Following the Imams, The Importance of Taqleed and the Consensus of the Ummah upon the Compulsion of Following the Four Imams

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By Mufti Abdur Raheem Lajpuri رحمة اللہ علیه


taqleed_ilmQuestion: 1) What do the ‘Ulema of Deen and the Muftis say about a man in our city of Baruch who has adopted the ways of the Ahl e Hadith. He raises his hands during every Raka’ah of Salah and says Ameen loudly. Our Hanafi brothers say that these are acts of Bid’ah. Is raising the hands and saying Ameen loudly acts of the Sunnah or acts of Bid’ah? Please explain with references.
2) This brother says that raising the hands is a Sunnah of Rasulullah ﷺ and the Khulafaa Raashideen and that the Hanafi book Hidayah (Vol.1 pg 379) proves that Rasulullah ﷺ did it until the end of his life. He also says that saying Ameen loudly is also proven in Hidayah (Vol.1 pg 362) and that both raising the hands and saying Ameen loudly are acts of the Sunnah. Is raising the hands and saying Ameen loudly acts of the Sunnah or acts of Bid’ah? Please explain with references.


Note: It was discovered that the questioner himself became a Ghair Muqallid and it is for this reason that the reply addresses him.



Answer: The question has been quoted (in the Urdu edition) just as the questioner had written it (in Urdu). He has forsaken the Hanafi Mathhab and become a Ghair Muqallid (one who does not follow any Mathhab). The status of his education is evident from the fact that in a question of only twelve to thirteen lines, he has made twenty to twenty-five spelling errors. If he is this incompetent in the Urdu language that he cannot even write it properly, how will he ever be able to read and understand Arabic texts?

Imam Ghazali رحمة اللہ علیه said, “After accepting Islam and Iman, it is compulsory for the general public to only engage in their ‘Ibadah and day-to-day activities. They should never delve into academic matters because this has to be handed over to the ‘Ulema. For a member of the general public to argue in an academic discussion is more detrimental to him than fornication and theft. This is because when a person without deep knowledge of the Deen enters into discussions concerning Allah and the various aspects of Deen, the chances are great that he may present an opinion that is akin to Kufr without him even realizing it. His example is like that of a person who dives into the ocean without knowing how to swim.” (Ihyaa, Vol.3 pg 35)

It is necessary for the general public to have knowledge of the commands of the Shari’ah and to carry them out without delving into the intricacies of it. A man once came to Rasulullah ﷺ and asked to be informed of the intricacies of knowledge. Rasulullah ﷺ posed the following questions to him: 1) Have you recognized Allah? 2) How many of Allah’s rights have you fulfilled? 3) Are you aware of death? 4) Have you prepared for death? Thereafter Rasulullah ﷺ told the man to leave, to first strengthen his foundations and then come to be informed of the intricacies. (Jaami’ Bayanul ‘Ilm pg 133)

Rasulullah ﷺ also said, “A time will come when people will take ignorant people as their leaders and ask them questions (related to Deen). These people will then issue Fatawa without having the relevant knowledge. They will themselves be deviated and will mislead others as well. (Mishkatul Masabih pg 33)

Mawlana Muhammad Hussain Batalwi, whom the Ghair Muqallideen look up to, wrote in his book Isha’atus Sunnah (Vol.1 pg 211), “There is no way that a person not following a Mathhab can ever run away from the Mujtahideen.” In the same book, he writes, “Twenty-five years of experience has proven to me that those who forsake following the Mujtahideen and a Mathhab eventually end up bidding farewell to Islam. Many of them become Christians and other become people who follow no religion at all. The least that happens is that they no longer follow the Shari’ah and fall into sin. Some of them openly discard the Jumu’ah Salah, Salah in congregation and fasting. They also do to abstain from liquor and interest and those who do not indulge in these open sins, do so for the ulterior motives, but then indulge in secret sins. They are often also involved in illicit affairs with women. Although there are many reasons for a person in Deen to become irreligious and to leave the Deen, one of the main reasons is also when people with no knowledge forsake Taqleed. (Sabeelur Rashaad pg 10, Kalimatul Fasl pg 10 and Taqleede A’immah pg 16-17)

The reviver of the Ahl e Hadith group Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan of Bhopal writes the following about his group, “There has now surfaced a boastful group who (despite being far fro it) claim that they have the knowledge of the Hadith and the Qur’an and also claim that they practice it and have recognition of Allah. (al-Hitta fi Dhikri Sihaahis Sitta pg 27-28)

He writes further, “How strange! How can they (these Ghair Muqallideen) call themselves sincere belivers in Tawheed while alleging that others (because of their Taqleed) are Mushrikeen, whereas they (the Ghair Muqallideen) are most obstinate and mulish in their ways?” He later concludes the discussion by saying, “This way (of he Ghair Muqallideen) is nothing but a great tribulation and means of deviation.” (Taqleed e A’immah pg 17-18)

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه writes, “Chapter on the Importance of Following the Four Mathahib and the Severity of Giving This Up. One ought to know that there is immense benefit in following the four Mathahib and tremendous harm in turning away from them.” (Uqdul Jayyid pg 31)

In the same book he writes further, “The second reason for following a Mathhab is that Rasulullah ﷺ said, ‘Follow the broader consensus of the people’. Since there are no Mathahib on the truth besides the four Mathahib, following them will be following the broader consensus of people and failing to follow them will be to leave the broader consensus of people, which will be against the instruction of Rasulullah ﷺ.” (Uqdul Jayyid pg 33)

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه described the followers of the four Mathahib as the broader consensus of people and the one failing to follow any perform them as a lost camel who really follows the dictates of his Nafs. (Hereunder follows several Ahadith on the subject) Rasulullah ﷺ said:

1. “Follow the broader consensus of people” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 30)
2. “Stick with the congregation” (Ibid pg 33)
3. “Verily Allah will never allow my Ummah to be unanimous on deviation” (Ibid pg 30; Also see Maqaasidul Hasanah pg 460)
4. “My Ummah shall never be unanimous on deviation”
5. “Allah’s hand is upon the Jama’ah (united group) and the one who separates from them shall be cast alone in Jahannam” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 30)
6. “Shaytan is like a wolf to people just as there is a wolf for sheep, who grabs hold of the lone sheep wandering apart from the flock. You people must therefore beware of conflict and remain attached to the Jama’ah and the broader consensus of people” (Ibid pg 31)
7. “The one who separated even a hand’s span from the Jama’ah, he has removed the collar of Islam from his neck” (Ibid pg 31)
8. “Two people are better than one, three better than two and four better than three, so ensure that you attach yourself to the Jama’ah” (Mawa’idul Awwa’id pg 122)
9. “The one who forsakes obedience and separates from the Jama’ah shall die a death of the people of the Period of Ignorance” (Nasa’i)
10. “Whatever the Muslims regard to be something good is really so in the eyes of Allah as well” (Ahmad, as quoted in Maqasidul Hasanah pg 368)

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه was a great scholar, Muhaddith and jurist of his time. Even the leader of the Ghair Muqallideen group Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan of Bhopal regards Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه as the leader of all the Mujtahideen. He writes, “Had he been living in the first century of Islam, he would have been the Imam of Imams and leader of the Mujtahideen.”

Even though he was a jurist of this caliber, Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه had the following to say about Taqleed, “None rejected the concept of Taqleed because since the time of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم until the emergence of the four Mathahib, people had always been following those ‘Ulema whom they relied on. Had the following of the Mathahib been wrong, they (the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم and Tabi’een) would certainly have rejected it.” (Uqdul Jayyid pg 29)

He further quotes Imam Baghawi رحمة ﷲ علیه, who said, “It is therefore compulsory for the person who does not have all these qualifications (of being a Mujtahid) to follow someone in all affairs that pertain to him.” (Uqdul Jayyid pg 9)

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه also says, “There are numerous benefits in it (in following one of the four Mathahib) that are no secret to anyone. These are especially required in these days when people lack courage, when carnal passions have taken deep root in people’s souls and whenever a person is obsessed only with his opinion.” (Hujjatullahil Baalighah Vol.1 pg 361)

In another of his works, Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه says, “It was during the second century of Islam that following a particular Mujtahid became common and there was scarcely anyone who did not do so. This was compulsory.” (Insaaf pg 59)

He also said, “The entire Ummah, or rather those of them who are dependable, are unanimous about the fact that it is permissible to follow one of these four Mathahib that have been methodically systemized and recorded. This unanimity remains to this day (and opposing it is a means of deviation).” (Hujjatullahil Baalighah Vo.1 pg 361)

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه also says, “The gist of it all is that following these four Mathahib is something extremely subtle that Allah has inspired in the hearts of the ‘Ulema and upon which they have declared unanimity, regardless of whether they understand it or not.” (Insaaf pg 47)

He also says, “If there is a common man in India of in the territories of Maa Waraa’un Nahr (places where there are predominantly Hanafis) and there are no ‘Ulema belonging to the Shafi’i, Maliki or Hanbali schools of jurisprudence, as well as no books of these Mathahib, it will be wajib (compulsory) for him to follow the Mathhab of Imam Abu Hanifah. It will be Haram (forbidden) for him to leave this Mathhab because if he does this, he will be removing the collar of the Shari’ah from his neck and will be left a useless and wasted soul.” (Insaaf pg 70-71)

Despite being a Mujtahid in his own right, Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه was commanded by Rasulullah ﷺ to follow Mathhab and never to leave one. He writes in Fuyoodhul Haramain (pg 64-65) that he was commanded by Rasulullah ﷺ to do three things that he was not in favor of. In fact, he states, he was so staunchly disinclined towards these three things that the fact that he turned to them is in fact a sign of their truth. The second of these that he mentions is to follow one of the four Mathahib without leaving it. He states further that Rasulullah ﷺ also informed him that the Hanafi Mathhab has a most excellent methodology that is closer to the Sunnah as it was documented during the period of Imam Bukhari and his contemporaries رحمة ﷲ علیھم.” (Ibid pg 48)

The summary of Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi’s رحمة ﷲ علیه comments are:

1. The practice of following a particular person was common during the times of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم and the Tabi’een.
2. Following one of the four Mathahib entails following the broader consensus of people (which is compulsory in the words of the Ahadith) and failing to follow it will lead to deviation.
3. The practice of following one of the four Mathahib became common after the second century of Islam.
4. Following one of the four Mathahib is something extremely subtle that Allah has inspired in the hearts of people.
5. The Ummah is unanimous about following the four Imams.
6. Taqleed is wajib (compulsory) for anyone who is not a Mujtahid.
7. There are numerous Deeni benefits to following a specific Imam.
8. Rasulullah ﷺ instructed Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه to follow an Imam.
9. Rasulullah ﷺ told him that the Hanafi Mathhab is closest to the Sunnah.
10. It is Haram for a common man to forsake Taqleed. In fact, this actually leads him to leaving Islam (this has even been admitted by one of their leaders Mawlana Muhammad Hussain Batalwi, as quoted above).

The Ghair Muqallideen fool people into believing that the Muhadditheen never followed any of the Imams of jurisprudence. This is wrong because all the Muhadditheen apart from very few did adopt Taqleed.

Imam Bukhari رحمة ﷲ علیه who himself was a Mujtahid opted to follow the Mathhab of Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه. The leader of the Ghair Muqallideen group, Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan of Bhopal, states in his book, al-Hitta fi Dhikri Sihaahis Sitta, that Imam Abu Aasim has recorded the name of Imam Bukhari رحمة ﷲ علیه in the list of those following the Shafi’i Mathhab. Further in the same book, he says the following about Imam Nasa’i رحمة ﷲ علیه, “He was one of the landmarks of the Deen and one of the pillars of the science of Hadith. He led the scholars and Muhadditheen of his time and his critical assessment of narrators was highly rated amongst the ‘Ulema. He followed the Shafi’i Mathhab.” (pg 27)

About Imam Abu Dawood رحمة ﷲ علیه, he says, “He was a Hafidh of Ahadith and all the remarks and comments made about them. He was also of the highest caliber in as far as Taqwa, piety, abstinence, knowledge and understanding Deen are concerned. The only difference of opinion exists about whether which Mathhab he followed. While some are of the opinion that he was a Hanbali, others opine that he was a Shafi’i. (Ibid pg 135)

Apart from the Muhadditheen mentioned above, the most authentic reports verify that Imam Muslim, Imam Tirmidhi, Imam Bayhaqi, Imam Dar Qutni, Imam Ibn Majah رحمة ﷲ علیھم all followed the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence. The Muhadditheen Imam Yahya bin Ma’een, Imam Yahya bin Abi Zaa’idah, Imam Tahawi and Imam Zayla’ee رحمة ﷲ علیھم also all followed a Mathhab and all happened to be Hanafi. Allamah Dhahabi, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim bin Jowzi, Abdul Qadir Jilani رحمة ﷲ علیھم were all Hanbali.

Did these eminent scholars not realize that Taqleed is Shirk, Haram and a Bid’ah as the Ghair Muqallideen claim? Were there only a few who realized this, such as Dawood Zahiri and Ibn Hazm رحمة ﷲ علیھما? Muhadditheen, ‘Ulema and Masha’ikh throughout the ages adopted Taqleed. If one looks at the ‘Ulema and Awliya of the Indian Subcontinent, one will notice that they were all particular about Taqleed and were almost all followers of Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه. Some of the senior Muhadditheen were:

1. Shaykh Ali Muttaqi رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Kanzul Ummaal (passed away 975 AH)
2. Shaykh Abdul Wahhab Buhaanpuri رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1001 AH)
3. Shaykh Muhammad Tahir Patni Gujrati رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Majma’ul Bihar (passed away 987 AH)
4, Muhaddith Mullah Jeewan Siddiqi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1130 AH)
5. Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Ashi’attul Lam’aat (passed away 1152 AH) and his son Muhaddith Nurul Haq رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Tayseerul Qari, commentary of Bukhari (passed away 1073 AH)
6. Muhaddith Shaykh Fakhruddin رحمة ﷲ علیه commentator of Bukhari and Hisnul Haseen
7. Muhaddith Shaykh Salamullah رحمة ﷲ علیه, commentator of Muwatta (passed away 1229 AH)
8. Shah Abdur Raheem Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه
9. Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1176 AH)
10. Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1239 AH)
11. Shah Abdul Qadir Muhaddith and Mufassir Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیھما (passed away 1232 AH)
12. Shah Abdul Ghani Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1296 AH)
13. Shah Ishaq Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1262 AH)
14. Shah Isma’il Shaheed رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1246 AH)
15. Shah Qutbuddin رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Mazahir e Haq (passed away 1289 AH)
16. Shah Rafi’uddin Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1233 AH)
17. Shah Muhammad Ya’qub Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1282 AH)
18. Qadhi Muhibuddin Bihari رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1119 AH) who wrote the famous book of principles of Fiqh Musallamuth Thuboot in the year 1109 AH
19. Muhaddith Kabeei Qadhi Thana’ullah Panipati رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1225 AH)
20. Shaykhul Islam Allamah Nuruddin Ahmadabadi Gujarati رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Nurul Qari, commentary of Bukhari (passed away 1155 AH)
21. Shaykh Wajeehuddin Alawi Gujarati رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 998 AH)
22. Mufti Muhaddith Abdul Karim Nahrwaani رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Nahrul Jaari, commentary of Bukhari (passed away 1141 AH)
23 Allamah Muhiyuddin Ahamadabadi Gujarati رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1038 AH)
24. Shaykh Muhaddith Khayruddin bin Muhammad Zahid Surti (passed away 1206 AH)
25. Bahrul Uloom Shaykh Abdul Ali Lakhnawi رحمة ﷲ علیه, commentator of Musallamuth Thuboot and others (passed away 1225 AH)
26. Abul Hasanaat Allamah Abdul Hayy Lakhnawi رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of numerous works (passed away 1304 AH)
27. Muhaddith Mawlana Ahmad Ali Sahaaranpuri رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of marginal notes on Bukhari (passed away 1297 AH)
28. Mutakallimul Islam Mawlana Qasim Nanotwi رحمة ﷲ علیه, founder of Darul Uloom Deoband (passed away 1298 AH)
29. Muhaddith Kabeer Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1323 AH)
30. Mawlana Muhammad Ya’qub Nanotwi Mujaddidi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1302 AH)
31. Muhaddith Mawlana Fakhrul Hasan Gangohi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1317 AH)
32. Shaykhul Hind Mawlana Mahmoodul Hasan Deobandi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1399 AH)
33. Muhaddith Kabeer Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1352 AH)
34. Muhaddith Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Ambetwi رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Badhlul Majhood, commentary of Abu Dawood (passed away 1346 AH)
35. Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani رحمة ﷲ علیه, author of Fathul Mulhim, commentary of Sahih Muslim (passed away 1369 AH)

Some of the prominent ‘Ulema of Sindh include:

1. Shaykh Abul Hasan Sindhi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1187 AH)
2. Shaykh Hashim Sindhi رحمة ﷲ علیه
3. Shaykh Abu Tayyib Sindhi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1140 AH)
4. Shaykh Muhammad Mu’een Sindhi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1180 AH)
5. Shaykh Muhammad Aabid Sindhi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1257 AH)
6. Shaykh Hayat Sindhi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1163 AH)

These ‘Ulema wrote commentaries and marginal notes on the Sihaah Sitta and also lectured Hadith in Madinah Munawwarah.

Some of the eminent Awliya of the Indian Subcontinent were:

1. Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alf Thaani رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 971 AH)
2. Arif Billah Muhaddith Mirza Mazhar Jaanjaana رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1195 AH)
3. The crown of Awliya of Hind Khwaja Mu’eenuddin Chishti رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 632, 622, 626 or 637 AH)
4. Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyaar Kaki رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 633/634 AH)
5. Khwaja Fareeduddin Ganj Shakar رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 664/668 AH)
6. Khwaja Nizamuddin Awliya (passed away 735 AH)
7. Khwaja Alaa’uddin Saabir Kaleri رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 690 AH)

Other than the above, there were thousands of other Muhadditheen, ‘Ulema, Mufassireen, Fuqahaa and Mashaa’ikh who were all followers of a Mathhab.

It is a great favor of Allah that we have the four Imams to follow and that the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah has accepted the four. The ‘Ulema of every era have emphasized that the person who rejects Taqleed will lead his life aimlessly and, following only his whims, will become a perpetrator of Bid’ah. He will not be from the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah and will be just like the Shi’as who reject following the four Imams, labeling this as an act of Bid’ah. In fact, the Ghair Muqallideen emulate the Shi’as in several other matters. For example:

1. Just like the Rawaafidh (a group of the Shi’a), the Ghair Muqallideen also do not regard the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم to be criteria for right and wrong.
2. Just like the Rawaafidh, the Ghair Muqallideen also regard three divorces given in a single sitting as one divorce.
3. Just like the Rawaafidh, the Ghair Muqallideen also regard the twenty Raka’ah of Taraweeh to be a Bid’ah
4. Just like the Rawaafidh, the Ghair Muqallideen also regard the Athan given in front of the pulpit on the day of Jumu’ah to be a Bid’ah.
5. Just like the Rawaafidh and Shi’a, the Ghair Muqallideen also do not accept the decision of ‘Umar رضي الله عنه to ban women from the Masajid. This despite the fact that ‘Ayesha رضی ﷲ عنھا said that had Rasulullah ﷺ seen the condition of the women after his time, he would certainly have banned them himself.

Apart from the Shi’as and the Ghair Muqallideen, the ‘Ulema of the entire Ummah are unanimous about the fact that Taqleed is necessary. They have clearly stated this in their works. The following appears in the commentary of Musallamuth Thuboot, “It is therefore compulsory for people to follow those who had looked deeply into matters (of Deen) and had categorized everything in specific chapters. They had sifted every question, differentiated between them, explained the reasons for each of them and provided tremendous details (such detail is not found in the statements of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم, making it difficult for many to derive solutions directly from them). It is because this is not to be found in the Mathhab of anyone else that Allamah Ibn Salaah رحمة ﷲ علیه has prohibited people from following anyone other than the four Imams, who are the Imam of the Imams, and are Imam from Kufa (Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه), Imam Malik رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه and Imam Ahmad رحمة ﷲ علیه. May Allah reward them with the best of rewards on our behalf.” (Fatawaatihur Rahmah pg 629)

Allamah Ibn Nujaym رحمة ﷲ علیه of Egypt (passed away 970 AH) states, “Whatever ruling opposes those of the four Imams, actually opposes consensus (which is unacceptable).” (Ashbaah wan Nadhaa’ir pg 131)

Allamah Ibn Humaam رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away in 861 AH) says, “Many latter day scholars have mentioned that only the four Imams should be followed because their Mathhab are well documented, which is not the case the Mathahib of others. . .it is therefore correct to restrict Taqleed to only to these four Mathahib.” (Tahreer fi Usoolil Fiqh pg 552)

The eminent Shaykh Ahmad رحمة ﷲ علیه, better known as Allamah Mullah Jeewan (passed away 1130 AH), was the teacher of Aurangzeb Alamgir رحمة ﷲ علیه. In his Tafseerat Ahmadi (pg 346), he states, “Consensus has been reached about the fact that it is permissible to follow only the four Imams. It is because of this that if the opinion of any new Mujtahid conflicts with those of the four, it will not be permissible to act on his opinion.”

He then writes further (pg 346), “In all fairness, the confinement of the Mathahib to the four and following only them is from the grace of Allah and denotes His acceptance of them. There is no need for an explanation.”

The famous Muhaddith and Mufassir Qadhi Thana’ullah Panipati رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1225 AH), writes in his Tafsir Mazhari (Vol.2 pg 64), “The Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah settled with the four Mathahib after the third or fourth century and there remained no other Mathhab to follow in as far as the derivatives of the Deen are concerned. Consensus has therefore been reached on the fact that any opinion that conflicts with all of the four will be rejected. Allah declares in the Qur’an, “(Whoever) follows a path other than that of the Mu’mineen, We shall allow him to do that which he is doing and then enter him into Jahannam. It is the worst of abodes.” (Surah Nisa, verse 115)

Imam Ibrahim Sarakhsi رحمة ﷲ علیه says, “After that period (of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم), it became impermissible to follow any Mathhab other than the four, namely those of Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Malik رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه and Imam Ahmad رحمة ﷲ علیه. This is just as Allamah Ibn Salaah رحمة ﷲ علیه has stated. This is because the principles of these Mathahib are well known and their laws have been well established. Those who served these four Mathahib have recorded every facet of their laws in great detail.” (Futuhaat Wahabiyyah pg 199)

The Muhaddith Ibn Hajar Makki رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 852 AH) also writes that in his times it is not permissible to follow any Mathhab other than the four namely those of Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Malik رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه and Imam Ahmad رحمة ﷲ علیه. (Fathul Mubeen pg 196)

In his book Raahatul Quloob, Khwaja Nizamuddin Awliya رحمة ﷲ علیه writes, “Khwaja Sayyidul Aabideen Fareedul Haq Shakr Ganj رحمة ﷲ علیه said on the 11th of Dhul Hijjah 655 AH that although all the four Mathahib are true, it may be noted with certainty that the Mathahib of Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه is the best and he is also the best of the Mutaqqaddimeen (early-day scholars). We thank Allah that He has made us followers of his Mathhab.” (Hadaa’iq Hanafiyyah pg 104)

Allamah Jalaluddin Mahalli رحمة ﷲ علیه says, “It is Wajib (compulsory) for a common man and others who have not reached the rank of a Mujtahid to adhere to one of the specific Mathahib.” (Nurul Hidayah, translation of Sharhul Wiqayah pg 10)s

Shaykh Muhiyyuddin Nawawi رحمة ﷲ علیه, the commentator of Muslim writes, “’Ulema believe that Ijtihad (being a Mujtahid) in the broad sense has ended with the four Imams. It is therefore Wajib (compulsory) for the Ummah to follow one of them. In fact, the Imam of Haramain has reported that the Ummah are unanimous about this.” (Rowdhatut Taalibeen, as quoted in Nurul Hidayah)

It states further in the same reference, “Taqleed in our times is correct only if one of the four Mathahib are followed. . .it is not permissible to follow anyone other than the four Imams both when passing verdict (in court) and when issuing a Fatwa.” (Nurul Hidayah pg 15)

Imam Abdul Wahhab Sha’raani رحمة ﷲ علیه writes, “Whenever anyone asked my mentor Ali Khawaas about whether it is compulsory to adopt Taqleed, he would tell the person, ‘It is Wajib for you to follow a specific Imam and not to tread away from his Mathhab until you attain the status of a Mujtahid through perfect piety and divine inspiration.” (Mizaanush Shari’atil Kubra)

The famous scholar of Qur’an and Hadith Sayyid Ahmad Tahtaawi رحمة ﷲ علیه (passed away 1233 AH) says, “O People! You must follow that one group that will be saved from Jahannam and that is the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah because the help of Allah is attained by being with them and opposing them will cause one to lose Allah’s help and attain only His wrath and displeasure. This successful group has now agreed to follow the four Mathahib, which are the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools. Whoever chooses to be outside the circles of these four Mathahib is from amongst the people of Bid’ah and those destined for Jahannam.” (Tahtaawi ‘ala Durril Mukhtar Vol.4 pg 153)

The following is an extract from the book of Shah Ishaaq Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه:

“Question 61: Is following the four Mathahib a good Bid’ah or a bad one? If it is a bad Bid’ah, then of what category is it?”
Answer: Following the four Mathhab is neither a good nor a bad Bid’ah but is in fact a Sunnah because, in the first instance, their differences were such as had existed amongst the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم as well. Despite this, Rasulullah ﷺ said, “my Sahabah are like guiding stars and whoever of them you follow, you will be rightly guided.’ In the second instance, their differences could be because of a different in their reasoning which is in fact in compliance with Nass (the clear verses of the Qur’an and the most authentic of Ahadith) because reasoning is proven by Nass. In yet another instance, the differences between them is due to the direct meanings of the Ahadith that some feel the need to practice upon, while others feel the need to practice on the implied meanings of the same Ahadith. A Hadith appears in Bukhari and Muslim stating that when Rasululah ﷺ gave the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم the command to march against the Banu Qurayzah tribe, he said that they should not perform their ‘Asr Salah anywhere but at the settlement of the Banu Qurayzah tribe. Now while some of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم understood that Rasulullah’s ﷺ intention was to emphasize a speedy march, others took the direct meaning, meaning that they should not perform the ‘Asr Salah on the road (even if the time was running out). However, since Rasulullah ﷺ did not disprove of this difference, it appears that both parties were right. Such are the differences between the four Mathahib, so how can it be called Bid’ah? (Imdaadul Masaa’il, translation of Mi’ah Masaa’il pg 101-102)

(Mufti Abdur Raheem Lajpuri رحمة ﷲ علیه answers another question in the following way)

Question: Will the followers of a Mathhab be labeled perpetrators of Bid’ah or not?

Answer: The followers of a Mathhab will not be labeled perpetrators of Bid’ah because following the four Mathahib is really following the inner and outer implications of the Ahadith. Labeling a follower of the Ahadith as a perpetrator of Bid’ah is an act of a deviate. (Imdaadul Masaa’il, translation of Mi’ah Masaa’il pg 102)

Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alf Thani رحمة ﷲ علیه says, “It may be said without prejudice that the Mathhab of Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه appears to the mind of the inspired ones as a large ocean while the other Mathahib appear like rivers and lakes. When looking at it in reality as well, one will notice that the majority of Muslims follow this Mathhab, which, despite the large following, is unlike the other Mathahib in its principles, derivatives and manner of extracting laws. It is most astonishing to note the degree to which Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه follows the Sunnah because he gives as much importance to Mursal Ahadith as he does to Musnad Ahadith and gives these preference over his personal deductions. Because of their companionship with Rasulullah ﷺ, Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه gives preference to the opinions of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم over his own, which the others do not do. Despite all of this, his adversaries still refer to him as a person who follows only his personal opinions. Apart from this, they also use other disrespectful terms for him even though all admit that he was exceptionally knowledgeable and extremely pious. May Allah guide them to not reject this leader of Islam and in this way to stop hurting the majority of Muslims.
Such people (Ghair Muqallideen) wish to blow out the light of Allah with their mouths by labeling these great men (Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Malik رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه and Imam Ahmad رحمة ﷲ علیه) as men who followed the dictates of their personal opinions. By doing this, they are effectively saying that a large - in fact majority - of the Ummah are ignorant and are in fact also ignorant of their ignorance by following men who forsook the Qur’an and the Sunnah to follow men who followed their opinions. These few incompetents have learnt a few Ahadith and think that all of the Shari’ah revolved upon their knowledge by refuting everything else about which they have no knowledge. They are like that little worm in a hole that sees its entire world in that little hole (thinking that the hold is the entire world). The worm has however yet to see the real world. Such people are only prejudiced and making futile attempts.” (Maktoobaat Imam Rabbani Vol.2 pg 178-179)

Shah Muhammad Hidayat Ali رحمة ﷲ علیه states, “It is not necessary for a person to follow the Imam if he has perfect knowledge of Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh and he is also capable of Ijtihad, together with having knowledge of abrogated verses and Arabic terminologies. It is Wajib for anyone lacking in any of these fields to follow and Imam. In fact, it is best even for the person proficient in these fields to follow an Imam. It is strange to see that people who cannot even recite Arabic without the diacritical marks, let alone having any knowledge of Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh choose not to follow the Imams and regard following them to be Shirk. Such people do not have a clue about deriving laws from the Qur’an and Ahadith and fail to realize that even people who were proficient in the fields of Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh such as Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه and Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه also chose to follow Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه. Can the people of today be more knowledgeable or more pious than them? Such people choose to follow ignoramuses rather than the great men and even though they hardly understand Urdu (let alone Arabic), they claim that they are people of the Ahadith (Ghair Muqallideen). If you ask them from where they learnt the laws they practice, was it from the Qur’an and Ahadith or from someone else, they will tell you that they heard it from a particular person. If this is not Taqleed, then what is it?” (Durr e Lathaani Vol.2 pg 61-62)

He also writes, “It is Wajib to follow the Imams of Ijtihad because they possessed deep knowledge of Arabic, Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh, principles of Fiqh, abrogated verses and Arabic terminologies. It is for this reason that Allah issued the command, “Ask people of knowledge if you do not know.” It is Wajib for anyone lacking in any of these fields to follow an Imam. In fact, it is best even for the person proficient in these fields to follow an Imam. Even people who were proficient in these fields such as Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه and Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alf Thani رحمة ﷲ علیه, Mirza Mazhar Jaane Jaan رحمة ﷲ علیه, Qadhi Thana’ullah Panipati رحمة ﷲ علیه and many others also chose to follow Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه. Which person today can claim to be equal to even a tenth of these men and has the nerve to say (like Iblees did) “I am better than he”? It is a tragedy of our times that people, whose total knowledge is not even where the knowledge of the Imams started, speak ill of following of the Imams and make people follow their incomplete analogies and deductions.” (Ahsanut Taqweem pg 137-138)

Allamah Abdul Haq Haqqani رحمة ﷲ علیه writes, “If every person has to propose his opinion in such matters, there would be tremendous chaos. While the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم asked Rasulullah ﷺ whatever they needed to know, when new situations arose after the third century of Islam, the Imams documented the finer details of the Shari’ah as derived from the Qur’an and the Ahadith. Therefore, the entire Ummah has been following these documented laws since then until today. Anyone proposing anything other than this will have forsaken the path of the unanimous majority. The evil has started nowadays of criticizing the Mujtahideen, especially Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه, saying that he opposes the Qur’an and the Ahadith. This is grossly misleading because none of his statements oppose the Qur’an and Ahadith and those that these people regard as baseless are really not so because it is their fault for not being able to find the basis. Proof of his integrity is that Allah had kept his Mathhab alive for thousands of years and claiming that his Mathhab is misleading is to claim that the Ummah had been misled for so long, which contradicts verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith that laud the virtues of the Ummah.” (Aqaa’idul Islam pg 112-113)

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه writes, “Most of the people who claim to be people of the Ahadith concern themselves only with collecting chains of narrators and determining Ahadith which are Ghareeb or Shaadh from many that are either Mawdu or Maqlub. They do not concern themselves with the words of the Hadith, do not understand the meanings of the Ahadith and cannot derive rulings from its depths. These people condemn the jurists and claim that they oppose the Qur’an and the Ahadith without realizing that they can never attain the knowledge that Allah had granted to the jurists. They are really sinful for making such statements.” (Insaaf pg 53)

Merely Knowing Ahadith from Memory is Not Sufficient for Understanding the Laws of the Shari’ah

Merely knowing Ahadith from memory and remaining fixed on the apparent meaning is not enough for understanding the rulings of the Shari’ah. It is of vital importance to understand Fiqh (jurisprudence), the principles of Fiqh and to have a deep understanding of Deen. Reaching the true reality of the rulings is impossible without all of this. Those people who are mulish about the apparent meanings of the Ahadith are known to issue rulings that are unacceptable. Here follows a few examples:

1. The famous book of Ahadith Kanzul Ummaal contains the following narration: Mujahid says, “Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه was once performing Salah while ‘Ata, Tawoos and Ikramah and I, all his students, were sitting together. A man arrived and asked, ‘Is there a Mufti amongst you?’ ‘Ask your question,’ I said. He said, ‘Every time I urinate, a spurting liquid follows the urine out.’ We asked, ‘Is it the type of liquid from which a child is born?’ When he replied in the affirmative, we ruled that he should take a bath (each time it happened). The man then turned away saying, ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon.’ Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه hastened with his Salah and as soon as he made the Salam, he said, ‘Ikramah! Go bring that man back.’ When Ikramah brought him back, Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه turned to us saying, ‘Tell me whether the verdict you gave this man was sourced from the Book of Allah?’ We admitted, ‘No’. ‘Then was it sourced from the Sunnah of Rasulullah ﷺ?’ he asked further. When we again conceded that it was not, he asked, ‘Then was it from the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم of Rasulullah ﷺ?’ Again we said no. ‘Then from who did you learn it?’ he asked. ‘We derived it from our own judgment,’ we replied. To this, he remarked, ‘It is for this reason that Rasulullah ﷺ said, ‘A single jurist is more difficult for Shaitan to contend with than a thousand worshippers.’ He then turned to the man and asked, ‘Tell me. Do you feel any lust in your heart when this happens to you?’ ‘No, I do not,’ the man replied. Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه asked further, ‘Then do you feel any weakness in your body (after it emerges)?’ When the man again replied negatively, Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه said, ‘This happens because of coldness (in the body) so wudhu would suffice for you (there is no need to take a bath).’” (Vol.5 pg 118)

Research scholars have written that Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه realized that the students were fooled by the word ‘spurting liquid’, which refers to semen. They therefore ruled that a bath was necessary. Because they were not jurists, they failed to look at the reason that makes a bath necessary. Had they looked at factors that make a bath necessary, they would have noticed that since none of the factors accompanying the discharge of semen were found, the discharge could not be semen and therefore a bath would itself not be necessary. Now although Mujahid رحمة ﷲ علیه, ‘Ata رحمة ﷲ علیه, Tawoos رحمة ﷲ علیه, and Ikramah رحمة ﷲ علیه were all Muhadditheen of the highest caliber (and the teachers of almost all the others), they were really not jurists because they failed to look for the inner reasons. Because true jurists are such a rarity, Rasulullah ﷺ lauded them by saying that a single jurist is more difficult for Shaitan to contend with than a thousand worshippers. Shaitan’s objective is to make people do things that are against the Shari’ah and the worshipper does not have the time to delve into the reasons for various rulings. Even the Muhadditheen, because of their involvement in screening narrators, verifying chains of narrators and in doing so many other things, do not have this opportunity. It is the jurists who are specialists in their fields, who, together with keeping all the relevant verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith in front of them, are able to understand what the intent of the Shari’ah is. The adage is well said that states, “There is a specialist for every field.” (Haqeeqatil Fiqh Vol.1 pg 9)

2. Allamah Ibn Jowzi رحمة ﷲ علیه relates that when some people heard that Rasulullah ﷺ forbade people from watering other people’s fields, they said, “We seek Allah’s forgiveness because when we have excess water on our fields, we direct it to the fields of our neighbors.” None of them realized that Rasulullah ﷺ was referring to a person having intercourse with pregnant slave women. (Talbees Iblees pg 166)

3. Allamah Khattabi رحمة ﷲ علیه reports that a Shaykh did not have his hair shaved before the Jumu’ah Salah for forty years because he heard the Hadith that Rasulullah ﷺ forbade this. However, Allamah Khattabi رحمة ﷲ علیه explained to him that the word in the Hadith was حلق (with a fatha on the laam), meaning ‘forming groups’ and not (with a sukoon on the laam) meaning ‘shaving the head’. The prohibition was therefore from forming discussion groups in the Masjid before the Salah because at this time, people ought to perform Salah and then listen attentively to the Khutbah. (Talbees Iblees pg 166)

4. A Muhaddith once heard the Hadith in which Rasulullah ﷺ forbade using living things as targets. He, however, misunderstood the word Ruh to be Rawh because of which he thought Rasulullah ﷺ forbade. (Foreword of Muslim Vol.1 pg 18)

5. There was another Muhaddith who was in the habit of performing his Witr Salah only after cleaning himself in the toilet. When asked the reason, he said that he was following a Hadith in which Rasulullah ﷺ instructed people to perform Witr Salah only after cleaning themselves in the toilet. What he did not realize was that the word he understood as cleaning oneself in the toilet actually meant ‘to do in odd numbers’. The Hadith therefore meant that when a person cleaned himself in the toilet, he ought to clean himself an odd number of times i.e. three, five, or more times if necessary.
Rasulullah ﷺ said, “May Allah keep fresh and healthy (in mind) the person who hears my words, remembers them and conveys them on. It often happens that the one to whom the words are passed on understands them better than the one conveying them.” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 35)

6. Allamah Dawood Zahiri رحمة ﷲ علیه, whom the Ghair Muqallideen look up to, once issued a fatwa that Rasulullah ﷺ only prohibited urinating in stagnant water because the water will become impure by this act. This he derived from the apparent words of a Hadith that states, “None of you should ever urinate in standing water.” Therefore, according to his fatwa, if a person urinated in a container and then emptied it into water, the water would not become impure. He also said that if a person urinated next to water and the urine flowed into the water, the water will also not be impure because in all these cases, he person did not urinate in the stagnant water itself. After recording this fatwa Imam Nawawi رحمة ﷲ علیه states that this is the worst of scenarios in a situation when people are mulish about sticking to the apparent meaning of narrations. (Nawawi’s commentary of Muslim Vol.1 pg 138; Fathul Bari Vol.2 pg 72)

7. Another Muhaddith whom the Ghair Muqallideen look up to is Hafidh Ibn Hazam رحمة ﷲ علیه, who was also a great Mufassir and Mutakallim (expert on matters of belief). He claimed that a person could shorten his Salah regardless of the distance he travels, even in his locality. This he derived from the apparent meaning of the verse: “When you travel on earth, there is no sin on you should you shorten your Salah.” (Surah Nisa verse 101)
He was adamant about this ruling but failed to realize that in such a situation, every person leaving for the Masjid for Salah will then need to perform Qasr Salah. (Fadhlul Bari Vol.2 pg 73)

8. The Shaykhul Islam and Muhaddith of the Ghair Muqallideen Mawlana Abdul Jaleel Samrodi wrote in one of his booklets that according to the Hanafi Mathhab, a person’s fast will not be nullified by intercourse, regardless of whether ejaculation took place or not. He also asserts that according to the Hanafis, it will not be necessary to bath. All of this is contrary to the truth because he failed to understand the text of Durrul Mukhtar (Vol.2 pg 103). Now if he was unable to fathom the text of a book, how will he understand the Qur’an and Ahadith? Furthermore, if this is the condition of the Shaykhul Islam and Muhaddith of the Ghair Muqallideen, what must be the condition of the rest of them?

An incident comes to mind about a Persian man who saw his friend being beaten up by a thug. He immediately went on to the scene an held his friend’s hands, because of which the poor man was unable to defend himself. Taking advantage of the situation, the thug beat the man up most severely. When someone asked the foolish friend why he had done so, he replied, “Did you not read Shaykh Saadi’s poem in which he says, ‘When you see your friend in trouble, hold his hand.’” “You fool!” the people cried, “The poem means that you ought to help him when he is in trouble and not to physically hold his hands.”

The incident is similar to the one when Mirza Mazhar Jaane Jaan رحمة ﷲ علیه asked his servant, “Bring the flask, but hold the belly when you bring it.” By this he meant that the servant should not carry it by the neck because it could break off, but should carry it by the belly. Taking the instruction literally, the servant carried the flask in one hand and held his belly in the other hand. Because he was a sensitive man, Mazhar Jaane Jaan رحمة ﷲ علیه immediately got a headache when he saw this.

This is what happens when statements are taken literally without any understanding and insight. This is exactly what the Ghair Muqallideen of our times are doing when they memorize some Ahadith and lack the proper understanding and perception of its meaning. They then claim that they are Mujtahideen and go a step further to criticize the true Mujtahideen.

They fail to realize that opinions are of two types. The one is that which defies the clear instructions of Allah, which was what Shaitan presented when he said, “You have created me from fire and created him from sand.” He therefore reasoned that he was better than Adam علیه السلام and did not want to prostrate. This type of opinion and reasoning is wrong and worthy of condemnation.

The second type of opinion and reasoning is that which does not defy clear commands and is used to elucidate the meanings of the Qur’an and the Ahadith. This type of opinion and reasoning is commendable and it is this that happened to the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم when Rasulullah ﷺ said that they should not perform their ‘Asr Salah but at the settlement of the Banu Qurayzah tribe. Now while some Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم understood that Rasulullah’s ﷺ intention was to emphasize a speedy march, others took the direct meaning, meaning that they should not perform the ‘Asr Salah on the road (even if the time was running out). They therefore did not perform their ‘Asr Salah until they reached their destination. The first group however employed their faculties of Ijtihad and performed their Salah en route. When this was reported to Rasulullah ﷺ, he did not reprimand either party. The reasoning of the first group did not conflict with the instruction, but was merely an explanation of the same. Allamah Ibn Qayyim رحمة ﷲ علیه stated that this first group was the group of Fuqaha.

Deen is Founded on Two Factors

Deen is founded on 1) accurate narration (riwaayah) and 2) accurate interpretation (diraayah). It is therefore necessary for there to be a group of people who safeguard the words of the Qur’an and the Ahadith and then convey it to the Fuqaha. This group is the Muhadditheen. The Fuqaha who are well-versed in the principles and derivatives of Fiqh and who understand the intent of these narrations then explain the meanings to the Ummah.

Allamah Ibn Qayyim Jowzi رحمة ﷲ علیه whom the Ghair Muqallideen hold in high esteem states, “There are two things that are conveyed. One is the words and the other is the meaning and intent. The Ulema of the Ummah are therefore classified into two groups. The first are the Huffadh of the Ahadith, who have memorized the Ahadith and have classified them in to the categories of authentic and fabricated. These men are leaders of the Ummah, the vehicles of the Ummah who have protected the fortress of Islam and safeguarded the rivers of Shari’ah from contamination. The second group are the Fuqaha of the Ummah who extract laws and issue rulings. They have been selected to document the issues of Halal and Haram. They are like the stars in the sky by which lost people find the way and confusing questions are answered. People have always had a greater need for them and obeying them is more important than obeying one’s own parents, as the Qur’an mentions, “O you with Iman! Obey Allah, obey the Rasul and obey those with command amongst you (the Fuqaha). (I’laamul Muqi’een Vol.1 pg 9)

A deep understanding of Allah’s Deen is a bountry that Allah grants to few of His servants. Rasulullah ﷺ said, “Allah grants a deep understanding of Deen to the one for whom Allah intends good.” (Mishkatul Masabih Pg 33)

A verse of the Qur’an states, “Allah grants wisdom (a deep understanding of Allah’s Deen) to whomsoever He pleases and the one granted wisdom has indeed been given a tremendous amount of good.” (Surah Aal Imran)

The person granted a deep understanding of Allah’s Deen can truly guide others, assist them in the very intricate matters and save them fro the traps of Shaitan. It is for this reason that Rasulullah ﷺ said, “A single jurist is more difficult for Shaitan to contend with, than a thousand worshippers.” (Mishkatul Masabih g 34)

The Ghair Muqallideen lack this deep understanding of the Deen and are therefore antagonistic towards Fiqh and Tafaqquh (deep understanding of Deen). It is for this reason that their leader Mawlana Abdul Jaleel Samrodi writes in his book Boo’e Ghilleen that there would never have been differences amongst the Ummah had it not been for Fiqh and the principles of Fiqh. He also says that the people should shun all the books of Fiqh. Furthermore, he states that the Qur’an and the Sunnah will spread only when some just ruler takes a stance like ‘Umar رضي الله عنه and digs a trench, fills it with all the books of Fiqh of the various Mathahib and sets them alight. The aage stating that a man is an enemy to that about which he is ignorant is clearly demonstrated in this enmity the Ghair Muqallideen have for Fiqh.

Fiqh and acquiring a deep understanding of Allah’s Deen has been lauded in several Ahadith. Rasulullah ﷺ said:

1. “Everything has a pillar and the pillar of this Deen is Fiqh.” (Bayhaqi, Dar Qutni, as quoted in Fatawa Sirajiyyah pg 158)
2. “People are mines like gold and silver mines. The best of them are they who were the best during times of ignorance on condition that they acquire a deep understanding of the Deen.” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 32)
3. “Allah grants a deep understanding of Deen to the one for whom Allah intends good.” (Bukhari and Muslim, as quoted in Mishkatul Masabih pg 33)
4. ‘Ali رضي الله عنه said, “The example of the Fuqaha is like the hands (on the body).” (Mufeedul Mufti pg 9)
5. “A single sitting (lesson) of Fiqh is better than sixty years of ‘Ibadah.” (Tabrani in his Kabir)

The importance of having a deep understanding of the Deen can be assessed from the fact that Rasulullah ﷺ once made du’a for ‘Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه saying, “O Allah! Grant him a deep understanding of the Deen and teach him the interpretation of the Qur’an.” (Tarjumaanus Sunnah Vol.4 pg 258)

Understanding the Ahadith is the work of the Fuqaha because people who merely narrate Ahadith often make serious mistakes and cause much trouble, as stated above.

In his famous compilation of Ahadith, Imam Muslim رحمة ﷲ علیه quotes that Abdullah bin Mas’ud رضي الله عنه once said that when a Hadith is narrated to people who cannot understand it, it becomes a source of tribulation for them. (Muslim Vol.1 pg 6)

Imam Tirmidhi رحمة ﷲ علیه states, “So have the Fuqaha stated and it is them who know most about the Ahadith.” (Vol.1 pg 118)

Imam Sufyan bin Uyaynah رحمة ﷲ علیه who was the teacher of both Imam Bukhari رحمة ﷲ علیه and Imam Muslim رحمة ﷲ علیه said, “All but the Fuqaha can be led astray by the Ahadith.” This means that when a person does not enjoy a deep understanding of the Deen, he is likely to interpret the Ahadith according to his own desires, thereby deviating far off the path of truth. The Shi’as, Rawafidh, Khawarij, Mu’tazilas, Qadianis and so many other deviated groups have all used the Ahadith to substantiate their claims, but these were all interpreted according to their whims.

When ‘Ali رضي الله عنه once asked Rasulullah ﷺ what he was to do if he could not find a clear command regarding any affair, Rasulullah ﷺ advised him saying, “Consult with the Fuqaha and the ardent worshippers (the Awliya).” (Ma’aarifus Sunan Vol.3 pg 264-5)

The gist of it all is that the person who ventures without the guidance of the Fuqaha will certainly go astray. It is because of this that the Ghair Muqallideen err so greatly when it comes to matters of twenty Raka’ah Taraweeh and three divorces.

The Qu’ran also speaks of a deep understanding of the Deen when it states, “Why does a small group from every large party not proceed to attain a deep understanding of Deen so that they may warn their people (who had been engaged in Jihad) when they return to them so that they may beware (of sin)?” (Surah Tawbah verse 122)

Abu Sa’eed Khudri رضي الله عنه reports that Rasulullah ﷺ said, “(O my Sahabah) People shall follow you and men will come to you from the ends of the earth to attain a deep understanding of the Deen. When they come to you, you must be good to them.” (Tirmidhi, as quoted in Mishkatul Masabih pg 34)

It is strange to note that while Rasulullah ﷺ advised the Sahabah رضي الله عنه to be good to people who come to them to attain a deep understanding of the Deen, yet the Ghair Muqallideen detest such people and want their books to be burnt! Yet the Sahabah رضي الله عنه are the true Muhadditheen. It is therefore necessary for these Ghair Muqallideen to respect and have love for the Fuqaha. We will present a few examples:

1. The famous Muhaddith Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه was the teacher of great Muhadditheen like Imam Shu’ba رحمة ﷲ علیه, Imam Sufyan bin Uyaynah رحمة ﷲ علیه and Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه. However, when an intricate matter was brought before Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه, he did not at all hesitate to say, “Nu’man bin Thabit (Imam Abu Hanifah) رحمة ﷲ علیه will be able to provide a good reply to this question because I think that his knowledge has certainly been blessed.” (Khayratul Hisaan pg 31)

2. Hadhrat Abdullah bin ‘Umar reports that he was once sitting with Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه when Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه also arrived there. Some then asked an intricate question, about which Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه kept his peace. He then turned to Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه and asked him what the answer was. When Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه gave a satisfying reply, Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه asked him from which Hadith did he derive the reply. Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه then explained that it was from a Hadith that Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه had himself narrated to him. He also explained how he had arrived at the conclusion. To this, Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه exclaimed, “We (the Muhadditheen) are just the pharmacists while you people (the Fuqaha) are the doctors.”
While the Pharmacists store the various medicines and know one from another, it is he doctors who know the uses of these medicines and how to administer them. Similarly, while the Muhadditheen store and classify the Ahadith, it is the Fuqaha who extract the rulings from them. (Khayratul Hisan pg 61)

3. Imam Abu Yusuf رحمة ﷲ علیه reports that Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه once asked him a question and when he gave he reply, Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه asked him where he had derived the answer. “From a Hadith that you had narrated to me,” Imam Abu Yusuf رحمة ﷲ علیه replied. To this, Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه remarked, “I had memorized this Hadith before your parents even got together but it is only today that I have understood it properly.” (Jaami Bayaanul Ilm pg 131)

Even more prominent that Imam A’mash رحمة ﷲ علیه was Imam Aamir Sha’bi رحمة ﷲ علیه who was a Tabi’ee who had met five hundred Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم. He said, “We (the Muhadditheen) are not Fuqaha. We merely listen to the Ahadith and relate them to the Fuqaha.” (Tadhkiratul Huffadh)

Such was the reverence that the Muhadditheen had for the Fuqaha that they admitted their virtue without pretence and referred to them when the need arose. However, as for our “people of Hadith” (Ghair Muqallideen) who have no insight and can read only the translations of Mishkatul Masabih, Muwatta and other books, they accuse the Fuqaha of acting against the Qur’an and the Sunnah and regard themselves as more learned and qualified that the Fuqaha.

Even the leaders of the Ghair Muqallideen admit to their prejudice and ignorance of their people. Their Qadhi Abdul Wahhab Khanpuri writes in his book At-Tawhid wa al-Sunnah fi Raddi Ahlil Ilhaad wal Bid’ah, “As for the Ahl e Hadith people who perpetrate acts of Bid’ah, who oppose the pious predecessors and who are really ignorant of what Rasulullah ﷺ brought, they are fast becoming the unpaid successors and heirs of the Shi’as and Rawafidh. Just as the Shi’as, Mulaahidah and Zanaadiqah became doorsteps and accessories for the Munafiqeen, the same is becoming of these people (the Ghair Muqallideen).” (Taqleed A’immah pg 18)

The famous Ahl e Hadith Mawlana Waheeduz Zaman writes, “While the Ahl e Hadith declare that it is Haram to follow Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه and Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه, they blindly follow Ibn Taymiyyah رحمة ﷲ علیه, Ibn Qayyim رحمة ﷲ علیه, Shawkani رحمة ﷲ علیه and Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan.” (Asraarul Lugha pg 24)

The Status and Proof of Taqleed, Taqleed of Specific People and Answers to Objections against Taqleed

The central claim of Islam is that only Allah must be obeyed. In fact, it is Wajib to follow Rasulullah ﷺ because of his words and deeds were a rendering of Allah’s commands. Rasulullah ﷺ made clear what was forbidden and not forbidden and we obey him because he conveyed the message of Allah. This essentially means that obeying Rasulullah ﷺ is really obeying Allah. Allah declares in the Qur’an, “Whoever obeys the Rasul (ﷺ) obeys Allah.”

Therefore Muslims follow only Allah and His Rasul ﷺ and whoever claims that he should be followed independently of Allah and Rasulullah ﷺ, then such a person will be deemed despicable and worthy of condemnation. The two guides to follow are therefore the Qur’an and the Ahadith.

There are certain laws in the Qur’an and the Ahadith that can clearly be established from the verses of the Qur’an and authentic Ahadith. These are called Mansoos laws. Then there are others that are not very clear or are very brief. There are also Ahadith and verses of the Qur’an that are ambiguous, some that are Muhkam and others that are Mutashabih. There are also those that are Mushtarak and those that are Mu’awwal. Furthermore, there are also those that seem to contradict other verses or Ahadith.

An example is a verse of the Qur’an that states that a divorce should remain in Iddah for three ‘Quru’. Now because the word Quru means menstruation as well as the state of purity, some confusion may arise about whether a divorcee should wait in Iddah for three periods of menstruation to pass or for three periods of purity to pass.

Another example is a Hadith that states, “When a person has an Imam then the Qiraa’ah of his Imam is his Qiraa’ah as well.” There is also another Hadith that states, “The Imam has been appointed to be followed, so say the Takbir when he says it and remain silent when he does.” (Muslim Vol.1 pg 174)

Now contrary to these Ahadith is a Hadith that states, “There is no Salah for the one who does not recite the opening of the Qur’an (Surah Fatihah).” (Bukhari Vol.1 pg 104)

Like these, there are many Ahadith that appear to contradict each other.

There are also countless rulings that are not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an and the Ahadith and require deep thought and analysis. To arrive at a conclusion in such matters, one may resort to two avenues. One may either base the finding purely on one’s personal judgment or, alternatively, one may search for a statement that the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم, Tabi’een or those after them made on the same issue. By virtue of them being closer to the period of Rasulullah ﷺ, such people have been lauded in a Hadith in which Rasulullah ﷺ said, “The best of periods is my period, followed by those after them and then those after them.” They were therefore more knowledgeable, more spiritually pure and had a deeper insight into the Deen than us.

The matter is simple to understand in the context of our worldly activities. When faced with any health issue, people refer to medical specialists, when faced with a legal issue, people consult lawyers and when faced with a construction issue, they refer to an engineer. Just as people refer to specialists when faced with a relevant issue in worldly matters, so too do they need to refer to and rely on the statements of the Mujtahideen when the issue is a Deeni one. This is what referred to as Taqleed.

The person practicing Taqleed understands that by following the Imam, he is actually following Allah and Rasulullah ﷺ. The Imam is merely a link in the connection to the Qur’an and Sunnah. The example is simple. Just as worshippers follow and Imam in Salah as they hear him call out the Takbirs, when there are too many worshippers, a Mukabbir is appointed to transmit the Takbirs further for the people at the back to hear. The Mukabbir is however still following the Imam and is not doing anything out of his own accord. At the same time, the people at the back known that they are following the Imam and not the Mukabbir. The Mukabbir himself also understands that he is not the Imam and is part of the congregation like the others. Similarly, the Imam of jurisprudence also understands that he is merely a link and that he is following the Qur’an and Sunnah just like everyone else.

The gist of it all is that when one is not relying on the Imam to interpret the intricacies of the Deen, he resorts to following his own whims and passions. This is because such a person does not know which verses or Ahadith abrogated which others and also which rulings are preferred to which others. At the end, he will be doing only what his fancies dictate. At this point, Shaitan seizes control over a person’s heart and permeates his body. The Qur’an depicts such a person in the worst manner, when it says, “But he clung to the ground (like material gains of this world) and followed his passions. His example is like that of a dog.” (Surah A’raaf verse 176)

Allah also says, “Have you seen the one who has taken his whims as a Ilaah (who follows the dictates of his desires); whom Allah has allowed to stray despite (possessing) knowledge (of the truth); whose (spiritual) ears and heart Allah has sealed and on whose (spiritual) eyes Allah has cast a veil.” (Surah Jaathiya verse 23)

Yet another verse states: “can the one who is upon a clear proof from his Rabb be like the one whose evil acts have been beautified for him and who follows his whims?” (Surah Muhammad)

There can be no doubt about the fact that the first is better than the latter.

Following the dictates of one’s passion is so bad that even Rasulullah ﷺ was cautioned about the Qur’an. Allah said, “Do not obey him whose heart we have made heedless of Our remembrance, who pursues his passions and whose (every) affair entails transgressing (the laws of Allah).” (Surah Kahaf verse 28)

Allah also says, “Should you not follow their wishes after knowledge (revelation) has come to you, then surely you would be among the unjust ones.” (Surah Baqarah verse 145)

Another verse states, “And do not follow their wishes, leaving aside the truth that has come to you.” (Surah Ma’idah verse 48)

Yet another verse says, “And O Muhammad you should judge between them by that which Allah has revealed to you and do not follow their whims, Beware of them lest they should divert you (be careful that they do not turn you away) from some part of what Allah has revealed to you.” (Surah Ma’idah verse 49)

Allah says, “Then (after all these nations had passed on) We placed you (O Rasulullah ﷺ) on a special way (the Shari’ah of Islam) so follow it (by practicing and propagating it) and do not follow the whims of those who have no knowledge.” (Surah Jaathiya verse 18)

Although addressed to Rasulullah ﷺ, the Qur’an is cautioning all of the Ummah against following the dictates of their Nafs when He says, “And do not follow carnal passions which will mislead you from Allah’s path.” (Surah Saad verse 26)

In another verse, Allah says those who do not follow Rasulullah ﷺ are actually following their whims and are the most deviated people. Allah also says, “Who can be more unjust (misguided) than the one who follows his whims without any guidance from Allah?” (Surah Qasas verse 50)

While the Ghair Muqallideen follow their Nafs, by the grace of Allah, we who follow the Imams are safely following the Qur’an and the Sunnah. While we refer to the statements and deeds of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم and pious predecessors when faced with a unique situation, the Ghair Muqallideen decide on the grounds of their personal fancies because they have no knowledge of Ijtihad, of the abrogated laws and other details of jurisprudence.

Rasulullah ﷺ said, “None of you can have true Iman until his desires are subservient of what I have taught.” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 22)

Rasulullah ﷺ also said, “There shall come a time when there will be people in whose bodies desires and passions will flow just as no vein or sinew of a person is left unaffected when a person is bit by a rabid dog.” (Ibid pg 30)

Two factors come to the fore when analyzing the above Hadith. The first is that the rabies germ penetrates every area of the person’s body leading to his eventual death. Secondly, if this diseased person has to bite a healthy person, the healthy person will also become ill. Such is the condition of a person who follows the dictates of his Nafs. While he is a danger to himself, he also poses a threat to those in his company.

Desires and carnal passions are the walls surrounding Jahannam and whoever indulges in them is actually heading for Jahannam. It is for this that Rasulullah ﷺ said, “Jannah is surrounded by hardship and Jahannam is surrounded by carnal passions.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Abdullah bin Mas’ud رضي الله عنه once said to the people, “Today you people are in a time when desires are subservient to knowledge (of Deen) whereas a time shall come when knowledge will be subservient to desires.” (Ihyaa Vol.1 pg 93)

The famous Shaykh Abu ‘Umar Zujaji رحمة اللہ علیه (student of Junaid Baghdadi رحمة ﷲ علیه) said, “People during the period of Ignorance followed that which their minds and dispositions approved of. Rasulullah ﷺ then came and referred them to the Shari’ah and obedience. The sound mind is therefore that mind which approves of that which the Shari’ah approves of and which disapproves of that which the Shari’ah disapproves of.” (I'tisaam Vol.1 pg 67)
 
Imam Shatbi رحمة ﷲ علیه said, “The Shari’ah is there to remove people from the dictates of their whims.” (Ibid)

Abdul Qadir Jilani رحمة ﷲ علیه said, “Shirk does not entail only worshipping idols, but it is also when you follow the dictates of your Nafs.” This, he mentioned while explaining the verse: “Have you seen the one who has taken his whims as a Ilaah (who follows the dictates of his desires).”

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه wrote, “Remember that is it the natural inclination of the Nafs to follow its carnal passions and will always do this unless the light of Iman enters it.” (Hujjatullaahil Baalighah Vol.2 pg306)

Dhun Noon Misri رحمة ﷲ علیه said that people will fall prey to corruption for the following six reasons:

1. Weakness of intention with regards to the acts of Akhirah
2. When their bodies become an instrument for fulfilling their desires
3. When long hopes overcome them despite their short lives
4. When they prefer to please the creation rather than the Creator
5. When they follow the dictates of their Nafs rather than the Sunnah of their Nabi ﷺ
6. When they make the errors of their predecessors a proof for their errant ways and forsake the virtuous deeds of these predecessors (I’tisaam Vol.1 pg 64-65)

In short, it must be emphasised that following the dictates of the Nafs has been condemned by the Qur’an, the Ahadith and the ‘Ulema. The best course for people’s safety is to follow the rightly guided Imams and to rely on their guidelines. Following any of the four Imams is a haven of safety for any Muslim.

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه writes, “One ought to know that there is immense benefit in following the four Mathahib and tremendous harm in turning away from them.” (Uqdul Jayyid pg 31)

In the same book, he writes further, “The second reason for following a Mathhab is that Rasulullah ﷺ said, “Follow the broader consensus of people.” Since there are no Mathahib on the truth besides the four Mathahib, following them will be the broader consensus of people and failing to follow them will be to leave the broader consensus of people, which will go against the instruction of Rasulullah ﷺ.” (Uqdul Jayyid pg 33)

Therefore, if no one wishes to remain safe from the curses associated with following ones desires, one should follow one of the four Mathahib specially in these times when tribulations are so great and about which Rasulullah ﷺ said, “Then (after the best periods) lying will be more rife.”

Sound thinking will tell one that Taqleed is really natural and is attached to people like their shadows. Even our Ghair Muqallideen brothers are not exempt from this because their children in their homes follow and imitate what their elders do. Their womenfolk are not Muhadditheen and also have to ask their men to find out what they need to be doing. Do they regard this form of following also to be Shirk and Bid’ah? In fact, the various trades and professions of this world also require Taqleed. If a person merely studies medicine without training under anyone and then opens a surgery, it will be only a madman who would consult him.

Now the adage is famous that says, “While a fake doctor is a threat to the health, a fake ‘Alim is a threat to the Iman.” Since people feel the need for Taqleed in worldly matters, it is even more necessary for it to be a requirement when Deeni matters are concerned. Here we have a few people who study a bit of the translations of the classical works and then think they are experts in the field of Qur’an and Ahadith. They will go a step further and criticise the Mujtahideen and declare Taqleed to be Shirk and Bid’ah, while regarding their following of their Nafs as Tawhid.

Taqleed as proven from the Qur’an and Ahadith

Let alone the permissibility of Taqleed, The Qur’an and Ahadith actually emphasize that it is Wajib. Here follow a few verses of the Qur’an:

1.  “Ask those who know if you do not know.”
2. “Those are the ones whom Allah has guided, follow in their guidance.” While this verse commands following the previous Anbiya, another verse states, “Follow the creed of Ibrahim who was on the straight path and adverse to all wrong ways.”
3. “O you with Iman! Obey Allah, Obey the Rasul and obey those with command amongst you.”
4. “Had they referred it to the Rasul and to those in command amongst them, then surely those with insight would have been able to verify the matter.”
5. “Why does a small group from every large party not proceed to attain a deep understanding of Deen so that they may warn their people (who had been engaged in Jihad) when they return to them so they may beware (of sin)?” (Surah Tawbah verse 122)
6. “From them we made leaders who guided under Our command when they exercised Sabr and were convinced about (the truth of) Our Ayaat.” (Surah Sajdah verse 24)
7. “Follow the path of the one who turns towards me.”
8. “O you who have Iman! Fear Allah and be with those who are true.”

Here follows a few Ahadith on the subject:

1. Hudhaifah رضي الله عنه reports that Rasulullah ﷺ said, “I do not know for how much longer I shall be with you, so (after I die), follow the two after me, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 560)
2. Rasulullah ﷺ said, “You must hold fast to my way of life and the ways of life of the righteous and rightly guided Khulafa. . .” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 30)
3. Rasulullah ﷺ said, “My Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم are like the guiding lights and whichever of them you follow, you shall be rightly guided.” (Mishkat Masabih pg 554)
4. Mu’adh Bin Jabal رضي الله عنه reports that when Rasulullah ﷺ sent him to Yemen. Rasulullah ﷺ asked, “How will you pass judgment when a case comes before you?” Mu’adh رضي الله عنه replied, “I shall pass judgment according to the Book of Allah.” Rasulullah ﷺ asked, “And if you do not find the ruling in the Book of Allah?” Mu’adh رضي الله عنه replied, “I shall pass judgment according to the Sunnah of Rasulullah ﷺ.” Rasulullah ﷺ asked him, “And if you do not find the ruling in the Sunnah of Rasulullah ﷺ?” Mu’adh رضي الله عنه replied, “I shall then apply my mind without making compromises.” Rasulullah ﷺ then placed his hand on Mu’adh’s رضي الله عنه chest and said, “All praise belongs to Allah who has inspired the messenger of the Messenger of Allah with that which pleases Him.” (Mishkatul Masabih pg 324 and Abu Dawood Vol.1 pg 149)

The following becomes evident from this narration of Mu’adh Bin Jabal رضي الله عنه:

a. There are many rulings that are not apparent in the Qur’an and the Ahadith.
b. Applying one’s mind to those rulings that are not clearly stated in the Qur’an and Ahadith is commendable and pleases Allah and Rasulullah ﷺ.
c. Applying one’s mind to a question of Deen is a bounty from Allah that Rasulullah ﷺ praised Allah for. The fact that Rasulullah ﷺ placed his hand on the chest of Mu’adh Bin Jabal رضي الله عنه shows that the blessings of Rasulullah ﷺ are with the Faqih and Mujtahid.
d. Rasulullah ﷺ had sent Mu’adh Bin Jabal رضي الله عنه to Yemen to be the judge there and knew that the people of Yemen Would refer their matters to him and would be following what he told them. They would therefore be making Taqleed of him. Close inspection of the above Hadith will reveal the reality and proof for Taqleed

5. Rasulullah ﷺ also said, “The ‘Ulema are the heirs of the Anbiya علیھم السلام.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi as quoted in Mishkatul Masabih pg 34)
Therefore just as it is Fardh (obligatory) to follow the Anbiya علیھم السلام, so too is it to follow the ‘Ulema. The legacy of the Anbiya علیھم السلام is their knowledge and since the ‘Ulema also have this knowledge of the Shari’ah, it is necessary to follow them as well.

6. Rasulullah ﷺ also said, “It was their Anbiya علیھم السلام who led and ruled over the Bani Israel. Each time a Nabi السلام علیه passed away another succeeded him. Remember that there shall be no Nabi after me, but there shall be Khulafa and there shall be many of them (follow them as you had been following me).” (Ma’ariful Qur’an Vol.1 pg 185)

The above Ahadith and verses of the Qur’an proves the importance of Taqleed. Taqleed is of two types. The first type is not to follow any particular Imam, but to choose to follow one Imam in certain matters, and another in other matters. This is called Taqleed Mutlaq. The form of Taqleed is to follow a specific Imam in all matters. This is called Taqleed Shakhsi. Both types of Taqleed were common during time of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم and the Tabi’een. Those Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم who were not Fuqaha followed the ruling of those who were regarded to be Fuqaha. Whenever someone asked a ruling from the Fuqaha, they replied sometimes with proof and sometimes without, and in all cases, the questioner practiced what he was told. Never did the questioner ever ask the proof if it was not provided.

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة ﷲ علیه says that the custom from the time of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم up to the time of the four Imams was to follow a reliable Faqih and no one questioned this custom. Had it been something questionable, the great Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم and Tabi’een of the time would have certainly questioned it. Taqleed Shakhsi was also commonly practiced because we see that the people of Makkah always referred to Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه when there arose a difference in any ruling and they followed his ruling in the matter. Similarly, the people of Madinah referred to Zaid bin Thabit رضي الله عنه and the people of Kufa referred to Abdullah bin Mas’ud رضي الله عنه.

1.  When people once asked Abu Musa al-Ash’ari رضي الله عنه about something, he gave them a reply that turned out to be contrary to that which Abdullah bin Mas’ud رضي الله عنه gave. When Abu Musa al-Ash’ari رضي الله عنه heard about this contradiction, he told the people, “Do not ask these rulings from me as long as that man of deep knowledge (Abdullah bin Mas’ud رضي الله عنه) is with you.” (Bukhari and Muslim in Mishkatul Masabih pg 264)

2. A narration from Ikramah رحمة ﷲ علیه in Bukhari states that when some people of Madinah asked Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه about the ruling concerning a woman who started to menstruate after performing her Fardh Tawaaf (could she return home without performing the Tawaaf Widaa?). When Abdullah bin Mas’ud رضي الله عنه ruled that she may return home, they said, “We cannot accept your verdict and discard the verdict of Zaid bin Thabit رضي الله عنه. This narration makes it clear that they practiced Taqleed Shakhsi in following Zaid bin Thabit رضي الله عنه. When he heard this, Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه neither reprimanded them, not said that what they were doing was Shirk or Bid’ah. This he would have done if such a form of Taqleed was not permissible.

3. Although Abdullah bin Abbas رضي الله عنه was himself a Mujtahid, he always maintained that it was not necessary to follow the verdict of anyone else as long as ‘Ali رضي الله عنه was alive. (Kalimatul Fasl Pg 19)

4. It is mentioned that as long as Saalim bin Abdullah رحمة اللہ علیه lived, Imam Naafi رحمة ﷲ علیه never issued Fatawa. (Tadhkiratul huffaadh Vol. 1 pg 98)
This makes it apparent that during the time of Imam Naafi رحمة اللہ علیه people followed only Saalim رحمة ﷲ علیه.

5. The previously quoted narration of Mu’adh bin Jabal رضي الله عنه being sent to Yemen proves both Ijtihad as well as Taqleed Shakhsi because by allowing Mu’adh bin Jabal رضي الله عنه to apply his mind to matters, Rasulullah ﷺ was making it compulsory for the people of Yemen to follow only Mu’adh bin Jabal رضي الله عنه since he was the only one sent to them as judge and religious instructor.

6. It is common knowledge that there were seven great Fuqaha who were followed during the period of the Tabi’een.

All the above clearly illustrates that both forms of Taqleed were well practiced during the time of the Sahabah رضی ﷲ عنھم and the Tabi’een. It must be remembered that these were the best times according to Rasulullah ﷺ. It was time when people were overcome with Taqwa and religiousness and because people always took the more cautions of any two opinions they  comfortably practiced Taqleed Mutlaq as well as Taqleed Shakhsi. However as the time moves away from the blessed period of Rasulullah ﷺ, piety and scrupulousness deteriorated and people started to become overwhelmed with worldly matters, the Ulema whose fingers were always in the pulse of the Ummah restricted Taqleed to Taqleed Shakhsi.

The Ulema all started to support this move and eventually the Ummah stood unanimously upon this because without such Taqleed, the laws of the Shari’ah would be a toy in the hands of every person and would be manipulated to conform to their desires.

In one of his works, Shah Waliullah رحمة ﷲ علیه says, “It was during the second century of Islam that following a particular Mujtahid became common and there was scarcely anyone who did not do not so. This was compulsory.” (Insaaf Pg 59)

Hakimul Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi رحمة ﷲ علیه writes that it is really permissible to follow various people and ask something from each of them to follow. In fact, the pious predecessors did ask certain things from Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه and other rulings from Imam Awza’ee رحمة ﷲ علیه and others. Today’s people now wish to also do the same. While this is in itself permissible, it is forbidden because of another factor. However before understanding this, first understand the following introduction. What needs to be understood is that the overwhelming and prevailing condition of people should be noted. The distinct difference between the people of that period and today’s time is that the people of those times were overwhelmed by piety and religiousness. Therefore, if they asked several Mujtahideen, it was really coincidental or because they wished to follow the most cautious of opinions. Now if the same state of religiousness prevailed today. It would not be necessary to restrict Taqleed to the following of only one person. But this is not the case today and how would such a state remain until today? Rasulullah ﷺ explicitly mentioned that after the best of times, lying and dishonesty would become widespread and the condition of people would be much worse.

Such is the situation today when people worship their desires and every person includes his motives in his opinions. Allamah Shaami رحمة ﷲ علیه reports an incident of a Faqih who wished to marry the daughter of a certain Muhaddith. The Muhaddith however stipulated that he would allow the marriage only if the Faqih conformed to the practices of ‘Raf’ul Yadain’ and ‘Ameen bil Jahar’. The Faqih accepted and the couple was married. When the incident was mentioned to a saint of the time, he lowered his head and after a while he said, “I fear for his Iman because he compromised what he was doing as Sunnah for worldly gain.”

If people are allowed to practice Taqleed Mutlaq, they would do so for their own ends. For example, if a person with Wudhu started to bleed. He would maintain that his Wudhu is not broken in accordance with the view of Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه. If he later happened to touch a woman he would then say that his Wudhu is still not broken because Wudhu does not break in this way according to Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه.
In such a situation, he neither has Wudhu according to Imam Shafi’i رحمة ﷲ علیه as well as according to Imam Abu Hanifah رحمة ﷲ علیه, even though he will be adamant that his Wudhu intact. People will therefore search for a ruling that appeases their whims and reject whatever does not. Deen will therefore be non-existent and all that will remain will be whimsical fancies.

Therefore, although Taqleed Shakhsi was not necessary during the best of times, it is necessary nowadays because of the differences of the people. Although it will not be said that Taqleed Shakhsi is Wajib or Fardh (obligatory), it must be noted that it secures the welfare of a person’s Deen and without it, his Deen will be destroyed. Therefore, together with such Taqleed securing safety of one’s Iman, it also makes life much more easier.” (Ashraful Jawab Vol. 2 pg 89-96)

Even Allamah Ibn Taymiyyah رحمة ﷲ علیه stressed the importance of Taqleed Shakhsi when he wrote, “According to their whims, these people sometimes follow an Imam who permits a marriage and then another Imam who disallows it. Such a practice is not at all permissible.” (Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah Vol. 2 pg 240)

The Ghair Muqallideen professes to follow Shaykh Abdul Wahhab Najdi, but they are really stepping ahead of him because even he professes to follow an Imam. He writes, “By the grace of Allah, we follow our pious predecessors and are not perpetrators of Bid’ah, we follow the Mathhab of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal رحمة ﷲ علیه.” (Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab by Allamah Ahmad Abdul Ghafoor, published in Beirut)

In another book, he writes, “I praise Allah for being a follower of the pious predecessors and for not being a perpetuator of Bid’ah. My beliefs and Deen are those that conform with the Deen of Allah. They are those of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah and the four Imams and their followers” (Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab by Allamah Ahmad Abdul Ghafoor, published in Beirut pg 174-176)

Explaining the stance of his father and himself, Shaykh Abdullah who was the son of Shaykh Abdul Wahhab Najdi writes, “We follow the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah in the principles of Deen, we follow the ways of the pious predecessors and follow Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal رحمة ﷲ علیه in the derivatives of Deen. We also do not condemn any person following any of the other three Imams.” (Alhadiyyatus Suniyyah pg 38)

The above clearly spells out the stance of both Shaykh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab and Allamah Ibn Taymiyyah رحمة ﷲ علیه, both of whom are revered by our Ghair Muqallideen brothers. They both regarded Taqleed to be necessary and did not at all refer to it as Shirk or a Bid’ah. However, our Ghair Muqallideen brothers make no secrets of their stance when they say in their book Fiqh Muhammadi, “Millions of thanks to Allah for saving us from the Shirk of following a Mathhab and being either Hanafis, Shafi’is, Malikis or Hanbalis. So many people are trapped in this whereas opposing the commands of Allah and his Rasul ﷺ is Shirk according to a verse stating that people take their priests and religious leaders as gods apart from Allah. The Hadith of Adi bin Hatim رضي الله عنه also professes the same.” (pg 4)

The verse referred to by the author of the above book deduces that Taqleed is Shirk by virtues of the quoted verse of the Qur’an. The verse however refers to Jews and Christians who would listen to their priests and Rabbis when these men made lawful that which their religions clearly forbade and which they always knew was unlawful. Adi bin Hatim رضي الله عنه then asked Rasulullah ﷺ what the Qur’an meant by saying that the Jews and Christians took their religious leaders as gods whereas they never worshipped them. Rasulullah ﷺ explained, “Although they never worshipped them, they regarded something as lawful if these leaders legalized them as regarded things as unlawful if they outlawed them.” (Tirmidhi)

The clear difference between Taqleed and the ways of the Jews and the Christians is that Muslims do not regard the Imams and the law-makers of the Shari’ah as the Jews and Christians did, but as conveys of the commands of Allah, as has been already explained. The verse of the Qur’an therefore has no bearing on Taqleed as we define it.

Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlawi رحمة اللہ علیه sums it up as follows, “While the original command is from Allah, the ruling of something being Halal or Haram is attributed to Rasulullah ﷺ because his words are a sure indication of the command. They are further attributed to the Mujtahideen of the Ummah because they are reporting from Rasulullah ﷺ or deriving the rulings from what he said.” (Hujjatullahil Balighah Vol.1 pg 127)


(Fatawa Raheemiyyah Vol.1 pg 407-442)



Related Read: The Truth About Taqleed

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