Question: A friend at campus often asks fellow students: “Are you a Muslim or a Hanafi/Shaafi‘ee?” How does one respond to such a question? Please advise.
Answer: The word “or” (in the context of the question) is used between two words of the same species. It is correct to ask someone whether he will eat “rice or bread” since both are food items, but you cannot enquire whether he will eat “bread or paper”. Likewise, if your friend asks someone whether he lives in Durban or South Africa, the question will be absurd. Only one who is ignorant of the fact that Durban is not a country, but a city in South Africa, can ask such a question.
Your friend’s question implies that one can either be a Muslim or a Hanafi. Thus if someone says he is a Hanafi then, Allah forbid, he is not a Muslim!! It is the same as asking whether you live in Durban or South Africa, and that if you live in Durban, then you are not a South African???
Such questions stems from being ignorant of the fact that Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi) did not make his own deen. By means of the great expertise and in-depth knowledge that Allah Ta’ala had blessed him with, he deduced the laws of deen from the Quraan and hadeeth. His expertise and mastery was attested to by the likes of ‘Abdullah bin Mubaruk [rahmatullahi ‘alaihi] who was one of the greatest Muhaddith of his time. Saheeh Bukhaari is filled with his narrations. Thus in the light of his vast knowledge and rare expertise, Imaam Abu Hanifa (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi) merely explained and expounded the laws of deen. The detailed proofs of these deductions from the Quraan and hadeeth are recorded in many books well known to the scholars of Islam.
Likewise, there were many other great Fuqahaa (jurists) such as Imaam Maalik (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi), Imaam Shaafi‘ee (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi) and Imaam Ahmad bin Hambal (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi). Their codification of the laws of deen in the light of their expertise developed into the four mazhabs (schools of thought), all following the same primary sources of the Quraan and hadeeth. Thus those who follow the jurisprudence (laws and rulings deduced from the Quraan and hadeeth) codified by Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi) are referred to as Hanafi, while those who follow the jurisprudence of Imaam Shaafi‘ee are called Shaafi‘ee, etc. The identification of Hanafi, Shafi’ee, etc, is only made in relation to fiqh.
In this era there is a further need to identify oneself as a Hanafi, Shaafi‘ee, Maaliki or Hambali. The need is to make it known that one is not a “freelancer” — someone who does not have the knowledge and expertise to deduce the laws of deen from their sources, yet claims to follow the Quraan and hadeeth directly. It is similar to a person who has barely stepped into high school, yet claims to be a senior counsel in matters of law!
The same group that is telling you not to follow the understanding of the book and the sunnah according to the four Imāms of the salaf (Abū Hanīfah, Mālik, Shāfi’ī & Ahmad), are insisting that you follow their understanding. Its “taqleed” either way. Now you do the comparison, and see who is worthy of trusting your deen to?
Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said:
“Whoever claims that taqleed is not correct, or that no one is to be followed in religious matters, then he is a fāsiq (open sinner) according to Allāh and His Messenger ﷺ. And verily he only intends [by such claim] the destruction of knowledge and the Sunnah…”
[Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah, by the famous Hanbalī jurist, Ibn Abī Ya’la al-Fara]
“Hadith is a misguidance except for the Fuqaha (Jurists)”
“Hadith is a misguidance except for the Fuqaha (Jurists)”Ibn Abi Zayd al-Maliki reports Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah as saying:
“Hadith is a pitfall except for the fuqaha (Jurists)”
Ibn Abi Zayd comments:
“He [Sufyan ibn `Uyayna] means that other than the jurists might take something in its external meaning when, in fact, it is interpreted in the light of another hadith or some evidence which remains hidden to him; or it may in fact consist in discarded evidence due to some other [abrogating] evidence. None can meet the responsibility of knowing this except those who deepened their learning and obtained fiqh (jurisprudence).”
Yahya ibn Sulayman narrated from Ibn Wahb that he heard Imam Malik say:
“Many of these hadiths are [a cause for] misguidance; some ahadith were narrated by me and I wish that for each of them I had been flogged with a stick twice. I certainly no longer narrate them!”
By his phrase, “Many of these ahadith are misguidance,” Imam Malik means their adducing them in the wrong place and meaning, because the Sunnah is wisdom and wisdom is to place each thing in its right context.
Imam Malik’s companion`Abd Allah ibn Wahb said:
“Hadith is a misguidance except for the Ulema (Scholars). Every memoriser of hadith that does not have an Imam in fiqh is misguided , and if Allah had not rescued us with Imam Malik and al-Layth [ibn Sa’d], we would have been misguided.”
Ibn Wahb is also reported to have said:
“I met three hundred and sixty learned people of knowledge but, without Malik and al-Layth, I would have strayed.”
Another versions states:
“Were it not for Malik ibn Anas and al-Layth ibn Sa`d I would have perished; I used to think everything that is [authentically] related from the Prophet – Allâh bless and greet him – must be put into practice.”
Another version states:
“I gathered a lot of ahadith and they drove me to confusion. I would consult Malik and al-Layth and they would say to me, ‘take this and leave this.”
Ibn Wahb had compiled 120,000 narrations according to Ahmad ibn Salih. Hence, Ibn `Uqda replied to a man who had asked him about a certain narration:
“Keep such hadiths to a minimum for, truly, they are unsuitable except for those who know their interpretation.”