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Taqlid - Following an Imam



At our campus several students are actively promoting the ideology that one should only follow the Qur’an and Sunnah, not one of the four Imaams. They especially criticise the Hanafis who do not raise their hands upto the ears before going into ruku, etc. This is causing much confusion. Could you guide us in this aspect.


It is clear from the question that the impression being given by the promoters of the said ideology is that if you follow one of the four Imaams of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), you are not following the Qur’an and Sunnah. This is utterly baseless. Understand the fallacy of this argument from the following example: Every citizen of the country is required to obey the laws of the land. Those laws are recorded and available to every citizen. However, a person who wishes to conduct some major business goes to a senior counsel to enquire what legal procedures he will have to follow and what factors he must take into consideration to ensure that he does not contravene any law. He then follows the advice of the senior counsel and conducts his business accordingly. If anybody objects that this person is following the senior counsel and not the law of the land, such an objection will be regarded as extremely foolish and not worth listening to. It is obvious that the person acting according to the advice of the senior counsel is following expert advice about what the law says. In fact, if the businessmen decided to go directly to the law books himself and do what appeared to him to be the correct procedure, he will probably end up making a mess of everything. Thus the proper course is for him to refer to an expert.

llah Ta’ala has commanded us to follow those of  knowledge. Those who follow one of the four Imaams of Fiqh have chosen to follow very highly qualified senior counsels and expert jurists who possessed such expertise in Islamic Jurisprudence which all the great scholars of the past 12 centuries have testified to. Imaam Abu Hanifa (R.A.) and Imaam Malik (R.A.) were both Tabiees (those who had seen a Sahabi). Imaam Malik compiled his famous work of Hadith titled Al Mu’atta. Imaam Abu Hanifa (R.A.) compiled a book of Hadith named Kitaabul Athaar. This book was compiled from a collection of 400 000 Ahadith. Imaam Shafi (R.A.) compiled the great work titled Kitaabul Umm  and other books of jurisprudence. Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal (R.A.) placed before the world his collection of thousands of Ahadith known as Musnad Ahmad. The world attested to his knowledge and mastery. Apart from their vast knowledge, all the four Imaams were known to be on a very high level of taqwa (piety). Thus those who follow any one of these Imaams can do so with complete confidence.


Those who claim that they are following the Qur’an and Sunnah directly should take a moment to ponder over the reality of their claim. The Qur’an and Ahadith are both in Arabic. The overwhelming majority of those who follow this ideology and claim to refer directly to the Qur’an and Sunnah cannot directly translate even one aayah of the Qur’an or one Hadith correctly. How can it ever be imagined that such a person will be able to extract the detailed masaa’il (laws) from the original sources. In reality such people merely follow some novice “lawyer” of this age who claims to extract the masaa’il directly from the Qur’an and Hadith. The expertise of the novice “lawyers” of today is less than a drop in the ocean when compared to the vast knowledge and expertise of the four great Imaams of Fiqh. Almost every single person today who claims to refer directly to the Qur’an and Ahadith, and who has also acquired some knowledge of Deen, still refers to the views of various scholars of the recent past or those of the earlier era, in most masaa’il. Hence while those who make taqleed (follow) one of the four Imaams refer to one great expert, those who claim to go directly to the Qur’an and Sunnah make taqleed of a host of people, many of whom do not remotely compare to the four Imaams.

         For a detailed discussion of this subject, refer to the book “Legal Status of following a Mazhab” by Justice Mufti Taqi Uthmani Saheb.
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