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The Balance between Following Scholars (Taqleed) and Fanaticism (Ta`ssub)

124350075_339db2e67d_oThere is a fine line between following (taqleed تقليد) a juristic school of thought (madhab مذهب) or an established scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence (faqih فقيه) and fanaticism/blind partisanship (ta`ssub تعصب) to a scholar or school of thought. The former is something that the scholars of Islam have recommended for the common people who aren’t able to research and interpret the legal implications of our scripture. There is undoubtedly a well-founded practice that, in order to learn the basic parameters of worship, it is easiest to learn the rules from one of our four established juristic schools of thought. That being said, it doesn’t mean that if you come upon a contrary verse of the Qur’an, sound Hadith, or other qualified scholarly analogy that you can’t break from your original school’s or scholar’s position to follow it.*

*This last sentence is not the issue of this article, but I felt the need to mention it as it pertains to this article. Insha’Allah we will go into detail on this in the near future.

On the other hand, there are many Muslims who have become big sources of turmoil to the Muslim world as a result of their fanatical obedience to their school of thought. They judge or discredit others and even deny many established, well-founded opinions that are clearly based in our scripture and the rich tradition of law that stems from it.

There is a difference between a common Muslim (مسلم) and a true believer (mu’min مؤمن). A true believer is not just trying to get by with the basic rules of law. He or she is trying to grow in knowledge, sincerity, and devotion. From the perfection of sincerity to Allah, is that a Muslim dedicates his or herself to knowing the truth, especially when it is related to our religion. In order to do this, one must free himself or herself from blindly following their school of thought without question or research. Many believers mistakenly follow people to the point where they believe that whatever they know from their teacher or madhab is the ultimate truth which must be followed despite any other opinion. They often do this unaware of the basis of the opinion they follow or the other opinions/texts that exist on the subject.

The first thing that a sincere believer should do while seeking knowledge is to be free from blindly following opinions to the extent that they disregard other opinions. We have to be willing to entertain the idea that maybe there is a better or more correct opinion on the subject.  We have to be neutral, seeking only to follow Allah and His messenger ﷺ as represented by our scripture to the best of our ability. There are some who are attached by birth or other association to a scholar or school of thought and see that the whole of Islam is what they say and anyone who disagrees is wrong. In many cases, people reject opinions that don’t agree with what they follow, while in other cases they reject an opinion they haven’t heard before. This fanaticism and partisanship is a sign of ignorance and/or conceit contrary to the tradition of sincerity and dedication to seeking the truth.

May the pleasure of Allah be upon Imam al-Shafi’i who said, “By Allah, it doesn’t matter to me if the truth is found on my tongue or my opposition in a fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) debate.” In another statement he said, “My opinion is generally correct yet it is possible that I am mistaken; while my opposition’s opinion is generally mistaken, yet it is possible that he could be right.” What was important to Imam al-Shafi’i is that the truth be heard one way or another. He recognizes that no one is infallible except the prophets (peace be upon them). His teacher Imam Malik, with whom he often differed, said when people leaned toward this fanaticism in the Prophet’s ﷺ mosque, “You can follow or reject the statement of anyone except the man in this grave (as he pointed to the Prophet’s ﷺ grave).” This is the spirit of the sincere believer with regards to knowledge of his religion.

Imam Hasan al-Banna said, with deep Qur’anic insight blessed by Allah, “It is an obligation upon every Muslim who doesn’t have the training in textual analysis to follow a scholar from those Imams who have been trained in Islamic jurisprudence. That being said, it is most desirable for the Muslim layman to strive to the best of his or her ability to know and understand the textual proofs by which he worships. All Muslims should accept all guidance which is based in the Qur’an and Sunnah as long as they trust the knowledge of the one who is advising them. Muslims should all be seeking to increase their level of knowledge.”1

Imam al-Banna was attempting to bring back the spirituality that Muslims have lost. The majority of Muslims are being taught to follow people rather than nurturing a relationship with our religious texts which were meant for all of us. It got so bad that for centuries even trained scholars were taught that exerting their abilities (ijtihad اجتهاد) in challenging their teachers is somehow blameworthy or not traditional. The fact of the matter is that we have four schools of thought and many internal differences within them because of the richness of our texts and the scholarly tradition that was applied to them by the early generations.

Some are taught, or should I say oppressed, in many parts of the Muslim world, to believe that the contents of this article are misleading and that we must all follow our school of thought or local scholar without exception and it is not our responsibility nor is it our duty to follow Islam according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. So let’s see what Allah has to say about this dispute.


“O you who have believed, obey Allah, obey His Messenger ﷺ and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger ﷺ, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in results.” (Qur’an, 4:59)

Let’s take the first part of this verse: “O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger.” First of all, we should notice that in this verse and in many other places Allah calls out to all believers to obey Him and His messenger. This can only be done by all Muslims, scholars and laymen, learning the ayahs (verses) and hadiths (reports of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Nowhere in the Qur’an does Allah call out to “the knowledgeable” or “the scholars” and tell them to obey Allah and the messenger. The next part of the ayah is quite clear in support of this article’s contention. It says “and those in authority among you.” It doesn’t say “and obey those in authority among you.” Our scholars of tafsir (the science of interpretation and contextualization of the Qu’ran) comment on the reason Allah said, obey Allah and obey the Messenger,” yet did not precede “those in authority among you” with the command to obey. The majority of them say that “those in authority among us” refers to the scholars of Islamic Law and that we must only obey them if they are in accordance with the obedience of Allah and His messenger ﷺ, i.e. the Qur’an and Sunnah.

I pray Allah guide His nation of believers to the knowledge and understanding of His message through the revelation He revealed and preserved for us.

  1. Usool al-‘Ishreen al-Asl al-Sabi’

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.


  • JAK for this! And for those who want to learn more basics regarding the Historical Development of Fiqhi Madhaabs, I would highly recommend reading the following book, as an introduction on the subject (in English)

    The Evolution of Fiqh : Islamic Law and the Madh-habs : Revised 2nd Edition (Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips) IIPH >

    Which is an excellent primer to the more detailed and extensive research (Arabic/English) of ash-Sheikh/Dr. Mustafa Abdul-Basit Ahmed, specialist of “Tareekh at-Tashree’a al-Islameeyah” (Historical Development of Fiqhi School):

  • Baarakallahu feek for the article.

    I agree in general with the article; however, I really have a problem with these terms “fanaticism”, and “moderation” especially in regards to the often quoted slogan of following the “Qur’aan wa Sunnah” or “if one comes upon a contrary verse of the Qur’an, or sound Hadith they must follow that…” That’s cool in theory but, I just feel at a certain point they all become a bit subjective according to different people’s understanding.

    Isn’t the whole issue of following a maddhab a bit more complex than following or holding to “a” scholar? Isn’t it about following his methodology as well as the vastness of scholarship (e.g. many scholars) represented by his school? You say that, “We have to be willing to entertain the idea that maybe there is a better or more correct opinion on the subject.” The problem is that most of us in America have surface knowledge of the sharee’ah. This is completely relative for one and two if things are as simple as that our Ummah would be in uniformity on “all” issues. This is exactly why we have different opinions because the Imams of the past as well as the present will differ.

    I personally have an issue with the whole fiqh us sunnah approach because it presents a superficialas well as shallow understanding of the methodology of fiqh. Also, don’t you think the issue of what is considered fanaticism is very subjective. For example, I think it would be unbecoming for a muslim to say because a brother prefers to pray the sadl (if he’s Maliki) or prefers not to eat non-zabeeha meat, that he would be fanatic. One man’s (woman’s) view on what is “ta’assub” may not be held the same way. Especially if they are convinced of the strength of the proofs presented according to their school.

    A classic example would be whether I chose to study at Zaytuna, Sunnipath, and or the Islamic American University. How can I decide which one is “fanatic” or “moderate”? They “all” present their curriculum in light of the Qur’aan and Sunnah. However; one school may view the other/itself as being either one of the aforementioned labels.

    In general, I agree for those serving in positions of Imams and the like because they serve diverse groups of muslims and need to be flexible and tolerant according the vastness of the law. However, for a muslim who has personal convictions concerning his madhhab, I don’t think the line is fine. I think it’s probably more wiggly.

    • I want to clarify what I mean by fanatic regarding the aforementioned institutions. I mean fanatic in clingingto their schools or scholars.

      • Dear Bro. K,

        May Allah’s peace be upon you,

        You can tell fanatacism when you meet it. I know of those who studied with Sunni Path as well as Zaytuna who are not by any means blameworthy fanatics. Many people cling to sh. Hamzah, but he doesn’t teach them to do that. Clining and respectig one’s scholarly reference is not a problem. The problem was illustrated in the article.

        This article is not a call to a blind following of the Qur’an and Sunnah w/o scholarly refrence! It is a balance of following one’s scholarly refrence when required and nurturing one’s sould with the guidance Allah revealed to us. We should seek the proofs and even understanding them when our scholalry refrence informs us.

        With respect to all madhabs and scholars, partof the problem illustrated in this article is that for about 8 centuries most scholars of the madhabs closed the door on Ijtihad and many rulings got handed down without question. Many other scholars did not accept this and they changed rulings.

        I am a Hanabali trained student of knowledge and I knew of many proofs which show that a woman’s face is not Awrah before I had any more training than you. So I didn’t follow that Hanbali opinion. Even now after sitting only 6 years at the feet of scholars I know many other opinion’s I was told to accept which are to me not the most correct. That doesn’t mean that I disrespect or think that I have more knowledge than those scholars who spent over 20 years studying. It just simply means that, with what knowledge I have, I will worship Allah acording to the opinions I find are sound in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah.

        If someone only knows about sadl as a Maliki follower and they practice it that way then they are fine. I know trained Maliki jurists who folllow the many Hadiths that show that folding the hands over the chest/stomach area are indeed an authentic Sunnah. All this article is saying is that a beleiver should seek the proofs behind their worship and be more attached to Allah and His Messenger than a man or group of men who are fallible.

  • Dang, that was awesome. One of my closest friends is Sufi, and I’ve been meaning to somehow articulate this concept to her but I didn’t know how to. This really just puts my finger on what I’m trying to say to her. Her murshid is someone that she follows…quite blindly I must say, and anything he says goes. She has told me before that there’s nothing wrong with following these kinds of people as they are ‘awliya allah”, people of knowledge. Somehow something felt wrong to me…what I’m trying to say is, thank you, this article makes so much sense.

    • Salaam,

      You should read Fundamentals of Tawhid by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips and then either talk to her about it or give it to her to read.

      MashAllah he utterly lays the smack down on the very skewed concept of Awliyah Allah which some people have adopted today.

      And Jazakh Allah Khair for the article, a very interesting and informative read. My friends and I often have discussions on following Madhabs (almost weekly it seems) and there is a lot here I can tell them about inshaAllah.

    • Bismilah hir Rahman al-Rahim

      naHmadahu wa nusali `ala rasuliHil karim.

      ama ba`ad:

      al-salatu wa salam alayka ya RasulAllah wa `ala alika wa asHabika ya habib Allah.

      Firstly, I am a follower of Ahl al-Sunnah as revived by Sayyidi Imam Ahmad Ridha Khan radhiyAllahu anhu and I am proud in that following and in being a strict Hanafi and a Maturidi.

      Secondly, I find it ironic that an individual who sinks to the level to attack Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama`ah such as yourselves, then talk about ta`asub, as if you are not involved in the same attacking as you accuse the Ahl al-Sunnah of.

      Thirdly, as far as the “Fiqh al-Sunnah” or should I say, “Fiqh al-Jahiliya” way, it is unacceptable and based on ignorance of the usul of Fiqh according to the Madhaib of Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama`ah.

      Fourthly, Bilal Phillips is a Wahhabi/Najdi and he has committed serious deviations, one of which is tajsim, which is kufr.

      Wa ma `alayna ila al-balagh al-mubin

      • Assalamo alaykum brother. With full humility, I would like to give you one reminder: knowledge of Quran and Sunnah is only good if and only if it is put into practice. Think of what kind of dawah we are giving to a non-Muslim who is following this blog if we cannot even control our anger and emotions – whether they are justified or not is a different issue altogether. Let’s strive to follow the great examples we have in front of us and not contradict the message of Islam in our actions. In addition to what Imam Suhaib pointed out about civility, all I want to say is that it’s plain common sense too to behave in a polite manner.

        Regarding the objections that you have raised, they manifest EXACTLY the kind of fanaticism that Sh. Abu Majeed was talking about in this article. I find it amusing that people call them Maliki or Shafi or Hanafi or Hanbali and just care about the Fiqh of these great Imams, but leave the aqeedah of the great Imams. None of the Imams and madhabs asked for this blind following – rather it is only prudent for an educated mind to take the best from all madhabs and whenever an authentic hadith is presented, to follow the tradition in the hadith over the specific Imam/madhab. This was the Fiqh of each Imam, including Imam Abu Hanifa.

        Regarding the myth that some people have about ‘wahabi’ (and that you have pointed out regarding Dr. Bilal Philips), I would recommend you to read Imam Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab’s most famous book ‘Kitab At-Tawheed’ , and see for yourself how much of the book is from the author, and how much is from the Quran and Sunnah. In Sha Allah a thorough and unprejudiced reading will enlighten and clear away the misconceptions that you have about ‘wahabi’ (or any other name that you coin for an imaginary ‘madhab’!)


      • Here’s some colorful comments about Abu Abbas al-Ridawi found on SunniForum:

        On Forum Thread:”I would just like to point out that this abu abbas is an angry teenager and certainly should not be taken as some sort of representative of the Barelvis”

        On Forum Thread: “He is just a teenage kid, I wouldn’t take too much notice of what he has to say.”

        ( )

        Apparently, he is some angry and bored teenager who has made it a hobby of going around and making Takfeer for people. In that thread, somebody posted a piece that he had written about Sh. Usman dan Fodio, in which he criticized him in a harsh manner. Later on though, he recanted from it. But apparently, by reading further comments on the thread, it seems that he has done it with others as well.

        We should take him for what he is, a kid that doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I would advise people not to take this kid seriously.

    • As for speaking of the Awliya” and Ahl al-Tasawwuf” in such a derogatory manner, I think you should wash your tongue out with some soap before speaking.

      La hawla wa la quwatta ila billah

      • Asalamu alaykum,

        Dear brothers:

        I understand that this is a hot topic, but would encourage you both to express yourselves in a manner that would make your teachers proud of you. We try to keep it civil here, even if we don’t agree. And, although I (speaking for myself) haven’t been perfect at it, continue to struggle to live up to our teacher’s advices and the advice of the Prophet (sa) to M’uadh, “Behave well towards all.”


  • As salamu alaikum Sh. Abu Majeed,

    JazakAllahu khairan for this article. I have a question about your statement below,

    “This can only be done by all Muslims, scholars and laymen, learning the ayahs (verses) and hadiths (reports of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) from the Qur’an and Sunnah.”

    This seems like a very weighty challenge for the laymen of which the overwhelming majority of (including native arabic speakers) lack the language skills to begin this task. Please comment on how the laymen would begin to fulfill this requirement.


    • Dear Jerimiah,

      May Allah’s peace be upon you,

      The Qur’an is clearly a book of guidance for all. It should be read and pondered by all Muslims. We should beleive and live according to its guidance. Even if we were mistaken in our understanding we are not blamed for that. The messenger of Allah (pbuh) told us that he would leave knowledge as his inheritance and that the scholars hold the weighty psoition in explaining that knowledge to those who don’t know. Allah say’s “Ask those of knowledge if you don’t know” So when you are not sure about the meaning about an ayah or Hadith or scholarly teaching then you are commanded by Allah the Most High to ask the scholars.

      Most of the Qur’an is quite clear in its meaning and implicaton especially in matters of faith and spiritual develoment. The exceptions come in some general ambiguity helped by tafseer and of course the derivation of legal rulings of worship. The problem would be for some to not seek the clarification in unclear texts and assuming they can figure it out on their own or even worse after consulting a well trained scholar sticking with their own opinion which they have interpreted without any scholarly assistance.

      Allah knows best

  • Salam, How would fiqh as sunnah work if the scholars even disagree what is sahee/daeef hadith? I thought that is one of the main differences in madhabs, that the jurisprudence is built on hadiths that are considered differently from other fiqh? I’m a fairly new revert and very confused about that. I have been thinking of adhering to a madhab just to make it easier for me, we have about 10 women coming regularly to the masjid and they all have different opinions about just everything, it drives me crazy! At least I would have something to hold on to and study meanwhile, so my thoughts

    • Sabirah,

      I couldn’t agree more. I also prefer to follow a maddhab (e.g. the maliki school) becuase it does make life easier. This is in stark contrast to the “Qur’aan and Sunnah” approach which seems like an oxymoron given that “all” of the Madhaahib follow the Qur’aan and Sunnah. I also do agree that there should be ” التسامح” amongst muslims who follow different opinions (e.g. be flexible with one another if the sharee’ah provides the space), but the problem arises when such relative terms such as “ta’assub” are thrown at muslims because they feel comfortable “personally” following and sticking to “established” authority (e.g. a madhab). In especially given the fact that very few of us are Ustadh Abdullah Alis, Imam Suhaibs, etc.

      • salam Bro K. yes I have read some things abt the Maliki school. I’m looking at Shafii currently, which does seem to be most appropriate for the area I live in anyway (Oceania region). Geographics and also existing population of muslims in the area I live in (Malaysians) is a thing i definitely consider, not just personal preferences. Fiqh al sunnah seems to be a fairly new phenomenon- and maybe an automatic development with so many new “untraditional” muslims in western countries. not sure abt history though. A fellow sister is so concerned that her children will fall away from Islam that she practises fiqh al sunnah and always goes with the easiest options that she’s been given by various shuyuk. I somewhat admire that approach, I couldn’t do that myself

    • Dear Sr. Sabirah,

      May Allah’s Peace be upon you,

      What do you mean Fiqh as Sunnah appraoch? If you think this article is calling to not having a madhab then please read it again. I am simply saying that laymen generlly follow their madhab/scholar but they want to know the proofs behind what they follow and that if they were uncomfortable with an opinion and they find some proof or other scholarly analysis then they may follow that.

      Fuquhah do not classify hadith’s. Muhadditheen do that. This is why I wouldn’t got to Shaikh Albani for a Fatwa while I see him as a reference for the grading of Hadiths. That being said, some Muhadditheen were also Fuqahaah like Imam Ahmad and Imam An-Nawawi. Some madhabs have a system for accepting a Hadith at a certain grade.

      My next article will be about picking the opinion you like best and the motivation behind that?

      • ya Shaykh Abu Majeed, wa aleykum asalam!
        no, I hope I understood what you were trying to convey here and i agree with it, I was merely analyzing the given options for my personal situation and probably started rambling. I pledged my soul not to a madhab but to Allah swt, and I think at this stage (muslim greenhorn) it might be better for me to follow a school for the moment as I’m a very beginner (and maybe we are communicating at different levels here, i’m on muslim level 1 and you on level 9, out of 10 :)).
        I know myself, and I easily get very confused when given several different options, and very bad at decision making – everyone to his own intellectual abilities, I’d say. And yes, I did notice that people that don’t follow a madhab tend to look down on followers of a madhab and vice versa and try to convince each other that their way is the best. Your article makes sense but at what point is considering different hadiths that are opposed to a certain practice in a madhab abandoning the madhab then?
        I like your suggestion for the next article, looking forward to that, inshallah!

  • I also think some people are just prone to fanatically hold onto a thing/philosophy/hadith/madhab/scholar/rule if given the opportunity, I think that is almost sometimes comes down to shirk. Obsession is something that is discouraged/enlightened about in Islam?

    • It actually is shirk to follow a scholar when he makes halal haram and haram halal. Don’t expect to be excused, fear Allah.

      The People of the Book who came before us committed shirk, taking their rabbis and monks and Isa alyhisalam as lords besides Allah. But Allah azzawajal is our Lord and we are not allowed to associate with him anything.

      ﴿اتَّخَذُواْ أَحْبَـرَهُمْ وَرُهْبَـنَهُمْ أَرْبَاباً مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَالْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ﴾
      They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and the Messiah, son of Maryam) ﴿9:31

      Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded a Hadith via several chains of narration, from `Adi bin Hatim, may Allah be pleased with him, who became Christian during the time of Jahiliyyah. When the call of the Messenger of Allah reached his area, `Adi ran away to Ash-Sham, and his sister and several of his people were captured. The Messenger of Allah freed his sister and gave her gifts. So she went to her brother and encouraged him to become Muslim and to go to the Messenger of Allah . `Adi, who was one of the chiefs of his people (the tribe of Tai’) and whose father, Hatim At-Ta’i, was known for his generosity, went to Al-Madinah. When the people announced his arrival, `Adi went to the Messenger of Allah wearing a silver cross around his neck.

      The Messenger of Allah recited this Ayah;

      ﴿اتَّخَذُواْ أَحْبَـرَهُمْ وَرُهْبَـنَهُمْ أَرْبَاباً مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ﴾

      (They took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah). `Adi commented, “I said, `They did not worship them.”’ The Prophet said,

      «بَلَى إِنَّهُمْ حَرَّمُوا عَلَيْهِمُ الْحَلَالَ وَأَحَلُّوا لَهُمُ الْحَرَامَ فَاتَّبَعُوهُمْ فَذَلِكَ عِبَادَتُهُمْ إِيَّاهُم»

      (Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshipped them.)

  • As-Salamu-Alakum

    Jazak’Allah Khair for the article Sh Abu Majeed. I have a few points which perhaps need discussing?

    1) If we as laymen started to take different opinions from various qualified scholars then are we not simply following our Nafs and desires. By this I mean following everything “easy” and “finding ways out”

    2) If an individual were to show “Daleel” from our rich tradition, what guarantee is there that a layman, will understand it.

    E.g. He/She brings a hadith which on the outward, appears to show a scholars opinion as being incorrect – can a layman possibly say that the proof is stronger than a scholars opinion without looking into the Usool and how it all happened. Doesnt this attitude create discord in the community? and misinterpretation issues

    3) Wouldnt it be safer to follow a reliable scholar who they after studying the various opinions have their own conclusions (Ijtihad). Rather than pick/choosing ones own choice of fatawas?

    May Allah reward all of us


  • Abdullah, This is my point EXACTLY! I by no means intend to create any discord as some others. We are all here in the spirit of brother and sisterhood and just simply trying to advance in our understanding. I just think this new age ijtihaadi fiqh “could” be problematic because it presents self contradictory/relativistic slogans such as “follow the Qur’aan and Sunnah”. Specifically for us layfolk.

  • AA

    JK for the article. I hope you wont mind me placing a link to a short piece I wrote a while ago as a naseeha to a brother on this topic.

    Also, it would be beneficial if someone, like yourself, writes something on the definition and the levels of a layperson or a student of knowledge. Maybe that might clarify some issues. wallahu ‘alam

  • Salam

    What I find objectionable is when people seem to think that either following a madhab, or not following a madhab, is an accountable action, which some people on both sides claim. I don’t follow a madhab, but if someone chooses to, I see no problem in that, and in no way would I consider that person to be judged for doing so. At the same time, if anyone says that I will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment for not following any one of the four Imams, then I can only say: which one did the Prophet(SAW) follow? Which one did Abu Bakr follow? Which one did Umar follow?

    • Salam Bro Hamayoun, I hope there exists a hadith for people being held accountable for being busybodies? If there is, this would be my ultimate response dealing with some people 🙂 I’m currently reading Rememberance of Death and the Afterlife by Ghazali (mashallah can only recommend that), can they know what other people will be held accountable for and what not? I just find it awful when people argue with that “whip” and it repels me.
      You have great knowledge and follow Islam in a beautiful way, don’t see anything wrong with it at all.

  • Asalamu’alykum Br. Abu Majeed, BaarakAllahu feek for this thought provoking article. Just a few thoughts,
    That being said, it doesn’t mean that if you come upon a contrary verse of the Qur’an, sound Hadith, or other qualified scholarly analogy that you can’t break from your original school’s or scholar’s position to follow it
    I think the problem with the approach of the laymen ‘finding’ something ‘contradicting’ his madhab is that chances are the apparent contradiction is his understanding (fahm) and not the established position. Thus the fact that a lay person, without any real training (and I mean a few years at least), will approach the body of Hadith with the assumption that he or she may find something contradicting his madhab can give rise to self-delusion and an empty feeling of pseudo-Ijtihad, since the person probably couldn’t list you all the masadir of the Shariah let alone analyze properly the Ijtihad of other scholars. Thus the fact that a lay person will even entertain the idea that he is likely to find a hadith contradicting his madhab shows how he views himself on par with the scholars of that tradition. The better approach will be for beginners and lay to hold the assumption that ‘I have misunderstood this hadith, hence I see a contradiction. Let’s see what scholars say’. This way he guarantees staying within qualified scholarship, at the same time he or she may follow the opinion they find more persuasive it is here that there is an old difference of opinion that lingers on, which is whether it is allowed for a non-scholar to follow the arguments he finds persuasive rather than just stick to one. The majority allow him, whilst the minority group of scholars does not. Yet both are within the pale of qualified scholarship, and hence even though I disagree with the latter, and see how it can lead to so much difficulty, I still wouldn’t label them as fanatics. However when a person, who is not making a proper analysis of a fatwa, but simply going by that which he finds persuasive, does indeed follow that which he believes is stronger, then based upon this he should not then view the rest of his community that are still practicing that opinion he left as inferior. This is tantamount to a lay person, consulting two doctors and then on finding one of the doctors more persuasive, for many reasons, then turns to the other and says “you’ve got it all wrong” as if by listening to one doctor, he has acquired the skill of critiquing the other doctor, without having attended any formal classes in medicine.
    Yet I find it problematic that a distinction is drawn between a common Muslim and a true believer with regards to his knowledge of usul etc… (Since this discussion is concerning fiqhi opinions). Definitely knowledge is a means of attaining a high spiritual state, but I think we should remember, the knowledge we are talking about here is very technical and specific. To suggest that it is this type of knowledge that marks as a distinction between a Muslim and a Mu’min, naturally will give rise to a feeling of self righteousness of those who study, and make the common Muslim feel they are inferior. It is only good deeds that distinguish us, whether we are mujtahideen (able to give fatawa) or muqalideen (follow qualified scholarship)

    Lastly I don’t think there is anyone so bold enough from the people of the Qibla to claim that the duty o f the common Muslim is not to follow Islam according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, but rather, to follow the Quran and Sunnah correctly, you follow qualified scholarship. The main point as you clearly make, is that we do not transcend ourselves and madhahib etc… from being this objective entity that somehow has this God-given right to validate and invalidate opinions.

    Sorry for the essay

    • Dear Sh. Haq,

      May Allah’s peace be upon you,

      I will discuss this side issue in my next article. This article was more about the difference between Taqleed and Fanatacism. The next will be about the topic people seem to have a major issue. Can a Muslim follow any text/opinion or is he or she bound by a madhab.

      In my first community as a new Muslim. I was sitting with some beloved Hanafi brothers from the Tabligh Jama’ah and we read a clear Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim about the prohibition of praying Sunnah Prayers after the Iqamah. So I asked them why I have seen them starting the Sunnah of Fajr halfway through the first raka’ah. Their answer was, well as Hanafi’s we are taught not to miss out on the reward of sunnatul-Fajr so we don’t practice that Hadith!!!
      So I asked some other laymen brothers who furnished me with a way to solve thier problem by a hadith cited as authentic by Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Imam Ahmad, Shawkani and recently Albani. This hadith states that the Prophet (pbuh) saw a man praying right after Fajr and then reminded him that Fajr is only 2 raka’s the man responded that he missed the sunnah of Fajr and was just making them up and the Prophet approved of his act. So I brought this Hadith to our Hanafi brothers and they told me you are just a new Muslim you can’t understand this religion without a madhab. My Fitrah told me they were wrong and I went witht he hadiths.

      Now as an Imam who has been trained, I have been asked by my Hanafi community about this issue and I explained it in no different terms than I did 10 years ago except now I can explain the Hanafi opinion better to them. Many of them had no problem giving up their madhab for the Hadiths and a few of them are still following the Hanafi opinion. No one is a sinner here and everyone has their scholarship refrence. With complete respect and sure knowledge that these Imams are much more knowlegable than I, I just disagree with the Hanafi justification of trying to get around two sound hadiths to justify their opinon just as I disagree with the Hanbali madhab’s dancing around the texts which show that a womans face is not awrah.

      and ALlah knows best

      • Imam,

        I don’t think anyone disagrees with your general points. I think the problem is how you framed the article especially in the beginning paragraph. There is “no” madhhab that doesn’t follow the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Secondly most of the madhhaahib are backed by countless scholars. Not just the often relied upon Albanis, ibn Tamiyyas, and ibn Uthaymeens (Rahimallahi alayhim). The issue comes to there methods of deducing and accepting hadiths. For example, some schools see that accepting the practice of Madina as a living sunnah that could out way and act as more relied upon. The point being is that each school has its justification.

        Now saying that, if someone rejects following a “sound” hadith because of they are comfortable with sticking to their madhhab, how could that be “ta’assub”? We could possibly end up happening (given that we take the approach of following the sounder opinion everytime we hear from an Imam) is that we will not have a madhhab other than the 50 different people that we get knowledge from.

        I think had you framed the discussion in regards to “tolerance” of difference of opinions than at least for me it would be less controversial.

      • “so we don’t practice that Hadith!!!” Laa ilaha ilAllah. Reminds me when imam al-Shafi was asked whether he acts on a certain hadith or not and he replied “do you see a cross around my neck?!” This most certainly highlights ta’assub and when madhab does become an entity separate to the Quran and sunnah. The attitude of the brothers is from a deep rooted ignorance. I think in that situation, the onus is on them to find out why they do not apparently act on this hadith. Meaning
        1) A person stumbles on a hadith and finds it contradicting the position he follows
        2) Since the assumption is that the practice he is on is derived from the Quran and Sunnah, he asks scholars to find out how the apparent contradiction is reconciled
        3) Then, based upon the strength of the this reconciliation, he can either maintain his current position or deflect to those who take the hadith at face value
        However to accept that ‘we do not act on this hadith’, somehow we have a choice of selecting and rejecting the Prophet?
        So I guess all I’m saying is for the lay to be more cautious before departing from established positions.
        Also I think if we look at a book like al-Hidaya of al-Marghinani (R) we see the terms “la hum” (their evidence is) and “la naa” (our evidence is) come up quite often. I think again the asl (root) of this is whether Jam’ (reconciliation between apparent contradictory ahadith) is before tarjih (preferring one over the other) or vice versa. The Hanafis usually practice tarjih before jam’, and hence sometimes when they are known a hadith, they simply furnish another that is backed by amal and do not attempt to reconcile.
        Their attitude of “your just a new Muslim” is really nothing short of a supremacist attitude. I guess you threatened their ‘safe zone’ and hence the insulting reply. Again as you said, it’s because they believe they are on 100% truth they have this bold attitude.
        And lastly and most importantly, I am the layman here, and you are the Sheikh!
        Tc ya Ustadh,
        BaarakAllahu feek,

  • Salaams, i managed to dig out this email i sent someone a while back and seems relevant to the discussion at hand, i added the bit on Fiqh al-sunna.

    The lay (The Muqallid), the student (The Muttabi’) and the Scholar-jurist (The Mujtahid)
    There are some technical distinctions between the different types of people with regards to their knowledge.
    1. Taqleed
    This is when a lay person follows the fatawa of scholars without really bothering to know how he arrived at his ruling. This is completely fine. One wants to become an engineer or scientist, or is a person with 3 or 4 jobs and simply doesn’t have the luxury of learning all the ‘how’s’ so they follow qualified scholarship. This is a wise person. It will be unwise for him to become a half cooked pseudo scholar and just pretend as if he knows what he is talking about. This is harmful.
    1b. Ittiba
    This is also within the realm of Taqlid, but here the person tries to understand how the opinion he follows relates to the Quran and Sunna. It is here that the person may find some opinions more persuasive than others, and so she can follow her inclinations, yet it is still not ijtihad. This doesn’t mean that one knows of the hadith upon which the ruling was based, but also understands exactly how the hadith was used to arrive at that ruling.
    2. Ijtihad
    This is the realm of the scholar. He or she can issue fatawa, based upon his or her understanding of the text. The key distinction between a person on this level and the others is that he follows his own understanding. The other two rely on the understanding of scholars, and this person understands the texts for himself using established principle. Only he can claim to follow the Quran and Sunnah directly, the rest must fall in line.

    Fiqh us Sunnah
    With regards to Fiqh al-Sunna again it boils down to personal choice. If you’re whole community is Maliki or Shafi’i, or at least your immediate locality is, where is the practicality of clinging to fiqh al-Sunna? What are you trying to say? I think the English translation at least, does not elucidate a clear method on why the author chose the opinions he chose, and without a proper clarification of methodology, it is difficult to identify a pattern. Thus the lay person then becomes reliant on this text and the only reason he gives when asked is ‘it’s in fiqh as Sunna’, and so what he actually did was substitute his madhab, which is backed up by years of scholarship, to a book, which has not any real commentary on it (to the best of my knowledge). So although I am not saying its haram to follow fiqh al-Sunna, but saying it seems more practical to not open this book until one is equipped with the tools of usul that enables him to decipher and analyze opinions. In other words, taking opinions from fiqh al-sunna is also taqleed. I am not even sure if it falls under Ittiba, since the process of deduction isn’t explained in depth. So a Hanafi and a one, who takes the opinions of sh Sayyid Sabiq, are both muqallideen. To say otherwise, I think is only a matter of self-delusion and self re-assurance.

    I hope br Abu Majeed doesn’t mind my rantings on the side,
    PS: Bro. K , BarakAllahu feek to you to bro !

  • Asalamu alaikum,

    When you say “Some are taught, or should I say oppressed, in many parts of the Muslim world, to believe that the contents of this article are misleading and that we must all follow our school of thought or local scholar without exception and it is not our responsibility nor is it our duty to follow Islam according to the Qur’an and Sunnah”, are you suggesting that those who follow a school without exception are not following Islam according to the Qur’an and Sunnah?

    Also, you said to “to obey Him and His messenger” “can only be done by all Muslims, scholars and laymen, learning the ayahs (verses) and hadiths (reports of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) from the Qur’an and Sunnah.”. Would you mind expanding upon this? How much learning should one do to feel confident in abandoning a madhab? Can someone do this relying on translations only or must they know Arabic? Can they do this on their own or should they study with teachers? Should they have read a certain amount of ahadith beforehand or can they rely on the few they know and/or google?

    • Dear Rebecca,

      May the Peace of Allah be upon you,

      NO I am not saying that those who followa school without excpetion are not following teh QUr’an and Sunnah. What I meant was that I feel some propogators of their school have gone to far and turned it into something Allah did not reveal. If you follow your scholar you are not blamed even if indeed you are following a wrong interpreatation (And Allah knows who is wrong and right الحق واحد عند الله) I was hoping to cultivate our readers who have been taught this to realize that the Qur’an and Sunnah was meant for every Muslim and even non-Muslim to ponder and live by to the best of our ability.

      Relying on translations is fine, but if we aren’t sure about a meaning and a ruling then Allah has commanded us to go those specialized in the Islamic sciences. I AM NOT CALLING PEOPLE TO GENERALLY ABANDON THEIR MADHAB. If in a given situation as Sh. Haq pointed out that you find a text or schoalrly opinion you should go to someone specialized in your madhab and ask about the seemingly conflict. You may find that his or her explanation is sufficient and stick with your madhab, you may find the answer is compelling and that there is a point on both sides and follow whatever you like, or you may find that you feel the new opinion makes more sense and follow that one.

      I feel like we are incorrectly taught to feel that we are unworthy of the scripture Allah revealed to US and this has moved the Ummah away from the scritpure.

      I will defintely write on this much more to make the point clear.

  • Salaam,

    I wonder why various people have presented the issue as a choice between sticking to a madhhab or following “Fiqh as-Sunnah”, by which they mean the book written by the late Sh. Sayyid Sabiq. This book was intended to provide a simple fiqh based on the established madhhabs but according to the Sheikh’s opinion as to the strongest view, and is just one of many books to seek to fulfil such an aim. Fiqh as-Sunnah has received particular acclaim

    What I would like to emphasise is that people who advocate the sort of stance Sh. Abu Majeed has elucidated, i.e. climbing the fiqh-literacy ladder through studying evidences, are NOT taught, nor do they teach, that people should take Fiqh as-Sunnah as their primary text! It is a useful reference, but is not to be taken as an alternative maddhab or a new foundational fiqh text for the aspiring student. Allah knows best.

  • asalamu alaikum

    some of my reflections if sh Abu Majeed don’t mind:

    1-The problem is when Muslims are taught directly or indirectly that madhabs are the GOAL of Islam and pleasure of Allah rather than a MEANS learn systematicallyand gradually how to please Allah.

    2- The problem likes when some scholars terrorize some Muslims about the “truth” on issues of valid opinions and make some lay people feel they are committing amajorsin to do something that not only anothermadhab allows but at times is is the view of majority

    3- The problem is when people are not taught to appreciate (I dont like the word tolerate b/ctomeit i putting upwith something and not necessarily value it and FIQH an dDEEN are VALUABLE) so anyone that teaches fiqh should when the level is appropiate or when speaking to an audience at least create an atmosphere or respect and use a tone of naseeha and advice and mention at leastsoemthing like “there are also other info about this” “please consult your madhabs for other details”or “this is the opinion I advocate for because it is morebeneficial for the ummah but I respect other opinions of course!” etc…

  • Assalaam Alaikum,

    Interesting discussion so far. But I think the sociology of fiqh and madhahib should also be pondered over. Madhabs are not monolithic, but rather are comprised of many opinions and scholars. Some opinions become the “established” opinions over time. How does this process work? Has the ‘established’ opinion in vogue today always been the ‘established’ opinion historically? How does the geographic spread of a madhab affect its rulings (example the differences between Hanafis of Misr, Shaam, Turkey, and South Asia)?

    Also, all scholars are humans, and thus are products of their times, without exception. Fiqh rulings are not simply a process of taking Quran and Hadith and interpreting them according to this or that formula. Invariably, human biases of scholars play an important role in how they choose to interpret evidences, or what they choose to highlight from the plethora of islamic literature and what they choose to gloss over. These hidden biases are entirely a human phenomenon. Over time, as certain assumptions regarding the nature of Man and society are challenged (like patriarchy), the fiqh rulings that were representative of that assumption are also challenged.

    I think the discussion regarding madhabs is not just whether to follow one or not. Even for those who choose to stick to a madhabh (i’m hanafi btw), another important issue is recognizing the limitations of the madhabs, and not being afraid to ask important questions challenging hidden assumptions that much of the fiqh rulings rely upon.

  • Bismillah

    Nahmadahu wa nusali wa nusalim `alayka ya RasuliHil karim

    Ama ba`ad:

    You said:

    “Regarding the objections that you have raised, they manifest EXACTLY the kind of fanaticism that Sh. Abu Majeed was talking about in this article. I find it amusing that people call them Maliki or Shafi or Hanafi or Hanbali and just care about the Fiqh of these great Imams, but leave the aqeedah of the great Imams. None of the Imams and madhabs asked for this blind following – rather it is only prudent for an educated mind to take the best from all madhabs and whenever an authentic hadith is presented, to follow the tradition in the hadith over the specific Imam/madhab. This was the Fiqh of each Imam, including Imam Abu Hanifa.”

    My response:

    Dear brother, if you really want to go into that route, then I have no choice but to tell you the perils of such a method.

    Firstly, our deen is not your play-toy that you can decide what is what.

    Secondly, do you know the qawanin of the Arabic language, like what is al-fa`il al-lazim, etc. or anything about harf like harf al-nida, harf al-tahkik, etc. or itlaq and iqiyad and how each word in Arabic has a different meaning, and how the actual meaning may be different from the dhahir. Have you studied any of the books of Hanafi `usul like `Usul al-Shashi or Nur al-Anwar? Do you know what al-mutlaqu yajri `ala al-itlaqi means or what its implications are? Do you really think you can make better rulings than the fuqaha? Did you know that the Hanafi fiqh is not simply the rulings of Imam al-`Azam but the fuqaha who came later as well such as Imam Ibn `Abidin (who wrote Radd al-Muhtar) and Imam al-Haskafi (who wrote Durr al-Mukhtar) and Imam Ahmad Ridha Khan (who wrote al-Fatawa al-Ridawiyya)?

    Please think about these questions and about this quote from Sayyiduna Sufyan ibn `Uyana (radhiyAllahu anhu wa qaddasa li sirruhul `aziz): “The hadiths are a source of error except for the jurists.”

    You then continued in saying:

    Regarding the myth that some people have about ‘wahabi’ (and that you have pointed out regarding Dr. Bilal Philips), I would recommend you to read Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab’s most famous book ‘Kitab At-Tawheed’ , and see for yourself how much of the book is from the author, and how much is from the Quran and Sunnah. In Sha Allah a thorough and unprejudiced reading will enlighten and clear away the misconceptions that you have about ‘wahabi’ (or any other name that you coin for an imaginary ‘madhab’!)

    My response:

    The term “Wahhabi” was used by Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab’s own brother, Sulayman ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, who refuted him in a book called “al-Ftinah al-Wahhabiya”

    In addition, Imam al-Sawi refuted Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab in al-Hashiya al-Sawi `ala al-Tafsir al-Jalalayn and Imam Ibn `Abidin in his Radd al-Muhtar.

    As far as Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, I have already mentioned his kufr in insulting Sayyiduna Adam (alayhi salam) and accusing him of shirk (wa `iyadhbillah wa astaghfirAllah). The burnable book that stinks of kufr and blasphemy (Kitab al-Tawheen) can be found here:

    Abu Abbas al-Ridawi al-Uwaysi

  • does anybody know who said this quote “We do not disrespect any of the scholars for each was seeking the truth. We do not believe anyone is infallible other than the prophet (SAW)”

  • […] The Balance between Following Scholars (Taqleed) and Fanaticism (Ta`ssub) There is a fine line between following (taqleed تقليد) a juristic school of thought (madhab مذهب) or an established scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence (faqih فقيه) and fanaticism/blind partisanship (ta`ssub تعصب) to a scholar or school of thought. The former is something that the scholars of Islam have recommended for the common people who aren’t able […] […]

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