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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Taqlid - Is It Permissible in Islam (Updated Once) (To be Updated Soon)

Nowadays, many people have started to abandon taqlid. However, the majority of the Muslim ummah has not abandoned taqlid. This post discusses the following topics about Taqlid so that it becomes easier for Muslims to come to the right conclusion, i.e. the truth.
1. A Brief Description of Taqlid
2. Arguments to Prove the Invalidity of Taqlid
3. Arguments to Prove the Validity of Taqlid
4. Conclusion

A Brief Description of Taqlid
Literal: Taqlid is the verbal noun derived from the Arabic root q-l-d, which means to place, gird, or adorn with a necklace.
Technical: The acceptance of another’s statement without demanding proof or evidence, on the belief that the statement is being made in accordance with fact and proof.
1. A small child accepting all the teachings of his parents and teachers to learn morals and etiquettes.
2. An army obeying the commander unconditionally.
3. While learning a language, taking someone else’s words to find out the meanings of words.
Arguments to Prove the Invalidity of Taqlid
Many people have abandoned taqlid on the basis that mistakes from the four major schools of thought have been found out and corrected. Questions such as “Are you a Muslim or a Hanafi?” etc. have been asked to prove the invalidity of taqlid. They claim that following one specific school of thought in all the teachings is dividing the ummah into sects. Furthermore, these people quote the following hadith of the Prophet (S).
In authentic hadith in Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Al-Hakim, on the authority of Muaawiyyah bin Abi Sufyaan,
the Prophet (SAWS) said: “My Ummah will split into 73 sects, all of whom will be in the Hell Fire except one (the Saved Sect, known in Arabic as the Firqatun-Naajeyah).” Upon being asked which that Saved Sect was, he (SAWS) replied, “The one that I and my companions are on.” Therefore, if one’s Aqeedah is in contradiction to the Aqeedah.
Another example given by these people is that of a university student. Isaac Newton was a very great scientist. However, even a university graduate, nowadays, knows the mistakes of Newton and can take better decisions in that specific field. Even after this, Newton remains a great scientist due to the achievements he made in the restricted resources he had. Similarly, the four imams were great muhaditheen, but today’s scholars have found out their mistakes and thus have corrected them. The limited resources at that time was that the ahadith had not been compiled by that time.
Muslims with the view of abandoning taqlid think that all Muslims should be following the view that can be proved by Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are the most authentic books on hadith in that they contain all sahih ahadith. Sahih Bukhari is given preference over Sahih Muslim as Imam Bukhari’s criterion for a sahih ahadith was stricter than that of Imam Muslim.
Arguments to Prove the Validity of Taqlid
Evidence from the Ahadith
Aswad ibn Yazid narrates:
Mu’adh came to us in Yemen as a teacher (or as a leader). We asked him concerning a person who had died leaving (as his heirs) a daughter and a sister. He decreed half the estate for the daughter and half for the sister.
(Sahih al-Bukhari 2:297)
This incident occurred during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (S). The following conclusions can be drawn from this hadith.
1. Taqlid was in practice during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (S). The questioner did not demand any proof. He accepted the ruling given by Mu’adh (R.A.) relying on his (Mu’adh’s (R.A.)) piety and righteousness.
2. The Prophet (S) did not criticize or raise any objection against the people who followed Mu’adh (R.A.).
3. This hadith provides proof for following one particular person (an expert) in the affairs of Islamic law.
Once Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) had just returned from a battle when he ordered the Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhum) to immediately proceed to the place of Banu Quraizah — a clan of Jews who lived on the outskirts of Madina Munawwarah. The purpose was to lay a siege upon them for having broken the pact that they had made with the Muslims. In order to impress the urgency of the matter upon the Sahaaba (R.A.), Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said to them: "None of you should perform your salah al-Asr except in Banu Quraizah." While the Sahaaba (R.A.) were still en-route, the time of Asr arrived. Some Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhum) felt that they should perform their Asr immediately. They regarded the instruction of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as actually being a command to proceed very swiftly to their destination. It did not imply that the Asr salah could not be performed en-route. They thus performed their salah there. Another group of Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhum.) viewed the instruction literally. They therefore continued and only performed their Asr salah after having reached Banu Quraizah. Later when Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was informed about this, he did not rebuke either group.
(Sahih Bukhaari)
The following conclusions can be drawn from this hadith.
1. There was a difference of opinion among the two groups of Sahaba.
2. The Prophet (S) did not criticize any of the two groups of Sahaba, therefore accepting both of the opinions.
Logical Explanations
The four schools of thought originated from the Tabieen, in specific, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafiee, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal. The Tabieen were the people who met the Sahaba of the Prophet (S).
For the hadith of the Prophet (S), the interpretation of the Sahaba is observed as they understood the commands of Prophet (S). In case of mistakes, the Prophet (S) would correct them. Therefore, these Tabieen could check from the Sahaba that what they were doing was correct or not.
Furthermore, the Tabieen did not have any problem of needing to check the authenticity of the hadith as they could hear it directly from the Sahaba. They could also observe the Sahaba and record their actions. The acceptance of the difference of opinion has been discussed in the above hadith.
Why don’t we follow the Ahadith in Bukhari and Muslim, and ignore the Imams?
1) If we should ignore the Imams and depend only upon Muslim and Bukhari, why did both these great Imams follow Imam Shafe’ee?
Imam Ibn Atheer has written that Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim were Shafe’ees
[Jamee’ul-usool, biographies of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, by Ibn Atheer].
T ajaddin as Subki, has mentioned Imam Bukhri’s name in the list of Scholars belonging to the Shahf’ee School. [Tabaka Al-Sah'fee by Imam Subkee].
Nawaab Siddeeq Hasan Khan has also mentioned Imam Bukhari in the list of Shafiee scholars. [Abjad-ul-Uloom By Nawaab Siddeeq Hasan Khan].
2) Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim did not gather all the authentic Ahadith in Bukhari and Muslim. Many authentic Ahadith have been left out.
Imam Bukhari said: I have left many authentic Ahadith out of Bukhari as the book would have been too large. [Muqadamah Fathul Bari, page 9 by Hafidhh Asqalani].
Hafidhh Ibn Kathir says that neither Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim gathered all the authentic Ahadith. Some of the left out narrations are present in Tirmizee, Ibn Majah, Nasa’i and, Abu-Dawood. Furthermore, Imam Bukhari himself said that he knew of more than two hundred thousand Ahadith that are Musnad. [Uloom-Ahadith and Tareekh Ibn Kathir, biography of Imam Bukhari].
3) Bukhari and Muslim are not easy books to follow as Hafidhh Asqalani wrote 17 volumes of commentary on Bukhari and Imam Ay’nee wrote 25 volumes on Bukhari. Imam Nawawi wrote a commentary on Muslim. Yet there were some hadith which these great scholars of Islam could not understand. So how can we encourage ordinary Muslims to pick up Muslim and Bukhari and start following them?
4) We should not follow only Bukhari and Muslim otherwise we would become blind followers of Muslim and Bukhari and ignore the hundreds of books of hadith which were written before Imam Muslim and Imam Bukhari were even born!
5) If it is essential to follow only Imam Bukhari or Muslim, then why did Imam Bukhari, himself not follow his own Ahadith narrations? For example:
(a) Hafidhh Asqalani and Imam Ibn Kathir write that Imam Bukhari prayed that Allah Almighty should take his life, during the period when he was being persecuted by people. (Tahdeeb Al Tahdeeb and Tareekh Ibn Khathir, by Hafidhh Asqalani and Hafidhh Ibn Kathir, Biography of Imam Bukhari).
When, Imam Bukhari also states a hadith that the Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant Him peace) said that a Muslim should never ask Allah to take his life [Bukhari, Al Marda]
(b) Imam Bukhari was known to complete the entire recitation of the Qur’an in one night during the month of Ramadan. This opposes the hadith narration’s which he collected himself that mentions that the Qur’an should be completed within 5 to 7 days. [Bukhari, “Fadaa’il Qur’an”].
Did not the four Imams say “If you find an authentic hadith which goes against what we say, accept the hadith and ignore us”?
It is correct that if an Imam says something, which opposes an authentic hadith, then we should reject his sayings and follow the hadith. But what exactly does an ‘authentic hadith’ mean? Is an authentic hadith that which is written in Bukhari or Muslim? Or is it a hadith, which fulfills the criterion of being an authentic hadith? Or is an authentic hadith that which has been called authentic by the scholars of Ahadith?
If we believe that authentic Ahadith are those only to be found in Bukhari and Muslim, then we would just be blind followers of Imams Bukhari and Muslim. If we say that authentic hadith are those which fulfil the requirements laid down by hadith principles, then we would just be blindly following those scholars who have written down these principles? Also, if we say that authentic Ahadith are those which were claimed to be authentic by Muhaditheen, we would simply be following them “blindly.”
It can be concluded, that if we took any of the above opinions we would still be following someone.
Hafidhh Ibn T aymiyyah writes that there has never been anyone from among the Imams who has deliberately opposed the Sunnah. When we find a statement from an Imam which goes against the Sunnah, the hadith in question does not fulfill the requirements of authentication of that Imam. Thus each Imam has their own sets of rules which determine if a hadith is authentic or weak so what may be an authentic hadith to one Imam may not be recognised as authentic by another [Rafu’l malaam, pages 15-16, by Hafidhh Ibn Taymiyyah].
An example can be given by looking at the Ahadith, which Abu Hanifah received from his teachers who were the Sahaba of the Prophet [May Allah bless him and grant Him peace] and their students (Tabi’een) (May Allah bless them and grant them peace). As these Ahadith reached Abu Hanifah through direct narration from the Sahaba and their students, no question can be raised as to their authenticity. But when these same hadith reached scholars of later generations the chains of narrators could contain some unreliability. If someone studies a hadith whose narrator is unreliable, and then says that a fatwa of Abu Hanifah’s, is based upon this hadith, is contrary to the sunnah, it would be unfair.
Secondly, whatever the four Imams have said was final. Throughout their lives, the Imams have changed their opinions as they received further information. Also after their deaths, their students would check their respective Imam’s work and modify their opinions to accommodate the new information. Their students, and so on also repeated this again. This structure is known as a school of fiqh (madhhab).
If a fatwa given by a certain school appears to contradict a narration in Bukhari or Muslim, it does not mean that it is against the Sunnah as they are following other authentic Ahadith, and therefore, not opposing the Sunnah.
The claim that “Imam Bukhari and Muslim have gathered all the authentic Hadith in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim!!!”
The scholars of Ahadith are in agreement that there are many authentic Ahadith that have been left out of Sahih Muslim and Bukhari. These can be found in other Ahadith books, for example, Ibn Habbaan, Ibn Khuzaimah, Musnad Ahmad, Abu Da’ood, Tirmidhee, and Nasaa’ee etc.
Hafidh Ibn Kathir writes that there are many authentic Ahadith that were left out of Sahih Muslim and Bukhari and can be found in other Hadith books like Tirmidhee, Abu Da’ood, An-Nasaa’ee.(Ikhtaisar-ul-Uloom ul Ahadith, page 21, by Hafidh Ibn Kathir)
Hafidh Ibn Salaah writes that many authentic Ahadith were left out of Sahih Muslim and Bukhari and that Imam Hakim has collected all the authentic Ahadith, which met the Hadith principles of Muslim and Bukhari, and put them in a book called “Mustadrak ‘alas-Saahihain”. It is written in four volumes and contains enormous amounts of authentic Ahadith. Imam Bukhari, himself, said that he knew 100,000 authentic Ahadith and 200,000 which were not authentic, but in the Sahih Bukhari there are only 4,000 Ahadith without repetition.(Uloom-ul-Ahadith, page 17, “Bukhari and Muslim”, by Hafidh ibn Salaah)
Hafidh Asqalani writes that there are 9682 narrations in sahih Bukhari, but each narration has been repeated many times. The total number of individual narrations in Bukhari is 2623.(Preface of Fath-ul-baari, by Hafidh Asqalani)
Even the name of Sahih Bukhari can tell us that there are lots of authentic Ahadith which have been left out of Sahih Bukhari. The full name of Sahih Bukhari is “Al Jamee’ ul Musnad-is-SaaHiH-il-Mukhtasari Min al murree Wa yaamayhee”. The meaning of this is “The short collection of the Sunnah of our Prophet [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace]”.(T ah’deeb-ut-ta’deeb by Hafidh Asqalani)
Imam Nawawee and Imam Dhahabi write that Imam Muslim compiled Sahih Muslim from the 300,000 Ahadith that he knew. The total number of Ahadith in Sahih Muslim is 12,000. If repetitions can be left out, the actual number would be 4,000.(Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Nawawee and T adhkarat-ul-Huffad by Imam Dhahabi)
From the references above we can understand that Imam Bukhari and Muslim knew a very large numbers of Ahadith by memory but in Sahih Muslim and Bukhari only approximately 10% of these Ahadith has been compiled. Hence, it can clearly be seen that there are large numbers of authentic Ahadith present, which have been left out of Sahih Muslim and Bukhari. These Ahadith can be found in other Ahadith books.
Why only Four Schools of Thought?
Even though many schools of thought have started emerging, most people do not follow them mainly because they are incomplete, i.e. they do not cover all aspects of life. In contrast, the four schools of thought, Hanafi, Shafiee, Maliki and Hanbali, cover almost all aspects of life. Therefore, the majority of Muslims follow these. However, it should be noted that it is permissible to follow a new school of thought as long as Taqlid is being followed, i.e. only the rulings of one reliable scholar is practiced in all aspects of life.
Also, according to the ahadith of the Prophet (S), he (S) mentioned a period known as Khair ul Qurun meaning Noblest Ages and these are mentioned as the people of the first three centuries, i.e. the Sahaba, the Tabieen and the Taba Tabieen. Therefore, it is better to follow people of the Khair ul Qurun than to follow people of today. However, as mentioned above there is no harm in following a new school of thought as long as taqlid is being practiced.
Why not pick and choose?
As mentioned above the scholars can formulate a new school of thought if they are knowledgeable enough but most of them do not as they trust the four schools of thought that have been formulated around 1200 years ago. However, it is not permissible for a Muslim who does not have enough knowledge to pick and choose. The reason for this is that this Muslim cannot base his choice for anything except his nafs, i.e. what he likes as he does not know which one has abrogated another and which one is sahih and which one is fabricated etc.
Counter Argument of the Example of the University Student
This example would hold true if the object under observation can be observed directly by everyone. In this case, the object under observation can be taken to be the Prophet (S) and the Sahaba. However, the observations made by Isaac Newton can even be observed today at this moment. However, the observations made by the Tabieen cannot be observed again as the Sahaba have died.
Dividing Muslims into Four Sects
Following the four schools of thought is not regarded as following four different sects firstly because followers of a specific school of thought actually think that the followers of the other schools of thought are also following the Sunnah and secondly because in fact, they are following the same principle, i.e. Taqlid.
Counter Argument for following the most authentic ahadith, i.e. Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim
Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are considered as the most authentic collection of ahadith as they do not contain any weak or fabricated ahadith. Therefore, some people have adopted this view that it is better to follow the most authentic ahadith. This is not considered by most scholars as
1. Ahadith abrogate other ahadith.
2. These are the most authentic compilation but other very authentic ahadith may be present in another compilation.
3. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim themselves admitted that there are many ahadith which are more authentic than the ones they have collected but they have not been able to get them.
The only conclusion that can be made by this is that Taqlid is permissible in Islam to such an extent that every Muslim should practice Taqlid.
Inshallah, I will post some practices of different schools of thought with proofs which will demonstrate what this article is trying to imply. However, my main focus will be on the Hanafi school of thought as this school of thought has the highest number of followers and is the most attacked due to its unique practices.
The post about the Hanafi method of Salah along with proofs have been published at

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