fact that the truth is one rather than numerous is contrary to the content of the book ‘Al-Madkhal al-Fiqhī’ by Ustādh al-Zarqā (1:89): ‘Abū Jaʿfar al-Manṣūr and [Hārūn] al-Rashīd after him indeed desired to make the madh`hab of Imām Mālik and his book ‘Al-Muwaṭṭaʾ the sole rule of law in the ʿAbbāsī state. Imām Mālik forbade them from this saying: ‘Verily, the companions of the Messenger of Allāh [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] differed with one another in assorted branches [i.e. actions; not pertaining to creed]. They distributed themselves in the land, and all are correct [in whatever opinion they took].’ I say: This is a famous, well-known story related to Imām Mālik (may Allāh have mercy on him). As for his saying at the end: ‘And all are correct, this has no foundation in any of the narrations [of this occurrence] in any of the books I have come across – O Allāh! – save for narration from Abū Nuʿaym in his book ‘Al-Ḥilyah’ with a chain of narrators that contains the narrator al-Miqdām ibn Dāwūd who was mentioned by al-Dhahabī in his book ‘Al-Ḍuʿafāʾ [the Weak Narrators].

Even this narration comes with the wording: ‘And all [companions] were correct [in their opinions] according to their own estimations.’ Therefore, the [missing excerpt] ‘according to their own estimations’ proves that the narration contained within the book ‘Al-Madkhal’ has been doctored. How could it be otherwise when it contradicts trustworthy narrations from Imām Mālik that prove [his view] of the truth being one rather than numerous, as we have already mentioned? This is also the opinion taken by the ṣaḥābah, the tābiʿīn, the four imāms, implementers of judicial strife [mujtahidīn], and other than them.

Part 9 — Displaying Blind Fanaticism for a Specific Madh`hab

Shaykh Muḥammad al-Amīn al-Shanqītīmīn al-Shanqīṭī [d. 1393 AH] said:10

[From among the methodologies of this tafsīr [Aḍwā al-Bayān]] is the clarification of judicial rulings elucidated from all of the verses. We intend to expound upon the rulings [the verses] contain, along with evidence from the Sunnah, and the opinions expressed by the scholars [of jurisprudence]. Then, we will lend credence to the opinion expressed that appears to us to be the closest to the truth along with its evidence without displaying blind fanaticism for a specific Madh`hab, either for a specific opinion because it has been expressed by a specific jurist. For we look at the contents of one’s postulation, rather than the person himself. As all discourse contains that which is acceptable and that which must be rejected, save for his words (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). It is well-known that the truth remains the truth even its proprietor is from among the most inconsiderable of people. Do you not see that the Queen of Sabaʾ spoke the truth and, even though she and her people used to prostrate to the sun besides Allāh, Allāh testified as to the truthfulness of her speech? Her disbelief did not absolve recognition of the truthfulness of her discourse. This is found in what Allāh mentions in her [words]:

إِنَّ الْمُلُوكَ إِذَا دَخَلُوا قَرْيَةً أَفْسَدُوهَا وَجَعَلُوا أَعِزَّةَ أَهْلِهَا أَذِلَّةً ۖ ‎﴿٣٤﴾‏

‘“Indeed kings – when they enter a city, they ruin it and render the honoured of its people humbled.”’
[Al-Naml, 27:34]

Allah says, in recognition of the truthfulness of her words: ‘And thus do they do.’ A poet once said: ‘Do not dare take an opinion as insignificant if it coincides with a ruling of truth because it was rendered by a despicable one. The value of pearls, which are among the greatest attainments, are not marred by the lowliness of the diver.

Part 10 — Answering the Claim: Some of the Ṣaḥābah Blindly Followed Other Ṣaḥābah Due to Their Seniority

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī [d. 1250 AH] said:11

[From among the misconstrued evidence of the muqallidīn and madh`habīn] is what is confirmed by al-Shaʿbī who said: There were six from among the companions who used to issue [Islamic] verdicts: Ibn Masʿūd, ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Zayd ibn Thābit, Ubayy ibn Kaʿb, and Abū Mūsá [al-Ashʿarī] (may Allāh be pleased with all of them). Three of them used to leave their own opinions for the opinions of the other three: ʿAbdullāh [ibn Masʿūd] used to leave his opinion for the opinion of ʿUmar [ibn al-Khaṭṭāb], Abū Musá used to leave his opinion for the opinion of ʿAlī, and Zayd [ibn Thābit] used to leave his own opinion for that of Ubayy.

[In response]: The confirmation of the six mentioned [companions] with one another [in matters of fiqh] is not an innovation, nor is it objectionable. A scholar will agree with another scholar in issues far more than he will disagree. Especially, if they have both achieved the very highest degrees of ijtihād (judicial strife, scholarly prowess). Issues of disagreement among them are very few. In spite of this, the people of knowledge have mentioned that Ibn Masʿūd differed with ʿUmar on approximately one hundred issues, and agreed with him on four. So where, then, is the blind imitation you claim? How could this possibly be used as evidence for the permissibility of blind imitation when such is the confirmation of these six companions for the opinions of each other? For this is only an attempt to conform to their opinions, not blindly imitate one another.

Their way, and the way of the rest of the companions—when the Sunnah was made clear to them—they would never abandon it for the opinion of anyone, whomever they may be. Rather, they held on to [the Sunnah] with their molars, casting their own opinions away behind a wall. So compare this with the gathering of blind imitators that do not count the opinion of the one they imitate as being even remotely close [in importance] to the Book [of Allāh] or the Sunnah. For they never act contrary to it, even if it is confirmed from multiple independent lines of inquiry that which is against it from the Sunnah.

Considering this, even the confirmation of views that occurred amongst the companions were mostly clarifications of the narration [the other companion held], not of their own opinion. Some narrations are known specifically by certain companions while others were prevented from knowing those for a variety of reasons that are known to those who have studied the conditions of the ṣaḥābah [i.e. the scholars of ḥadīth]. As for mere opinions [unsupported by evidence from the Qurʾān or Sunnah], the seniors from among the companions used to warn against such matters, and deter from it.

Part 11 — Refuting the People of Innovation: Those Who Adopt Opinion Over Narration

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d. 1251 AH) said:12

Sufficient in opposing the adoption of opinion [over narration], and in clarification that opinion has no place in this dīn is the saying of Allāh—the Exalted in Might:

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا

“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islām as your religion.”
(al-Māʾidah, 5:3)

So, if Allāh has completed his religion before He took the soul of His Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), then what is this opinion brought by people after him, seeing that Allāh had already completed His religion? If the opinions they have postulated are actually from this dīn, then this religion must not have been completed according to them except after their own opinions have been added to it. This is a clear form of opposition to the Qurʾān. And if the opinions they have postulated are not from this dīn, then what benefit do they derive from busying themselves with that which has no relation to this dīn?

This is a most subjugating argument and a magnanimous evidence which the adopters of opinion will never be able to defend. So make this honourable verse the first piece of evidence used to strike the faces of the people of opinion, spite them, and oppose their arguments. For Allāh has told us in the actionable passages of His Book that he has completed His religion, and the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did not die until He had related this to us from Allāh—the Exalted in Might. Thus, whoever comes to us with his own opinion claiming that it is from our religion, we say to him: Allāh is more truthful than you. So leave us be! For we have no need for your opinion.

Part 12 — Misinterpreting the Verse Commanding Obedience to Those in Authority

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī Al-Shawkānī (d. 1250 AH) said:13

From among the evidences [misinterpreted by the madh`habīin and muqallidīn] is the saying of the Most High:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ

O you who have believed, obey Allāh and obey the Messenger and those in authority over you.
[Al-Nisāʾ, 4:59]

They say: ‘those in authority over you’ refers to the scholars. Obeying them means: imitating them in their judicial edicts.

We respond: The scholars of Quranic interpretation [mufassirīn] have two opinions regarding who is being referred to as ‘those in authority over you.’

  1. The first opinion is they are the rulers.
  2. The second is that they are the scholars.

There is nothing to preclude this glorious verse from referring to both [parties]. Considering this, how does this [verse] coincide with the desires of the muqallidīn? For indeed there exists no form of obedience to any ruler or scholar except if they order that which is in obedience to Allāh, consistent with His legislations [sharīʿah]. It has been confirmed from [the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم)] that he said:

‘There is no obedience to the creation in disobedience to the creator.’14

In addition, the scholars guided their subjects to refrain from imitating them and forbade it as it has been narrated from the Four Imāms and other than them. Thus, being obedient to them is to refrain from blindly following them.

Even if we were to concede that among the scholars are those who guide and encourage the people to blindly follow them, these ones would be calling towards the disobedience of Allāh. There should be no obedience to such a person as explicitly stated by the Messenger of Allāh, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him and his family. Here, we only say that he is guiding them towards disobedience because the one who who has guided these laymen—who lack any understanding of the evidences [in the Qurʾān and the Sunnah], nor are they able to differentiate what is correct [sound] from that which is incorrect [weak; as in ḥadīth]— towards blind imitation, has, in actuality, guided them towards abandoning acting in accordance with the Book [of Allāh] except through the opinions of the scholars they choose to imitate. So whatever those scholars choose to act upon, they also act upon. What they [those imitated scholars] have left acting upon, they will also leave acting upon. They will never turn towards the Book [of Allāh] or the Sunnah. Rather, from among the prerequisites of blind imitation—for the ones who have this affliction—is that the follower [blindly] accept his Imam’s opinion. Furthermore, he should never abandon narrating from him [alone], nor should he ever ask him concerning the Book [of Allāh] or the Sunnah. For if he was to ask him concerning those sources, he would have left the fold of blind imitation and entered among those who actually seek evidence [for their actions].15

Part 13 — Answering the Doubt: Emulating Abū Bakr and ʿUmar is Obligatory, so We Blindly Follow Our Imams Likewise

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī [d. 1250 AH] was asked:16

[Q.] [The muqallidīn and madh`habīin use] the saying of ʿAlī ibn Abi Ṭālib: Indeed, your opinion with the populace [of scholars] is more beloved to us than your isolated opinion.’ They also use as evidence his (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)’s saying: ‘Hold on to my sunnah, and the sunnah of the rightly guided khulafāʾ after me,’ which is a part of the ḥadīth of ʿIrbāḍ ibn Sāriyah which is an authentic narration17. They also evidence his (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)’s saying: ‘Imitate the two [men] after me: Abū Bakr and ʿUmar’ which is a well-known [ḥadīth], narrated with multiple chains, and confirmed in the books of al-Sunan and others18.

[A.] Indeed, acting in accordance with the practices of the rightly guided khulafāʾ after him [the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] is only because of his (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) order to do so. So our enacting of their practices and emulating their actions is only due to his [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him]’s order directed towards us to follow the sunnah of the rightly guided khulafāʾ. [The order of] emulation applies to Abū Bakr and ʿUmar [as in the aforementioned ḥadīth] (may Allāh be pleased with them both). He did not order the [blind] following of the practices set forth by any one scholar from this ummah, nor did he order the [blind] emulation of any one judicial opinion espoused by any one mujtahid [scholar, possessor of islamic judicial knowledge and prowess]. In reality, we have not enacted the practices of the rightly guided khulafāʾ nor have we emulated Abu Bakr or ʿUmar except by way of following his [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] saying:

‘Hold on to my sunnah, and the sunnah of the rightly guided khulafāʾ after me.’

And his saying:

‘Emulate the two who will come after me: Abū Bakr and ʿUmar.’

How, then, could it ever be permissible for you [muqallidīn and mad`hhabiīn] to use that which a clear passage [ḥadīth] has been narrated as evidence to support that which has clearly not been narrated [i.e. their methodology].

Would you ever claim that the Messenger of Allāh (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Hold on to the sunnah of Abū Ḥanīfah, Mālik, al-Shāfiʿī, and Ibn Ḥanbal’ such that your desires can be achieved?

If you were to say: ‘We see the Imāms of the madhāhib to be on the same level as those rightly guided khulafāʾ’ then how surprising are you?! How did you ever ascend to such difficult heights? How could you come forward to make such a claim with such resistance [to the truth]? For, truly, the Messenger of Allāh (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has specified the rightly guided khulafāʾ and has made their sunnah like his own as regards emulation and following for a matter that specifically belongs to them, and can never apply to anyone other than them. For if it was permissible for another to share the stations held by the rightly guided khulafāʾ, it would have been solely for those who shared companionship [of the Prophet may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] with them. For they would be held in higher regard than anyone other than them who did not share with them any of their special attributes. The relation between [the rightly guided khulafāʾ] and those after them is like relating moist soil to the Pleiades [constellation of stars] [commonly used proverbial Arabic expression used for things disproportionate in value]. Thus, if it was not for the fact that this station is specific to them, only applying to them, the Messenger of Allāh [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him] would not have specified them (Abū Bakr and ʿUmar) over the rest of the companions.

So let us leave such unverified assumptions which justice and fairness easily refute. If you [muqallidīn and madh`habiīn] would only have blindly imitated the rightly guided khulafāʾ in light of the aforementioned evidence, or emulated authentic narrations from them that were then espoused by your imams. Rather, you have chosen to turn away from this and throw whatever has reached you from them [the rightly guided khulafāʾ] behind a wall if it is contrary to the opinion of the one you claim to follow. This is something only the most obstinate and arrogant among you would deny. Rather, you have gone further and thrown clear [verses] from the Book [of Allāh] and sunnah al-mutawātir19 for its contrariness to the ones you claim to follow. If you deny this, then here are your books O blind imitators, on its covers are clear evidence of whom you actually follow such that we can easily inform you of what we have mentioned.

Part 14 — The False Claim That Taqlīd Is Permissible by Ijmāʿ(Consensus) of the Scholars

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d. 1255 AH) said:20

Among the leaders of blind imitation [taqlīd] are those who claim to have won the argument [on taqlīd being permissible] through ijmāʿ [consensus of the scholars] in support of their view. This is a claim that is not made by a person whose feet are firmly rooted in the knowledge of Islamic legislation, nor by a person who is knowledgeable of the postulations of the scholars [on this issue], nor by one who is knowledgeable of the opinions held by the Four Imams from which the four madhāhib originated. For they forbade blind imitation as has been authentically narrated from them.

Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr said: “There is no difference of opinion among the contemporary scholars of this era concerning the corruption of blind imitation.” Then he wrote a long chapter in which he debates the blind imitators, holding them to the falsehood of that which they claim as permissible.

He says: It should be said to the one who blindly imitates: Why have you done so and opposed the pious predecessors, for they never blindly imitated?

If they say: I have blindly imitated because I am ignorant of the interpretation of the Book of Allāh, and I have not been able to completely encompass the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم). However, the person I have imitated has attained said knowledge so I imitate him. He is more knowledgeable than I am.

We answer: As for that which the scholars have reached consensus concerning, whether it be regarding an interpretation of the Book of Allāh or narration of a Sunnah from the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) or a unified opinion on a given issue, then these matters are settled as true about which we have no doubt. However, they hold differences of opinion with one another in issues in which you have chosen to blindly imitate. [You blindly imitate] the opinions of some and abandon others. So what is your evidence for the opinions you have chosen to adopt from those you have chosen to abandon? They are all scholars:, the scholar whose opinion you have abandoned may be more knowledgeable [in a given issue] than the leader of the madh`hab you have chosen to adopt.

If they say: I have imitated him because I know his opinion to be true.

I say: You only know that because of evidence from the Book of Allāh, or Sunnah, or ijmāʿ.

If they say yes, then blind imitation has been successfully disproven as they would be asked to bring what they consider to be a valid piece of evidence [which is what we requested from them in the first place].

If, [instead of conceding the point], they say: I have imitated him because he is more knowledgeable than I am.

We say: Then you should be imitating everyone who is more knowledgeable than you are. For, indeed, you will find a plethora of people that fit this description. You should not be specifying a particular person among them just because he is more knowledgeable than you are [as many others are as well].

If they say: I have chosen him to imitate because he is the most knowledgeable among mankind.

We say: Then he is more knowledgeable than the companions?! To utter such a thing is sufficient as a detestable claim.

This is the conclusion of what I wished to narrate from him [Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr]. He then goes into a lengthy elaboration in which he mentions evidence from the consensus of the scholars that falsify blind imitation. The Four Imams inclusion in this consensus is more obvious than others [from among the scholars].

Part 15 — Answering the Claim: The Muslims Must Make Taqlīd or They Become Unqualified Mujtahidūn

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d. 1250) said:21

Some of the leaders of taqlīd—wishing to bolster their claim to its permissibility— make the claim that if taqlīd was impermissible then ijtihād22 would be obligatory on every single slave [of Allāh]. However, this would burden [the slave] with that which is above his capabilities. For the natural [capabilities] of human beings varies widely. Among them are those capable of adopting the sciences of ijtihād, and among them are those whose abilities fall short of that. The [latter] being representative of the majority of the innate nature [of human beings]. Even if we were to concede that everyone’s [natural abilities] would allow them to reach [ijtihād], if we were to then make the attainment [of this station] obligatory on every person it would undoubtedly lead to the nullification of their livelihoods, ruining that which they could not bear to live without. Indeed, one does not emerge victorious with the station of ijtihād except through prolonged isolation with its sciences. He must dedicate most of his time [to this end] such that he is not busy with anything other than it. Hence, our ploughmen, farmers, tailors, builders, and other [essential occupations] would busy themselves with seeking knowledge [of fiqh] and these [essential] services would be left unfulfilled. Their livelihoods would be left in ruin leading to a societal breakdown and the complete loss of the layman. In this there exists hardship [for the normal working man] while also being [societally] harmful, and contrary to the intentions of the legislator [Allāh]. This [reality] could not be hidden from anyone.

We answer this false confusion thus: We do not claim that every single person must reach the station of ijtihād themselves. Rather, we ask that they carry out that which is even easier than taqlīd. Those responsible for the fulfilment of essential occupations whose knowledge and understanding [of fiqh] is deficient should emulate their predecessors who lived in the days of the ṣaḥābah and the tābiʿīn and those who followed them from the three best generations. Every scholar [from those time periods] knew that these laymen were not simply imitating blindly, nor did they ever associate themselves to a personality from among the scholars. Rather, the ignorant among them would ask the knowledgeable regarding a legislative ruling as confirmed in the Book of Allāh or in the Sunnah of His Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). [The scholar] would issue a judicial directive through narration of [the evidence] either in its wording or through communication of its meaning. The [seeker of guidance] would then act in light of this directive. His actions were firmly based on the evidence that was relayed to him [by the scholar], not based on the opinion [of that scholar]. This is easier than blind imitation [taqlīd]. This is because understanding the complexities of opinion is many degrees harder than simply understanding evidence [from the Qurʿān and the Sunnah]. Thus, what we are asking the layman to do is much easier than the request of those who would make taqlīd obligatory on them. This is the [path of] guidance upon which the best generation [the ṣaḥābah] traversed, then those who came after them [the tābiʿīn] and so on [ṭābiʿ tābiʿīn].

However, Shayṭān was able to gradually persuade some towards this other way of taqlīd [blind following]. He was not satisfied with just that but further tricked individuals among them to attach their blind imitation to a specific personality from the scholars and made imitating anyone else impermissible. Shayṭān expanded his machinations even further, allowing every group among them to fancifully believe that the truth exists only in the opinion of their imām, and anything other than it is completely false. He then caused animosity and hatred to exist in their hearts to the extent that you find those who ascribe themselves to a single madh`hab reviling others [of a different madh`hab] more so than those from other religions. This is well-known to anyone who knows their true condition.

So look at this devilish innovation that has caused so much division amongst the people of this noble religion, leading them into the state we see today of severance and disagreement. Nonetheless, had the negative impact of this innovated, blind imitation [of the scholars] and [fanatical attachment to] madhāhib not exceeded this resultant division among the people of Islām even though they have adopted one religion, one prophet, and one book, it would be sufficient in showing its impermissibility.

Indeed, the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to forbid division and guided towards unity. He used to blame those who cause rifts in this dīn. To the extent that he forbade the recitation of the Qurʾān—despite it being from the greatest of obedient acts—if reciters differed with one another in its recitation [qirāʾāt]. Instead, he guided them to recite it once their hearts had reached agreement with one another. Just as several places in the Great Book [of Allāh] have forbidden disagreement and dissension.

So how could any scholar then claim the permissibility of blind imitation when it has been the cause of so much division among the people of Islām, disturbing their established ways, dividing the Muslims even those of shared kinship.

Part 16 — The Bigotted Partisan Hatred of the Blind Followers for the Scholars of Islām

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d. 1250) said:23

As for the person of which seeking knowledge is not of primary concern, one who asks scholars about various issues regarding acts of worship or about his personal dealings with some degree of discernment, he tends to [simply] follow the one he asks. If he asks one of the muqallidīn, he will not see the truth, only blind imitation. If he asks the true scholars or mujtahidīn, he will see the truth to be encompassed within that which he guides towards [from the Qurʾān and the Sunnah]. Thus, the general populace tend to be with whichever group they have a greater inclination towards.

As for the ones who busy themselves with blind imitation, devoting themselves to protecting and understanding it, while never raising their heads or turning in the direction of other than it, most of these types of people harbour an extreme radicalism concerning the scholars of ijtihād. They throw dirt on them, attempting to sway the opinion of the general populace towards thinking that they oppose the imām of their madh`hab. [They claim that these true scholars] are narrow-minded, unable to truly fathom the greatness [of these imams]. For their [the muqallidin’s] hearts are so full of reverence regarding [these imams] whom they have decided have reached a station that even the ṣaḥabah have not ascended—much less those who came after them [from the mujtahidīn other than the Four Imams]. Even if they never state this in no uncertain terms, such is the opinion they hide in their chests, without speaking it upon their tongues.

Considering this belief they hold regarding their imām, should it ever reach them that one of the scholars of ijtihād has opposed their imām in an issue among many, they would surmise that he has perpetrated an atrocity through his contradiction of that which is assured [according to their partisanship]. They believe the mujtahid has committed an inexcusable offence even if he has evidenced his view with Quranic verses and numerous authenticated aḥādīth. They will not accept this from them, nor will they even lift their heads towards what they have come with; whomever they may be. Such do they continue the extreme denegration of these scholars through outright opposition in a manner that they themselves would not consider permissible even with perpetual sinners and criminals or the people of innovation from the Khawārij and Rawāfiḍ. They feel extreme hatred for them above even that which they harbour towards the Jews and Christians that live freely among the Muslims. Whomever rejects that such is the attitude they adopt has indeed not fully comprehended their true condition.

In general, they surmise the scholars of ijtihād as being misguided, aiming to misguide others. Meanwhile they [the scholars of ijtihād] have perpetrated no sin. Rather, they have chosen to act in accordance with the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), imitating the scholars of Islām in acknowledging that it is obligatory on every Muslim to put the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) before the opinion of anyone, whomever they may be.

Part 17 — An Exhortation and Call to the Path of Reason and Intellect

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d. 1250 AH):24

It is a wide-spread accepted fact that the imams of the madhāhib reached consensus on elevating the Qurʾān and the Sunnah over their own opinions. Considering this, the one who chooses to act in accordance with passages from the Qurʾān and the Sunnah, leaving off some of the opinions of the imams of the madhāhib, is actually in agreement with the statements of those very same imams. While the muqallid who favours the opinion of the imam of a madh`hab over the passages from the Qurʾān and the Sunnah has opposed Allāh, His Messenger, the imams of the madhāhib, and others from among the scholars of Islām.

And upon my life! My pen moves to write what has reached us from them in a state of intense fear of Allāh and shyness before His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم). For—by Allāh— how surprising is it! Does a Muslim actually require these narrations from the imams to motivate them to elevate the sayings of Allāh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and favour them over the saying of a scholar from among this ummah?! By Allāh—how surprising! Which Muslim could ever be confused in this matter such that he only elevates the sayings of Allāh and His Messenger if he hears an imām from among the imams—may Allāh have mercy on all of them— say so?!

Truly, a particular view must be expressed as correct if opposition to it exists. From this, if an expressed opinion opposes the saying of Allāh or His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), have we gotten to the point where we actually need to specify who is correct and should be favoured?! Exalted are you O Allāh! This is a great slander! May Allāh not preserve these muqallidah! Because of them the Four Imams had to resort to specifically stating that the sayings of Allāh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) must be favoured over their opinions. This was in relation to the excessiveness they observed from people that was akin to the excessiveness of the Jews and Christians in relation to their priests and rabbis.

We have, likewise, resorted to narrating from these imams that which proves this. Otherwise, this matter is quite clear and should not cause confusion for anyone. If we were to hypothetically propose that a scholar from among the scholars of Islām sought to equivocate his opinions to the sayings of Allāh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), he would be considered a disbelieving apostate. It would then be even less befitting to favour his opinions over that of Allāh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

Indeed, we belong to Allāh and indeed to Him we will return. What have these madhāhib done to its people and what place has it landed them in?! If only these boorish, criminal muqallids would examine this matter with some modicum of intellect and knowledge. Commensurate [for a moment] what exists between the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and the Imams of these madhāhib. Imagine these Imams sitting before the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) himself. Does anyone from among the muqallids who still possesses even an iota of intelligence actually think that upon the sitting of these Imams with him (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that they would resist or oppose him (صلى الله عليه وسلم) with their own opinions! Never—by Allāh! Rather, they were more fearful and humble before Allāh than that.

For many of the most senior ṣaḥābah used to leave off asking him (صلى الله عليه وسلم) about certain occurrences out of their intense veneration and respect for him (صلى الله عليه وسلم). It is for this reason that they used to love that an intelligent bedouin would come to ask the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) such that they may benefit from his question as has been confirmed in authentic narrations. The ṣaḥābah used to sit before the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) as if a bird was roosting on the tops of their heads. They would look down, never deigning to even raise their gaze to meet his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) out of their intense reticence, and due to his honourable bearing over them. They counted themselves unworthy and of lesser value than to ever oppose the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) with their own opinions. Just as the Tābiʿīn used to adopt a similar mannerism with Ṣaḥābah, and the Tābiʿ al-Tābiʿīn used to behave in a similar way with the Tābiʿīn as they used to with the Ṣaḥābah. What then, O muqallid, do you think your Imām would do if he was in the presence of the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم)?

So if, O destitute muqallids, you have missed being guided to the path of true knowledge then at the very least do not abandon the path of intelligence. For, truly, if you were to seek to benefit from its light you would find a path out of the darknesses of your own ignorance and into the light of the truth.

Part 18 — Misconstruing the Inauthentic Ḥadīth, “My Companions are Like the Stars…”

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d. 1250 AH) said:25

From among the evidences used [by the madh`habīin and muqallidīn to require blind following] is the ḥadīth: ‘My companions are like the stars. Whichever one of them you imitated, you would have attained guidance.’26

Our response: This ḥadīth has several narrations from Jābir and Ibn ʿUmar (may Allāh be pleased with all of them). The scholars of Jarḥ wa-al-Taʿdīl27 have unanimously stated that all narrations of this ḥadīth are weak. As such, the likeness of such a saying has not been confirmed from the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Moreover, the scholars of ḥadīth [huffādh] have spoken extensively and sufficiently concerning [this ḥadīth], curing [any aspersions one may hold regarding it]. Whoever wishes to research its many weak narrations, let him do so by perusing any book from among the specialist books [of ḥadīth sciences]. In summary, this ḥadīth cannot be used as evidence.

Even if we were to acquiesce that the ḥadīth in question was a legitimate form of evidence O Muqallidīn, what could you possibly desire from it?! It only stipulates a praiseworthy and honourable trait that is specifically held by the companions. [Such an attribute] is inapplicable to others. Thus, what do you really want from [this ḥadiṭh]? If the ones you claim to imitate are among them [the companions], then we need to talk with you [concerning this claim]. However, if the ones you claim to imitate are from other than them [which they are], then stop using [aḥādīth as evidence for your blind following] that dodoes not apply to your methodology, and refrain from speaking concerning their [the companions] honourable traits [as you have never claimed to imitate them anyways]. [Even though] they are the best of all the generations.

Instead, bring us evidence of the claim you are currently lodging [in opposition to us]. As for this ḥadīth, if it was authentic, it would only prove that acting in accordance with an opinion expressed by one of the companions is closer to true guidance for no other reason except that he [the Prophet ( صلى الله عليه وسلم)] guided us towards doing so. Thus, [in taking the opinion of a companion], we would have only enacted the instruction of the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم), acted in accordance with his words, and followed his Sunnah. He only made them [the companions] an acceptable source to emulate if their opinions and actions are confirmed in his Sunnah which includes his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) sayings. [Thus, acting in accordance with the opinions of the companions] in no way precludes one from acting according to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) nor does it mean that doing so means you have imitated other than him. Rather, we have heard the saying of Allāh:

وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا

And whatever the Messenger has given you – take; and what he has forbidden you – refrain from.
[Al-Ḥashr, 59:7]

We have also heard His saying:

قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ

Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.
[Āli ʿImrān, 3:31]

These [verses] are from among the passages we have brought forward [in opposition to you], we have held onto them and followed them. We have not followed other than them, nor have we sought advice from others.

However, if you have chosen to analogise the Imams you claim to follow with the companions, then there is nothing more surprising than this lie you have concocted and dispersed [among the populace].

Part 19 — Even Blind Imitation That Coincides with the Truth Leads to the Fire

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d.1251 AH) said:28

O’ judge that chooses to engage in blind imitation! Tell us which of the three classes of judge you belong to. As the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) informed us regarding: “Judges are of three types: Two are in the Fire and one is in Paradise.”29 The two classes of judges that are in the Fire are those who oppose the truth in their judgements and the one who judges with the truth coincidentally while actually being ignorant of it. As for the one in Paradise, he is the one who judges in accordance with the truth while knowing it is the truth. So tell us by Allāh! Have you judged in accordance with the truth while knowing that it is the truth?

If you say: Yes, then yourselves as well as all of the people of knowledge testify as to the fact that you have lied. This is because you yourselves admit that you are unaware of the truth in matters of jurisprudence [such that you resort to blind imitation]. Additionally, the rest of mankind has judged you thus without any differentiation between those among you who claim to be a mujtahid and those who name themselves muqallid.

If you instead answer claiming that, indeed, you have only judged in accordance with the rulings issued by your imām while not actually knowing if the issued ruling is true or false—which is the circumstance of every blind imitator on the face of the earth—then you have by your own admittance labelled yourselves as one of two people. Either you have judged in accordance with the truth while not actually knowing that it is the truth or the judgement you have issued is contrary to the truth. This is because the ruling you have issued is one of two, either it is the truth or not. Whichever it may be, you will be from among the classes of judges that shall abide in the Fire. This is in accordance with the words of the Chosen One (صلى الله عليه وسلم). This is a matter which I do not surmise the people of understanding have any hesitancy regarding:

  1. That the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has divided the judges into three classes, clarified the characteristics of each one to where their state is plainly evident to one who is deficient in knowledge, or seasoned. Clear to the scholars just as it is to the ignorant.
  2. The blind imitator never claims to have the ability to parse out the truth from falsehood from among the words of their imām. Rather, they fully admit that they accept the words of another without ever seeking clarity with regards to the evidence. Rather, they admit that they are incapable of grasping an understanding of the evidence themselves even if it was provided. Considering this, they are among those who issue rulings while being ignorant of its state. Thus, even if it coincides with the truth, they will still be from among those who have issued a ruling in ignorance. And if it opposes the truth, then they are among those who judge in accordance with falsehood. These are the two classes of judges that are in the Fire. In both circumstances, the judge who chooses to engage in blind imitation will roast in the Fire of Jahannam.

Endnotes:

1. Al-Rasāʾil Al-Fiqhiyyah: 30-31
2. Al-Rasāʾil Al-Fiqhiyyah: 31-32
3. Īqāḍ al-Himam: 92-93
4. Ṣifat Salāt al-Nabī: 36-37
5. Ṣifat al-Ṣalāh: 38-39

6. Ijtihād: independent judgment in a legal or theological question, based on the interpretation and application of the fundamental judiciary principles, as opposed to blind imitation.
7. Ṣifat al-Ṣalāt: 49-50

8. Ṣifāt al-Ṣalāt: 50-51
9. Ṣifat al-Ṣalāh: 41-43
10. Aḍwāʾ al-Bayān 1:8-9

11. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 33, 35
12. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 64
13. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 39
14. Authentic: narrated by Al-Bukhārī: 6868 and Muslim: 3534.
15. For further reading see: The Ruling on Following Madhāhib (Schools of Thought) by Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah
16. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 36-7
17. Narrated by Aḥmad: 17145 and Abū Dāwūd: 4607. Authentic through its many individual narrations.
18. Narrated by al-Tirmidhī: 3662, Ibn Mājah: 97, and Aḥmad: 23293. Graded authentic by al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Tirmidhī: 3799.
19. Mutawātir: Narrations of the highest degree of authenticity; confirmed from multiple independent lines of enquiry to the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him].
20. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 42-43
21. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 41-2
22. The implementation of scholarly strife in the interpretation of the Qurʾān and the Sunnah in order to produce an Islamic judicial ruling.

23. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 48-49
24. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 51-2
25. Al-Rasāʾil al-Fiqhiyyah: 37
26. Weak: narrated by six of the companions. All chains are weak. Graded weak by Imām Aḥmad, Abū Bakr al-Bazzār and Ibn Mulaqqin in ‘Badr al-Munīr’ 9:587, Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī, Al-Albānī in ‘Silsilah al-Ahādīth al-Ḍaʿīfah’ 1: 145, Ibn Hazm in ‘Al-Iḥkām’, Ibn Al-Qayyim in ‘Iʿlām Al-Muwaqqiʿīn’ 2: 242 and many others.
27. Jarḥ wa Al-Taʿdīl: The science of grading aḥādith through systematic analysis of the chain of narrators and body of the narration itself.
28.Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 1: 500-501
29. Authentic: narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 3573, al-Tirmidhī: 1322 and Ibn Mājah: 2315. Graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in Irwāʾ al-Ghalīl: 2614. Mentioned in summary here, its complete wording: “As for the one in Paradise, he is the one who knows the truth and judges in accordance with it. Another is a man who knows the truth but issues an oppressive ruling so is in the Fire. The other man is one who judges between the people in ignorance so is in the Fire.”

Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: August 20, 2022
Edited: May 16, 2024

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