Sep 28, 2010

Why to follow a Madhab?

Understanding Islam

By Muhammad ibn katebur Rahman

Imam Ali ibn Al-Madanee the Hadith Master said ''The companions whose mazhabs were followed, whose ruling were obeyed and whose paths were taken by them i.e. the salafs were three Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abdullah ibn Masud and Zaid ibn Thabit'' (Ilal by Ibn Al-Madinee 42 and Ilmu Arijal tarekhuhu wa tatawwaruh 289)
There have risen some people who deny the existence of mazhab, whether it is legal or theological. Their excuse is, the names which these mazhabs imply are divisions in Islam. They also state that such were non-existent in the life of Prophet (saas). They also say, we are only Muslims, and we follow only Holy Quran and Saheeh Hadeeth, and nothing else. Well all these are very remarkable statements and alluring but ignorance in its finest, which shall be shown inshallah, as we proceed.

What is a mazhab?

Mazhab is from the root word zahaba which means to go. If I say zahabtu ila Al-Masjid, it means I went to the mosque, or if I say Zahabtu ila zalika al-ray, it means I went to that opinion or view, i.e. I took that view as granted. The word mazhab is on the form of mafaal, in Arabic morphology, and it signifies name for time and place, so mazhab meaning in the context of Islamic theology and law the place to which scholars went to, i.e. opinions regarding Islamic creed and Law, they accepted.

As to the naming such as Hanafi, Shafi, Sufism, Salafi, Ashari etc all of them signify what they stand for towards theology and law, yet all are Muslims, because all of them have went to the universality of Holy Quran, and Sunnah, at the end and all of them agree on foundational issues, so in this sense they are Muslims, but on other issues they differ and they have their arguments, some are irrefutable and pure, while others are weak and refuted.  These names is a representation of Islamic understanding regarding Islam, and it is a necessity to name such to know which Muslims stand for what in many fields of Islamic theology and law, and to give a proof for such valid naming the hadeeth narrated by Caliph Ali (rA), and reported by Abu Dawud in his Sunan which states: ''O people of Quran pray the witr prayer….''. The evidence is in the naming of the prophet (saas) with the name ''people of Quran'', so on such basis all good names conforming to Islam and carrying a valid religious meaning is permissible.

Also, in the time of Holy Prophet (saas) such was not needed as firstly the prophet's word was the ultimate solution for issues, unlike the times later him on which the prophet (saas) did not comment directly due to his passing away to Allah. Yet he left the guidance which was meant for all times, and scholars varied in their understanding on many issues of Prophet's Sunnah, as well as Holy Quran. Let us examine them like people who respect knowledge unlike those who are moved by emotions and slogans. I will inshallah, give examples and illustrations from Holy Quran and Sunnah as to why the emergence of mazhab was a necessity:

Illustration one:

Legal question: Is selling of human milk permissible in Islam?

I ask you to find me any single verse of Holy Quran or hadeeth, which deals directly with this question. You can do your research later on, but first let us see what the Islamic school of legal thoughts (mazhab) said:

All the jurists of all the mazhabs have agreed (Ijma)-another legal principle which you won't find explicitly in Holy Quran and Sunnah- that the human milk has two conditions. Either it is inside the breasts of the female or outside. If it is inside then selling it is forbidden and it is a consensus of the Islamic jurists, due to the fact that the amount of the sold is undecided, and if it were decided you wouldn't know that that amount really exists in her or not. This is a cheat, and Islamic law prohibits cheat in transactions as has been understood from the intent of the holy texts. 

The second condition is that the milk exists outside the breasts and scholars have differed on this:

The hanafis say: It is forbidden to sell human milk, because:

One- It is part of human, and any part of human being sold is a disgrace to his sanctity and dignity. Allah says ''We have honored the sons of Adam….'' (Al-Isra, Al-Quran)

Two- It is part of human and human parts are not liable to guardianship

Three- Their analogy on milk of pig as both being milk of an animal forbidden to be eaten.

The Shafis, the Malikis and the Hanbalis say:

It is permissible, because:

Just as hiring a milk-mother on contract is permissible, so too selling her milk.

Just as selling milk of pure animals such as cows and goats etc are permissible so too human milk because human is pure.

Legal question: Does a wife inherit when her husband is in deathbed and divorces her to prevent her from her inheritance?

The Mazhabs differed on this issue:

The hanafis say: She will inherit as long as she is in waiting period, and they showed proof from the action of Caliph Uthman (ra) and analogy (Qiyas). They say it is an established fact in Sunnah of Prophet (saas) that as long as wife is in her waiting period her husband can reclaim her if he were to divorce her, so too the wife can inherit as long as she is in her waiting period. (Refer to hanafi law books)

The Shafis say: The wife cannot inherit from her husband in this case, because the relationship ceased the moment the divorce was decisive, and a stranger cannot inherit from another person. (Refer to shafi law books)

The Malikis say: She can inherit whether she is in her waiting period or not, and whether she marries another or not. (Refer to Maliki aw books for details)

The hanbalis say: She can only inherit as long as she does not marry another or she does not become an apostate, because a wife cannot inherit from two husbands, on the basis of consensus of Islamic jurists. (Refer to hanbali law books)

Now tell me if any were to follow the slogan, only Quran and saheeh hadeeth to follow, in their deceived understanding, then it would mean a great backwardness for Islam. They by this imply that Islam fails to answer issues till the end of time and is not a religion which solves issues. If you open Islamic law books you will find thousands of issues on many fields which Islamic mazhabs has dealt with, in Islam's rule for more than thousand years.

Now let us move on to a different field of Islamic Law and that is, how the Islamic jurists of the mazhabs have extracted Islamic legal maxims to solve new issues, which is not explicitly mentioned in Holy Quran and Sunnah Saheeh:

Example one: Allah forbids in holy Quran the eating of pork, except when one is under duress Allah allows it. The verse is mentioned in Al-Baqarah. The jurists have decided the principle or you can say legal maxim which is ''Necessity permits prohibitions'', and they have extended this legal maxim in to branches one of which is ''The degree to which a prohibition is permitted depends on the degree of the necessity at hand''.

Example two: A man came to Prophet (saas) and said that he finds something irritating in his stomach while prayer and he fears he may pass gas. The prophet (saas) said to him not to break his prayer unless he hears noise or smells something. The Jurists have extracted a legal maxim which is ''Certainty is not invalidated by doubt''. So you have done wudu (ablution) but you forgot after a while or after some time and is unsure about your Wudu or not, but the last thing you remember was that you did wudu, so applying this will imply that you do not have to repeat wudu.

The jurists of the mazhabs have extracted like this well over hundred legal maxims. The first man to begin writing on this was Imam Al-Karkhi of the Hanafi mazhab., back in about 200-300 Hijri, or close to it. The jurists of the mazhabs at places may vary as to how to implement such maxims, because it needs mastery to apply the proper maxim at the proper place at the proper way.

The question needs to be asked: ''can you by yourself reading Holy Quran and hadeeth saheeh be competent enough to extract such, apply them properly, without following a mazhab and scholarly guidance?'' You will just make a big mess of the order.

Let us now move to the field of Islamic court system or more proper to be called it as Islamic legal procedure:

A woman, wife of Muwaiya (ra) came to the Prophet (saas) and complained about her husband saying him as very stingy in spending on her. The Prophet (saas) said to her to take from her husband's wealth what she needs for her necessity, without her husband's permission. The scholars differed as how to implement this Sunnah but they agreed on the ruling. Their difference is that they asked this simple question: ''Did the holy Prophet (saas) pass down this ruling as a judge or a mufti (jurist)?''. If you say ''as a judge'' then it is not allowed for any woman to just take from her husband's wealth in necessity, without the court order of the Islamic state, because safeguarding the property of the husband, which she is entrusted with is obligatory on wife. If you say ''as a jurist'' then it is applicable on all women similar to the case of the mentioned wife in the hadeeth. If any say that the Prophet did it and that is enough for us to follow then it should be said, the prophet also ordered executions of capital punishments in Islam, so are to do carry out these capital punishments whenever we get the chance, by ourselves? That would make a chaos, in the nation.

Here again we see the necessity of following a mazhab and the necessity for the state to adopt a mazhab to implement Islam.

I do not want to extend the discussion of necessity of following a mazhab, because it can take pages after pages. There are many issues that have not been discussed such as the position of the mazhabs as to what constitute a saheeh hadeeth, or what constitutes an acceptable hadeeth, even though they agreed on the some conditions. There is also the discussion about how mazhabs approached in case there has been a conflict in legal evidence, that is to say, how the mazhabs approached to solve such conflicts, and so on. In reality Islam has no contradictions, but it is lack of our understanding to this great and true religion at times. We thus need to respect the mazhabs whether theological or legal, and leave the analysis and interpretation to the masters, i.e. the scholars. Who am I, or you to throw away thousand years of legal and theological treasures of Islam with the good yet empty slogan of following Holy Quran and hadeeth saheeh, yet in reality we do not know what they imply of?    
back to top