Advice to the learner concerning following a madhab and ‘The Prophet's Prayer Described’ of Shaykh Muhammad Nasir ud Din al-Albani [r]
Q. I have been trying to learn and practice the deen for a couple of years now, alhamdulillah. Sometimes it’s difficult to practice certain aspects of the religion in this society and I pray Allah makes it easy for me. I wanted to ask you, would you recommend the prayer book by sheikh al Al-Bani? Its just some people are asking and urging me to follow the book and it seems very different from the way we have been taught.
All praise be to Allah for guiding us to His Law and Way, and for inspiring us the means of realising His higher objectives (Maqasid) and outlining systematic argumentation to establish them. May the blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad (SAAS, through whom Allah laid solid foundations for reform. May His mercy be upon the Prophet’s companions and the members of his household, luminaries of Islam and jewels in its crown, and upon the leading scholars through whom divine knowledge has radiated following the advent of Islam.
One of the many pitfalls of not adhering to a correct methodology of learning is that when an individual attains some/little knowledge he or she assumes that he/she is following the correct path and everyone else who disagrees with them are misguided or following ‘weak’ and ‘strange’ opinions. This attitude, unfortunately, is the norm among some zealous brothers trying to follow and practice the religion. With their zeal and also blinded by the same enthusiasm they begin to preach what they believe to be the correct and only opinion to be followed and upheld. Unfortunately, this has led many to shun and disparage their brothers in faith simply because they follow opinions in fiqh contrary to theirs.
The question above is typical of a person who has fallen prey to the proponents of this attitude. Why do people feel or make their mission to convert people from one madhab to another or no madhab at all? This methodology, in my opinion, goes against the methodology of the salaf and the Sunnah of the beloved and his companions. Let the brother learn the religion gradually, allow him to increase in his love for Allah and his rasul, teach him adab and suluk. It’s unfortunate that some of them give more priority to the basic external aspects of the deen and neglect the ruh or the soul of the religion.
No one should censure someone following Shaykh al Al-Bani’s prayer book but the problem arises when a brother begins to practice his religion and he has been praying and was taught to pray the Hanafi way (or any of the other established madhabs) and some people feel that he is following a weak school of thought. SubhanAllah! If Imam Abu Hanafi were alive he would send bells ringing in their ears. Many of those zealous brothers do not even understand the basics of the Arabic language but they feel it is appropriate for them to do critique of a madhab that has been codified, refined, revived and expanded upon by great masters over the centuries! May Allah save us from this.
The following points are some thoughts on the question above. I have spoken to the brother and advised him on this matter and pray that the comments below will further give clarification for him and others who wish to benefit, Insha’Allah:
A. Point 1- Shaykh Muhammad Nasir ud Din al-Albani (r) was an erudite hadith master of our time. Many gave him the honorable title of ‘Muhaddith al ‘Asr’ (Traditionist of the era). The Shaykhs printed works, mainly in the field of hadith and its sciences, number some 112 books and he has researched and commented on over 30,000 individual chains of transmission (isnads) for countless Ahadith. He also contributed in the field of fiqh, authoring several books to present his findings and ijtihadat, of which the ‘Prophet’s prayer described’.
Point 2- Many may be aware that when this book was initially translated into the English language it created a lot of commotion and heated debates. The proponents of the non-madhab school of thought were euphoric that finally, ‘we could do away with blind following of madhabs’. While, on the other side of the bench, the advocates or adherents to one of the four orthodox Sunni madhabs were incensed by it, perhaps not very much by the book itself, but because of the attitudes and approach of some to the issue of subscribing to a specific madhab. Much of the intense debates over this issue were due to the lack of knowledge, adab and goodwill from both spectrums and revisiting these inconsequential discussions and the way in which they were carried out, will not do any good to anyone.
Point 3- This issue will be understood fully if not in part by answering whether one is legally obliged to follow a madhab, such as one of the four Sunni madhabs in Islam. We all know that this has been a point of contention in our history In my opinion, this misunderstanding and confusion stems from not comprehending the historical context of the various schools of thought and the codification of knowledge in Islam after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Point 4- Is an ‘ammi (layperson) obliged to follow a madhab? Imam Ahmad ibn Hamdan al-Harrani’s view is summarised below. (Usul ad Da’wa by Shaykh Abdul Karim Zaydan p. 147 – 149):
He said, ‘’the ‘aammi (layperson) subscribes to a particular madhhab or he does not, for each position the following rules apply:
Position 1- In the case of the ‘aammi (layperson) subscribing to a particular madhab there are two opinions expressed by the Scholars:
[i] – His adherence to a specific madhab is not binding upon him because considering oneself to be upon a madhab necessitates that one knows the proofs and evidences of that school – and the ‘aammi (layperson) does not posses that sort of knowledge therefore he should ask (yastafti) whichever scholar he wishes.
[ii] – The adherence of the ‘aammi (layperson) to a specific madhab is a recognised position in his right by virtue of him believing that the school he belongs to is the truth and as a result he has to fulfill and act in accordance with what he believes in and abide by it. In consequence, he must seek fatawa (yastafti) from a scholar who will issue rulings upon the principles of the subscribed madhab.
Position 2- In the case of the ‘aammi (layperson) not adhering to a particular madhab there are also two opinions forwarded by the Scholars:
[i] – It is not obligatory for him to subscribe to a specific madhab, as a result, he is not obliged to seek a fatwa (yastafti) within the set principles of a specific madhab but he has the freedom to seek fatawa from any qualified scholar and take the fatawa from any of the recognised schools of thought, (madhabuhu man yuftihi – his madhab is the scholar issuing the fatwa).
The evidence presented by the proponents of this view state that the salaf as salih did not obligate the ‘aammi (layperson) to do Taqlid (follow without knowing the evidences) of a particular scholar with the exclusion of others, however, they allowed him to ask (yastafti])whichever scholar he wished.
[ii] – It is obligatory for the ‘aammi to subscribe to a madhab – he is to practice and implement the strict rules (‘azaim) and the concessions (rukhas) of the subscribed madhab and seek fatawa according to its principles. They say that if the ‘aammi is allowed to follow any opinion he wishes, the outcome will be that he sticks to only the rukhas (concessions) of the school and thus follows his whims and desires. The consequence of this action will be such that it will result in complete dissolution of the duties and rulings of the Shari’ah, and nothing can protect us from this chaos except by obligating the ‘aammi (layperson) to subscribe to a madhab and adhere to its rulings and principles. They responded to the first group of scholars by stating that during the era of the salaf as salih the various schools of thought had not been codified, analysed and were not known to people and thus they did not make it incumbent upon the ‘aammi to subscribe to a specific madhab’’.
Thus, the conclusion of the proponents of this opinion is that it is necessary for the ‘aammi to subscribe to a specific madhab. He chooses one after searching and asking for the most suitable and appropriate madhab. This can be achieved by knowing which madhab is most prominent, widespread and popular in a given society.
After citing the aforementioned points of Imam Ahmad ibn Hamdan al-Harrani, Shaykh Abdul Karim Zaydan clarifies the issue further in the following points: (summarized)
1- It is incumbent upon all Muslims to know the hukm of Allah in those matters that are obligated upon him.
2- As long as the Muslim has the ability to do ijtihad, he has to search and investigate for the rulings from the sources.
3- A Muslim who has the ability to perform ijtihad has to follow the minhaj of the mujtahideen in his research for the truth and the correct rulings. To perform ijtihad is a challenging task. Scholars cite some conditions of ijtihad:
- Knowing the Arabic Language which includes: Nahu (grammar) sarf (Arabic morphology) Balagha (science of rhetoric) and the knowledge of al-huruf (‘Ilm al Huruf)
- Knowledge of the Qur’an which includes: Ahkam al-Qur’an, the knowledge of the nuzul of the Qur’an, the science of Nasikh and Mansukh, the science of the Qira’at, and the science of tafsir.
- Knowledge of the Sunnah which includes: Mustalah hadith (also jarh wa ta’dil and the ilal of hadith), the legal ordinances contained in the Sunnah, the causes or instances of the ahadith (asbab wurud al hadith) etc.
- Usul al Fiqh which includes: Knowing the general and the specific texts, the mutlaq and the muqayyad, the abrogating and the abrogated, and the qawi’d al fiqhiyiat and their application, and the Maqasid ash Shari’ah.
- Knowledge of those matters that have consensus (ijma’ as sahih).
(Above shurut were taken from our Shaykh Abdullah al-Judai’s book ‘Usul al Fiqh’ book P. 381)
4- If a Muslim is unable to do the aforementioned, he has to ask the people of knowledge (‘ilm) and confirm (yuqallid) to what they rule because they will inform him the rulings of Allah as they are in a capable position to extract rulings directly from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
5- In the case of a Muslim unable to perform ijtihad, he has to seek assistance from the authentic and trustworthy books of Scholars such as the books of the madhaib.
6- When the Muslim studies from these madhabs and adheres to one of them he is called a Hanafi, Shafi’, Maliki, or Hanbali. Therefore, his subscription to one of these schools means that he has taken the madhab as dalil and a guide to the rulings of the shar’. So the madhab becomes a road to the rulings of the shar’ and not contradictory to the shar’, and it is on this basis he has subscribed to it.
7- When and after thoroughly studying a particular madhab he finds an issue in his school not to be sound then he is allowed to follow another opinion, it actually becomes wajib upon him. This was the methodology of all the scholars; they all said that if ‘the hadith is authentic it is my madhab’.
8- Based upon what has preceded – it is permissible for a Muslim to subscribe to a specific madhab. It is also permissible for the ‘aammi not to adhere to a madhab but should ask the people of knowledge what he needs to know to fulfill his obligations.
Point 5- We can see from the above comments that it is perfectly valid for a Muslim to follow a madhab he is comfortable with. If he has chosen the Hanafi school to implement and the majority of people in our society follow the Hanafi school, also the majority of the scholars give fatawa in accordance with the principles of the Hanafi school, why should people who have no formal education in Islam feel that he is following a weak position?!
Point 6 – Many of the time when people begin to give da’wa or teach people they forget the golden principle of tadarruj or gradualism. A person needs to slowly find himself and acquaint himself of the rulings of the shar’. We should allow an individual to develop gradually and recognize that we all cannot become muftis overnight!
Point 7 – In conclusion, a person who has been taught a specific method of prayer (Hanafi to the Hanbali method), we should not make it our mission to change the way they pray. As long as he is not innovating in the religion and he is not performing his own ijtihadat without knowledge, we should allow him to pray the way he was taught. If and when they have obtained the right amount of knowledge and they wish to change their opinion then that is valid and acceptable in the shar’.
I pray I have not offended anyone nor made any grave errors in my comments.