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Non-Mazhabism: Regarding Following a Mazhab

Non-Mazhabism: Regarding Following a Mazhab
by Hajj Gibril GF Haddad

The fitna of La-Madhhabiyya [Not following an Islamic School] is among the modern heresies in Islam. There are many proofs against it. It is a superficial problem. One wonders why it is still around. Surely it survives only by the Divine will and is a blessing in disguise. It is a chance for learning what exactly is orthodoxy in Islam and knowing where one stands with respect to it. La-Madhhabiyya creepage is also a good indicator of the progress of anti-traditional trends inside Islam, secularism, and other stray philosophies, all of them with Muslim faces. The Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] predicted this. He [peace be upon him] also said: "The last of this Umma will curse and disparage the first."

Following are a few basic points and some clarifying evidence on the issue. I have organized these replies around seven misconceptions related to La-Madhhabiyya.

1. The misconception that << Consultation and following of the scholars as is done for priests and rabbis, is nowhere made obligatory in this religion.>>

Learning is without doubt a categorical individual obligation (fard `ayn) in Islam. This learning is done from the People of learning since the beginning of this Deen. What was good for the best generations is good for us. Whatever is necessary toward it is also fard. Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir said in the Ghunya, "Teacher-and-Student will be the way until the Day of Resurrection."

The phrase "as is done for priests and rabbis" in this debate is a smokescreen designed to cloud the issue. It is used mostly dishonestly. Whoever preaches accuracy in explaining {ahl al-dhikr} should first practice it with the terms "priests and rabbis" and beware immensely of training the guns of such terms on the Ulema. The context of those terms in the hadith points to those interested in usurping Divine authority to mislead people and cause them to disobey Allah. This is inapplicable to the Ulema of Islam. Actually, to compare the Ulema and Imams of Islam to the Christian clergy and the Synagogue is kufr.

2. The misconception that << The obligation is to do one's best, and certainly one may consult anyone, but it is not an absolute obligation in religious affairs.>>

The reverse is true: One who is able MUST learn from the knowledgeable what the Religion requires one to learn and practice and there is NO excuse for failing to do so.

An elephant in a China shop may "do its best" also. An ignoramus fed and dressed with haram may "do his best" to supplicate Allah also. Trying to do one's best without bothering about pre-conditions is a pious wish. Allah Most High made a difference between those who know and those who do not, precisely so one is no longer excused to just "consult anyone."

There are those who argue for the irrelevancy today of {Ask the people of the remembrance if you do not know}. Apparently the angels who are in search of Ahl al-Dhikr in the earth were sent down in vain?; nor do they see from the heaven the houses of the Ahl al-Dhikr lit up with light?; nor did our Master `Ali ibn Abi Talib, when he said: "WE are the Ahl al-Dhikr," know what he was saying? (Tabari, Qurtubi) What about the Prophet MHMD who said: "The one who is ignorant is not permitted to remain mute and not ask when Allah has said: {Ask the people of Dhikr if you know not}. Each Believer must know whether his work follows guidance or not." Narrated from Jabir by Ibn Marduyah in his Tafsir.

Equally irrelevant to them would become a host of other commands, such as {Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they who are left behind may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so that they may beware}. They will probably equally dismiss {The knowledgeable and the ignorant are not equal} with the defeated claim that there are close to zero truly knowledgeable Muslims today. This is all a bankrupt argument. Allah does not give inapplicable commands nor does He strike irrelevant comparisons. The Ahl al-Dhikr are the Ahl al-Qur'an wal-Sunna. They are present until the Day of Judgment so no excuse is left. Nor does He accept a criterion of "doing one's best" that one's own conscience rejects.

3. The misconception that << In worldly affairs even the prophet was told to consult with the Muslims but not in religion.>>

This is a doubly false analogy. First, the Prophet MHMD does not need a Madhhab. Second, worldly affairs are irrelevant. What is relevant here is the unchangeable fact that (a) learning the Religion is obligatory and that (b) learning is obligatorily effected through the people of learning.

Hence the need to discern character and the Sahabi's golden rule of ISNAD spelled out for the Muslims in the manner of obtaining Religious knowledge: "Verily, this knowledge is our Religion, therefore let each of you carefully observe from whom he takes his Religion!" (From Abu Hurayra and Anas in al-Khatib's al-Jami` li-Akhlaq al-Rawi and al-Hakim's Mustadrak; from Ibn Sirin and Ibn `Awn in Muslim's Sahih and al-Khatib's al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih).

The proof of madhhabism is by definition a non-Prophetic paradigm because madhhab means road i.e. the intermediary that leads to knowledge and understanding of the Prophetic Message. Some examples:

`Ali (ra) said: "I am not a Prophet nor do I receive revelation but I put into practice the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Prophet MHMD as much as I can. Therefore, as long as I order you to obey Allah, it is incumbent upon you to obey me whether you like it or not!" Musnad Ahmad.

Ibn Mas`ud (ra) and Ibn `Umar (ra) said: "Whoever wishes to follow the Sunna, let him follow the Sunna of those that died - the Companions of Muhammad." Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jami` Bayan al-`Ilm. Abu Nu`aym, Hilya. Ibn Abi Zayd, al-Jami` fil-Sunan.

`Imran ibn Husayn (ra) said: "The Qur'an was revealed and the Messenger of Allah instituted the Sunan; so follow us [Companions] or, by Allah! if you do not, you shall go astray." Musnad Ahmad.

Ibrahim al-Nakha`i (ra) said: "If the Companions made ablution to the wrists I swear I would do the same, even as I read the verse of ablution as stating {to the elbows} (5:6)." Ibn Abi Zayd, al-Jami` fil-Sunan. This nass from the Salaf should be studied carefully and probably a whole book could be written explaining it.

Al-Hasan al-Basri (ra) said of the Companions: They were a people whom Allah (swt) chose for His Prophet's MHMD company. Therefore imitate their manners and their ways, for truly they were - by the Lord of the Ka'ba! - on the straight path." Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jami` Bayan al-`Ilm.

Muhammad ibn Sirin (ra), when asked about certain beverages, would say: "An Imam of right guidance forbade it - `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, Allah be well-pleased with him and grant him mercy!" Abu Nu`aym, Hilya.

4. The misconception that << Those that claim religion to be confusing to the ordinary Muslim and requiring "certified" scholars (like themselves) to sort out it for the rabble, are guilty of falsely accusing the religion and misleading the people.>>

First, The ordinary Muslim is a muqallid - one who imitates his imam in Religion - and Religion is not confusing to the ordinary Muqallid. Second, no-one should let such misconceived remarks pass unchallenged. They go against so many Qur'anic verses and hadiths that they might easily meet the criteria of kufr wal-`iyadhu billah. The best minds of the Salaf conceded defeat before the cruxes of jurisprudence and thanked Allah for having people like the Four Imams around. See on this my post titled "The Superiority of Fiqh Over Hadith." This objector probably knows full well that something does not even have to be confusing to require a qualified teacher. However, his problem is with authority.

The questions were asked recently:

<< How would you respond to those modern day writers who say there is no clergy or hierarchy in Islam? How would you differentiate the hierarchy in Islam with that in Catholicism?>>

The Prophet MHMD stated there is no rahbaniyya in Islam, meaning by rahbaniyya the monastic vows of perpetual celibacy, poverty, and solitariness. However, Islam promotes modesty and chastity (haya', `iffa), simple living (zuhd), and paced retreat from the world (i`tikaf, `uzla).

The statement that there is no hierarchy in Islam is false, Allah Most High in the Qur'an differentiated between selected Prophets and others, between the earlier believers and the later believers, between those whose belief holds complete sway over them and those who admix their faith with sins, between the Anbiya', the Siddiqin, the Shuhada' and the Salihin, between the Darajaat or levels that the Believers receive from their Lord, between those who possess hikma, fiqh, albab, absar, Iman etc. as opposed to those who possess merely Islam, between those whose hearts shake at His mention as opposed to the rest, etc. It is all about hierarchy even among the disbelievers, some being closer to belief than others. To say there is no hierarchy in Islam is as novel a concept as it is a novel wording.

As for the second question the difference is that (ecclesiastical) hierarchy in Catholicism is a man-made institution while hierarchy in Islam is decreed by Allah Most High: When Allah loves someone, He decrees it to Gibril who then announces it to the angels who then announce it in the heavens and the earth, and that person becomes beloved, their prayers answered, their presence beneficial to others etc. The Awliya' or saints come second only to the Prophets in this respect, as in the verses alluded to in the previous paragraph and as in the hadith al-`Ulama' warathat al-Anbiya'. The verse stresses their spiritual primacy while the hadith stresses their primacy in knowledge. There is also Islamic hierarchy in the socio-political institution of Ahl al-Hall wal-`Aqd, which probably disappeared with the end of the rightly-guided Caliphate. And Allah knows best.

5. The misconception that << Any one that says that the law of God needs an intermediary for understanding - if they become intermediaries they are following the example of the priests and rabbis.>>

Once more the People of knowledge whom Allah named next to Himself and the angels in His book are disparaged. This is very far from the ethics of the Salaf.

`Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz (ra) said: "The Messenger of Allah MHMD and those in authority after him instituted ways (sunan). To hold to these ways is to hold fast to the book of Allah and to achieve strength in order to establish the Religion of Allah. It is not for anyone to substitute nor modify nor probe any of those ways. Whoever is guided by them is well-guided." Hilya, Siyar.

Abu Hatim al-Razi narrated in his Manaqib al-Shafi`i from Harmala that Imam al-Shafi`i said: "The Khulafa' are five: Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, and `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz." Meaning, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs. In his Diwan, al-Shafi`i named them "leaders of their people, by whose guidance one obtains guidance." Was Imam al-Shafi`i following the examples of the pontiffs of the kuffar? Subhan Allah. Ibn `Umar reviled the Khawarij for applying to the Muslims the verses revealed about the kuffar.

Some excerpts from the book of Sheikhul Hadith Moulana Zakariyya (rahimahulLah) titled al-I’tidaal, thanks to Br. `Abd Lashay:

Imam Abdul Wahab Sha’rani (R) writes: A covenant was made with us (Muslims) on behalf of Rasulullah (Sallallahu-Alaihi-wasallam) that we respect the Ulama, the saintly and the elders, whether they themselves act according to their knowledge or not. And that we shall continue to discharge their necessary rights and entrust their personal matter to Allah Ta’ala. Whosoever fails to discharge the Ulama’s rights and fails to show them the necessary respect and honor is indeed guilty of sin towards Allah and His Rasul (Sallallahu-Alaihi-wasallam), for the Ulama are the successors of the Ambiya (AS), the heirs of Rasulullah (Sallallahu-Alaihi-wasallam), the bearers of the Shariah and they are His servants. When anyone insults them, the insults set forth a chain reaction which reaches Rasulullah (Sallallahu-Alaihi-wasallam). This is Kufr. Now think for yourself: The king appoints someone as his ambassador. The king will with attention listen to this ambassador and debar the insulter from his court. On the other hand, the king will make a favorite out of that man who showed respect and honor to his ambassador and who discharged the rights due to his emissary (al-I’tidaal of H.Sheikh)

Rasulullah (Sallallahu-Alaihi-wasallam) said: In a certain house of Bani Israel, there was a bitch that was about to give birth to puppies. A guest arrived at the house. The bitch decided that she would not bark at the guest that night (so as to cause him trouble). However from inside the womb of the bitch, the puppies began to bark. Then Allah Ta’ala revealed: This is the example of that Ummah which will come after you. The foolish ones of that Ummah will overcome and subdue its Ulama (Al-I’tidaal of H.Sheikh)

Maulana Abdul Hayy (R) writes in his "Fatawa": If the object of one who humiliates and causes pain to the Ulama is because of their knowledge of Deen, then the Fuqaha have passed a verdict of Kufr. against him. If however, he has any other object then too there is no doubt in that person being a Faasiq, sinful person, worthy of Allah’s anger and deserving of His punishment in this world and the Hereafter (Al-I’tidaal of H.Sheikh)

6. The misconception that << The necessity of following a "madhhab" was not known before the death of the prophet MHMD, and as such may not be considered a part of our religion.>>

This is another myth of anti-madhhabism compounded with a contrived rule.

Madhhab as "way" is synonymous with siraat and we pray seventy times a day for the siraat of the righteous in the Fatiha. Madhhab is also lexically synonymous with sunna. This is exactly the sense in which the Prophet MHMD ordered the Muslims to follow the Sunna of the rightly-guided Successors, and ordered them specifically to follow Abu Bakr and `Umar. He MHMD also ordered them at various times to follow Ibn Mas`ud, Mu`adh ibn Jabal, and `Ammar ibn Yasir. He extended this status of leadership-in-the-Religion to all the Companions: "My Companions are trust keepers for my Community." Muslim. He MHMD further extended it to the Tabi`in and the generation after them, i.e. to the Mujtahid Imams: "I recommend to you my Companions, then those that come after them, then those that come after them. Afterwards, falsehood will spread." Sunan and Sahihayn.

As for the claim that something "not known before the death of the prophet MHMD... may not be considered a part of our religion" this rule is simply not recognized in the principles and practice of Islam. Such a rule calls for people to disobey all seven of the hadiths cited above. What a curse must such a person bear, to be forced to violate his own rule every time he opens a Mus-haf!

7. The reductionist misconception that << The necessity is only of being a Muslim and following the commandments of God and His Messenger.>>

Is it permissible for a Muslim to "follow the commandments of God and His Messenger" in ignorance - or independently - of the practice of the Companions and Mujtahid Imams for those commandments? If one answers yes, one has nullified {Siraat al-ladheena an`amta `alayhim}. If one answers no, then he agrees that following authority is obligatory even in the understanding of such basic commands as {Establish Salat} and "Pray as you see me pray."

There is no disagreement between the seventy-three sects over "the necessity is only of being a Muslim and following the commandments of God and His Messenger" MHMD. Seventy-two of those sects are in the Fire. The Khawarij had plenty of similar words of truth spoken in the pursuit of misguidance. They misconstrued the Qur'an so as to part ways with the Jama`a. The wise should not be bitten from the same hole twice.