Sayings Of The Imams Regarding Following The Sunnah 
And Ignoring Their Views Contradictory To It

It would be beneficial if we gave some of these here, for perhaps this will admonish or remind those who follow the opinion of the Imams - nay, of those far below the Imams in rank - blindly18, sticking to their madhabs or views as if these had descended from the heavens! But Allaah, Mighty and Sublime, says:

"Follow (O men!) the revelation given to you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends and protectors, other than Him. Little is it you remember of admonition."19

1) Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah)

The first of them is Abu Hanifah Nu'man ibn Thabit, whose companions have narrated from him various sayings and diverse warnings, all of them leading to one thing: the obligation to accept the Hadeeth, and to give up following the opinions of the imams which contradict it:

1. "When a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab."20

2. "It is not permitted21 for anyone to accept our views if they do not know from where we got them."22

In one narration, "It is prohibited23 for someone who does not know my evidence to give verdicts24 on the basis of my words."

Another narration adds, "... for we are mortals: we say one thing one day, and take it back the next day."

In another narration, "Woe to you, O Ya'qub25! Do not write down everything you hear from me, for it happens that I hold one opinion today and reject it tomorrow, or hold one opinion tomorrow and reject it the day after tomorrow."26

3. "When I say something contradicting the Book of Allaah the Exalted or what is narrated from the Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), then ignore my saying."27

2) Malik ibn Anas (rahimahullah)

As for Imaam Malik ibn Anas, he said:

1. "Truly I am only a mortal: I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah, accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it."28

2. "Everyone after the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) will have his sayings accepted and rejected - not so the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam)."29

3. Ibn Wahab said: "I heard Malik being asked about cleaning between the toes during ablution. He said, 'The people do not have to do that.' I did not approach him until the crowd had lessened, when I said to him, 'We know of a sunnah about that.' He said, 'What is that ?' I said, 'Laith ibn Sa'd, Ibn Lahee'ah and 'Amr ibn al-Harith narrated to us from Yazeed ibn 'Amr al-Ma'aafiri from Abu 'Abdur-Rahman al-Hubuli from Mustawrid ibn Shaddad al-Qurashi who said, 'I saw the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) rubbing between his toes with his little finger.' He said, 'This hadeeth is sound; I had not heard of it at all until now.' Afterwards, I heard him being asked about the same thing, on which he ordered cleaning between the toes."30

3) Shaafi'i (rahimahullah)

As for Imaam Shaafi'i, the quotations from him are most numerous and beautiful31, and his followers were the best in sticking to them:

1. "The sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) reach, as well as escape from, every one of us. So whenever I voice my opinion, or formulate a principle, where something contrary to my view exists on the authority of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), then the correct view is what the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) has said, and it is my view."32

2. "The Muslims are unanimously agreed that if a sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is made clear to someone, it is not permitted33 for him to leave it for the saying of anyone else."34

3. "If you find in my writings something different to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), then speak on the basis of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and leave what I have said."

In one narration: "... then follow it (the Sunnah), and do not look sideways at anyone else's saying."35

4. "When a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab."36

5. "You37 are more knowledgeable about Hadeeth than I, so when a hadeeth is saheeh, inform me of it, whether it is from Kufah, Basrah or Syria, so that I may take the view of the hadeeth, as long as it is saheeh."38

6. "In every issue where the people of narration find a report from the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) to be saheeh which is contrary to what I have said, then I take my saying back, whether during my life or after my death."39

7. "If you see me saying something, and contrary to it is authentically-reported from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), then know that my intelligence has departed."40

8. "For everything I say, if there is something authentic from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) contrary to my saying, then the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) comes first, so do not follow my opinion."41

9. "Every statement on the authority of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is also my view, even if you do not hear it from me."42

4) Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah)

Imaam Ahmad was the foremost among the Imams in collecting the Sunnah and sticking to it, so much so that he even "disliked that a book consisting of deductions and opinions be written."43 Because of this he said:

1. "Do not follow my opinion; neither follow the opinion of Malik, nor Shaafi'i, nor Awzaa'i, nor Thawri, but take from where they took."44

In one narration: "Do not copy your Deen from anyone of these, but whatever comes from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions, take it; next are their Successors, where a man has a choice."

Once he said: "Following45 means that a man follows what comes from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions; after the Successors, he has a choice."46

2. "The opinion of Awzaa'i, the opinion of Malik, the opinion of Abu Hanifah: all of it is opinion, and it is all equal in my eyes. However, the proof is in the narrations (from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions)."47

3. "Whoever rejects a statement of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is on the brink of destruction."48


These are the clear, lucid sayings of the Imams (Allaah Exalted be pleased with them) about sticking to the Hadeeth and forbidding the following of their opinion without clearly- visible evidence, such that mere opinion and interpretation is not acceptable.

Hence, whoever adhered to whatever of the Sunnah that was proved authentic, even if it opposed some of the Imams' sayings, he would not be conflicting with their madhhab, nor straying from their path; rather, such a person would be following all of them and would be grasping the most trustworthy hand-hold, which never breaks. However, this would not be the case with the one who abandoned any of the authentic Sunnah simply because it contradicted their views; nay, such a person would be being disobedient to them and opposing their above mentioned sayings, while Allaah says:

"But no, by Your Lord, they can have no (real) faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction."49. He also says:

"Then let those beware who withstand the Messenger's order, lest some trial befall them or a grievous penalty be inflicted on them."50

Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (rahimahullah) says:

"Therefore it is obligatory on anyone who hears of a command of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) or knows it, to explain it to the Ummah, advise them sincerely, and order them to follow his command, even if it contradicts the opinion of someone great. This is because the authority of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) has the most right to be respected and followed, over and above the opinion of anyone great who has unknowingly contradicted the Messenger's command in any matter. This is why the Companions and those after would refute anyone who contradicted the authentic Sunnah, sometimes being very stern in their refutation51, not out of hatred for that person, for they loved and respected him, but because the Messenger of Allaah was more beloved to them, and his command was superior to the command of any other created being. Hence, when the order of the Messenger and that of someone else conflicted, the order of the Messenger would be more fitting to be enforced and followed. None of this would stop them respecting the person they had opposed because they knew that he would be forgiven52; in fact, the latter would not mind his instruction being opposed when the command of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was clearly shown to be opposite."53

Indeed, how could they mind that, when they had ordered their followers to do so, as we have seen, and had enjoined on them to abandon any of their views which contradicted the Sunnah. In fact, Imaam Shaafi'i (rahimahullah) told his companions to attribute the authentic Sunnah to him also, even if he had not adopted it or had adopted something contradictory to it. Hence, when the analyst Ibn Daqeeq al-'Eid (rahimahullah) collected together, in a bulky volume, the issues in which one or more of the four Imams' madhhab had contradicted the authentic hadeeth, he wrote at the beginning of it, "It is prohibited to attribute these answers to the Mujtahid Imams, and obligatory on the jurists who follow their opinions to know of these so that they do not quote them regarding these and thus lie against them."54

The Imams' Followers Leaving their Views if these Contradicted the Sunnah

Due to all that we have mentioned, the disciples of the Imams, a number of people from those of old, and a few from those of later time55, would not accept all of their Imam's views; they actually ignored many when they found them to be clearly against the Sunnah. Even the two Imams, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan and Abu Yusuf (rahimahullah) differed from their Sheikh Abu Hanifah "in about a third of the Madhhab"56, as the books of masaa'il prove. Similarly is said about Imaam al- Muzani57 and other followers of Shaafi'i and other Imams; were we to start giving examples, the discussion would become exceedingly, long, and we would digress from what we set out to do in this Introduction, so we shall limit ourselves to two instances:

1) Imaam Muhammad says in his Muwatta'58(p. 158), "As for Abu Hanifah, he did not regard there being a prayer to ask for rain, but we hold that the imam prays two rak'ahs and then supplicates and holds out his wrapping garment ..."

2) We have 'Isaam ibn Yusuf al-Balkhi, one of the companions of Imaam Muhammad59 and a servant of Imaam Abu Yoosuf60, who "would give verdicts contrary to Imaam Abu Hanifah because he did not know the latter's evidence, and other evidence would present itself to him, so he would give verdicts using that."61 Hence, "he would raise his hands on bowing (in prayer) and on rising from it"62, as is the mutawaatir sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam); the fact that his three Imams (i.e. Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad) said otherwise did not prevent him from practicing this sunnah. This is the approach which every Muslim is obliged to have, as we have already seen from the testimony of the Four Imams, and others.


To sum up: I sincerely hope that no follower of an Imaam will race to condemn the principles of this book and abandon benefiting from the sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) which it contains, with the argument that they are contrary to his Madhhab. I hope that such a person will instead consider what we have given of the exhortations of the Imams towards the obligation to act on the Sunnah and ignore their sayings contradictory to it. I hope also that he will realize that to condemn the attitude of this book is to condemn whichever Imaam he is following, for we have taken these principles from those Imams, as we have explained. Therefore, whoever refuses to be guided by them on this path is in great danger, for such refusal necessitates turning away from the Sunnah, the Sunnah to which we have been ordered to refer in cases of difference of opinion and on which we have been commanded to depend.

I ask Allaah to make us among those about whom He says,

"The answer of the believers, when summoned to Allaah and His Messenger, in order that he may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, "We hear and we obey" - it is such as these that will attain Success. It is those who obey Allaah and His Messenger, and fear Allaah, and keep their duty to Him, who will triumph."63


References [click]

The Above Article is based on the book of Shaykh Nasurullah Al Albani, may Allah's Mercy be with him. Credit for much of the concept and translation goes to the following website which holds many related articles is at the following address:

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