The Nature of the Four Madhhabs of Islam and Their Relationship with the Present Time

The Nature of the Four Madhhabs of Islam and Their Relationship with the Present Time

by Shaykh Abdal Haqq Bewley

All Muslims agree that the basis of Islam is the Book and Sunnah and almost all Muslims agree that if someone follows the teachings of any one of the four orthodox madhhabs of Islam – the Hanafi Madhhab, the Maliki Madhhab, the Shafi‘i Madhhab and the Hanbali Madhhab – they will certainly be living within the parameters of the Book and Sunnah. The great majority of Muslims are affiliated to one or the other of these madhhabs but for almost all of them this affiliation takes place for purely geographical reasons and very few know very much about the nature of the madhhab they belong to. There is a common perception that the madhhabs are all more or less the same and only differ in respect of slight legal points such as where you put your hands in the prayer and other things of that nature, but that does not really explain why there should be these four madhhabs at all. In order to discover the reason for their existence, it is necessary to look at each of them and find out how and why they came into being in the first place.

The first of the four madhhabs in historical terms is the Madhhab of Abu Hanifah who was born in roughly 80AH and died in 150AH. The salient fact about Imam Abu Hanifah, rahimahullahu ta’ala, was that he did not live in Madinah, where the deen had originally been established; he lived in Iraq and his school developed in Iraq. He grew up in Kufa, was educated there and lived most of his life there, first as a merchant, then as a student and finally as a teacher. Kufa was one of the two great Iraqi cities of the time and Iraq was home to many different religions, sects and beliefs because, apart from containing the capital of the recently defeated Persian empire, it was also the home of various other ancient civilisations. Syriac Christians were dispersed throughout it and they had schools there in which Greek philosophy and the ancient wisdom of Persia were studied. In other words, at the time we are speaking of, Iraq was a melting pot of diverse races, cultures and beliefs and a place rife with confusion and disorder. There were frequent clashes of opinion on the subject of politics and religion. The Shi‘a and Mu‘tazilites stemmed from there and there were Kharijites in its deserts.

Along with this was the fact that comparatively few Companions had travelled from Madinah and settled in Iraq. Indeed it was an explicit policy of the second Khalifah ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه, to discourage Companions with knowledge from leaving the Hijaz. He did this in order to prevent  knowledge of the deen becoming too dispersed. For this reason most of the great men of knowledge among the Muhajirun and Ansar stayed within the confines of Madinah. Two notable exceptions who did go to live in Iraq were Ali ibn Abi Talib, karama’llahu wajhah, and Abdallah ibn Mas’ud,  but the overall number was in fact very small. What that meant, in real  terms, was that the people of Iraq had very limited direct access to the Sunnah, because there were very few exemplars of it who came to them. All these factors meant that the Iraqi environment in which Islam was beginning to take root in the first and second centuries after the Hijrah was a very different one from that of Madinah in which the deen had originally been established.

Another corollary development was that, due to these multifarious foreign influences, many situations arose which were quite alien to anything confronted in the earliest days of Islam. Nevertheless, it was, of course, necessary for the establishment of the deen that solutions should be found for these new contingencies so that they could find their place within the compass of Islam.

This was the environment within which the Iraqi school developed and which caused it to have the particular form which came to characterize it so clearly. As we have seen, for historical, geographical and social reasons,the situation in Iraq was markedly different from that of the Hijaz where the deen had originally been established and taken root. This meant, as we have noted, that new situations were continually arising and it was a question of how to apply the Book and Sunnah to these novel circumstances in such a way that the deen would remain unchanged. As far as the Book of Allah was concerned, of course, the Iraqis had the same access to it as the Muslims in the Hijaz and those in everyother place to which the deen had spread. The difference was in their access to the Sunnah.

We have already noted that direct knowledge of the Sunnah in Iraq was limited because of the small number of Companions who moved there. On the other hand in Sayyidina ‘Ali and ‘Abdallah ibn Mas‘ud, they were two of the most knowledgeable Companions and two of those closest to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and so their direct access to the Sunnah, although very limited in extent, was at the same time of the very highest quality. This led to the distinctive approach to the Sunnah which characterized the Iraqi school and in turn even coloured their attitude to the Qur’an itself. Because of the irreproachability of their direct sources to the Sunnah they were quite rightly supremely confident concerning what had reached them through them, but because of the limited scope of what they received there were many gaps in their knowledge.

In the period we are talking about there was already much forgetfulness and it was even the case that instances of hadith forgery were beginning to be recorded so that, rather than relying on sources about which they were not sure, the scholars of Iraq preferred to come to a judgement based on the use of their own reason within clearly defined parameters based on the knowledge of Book and Sunnah about which they did have absolute certainty. In this they were in fact following the example of Ibn Mas‘ud himself who refrained from attributing statements or actions to the Prophet  صلى الله عليه وسلم, unless he was absolutely sure they were correct and, in cases where he was not certain, would prefer to exercise his own opinion rather than falsely ascribe something to him.

This led to a way of looking at texts which was typical of the Iraqi school, whereby they would examine the reasons behind the judgements contained within them. It was almost as if they did not depend on the outward words but would, instead, look to the meaning behind them and what was intended by the statement involved and would then apply that analogically to the new situation confronting them. This methodology of implementing the Book and Sunnah, which developed in Iraq, caused the Iraqis to be known as the people of ra’i or opinion. Another of the characteristics of this school was that its adherents did not confine themselves to the deduction of rulings to be applied to actually existing cases but also posed hypothetical questions and gave judgment on them as well on the basis of their own reasoning, with the object of pre-empting situations which might well occur in the future.

The great Iraqi scholar Ibrahim an-Nakha’i is generally credited with being the founder of the Iraqi school of fiqh we have been talking about but there is no doubt that its greatest exponent and the man who gave it his name and who became most closely associated with it in the minds of the Muslims throughout history was Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man. He started out as a silk merchant but soon devoted himself to learning and became a student of Shaykh Hammad ibn Sulayman with whom he studied all the Islamic sciences. There is no doubt that Abu Hanifa was a man of the utmost integrity and was imbued with intense fear of Allah which informed all his acts and decisions. He was also extremely generous and a man characterised by great self control. It is, however, for his scintillating intellect and his ability to apply it to the questions which confronted him for which he is justly most remembered and which led to him becoming the leader of the madhhab of the people of opinion.

His profound thinking led to him penetrating to the core of the questions presented to him. This meant that he did not stop at the outward meaning of texts but went beyond that to their intentions. He would study a text, seeking the causes of any judgment it contained, examining the implications of its words, phrases and intentions and the circumstances surrounding it. Once he became satisfied about its underlying cause, he used analogy based on that and took that very far indeed. His general attitude is well summed up by a simile he coined. He said, “One who learns hadiths but does not have fiqh can be likened to a chemist who makes up remedies but does not know what they cure until the doctor comes and tells him. Anyone who learns hadiths but does not grasp their true implications is just like that.”

An illustrative example of the way Imam Abu Hanifa’s mind worked can be seen in the famous account of his meeting with Muhammad al-Baqir, the great-great-grandson of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. It seems that the imam met al-Baqir when visiting Madinah near the beginning of his scholarly career. It is reported that al-Baqir said to him, on the basis of what he had heard of the direction things had taken in Iraq, “Are you the one who changes the deen of my grandfather and his Sunnah through the use of analogy?”

Abu Hanifa replied by saying, “I seek refuge with Allah!” and told al-Baqir that he respected him in the same way that his forebear, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, had been respected by his Companions during his lifetime. Abu Hanifa then said to al-Baqir, “I am going to present you with three questions to answer. The first is: Who is weaker, a man or a woman?”

Al-Baqir replied, “A woman.

What is a woman’s share in inheritance?” continued Abu Hanifa.

A man has two shares and a woman one,” responded al-Baqir.

That is what came from your great grandfather,” said Abu Hanifa. “If I were to have changed his deen by analogy I would have said that a woman should have two shares and a man one because she is the weaker of the two, but I have not.”

Abu Hanifa then asked al-Baqir, “Which is better, the prayer or fasting?

The prayer,” he replied.

That is what your great grandfather said,” agreed Abu Hanifa. “If I were to have changed his deen, I would have said using analogy that, because the prayer is better, a woman who has finished menstruation should be ordered to make up the prayer and not the fast.”

Abu Hanifa then put his third question. “Which is the more impure, urine or sperm?

Urine is more impure.

If it was true that I had changed the deen of your great grandfather through the use of analogy I would, on account of that, have made people do ghusl after urinating rather than for the emission of sperm. I seek refuge with Allah from altering the deen of your great grandfather through analogy.

In this instance Imam Abu Hanifa used his incisive, analytical intellect to uphold the orthodox position of Islam regarding these matters, but it gives us a clear indication of the way that he, in another situation when the position about a matter was as yet undecided and so open to interpretation, would use his mind to come to a decision about it. This great mental agility which characterised Imam Abu Hanifa was recognised by Imam Malik who said of him, “If he had gone to these stone columns and formed an analogy showing that they were made of wood, you would have thought that they were made of wood.”

This brings us to the school of Imam Malik, rahimahullahu ta’ala, who was, in chronological terms, the second of the four imams, living from 93AH to 179AH. Just as when examining the madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifa we discovered that what we were really looking at was the school of Iraq, the methodology used by the early Muslims of Iraq to establish what constituted the Book and Sunnah in that region, so we find that Imam Malik, who lived all his life in Madinah al-Munawwarah, the “Illuminated City”, was in fact the foremost exponent of the school of Madinah and passed down to posterity the methodology used by the people of Madinah in their implementation of the Book and Sunnah. The situation of Madinah was completely different to that of Iraq. Madinah was the place where much of the Qur’an was revealed, the place where Allah’s deen became established as a living social and political reality. It was in Madinah that Islam became flesh and bones and took on its definitive,final form.

So whereas in Iraq it became necessary to work out how Islam could be implemented in the new situation, in Madinah it was simply a matter of preserving unchanged what was already there. In the time of Imam Malik in Madinah people were doing the prayer, making hajj, doing wudu’, collecting zakah, carrying on every aspect of their lives as Muslims in exactly the same way that they had been doing without interruption from the time of the Prophet less than a century earlier. And, moreover, there had been conscious effort expended to ensure that the original teaching and practice of Islam remained unaltered in Madinah, borne out by the injunction of Sayyidina Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه, forbidding knowledgeable Companions from leaving the city, precisely so that the body of knowledge and practice which constituted Islam in action in the world would remain whole and intact and would not become dispersed and fragmented. In Madinah, therefore, transmission of the deen was immediate and direct. As Malik himself said, “If you want knowledge, then take up residence (i.e. in Madinah). The Qur’an was not revealed on the Euphrates (i.e. in Iraq).

This leads us to the vital difference between the Iraqi and Madinan schools. In Iraq, as we have seen, it was a question of taking the available knowledge of the Book and Sunnah, understanding what was intended, and applying it in the new environment, giving rise to what became known as the school of ra’i (opinion). In Madinah the Book and Sunnah were established as an integral element of the community – daily life in Madinah was the Book and Sunnah in action – so in Madinah it was simply a matter of absorbing and taking on the practice of the people there which had been preserved and transmitted unchanged, with the conscious collaboration of two generations of brilliant scholars, to be inherited and encapsulated and passed on to all subsequent generations by Imam Malik ibn Anas, rahimahullah, as the school of the ‘amal ahli’l- Madinah (the practice of the people of Madinah).

It is also acknowledged unanimously by the early ‘ulama of Islam that no bid‘ah (innovation) entered Madinah during the first three generations, meaning the generation of the Prophet and his Companions, their successors and their successors, the Followers of the Followers, one of whom was Imam Malik. So up until the time of Imam Malik nothing extraneous to the Deen, with regard to the Deen, entered into the environment where they lived. In other words what Imam Malik received and what he passed on to his students, and down to our own time in his great work al-Muwatta, was nothing other than the whole body of the Deen that had come down through those three generations to him in Madinah al-Munawwarah. Imam Malik himself expressed the nub of this matter very cogently in a famous letter he sent to al-Layth ibn Sa‘d in which he wrote:

Allah Almighty says in His Mighty Book: The Outstrippers, the first of the Muhajirun and Ansar. (9:100). Allah Almighty further says: So give good news to My slaves, those who listen well to what is said and then follow the best of it. (39:18). It is essential to follow the people of Madinah. The Hijrah was made to it, the Qur’an was sent down in it, and the halal was made halal and the haram was made haram there. The Messenger of Allah was among them and they were present when the Revelation was revealed. He instructed them and they obeyed him. He imparted the Sunnah to them and they followed it until Allah caused him to die and chose for him what is with Him, may the blessings of Allah and His mercy and favour be upon him always. Then after his death, the Muslims followed those from among his community who were given authority after him. When something happened which they already knew how to deal with, they did so. If they had no knowledge of the matter in question, they asked about it and then followed the best line they could. In this they were helped by having very recently been in personal contact (with the Prophet) … Then the Tabi‘un after them travelled this path and followed those sunan. If there is a practice which is clearly acted upon in Madinah, I do not think that anyone may oppose it because of the inheritance that the people of Madinah received which no one else can lay claim to. If the people of any other city were to say, “This is the practice in our city,” or “This is what those before us used to do,” that would not be permissible for them.

What is very evident from all this is that, for the Madinans, the Sunnah was defined by what had been done much more than what had been said. It was a matter of transmitted action rather than transmitted text. Zayd ibn Thabit رضي الله عنه, the famous Companion, stated, “When you see the people of Madinah doing something, know that it is the Sunnah.” This is a very important distinction in the light of developments, which, as we shall see, were shortly to follow and which were to meld together the two terms Sunnah and hadith and make them virtually indistinguishable one from the other. Understanding this point is pivotal to grasping the nature of the Madinan school and its methodology. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab stated on the mimbar, “By Allah Almighty I will make it difficult for a man who relates a hadith different from it (the ‘amal).” Ibn al-Qasim and Ibn Wahb said, “I saw that in Malik’s opinion ‘amal (transmitted practice) was stronger than hadith (transmitted statement).” Malik said, “The people of knowledge among the Followers would sometimes transmit a hadith which had been conveyed to them from others and then say, ‘We are not ignorant of this, but the ‘amal which has come down to us from the past is other than it.'”

Malik said, “I saw Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn ‘Amr ibn Hazm who was a Qadi. His brother was ‘Abdullah, a truthful man who knew a lot of hadith. When Muhammad gave a judgment in respect of which a hadith had come contrary to it, I heard ‘Abdullah criticise him, saying, ‘Hasn’t this and this come in this hadith?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’ His brother said to him, Then what is wrong with you? Why don’t you give judgment by it?’ He said, ‘Where are the people with respect to it?’ meaning what is the consensus regarding the actual practice in Madinah? He meant that the practice is stronger than the hadith regarding it.” Ibn Mahdi, who died in 186 AH and was one of the greatest hadith scholars of his time in Madinah, said, “It may be that I know a hadith on a subject and then I find that the people of the courtyard do something different from that. Therefore it becomes weak in my estimation.” And finally there is the famous statement of Rabi‘a, “I prefer a thousand from a thousand – in other words the established practice in Madinah – over one from one – meaning a singly narrated hadith – even if it is sound, because one from one can strip the Sunnah out of your hands.

So from what we have seen it is clear that for Imam Malik and the people of Madinah, applying the Book and Sunnah basically constituted taking on unchanged the body of lived practice which had come down to them in their city uninterruptedly from the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and his Companions,  ajma’in. We now arrive at the third of our madhhabs, that of Imam Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi‘i, rahimahullahu ta’ala. Imam ash-Shafi‘i was born in Makkah in the year of Imam Abu Hanifa’s death, 150AH, and pursued his early studies there under teachers steeped in the fiqh and tafsir of the great Companion ‘Abdallah ibn ‘Abbas, رضي الله عنه, which was to prove a strong influence on Imam ash-Shafi‘i later in his life. Although he reached a high level of proficiency in his studies he was not satisfied with what he had learned and travelled north to Madinah to sit at the feet of Imam Malik whom he was to consider the “Luminous Star” among the many teachers under whom he studied. He stayed with Imam Malik until 179AH when he died, although it is known that during that time he visited other places for short periods in search of knowledge.

After Imam Malik’s death Imam ash-Shafi‘i was appointed Qadi in Najran by the governor of Yemen. He remained there for five years but his uncompromising implementation of justice and his condemnation of all injustice made him unpopular with those in power and they slandered him to the khalifah accusing him of rebellion and he was sent to Baghdad in 184AH for trial. He exonerated himself but did not return to Yemen, remaining in Iraq and studying with Muhammad ash-Shaybani, the close follower of Imam Abu Hanifa. After a couple of years he returned to his birthplace, Makkah and it was there that his career as a teacher really started. He remained in Makkah for almost ten years and then visited Baghdad for the second time in 195AH, staying there on this occasion for about two years. He returned again to Baghdad in 198AH and then went on from there in 199AH to Egypt where he spent the remainder of his life, dying in Fustat on the last day of Rajab 204AH at the age of.

The reason for dwelling for some time on the varied movements of Imam ash-Shafi‘i during the course of his life is because it has a considerable bearing on the development of the method by which he determined what constituted the Book and Sunnah. Both Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik remained comparatively stationary throughout their lives, which meant that the source of their knowledge was geographically limited and therefore quite consistent in its approach to the deen. As we have seen Imam ash-Shafi‘i, on the other hand, travelled a lot and because of this saw many different approaches taken to the deen. In fact it is true to say that he learned the fiqh of most of the schools existing in his time.

He started by learning the fiqh of Ibn Abbas in Makkah. He went on to learn the fiqh of Imam Malik in Madinah. He learned the fiqh of al-Awza’i, the school of Syria, from his companion, ‘Umar ibn Abi Salam. He learned the fiqh of Imam Abu Hanifa, the Iraqi school, from his follower Muhammad ash-Shaybani and he learned the fiqh of al-Layth ibn Sa‘d, the faqih of Egypt. As we have seen, there was a considerable difference between the Madinan and Iraqi schools and this was equally the case with all the other schools, with the result that quite distinct judgements were being made about almost identical issues in different areas. Because of his wide learning Imam ash-Shafi‘i was well aware of these differences and it became clear to him that, unless a uniform system of coming to judgment was devised and imposed, there was a very real danger of Islam becoming divergent. He saw that it might rapidly become changed out of all recognition from the original teaching as it had been implemented by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and the first community in Madinah.

In order to combat this clearly perceived threat – that Islam might suffer the fate of previous revelations by becoming changed and adulterated from its original form due to increasingly divergent rulings on virtually identical situations – Imam ash-Shafi‘i devised a brilliant system to ensure uniformity of legal decision-making and to prevent any further dispersal and dilution of the original teachings of Islam. He did this during his long stay in his birthplace, Makkah, to which he returned after his first visit to Iraq, and it is significant that he based his system on his earliest studies oft he knowledge and methodology of the great Companion, Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him and his father.

The teaching of Ibn ‘Abbas was firmly based on his explanation of the text of the Qur‘an for which he had received explicit permission from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. The Qur‘an is, of course, a book, the Book, and for that reason a major element in the methodology transmitted from Ibn ‘Abbas was textual analysis involving detailed examination of the text itself. This involved a concern with the mujmal (unspecified) and mufassal (detailed), the mutlaq (unrestricted) and muqayyad (qualified) and the khass (specific) and the ‘amm (general). In the hands of Imam ash-Shafi‘I this type of textual analysis produced a new discipline for fuqaha which had not previously existed although all the elements of it had been present.

This detailed examination of the written word formed the core of the methodology for which Imam ash-Shafi‘i became famous and was the cornerstone of his system for ascertaining an authoritative and consistent standard for what constitutes the Book and Sunnah. He founded a systematic method of deduction which allowed judgments to be made on the basis of sound textual evidence and did not accept the latitude in the derivation of judgments which, as we have seen, had existed up until then. Under Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s system no opinion could be expressed which could not be traced to an authenticated text and so the possibility of innovation in the Shari’ah became vastly reduced. In this rigorous reliance on texts, however, lie both the strengths and weaknesses of Imam Ash-Shafi‘i’s superlative system.

It certainly fulfilled its intended task of halting the accelerating break-up in the homogeneity of the practice of Islam in the various areas of the Muslim world of that time and ensured a consistency of practice which was to safeguard the integrity of Islam right down to our own time. Indeed it is true to say that it is largely due to Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s superlative system that we owe the extraordinary uniformity of Islamic practice throughout the world, so that even today 1200 years later, wherever a Muslim travels in the world, despite all the geographical, ethnic and cultural differences which undoubtedly exist, there is no significant difference in any of the basic practices of Islam. This is a tremendous achievement. Another thing is that, because of the need for trustworthy textual evidence on which to base actions and judgments, it became necessary to collect together as many sound traditions from the Prophet as possible. This in turn led to the great hadith collections and all the sciences of hadith which were devised to ensure their authenticity, and it is significant that nearly all of the great hadith collections were put together by scholars who were adherents of the Shafi‘i madhhab.

However what this also meant was that both the Book and Sunnah became restricted in a way that had not previously been the case. Until that time the Sunnah had consisted in the transmitted practice of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and the first community of Muslims in Madinah. In many cases there was textual corroboration of the actions concerned but in many other instances the practice in question had simply been passed down from one generation to the next without there being any textual justification for it. Thus the Sunnah was an organic pattern of behaviour, consisting of the implementation of Allah’s guidance in the Qur’an by the first Muslims under the direction of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, covering every aspect of life. This was passed down as a direct inheritance by two generations from those who brought it into being. The Sunnah was, in broad brush strokes, the way the first generations of Muslims had lived, and continued to live, their daily lives, particularly in Madinah. They made a continual and conscious effort to avoid admitting any change into what had come down to them and the men of knowledge among them spent their lives preserving it.

So up until Imam ash-Shafi‘i came along the Sunnah was in many cases simply the way the Muslims lived their lives protected by men of knowledge whose lives were dedicated to ensuring that no change occurred in what they had received from the past. After Imam ash-Shafi‘i, however, and his insistence on textual justification for action, the Sunnah became more and more identified with hadiths. This meant that unless there wasan actual text explicitly authorising a particular action it was no  longer considered to be part of the Sunnah, even if it had been practised by the Muslims from the earliest times. Not only that, but the rigour of Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s system of textual analysis meant that even the actions that did have textual justification were tempered by the way the texts were interpreted so that in some instances the actions themselves were changed by Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s unique methodology and this applies to the Qur‘an as well as hadith.

Two examples, one from the Book and the other from the Sunnah, will illustrate how the practice of the Muslims was affected by the application of Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s methodology. We find in the Qur‘an in Surat an-Nisa the ayah: 43:

O you who believe! Do not approach the prayer when you are drunk so that you know what you are saying, nor in a state of major impurity – unless you are travelling – until you have washed yourselves completely. If you are ill or on a journey, or any of you have come from the lavatory or touched women, and you cannot find any water, then do tayammum with pure earth, wiping your faces and your hands. Allah is Ever-Pardoning, Ever-Forgiving.

In reference to the words “or touched women” the Muslims, before Imam ash-Shafi‘i devised his system, had always understood them to have a sexual connotation. In other words, it was only necessary to renew wudu after some form of sexual contact with women. However, the word used here for “touch”, lamasa, can mean simply just that, without any sexual contact being implied. Applying his method of rigorous textual analysis, Imam ash-Shafi‘i reached the conclusion that the broadest possible interpretation must be allowed and, therefore, ruled that any touching whatsoever between men and women was sufficient to break wudu. This constituted a considerable change in practice from an accepted understanding – that what was intended by the ayah was sexual contact – which had been acted upon universally by the early Muslims, to an interpretation based on textual analysis which involved a completely different judgement than the one previously implemented.

With respect to the Sunnah an example of a similar alteration of practice can be seen in connection with the prayer. We find in Sahih al-Bukhari from ‘Ubada ibn as-Samit,  , that the Messenger of Allah  صلى الله عليه وسلم, said,“There is no prayer for anyone who does not recite the Fatiha of the Book.” The early Muslims all accepted that the Fatiha must be recited in every rak‘ah of the prayer. There was, however, an almost universal acceptance that the recital of the Fatiha by the imam in the audible prayers was sufficient to cover the recitation of everyone following him. But after the application of Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s system to the text of the hadith quoted above, it was judged necessary for every individual doing the prayer to recite the Fatiha in every rak’ah and because of that the imam was required to pause for a while after his own recitation of the Fatiha to allow those following him to do the same. This again introduced a practice which had not been performed by Muslims anywhere before Imam ash-Shafi‘i.

So we can say that in his exposition of the rulings of the deen, in other words his implementation of the Book and Sunnah, Imam ash-Shafi‘i relied almost entirely on the outward and apparent indication of texts. He disapproved of both the Iraqi and Madinan approaches to fiqh because the former tended to be based on the principle perceived to be governing a particular transmitted ruling and depended on the state of the faqih making the judgment and of the latter because of its tendency to accept transmitted rulings which had no textual authority to support them. As we have seen, Imam ash-Shafi‘i based his system almost entirely on texts and took a more literal and objective approach to them, causing him perhaps to err on the side of caution.

He took upon himself the task of setting out the principles for a consistent methodology of deduction to provide guidance for all those qualified to make judgments in the deen and to formulate the criteria involved. He set out a universal system founded on firm principles, not contingent upon  opinion or precedent or the resolution of hypothetical questions, and succeeded in devising a methodology for all subsequent scholars and judges to follow. His influence on the later development of Islam cannot be overstated and it is fair to say that the Islam we have inherited today is in no small part due to the system which Imam ash-Shafi‘i formulated twelve centuries ago.

We now come to the last of the four Imams who have given their names to the madhhabs followed by the Muslims, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. There is, however, a marked difference between Imam Ahmad and the other imams. The three earlier imams all definitely represented a particular methodology: Imam Abu Hanifa the Iraqi school of opinion; Imam Malik the Madinan school of direct transmission; and Imam ash-Shafi‘i his own system based on textual analysis. Imam Ahmad, on the other hand, cannot be said to have devised a particular methodology of fiqh. The great historian of Islam, at-Tabari, for instance, did not even include the madhhab of Imam Ahmad when discussing the early fuqaha. He said  of him: “He was a man of hadith not a man of fiqh.”

Qadi ‘Iyad states in his great book Tartib al-Madarik: “He was less than an imam in fiqh although he was brilliant in investigation of its sources.” And there were many other great ‘ulama who did not consider him the founder of a school of fiqh. Indeed he only became an imam in fiqh after his death and that was because some of his students collected together his statements, fatwahs and opinions, forming a legal corpus which was posthumously ascribed to him. Sometimes the transmissions from him varied considerably and sometimes they agreed. We will understand more of this ambivalence about his status as a faqih if we look at his life and how he studied and taught during the course of it.

He was born in Baghdad in Rabi‘ al-Awwal 164AH, half a generation after Imam ash-Shafi‘i, making him, historically speaking, the last of our four imams. This fact and the fact that he was born in Baghdad have a considerable bearing on the course his life and studies were to take. By the time Imam Ahmad came into the world and was brought up in Baghdad, the ‘Abbasid caliphate was thoroughly established and Baghdad had become a truly cosmopolitan imperial capital, a world away from the Madinan environment in which Islam had originally been established. By Imam Ahmad’s time Persian elements had come to dominate Arab elements and the sophistication of Persian civilisation was in the ascendance in general throughout the Muslim world. The cities of Islam were inundated with differing nations and races, and texts of all kinds were being translated from Persian, Syriac, Greek, Latin and other languages into Arabic. The result of this was that the more or less homogenous cultural environment of early Islam had become fragmented as all these different influences became part and parcel of the Islamic world. Add to this the clash of earlier religious traditions together with the attempts of their adherents to mould Islam towards their own world views and the result was an ambience, both religious and physical, which would have been all but unrecognisable to the first generations of Muslims.

This was what confronted Ahmad ibn Hanbal as he grew up in the ‘Abbassid capital and, as a pure-hearted, intelligent, deeply pious youth, he was left with the quandary of how, in the light of all the sophisticated deviation he was facing, he could regain something of the light, clarity and simplicity of the formative early days of Islam. The way he went about achieving his aim has already been indicated in the quotation from at-Tabari – he became a muhaddith. In order to get as complete and detailed a picture as possible of the life of the first community he devoted himself to accumulating the maximum possible number of reports from that time, not only from the Prophet  صلى الله عليه وسلم, himself but also from the Companions, ajma‘in.

So from very early in his life Imam Ahmad chose the men of hadith and their method and dedicated himself to it, to the extent that it certainly appeared that he had taken the path of the hadith scholars rather than that  of those who combined fiqh with hadith. In his search for hadiths Imam Ahmad travelled widely throughout the heartlands of Islam and may have been the first muhaddith to collect the hadiths of every region of the Muslim world and record them. Another thing which marked him out was his use of the pen in his compilation of hadith. In spite of his well known prodigious memory Imam Ahmad wrote down the hadiths he collected. The end result of all this hadith recording which started when he was sixteen years old and continued through much of his life was his great Musnad which contains almost thirty thousand hadiths.

For Imam Ahmad the Musnad was like a great painting in which the myriad reports it contained were the individual brush strokes which together made up the most accurate portrayal he could possibly convey of what the deen of Islam had been like in its original, pristine condition. It was this picture, made up of sayings of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and reports and decisions from the Companions,   ajma’in, which was the bedrock on which Imam Ahmad built his life and on which he based all his judgments. In as far as he had a methodology for deriving judgments from these sources, he depended upon Imam ash-Shafi‘i under whom he studied and who was one of his most revered teachers. When he met Imam ash-Shafi‘i he learned the rules for sound understanding of the Book and reports of the Sunnah, comparison of textual sources, knowledge of the abrogating and abrogated, and in general how to deduce secondary rulings from the basic sources of the Shari’ah. So in this respect he was certainly not the same as the other three imams, each of whom had their own very distinct methodology for deriving judgments in the deen.

Another reason, perhaps, why Imam Ahmad was made the founder of a new school of fiqh was because of his absolutely exemplary character which inspired many people to take him as a model during his own lifetime. There is no doubt that all four imams were impeccable in their  personal behaviour and all of them had superlative qualities of character that marked them out among their contemporaries. Imam Ahmad, however, had a reputation for saintliness which outshone all of them. From his earliest youth he was famous for his incorruptible integrity which was put a severe test later in his life when he, unlike almost all his contemporaries, suffered over two years of imprisonment and constant severe beatings rather than adopt the rationalist Mu‘tazili doctrine of the createdness of the Qur’an which had become official Abbasid government policy and which was clearly contrary to the position held by the early Muslims. This event also showed his steadfastness and patience which saw him through the many other difficult periods which punctuated his long life.

Other qualities he possessed were great generosity in spite of scant means, transparent sincerity, scrupulousness and abstinence, modesty and cheerfulness, and a natural authority which ensured that people paid attention to what he said. So strong was his connection with the early days of Islam, and so brightly was light of that time reflected in all he said and did, that some of his contemporaries described him as being a great Follower removed from his proper time. All these things and his status as a man of knowledge meant that when he died on 12th Rabi‘ al-Awwal 241AH more than three hundred thousand people joined his funeral procession. All in all then it must be said that from very early times there has  been much discussion about whether Imam Ahmad can really be said to have been the founder of a separate madhhab. It is certainly clear that he was in a different category to the other three, who all represented very specific methodologies in their implementation of the Book and Sunnah. He was definitely one of a kind in terms of the time and place where he lived and ploughed his own furrow in his determination to cleave as closely as he possibly could to the path followed by the first community in Madinah, remaining absolutely orthodox in his views while at the same time being somewhat at odds with the prevailing ethos surrounding him. This is significant in the light of some of those who were to adopt him as their imam in fiqh later on, several of whom were people who found themselves at odds with the authorities of their own time and found in Imam Ahmad a way of remaining firmly within the bounds of orthodox Muslim belief and practice while at the same time differentiating themselves from the power structure of their time.

He himself said, “A man should not set himself up to give independent judgment about the deen unless he possesses five qualities. He must have a clear intention because unless he has he will have no light. He must have knowledge, forbearance, gravity and tranquillity. He must be firm in his knowledge. He must be independent and not dependent on other people. And he must be known to people.” There are few people in the history of Islam who have fulfilled these criteria to the extent that Imam Ahmad himself did. So what can certainly be said is that Imam Ahmad was a mujtahid of the very highest rank, absolutely able to make independent judgments concerning matters of the deen. That does not in itself, however, automatically make him the founder of an independent school of fiqh and, if he was, it was certainly in a very different way to that of his three pre-eminent predecessors.

Seeing Imam Ahmad’s work in this light, as an heroic attempt to recapture both for himself and his contemporaries the ethos of what was already by his time a bygone age, we are left with three distinct methodologies each of which aimed in their own way to embrace and define the Book and Sunnah and pass it on to subsequent generations.

The first was the Iraqi school also known as the “School of Opinion”, definitively formulated by Imam Abu Hanifa and known to future generations as the Hanafi Madhhab. The essence of this methodology was that, in the absence of a known, direct precedent, a new ruling could be made on the basis of understanding the legal purpose behind a previous ruling from the Book or Sunnah about a similar situation and analogously attributing that same legal aim to the new situation. In other words it aimed to distil certain legal principles from the body of the Book and Sunnah which could then be applied as new circumstances demanded. This process was obviously subject to great knowledge of the sources, scrupulous piety, and a rigorous adherence accepted limits on the part of the faqih concerned but it nevertheless allowed a certain leeway in the definition of what could be included within the parameters of the Book and Sunnah. For this reason it was an ideal system for those entrusted with the governance and administration of the Ummah and it is noteworthy that the first great power structure of Islam, the Abbasid Caliphate, was based in Iraq and that the two main dynasties of later times, the Osmanli Dawla and the Mughal Empire, who between them ruled over the vast majority of the Muslim world for centuries, both appointed the Hanafi Madhhab as the official legal modality of their administrative systems.

The Madinan school, definitively formulated by Imam Malik and outlined in his great work al-Muwatta, took a very different approach. For the Madinans the Book and Sunnah were a matter of direct transmission. They were simply what had been passed down and conscientiously and scrupulously preserved through the two generations that had elapsed since the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and his Companions, ajma’in, as a lived reality. The textual sources were, for them, sounding boards or yardsticks against which their ongoing practice should be measured to make sure that there was no deviation and the road remained clearly delineated. The proof that the deen could be transmitted in this way is shown by the fact that the third generation received it in this way from the second, none of whom had had direct personal contact with the original phenomenon. The school of the ‘amal ahli’l-Madinah (the practice of the people of Madinah) flowed in a river of transmission down through the centuries along the North African coast and then into West Africa with small pockets remaining in the Arabian peninsular. It is significant that Qadi ‘Iyad in his great work Tartib al-Madarik, which traces the history of the Madinan school down to his own time, does not dwell on the texts written within it over the centuries but rather devotes himself to describing the type of men it produced, showing that it remained in his view much more a matter of transmitted behaviour than of recorded judgments.

This is again very different from the approach to the Book and Sunnah adopted by Imam ash-Shafi‘i. As we have seen, in order to counteract the growing tendency towards unacceptable variations in the practice of the deen he had observed on his travels and to preserve Islam within the clear parameters delineated by Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم, he devised a system based on rigorous textual analysis of the ayaat of the Qur’an and the hadiths of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. This certainly achieved his desired aim, but at the same time limited the Sunnah to only those actions for which textual evidence could be produced. It is also very different from the Madinan tradition in which the transmitted action exists independently of the text which merely serves to confirm its authenticity. In the Shafi‘i system, on the other hand, the source texts serve as engenderers of action – in effect, the practice of the deen actually derives from the texts themselves.

As was pointed out earlier, this approach necessitated a vast increase in the number of authentic textual sources available and so brought about the development of all the sophisticated sciences surrounding the collection and authentication of hadiths. This and the complex intellectual discipline required to implement Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s demanding criteria, which became known to subsequent generations under the general heading of usul al-fiqh, entailed a new class of specialist scholars who became a necessary element in Islamic society from this time on. And it is true to say that many fuqaha from the other schools soon began to incorporate aspects of Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s methodology into their own procedures to the point that it might almost be said that basically all the scholars of Islam became to a greater or lesser extent adherents of Imam ash-Shafi‘i’s brilliant system.

Two things need to be said at this point as a necessary supplement to what has been discussed so far. The first is there has been no intention, in making these observations about the four madhhabs of Islam, to present a complete picture of any of them. From the beginning each of them included many elements which have not been presented in this analysis and certainly over time each of them developed into highly complex structures about which countless volumes have been written. My purpose has been to highlight certain salient features in each of them in order to show how each of them, in its own way, embodies a specific approach to the matter of exactly what constitutes the deen of Islam. The second point is to reaffirm categorically that every one of them comprises in itself an authentic transmission of the deen down to our own time. Each of them in its traditionally accepted form represents a body of knowledge and practice through which the whole edifice of Islam has been preserved and renewed down through the centuries. It is, however, important to observe that each of them is self-consistent, that each of them is the result of that particular methodology which brought it into being and, therefore, that it is not possible to chop and change indiscriminately between them.

Each must be taken as a whole and applied as it has come down in its accepted form. The haphazard mix and match approach adopted by some unqualified Muslims nowadays, whereby they randomly choose a different ruling from a madhhab other than their own to suit a particular situation in which they find themselves, is erroneous. The madhhabs are clear paths which have been laid down to be followed just as they are. A great deal of knowledge is needed to be able to judge when its is appropriate to use a ruling borrowed from another madhhab and anyone who does that without the necessary learning is in effect arrogantly setting themselves up as a qualified mujtahid. More grievously at fault are those Muslims who claim that no madhhab is necessary at all, that it is possible, or in the worst cases even compulsory, to reject all these centuries of traditional scholarship and, returning, as they assert, directly to the sources, to find a version of Islam which somehow escaped the notice of our sincere and extremely learned ancestors.

These latter culprits can be loosely gathered into two groupings, modernists and salafis, both of which, curiously enough, employ, in an inauthentic way, the very methodologies embodied by two of the madhhabs we have been examining. The modernists might well be termed deviant Hanafis because they are people who, without anything like the necessary knowledge, integrity and Taqwa to do so, employ an approximation of the methodology of the Iraqi school to reach judgments about current issues in a mistaken attempt to accommodate Islam to the times in which we live and who, in doing so, have made compromises in the deen which have undermined some of the basic premises of the Islamic Shari’ah.

One early instance of this trend, among innumerable examples which have occurred since, was the infamous late 19th century fatwa of Muhammad ‘Abduh permitting Muslims to invest in interest bearing accounts in the British run Egyptian post office. He paid no attention to the clearly expressed objections of his fellow ‘ulama, insisting that the Shari’ah should be interpreted by reason, and arguing that preventing Muslims from investing their money in this way would give an unfair advantage to non-muslims. This opened the door to the wholesale introduction of modern banking into Islamic lands and the consequent subjection of the Muslims to the kafir economic and political domination which followed in its wake.

In the hands of men such as ‘Ali ‘Abd ar-Raziq and ‘Abd ar-Razzaq as- Sanhuri this school of thought gathered momentum and led to introduction of foreign legal systems in almost every Muslim country which has resulted in the virtual abandonment of the Shari’ah everywhere in the Islamic world. The examples of this way of thinking, on both a communal and personal level, has resulted in a situation where the barriers between Islam and kufr have become blurred to the point that the Qur’anic ayah, “To you your deen and to me my deen,” has basically ceased to have any meaningful manifestation in the world today.

The second group, the salafis, base their practice of Islam on a “return to the sources” by which they mean a re-examination of the hadith collections. Their arrogant assertion is that by doing this they have discovered, after fourteen centuries, that for all this time the Muslims have been failing to implement properly the Sunnah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. In as far as their whole premise is based on analysis of hadith texts, even if lacking in the necessary inward and outward qualifications to make it authoritative, they could be said to be neo-Shafi‘i’s in that they use a debased form of the methodology devised by Imam ash-Shafi‘i to derive practices from their literal and deficient understanding of the texts involved. Their claim that earlier generations of Muslims did not have access to the texts is demonstrably false. The whole vast and intricate structure of the science of hadith developed by the scholars of Islam was devoted, as we have seen, to ensuring that the practices of the Sunnah were carefully based on a precise understanding the hadith texts involved. To say at this distance in time that these texts have in fact been misunderstood or misapplied by all the Muslims throughout history demonstrates an extraordinary arrogance which is almost incomprehensible.

One example of this is the salafi practice of placing the hands across the chest in the qabd position when standing up from ruku‘ in the prayer. The evidence for this, according to them, is a hadith in which it says that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, used to come back after ruku‘ into the same position he had been in before going into it. All the Muslims have always understood this to mean that he simply returned to the upright position. But this new literalist salafi interpretation of the hadith has introduced into the prayer a practice never performed before by any Muslims anywhere, with the unwarranted implication that the whole community has been mistaken about this matter for fourteen centuries. There are unfortunately a great many similar examples and this new version of Islam is more often than not propagated by its adherents with an overweening air of self-righteousness which is far removed from the courtesy and humility displayed by true scholars of the deen. Another unfortunate result of this false teaching is that it has spawned a generation of young people who truly believe that, armed with a translation of a collection of hadith, they can decide for themselves what constitutes the Sunnah and that, moreover, it is their bounden duty to put every other Muslim right if they do not agree  with them.

This then is the way that the methodologies of Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam ash-Shafi‘i have been ignorantly abused in the world today and the same can also be said of the methodology of Imam Malik although, in its case, the abuse has taken a slightly different form. As we have noted the basis of the distinctive methodology of Imam Malik is direct transmission.

The truth is that this is, for the vast majority of Muslims, the way they  infact take on the deen. They learn it by example from their families and the Muslim community in which they live. This is all well and good provided that what they absorb is within the limits set out by one of the four madhhabs we have been discussing. All too often, however, various accretions have crept in, borrowed from local culture or ancient custom, which are considered by the people of a particular area to be part and parcel of the deen when, in reality, they have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam at all. These supplementary practices sometimes become so ingrained in a particular Muslim community that it becomes very difficult to eradicate them and many of the people think that anyone who tries to do so is attacking Islam itself.

If this is the negative way that the madhhab methodologies are manifesting themselves in the present day, what about the originals, the great rivers of transmission of Islam from the past, we have been looking at – what is their relationship with the world in which we now live? The truth is that in the present context the madhhabs now have very little to do with the methodologies which originally brought them into existence. They are now, and have been for a considerable time, nothing but static bodies of law, compendious compilations of legal rulings, covering every aspect of personal and social life in the Muslim community.

As we said at the beginning a person’s affiliation to a particular madhhab has become in almost every case simply a matter of geography. The madhhab you have depends on an accident of birth; where you were born determines the madhhab you adopt. If you were born in Turkey or the Indian Subcontinent you are automatically a Hanafi. If you were born in the Far East you become Shafi’i. If you were born in North or West Africa you become Maliki. Throughout the Middle East there is more of a mixture and your madhhab tends to depend on the family you were born into. There is no doubt that this has in many ways proved a protection for the Muslims throughout the world and that through the teaching of their madhhab they have retained access to an unbroken and authentic transmission of the deen of Islam from the earliest times.

There is, however, a downside to this. It tends to give the impression that things are still all right, that the situation of the Muslims today is somehow comparable with what was in the past, that Islam is still a functioning reality. That is emphatically not the case. There is now nowhere on the surface of the earth where Allah’s deen is being implemented in anything but a most fragmented way. The hudud have been to all intents and purposes completely abandoned and replaced by various man-made versions of criminal law. Most of the personal and social aspects of the deen, even in those places where they are claimed to be in force, have in fact become watered down and compromised to fit in with Western legal modalities. As for the financial and economic aspects of the Shari’ah, they have been completely jettisoned in favour of the usury based capitalist economic system engendered in post reformation Europe, which was first used as a weapon to destroy Dar al-Islam and is now the instrument by means of which the Muslims, along with the rest of the world’s population, are held in a state of somnolent subjugation. The reason for this is that the Book and Sunnah are not seen as the prime source of governance by any Muslim regime anywhere in the world. This in fact has made all the madhhabs virtually redundant in real terms.

The madhhabs were all developed within a context of unabashed Muslim rule, where Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم were seen as the only source of legal authority, in which the Book and Sunnah were seen as the only valid criteria for the government of human affairs. Their purpose was to come up with all the rulings necessary for the correct implementation of the Book and Sunnah in every area of Muslim life in the certainty that these rulings would be immediately enacted. There was nothing theoretical about them; they did not exist in a vacuum. They were a vital and active principle in the ongoing life of every Muslim society. Under their sway rulers ruled, judges judged, traders traded and, in every aspect, life was lived. What a difference between then and now! In the eyes of Muslim rulers now the madhhabs are irrelevant. Even for Muslim judges in this time the madhhab is well down their list of legal sources. And the idea of a modern Muslim businessman being subject to the strictures of a madhhab is simply laughable. The madhhabs have been reduced to being the domain of emasculated scholars who frequently know every ruling there is to know about every subject under the sun but are impotent to implement a single one of them.

So although the madhhabs do provide a link with the past and have ensured an authentic transmission of the deen into the present age, the truth is that they no longer fulfill the purpose for which they were brought into being. Their purpose was to provide the rulings for the complete implementation of Islam in every area of life and they are not able to do that because there is nowhere where Allah’s deen is established. This is the first time since the first community in Madinah that this has happened and our primary task as Muslims in this time must be to see the Book and Sunnah once more put back in place as the sole fountainhead of all our affairs. Nothing short of this is acceptable and it must be the continual and explicit intention of every Muslim to see this come about until it has happened.

The madhhabs were excellent tools for implementing the Book and Sunnah once they were in place but they had nothing to do with establishing them in the first place. So it is most unlikely that the madhhabs as presently constituted will provide us with the means to perform the task which faces us. Imam Malik used to say, “The last of this community will not be put right except by what put it right in the first place.” In other words, in order to restore Allah’s deen to its rightful place at the head of Muslim affairs, we have to get right back to what was there at the beginning. The question is how to do this? The modernists do not even want to. Although the salafis claim that it is what they want, their route is a non-starter because there is no direct access to the source by the means they espouse.

If we view Islam as a river whose source was the first community, and which has flowed down through more than fourteen centuries to our time, then the madhhabs have clearly been an inseparable part of that river. But the question here is do they lead back to its source? Continuing the river metaphor and turning the years into miles, if we go back up stream, we come upon a dam about two hundred and twenty miles from the source. Behind the dam is a huge reservoir into which much of the headwater of the river is gathered before flowing on again towards the sea. This dam is Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. One hundred and eighty five miles from the source we find that a great canal has been dug, leading off the main river and running parallel with it for many hundreds of miles before rejoining it far downstream. It is beautifully engineered and allows the filtered and purified water from the river which fills it to flow uniformly between its well constructed banks making it easy to manage and administrate. This canal is the madhhab of Imam ash-Shafi‘i.

Further upstream, about a hundred and twenty miles from the source we find a tributary flowing into the river from one side and mixing with it, whose spring is in some nearby hills. This is the methodology of the Hanafi madhhab. Finally, a little before we reach that tributary we would find a sluice system through which all the water from the very source of the river is regulated and directed. This is Imam Malik. What this makes clear is that in the end it is only through Imam Malik that we can have access to the very source of the deen, that primal picture of Islam in action which we need in order to be able to re-establish the deen here and now.

In this regard, Imam Malik should be seen, therefore, not as the founder of  the subsequent madhhab named after him but rather as the Imam of the Dar al-Hijra, Madinah al-Munawwarah, and the recorder and transmitter of the ‘amal ahli’l-Madinah, the practice of the people of Madinah. As we know, Imam Malik saw it as his task to capture for posterity the living tradition of Islam in action, the Book and Sunnah in their pristine original form, which had been passed down to him unaltered through  the two generations that had elapsed since the death of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. This clearly represents the closest possible exposition of Islam as it was actually lived by the Prophet and his Companions, the unbroken transmission of the Book and Sunnah in the very place where it had been established, preserved and unaltered in any way by the two generations who had lived there between the days of the First Community and the time of Imam Malik. So what it brings to us is that raw, vital energy of the first days of Islam, the time of the Prophet himself صلى الله عليه وسلم, and the time immediately following it of the Khulafah Rashidun,   ajma’in, when the deen was in its most potent phase of expansion and establishment. For  that reason it is sometimes known as the madhhab of ‘Umar  رضي الله عنه.

It was that very behaviour pattern which made Islam happen in the first place, so what better model could there be for this time when it is once again necessary to start from the ground up. The historical proof of its potency can be seen in the example of the Murabitun in the eleventh century. The Practice of the People of Madinah was transmitted to them by Abdallah ibn Yasin, the teacher sent to them from Kairouan, where the living record of the ‘amal ahli’l-Madinah had been passed on unbroken from the time of Imam Malik himself, and with it, and nothing else, they burst out from their land in West Africa and revived Islam throughout the Maghrib and al-Andalus, ensuring the Muslims in Spain, who had at that time almost come under Christian domination, a further two hundred years of Islamic governance.

Its incontrovertible authenticity has been repeatedly verified throughout the centuries, not least by the celebrated Hanbali scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, whose book ‘The Soundness of the Basic Premises of the Madhhab of the People of Madinah‘, makes it clear that the most complete picture of the Sunnah, both in terms of its spirit and its actual practice, was that passed on by Imam Malik and captured in its outline in his book al-Muwatta. This was because of Imam Malik’s great knowledge, his geographical location in the City of the Prophet, the great number of men of knowledge who had remained there, preserving the deen in its entirety from the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the fact that, as was universally acknowledged, no innovation in the deen at all entered Madinah during the first three generations of Islam. Also worth mentioning, in a contemporary context, is the book of Dr. Yasin Dutton ‘The Origins of Islamic Law’, a piece of scrupulous scholarship. In his book, Dr. Dutton shows conclusively that  Malik’sMuwatta does indeed contain a direct record of the authentic practice of the first Community and by doing so, incidentally, deals a death blow to those orientalists who have maintained that there was a time-gap between the first Community and the development of the Shari’ah of Islam.

Several times during the history of the deen at times when, for one reason or another, it had fallen into disrepair and decadence and was in need of renewal, the scholars of Islam have pointed out that the madhhab of the ‘amal ahli’l-Madinah represented a position which was pure Book and Sunnah with no controversy in it whatsoever on which all the Muslims could come together. A notable example, for instance was the great Indian scholar Shah Waliullah of Delhi, who explicitly propagated it as a way of reviving the deen in India in the face of the advancing British. In our own time, the mantle of this task has fallen on the shoulders of Dr. Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi whose seminal text Root Islamic Education shows definitively how the primal model of Madinan Islam gives us all the guidance we need for the complete re-implementation of Islamic governance. He says in it:

The duty is to come together at that point where there is no argument and no deviation. The place is Madinah. Only there can we all meet in that primal ‘Umari Islam, … for it was the evidence and proof from the Messenger of Allah that men could live together in justice and in peace and with trust in each other, by obedience to Allah,  . It is the school of Madinah, salafi, and pure, that will unite the Muslims, and revitalise the deen, and restore the reality of the second shahada, along with the first.

So the Madhhab of the ‘amal ahli’l-Madinah, of the Actions of the People of Madinah, represents the way that Islam came into being in the first place, directly at the hands the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in his explanation of the ayaat of the Qur’an and his implementation of them in his own life among his Companions, ajma‘in. This was the basis of all four madhhabs and this is what the Muslims have to get back to. This understanding of the Deen fresh from the source as it appeared in the actions of the people of Madinah is what we must have if Islam is to be restored to the position it should hold at the head of all human affairs.

Website Translator Powered by 

To translate this page, click this  Translate Link  and type or paste in the following  webpage address or just click the address below: https://madanitimbukti.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/the-nature-of-the-four-madhhabs-of-islam-and-their-relationship-with-the-present-time/

Advertisements

The Vindication of the People of the Maghrib Concerning the Issue of Sadl (Laying the Hands Straight in the Prayer in the Mālikī Madh-hab)

The Vindication of the People of the Maghrib Concerning the Issue of Sadl (Laying the Hands Straight in the Prayer in the Mālikī Madh-hab)

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. By Him we seek Assistance.

The following text was sent to me via e-mail from a brother who had studied primary level fiqh and tajweed in North Africa prior to moving to the United States; hence I cannot and do not claim it as my own, and unfortunately, I was not given the name of the author nor can I recall the identify of the sender, other than his Efnet IRC nick name, Sahnoon. The daleel was written by one of the fuqara’ in one of his teaching circles who had compiled the information in order to aid the insight of the people who were interested in the issue. This article was edited with the understanding that all of the various positions of our mujtahideen that have been supported and passed through the generations are valid, and each mujtahid is bound by their ijtihad unless they are presented with proof that they consider stronger than what they based their original ijtihad on, both the absolute and the limited among them. Our duty, as simple Muslims, is to take one of them as our tariqa to the Kitab wa Sunnah, to hear and obey. Imam Sufyan al-Thawri, the famous ‘Iraqi mujtahid said: “If you see a man doing something over which there is a debate among the scholars, and which you yourself believe to be forbidden, you should not forbid him from doing it.” Adhering to this advice would greatly benefit this ummah, draw us away from the petty bickering that some of us do and get us back to the real issue at hand, the near complete domination of the Muslims at the hands of the kufar.

That being the case, it is not the intention of myself to in any way degrade or attempt to weaken the positions of our other Imams, but rather, it is merely my intention to show positively that sadl is the dominant, majority position of the Maliki madhhab; a point which is shown by what can be considered “strong” language as you will shortly see in the text.

The text I received was of an extremely low level of English, so I have taken careful liberties at upgrading the language in order that it may be read more smoothly and have in no way intentionally interpolated into the text. The notes that I have added were done for three reasons:

Firstly, being that much of the weight of evidence lies on the people who have transmitted it, I thought it necessary to, whenever possible, give a brief biographical note in order that people may come to know, even if superficially, who these people actually are, for as Imam Zuhri stated, “This knowledge is deen, so look well to whom you are taking your deen from.”

Secondly, I felt it necessary, in some instances, to dispel certain myths and half-truths that are being passed around by certain groups of people who have practically waged war against the Maliki madhhab, focusing on this issue in particular, by attempting to project the image that the later Maliki scholars (some even have the audacity to accuse Malik’s students) were acting contrary to their Imam and placed him above the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam.

And lastly, to avoid any interpolation.

I do not claim to be a scholar, nor a student of knowledge, and hence I ask the reader not to judge the strength of the madhhab by me, but instead judge it by the strength of the man from who it is primarily derived:

There will come a time shortly when people will beat the flanks of their camels searching from East to West in pursuit of knowledge. And they will find no one more knowledgeable than the ‘alim of Madina.

Imam al-Tirmidhi, al-Qadi ‘Iyad, Imam adh-Dhahabi and many others relation from Sufyan ibn ‘Uyana (in one transmission), ‘Abd al-Razzaq, Ibn Mahdi, Dhu’aya ibn Imama, Ibn al-Madani, Muhammad Idris ash-Shafi’i and many others, that “We used to consider it to mean Imam Malik.” Imam as-Suyuti list it as one of the hujiyyat of the messengership of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam.

There are many short texts in the ‘Arabic language that are circulated throughout North Africa that deal with this issue. If it were possible, I would rather rely on those text, but unfortunately, the vast majority of the text of the madhhahib have yet to be translated, instead, most people preferring to translate works of contemporary “scholars” who are in all respects inferior to our great Imams of the Salaf & Khalaf. But for now, until other works are translated and published, this will have to do.

The first appendix is an excerpt from an answer I received back in late 1998 from Hajj Gibril Haddad. The second appendix is my attempt to explain what was too exhaustive to be placed in the footnotes. I felt that since most people in the West are ignorant of the science of fiqh, there were certain allusions to Maliki principles of jurisprudence that many people may not be aware of, or are contrary to what they have been taught, and hence, in order to somewhat enlighten the readers, I have attempted to explain them as briefly and best as I can, being that they are the principles of this proof to aid its proper understanding. As I said, I’m not an usuli scholar, so please don’t quote me. The third appendix is an excerpt of a fatwa that Shaykh Muhammad ‘Illiyish gave in reply to a question relating directly the issue. The fourth are my references which have over the years have helped aid my ability to be able to write my humble appendix.

I have titled it, “The Vindication of the People of the Maghrib” because sadl is one of the main issues for which the Malikis, who dominate the Maghrib, are attacked for today. The Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam stated:

There will always be a part of my Community firm before the truth in the Maghrib until the order comes from Allah.

And the validity of sadl is one of those truths that the people of the Maghrib are firm in upholding, despite the criticism they may receive.

This was written while I was residing in Hampton, Virginia, but is in no way connected to the Masjid there, nor to Jamal Badawi, Ahmad Sakr, or Ahmad Noor, the three respective trustees of the masjid.

May Allah forgive me for the burden I have taken upon myself, as well as for my speech. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger, and the People of the House.

Lumumba K. Shakur

20 Muharram 1422

14 April 2001

Hampton,Virginia

The Masjid & Islamic Center of Hampton Roads

The Main Text
Irsal al-Yadayn – The Laying of the Hands

In sha Allah, I will be listing the reasoning that our Maliki scholars have given to support their opinion, that is, laying the arms straight in prayer (sadl).

Proof from Ahadith Regarding Hand Placement

1. Sadl (laying the hands straight in the prayer) is not an action, but rather, it is the natural position of the hands while standing. This is the asl (root, origin, source)

2. The scholars have differed on the matter of qabd (grasping: holding the left hand with the right). Ibn Rushd states in Bidayat al-Mujtahid (1:137)

The reason behind their differing is that there are some ahadith narrating the way the Prophet prayed which did not mention him placing his right hand over his left, and on the other hand, it was reported that the people were ordered to do that.

As for the ahadith that Ibn Rushd is referring to, one of the most commonly cited is the hadith of Abu Humaid al-Sa’idi, which is as follows:

Muhammad ibn ‘Amir ibn ‘Atta stated: “I heard Abu Humaid al-Sa’idi talking amongst ten of the Sahabah of the Messenger of Allah. Abu Qattada who was among them spoke up and said, “I am the most knowledgeable of you about the prayer of the Messenger of Allah.” They replied, “How can that be when you were not following him for a longer period, nor were you a companion of his before us?” To this Abu Qattada replied, “Yes.” “Well then prove it,” the others challenged. He (Abu Qattada) said, “When the Messenger of Allah stood for prayer, he raised his arms until they were level with his ears, said the takbeer and didn’t being reciting until all of his limbs had rested in their natural position. After finishing his recital, he raised his hands until they were level with his ears, said the takbeer and from there, performed the ruku’. He placed his palms on his knees and posed his back straight, neither raising his head nor lowering it . . .

This version of the hadith is narrated by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad, al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud in their Sunan, while Imam al-Bukhari narrates a shorter version of it in his Sahih. When Abu Humaid finished his description of the prayer, they all stated, “You are truthful, this is the way he used to pray.”

The statement of Abu Qattada that, “[A]nd didn’t being reciting until all of his limbs had rested in their natural position” is proof that the Prophet did not always place his right hand over his left, for this is not the natural position at which the limbs rest, rather, this is what is known as sadl. If the Prophet placed his right hand over his left in the prayer all the time, then (at least) one of the Sahabah would have objected to Abu Humaid’s failure to report that in his narration.

Furtherstill, and most importantly perhaps, amongst those Sahabah was Sahl ibn Sa’d, the narrator of the hadith: “The people were ordered (literally “used to be ordered”) that a man place his right hand over his left arm in the prayer,” as stated by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (2:334).

3. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrated in his book, al-Tamheed that:

Mujahid said, “If the right hand is to be placed over the left, then it should be on the palm or the wrist on the chest.” The narrator added from Mujahid, “and he hated that.”

It is understood from this that placing the right hand over the left was not what Mujahid was accustomed to, proof that he did not witness the Sahabah doing it.

4. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr also narrates in the same book (20:76):

‘Abd Allah ibn al-Izar said, “I used to make tawaf around the Kaba with Said ibn al-Jubayr. Once, he saw a man placing one hand over the other, so he went to him, separated his hands, and then returned to me.

From this, we notice that placing one hand over another in prayer was considered by him to be a munkar, because he changed it with his hand, which is only acceptable in relation to the munkarat. Furthermore, it is apparent from this athar that at the Masjid al-Haram, there were few people seen putting their hands over each other in the prayer, indicating that the custom was otherwise. And this was during the time of the Sahabah and Tabi’een.

5. Also narrated in al-Tamheed:

‘Abd Allah ibn Yazid said, “I never saw Said ibn al-Musayyib holding his left hand with his right hand in the prayer, he used to lay them straight.

Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib was one of the biggest Tabi’een in Madina, and this was thus the practice of the people of Madina that Imam Malik witnessed.

6. Ibn Abu Shaybah narrated that al-Hasan al-Basri, Ibrahim al-Nakh’ai, Ibn al-Musayyib, Ibn Sirin, and Sa’id ibn Jubayr all laid their arms straight in the prayer.

Imam Malik’s View Concerning Sadl and Qabd

1. The dislike of qabd in the fard and its permissibility in the nafl if one is standing for a long time in order to make it easier on him. (i.e. a rukhsa)

This is the opinion narrated by Ibn al-Qasim in al-Mudawanna (1:74) and in al-Tamheed (20:75) al-Layth as-Sa’d is reported to have said:

The laying of the hands if prayer is preferred, unless he is standing for an extended period and becomes tired, then there is no problem (la ba’as) in putting the right hand over the left.

Al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih (1:401) in the chapter entitled, “Using the Hands in Prayer for Help, if it is Part of the Prayer” that Ibn Abbas said:

A person can use any part of his body for support. Abu Ishaq placed his head cover (over his arms) in prayer and raised it (as a sling), and ‘Ali placed his palm over his left wrist, unless scratching his skin or straightening his clothes.

Thus, putting the hands over each other in prayer is permissible when used as a means for support in cases of standing in prayer for a prolonged period of time, as is narrated of ‘Ali and as Ibn Hazm explicted stated in his al-Muhalla (4:113),

And we have narrated of ‘Ali that when he stood in prayer for a long time, he used to hold his left arm with his right hand at the origin of the palm, unless straightening his clothing or scratching his skin.

Standing for extending periods of time is a characteristic of the nafl rather than the fard prayer, as the Prophet ordered the imam to be light in the fard.

Imam al-Shawkani mentioned in Nayl al-Awtar (2:201),

[A]nd the narration of irsal (laying the arms straight in prayer) is the narration of the majority of his students, and it is the famous among them (referring to Malik and the Maliki scholars).

Imam al-Shawkani also stated:

Ibn al-Munthir narrated that Ibn al-Zubayr, al-Hasan al-Basri and al-Nakh’ai all used to lay their arms straight in the prayer, and not put the right hand over the left.

‘Abd al-Razzaq in his Musanaf ‘Abd al-Razzaq states: “I saw Ibn Jurayr praying while laying his arms straight, and al-Awza’i said that whoever wished to do the same (then let him do so) and whoever wanted to leave it (then let him leave it), and it is also the saying of ‘Atta.”

2. The permissibility of qabd in both the fard and nafl.

This is the saying of Ashhab and Ibn Nafi. It is also the statement of Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr.

3. The performance of qabd in the fard and nafl.

This is narrated of the two brothers: Mutrif and Ibn al-Majishun from Malik, as stated by Ibn Rushd in al-Tahsil (1:395).

4. The prohibition of qabd.

And this is the narration of the ‘Iraqi scholars from Malik, as mentioned in by al-Bagi in al-Mutawa (1:281).

And Allah knows best.

Appendix I
Opinions from the Scholars of the Maliki School

Shaykh Ahmad ad-Dardiri:

The Maliki scholar Shaykh Ahmad ad-Dardir said in his Arqab al-Maasilik li Madh’hab al-Imam Malik that:

It is allowable to grasp the hands during the nafl prayer and it is reprehensible to grasp the hands during the fard.

Shaykh Ahmad az-Zarruq:

And to end this, we would like to quote from one of the greatest Maliki ‘ulama, Shaykh Ahmad az-Zarruq, in his commentary on the Risala of Ibn Abu Zayd:

The person praying is not to place his right hand over his left in the fard, although it is allowable in the nawafil due to the length that one stands in prayer in order to support oneself in standing. Shaykh at-Turtushi said, “It is forbidden to grasp the hands during the fard because it becomes like something he supports himself upon during the prayer” . . . The People of Learning in Madina disagreed regarding the grasping of the hands for support as to whether it was part of the outward aspects of the prayer or not.

Shaykh ‘Usman dan Fodio:

It is mentioned in the Bayan (by Shaykh ‘Uthman ibn Fudio),

Grasping the hands for support during the prayer is summed up in three opinions:

some say it is allowed absolutely

it is reprehensible except when standing long in the nawafil

it is highly recommended and its matter is to grasp the left wrist with the right hand and place them under the chest.

And Allah knows best.

Appendix II
Explanation of the Fiqh of Imam Malik as it Relates to the Issue at Hand

In regards to the issue at hand, there are three relevant points of fiqh that I feel need briefly to be discussed: ‘amal, khabar al-wahid, and the qat’i in respects to the dhanni.

Imam Malik’s Risala to Imam Layth ibn as-Sa’d

Imam Malik, in an authenticated letter to Layth ibn as-Sa’d in Egypt, wrote:

It has reached me that you give fatwas to the people concerning things which are contrary to what is done by our community of people and in our city. You are the Imam and you have excellence and position with the people of your city, and they need you and rely on what comes from you. Therefore you ought to fear for yourself and follow that whose pursuit you hope will bring you rescue. Allah Almighty says in His Mighty Book, ‘The outstrippers, the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansar.’ Allah Almighty says, ‘Give good news to My slaves who listen to the word and the follow the best of it.’ People follow the people of Madina, and the hijra was made to it and the Qur’an was sent down in it, and the halal was made halal and the haram was made haram there since the Messenger of Allah was living among them and they were present at the revelation itself. He commanded them and they obeyed him. He made sunnah for them and they followed him until Allah made him die and chose for him what is with Him, may the blessings of Allah and His mercy and blessing be upon him.

Then after him, the people followed those from among his community who were given authority after him. Whenever something happened that they had knowledge about, they carried it out. What they did not have knowledge of, they asked about, and then took the strongest of what they found regarding that by their ijtihad and the recentness of their contract (with the Prophet). If someone disagreed with them or said something else which was stronger than it and better, they left the first statement and acted on this other one.

Then the Tabi’un after them followed this path and they followed those sunnan. Since the business in Madina was open and acted upon, I do not think that anyone should oppose it, because of what the Madinans possess of that inheritance which none is allowed to plagiarize or lay claim to.

If the people of the other cities had begun to say, ‘This is the action which is in our city and this is what happened in it from those before us,’ they would not be certain about that and they would not have that which allows them that.

Imam ash-Shaf’i and His Risala

This is the crux of the Maliki position in his own words. When Imam ash-Shafi’i went to Egypt, he found people doing things that he felt were strange. Upon inquiring into their proofs and reasons, it was apparent that they were acting in accord to various fatawa passed by Imam Malik. In order to ascertain the reasons why Imam Malik held such positions, Imam ash-Shafi’i began looking into Malik’s ijtihadi rulings, and saw that there wasn’t a readily identifiable methodology that Imam Malik had employed, hence he felt it his duty to do such. Immediately afterwards, he wrote his innovative work, al-Risala which began the period of usul al-fiqh.

When this work was written, Malik was already gone, and Imam ash-Shafi’i was an Imam in his own right. That being so, there were many positions that Imam Malik held that Imam ash-Shafi’i disagreed with, due mostly to differences of methodology, or usul. With these differences in mind, he wrote his Risala, which became the basis for the definitions and generally propagated procedure of fiqh. For Imam ash-Shafi’i, the first source was the Qur’an, then the Sunnah, then ijmaa’’, and then qiyas, nothing more. But Imam ash-Shafi’i’s methodology was not necessarily the agreed upon methodology of the entire ummah, nor where his definitions, hence, the different scholars in different regions and different methods took the Risala, and adapted it to and for themselves. Imam ash-Shafi’i, although he had studied under Muhammad Shaybani, had at this time became the main proponent of the ahl al-hadith, and expressed his schools views within his work. Although no one disagreed with the general identification of the sources that Imam ash-Shafi’i identified, how those sources were handled is the point of departure. Since my intention is to help supplement the understanding of the above text, it is not my concern here to deal with the Qur’an nor qiyas, since the issue of sadl is neither a point of tafsir nor qiyas. I will only briefly try and focus upon the Sunnah and ijmaa’ as it relates to the topic.

The Early Definition and Implications of the Word ‘Sunnah’

The Sunnah, as it is commonly defined, is the “words, actions, tacit approval and characteristics of the Prophet”. This is the definition that was given to it by Imam ash-Shafi’i, which the people of hadith concurred upon. But as is evident in the proceeding quote from Imam Malik, this was not the definition that he understood. To Imam Malik and the people of Madina before and after him, the Sunnah including the totality of the Prophet, the Sahabah and the agreed upon practice of the Tabi’een. Hence, in the mind of Imam Malik, the Sahabah and Tabi’een, in a sense, were held on the same level as the Prophet’s personal sunnah. That is not to say that the Sahabah were equals with the Prophet, but rather, the conclusions and massly accepted ijtihad of the Sahabah and the subsequent rulings of the Tabi’een, were the explanation and extension of the Sunnah, in the same way that the Sunnah is considered to be an explanation and extension of the Qur’an, and hence, Imam ash-Shafi’i’s statement:

I do not know anyone among the ulama to oppose (the idea) that the Sunnah of the Prophet is of three types: first is the Sunnah which prescribes the like of what Allah has revealed in His Book; next is the Sunnah which explains the general principles of the Qur’an and clarifies the will of Allah; and last is the Sunnah where the Messenger of Allah has ruled on matters on which nothing can be found in the Book of Allah. The first two varieties are integral to the Qur’an, but the ulama have differed as to the third.

Hence in the same manner, the Sunnah is of three other types: the Sunnah of the Prophet as mentioned above, the Sunnah of the Companions which explains and supplements the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, and the last is the Sunnah of the Tabi’een that was transmitted to them from the Sahabah, which they acted upon and ruled in accordance of when they could find nothing in the former. And in the same manner, the first two are agreed upon, while the ulama have differed in regards to the third.

Before I continue with Malik, there is an important point that needs to be made that will clarify much of the confusion over the different madhhahib, and that is that hadith and Sunnah are not necessarily synonymous to all the usulieen.

The Mutawatir and the Ahad Riwayat

The whole of this deen is by way of transmission. The Qu’ran is transmitted, the ahadith are transmitted, the athar and fatawa of the Sahabah are transmitted, ijmaa’ is transmitted, and the ijtihad of our early fuqaha’ is transmitted. And accordingly, our scholars of usul and hadith have differed between two basic types of transmission: mutawatir and ahad. The mutawatir is a mass-transmission such that it is practically impossible for a lie to have crept into the narration and distorted the text. This is the basis of the infallibility and protection of the Qur’an, and the reason why there is absolutely no doubt in our minds that the Qur’an has not been changed since it was completed. Ahad on the other hand, is that whose chains of transmission have not reached that level of certainty, hence, there is a possibility that it can be a fabrication or distortion. Hadith falls into both of these categories. That being the case, the mutawatir and ahad both correlate to two different degrees of proofs: qat’i and dhanni, definite and speculative respectively.

The Use of Khabar al-Wahid by Ahl al-Hadith and Ahl al-Ra’y

In relation to the two different schools of the Salaf, the ahl al-ra’y and ahl al-hadith, there was a difference on how they looked at ahadith in light of this categorization. No one disputes the authority and ‘isma of the mutawatir, but the point of disagreement is around the ahad. The ahadith al-ahad or khabar al-wahid are those ahadith whose level of transmission, prior to the period of collection, did not reach the level of mutawatir, which comprise the vast majority of the ahadith that are transmitted. The two different schools had differing views on the authority of such ahadith.

The ahl al-hadith, after checking both the sanad and text of the hadith, were generally more willing to adopt the hadith after it could be ascertained that it was not abrogated. But, however, the ahl al-ra’y were stricter in this regard. To the ahl al-ra’y, although the mutawatir was a definite (qat’i) proof, the ahad was dhanni at best, and hence was treated like such. Since the ahad was speculative, it could not impart definite knowledge by itself and since Allah said in the Qu’ran: “[V]erily, conjecture avails nothing against the truth” the fuqaha’ have put stipulations on the acceptance of the ahad. Imam ash-Shafi’i, and Ahmad both stated that when if the narrators of the ahad were upright, competent Muslims with a retentive memory, a direct connection to the person they transmitted from and were not known to distort the text or chain of ahadith, they accepted them and readily utilized those ahadith in their ‘ijtihad, which is Imam al-Bukhari’s criterion for his Sahih.

Imam Abu Hanifa and His Companions: the Representative of the Madhhab al-Ra’y

The Hanafis however placed two other conditions, namely that the person who transmitted the hadith is not known to have acted contrary to their report, and that it is a matter that does not necessitate the knowledge of a vast number of people.

In the first condition, there is a hadith which states that “When a dog licks a dish, wash it seven times, one of which must be with clean earth.” The hadith in question fulfills all the above requirements of Imams ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad, but however, it is known that Abu Hurayra, the Sahabi that the hadith comes from, did not act upon it himself. Because it is known that normally, the criterion for purifying anything is only three washes, an established qa’ida, and since Abu Hurayra is known not to act upon this hadith, Imam Abu Hanifa and his madhhab rejected both its text and attribution to Abu Hurayra.

In regards to the second criterion, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, is reported to have said, “Anyone who touches his sexual organ must make a fresh wudu’.” The Hanafis have rejected this hadith in light of the fact that even though this is an important hadith, it was not an established practice amongst the whole community, and hence, there is too much doubt surrounding its authenticity to be acted upon, for if it were true, it would have been necessitated that it be transmitted and acted upon by all.

Another example from the Hanafis is the issue of the wali. The Hanafis have ruled that a wali is not an essential part of the nikkah, and hence a nikkah is valid without one, even though there is a sahih hadith that states, “There is no marriage without a wali,” along with others which state something similar. Their reasoning is that in the Qur’an, Allah states, “If he has divorced her, then she is not lawful to him until she marries (hatta tankiha) another man” (2: 229). The dhahir, outward meaning of the word hatta tankiha implies that a woman has the authority to contract her own marriage, and since the Qur’an is a qat’i and the hadith is ahad, it is rejected since the speculative cannot override the definite. Furthermore, the Hanafis consider the ‘amm of the Qur’an to be definite and hence binding it is dhahir wording and general application, unless there is a qat’i proof to specify(takhsis) its generality.

In other words, when there was a clash between a qat’i and a dhanni proof, the qat’i takes priority, and in many instances, the dhanni is disregarded.

An example from Imam Malik is the same issue above, that of the dog. The Shafi’is and the Hanbalis have ruled because of this hadith and one similar to it, that both dogs and pigs are nejus. However, in the Qur’an, Allah says, “When they ask you what is lawful to them, say: ‘What is lawful to you is that which is good and pure and also what you have trained your hunting animals to catch in the manner directed to you by Allah.” (5:4) In this verse, Allah allows for the game which is taken from the mouths of hunting animals to be eaten, without any stipulations attached. One of the animals that the Arabs used to hunt with was dogs. Allah did not make an exception to dogs, hence, the ayat in the Qur’an is general and implicitly implies that the saliva of dogs is pure. Furthermore, there is a qa’ida derived from the Kitab wa Sunnah that “everything is pure until proven otherwise”, and since this hadith is ahad, along with the reasoning that Imam Abu Hanifa gave, it cannot overrule the general principle, thereby specifying something which Allah has apparently made general. In light of the fact that there is no other proof to substantiate it, Imam Malik and his madhhab rejected it and consider all living animals, and that which is pure from humans (i.e. hair, saliva, skin, etc.), to be pure as well. Even to the extent that the left over water that a dog has drunken from is considered tahir for taharah.

Imam Malik and the Madinan Divergence

Imam Malik and the Madinans have added another criterion to accepting the khabar al-wahid apart from what which is mention in relation to Imam ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad: that the hadith in question does not conflict with the ‘amal of ahl al-Madina.

The ‘amal of ahl al-Madina as a juristic principle states what Malik mentioned above, that Madina is the inheritor of the sunnah of the Prophet and the sunnah of the Sahabah, and hence the entire city is the visual legacy of the Prophetic Sunnah. The proofs are the ayat stated above, along with ahadith:

My community will not agree on an error.

and

Madina is sacred, and throws out its dross as fire cast out the dross of metal.

and

Islam will cling to Madina as a serpent clings to its hole.

In Malik’s view, all of these ayat and ahadith substantiate not only the superiority of Madina spiritually, but in regards to its practice as well, and hence, their practice is a mutawatir transmission of the Sunnah. That being the case, the ‘amal of ahl al-Madina is in his mind, which he inherited from his teachers, a qat’i proof, and when it comes in conflict with a dhanni, such as the khabar al-wahid, either explains the latter’s ambiguity, or completely overrides its text, even when the ‘amal is of the Tabi’een or Tab’ut Tabi’een. The rational reasoning behind this was stated by Imam Malik himself, who said,

About so many thousand Companions came with the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, from a certain expedition at such-and-such a time. About 10,000 of them died in Madina, and the rest split up in the cities. Which would you prefer to follow and whose words would you prefer to take? Those (Tabi’een) in whose presence the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, died with his Companions I mentioned (i.e. the 10,000 of them who died in Madina), or the one (group of Tabi’een) who died with one or two of the Companions of the Prophet-sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam.

The understanding that Malik had comes down to common sense. Imam Malik was the Imam of the Abode and Hijra of the Prophet. Madina, was the first Islamic state established, hence, all the relevant historical occurrences happened in Madina. The majority of the akham revealed by Allah ‘Azza wa Jal were revealed in or in relation to Madina. The Prophet made hijra there, lived out his life there, and died there. Revelation came while he was in the city, and the whole area was illuminated by its effect. The vast majority of the Sahabah, in the efforts to be as close as possible to the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, followed him to Madina and took up residence there. Most importantly in this respect, the seven companions that were known to pass fatwa spent a considerable amount of time in Madina, including ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud and ‘Abdullah ibn Abbas. It was the seat of the first three Khulafa Rashidun, and ‘Ali spent half of his khalifate in Madina. If there was ever a sunnah established, it was done in Madina. If there ever was a relevant hadith, it was known in Madina. If there ever was a city that deserved to be followed, it was Madina.

The Issue of Ijmaa’

As it can be noticed from the quotes that are dispersed throughout this article, Imam Malik was primarily concerned with Madina and did not feel that any other city had a legitimate claim to be equal, let alone superior. That being the case, it is only natural to conclude that the ijmaa’ that Malik was concerned with was only the ijmaa’ of the Madinans, the seven fuqaha’ in particular.

If you turn to the Muwatta’, Malik constantly refer to both ‘amal and Madinan ijmaa’, thus we find numerous statements like,

I have never heard any of the people of knowledge and fiqh and those whom people take as an example . . .

or

I have not heard that any of our predecessors used to do that, and the people of knowledge disapprove of it . . .

or

This is what we do, and what I have seen the people of knowledge in our city doing.

And many other statements along those lines. The earlier Imams of the Salaf were extremely careful not to transmit any false information, hence, instead of declaring outright that there is an ‘ijmaa on an issue, they would simply state, “I have not heard any of the people of knowledge say otherwise,” or something similar out of caution. But with Malik, you will however, never find a statement indicating that something is the ijmaa’ of the entire ummah; primarily because what Malik preferred the statements and conclusions of the people in whose cemeteries over 10,000 Sahabah are buried, as opposed to those with only a handful. Malik’s ‘amal and ijmaa’ can be directly related to two other priniples of fiqh that the ‘ulama have for the most part concurred upon: ijmaa’ and ‘urf.

‘Urf as it is defined by the fuqaha’ are the set of practices and word usages that the upright amongst a particular group of people have considered to be good. In essence, Malik’s ‘amal if actually the ‘urf of Madina. ‘Urf as a juristic principle, by the agreement of the fuqaha, cannot stand alone since ‘urf is rooted in the rationale and intellect of a people as opposed to revelation. But however, in Malik’s eyes, the ‘urf of Madina is a divinely inherited phenomenon, and hence, does have the capacity to stand alone as a proof in the shari’ah. Similarly, the knowledge of the scholars in the city was derived from this same fountain as an inherited reality as opposed to a theoretical speculation. In other words, the ‘amal and ijmaa’ of Madina is inherited from the Lawgiver himself sallallah ‘alayhi wa salam, along with the majority of his most trained specialists, and hence is a part of the Sunnah. The difference between the two is that ‘amal, being the ‘urf, it is a reference to the people at large, laymen and scholars alike, while ijmaa’ is a reference to the scholars, to the exclusion of the masses: the distinction between ‘urf and ijmaa’ to the usuli’een of the other traditions. It is however, important to note, that in the Maliki madhhab, after Imam ash-Shafi’i wrote his Risala, all four of these aspects were adopted and consider as sources of law, the Madinan phenomenon obvious having first preference.

Ahadith vs. ‘Amal

‘Amal in relation to ahadith has five possibilities. It will either: contradict the ahadith, confirm the ahadith, contradict one while affirming another other, explain the ahadith, or speak when ahadith are silent.

When ahadith clashes with ‘amal, the latter is preferred over the former. One of Imam Malik’s major shaykhs,Rabi’a Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman, nicknamed Rabi’a al-Ra’y, stated: “I will take a thousand from a thousand before I will take one from one, because that one from one can strip the sunnah out of your hands.” In emulation of his teacher, Malik stated,

The practice is more firmly established than ahadith. One whom I emulate said, “It is distressing that it should be said concerning the like of that, “So-and-so related to me from so-and-so”

To illustrate the point of hadith and Sunnah not being synonymous, the Sunnah including not just the Prophet, Ibn al-Mahdi, one of Imam Malik’s contemporaries, stated: “An established sunnah from the sunnah of the people of Madina is stronger than hadith.”

Ibn al-Qasim and Ibn Wahb, both of al-Bukhari’s “men” and Malik’s two best students, Ahhab being the third, stated: “I saw in Malik’s opinion, ‘amal was stronger than hadith.”

This perspective was not something that Imam Malik arbitrarily invented on his own due an exaggerated love and respect that many felt Imam Malik had for Madina, but it was instead the understanding that was taught to him by his teachers. Hence, it was stated by him, that while still learning in his youth he noticed that,

The men from the people of knowledge among the Followers conveyed ahadith which had been conveyed to them from others and they said, ‘We are not ignorant of this, but the past action is other than it.

and

I witnessed Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn ‘Amr ibn Hazm who was a qadi and his brother ‘Abdullah, a truthful man who had memorized many ahadith. When Muhammad gave a judgement in which a hadith had come contrary to the judgement, I heard ‘Abdullah criticise him, saying, “Hasn’t this and this come in this hadith?” He said, “Yes.” His brother said to him, “Then what is wrong with you? Why don’t you give judgement by it?” He said, “Where are the people in respect to it?” i.e. what is the consensus of action in Madina? He meant that the action is stronger than the hadith in it.

This understanding can be traced all the way back to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, who stated upon the mimbar of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam,

By Allah Almighty, I will make it difficult for a man who relates hadith different from it (i.e. ‘amal)

Which is possibly one of the reasons why he ordered that all ahadith collections be burned.

When ‘amal confirms ahadith, obviously, it isn’t a major issue. But however, being that ‘amal is a source of shari’ah, it has the effect of raising the grade of a hadith to a level beyond sahih, even when its isnad is da’if, the relevance of which will be seen shortly. The same holds true when it both confirms and contradicts, the correctness of the confirmed hadith is raised above the one that it contradicts, and the latter is disregarded. Being that hadith is an oral transmission, which not all of a society will be aware of, while ‘amal is a custom which is generally known by all, there arises the logical possibility that ‘amal records something that hadith does not. In this case, ‘amal serves as hadith, in that they are both indications of the Sunnah, and is thus utilized as if it was a mutawatir text. When ‘amal contradicts hadith, being that it is regarded as a mutawatir transmission, the ‘amal overrules the text.

The whole reason that I have explained all of this is that all the hadith that mention qabd, even though well known, are khabar al-wahid at the level of the Sahabah, while on the other hand, sadl was the ‘amal of the people of Madina as was stated by Malik in the text of the Mudawanna quoted above, and which as I have explained is mutawatir. Since, in Malik’s eyes, the ‘amal takes priority over the ahad, he considered it preferable to act upon the ‘amal of sadl, rather than the hadith of qabd. For as Ibn ‘Uyana stated,

Hadith is a place of error for everyone but the fuqaha’

While the ‘amal of ahl al-Madina amounts to an established, visually inherited practice.

In sha Allah, I will try my best to give examples of each possibility of the ‘amal/ahadith correlation, to prove all of what I have stated.

A concrete example of this is the adhan and ‘iqama of the Malikis. Imam Malik states in his Muwatta’:

Yahya ibn Yahya said: Malik was asked about doubling the adhan and the iqama, and at what point people had to stand when the iqama for the prayer was called. He said, “I have heard nothing about the adhan and iqama except what I have seen people do. As for the iqama, it is not doubled. This is what the people of knowledge in our region continue to do.

If we turn to the Risala of Ibn Abu Zayd, we find that the description of the adhan is: Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar.

Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah, Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah. Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah, Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah. And again, in a louder voice: Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah, Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah. Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah, Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah. Haya ‘ala-s salah, Haya ‘alas-s salah. Haya ‘ala-f falah, Haya ‘ala-f falah. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, La ilaha ill Allah.

Now, if we turn to Sahih Muslim, we find the hadith:

Abu Mahdhura said that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam taught him the adhan like this: Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah, Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah. Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah, Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah; and it should be repeated: Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah, Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah. Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah, Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah. Haya ‘ala-s salah, Haya ‘alas-s salah. Haya ‘ala-f falah, Haya ‘ala-f falah. And the narrator added: Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. La ilaha ill Allah. (Muslim 4:740)

None of the ahadith mention the softening and raising of the voice between the two sets of the shahadatyn, even though they mention the repetition, and the people of Madina, apparently, were the only people to call the adhan in this manner. Shaykh al-Islam al-Qadi ‘Iyad narrates in his Tartib al-Madarik:

Abu Yusuf said to Malik, “You do the adhan with tarjih, but you have no hadith from the Prophet about this.” Malik turned to him and said: “Subhan Allah! I have never seen anything more amazing than this. The call to prayer has been done (here) every day, five times a day, in front of witnesses, and sons have inherited it from their fathers since the time of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam. Does this need “So-and-so from so-and-so”? This is sounder (asahh) in our opinion than hadith.

The same situation is in regards to the ‘iqama. The ‘iqama as described in the Risala is: Allahu akbarullahu akbar. Ashadu anla ilaha ill Allah wa ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasulillah, Haya ‘ala-s salati haya ‘ala-f falah, Qad qamatis salat’ul llahu akbaru-llahu akbar. La ilaha ill Allah

In sahih Muslim, the hadith just before the one quoted above, its states:

Anas said: Bilal was ordered to double the adhan and pronounce the iqama only once. (Muslim 4:739)

Imam ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad have interpreted this hadith to mean the manner of calling the ‘iqama which is well known, proof of which lies in both Muslim and Bukhari, which state:

Abu Qilaba: Anas said, “Bilal was ordered to pronounce the wording of Adhan twice and of Iqama once only.” The sub narrator Isma’li said, “I mentioned that to Ayyub and he added (to that), “Except Iqama (i.e. Qad-Qamatis-Salat which should be said twice).” (Bukhari 1:11:58)

and

Anas reported: Bilal was commanded (by the Apostle of Allah) to repeat (the phrases of) Adhan twice and once in Iqama. The narrator said: I made a mention of it before Ayyub who said: Except for saying: Qamat-is-Salat [the time for prayer has come]. (Muslim 4:736)

But on the basis of the ‘amal of ahl al-Madina, the Malikis have come to a slighty different conclusion. Which is an explanation of the statement in the Muwatta’, “I have heard nothing about the adhan and iqama except what I have seen people do.” So in this case, the ‘amal serves as a ta’wil to the proper understanding of the hadith in order to derive the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, as well as a criterion to prefer one text over another.

Case Study Two: Contradiction

There is a ahadith that is recorded in both Sahih Mulim and several other collections which states:

He who fast Ramadan and six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he had fasted the whole year.

But however, it is narrated in the Muwatta’ that:

Yahya said that he heard Malik say, about fasting for six days after breaking the fast at the end of Ramadan, that he had never seen any of the people of knowledge and fiqh fasting them. He said, “I have not heard that any of our predecessors used to do that, and the people of knowledge disapprove of it and they are afraid that it might become a bida and that common and ignorant people might join to Ramadan what does not belong to it, if they were to think that the people of knowledge had given permission for that to be done and were seen doing it. (Muwatta’, 18.22.60)

In this instance, both the ‘amal and ijmaa’ of the people of Madina contradicts the outward import of the above ahadith. Because of this, and the reason that Imam Malik gave in response to the question, there is a principle in Maliki fiqh that something is which is inherently permissible can be declared makruh, if affirmed by other proofs, in order that people do not take it to be a wajib. Thus we find in the Bidiyat al-Mujtahid of Ibn Rushd that Malik disapproved of the fasting of Shawwal:

Either because people might associate with Ramadan what is not a part of it, or either because the tradition had not reached him or it did not prove to be authentic for him, [the latter of] which is more likely.

This incident of refraining or disapproving something in order that the people don’t mistake it for a fard is in essence an extension of sadd adh-dhara’a, blocking the means, at a less forceful level, and incidentally, this principle is a point of ikhtilaf by the Shafi’is and Hanafis who do not agree with it. However, this can be seen in the seerah of the Prophet, when during Ramadan, the Prophet came out for tahujjud three nights in a row, but failed to come out the forth night. When they asked him why, he sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam replied: “I did not want the people to think that it was an obligation upon them.”

So thus, in the Maliki madhhab, the fasting of the six days of Shawwal is makruh, immediately following Ramadan. The hadith is instead interpreted to mean that fasting the full Ramadan, and any six days out of the year, is like fasting the whole year, and Shawwal was just an example that was mentioned, when it is even considered at all.

Another example of a contradiction is in reference to fasting on Jumah. The other three schools consider to haram to fast on Fridays specifically, based on the hadith,

Muhammad ibn ‘Abbas narrated, “I asked Jabir, ‘Did the Prophet forbid fasting on Fridays?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’

and the hadith

Abu Hurayra narrated that, “I heard the Prophet saying, ‘None of you should fast on Fridays unless he fasts a day before or after it.”

But however, we find in the Muwatta’:

Yahya said that he heard Malik say, “I have never heard any of the people of knowledge and fiqh and those whom people take as an example forbidding fasting on the day of jumah. Fasting on it is good, and I have seen one of the people of knowledge fasting it, and it seemed to me that he was keen to do so. (Muwatta’ 18.22.60)

And hence, the rule of the prohibition of fasting only on Friday is not upheld by the Malikis.

Case Study Three: Contradiction/Affirmation and Speaking When Silent

In regards to the tasleem, there are many ahadith that narrate the Prophet making tasleemat in a variety of ways. It is narrated in various collections that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam is reported to have made tasleem on both sides, saying “As’salam ‘alaykum rahmatullah“, or “As’salamu ‘alaykum rahmatullah” on the right and “As’salamu ‘alaykum” on left, or “As’salamu ‘alaykum” on both sides, or “As’salamu ‘alaykum” once to the right (Tirmidhi). But, Muhammad ‘Illiyish sums up the position of the Maliki madhhab by stating in Mawahib Al-Qadir:

Adding ‘wa rahmatu-l-lahi wa barakatuh’ after the final salam of the prayer is against preferable, as it contradicts the Practice of Medina, although the hadith which indicates it is a confirmed hadith (sahih).

Thus we find written in the Muwatta’:

He (Ibn ‘Umar) then said, “As’salamu ‘alaykum” to his right, and would return the greeting to the imam, and if anyone said “As’salamu ‘alaykum” from his left he would return the greeting to him.

Even though the ahadith alluded to above are all sahih, with the exception of the one which states he merely said, “As’salam ‘alaykum” to the right, the position of the Maliki tariqa is that saying “As’salamu ‘alaykum” is enough, and adding anything to it is against what is preferable, i.e. it is best to leave it. The exact position of the Malikis is stated by Ibn Abu Zayd, who states in his Risala:

Then you say, “As-salamu ‘alaykum” once, starting to the front and turning to the right a little as you say it. This is what the imam does or anyone doing the prayer by themselves. If you are doing the prayer behind an imam you say the salam once, turning a little to the right, then you return the salam of the imam towards the front and then, if there is anyone on your left who has said the salam, you greet them in return. You do not say the salam to the left if no one has said it to you.

Even though the hadith in Tirmidhi is da’if, and from what I know, there are no hadith substantiating the salam said to the imam. The people of Madina, during the time of the Tabi’een had never heard of any hadith which stated other than their adopted method. Hence, the story is told by Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi that a man came into the masjid during the time of Ibn al-Shihab al-Zuhri, and he did two tasleema. Ibn al-Shihab saw this and went up to the man and asked where he was from. The man replied, ‘Al-‘Iraq.” So Ibn al-Shihab asked him, “Where do you get this two taslima from?” So the man replied, “I heard from so-and-so, who heard from so-and-so” giving the full isnad, “that Ibn Abbas said that when the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, ended his salat, he said “As’salamu ‘alaykum” turing to the right, and then repeated it to the left.” Ibn al-Shihab, replied to this, “I have never heard of that hadith.” Which shows that the two taslima was not an adopted practice of Madina. And Ibn al-Shihab was so emphatic about the imam only saying one tasleem that when he was in Makkah, after finishing his salat, stood up and said to the Qurashi imam:

Remove ‘wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu’. ‘As’salaam ‘alaykum’ is correct.

Due to this fact, the hadith that state the Prophet only did taslima once are preferred over all the rest of them, even though they are of a higher grade, and adhering to the others is going against what is preferable. The ‘amal raises the grade of the hadith to beyond sahih, namely to the level of mutawatir, definite knowledge. And the sunnah of a third tasleem by the follower is established, even though there are no known hadith from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, ordering it.

Concerning Qabd, Malik and the Muwatta’

The above should be more than enough examples to prove what I have stated about Imam Malik and Madinan ‘amal. The only other issue left to deal with is the fact that Imam Malik quotes two hadith in the Muwatta’ in support of qabd:

Yahya related to me from Malik that ‘Abd al-Karim ibn Abu al-Mukhariq al-Basri said, “Among things the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam said and did are: ‘As long as you do not feel ashamed, do whatever you wish’, the placing of one hand on the other in prayer, being quick to break the fast, and delaying the meal before dawn.”

and

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abu Hazim ibn Dinar that Sahl ibn Sa’d said, “People used to be ordered to place their right hands on their left forearms in the prayer.” Abu Hazim adding, “I’m sure that Sahl traced it back to the Prophet.”

It is known, which I hope I have proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that Imam Malik and much of the Salaf , preferred sadl to qabd. So why did Malik place them in his Muwatta’?

Keeping in mind what is narrated in the Mudawanna, as I stated above, all of the possibilities can relate to this issue:

If contradicts the ahadith, then Malik was simply acknowledging the fact that the hadith do indeed exist, in the same manner that Imam Muslim narrates ahadith in his sahih that he was known not to act upon, entitling his chapters, “The Proof of Those Who Say Such-and-Such”; hence, he was showing his acceptance of the proof for qabd, acting as a muhaddith as opposed to a mujtahid. Normally, Imam Malik quotes in the Muwatta’ a couple of ahadith from the Prophet, several athar from the Sahabah, and then states what the ‘amal of the people is or the ijmaa’ of their scholars. But in this case, he just quoted the ahadith, which may be an indication of what I just stated.

Mujahid said, “If the right hand is to be placed over the left, then it should be on the palm or the wrist on the chest.” The narrator added from Mujahid, “and he hated that.”

I have not heard that any of our predecessors used to do that, and the people of knowledge disapprove of it . . .

If it confirms some of the ahadith and contradicts others, it would mean that the ahadith are abrogated, and are references to an earlier phase in the prophethood, which is the opinion that Shaykh al-Azhar Muhamamd ‘Illiyish prefers. Part of the possible proof of this lies in the past tense of the second hadith quoted in the Muwatta’. Since the ahad are a dhanni and ‘amal is a qat’i, there is no question that a qat’i can abrogate a dhanni. The ‘amal obviously comes after ahadith, and therefore it is understood that the Sahabah abandoned those hadith that mentioned qabd, otherwise, the Tabi’een would not have adopted it. The objection has been raised by some in order to cast doubt on the possibility of this as spurious by suggesting that, “Was breaking the fast early and delaying the sahur abrogated as well,” in response to the idea that the command for qabd was abrogated in the hadith quoted in the Muwatta’. The idea that only part of a command is abrogated is very highly probable in light of another hadith, namely the hadith that states: “The Imam was only appointed to be followed. Therefore, stand when he stands, sit when he sits, bow when he bows and prostrate when he prostrates.” It is agreed upon by the four madhhahib that the “sit when he sits” command from that hadith was abrogated by amal of the Sahabah that occurred during the illness of the Beloved of Allah, while the rest of the hadith remains fully in tact.

Ibn Rushd states in Bidiyat al-Mujahid: The reason behind their differing is that there are some ahadith narrating the way the Prophet prayed which did not mention him placing his right hand over his left, and on the other hand, it was reported that the people were ordered to do that.

I do not know of this practice as far as obligatory prayers are concerned (la a’rifu dhalika fl l-farida) . . .

Also, consider the hadith, “Pray as you see me pray.” In relation to this idea. The Tabi’een imitated the Sahabah, and the Sahabah adhered to this hadith. In light of this fact, the Tabi’een would not have practiced sadl if they were not taught to do such, and hence, if not the ‘amal alone, the ‘amal and this well-known hadith both combine as a proof of abrogation.

Or, the ‘amal affirms the ahadith in respects to qabd being mubah in the nawafil, and as a result he placed them in the Muwatta’ as proof of his acceptance of qabd; after all, when asked about qabd, he stated:

But there is no harm in someone doing it in voluntary prayers (nawafil ), if he has been standing for a long time, in order to make things easier for himself.

This is what we do, and what I have seen the people of knowledge in our city doing.

Conclusion and Summary

In reference to qabd, the issue lies around the fact that Imam Malik and many other Tabi’een and Tab’ut Tabieen were known to have preferred sadl, which all the evidence which has been presented here more than confirms as a historical fact. What is left to the reader is to be able to step out of the ta’assal, the close-mindedness and leave the ikhtilaf to the people who have more rights to it. Otherwise, none of this will make sense and the only result in increased confusion and hatred towards the ahl al-sadl, since I do not think that anyone besides the Raafidiyya could allow themselves to come to the conclusion that the 18 scholars from the Salaf that I mentioned had blatantly deviated from the sunnah, or they were ignorant of something so basic, even if they have the audacity to accuse the Khalaf of such.

As I stated in the beginning, it is not my intention to convert people to the Maliki madhhab, but merely to defend our ‘ulama and the ikhtilaf of our heritage. Sadl was the dominant ‘amal of the people of Madina as well as many of the scholars outside of it.

Allah Almighty says in His Mighty Book, ‘The outstrippers, the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansar.’ Allah Almighty says, ‘Give good news to My slaves who listen to the word and the follow the best of it.’ People follow the people of Madina, and the hijra was made to it and the Qur’an was sent down in it, and the halal was made halal and the haram was made haram there since the Messenger of Allah was living among them and they were present at the revelation itself. He commanded them and they obeyed him. He made sunnah for them and they followed him until Allah made him die and chose for him what is with Him, may the blessings of Allah and His mercy and blessing be upon him.

Then after him, the people followed those from among his community who were given authority after him. Whenever something happened that they had knowledge about, they carried it out. What they did not have knowledge of, they asked about, and then took the strongest of what they found regarding that by their ijtihad and the recentness of their contract (with the Prophet). If someone disagreed with them or said something else which was stronger than it and better, they left the first statement and acted on this other one.

Then the Tabi’un after them followed this path and they followed those sunnan.

I would like to conclude and summarize this discussion with a excerpt from Dr. Yasin Dutton’s book relating to this issue:

It is important to emphasize that ‘amal and hadith are not mutually exclusive, as Qadi ‘Iyad’s analysis indicates ‘amal may, or may not, be recorded by hadith; and hadith may, or may not, record ‘amal. Where they overlap they are a strong confirmation of each other; but where there is contradiction, ‘amal is preferred to hadith by Malik and the Madinans, even when the sources of these hadith are completely trustworthy, as indicated in the comment of Ibn Abi Zinad in the above passage.

Thus, for example, the standard adhan in Madina, or the way of standing for the prayer with one’s hands by one’s side (sadl, or irsal alyadayn), or reciting the prayer without beginning with ‘bismillah irrahman ir-raheem’, or the size of the sa’ and the mudd, were matters that were not recorded initially in the form of hadith but were nevertheless known generally amongst the people and understood to have originated in the time of the Prophet. Other practices, however, although recorded in authentic hadiths and even transmitted, for example, in the Muwatta’, were not acted upon by their transmitters precisely because they did not represent the sunnah.

In other words, they were either exceptional instances or earlier judgements that had later been changed, or otherwise minority opinions that held little weight, and which, even though they derived from the Prophet, were nevertheless outweighed by other judgements also deriving from the Prophet. It is for this reason that Ibn ‘Uyayna could say that hadiths were a source of misguidance except for the fuqaha’, and Malik that Sunnah (‘amal) were a more reliable source than hadith.

There are a number of striking examples in the Muwatta’ of ‘amal being preferred to hadith, even though the hadiths in question are considered completely trustworthy. The following examples, where Malik transmits hadiths which he does not consider should be acted upon, serve to illustrate the point: (i) Malik relates two hadiths whose overt import is that the prayer should be done with the right hand holding the left at the wrist (qabd). He makes no comment on this in the Muwatta’, but in the Mudawwana Ibn al-Qasim records him as saying: ‘I do not know of this practice as far as obligatory prayers are concerned (la a’rifu dhalika fl l-farida), but there is no harm in someone doing it in voluntary prayers (nawafil ), if he has been standing for a long time, in order to make things easier for himself.’- The transmitter of the Mudawwana, Sahnun, also records a hadith to the effect that a number of Companions had reported seeing the Prophet doing the prayer with his right hand placed over his left.

However, despite this hadith and the similar reports in the Muwatta’, the madhhab of the Mudawwana, which became the major source for later Malikis as summarized in Khalil’s, Mukhtasar, was that it was preferable in all circumstances to pray with one’s hands by one’s sides since this was the predominant ‘amal. This way of doing the prayer was also preferred by al-Layth ibn Sa’d, accepted by al-Azwa’i, and recorded from other important authorities such as Sa’d ibn al-Musayyab, ‘Urwa ibn al-Zubayr, and Ibn Jurayj. It is, furthermore interesting to note that this practice, although rejected by all the other surviving Sunni madhhahib, is nevertheless that of the Zaidis, the Ithna ‘Ashari Shi’a, the Isma’ilis and the Ibadis, thus bolstering the argument for the ‘ancient’ (i.e. Prophetic) origin of this ‘amal, since the differences between these groups and the main body of the Muslims arose at a very early date and on questions of belief and political authority rather than on points of fiqh. There can have been no reason for them inventing such a detail of fiqh, and the obvious inference is that they were merely continuing an established practice.

The totality of the Shi’a and the Khawarij (Ibadis) with the exception of the Zaydi, upheld the position of the Malikis in respect to sadl. Also, the long gone madhhahib of al-Awza’i and Layth ibn al-Sa’d support this adoption, along with a good portion of the Tabi’een from Madina and al-‘Iraq. And thus, the attacks on the Maliki madhhab in this day and time in relation to this issue are in reality attacks on our Salaf, the Tabi’een of Madina in particular. If the only response to all of this is: “Taqlid! Taqlid!” which I have seen the case to be,

About so many thousand Companions came with the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam from a certain expedition at such-and-such a time. About 10,000 of them died in Madina, and the rest split up in the cities. Which would you prefer to follow and whose words would you prefer to take?

And for that reason, some of the most authoritative works in the Maliki madhhab uphold this established practice:

In the al-Mizan of the Shafi’i faqih ash-Sha’rani states:

The explanation of this matter – apart from being something the Legislator sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam provided – lies in the fact that the person praying placing his hands below his chest generally distracts him from fully concentrating on Allah. In such case, letting the arms drop by the sides and occupying oneself and concentrating on Allah is preferable to observation of form. Thus, whoever considers himself unable to concentrate fully on Allah during the prayer due to qabd should preferably let the arms drop by his sides.

In Risala al-Qaywarani of Ibn Abi Zayd, it states:

Going into the state of ihram as far as the prayer is concerned is by saying Allahu akbar and no other expression is acceptable. At the same time your raise your hands level with your shoulders, or lower, and then begin the recitation. If you are doing Subh you recite the Fatiha out loud. You do not say bismi’llahi-r-rahmani’r-rahim for the Fatiha nor for the surah which comes after it. If you are by yourself or behind an imam you say ameen after the words, wala’d-daalleen, but you do not say it out loud. An Imam does not say ameen if he is reciting outloud but he does if the recitation is silent. There is, however, a difference of opinion about whether the imam should say ameen when the recitation is out loud. After that you recite one of the larger surahs from the mufassal. If the surah you recite is longer than that, that is good so long as it is not getting too light. The surah is also recited out loud. When you have finished the surah you say Allahu akbar as you go down into ruku’ – the bowing position of the prayer.

And therefore, I wish to recall the statement of Imam Sufyan al-Thawri:

If you see a man doing something over which there is a debate among the scholars, and which you yourself believe to be forbidden, you should not forbid him from doing it.

There will always be a part of my Community firm before the truth in the Maghrib until the order comes from Allah.

And Allah knows best.

Appendix III
The Fatwa of Shaykh al-Azhar, Muhammad ‘Illiyish

From al-Fath al-‘Alii al-Maalik fi-l-Fataawi ‘alaa Madhab al-Imaam Maalik, vol 1, page 104 to 108.

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

May Allah bless and grant peace to our Master Muhammad, his Family and Companions.

I was asked:

Praise be to Allah who has made the Book and the Sunnah a way and the ‘Ulama a guide for this Community. Sir, please give us a ruling on the act of letting the arms hang down ones sides while praying (sadl). Is it related to the Sunnah? Was it transmitted that the Prophet, peace be upon him, did so or ordered that it be done? Is it the ijtihad by Ibn al-Qasim and his followers, not based on any proof (dalil) of the Sunnah, so that the fuqaha have continued to declare that placing one hand over the other (qabd) is unadvisable (makruh) in prayer obiligatory (fard), or do they have something on which to based this? Is the fact that the Prophet, peace be upon him, did so near the end of his life, while ill, a sufficient argument for it to be followed and to abrogate what came before? Please answer us with firm, definitive proof and a convincing argument. Thus you shall be granted absolute joy in Paradise in company of the Master of the sons of Adam, alayhi salam.

I textually replied as follows:

Praise be to Allah, who has provided us the Book and the Sunnah and the straight, accepted path of the schools (madhhahib) of the four high ranking imams; who has conserved them (the schools), by his grace, until the Day of Judgement. Who has made his followers (muqallidun) outstanding, confirmed followers of the Sunnah and the Community (Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa).

May blessings and peace be upon our Master Muhammad, who said: “When instability (fitan) appears, along with innovations and my Companions are insulted, may the ‘ulama then demonstrate their science as, if he does not do so, he shall be cursed by Allah, the angels and everybody. Allah shall not accept any effort or justice at all from him.” And he said: “When the last of this community curse the first, he who hides a hadith shall have hidden what Allah has revealed.” And he said: “Innovators do not appear without Allah making proof appear in the mouth of whom he wishes among His creatures.” And he said: “Innovators are the worst creatures in the creation.” And he said: “Innovators are hellish dogs”. And he said: “Whoever respects an innovator will have taken part in the destruction of Islam.” And he said: “Allah does not accept the innovator’s prayer, nor fasting, or charity, or pilgrimage, or umra, or jihad, or effort, or justice. He leaves Islam just as a hair leaves the dough.” And he said: “When an innovator dies, Islam has triumphed.”

May there also be said blessings and peace upon his Family, Companions, Followers (Tabi’in), Followers of the Followers (Tab’ Tabi’in) and the people of the Sunnah, among the followers (muqallidu) of the Four Imams and Pillars of the Deen.

You must know that letting the arms hang down ones sides (sadl) during prayer is firmly established by the Sunnah. It was done by the Prophet and he ordered that it be done by Consensus (ijma’) among the Muslims. Moreover, there is consensus among the Four Imams that it is permitted to do so during prayer. This is so widely known among the followers of the said Imams that it forms part of the Necessary Knowledge of the Deen (ma’lum mina d-din bi d-darura). This is the first and last way in which the Prophet prayed and ordered others to pray, peace be upon him.

The proof that it is the first way in which the Prophet prayed and ordered others to pray is recorded in the hadith selected and mentioned by Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, in the Muwatta, transmitted by Sahl b. Sa’d, to which Al-Bukhari and Muslim adhered, the text of which is: “People were ordered to place their right hand on their left forearm during prayer”. The proof of this lies in the fact that they were ordered to place their hands in the aforementioned manner (qabd) implies that previously they let them hang by their sides (sadl). If this were not so, it would be a superfluous and repetitive instruction, something which is unthinkable of the Legislator, peace be upon him.

It is likewise perfectly well known that the Companions would not have practiced sadl if they had not seen the Messenger, peace be upon him, do so. It indeed was he who ordered them to do so when telling them: “Pray as you see me pray.”

As to the proof which demonstrates that sadl is the last way in which the Prophet prayed and ordered others to pray, lies in its continued practice by the Companions (Sahaba) and the Followers (Tabi’in). This was to such an extent that Malik said – as transmitted by Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana: “I do not know”, referring to the qabd in obligatory prayer (farida). As it is impossible for them not to have known the last way in which the Messenger, peace be upon him, prayed, or for them to have disobeyed him together, as they followed absolutely everything he did and had a perfect knowledge of his ways of doing things, imitating him in the prayer. Thus, Malik linked their Practice to the legislatory aliya, to hadith sahih which does not contradict the Practice and Consensus (Ijma’). He made these four the fundaments of his method (madhhab).

As to qabd in the obligatory prayer, there is a difference of opinion as to whether it is unadvisable (karahah), advisable (nadab) or allowed (ibahah). This is without there being any difference as to the fact that the Prophet, peace be upon him, did so and ordered others to do so.

Those in favor of qabd being advisable and permissible disagree as to the manner in which it is to be carried out. Thus, according to the school of Malik, there are four opinions thereon, which are clearly expressed by Imam Ibn ‘Arafa and others. Among these opinions, the most widespread (mashhur) and accepted by the majority of the followers of Malik is that transmitted by Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana: that qabd is unadvisable (karahah), which is thus a proof that qabd had been abandoned by the Companions and by the Followers and that they practiced sadl, just as mentioned. This indicates the abrogation of the legal enforcement of qabd.

You should know that Ibn Al-Qasim belongs to the generation of followers of the followers (Tab’ut Tabi’in), one of the greatest generations, whose excellency was prophesied by the Great Messenger, peace be upon him. Likewise, there is Full Consensus (ijma’) as to the imamate, reliability, precision, integrity, scrupulosity and rectitude of Ibn Al-Qasim. The Maliki school has agreed that what Ibn Al-Qasim transmits from Malik in the Mudawwana takes priority over other transmissions which contradict it. All of the Imams of the other schools (madhhahib) have shown their acceptance of the aforementioned transmission, adding as follows: “That is the posture of the majority of the followers of Malik and it is the most widespread opinion among them”.

An-Nawawi says (as to sadl) in his commentary of Sahih Muslim: “Al-Laith b. Sa’d is of that opinion.” Al-Qurtubi says, also commenting on said Sahih: “Sadl is backed up by the fact that qabd consists of resting one hand over the other while praying, which is prohibited in the book by Abu Dawud”. Ash-Sha’rani says in the Mizan: “The explanation of this matter – apart from it being something the Legislator, peace be upon him, provided – lies in the fact that the person praying placing his hands below his chest generally distracts him from fully concentrating on Allah. In such case, letting the arms drop by the sides and occupying oneself and concentrating on Allah is preferable to observation of form. Thus, whoever considers himself unable to concentrate fully on Allah during the prayer due to qabd should preferably let the arms drop by his sides.” The same thing was stated by ash-Shafi’i in his book Al-Umm’, where he said: “There is no harm in letting the arms drop by your sides, if you do not play about”. Whoever considers himself able to fulfill both conditions should place his hands below his chest, which would be preferable for him. Thus, the opinions of the Imams are unified, may Allah be pleased with them.

You may thus appreciate that the way the question is made does not allow for necessary acceptance of differences and that what is unanimously agreed must be complied with (al-mujma’ ‘alaih), as it rejects it. You must know that this is a contradiction and a lack of respect is committed, which must be regretted by biting the tongue and knocking ones fingers.

As to the contradiction committed, it is clear when he says that “Allah has made the Book and the Sunnah a way for this Community.” This implicitly states that what the Imams and their followers said is not a way for this Community. That is a Dhahiri (literalist) deviation. He later contradicted himself by saying that “Allah has made the ‘ulama a guide for this Community.” He contradicts himself again when he asks whether “it is an ijtihad by Ibn Al-Qasim and his followers, without being based on any proof (dalil).” In this case, after encountering the ‘ulama, he treats them as traitors and doubts whether to classify them as ignorant or transgressors. Finally, he contradicts himself again by requesting a legal finding from someone who is not even worthy to tread the ground trodden by Ibn Al-Qasim and his followers.

As to the lack of respect, this is what is stated when he asks whether “it is an ijtihad by Ibn Al-Qasim, without it being based on any proof whatsoever, so that the fuqaha have followed him.” This suggests that Ibn Al-Qasim is not an ‘alim and guide and that he makes ijtihad at random, without basing them on any proof at all. He also suggests that the fuqaha who thereafter followed him blindly, while wavering between ignorance and lack of scruples.

How is this possible, if the Messenger, peace be upon him, said: “This deen shall be transmitted by the most spotless (adul) of each generation.” And he said: “My Community shall not agree as to an error.” And he said: “There will always be a part of my Community firm before the truth in the West (maghreb) until the order comes from Allah.” There are also other hadiths.

This lack of respect also arises in relation to other Imams who accept this transmission from Ibn Al-Qasim, whether Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi’is or Hanbalis. Likewise, you must know that lacking respect for Ibn Al-Qasim alone is a great disgrace and scandal. How would you thus lack respect for him and his successors. How would you thus fail to respect them and those who have confirmed them. Moreover, in this case Ibn Al-Qasim does nothing other than to transmit the words of Malik in the Mudawwana as follows: “Malik advised not to place the right hand on the left during obligatory prayer and said: ‘I do not know that; although there is no problem when performed during supererogatory prayer which is lengthened in order to help oneself’.”

The lack of respect is really committed against Malik, just as stated in the hadith which reads thus: “The son of Adam insults the vicissitude of destiny, and I am those vicissitudes.” And the hadith: “Do not insult the vicissitudes of destiny, as Allah is said vicissitudes.”

The hadith which indicates “qabd” was taken by Bukhari and Muslim from the hand of Malik, who transmits it in his Muwatta; however, he judged it inadvisable, according to the transmission of Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana. This transmission, by consensus of the people of the madhab, is given priority over any which contradicts it. Thus, it is not allowed to say that the hadith did not come to Malik’s knowledge. Neither is one allowed to say that Malik disregarded the hadith on his own initiative, without any grounds, as there is Consensus among the Community as to avoiding attribution of such behavior to Malik. This consensus was by the Followers (Tabi’in), who are among the best generations. The latter, in addition to having interpreted the hadith of “‘alim of Medina” as if it referred to Malik. The same happened to the Followers of the Followers (Tab’ at-Tabi’in) down to our days. Thus, there is nothing else to believe than that Malik confirmed the abrogation of said hadith. So he returned to “sadl“, the original practice. This is shown in the words of the transmission in the Mudawwana where it says “I do not know of it”, that is: I do not know of “qabd” being a practice of the Followers (Tabi’in).

The real intention of these dogs is to slander Malik, the Imam of the Imams in hadith, fiqh, ‘amal and scrupulousness (wara’), according to the consensus of the Followers (Tabi’in) and those who succeeded them right down to our days. However, as they knew that slandering Malik is an unbearable act and would be like hurling stones against their own roofs, they took Ibn Al-Qasim as a scapegoat to carry out their intentions, believing he was not important at all and that they could slander him without anything coming of it. This is not so, by Allah! His status is similar to that of Imam Ash-Shafi’i and near to that of Malik.

How right Imam An-Naj’i was when he said: “If I had seen the Companions (Sahaba) do wudu up to the wrists, that is what I would have done, although it literally says, ‘up to the elbows’“. Likewise, I also say that as Malik said in the transmission by Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana “as he said qabd was not recommendable in obligatory prayer” I have decided not to practice it, in spite of the fact that, if we were to base ourselves on the hadith set forth in the Muwatta and the two Sahihs, we would have to practice it.

My success depends on none other than Allah. I seek refuge in Him and to Him I return. May Allah bless and grant peace to our master Muhammad, the Beloved and all his family.

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “There are three types of person Allah hates most: atheists who are in the Haram, those who wish to establish a custom from the Jahiliyya in Islam and those who demand a man’s blood without reason, for the mere wish for it to be spilt.” (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari from Ibn ‘Abbas.) And he said, peace be upon him: “Have you indeed any consideration in denouncing the shameless? Denounce them, so the people know them!” (Transmitted by Al-Lhatib, according to the transmission by Malik). And he said, peace be upon him: “Are you worried that people discover who is a scoundrel? Denounce the shameless and their wicked deeds and let the people beware of them!” (Transmitted by Ibn Abi Dunya, Al-Hakïm, Al-Häkim, Ash-Shirazi, Ibn ‘Udayy, At-Tabarani, Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Katib de Bahz Ibn Hakïm from the father of his grandfather.) And he said, peace be upon him: “He who makes the worst transaction is the one who spends his life hoping that time will not bring reality about, abandons this world with no provision at all and comes before Allah without any justification at all.” (Transmitted by Ibn Al-Bukhari from Amir Ibn Rabi’a.) And he said, peace be upon him “There are three things I fear for my Community: failure by a wise man, hypocritical argumentation with the Qur’an and denying Destiny.” (Transmitted by At-Tabarani from Abu Darda.)

Appendix IV
References

Audio Tapes:

Abdullahi Ould Boye. Usul al-Fiqh. Translated by Hamza Yusuf – Foundations of Our Methodology. (Audio) California: al-Hambra Productions, 1999.

Hamza Yusuf Hanson. Commentary on the Fatwa of Muribtal Hajj Concerning the Issue of Taqlid. (Audio) California: al-Hambra Productions, 1999.

Books:

‘Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri. ’Umdat al-Salik. Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller – Reliance of the Traveller. Maryland: Amana Publications, 1991.

Bilal Phillips. The Evolution of Fiqh. Saudi Arabia: International Islamic Publishing House, 1996.

Malik ibn Anas. al-Muwatta’. Translated by Aisha ‘Abdu-r Rahman Bewley and Ahmad Thompson. London: Diwan Press.

Muhammad ibn Ishma’il. Sahih al-Bukhari. Translated by Muhammad Khan. Saudi Arabia: Dar us-Salam, 1994.

Muhammad Hashim Kamali. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1994.

Imam Muslim. Sahih Muslim. Translated by Abdul H. Siddiqui. Pakistan: Sh. Muhamamd Ashraf, 1990.

Qadi ‘Iyad al-Yahsubi. Ash-Shifa. Translated by Aisha Abdur-Rahman Bewley-Muhammad: Messenger of Allah.

Sayyid Saabiq. Fiqh us-Sunnah. Translated by Muhammad Sa’eed Dabas and Jamal ad-Din M. Zarabozo. Saudi Arabia: American Trust Publications, 1985.

Taha Jabir al-‘Alwani. Usul al-Fiqh al-Islami. Translated by Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo and Anas al Shaikh-Ali – Source Methodology of Islamic Jurisprudence. Virginia: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1994.

Yasin Dutton. The Sources of Islamic Law; The Qur’an, Muwatta’ and Madinan ‘Amal. London: Curzon Press, 1999.

Internet Resources:

‘Abdal-Hakim Murad. Understanding the Four Madhhabs: the Problem with Anti-Madhhabism. London: ISLAMICA Magazine, 1995. (Masud Ahmed Khan’s Homepage: http://www.masud.co.uk/)

Aisha ‘Abdur-Rahman Bewley. The ‘Amal of Madina. (Aisha Bewley’s Homepage: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ABewley/)

Qadi ‘Iyad al-Yahsubi. Tartib al-Madarik. Translated by Aisha ‘Abdur-Rahman Bewly-Selections from the Tartib al-Madarik of Qadi ‘Iyad. (Aisha Bewley’s Homepage:http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ABewley/)

Muhammad Abu Zahrah. Usul al-Fiqh. Translated by Aisha ‘Abdur-Rahman Bewley –The Fundamental Principles of Imam Malik’s Fiqh. (Aisha Bewley’s Homepage: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ABewley/)

1. Nuṣratu-l-Faqiihi-s-Saalik ʿAlaa Man Ankara Mashuriyyati-s-Sadli Fii Madh-hab Mālik  (The Support of the Upright faqiih Against Those Who Dispute What is Well Known in the Madh-hab of Mālik about letting the hands hang down [in prayer] )  (PDF Format) 

2.Sadlu-l-Yadayn fi-s-Salaah (The Lowering of the Arms in Prayer) (PDF Format)

3. The Fatwa from al Azhar University on the position of the Hands in Prayer


The Fatwa of Shaykh al-Azhar, Muhammad ‘Illiyish On Sadl (Letting the Arms Hang down while praying)

The Fatwa of Shaykh al-Azhar, Muhammad ‘Illiyish  the Mufti of the Malikiyyah in al-Azhar, died in 1881

From al-Fath al-‘Alii al-Maalik fi-l-Fataawi ‘alaa Madhab al-Imaam Maalik, vol 1, page 104 to 108.

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

May Allah bless and grant peace to our Master Muhammad, his Family and Companions. I was asked: Praise be to Allah who has made the Book and the Sunnah a way and the ‘Ulama a guide for this Community. Sir, please give us a ruling on the act of letting the arms hang down ones sides while praying (sadl). Is it related to the Sunnah? Was it transmitted that the Prophet, peace be upon him, did so or ordered that it be done? Is it the ijtihad by Ibn al-Qasim and his followers, not based on any proof (dalil) of the Sunnah, so that the fuqaha have continued to declare that placing one hand over the other (qabd) is unadvisable (makruh) in prayer obiligatory (fard), or do they have something on which to based this? Is the fact that the Prophet, peace be upon him, did so near the end of his life, while ill, a sufficient argument for it to be followed and to abrogate what came before? Please answer us with firm, definitive proof and a convincing argument. Thus you shall be granted absolute joy in Paradise in company of the Master of the sons of Adam, alayhi salam. I textually replied as follows: Praise be to Allah, who has provided us the Book and the Sunnah and the straight, accepted path of the schools (madhhahib) of the four high ranking imams; who has conserved them (the schools), by his grace, until the Day of Judgement. Who has made his followers (muqallidun) outstanding, confirmed followers of the Sunnah and the Community (Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa). May blessings and peace be upon our Master Muhammad, who said: “When instability (fitan) appears, along with innovations and my Companions are insulted, may the ‘ulama then demonstrate their science as, if he does not do so, he shall be cursed by Allah, the angels and everybody. Allah shall not accept any effort or justice at all from him.” And he said: “When the last of this community curse the first, he who hides a hadith shall have hidden what Allah has revealed.” And he said: “Innovators do not appear without Allah making proof appear in the mouth of whom he wishes among His creatures.” And he said: “Innovators are the worst creatures in the creation.” And he said: “Innovators are hellish dogs”. And he said: “Whoever respects an innovator will have taken part in the destruction of Islam.” And he said: “Allah does not accept the innovator’s prayer, nor fasting, or charity, or pilgrimage, or umra, or jihad, or effort, or justice. He leaves Islam just as a hair leaves the dough.” And he said: “When an innovator dies, Islam has triumphed.” May there also be said blessings and peace upon his Family, Companions, Followers (Tabi’in), Followers of the Followers (Tab’ Tabi’in) and the people of the Sunnah, among the followers (muqallidu) of the Four Imams and Pillars of the Deen. You must know that letting the arms hang down ones sides (sadl) during prayer is firmly established by the Sunnah. It was done by the Prophet and he ordered that it be done by Consensus (ijma’) among the Muslims. Moreover, there is consensus among the Four Imams that it is permitted to do so during prayer. This is so widely known among the followers of the said Imams that it forms part of the Necessary Knowledge of the Deen (ma’lum mina d-din bi d-darura). This is the first and last way in which the Prophet prayed and ordered others to pray, peace be upon him. The proof that it is the first way in which the Prophet prayed and ordered others to pray is recorded in the hadith selected and mentioned by Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, in the Muwatta, transmitted by Sahl b. Sa’d, to which Al-Bukhari and Muslim adhered, the text of which is: “People were ordered to place their right hand on their left forearm during prayer”. The proof of this lies in the fact that they were ordered to place their hands in the aforementioned manner (qabd) implies that previously they let them hang by their sides (sadl). If this were not so, it would be a superfluous and repetitive instruction, something which is unthinkable of the Legislator, peace be upon him. It is likewise perfectly well known that the Companions would not have practiced sadl if they had not seen the Messenger, peace be upon him, do so. It indeed was he who ordered them to do so when telling them: “Pray as you see me pray.” As to the proof which demonstrates that sadl is the last way in which the Prophet prayed and ordered others to pray, lies in its continued practice by the Companions (Sahaba) and the Followers (Tabi’in). This was to such an extent that Malik said – as transmitted by Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana: “I do not know”, referring to the qabd in obligatory prayer (farida). As it is impossible for them not to have known the last way in which the Messenger, peace be upon him, prayed, or for them to have disobeyed him together, as they followed absolutely everything he did and had a perfect knowledge of his ways of doing things, imitating him in the prayer. Thus, Malik linked their Practice to the legislatory aliya, to hadith sahih which does not contradict the Practice and Consensus (Ijma’). He made these four the fundaments of his method (madhhab). As to qabd in the obligatory prayer, there is a difference of opinion as to whether it is unadvisable (karahah), advisable (nadab) or allowed (ibahah). This is without there being any difference as to the fact that the Prophet, peace be upon him, did so and ordered others to do so. Those in favor of qabd being advisable and permissible disagree as to the manner in which it is to be carried out. Thus, according to the school of Malik, there are four opinions thereon, which are clearly expressed by Imam Ibn ‘Arafa and others. Among these opinions, the most widespread (mashhur) and accepted by the majority of the followers of Malik is that transmitted by Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana: that qabd is unadvisable (karahah), which is thus a proof that qabd had been abandoned by the Companions and by the Followers and that they practiced sadl, just as mentioned. This indicates the abrogation of the legal enforcement of qabd. You should know that Ibn Al-Qasim belongs to the generation of followers of the followers (Tab’ut Tabi’in), one of the greatest generations, whose excellency was prophesied by the Great Messenger, peace be upon him. Likewise, there is Full Consensus (ijma’) as to the imamate, reliability, precision, integrity, scrupulosity and rectitude of Ibn Al-Qasim. The Maliki school has agreed that what Ibn Al-Qasim transmits from Malik in the Mudawwana takes priority over other transmissions which contradict it. All of the Imams of the other schools (madhhahib) have shown their acceptance of the aforementioned transmission, adding as follows: “That is the posture of the majority of the followers of Malik and it is the most widespread opinion among them”. An-Nawawi says (as to sadl) in his commentary of Sahih Muslim: “Al-Laith b. Sa’d is of that opinion.” Al-Qurtubi says, also commenting on said Sahih: “Sadl is backed up by the fact that qabd consists of resting one hand over the other while praying, which is prohibited in the book by Abu Dawud”. Ash-Sha’rani says in the Mizan: “The explanation of this matter – apart from it being something the Legislator, peace be upon him, provided – lies in the fact that the person praying placing his hands below his chest generally distracts him from fully concentrating on Allah. In such case, letting the arms drop by the sides and occupying oneself and concentrating on Allah is preferable to observation of form. Thus, whoever considers himself unable to concentrate fully on Allah during the prayer due to qabd should preferably let the arms drop by his sides.” The same thing was stated by ash-Shafi’i in his book Al-Umm’, where he said: “There is no harm in letting the arms drop by your sides, if you do not play about”. Whoever considers himself able to fulfill both conditions should place his hands below his chest, which would be preferable for him. Thus, the opinions of the Imams are unified, may Allah be pleased with them. You may thus appreciate that the way the question is made does not allow for necessary acceptance of differences and that what is unanimously agreed must be complied with (al-mujma’ ‘alaih), as it rejects it. You must know that this is a contradiction and a lack of respect is committed, which must be regretted by biting the tongue and knocking ones fingers. As to the contradiction committed, it is clear when he says that “Allah has made the Book and the Sunnah a way for this Community.” This implicitly states that what the Imams and their followers said is not a way for this Community. That is a Dhahiri (literalist) deviation. He later contradicted himself by saying that “Allah has made the ‘ulama a guide for this Community.” He contradicts himself again when he asks whether “it is an ijtihad by Ibn Al-Qasim and his followers, without being based on any proof (dalil).” In this case, after encountering the ‘ulama, he treats them as traitors and doubts whether to classify them as ignorant or transgressors. Finally, he contradicts himself again by requesting a legal finding from someone who is not even worthy to tread the ground trodden by Ibn Al-Qasim and his followers. As to the lack of respect, this is what is stated when he asks whether “it is an ijtihad by Ibn Al-Qasim, without it being based on any proof whatsoever, so that the fuqaha have followed him.” This suggests that Ibn Al-Qasim is not an ‘alim and guide and that he makes ijtihad at random, without basing them on any proof at all. He also suggests that the fuqaha who thereafter followed him blindly, while wavering between ignorance and lack of scruples. How is this possible, if the Messenger, peace be upon him, said: “This deen shall be transmitted by the most spotless (adul) of each generation.” And he said: “My Community shall not agree as to an error.” And he said: “There will always be a part of my Community firm before the truth in the West (maghreb) until the order comes from Allah.” There are also other hadiths. This lack of respect also arises in relation to other Imams who accept this transmission from Ibn Al-Qasim, whether Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi’is or Hanbalis. Likewise, you must know that lacking respect for Ibn Al-Qasim alone is a great disgrace and scandal. How would you thus lack respect for him and his successors. How would you thus fail to respect them and those who have confirmed them. Moreover, in this case Ibn Al-Qasim does nothing other than to transmit the words of Malik in the Mudawwana as follows: “Malik advised not to place the right hand on the left during obligatory prayer and said: ‘I do not know that; although there is no problem when performed during supererogatory prayer which is lengthened in order to help oneself’.” The lack of respect is really committed against Malik, just as stated in the hadith which reads thus: “The son of Adam insults the vicissitude of destiny, and I am those vicissitudes.” And the hadith: “Do not insult the vicissitudes of destiny, as Allah is said vicissitudes.” The hadith which indicates “qabd” was taken by Bukhari and Muslim from the hand of Malik, who transmits it in his Muwatta; however, he judged it inadvisable, according to the transmission of Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana. This transmission, by consensus of the people of the madhab, is given priority over any which contradicts it. Thus, it is not allowed to say that the hadith did not come to Malik’s knowledge. Neither is one allowed to say that Malik disregarded the hadith on his own initiative, without any grounds, as there is Consensus among the Community as to avoiding attribution of such behavior to Malik. This consensus was by the Followers (Tabi’in), who are among the best generations. The latter, in addition to having interpreted the hadith of “‘alim of Medina” as if it referred to Malik. The same happened to the Followers of the Followers (Tab’ at-Tabi’in) down to our days. Thus, there is nothing else to believe than that Malik confirmed the abrogation of said hadith. So he returned to “sadl”, the original practice. This is shown in the words of the transmission in the Mudawwana where it says “I do not know of it”, that is: I do not know of “qabd” being a practice of the Followers (Tabi’in). The real intention of these dogs is to slander Malik, the Imam of the Imams in hadith, fiqh, ‘amal and scrupulousness (wara’), according to the consensus of the Followers (Tabi’in) and those who succeeded them right down to our days. However, as they knew that slandering Malik is an unbearable act and would be like hurling stones against their own roofs, they took Ibn Al-Qasim as a scapegoat to carry out their intentions, believing he was not important at all and that they could slander him without anything coming of it. This is not so, by Allah! His status is similar to that of Imam Ash-Shafi’i and near to that of Malik. How right Imam An-Naj’i was when he said: “If I had seen the Companions (Sahaba) do wudu up to the wrists, that is what I would have done, although it literally says, ‘up to the elbows’”. Likewise, I also say that as Malik said in the transmission by Ibn Al-Qasim in the Mudawwana “as he said qabd was not recommendable in obligatory prayer” I have decided not to practice it, in spite of the fact that, if we were to base ourselves on the hadith set forth in the Muwatta and the two Sahihs, we would have to practice it. My success depends on none other than Allah. I seek refuge in Him and to Him I return. May Allah bless and grant peace to our master Muhammad, the Beloved and all his family. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “There are three types of person Allah hates most: atheists who are in the Haram, those who wish to establish a custom from the Jahiliyya in Islam and those who demand a man’s blood without reason, for the mere wish for it to be spilt.” (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari from Ibn ‘Abbas.) And he said, peace be upon him: “Have you indeed any consideration in denouncing the shameless? Denounce them, so the people know them!” (Transmitted by Al-Lhatib, according to the transmission by Malik). And he said, peace be upon him: “Are you worried that people discover who is a scoundrel? Denounce the shameless and their wicked deeds and let the people beware of them!” (Transmitted by Ibn Abi Dunya, Al-Hakïm, Al-Häkim, Ash-Shirazi, Ibn ‘Udayy, At-Tabarani, Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Katib de Bahz Ibn Hakïm from the father of his grandfather.) And he said, peace be upon him: “He who makes the worst transaction is the one who spends his life hoping that time will not bring reality about, abandons this world with no provision at all and comes before Allah without any justification at all.” (Transmitted by Ibn Al-Bukhari from Amir Ibn Rabi’a.) And he said, peace be upon him “There are three things I fear for my Community: failure by a wise man, hypocritical argumentation with the Qur’an and denying Destiny.” (Transmitted by At-Tabarani from Abu Darda.)

Placing the Hands to the Side in Prayer

Sadlu Yadayn in the Mālikī Madh-hab

%d bloggers like this: