Which school of thought should a Muslim follow?
We begin with Allah’s blessed name, we praise him and we glorify him, seek his forgiveness and ask him to guide us. Whoever Allah guides, None can lead astray and whoever he misguides, None can guide. There is no power and no strength except from Allah, The most high, the Most great, the most powerful. We bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers. We pray for peace and blessings on all the noble messengers and in particular on the last of them all “the blessed prophet Mohammad (pbuh)”
There are four schools of thoughts and we can follow any one of them. Is it permissible to follow two schools of thought to suit the situation ? For example, the Shafi school of thought considers 2.25 pm as the time for Asr prayers in our town while the Hanafi school of thought has fixed time at 3.08. So can we follow any of these two timings to suit our necessity?
1. Muslims should be united
Muslims today, are divided amongst themselves. Such divisions are not endorsed by Islam. Islam believes in fostering unity amongst its followers.
The Glorious Quran says:
"And hold fast, altogether, by the rope Which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves.' [Al-Quran 3:103]
Which is the rope of Allah that is being referred to in this verse? It is the Glorious Qur'an. The Glorious Quran is the rope of Allah which all Muslims should hold fast together. There is double emphasis in this verse. Beside saying 'hold fast all together' it also says, 'be not divided'.
The Quran further says,
"Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger" [Al-Quran 4:59]
All the Muslims should follow the Quran and authentic Ahadith and ensure that they are not divided among themselves.
2. It is prohibited to make divisions in Islam.
The Glorious Quran says:
"As for those who divide Their religion and break up Into sects, you have no part in them in the least: Their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did." [Al-Quran 6:159]
In this verse Allah (swt) says that one should disassociate oneself from those who divide their religion and break it up into sects.
But when one asks a Muslim, "who are you?" the common answer is either 'I am a Hanafi or Shafi or Maliki or Hanbali. Some call themselves 'Ahle-Hadith'.
3. Four Schools of Thoughts
The Islamic world has produced several learned Islamic scholars (Imams), but out of these, four became more famous and their teachings spread in different parts of the world.
It is a misconception that a Muslim should follow any one of these four schools of thoughts i.e. Hanafi, Shafi, Hanbali or Maliki. There is no proof whatsoever in the Quran or any authentic Hadith that a Muslim should only follow one of these four Imams.
4. Respect all the Great Scholars of Islam.
We must respect all the great scholars of Islam, including the four Imaams, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi, Imam Hanbal and Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with them all). They were great scholars and may Allah reward them for their research and hard work. One can have no objection if someone agrees with the view and research of any one or more from these four great scholars of Islam.
5. All Four Imam said follow the Quran and Sunnah.
All the four great Imams said that if any of their Fatwas or teachings contradict Allah’s word, i.e. the Qur’an, or the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) i.e. authentic Hadith, then that particulars Fatwa of theirs should be rejected, and the Sunnah of the Prophet should be followed.
a. Eeqaadh al-Himam, Al Fulaanee (Imam Abu Hanifa)
b. Al-Majmoo' of an-Nawawee (1/63) (Imam Shafi)
c. Jaami 'Bayan al-Ilm, Ibn Abdul-Barr (Imam Malik)
d. Eeqaadh al-Himam (Imam Hanbal)
To give you an example in this context Imam shafi said that when a women touches a man who is in a state of wudhu, the wudhu of the man breaks. However, this ruling of Imam Shafi contradicts the authentic saying of the Prophet.
The Prophet (may peace be upon him) kissed one of his wives and went out for saying prayer. He did not perform ablution. (Sunan Abu Dawood) Vol. 1 Chapter No. 70 Hadith No. 179)
Thus this particular teaching of Imam Shafi contradicts the authentic saying of the Prophet. So I reject this specific ruling of Imam Shafi who himself said , " If I say something, then compare it to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His messenger and if it agrees to them, then accept it and that which goes against them, then reject it and throw my saying against the wall" This is a saying of ash-Shafi'ee-rahimaullah. See Al-Majmoo' of an-Nawawee (1/63).
Thus by rejecting this particular teaching of Imam Shafi which contradicts the authentic Hadith, I am practically a better follower of Imam Shafi than those who call themselves 'Shafi'.
Similarly in practice, I claim to be a better follower of Imam Abu Hanifa than those who call themselves 'Hanafi'. I claim to be a better follower of Imam Hanbal than those who call themselves 'Hanbali'. I claim to be a better follower of Imam Malik than those who call themselves 'Maliki". If being a 'Ahle-Hadith' means following Quran and authentic Hadith then I claim to be a better follower of the Quran and authentic Hadith than those who call themselves ' Ahle-Hadith'. All these are mere labels (Hanafi, Shafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Ahle-Hadith) that are not endorsed by the Quran or the Sahih Ahadith.
The only label or title given by the Quran and the Sahih Ahadith is MUSLIM.
6. All the Groups have sub divisions
Hadith. People give different labels to themselves to identify which set of teachings they prefer to follow and to disassociate themselves from those people who follow wrong practices. From history we come to know that all the labels given to different groups, at a later stage the people from that group themselves did not follow their teachings and made new sub-groups. Therefore in all the groups you find a sub-division.
But as far as giving a label to identify what a person practices in Islam is concerned, there can not be better label than what Allah (swt) has given i.e. a Muslim.
7. Our Prophet was a Muslim
"Who was our beloved Prophet (pbuh)? Was he a Hanafi or a Shafi, or a Hanbali or a Maliki ?" No! He was a Muslim, like all the other Prophets and Messengers of Allah before him.
It is mentioned in chapter 3 verse 52 of Al-Quran
that Jesus (pbuh) was a Muslim.
Further , in chapter 3 verse 67, Al-Qur'an
says that Ibrahim (pbuh) was not a Jew or a Christian but was a Muslim.
8. Quran says call yourselves Muslims
There is no Quranic verse or any authentic Hadith that says you should call yourselves Hanafi, Shafi, Hanbali, Maliki or Ahle Hadith.
If anyone poses a Muslim the question who are you, he should say "I am a Muslim, not a Hanafi or a Shafi or a Ahle-Hadith".
And Allah alone knows the best.
I ask Allah to make this a sincere effort, seeking his pleasure, and I ask him to grant us refuge in him from the evils within ourselves, and that in our deeds. I ask him to grant us success in achieving whatever pleases him; And May Allah Shower His blessings and mercy upon our beloved Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh), his family and his Companions and on all those who follow him until the final hour.
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