Which Madhab to follow?
Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,
As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
In England a lot of muslims ask the question of whether to follow a madhab or not, probably because a place like England brings a lot of multi-cultural aspects of not only Islamic people together. The Saudis here who are mainly Salafis believe that you can learn from the Quran directly (Ahle Haddeth). Apart from the four main Madhabs and Imams, who we believe are all rightly guided and follow after the Prophet (SAW) and the Sahabas, there seems to be a lot of splinter groups who have formed claimimg that you do not need to follow a madhabs as the quran is self explainatory etc. My question is that when you know that most of our teachings and understandings of Islam have come to us from the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) from the four main Imams are we right if we do not follow one? Surely we shall not be questioned about our Imams? But what if our understanding of Islam has not come from one of these Imams? What is your opinion on this, bearing in mind that all scholars of Islam, old and new have always followed one traditional school of thought or madhab, and this has only been abandoned in the last 200 years or so.
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Which Madhab to follow?
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad (saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Allah, in His Sublime Grace and Mercy, sent us the Last Messenger (saws) and revealed to him by inspiration the Glorious Quran for our guidance until the Day of Judgment. If we look at the first 10 years after the appointment of Prophethood in Makkah, we will realize that the daawah of Islam was not prayers, or hajj, or fasting, or zakat, etc. The call to Islam in the early stages can be summarized into three categories:
Tawheed: The worship of One God Alone.
Rasaalat: The acceptance of Mohamed ibn Abdulla (saws) as the appointed Messenger, and belief in the inspired book, Al Quran.
Aakherah: The concept of an inevitable Day of Accounting, and the belief in the existence of Paradise as a reward for the pious, and Hell Fire as a punishment for the disbeliever.
In the core stations of imaan there was never any differences of opinion, and thus there were no madhabs or schools of thought. After the migration to Medina, Allah revealed the aayahs concerning the laws of Islam, etc. regarding the obligatory prayers, obligatory charity, obligatory fasting, abolishment of alcohol, forbiddance of gambling, etc. The Prophet (saws) practically acted on each commandment of Allah in the Quran, and set a practical example for the believers of the time, and for the muslims till the end of time.
The truth of the matter is that none of the madhabs have any difference of opinion in any of the foundational matters in the deen. They are all unanimous in the subjects like Tawheed, Message, Hereafter, imaan, etc. My guess is that in excess of 95% of the issues, all the madhabs are unanimous in their rulings. The difference of opinion arose between the companions and between the scholars, on matters whether the Prophet (saws) did or say a thing or not. The imams and the scholars sometimes disagreed on very small things in the deen, and gave their opinions based on the guidance they had received from the Quran and Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws), each giving his evidence from their understanding of the Quran and Sunnah.
Thus, if we follow any of the madhabs, provided our intention is to follow the Messenger of Allah (saws), then there is no harm. Allah Alone Knows Best, but the difference between following any of the four madhabs, would be the difference between following something which is very good to something which is excellent! It was never a situation that one imam was right and the other was wrong, and as you mentioned in your comments, all the imams respected the opinion of the other, but begged to differ on some issues.
If one worships Allah, and does not associate any partner with Him, believes and follows the Messenger of Allah, considers what Allah and His Messenger (saws) states haraam as haraam and halaal as halaal, fears Allah as He should be feared, and does righteous deeds, it would not really matter if he followed one madhab and stood in the prayers with his hands folded, or followed the other madhab and left them unfolded, provided his intention was to follow the Messenger of Allah (saws). Whatever the imams have stated, they have given their best opinion, in light of the Quran and Sunnah. Thus if you follow any one, or a combination amongst them, provided your intention is to follow the Messenger of Allah (saws), Insha Allah, Allah will reward you according to your intention.
Brother, it is also best in this day and age, when on every small disagreement, muslims are ready to break away and make their own sect and their own creed, to stay united under one umbrella and ummah of Islam. Allah created us as one community, and we must strive to keep it that way. The imams and the scholars, only gave their opinions based on the Quran and Sunnah, and their intention was never to break the ummah of Islam, as some misguided people have been successful in doing. We respect the opinion of all the imams and pray that Allah accept their sacrifices and grant them an honorable place in Paradise.
Allah says in Chapter 32 Surah Rum aayat 31-32: "This (Islam) is the right and true faith, but most people do not know. (Be steadfast on this) turning wholly and sincerely towards Allah Alone, and fear Him, and establish the Salat, and do not be like the mushriks, who have set up their separate creeds and divided themselves into sects, each sect rejoicing in what it has."
Allah says in Chapter 42 Surah Ash-Shura aayat 13: "He has appointed for you the same Way of Life, which He had ordained for Noah, and which (O Mohamed (saws)) We have now revealed to you, and which We had already enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus, stressing this: " Establish this way and be not divided in it"."
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 23 Surah Muminoon verse 52-53: And you all belong to one and the same ummah, and I(Allah) am your Lord; so fear Me Alone! Yet afterwards the people divided themselves into different sects, and each sect rejoicing in what it has.
O Allah, guide us, help us, and forgive us our sins. O Allah, guide us to be united as one ummah, as true believers and worshippers of You Alone. O Allah, guide the ummah of Islam to unite themselves, and come to the Worship of the One True Lord, and Creator of everything in the heavens and the earth and everything in between. O Allah, forgive us our sins, and admit us into Your Sublime Mercy and Protection. O Allah, have mercy on the Ummah of Islam. Ameen.
May Allah guide you and us all to the Siraat al-Mustaqeem
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your brother and well wisher in Islam,