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The Methodology of the Salaf Concerning Ijtihad and Taqlid
  Guidelines Concerning Taqlid and Madhhabs
Source: Various
Article ID : MNJ060008  


Shaykh Muhammad ’Eed ’Abbaasee, hafidhahullaah, said:

"Our view is that it is upon every Muslim to follow that which Allaah, the Most Perfect, commanded in His Book and in the Sunnah of His Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam. This is the purity of Islaam and the true reality of faith. No Muslim can ever be displeased with following what comes from Allaah and His Messenger; as He, the Most Perfect, said:

"The only saying of the Believers, when they are called to Allaah and His Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam to judge between them, is: We hear and we obey. They are the ones that are successful. " [Soorah an-Noor 24:51].

And Allaah said concerning the Hypocrites:

"And when it is said to them: Come to what Allaah has revealed and to the Messenger; you see the Hypocrites turn away from you in aversion. " [Soorah an-Nisaa 4:61].

As well as other Verses like this.

So following the Book and the Sunnah is obligatory, and it should be made the fundamental goal for every Muslim; this is the path that should be traversed. However, the people are of differing types with regards to understanding and comprehension. So from them is the ignorant one (jaahil) who does not understand the meanings of the Glorious Book and the noble hadeeth; nor does he have the ability to deduce [rulings] from them; nor can he comprehend what is sought from them. From them is the scholar who has understanding (fiqh) of the Verses and the hadeeth and is aware of what rulings can be deduced from them; he has the ability to deal with the apparent differences between them; and he understands the Arabic language and its ways. And from them are those that are [at a level] between this. They are not ignorant; nor do they have the understanding to derive rulings; nor do they have the ability to understand what is being indicated to by the text; rather, they have some knowledge, awareness, understanding and contemplation. However, they do not reach the level of the scholar and the one who has penetrating insight of the Book and the Sunnah. So these are the levels of the people; and between them there are many varying grades. The scholars call the first type of people muqallidoon, the second type are technically referred to as mujtahidoon, and the third type are technically referred to as muttabi’oon."

Many scholars, however, refer to only two catagories; the mujtahid and the muqallid. And just as the mujtahidoon vary in their levels, then so do the muqallidoon; some being closer to being muttabi’oon than others.


From the greatest of the scholars of this Ummah are the four Imaams; Abu Haneefah, Maalik ash-Shaafi’ee and Ahmad bin Hanbal, rahimahumullaah.

Ibn ’Abdul-Haadee, rahimahullaah, said:

"Allaah, the Exalted, is the One who selects from His creation. He creates and selects whatever He wills. So He selected Aadam and his progeny from all of the worlds. He selected from them Prophets and Messengers. And He selected from them [the Prophet sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam]; the leader of all the children of Aadaam. He then selected for him his Companions; giving them excellence over the rest of the Believers. He selected them to be the inheritors and successors, making them the best of the followers. He raised from amongst them a people whom none equalled in the worlds. From them were the four Imaams, the Imaams of Islaam; beacons for mankind; whose verdicts and sayings are famous in all the world. He made their scholarship something that the people have agreed upon. Their remembrence is widespread in the [various] cities and countries, and their knowledge shines brightly in the various provinces."


Shaykh Muhammad ’Eed ’Abbaasee said:

"The obligation upon the people of the first type is to make taqleed of any scholar of the Book and the Sunnah, who is reliable in his knowledge and Religion. The obligation upon the second type of people is to make ijtihaad in understanding what is indicated by [the texts of] the Book and the Sunnah, and [then] to follow it and to direct the people upon it. The obligation upon the third type is to make ittibaa’ (lit. follow) of the Sharee’ah evidences that they are aware of, from the statements of the scholars. And whoever has the ability to perform ijtihaad, then taqleed and ittibaa’ of others is not lawful to him, except in cases of necessity ... Whoever has the ability to perform ittibaa’ then taqleed and ijtihaad are not lawful for him. Whoever does not have the abilitry to perform ijtihaad nor ittibaa’ then taqleed is obligatory upon him. The proof for this is that the basic principle (asl) upon everyone is to make ittibaa’ of the Book and the Sunnah, if they have the ability; just as Allaah, the Most Perfect, said:

"Make ittibaa’ of what has has been sent down from your Lord, and do not make ittibaa of friends and protectors other than Him ." [Soorah al-A’raaf 7:3].

Take what the Messenger gives you, and abstain from that which he prohibits you. " [Soorah al-Hash 59:9].

So if the Muslim does not have the ability to understand the Book and the Sunnah and to deduce rulings from them, then he descends to the level of ittibaa’. If he does not have the ability for this, then he descends to the lowest level; which is taqleed. And this is when he enters into Allaah, the Exalted’s, saying:

"Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know. " [Soorah an-Nahl 16:43]."

In summary:

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, said:

"And that which the majority of the Ummah are upon is that ijtihaad is permissible in general and taqleed is permissible in general. Ijtihaad is not obligated upon everyone whilst taqleed forbidden; neither is taqleed obligated upon everyone whilst ijtihaad forbidden. Rather, ijtihaad is permissible for the one who has the ability, and taqleed is permissible when ijtihaad cannot be performed."

The following discussion uses the two-type classification of people; mujtahidoon and muqallidoon. So as regards blind-following (taqleed), there is a permissible form and a prohibitted form:


There are two cases where taqleed is permissible:-

[i] For the ’aamee who does not have the ability to acquire knowledge of the Sharee’ah ruling by himself; so taqleed is obligatory upon him.

[ii] The mujtahid when he encounters a new situation for which an immediate solution is required, but it is not possible for him to research into the matter; so in this case he is permitted to perform taqleed.

An elaboration of the first case:

Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan, hafidhahullaah, said:

"As for the permissible form of blind-following (at-taqleedul-mubaah), then it is for the common person (’aamee) who, if he does not follow the people of knowledge, then he will stray from the path. Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, said:

"Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know. " [an-Nahl 16:43].

And taqleed is not done to just anyone. Rather, it is done to one who is acredited with knowledge and piety; and he is known to the people for this."

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, said:

"When a Muslim is faced with a problamatic situation, he should seek a verdict from one whom he believes will give him a verdict based upon what Allaah and His Messenger have legislated; whatever school of thought (madhhab) he belongs to. It is not obligatory upon any Muslim to blindly follow a particular individual from the scholars in all that he says. Nor is it obligatory upon any Muslim to blindly follow a particular madhhab from the scholars in all that it necessitates and informs. Rather, every person’s saying is taken or left, except that of the Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam. To follow the madhhab of a particular individual because of an inability of knowing what has been legislated, is from that which is permissible; it is not from that which is obligatory upon every individual - if they have the ability to know what has been legislated without this path of blind-following (taqleed]. So each individual should fear Allaah as much as he is able, and seek knowledge of what Allaah and His Messenger have ordered; doing what is commanded and keeping away from that which is forbidden."

An elaboration of the second case:

Shykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said:

"As for the one who has the ability to perform ijtihaad, is it permissible for him to do taqleed ? About this there is a difference of opinion, with the correct opinion being that it is permissible in cases where he is unable to perform  ijtihaad ; either due to the proofs being similar, or due to a time constraint in being able to perform ijtihaad, or due to the proof not being apparent to him. So in cases where he is unable, the obligation of ijtihaad is lifted from him due to this inability."

Does the person who asks a scholar have to necessarily ask for a proof:

Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee, rahimahullaah, said:

"As for one to whom taqleed is permissible, then it is for the common person (’aamee) who does not know the path [to arrive at] the Sharee’ah rulings. So it is permissible for him to do taqleed of a scholar and act upon his saying ... And it has been stated by one of the Mu’tazilah who said: It is not permissible for the common person to act upon the saying of a scholar until he knows the reason (’illah) behind the ruling. So when he asks a scholar, he should ask him so that he knows how the ruling came about. So when he knows and grasps this, he should then act upon it. [Al-Khateeb said]: This is wrong, since there is no way for a common person to know and grasp this, except after gaining fiqh (understanding) for many years and mixing with the scholars for long periods of time ..."


Ibn al-Qayyim, rahimahullaah, said about the prohibitted types of taqleed:

"It is of three types:- Firstly: totaly turning away from what Allaah has revealed, but rather being satisfied with the taqleed of one’s for-fathers. Secondly: doing taqleed of someone when you do not know whether that person is from those whose saying can be taken. Thirdly: doing taqleed after the proofs have been established and it becomes apparent that the evidence contradicts the view of the one to whom taqleed is done."

Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal, rahimahullaah, said:

"How strange it is that a people who know the chain of narratiuon of a hadeeth (isnaad) and its authenticity, yet still they follow the opinion of Sufyaan [ath-Thawree]; even though Allaah, the Exalted, said:

"Let those beware, who oppose the command of the Messenger, lest some trial (fitnah) befalls them, or a painful punishment is inflicted upon them. " [Soorah an-Noor 24:63].

Do you know what the fitnah is? The fitnah is shirk! Since the rejection of some of his sayings could cause something of deviation to enter the heart, and thus be destroyed."

Shaykh ’Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Hasan, rahimahullaah, said:

"In the words of Imaam Ahmad, rahimahullaah, is an indication that doing taqleed before the proofs reach a person is not blameworthy. Rather, the one who is to be censured is that person to whom the proofs reach, yet he opposes them due to [adhering to] the saying of his scholar."


Some verdicts and sayings of the scholars concerning following madhhabs:

[i]: When encountering a difficult issue, do you advise the student of knowledge not to stick to a madhhab, or [do you advise] to turn to a particular madhhab?

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-’Uthaymeen responded:

"If what is intended by sticking to a madhhab is that a person sticks to that madhhab, and turns away from everything else; whether the correct view lies in his madhhab or another madhhab - then this is not permissible, and is from the blameworthy and bigotted partisanship. But if a person ascribes to a particular madhhab in order to benefit from its principles and guidelines, but he refers it back to the Book and the Sunnah; [such that] if it becomes clear to him that the preferred view lies in another madhhab, he then adopts that view - then there is no problem with this."

[ii]: Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan, hafidhahullaah, said:

"The issue of sticking to a madhhab has in it some detail. If a person has the ability to know the ruling from its proof, and to deduce the ruling from its proof, then it is not permitted for him to cling to a madhhab. rather, it is upon him to take the ruling from the evidence if he has the ability to do so. However, this is rare amongst the people, since this is a quality of the mujtahideen from the people of knowledge; those that have reaced the levels of ijtihaad. As for one who is not like that, then he cannot take the rulings directly from the evidences. And this is the predominant case amongst the people, especially in these latter times. So [in such a case] there is no harm in adopting one of the four madhhabs and making taqleed of one of them. However, he should not make blind taqleed such that he takes all that is in the madhhab; whether it is correct or incorrect. Rather, it is upon him to take from the madhhab that which - in his view - does not clearly oppose the evidence. As for those views in the madhhab which clearly oppose the evidence, then it is not permissible for the Muslim to take it. Rather it is upon him to adopt what is established by the proof, even if it is in another madhhab. So his leaving the madhhab for another madhhab in order to follow the evidence is something good; this is a matter which is good - rather it is obligatory; since following the evidence is an obligation."

[iii]: Shaykh Muhammad ibn ’Abdul-Wahhaab, rahimahullaah, said:

"If a person is learning fiqh from one of the four madhhabs, then he sees a hadeeth that opposes his madhhab; and so he follows it and leaves his madhhab - then this is recommended, rather it is obligatory upon him when the proof has been made clear to him. This would not be considered as opposing his Imaam that he follows, since they - Abu Haneefah, Maalik, ash-Shaafi’ee and Ahmad, radiallaahu ’anhum ajma’een - were all agreed upon this fundamental principle ... As for the case whereby a person does not have any evidence which opposes the view of the scholars of the madhhab, then we hope that it is permissible to act upon it, since their opinions are better than our own opinions; they took their proofs from the sayings of the Companions and those who came after them. However, it is not essential to declare with certainty (al-jazm) that this is the Sharee’ah of Allaah and His Messenger, until the proof that is not contradicted in this issue is made clear. This is the action of the Salaf of this Ummah and its scholars - both previous and recent - as well as that which they criticised: namely having bigotted partisanship for particular madhhabs (at-ta’assubul-madhaahib) and leaving off following the proof."

[iv]: Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah was asked to explain Najmud-Deen Ibn Hamdaan’s saying: Whoever clings to a madhhab is to be criticised if he opposes it without a proof, or taqleed, or any other excuse.

Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, responded by saying:

"Two things are intended by this [saying]:- Firstly: That whoever clings to a specific madhhab, then acts in opposition to it; without making taqleed of the fatwaa of another scholar, nor does he use an evidence as a proof which would necessitate opposing this, nor due to any other Sharee’ah excuse which makes it permissible for him to do what he has done - then such a person is a follower of his whims and desires; acting without [making] ijtihaad or taqleed; and doing something forbidden without a Sharee’ah excuse. So this is evil; this is what Shaykh Najmud-Deen intended, and there is a text from Imaam Ahmad and others that it is not for anyone to believe a thing to be obligatory or forbidden, then, merely based upon whims and desires, believe that it is not obligatory nor forbidden ... However, if there becomes clear to him something which necessitates preferring one saying over another; either due to detailed proofs if he knows and understands them, or because he holds one of the two people to be more knowledgeable about this matter and having more piety about what he says, and so he leaves the saying of that one for the saying of the other one - then this is permissible, rather it is obligatory. And there is a text from Imaam Ahmad concerning this."


Certain conditions must be adhered to when following a particular madhhab:-

Firstly: To believe that infalibility belongs only to the Prophet sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam; all other people after him are fallible and make mistakes:

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullaah, said:

"It has been established in the Book, the Sunnah and the ijmaa’ that Allaah, the Most Perfect, obligated upon the creation obedience to Him, and obedience to His Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam. It is not obligatory upon this Ummah to obey anyone in particular in all that he may commands and prohibits, except the Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam; to the extent that the most truthful of this Ummah and the most virtuous after its Prophet [i.e. Abu Bakr] said: "Obey me in what is obedience to Allaah. But if I disobey Allaah, then there is no obedience to me upon you." They are all agreed that there is no single person who is infallible in all that he may order or prohibit, except for Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam. That is why more than one of the scholars have said: "Every person’s saying can be taken or left, except for Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam." And the four Imaams, may Allaah be pleased with them, all forbade the people from blindly following them in all that they may say; and this was an obligation upon them [to do]."

Secondly: That the intended goal should be to follow the Book and the Sunnah, and not to merely follow the opinions of the scholars of the madhhab. Therefore in any issue, if it becomes clear that the preferred view, along with its proofs, lies in other than his madhhab, he must follow the proof and not reject it.

Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee, rahimahullaah, said:

"The Muslims are united that if a Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam is made clear to someone, then it is not lawful for him to leave it for the saying of anyone else."

Thirdly: That forming allegience (walaa) or enmity (baraa) based upon following a particular madhhab is forbidden. Indeed no one should be particualrised with an increase of love and allegience merely because he has adopted the same madhhab.

Fourthly: Whoever leaves the position of his madhhab, due to following his whims and desires, or for seeking convenience, has done something forbidden - and the words of Ibn Taymiyyah have preceeded concerning this.

Refer also to the following:-

[i] Jaami’ Bayaanul-’Ilm (2/102-120) of Imaam Ibn ’Abdul-Barr.

[ii] Majmoo’ Fataawaa (2/220-226) of Ibn Taymiyyah.

[iii] Adwaa‘ul-Bayaan (7/316-319) of Imaam ash-Shanqeetee.

[iv] Fataawaa lil-Lajnatid-Daa‘imah (5/22-44) headed by Shaykh Ibn Baaz.

[v] Hadeeth Hujjatun bi Nafsihi (pp.94-95) of Shaykh al-Albaanee.

[vi] Al-Usool min ’Ilmil-Usool (pp.99-104) of Shaykh Ibn al-’Uthaymeen.

[vii] Muntaqaa min Fataawaa (5/362-368) of Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan.

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