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Following the Four Imams

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by CouncilofUlama.co.za

Q: What is the importance of following one of the 4 imaams and the dangers of not following any imaam?

Allah Ta’ala states in Surah Ambiyaa, verse 7: “And ask the People of the Book, if you have no knowledge.” In this verse Allah Ta’ala commands those who have no knowledge of their Deen to ask those who are learned. This is exactly what taqleed (FOLLOWING ONE MAZHAB) is all about, the non-learned finding out from the learned.

Aswad bin Yazid narrates, “Mu’aath came to us in Yemen as a teacher and commander. We questioned him regarding a man who had died leaving (as his heirs) a brother and sister. He decreed half the estate for the daughter and half for the sister. This was while the Rasulullah sallallahu alaihe wasallam was alive.” [Kitaabul Faraa-idh: Bukhari and Muslim Shareef]

It will be realised from this Hadith Shareef that Taqleed was in vogue during the time of the Prophet sallallahu alaihe wasallam. The questioner (in the Hadith) did not demand proof or basis for the decree. He accepted the ruling, relying on the integrity, piety and up-righteousness of Hazrat Mu’aath radiyallahu anhu. This is precisely Taqleed.

If you feel that you do not have to follow one mazhab and you wish to extract the laws directly from the quraan and hadith then you should first ask yourself these few questions. Do you know all the various laws of Deen? Are you capable of extracting and deriving the laws pertaining to wudhu, salaah, zakaah, etc. directly from the Qur’an and Hadith? Do you know which Hadith has abrogated another? Do you have the ability to reconcile between the various Ahadith which apparently contradict each other? Do you know which verses of the Qur’an are general in their application and which verses are qualified by other texts? etc., etc.

If one does not have the knowledge of these aspects, then one definitely does not have the ability to derive the laws directly from the Qur’an and Hadith. In that case the following aayah applies directly to oneself: “Ask those of knowledge if you do not know.” (Qur’aan, 16:43 & 21:7) Hence when we do not have the enormous amount of knowledge and expertise that is necessary to derive the laws directly from the Qur’an and Hadith, we have opted to follow one of those great people who had attained that distinguished mastery in this field, among whom is Imaam Abu Hanifa, also Imam Shafi, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad (RA).

One who has discarded Taqleed, even if he does not resort to Ijtihaad himself, nor follows the meaning conveyed superficially by the words, will, in difficult Masa’il accept the verdict of any authority. He will at times follow one Imaam and at other, another. In this way he will sometimes practice in opposition to Ijma(consenses of the ulama), and on occasions, even if the result is not in conflict with Ijma he will resort to the verdict which appeals to his whims and fancies and by means of which worldly motives are available. Thus, he will submit the Deen to the dictates of the nafs. We seek Allah’s protection from such deviation.

There are numerous Mujtahideen. It may therefore be argued that Taqleed of any Mujtahid should suffice. What is the reason for restricting Taqleed to the four Madhaa’hib?

It is imperative to make Taqleed of a Madhab which has been so formulated and arranged in regard to principles (Usul) and details (Furu) that answers to all questions could be obtained either in specific form or in deducted form based on principles, thereby obviating the need to refer to an external source. This all-embracing quality by an act of Allah Ta’aala is found existing in only the four Madhaa’hib. It is therefore
imperative to adopt one of the four Madhaa’hib’. This has been the accepted practice coming down the ages from the early times in an unbroken chain of transmission, from generation to generation.

This answer was collected from CouncilofUlama.co.za, which is operated under the supervision of Council of Ulama Eastern Cape, South Africa.

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