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When the blessed period of the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – had passed, the Muslim empire spread to all directions of the globe. When the Muslim army under the command of Hadrat Sayyiduna Usaamah bin Zaid – May Allah have mercy on him – left the blessed city of Madina shareef, very soon, countries like Iraq and Iran came under Islamic rule.
With the growing challenges faced by Muslim rulers came new demands. Bear in mind that this was an ever-changing community. Muslims were now appearing from different parts of the globe and with the different climate, Islam was faced with newer methods of being able to adjust. Also, remember that Islam is a religion of one’s nature or Deen al-Fitrah. Therefore, its basis, its principles and its laws had to look at the changing nature of people it was facing.
Yet, in spite of this revolution, Islam was the only religion which was able to maintain its originality, yet, at the same time appeal to its converts. The Hadith shareef also explains that “wisdom is the lost treasure of a Muslim and wherever the man of wisdom finds it, he has the right to it.”
(Mishkaat from Hadrat Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah – May Allah have mercy on him)
As Islam spread around the world, in the early stages of Islam, the Quran and the Sunnah were sufficient for those who lived in this small community. However, as Islam spread, the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – also devised two strategies in this regard. The first was the Quran and Sunnah and the second was the laws and commands which would be derived from this. This became the basis of Fiqh.
The question which arises is that if the Quran and Sunnah were sufficient; what was the reason for the appearance of Fiqh, the compilation of laws etc. The answer for this is simple. Remember that the explanation to the Quran can be further understood from the Ahadith, and the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – had already explained many laws and commands when he was in this world, however, the need for Fiqh became an absolute necessity when we look at the following explanation and its background. This world is a place where man and other creation are co-existing on a daily basis. In fact, the Divine Manifestation is seen every day in a different light. That which was seen yesterday, is not seen today and that which is seen today, will not appear tomorrow.
As a matter of fact, even one of the oldest creation which is sun is seen to rise from the East and set in the West, yet, those who are learned in this field also know that it does not precisely rise from the exact spot in the East everyday and sets in the exact spot in the West everyday. The same is applicable to the changes of seasons, the times of the day and night etc. Everything around us changing on a moment to moment to basis. This is same thing when it comes to the ever changing attitudes and character of humans and animals. Also remember that Islam is a religion which would exist until the day of judgement. At the same time, in spite of the ever changing environment, it has its own set of principles and foundation. Such is the greatness of Islam that the world cannot encompass it but it can encompass the world. This is the difference between Islam and other religious institutions or constitutional entities. We notice that after ten years or even after a hundred years, the constitution of any state comes up for review. Some changes are made, certain laws are removed, some are added and many are amended. Bearing all of this in mind, let us now look at Islam. In the Quran, in Surah Maidah, verse 3:
اَلْیَوْمَ اَکْمَلْتُ لَکُمْ دِیۡنَکُمْ وَاَتْمَمْتُ عَلَیۡکُمْ نِعْمَتِیۡ وَرَضِیۡتُ لَکُمُ الۡاِسْلٰمَ دِیۡنًا
This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen Islam as religion for you.
In other words, whatever rules and laws exist in Islam have become complete. In other words, this is now that religion which would continue to quench the thirst of creation until the day of Judgement. Everything; dry and green, is to be found in the Quran and Sunnah. There can be no changes to that which has been mentioned. However, be that as it may, another challenge which faced Islam is how would it be able to face the challenges from new communities entering its fold on a daily basis. Was this the only law which existed in Islam? Bear in mind that Islam was now no longer only found in Arabia. Its adherents were found all over the world. These new converts came with different languages, cultures and challenges.
The question which arose is that; will Islam bury all of this or will it be able to accommodate these new factors which it faced. How will Islam be able to answer the new issues which it faced. Certainly, there were thousands of questions which arose every day and each one of them had to be answered in the best possible manner so that the person listening would understand his place in this new religion. As we have already stated, Islam was a religion which was to exist until the day of Judgement. In spite of these new factors, Islam was going to be the religion which would lead the way into the future. How will this new religion on the horizon be able to cope? How will this new religion be able to close the gap between opposing ideas and cultures. The best solution invented in Islam was the solution of Ijtihad. It was through this institution that Fiqh and the principles of Fiqh were created. You may ask the question. what was the need for this? After all the Quran has every knowledge within it. That is certainly true, however in its deep meaning and its intricate message; we had to rely on the Ashaab. In fact, such is the immense knowledge of the Quran that no ordinary human could easily understand it.
There is an interesting story that it took Hadrat Sayyiduna Umar – May Allah have mercy on him – two and a half years to complete merely Surah Baqarah which he studied at the blessed hands of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him! After he had completed this, he arranged a huge feast for everyone as a mark of appreciation. Bear in mind that we are also talking about someone who himself was considered as one of the most eloquent Arabs of his era. Yet, in spite of this, what was the reason for him to study a book in Arabic and that too, to be educated by someone else and take two and half years to complete it? Was he only taught the meaning of each word. No, he was taught the deep intricate meaning of each letter and each word. In fact, he was taught the secret of the most secret implications in each word and sentence. This was that knowledge which was able to brighten the inner soul of man.
This was the meaning which was indicated in the hadith shareef in which was mentioned that if all the trees became a pen and all the oceans became ink, the secret and the meaning of the Quran would still not be encompassed. From this, we come to understand that if the Quran was something which merely had an outer meaning and dimension and nothing else, why would it be something which cannot be encompassed. However, as the time went on, it became clear that the knowledge of the Quran is a vast ocean and it was not possible for just anyone to be understand its meaning and inner dimension. There was a specific acumen coupled with Divine Light within a person to be able to fathom the deep secrets of the Quran. And this also had to be made brighter with the light which came from the Holy Prophet peace be upon him in the form of the Ahadtih. This was that special quality which was found within the Muslim jurists of their era.
These were those blessed individuals who were the true Ameen or guardians of this light. This therefore proves that it was not sufficient to understand the Quran only by reading its words. Side by side with this, one also had to be guided through the light of Ahadith and this was an absolute necessity. In fact, anyone who made the claim that they were able to understand the Quran without the assistance of the Ahadith were liars in their claim and they were certainly people who were destined to be doomed.
At the same time, if we now had to look at the Ahadith. It also was something which encompassed a vast ocean of knowledge and yet, it was also hidden in a few words. The Holy Prophet peace be upon him had made it clear that he was blessed with the quality of “Jawaami’ul Kalam”. This meant that in a few words, he could encompass a vast ocean of meaning and implication. And this is the meaning of Mo’jiza which he was blessed with. It was something which was beyond the intellectual comprehension of ordinary people. So if we look at both the Quran and the Ahadith, how would ordinary people be able to fathom the vast ocean of knowledge which was to be found in both? In fact, this secret was already mentioned by Hadrat Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah May Allah have mercy on him when he mentioned, “I have acquired two containers of knowledge from the Holy Prophet peace be upon him. One which I have revealed and if I reveal the other, people will slit my throat.
(Bukhari shareef. 1/33)
This meant that the Almighty azza wa jall had to create special individuals who would be able to make the common man understand the vast ocean of knowledge which lay in front. The first group in this regard were the blessed Ashaab. If someone claims to understand the meaning of the Quran and the hadith without the guidance of the Ashaab, then he is a liar in his claim. This vast ocean of knowledge was then passed to the Taba’een. This was that blessed generation which followed the blessed Ashaab. Knowledge is something which looks at the ever changing environment in front and is able to adjust to the situation. There had to be flexibility within it to be able to answer the new challenges it faced. And all of this had be to based on the original principles of Islam. Again, the institution which was going to be able to answer these challenges was the institution of Ijtihad. There had to be a faculty which was able to take the vast meaning found in the Quran and Ahadith and create a framework on which this could be used for the benefit of Muslims in the future. It was clearly stated that, “Halal is that which has been declared as Halal by Allah azza wa jall and Haram is that which has been declared Haram by Allah azza wa jall. And that for which there is no (specific) command, that is Mubah (or permissible).”
There can be no change in this which is the basis of Islam. However, as we have mentioned, the conditions which appear and the environment which is created in the future, there have to be a group of people who have a vast knowledge of Islam to be able to answer these new questions. This is what Fiqh and the principles of Fiqh is able to achieve. This is also what Ijtihad is able to deduce. Bear in mind the eminent Muslim jurist does not move away from the cardinal principles which we have pointed out. They are eminent people who are blessed by the Almighty azza wa jall with great spiritual light. They are blessed even further with Ilme Ladduni or inspired knowledge. They have a vast knowledge of the principles of Islam and the hidden meaning and implication of each law. They are able to place these new issues facing Muslims and placing it in front of the Quran and Ahadith, they are able to derive the appropriate law and the specific ruling for each new issue.
This is something which cannot be achieved by ordinary man. Even if we look at the inventions in the world, there are certain qualified people who create objects and present it to man so that the general masses can enjoy the benefit. At the same time, these people are not considered as the creators of anything but merely people who have facilitated a new invention. In other words, whatever they have created, it would be referred to as a creation of Allah azza wa jall. Still, these people would be considered as people who have done great favour to mankind. This is how the Muslim jurists is looked upon.
They are able to delve into the inner meaning of Islam and bring up new solutions which the ordinary masses are completely unaware of. This creates ease for the common people and people in general are able to practise upon a certain law with ease. Man in general does not have to inconvenience himself by trying to find the inner meaning of certain laws. At the same time, man in general does not have the intellect nor the acumen to be able to do this in the first place. Therefore, these blessed jurists can never be considered as the inventors of Shariah, but the true servants of Shariah. However, their service to Islam can be considered as something which is based on the highest level possible compared to ordinary people. In following and practising on Islam, they have made it easy for other Muslims. This is the reason that they have been given a special status in Islam. They are considered as special individuals and people who should be followed and emulated. This is also one of the reasons that to move away from Taqleed and follow ones own desire is nothing but madness. This special group of individuals have already been indicated to in the Quran. In Surah Taubah, verse 122, the Quran declares:
And it is not possible for Muslims that all should come out. Then why should not a party from each group should come out that they may gain understanding of religion and warn their people after coming back to them, perhaps they may guard themselves.
In the hadith shareef such people have been highly praised. Hadrat Sayyiduna Ameer Mu’awiyah May Allah have mercy on him narrates that the Holy Prophet peace be upon him has stated that, “He to whom the Almighty azza wa jall intends to do good, He gives him understanding of religion and blesses him with Fiqh (understanding).”
(Mishkaat shareef. Kitaabul Ilm)
In another report, it is mentioned, “How noble is that person who is a faqeeh of religion. When anyone comes to him with any religious need, he is able to help them. And if the world is independent of him, then he is also independent of the world.” Another report explains, “A single scholar, (faqeeh), is more powerful against the satan than a thousand worshippers.” This is that blessed status and stature which has been given to a Muslim jurist and Mujtahid from the Court of the Almighty azza wa jall and his beloved Prophet peace be upon him. Therefore, it stands to reason that such a person would certainly be honoured and respected. To be able to create new principles in religious law through which the need of Islam is fulfilled, this is the speciality of a Muslim jurist.
A report from Hadrat Sayyiduna Jareer bin Abdullah May Allah have mercy on him explains, “He who invents something good (and noble), in Islam, he will receive the reward for this. And whoever practises upon this, all of the reward (attained by these people) will also be bestowed upon him and the reward of those who practise upon this will also not decrease.”
(Mishkaat shareef. Kitaabul Ilm. 25)
From this hadith shareef we come to understand a very important message. To create such a faculty which is new but has a connection with religion and the intention is to achieve an advantage for people and it does not oppose any key principles of Islam and is according to the general principles as outlined by the Holy Prophet peace be upon him, these are those things which proved highly beneficial for Islam as it spread around the world. These are also those laws and principles which were able to create the flexibility which Islam required as it moved into the next era.
At the same time, science such as Tafseer of the Quran and the compilation of the Ahadith, these were faculties that came into existence later on. In fact, it was these early Muslim jurists who were the key factors that encouraged these faculties to come into existence. The Muslim jurists are those blessed Muslims who presented such a solid platform for Muslims later on that hundreds of years have passed and yet, Muslims still enjoy the fruits of their hard work and dedication. If they had not achieved what they had, then today, certainly Muslims would have found themselves in great difficulty.
However, we again stress that; all which they had achieved was based on the Quran and the Sunnah and is nothing but a manifestation of both of these. Even though the Tafseer of the Quran and the Ahadith did exist in the time of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him albeit in not such a professional manner as we see today, yet the proper compilation of this knowledge came later. Again though, it was also based on that which existed in the time of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him. In like manner, Fiqh, its various principles, Ijtihad and Taqleed and their various implications did exist in the time of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him, yet, again it was put into proper perspective later on.
As we have said, Ijtihad did exist in that period. The famous hadith of Hadrat Sayyiduna Mu’az bin Jabal May Allah have mercy on him is known to most people.
(Mishkaat shareef. Kitaabul Imaarah)
This hadith shareef proves that Fiqh and Ijtihad is indeed the need of the times and also a perfect way of further understanding the religion of Islam and this has always been supported by the Holy Prophet peace be upon him. This has also always proven to be a solid foundation for Islam which was has been able to answer the questions of that period.
After the Holy Prophet peace be upon him, during the period of blessed Ashaab, the principles of Fiqh also became more established. This can be seen from the letter which was sent by Hadrat Sayyiduna Umar May Allah have mercy on him to one of his governor’s namely Hadrat Sayyiduna Abu Moosa Ash’ari May Allah have mercy on him. It was a very lengthy letter and it read, “Think carefully before making a decision especially on those issues which creates a doubt in your heart. Those things with which you are unfamiliar with from the Quran and Sunnah, as we meet, let us try to understand and discuss these issues and then perform Qiyas on that issue. And that answer which you feel is closer to Allah azza wa jall and closer to the truth, then you should choose (that option).”
(Taarik Ilm Fiqh. Mufti Sayed Ameenul Ihsaan. Dhaka. page 12)
This is also one of the reasons that the Holy Prophet peace be upon him has stated that, “Upon you is my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Khulafah Raashideen”. From this also we come to understand the immense favour which has been performed by the Muslims jurists for Islam and the Muslims in general. Not only this, they also proved to be of tremendous help to the Muslim masses. How was this achieved? Bear in mind that there are four pillars of Fiqh and the principles of Fiqh. They are the: The Quran, the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him, the Ijmah and Qiyas. Among these, the Quran and Sunnah are considered as the very foundation of Fiqh. Ijmah and Qiyas are merely faculties which compliment and support the Quran and Sunnah and are merely the result of the Quran and Sunnah.
At the same time, Ijithad is only permissible in those circumstances when the ruling of a specific issue cannot be clearly seen in the Quran and Sunnah. Thereafter, similar issues or examples are then studied and looked into and the appropriate ruling is given. This is the reason that Fiqh and the principles of Fiqh are considered as faculties which support Islam and has come about through the Divine Mercy of the Almighty azza wa jall. Prior to this, it would have been impossible to fully understand the laws of Islam.
It is reported that Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Sulayman ‘Amash May Allah have mercy on him was one of the eminent scholars of Hadith and considered a great Muhaddith of his era and in this field, he was also one of the teachers of Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him. Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him was also very attached to his teacher. One day while he was sitting in the gathering of his eminent teacher someone asked a question. His eminent teacher looked at him and asked, “What do you have to say about these issues?” Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him was able to explain all the rules and laws of shariah pertaining to these issues. His eminent teacher was completely surprised and asked him, “Where did you learn all of this?” He replied, “I have been able to deduce this from the very same Ahadith which you had mentioned.” He then also mentioned the complete sanad of each hadith shareef. After listening to this, his eminent teacher declared, “This is sufficient. Whatever Ahadith I had taught you in one hundred days, you had mentioned all of these to me in one single day. I did not realise that you are also able to practise on these Ahadith.” He then declared, “O the people of Fiqh, you are certainly the physicians and we who are the Muhadditheen, we are the people who present the fragrance and O young man! You have attained both faculties.”
(Al Khayraat Al Hasan. 67)
As the Quran began to spread around the world; initially, there was a certain amount of confusion on the Qirah of the Quran which was eventually resolved, in like manner, as the blessed Ashaab began to leave the world, certain confusion arose about various Ahadith. In answer to this, a special science was invented which was called “Asmaa’ur Rijaal”. This also applied to other confusion which appeared in the early part of Islam. The eminent Ulama of that period then created different faculties to remove these types of confusion from the Ummah. The purpose was to enable the Muslims to better understand the laws of Islam and be able to come to a right decision.
This was especially true in the last period of the Taaba’een era when it was found that the principles of Fiqh and Fiqh itself had to be compiled and summarized. The main person who lead this drive was obviously Imaamul Aimmah, Siraajul Ummah, Kaashiful Ghummah, Sayyiduna Imam Azam, Abu Hanifah Numaan bin Thaabit May Allah have mercy on him. Until the present day, this light can still be seen.
Hadrat Imam Mazani Shafi May Allah have mercy on him explains, “Imam Azam Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him is considered as the first person to compile the faculty of Fiqh. Through the various Ahadith of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him, he made this into a separate branch of knowledge and he also devised various chapters in this regard. The first chapter pertained to Tahaarah, (cleanliness), then salah, then various issues of ibaadah and issues after that until he terminated with laws pertaining to Wiraasat or inheritance. This is the same format which was later adopted by Imam Malik bin Anas May Allah have mercy on him then Hadrat ibn Jareej and then Hadrat Hisham May Allah have mercy on them.”
(Taarikh Ilmul Fiqh. Ameemul Ihsaan)
Also bear in mind that this compilation of Fiqh was accomplished through a special board and committee which was set up for this purpose. Each issue was presented and then this was thoroughly discussed in the light of Quran and Hadith. There then followed a lengthy debate between all parties present. Not everyone was allowed in this meeting and it was mostly made up of around forty members. Only those Ulama were allowed in this committee who were experts and authorities in their field. In fact, such was the eminence of these individuals that most of them themselves were Mujtahids. After a lengthy debate on each issue which could sometimes took days, the final decision was made by Imam Azam May Allah have mercy on him. The eminence of this special board can be understood from the words of the famous Muhaddith, Hadrat Sayyiduna Waqee bin Al Jarrah May Allah have mercy on him. He explains, “How could there have been any mistake in the decision taken by Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him when in reality around him sat such individuals as Abu Yusuf, Zufr and Mohammed Shaybaani who were themselves experts in Qiyas and Ijtihad. Experts in hadith like Yahyah bin Zakariyah, Zaahidah, Hafz bin Ghiyas, Habban etc. Experts in Arabic language such as Qasim bin Ma’an (who was the son of Hadrat Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mas’ud May Allah have mercy on him). Accepted authorities in Taqwah and piety like Daud bin Naseer Tai (commonly known as Daud Tai) and people like Fuzail bin Ayyaz. If the companions of Imam Azam May Allah have mercy on him were people of this quality, how could he make a mistake. In fact, if he had committed a mistake or made a wrong decision, these experts themselves would have corrected him.”
(Jaami’ul Masaanid. 33)
It is mentioned that Fiqh and the principles of Fiqh started at the same time. It is through Usul that issues are extracted. However, later on, this faculty of Usul became a separate field altogether. There are also manuscripts pertaining to this field of Usul Fiqh which have been left by the eminent students of Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him, namely Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Mohammed May Allah have mercy on him. Imam Malik May Allah have mercy on him has also alluded a little to this in his Mu’atta. However one of the most authoritative manuscripts in the field of Usul Fiqh is said to be the “Ar Risaalah” of Imam Shafi May Allah have mercy on him.
It also gained immense popularity and it even prompted people like ibn Khaldun to believe that this was the first manuscript written in this field. He writes, “The first person to write a manuscript in the field of Usul Fiqh was Imam Shafi May Allah have mercy on him. His masterpiece is known Ar Risaalah. In it, the great Imam has explained command and prohibition, bayan and khabar (reports and news conveyed). Nuskh or abrogated laws, Illatul Qiyas (or the cause and mean for Qiyas) and the laws and command applicable to these. Thereafter, the Hanafi Ulama also prepared a treatise called “Al Mabsut”. In it, they explained the rules and regulations pertaining to Usul Fiqh and various other issues in this regard. The Mutakallimeen also wrote a few books in this regard as well. However, it was the Hanafi Ulama who had the gift of delving into the actual essence and the most delicate issues of Fiqh and being able to return with a ruling.” (Taarikh Afkaar Ulum Islaami. Raaghib Tabbagh. 2/30).
However, the famous Shafi historian, namely ibn Kalakan has attributed the first manuscript to Imam Abu Yusuf May Allah have mercy on him. He writes, “The first person to compile a manuscript in regards to Usul Fiqh as a base document in regards to Hanafi fiqh was Imam Abu Yusuf May Allah have mercy on him. He dictated the contents and this was then printed and distributed to all parts of the Muslim empire”.
(Taarikh Afkaar Ulum Islami. Raaghib Tabbagh. 2/333)
In fact, the historians have recorded the journey of Fiqh in the following manner. They explain, “The seed of Fiqh (jurisprudence) was planted by Hadrat Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mas’ud May Allah have mercy on him, Hadrat Sayyiduna Alqamah May Allah have mercy on him was the one who watered this seed. Hadrat Sayyiduna Ebrahim Nakh’i May Allah have mercy on him harvested this. Hadrat Sayyiduna Hammaad May Allah have mercy on him removed the husk, Imam Azam May Allah have mercy on him crushed it to a fine powder, Imam Abu Yusuf May Allah have mercy on him kneaded it into a dough and Imam Mohammed bin Hasan Shaybani May Allah have mercy on him made the bread and the entire Ummah is now being fed this bread.”
(Fatawah Malikul Ulama. 24)
All the issue within the science of Ijtihad and Fiqh are issues which deal with ones daily living and it has been simplified so that it becomes easier upon people to comprehend, understand and be able to practise upon. All these laws have also been extracted and based solely upon the Quran and Sunnah. Although these various laws and rules are things which have been completed by these eminent scholars of Islam, yet, they are still considered simply as manifestation of Quran and Sunnah.
Following these laws would be considered as following the Holy Prophet peace be upon him. To think that one is following the laws of someone else is nothing but been ignorant and silly. It is also a clear proof and testimony that one is certainly not aware or understands Islam. One of the reasons that these eminent scholars are considered as our leaders in religion is also because to their close proximity to the era of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him. To be able to understand and notice this, one merely has to look at the life of Imam Azam May Allah have mercy on him. He was someone whose arrival was foretold by the Holy Prophet peace be upon him. He is also the teacher of many eminent giants of Islam either directly or indirectly.
Among his students, there were at least forty of them who themselves were considered as qualified and proficient Mujtahids themselves and were considered as individuals who were very lofty in the Divine Court of the Almighty azza wa jall. For nearly forty years, he performed the Fajr salah with the Wudu of the Esha salah. For nearly forty years he continued to fast every day in such a manner that no one was even aware of it. During the month of Ramadan, he used to complete three Quran in one day. It is also reported that he saw the Almighty in his dream nearly a hundred times. The Qadi of Baghdad shareef, Qadi Ammaarah bin Hasan was the one who performed his Ghusal and while he was performing the ghusal, he kept mentioning, “I swear by Allah that you were the greatest of jurists. You were the greatest Aabid and greatest of Zaahid. All good was found within you and there is no doubt, none is able to emulate you as your successor.”
(Nuzahatul Qari. 1/163)
Among those who followed his Mazhab are eminent personalities of Islam; such as Hadrat Sayyiduna Ebrahim bin Adham, Hadrat Sayyiduna Shaqeeq Balkhi, Hadrat Sayyiduna Ma’ruf Karkhi, Hadrat Sayyiduna Bayazid Bustami, Hadrat Sayyiduna Fuzail bin Ayaz, Hadrat Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mubaarak, Hadrat Sayyiduna Waqee bin Jarrah, Hadrat Shaikhul Islam Abu Bakr Warraaq, Sultanul Hind Khawaja Gareeb Nawaz – May Allah have mercy on them – and many other personalities of Islam. He was considered as one of the greatest individuals in the Taaba’een era and saw many blessed Ashaab. Such was the acceptance of his dedication to Islamic law that three quarters of the world are people who consider themselves as Hanafi Sunni Muslims. The writer of Majma’ul Behaar baynal Aqwaami, Allamah Mohammed Taahir Fatani Shafi – May Allah have mercy on him – in his book “Al Mughni” has mentioned a very beautiful statement, he has stated, “If the Almighty did not hide the acceptance of the Hanafi mazhab, then either half or even more of the world would have been Hanafis. Until our time, after nearly four hundred and fifty years, people are continuing to worship the Almighty according to his Fiqh and are practising in accordance with his teachings. This is a clear proof of the eminence of this Mazhab and a clear testimony to its perfection.”
(Al Mughni. 80)
Besides Imam Azam, other luminaries of Islam; such as Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Malik bin Anas, Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Mohammed bin Idris Shafe’i, Hadrat Sayyiduna Ahmed bin Hanbal, Hadrat Sayyiduna Sufyan Thouri, Hadrat Sayyiduna Laith bin Sa’ad, Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Abu Thour and Hadrat Sayyiduna Abdur Rahman bin Umar Awzaa’i – May Allah have mercy on them – have appeared who were true symbols of the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. They were authorities in Ahadith and the most pious individuals of their era. How can such luminaries in Islam ever say or practise on things which were against the Quran and Sunnah? In fact, they were considered as those individuals in Islam who displayed the most fear for Allah azza wa jall.
Imam Azam – May Allah have mercy on him – has also made a clear statement, “If there is a Hadith shareef whose chain of transmission is authentic then that is my Mazhab.” Once, Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Shafe’i – May Allah have mercy on him – mentioned to everyone while he was in Mecca shareef, “Whatever you wish, ask me, I will inform you of this from the Quran.”
(Kanzul Imaan. 90)
Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Ghazzali – May Allah have mercy on him, describing a true Muslim jurist, writes, “A jurist is that person who has no interest in the world. He always looks towards the Hereafter. He has full knowledge about religion. He is always steadfast in his obedience. Under no circumstances does he tolerate any abasement of rights against anyone. He is always looking out for the greater good of the Muslims. He is not greedy for wealth. He understands the hidden dangers and evil which are present. He is also fully aware of all those things which destroy the good deeds of people. He is aware of the pitfalls in the road towards the Hereafter. Besides having contempt for wordily things, he also has control over many wordily things. In every state of his, he is extremely fearful of Almighty Allah.”
(Ihya ul Uloom)
If this is the state and condition of a jurist who is not even a Mujtahid, imagine the state of that jurists who is actually a Mujtahid. This is the reason that these eminent jurists of Islam were always engrossed in the remembrance of the Almighty and His beloved Prophet – peace be upon him. They were always looking for ways to seek the Divine Pleasure of the Almighty. They did not speak on their own behalf, whatever they said, it was for the sake of Allah. These were those blessed saints of Islam who were blessed with the Light of the Quran and the brilliance of the Hadith shareef. Such is their eminence that until present day, people make dua that they are able to follow the blessed path of these Muslim jurists. Therefore, to follow them is simply obeying the Divine Command of Allah. They are certainly unfortunate who have turned away for these blessed souls. The is also a question which sometimes arises among people that:
- “Why should we only follow the jurists of the first and second century when there were also eminent jurists that appeared later in Islam?
- After all, the message of the Quran and Hadith is something which would continue to shine until the day of Judgement?
- What is the reason that Muslims are confined to only being Hanafi, Shafe’i, Hanbali and Maliki?”
The answer to this question is very simple. It must be borne in mind that until the second century, there were not only four Mazhabs. And not only were these four Imams considered as the only Imams present. There were many other eminent Aimmah who were Mujtahids in their own right and also had their own followers. In Kufah, it was Hadrat Sayyiduna Sufyan Thouri – May Allah have mercy on him, in Egypt, it was Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Laith, in Baghdad shareef, it was Imam Abu Thur, in Andalusia and Damascus, it was Imam Awzaa’i – May Allah have mercy on them – and they certainly had their own group of followers. However, there was no continuity in their message and that is the reason that these teachings did not reach our time.
At the same time, their successors also did not record their message and teaching as was done with the successors of the four Imams. And because of this, as time went on, their teachings faded away. When there was no proper record kept of their teachings, how are Muslims expected to follow these Imams. On the other hand, the teachings of the four Imams have been fully documented by their successors. In fact, until the present age, thousands of manuscripts have been written by followers of each of the four Madhabs. This is the reason that the Sunni Muslim public is found only within these four Mazhabs.
As for the statement that the blessing of the Quran and Sunnah will continue until the day of Judgement. There is no doubt in this statement. However, for anyone to be able to acquire the inner wisdom and knowledge found in the source material of Muslims, there have to be people who are fully qualified to be able to do this. However, we can say that the quality of such jurists only existed until the third century of Islam. If the Almighty creates such an individual in the present era with such qualities, He has the Divine Power Right to do so, this person would be clearly seen by the Muslim Ummah. Such an individual has not been seen by the Muslims though.
The blessing which these eminent jurists received through their proximity to the blessed era of the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – is no longer available. At the same time, besides this important fact, has anyone in Islamic history been seen with the caliber of the four Imams? Another important point is that there are many branches of knowledge which have been buried as the generations pass by. Some of these immense sciences are also buried with the demise of their possessors. As a matter of fact, this reality is also mentioned in the Hadith shareef. It is mentioned that as the day of Judgement comes closer, knowledge will begin to decrease. The Holy Prophet – peace be upon him has – stated that, “The Almighty will not decrease knowledge among people in such a manner, that it will be removed from their hearts but as the eminent Ulama leave this world, their knowledge will also be taken with them. (After them, they will have no successors with knowledge like this and in this manner, knowledge will decrease).
(Mishkaat shareef. 25)
If we look closely at the world today, when the preconditions required for making Ijtihad are no longer present among people, how can it be said that Ijtihad is still permissible? Another question which also arises is that if this is the case, then how do we deal with new issues which arise all the time? This is what we meant at the beginning when we said that there is flexibility in Islam and the teachings of Islam. The first thing to bear in mind is that we have already established that the preconditions for someone to be a Mujtahid Mutlaq has disappeared many centuries ago. However, there are still people in the world today who are able to delve deeply into the teachings of the four Imams and it is through these blessed Ulama that the solutions can be found in the present era as well. This is also the reason that the category of the Fuqaha have been divided into seven groups.
- Mujtahid fi al-Shara’/Mujtahid Mutlaq Mustaqil/Mujtahid fi al-Usool
These are those jurists who had the knowledge and the qualification to be able to extract laws and regulations from the Quran, the Sunnah, the Ijmah and from Qiyas and also many subsidiary laws in this regard. In the matter of Usul and subsidiary issues, they are not the muqallid of anyone. These would be the four Imams.
- Mujtahid fil Mazhab/Mujtahid Mutlaq Ghair Mustaqil
This is that group of jurists who also possess the attributes of the above mentioned but in matters of Usul, they abide by any of the above and through the Usul of the above, they able to extract issues from the Quran, the Sunnah, the Ijmah and Qiyas. In other words, in Usul, they are muqallid and in Furu’ or subsidairy issues, they are considered as Mujtahids. Among these in the Hanafi school would be people like Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Mohammed and Imam Abdullah ibn Mubaarak.
- Mujatihid fil Masaa’il/Mujtahid Muqayyid
These are those jurists who follow the first category of Mujtahids in both Usul and Furu’ and through both of these they are able to extract such solutions which have not been mentioned by any of the Aimmah of Mazhab. This would include scholars; such as Imam Abu Bakr Jassaas, Imam Abu Jafer Tahaawi, Imam Abul Hasan Karkhi, Shamsul Aimmah Halwaa’i, Imam Sarkhasi, Imam Fakhrul Islam al-Bazdawi and Imam Fakhrudeen Qadi Khan.
These are those scholars who are unable to extract any issues or make Ijithad. However, they have a very deep insight into the Usul and Furu’ of the Aimmah of Mazhab and through this, they are able to show which issue is in which category. This would be scholars such as Hadrat Imam Abu Bakr Ahmed bin Ali Razi.
They are lower in category than the above but in matters of Usul and Furu’ and the narrations pertaining to these, they are able to give preference to certain rulings from the others. These would include scholars such as Imam Abul Hasan Quduri and the author of the Al-Hidaayah, namely Imam Abul Hasan Ali bin Abi Bakr.
They are those who are able to discern the weak statements from the strong. They are also able to discern the Zaahirur Riwayaat from the Naadir Riwaayaat. This would include the author of Al-Durr al-Mukhtaar, the author of Wiqaayah etc.
- Muqallid Mehaz
They are those people who do not possess any of the above qualities and attributes. The statement and action of such people are not something which people can use as a reference point. Yes, they can only report on the statements of the Aimmah of Mazhab. These would include the Ulama of the present generation who can only report on the statements of the Aimmah and nothing else.
(Fatawa Malikul Ulama. 25/26)
We can clearly see that such eminent luminaries of Islam are mentioned in the above categories that the ghair muqallid has not even had the change to saviour the dust which comes from the feet of these giants of Islam. However, apart from their eminent status, all of them are followers and Muqallids of one of the four Imams. One of the giants of Islam is Hadrat Sayyiduna Imam Bukhari – May Allah have mercy on him – who had memorized over six hundred thousand Ahadith with the names of their narrators and understood all the finer points in the science of the Ahadith, is himself a muqallid or adherent of Hadrat Imam Shafe’i – May Allah have mercy on him. How can the deviants, who call themselves ghair muqallids, that do not even know three thousand Ahadith, suddenly start to call themselves Mujtahids?
When one looks at the ridiculousness of such people, he is reminded of the words of Allamah Arshadul Qaderi – May Allah have mercy on him – who said, “Imam Bukhari – May Allah have mercy on him – compiled the entire Bukhari shareef and still remained a Muqallid and these people merely keep the Bukhari shareef in their cupboard and go around claiming that they are Mujtahids.” Another big joke on these people is that whatever they say or whatever statement they make, all of this is certainly something which was told by one of the Imams. If they are actually independent as they claim, then we urge them to say something or prove something which is seperate from the teachings of the Aimmah of the Ummah. Allamah Syed Mohammed Tahaawi Hanafi in the footnotes of Al-Durr Mukhtaar has summed all of these facts in the following manner.
He has stated that, “The group in this Ummah who are successful (and will receive salvation) are those who are within the Hanafi, Shafe’i, Maliki or Hanbali mazhab. In the present time, those who separate from these (four groups), that person is a deviant and entitled for the punishment of hell.”
We make dua that the Almighty keeps us within one of these groups throughout our lives.