Answer: Many books have been written on this subject. You may enquire from the Ulama in your locality and read up these books for the details. A brief answer is presented here to help you understand the reality of your friend’s claim. Your friend has abandoned strictly following any of the Imaams since he wants to follow the Qur’aan and Sunnah. This is due to the misconception, or due to misinformation, that if you strictly follow any of the Imaams, you are NOT following the Qur’aan and Sunnah. This is extremely far from the reality. The Imaams of fiqh have explained and codified the laws of the Qur’an and Sunnah in a manner that makes it easy for any person to understand them. They did not invent any Deen of their own.
When your friend was a little child, his parents taught him many things. They taught him about the Oneness of Allah Ta’aala, about His attributes, etc. They taught him about Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and his way of life. He was taught how to make istinja, what to recite before and after eating and many other etiquettes. Later he went to maktab where his Ustaad taught him how to perform wudhu, salaah and many acts of Deen. Until this day he has been learning from people. In all these years was he following his mother, father, Ustaad or the Qur’an and Sunnah? Likewise, your friend attends the lectures and seminars of the new group that he has joined and follows what he is told by the lecturers. Can it then be said that he follows the lecture rs, not the Qur’aan and Sunnah? Unfortunately your friend has abandoned strictly following any of the great Imaams who were brilliant experts in all the sciences of Deen. Instead he has opted to follow some present-day scholar whose knowledge cannot compare at all to the knowledge of the Imaams. He has abandoned the expert jurists who lived in the golden era of Islam (Imaam Abu Hanifa (R.A.) — born in 80 AH, Imaam Maalik (R.A.) — born in 95 AH, Imaam Shafi (R.A.) — born in 150 AH and Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal (R.A.) — born in 164 AH) and who acquired knowledge from the students of the Sahaaba (R.A.) and other luminaries of that era. He has instead followed someone born in the 1400’s. If your friend’s claim of directly following only the Qur’an and Sunnah is genuine (due to which he has forsaken strictly following any Imaam), tell him to explain to you how he performs wudhu and fulfils two rakaats of salaah. He should then substant iate every act by means of an aayat of the Qur’an or a Hadith. If he quotes a hadith, he must give full references. He should also state the category of each Hadith and why it belongs to that category. He should also explain why he regards the narrators of the Hadith as reliable. If there is any apparent contradiction with any other hadith, he must explain why he has acted on one Hadith and not the other. If he cannot explain this detail only for wudhu and two rakaats of salaah, how will he explain the details about the rest of Deen? This however exposes the reality of the claim that in many aspects he is directly following the Qur’an and Hadith. He is merely following what somebody, who is very much lesser in knowledge and expertise than the great Imams, has told him. Such people often really follow the “Deen” of convenience and pick and choose what suits them. They do not really follow the Qur’an and Hadith.
There are two categories of people: those who have a profound mastery of the Qur’an and Sunnah and all the related sciences (such as the Imaams of fiqh) and those who do not possess such knowledge. Allah Ta’ala declares in the Qur’an: “Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.” To date the Ummah has “asked” the Imaams of fiqh for guidance, by referring to the Ulama, and followed their expert explanations. By the grace of Allah Ta’ala they fulfilled their obligations of Deen correctly without any confusion. Your friend should not be misled by the exciting slogans and outward glitter and glamour. May Allah Ta’aala save us from every deviation. Aameen.