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As a new muslim, people tend to ask me which madhab do you follow... are you Hanafi, Maliki , Shafi or Hanbali?

What do I answer?

Why do some get annoyed if I say I am just a Muslim and since all the Imams followed the Prophet (PBUH), I follow all of them.

  • 2
    i can write an answer now but here is it some scholars say it's important to following a specific madhab and some other not , anyway a muslim could be a scholar or seeker (student ) and Common ( عامي ) for student and scholars they can't concluse that a judge from reading quran and sunna because they have tools to do that ( knowledge in hadith and language ....) and them self in a lot of time are following a specific madhab ... but for the common person he is following the madhab of the one who gives him fatwa :) – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 12 '16 at 14:05
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    see this : islamqa.info/en/21420 – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 12 '16 at 14:09
  • this : islamqa.info/en/103339 – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 12 '16 at 14:09
  • this : islamqa.info/en/13189 – Mustapha Elbazi Nov 12 '16 at 14:10
  • This is old, but interested to know why you disregarded the often overlooked fitfh school, the Imami or Twelver school? For thinking Shias are "polytheists" or because you had never heard about them? – infatuated Dec 2 '16 at 12:45
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All Praise to Allah Subhanahu wa Taala and blessings of Him be on Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him His family and companions,

Why the work of the mujtahid Imams of Sacred Law, those who deduce shari‘a rulings from Qur’an and hadith are important and the question arises "Who needs the Imams of Sacred Law when we have the Qur’an and hadith? Why can’t we take our Islam from the word of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), which are divinely protected from error, instead of taking it from the madhhabs or "schools of jurisprudence" of the mujtahid Imams such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi‘i, and Ahmad, which are not?"

To simplify it Nuh ha meem keller mentioned this incident

I had a visitor one day in Jordan, for example, who, when we talked about why he hadn’t yet gone on hajj, mentioned the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Whoever prays the dawn prayer (fajr) in a group and then sits and does dhikr until the sun rises, then prays two rak‘as, shall have the like of the reward of a hajj and an ‘umra." Anas said, "The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Completely, completely, completely’" (Tirmidhi, 2.481). My visitor had done just that this very morning, and he now believed that he had fulfilled his obligation to perform the hajj, and had no need to go to Mecca. The hadith was well authenticated (hasan). I distinguished for my visitor between having the reward of something, and lifting the obligation of Islam by actually doing it, and he saw my point. But there is a larger lesson here, that while the Qur’an and the sunna are ma‘sum or "divinely protected from error," the understanding of them is not. And someone who derives rulings from the Qur’an and hadith without training in ijtihad or "deduction from primary texts" as my visitor did, will be responsible for it on the Day of Judgment, just as an amateur doctor who had never been to medical school would be responsible if he performed an operation and somebody died under his knife.

The mujtahid Imams were thus explainers, who operationalized the Qur'an and sunna in the specific shari'a rulings in our lives that are collectively known as fiqh or "jurisprudence". In relation to our din or "religion", this fiqh is only part of it, for the religious knowledge each of us possesses is of three types. The first type is the general knowledge of tenets of Islamic belief in the oneness of Allah, in His angels, Books, messengers, the prophethood of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and so on. All of us may derive this knowledge directly from the Qur'an and hadith, as is also the case with a second type of knowledge, that of general Islamic ethical principles to do good, avoid evil, cooperate with others in good works, and so forth. Every Muslim can take these general principles, which form the largest and most important part of his religion, from the Qur'an and hadith.

The third type of knowledge is that of the specific understanding of particular divine commands and prohibitions that make up the shari'a. Here, because of both the nature and the sheer number of the Qur'an and hadith texts involved, people differ in the scholarly capacity to understand and deduce rulings from them. But all of us have been commanded to live them in our lives, in obedience to Allah, and so Muslims are of two types, those who can do this by themselves, and they are the mujtahid Imams; and those who must do so by means of another, that is, by following a mujtahid Imam, in accordance with Allah's word in Surat al-Nahl,

" Ask those who recall, if you know not " (Qur'an 16:43),

" If they had referred it to the Messenger and to those of authority among them, then those of them whose task it is to find it out would have known the matter " (Qur'an 4:83), in which the phrase those of them whose task it is to find it out, expresses the words "alladhina yastanbitunahu minhum", referring to those possessing the capacity to draw inferences directly from the evidence, which is called in Arabic istinbat. These and other verses and hadiths oblige the believer who is not at the level of istinbat or directly deriving rulings from the Qur'an and hadith to ask and follow someone in such rulings who is at this level. It is not difficult to see why Allah has obliged us to ask experts, for if each of us were personally responsible for evaluating all the primary texts relating to each question, a lifetime of study would hardly be enough for it, and one would either have to give up earning a living or give up ones din, which is why Allah says in surat al-Tawba, in the context of jihad:

" Not all of the believers should go to fight. Of every section of them, why does not one part alone go forth, that the rest may gain knowledge of the religion and admonish their people when they return, that perhaps they may take warning " (Qur'an 9:122).

The slogans we hear today about "following the Qur'an and sunna instead of following the madhhabs" are wide of the mark, for everyone agrees that we must follow the Qur'an and the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The point is that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is no longer alive to personally teach us, and everything we have from him, whether the hadith or the Qur'an, has been conveyed to us through Islamic scholars. So it is not a question of whether or not to take our din from scholars, but rather, from which scholars. And this is the reason we have madhhabs in Islam: because the excellence and superiority of the scholarship of the mujtahid Imams--together with the traditional scholars who followed in each of their schools and evaluated and upgraded their work after them--have met the test of scholarly investigation and won the confidence of thinking and practicing Muslims for all the centuries of Islamic greatness. The reason why madhhabs exist, the benefit of them, past, present, and future, is that they furnish thousands of sound, knowledge-based answers to Muslims questions on how to obey Allah. Muslims have realized that to follow a madhhab means to follow a super scholar who not only had a comprehensive knowledge of the Qur'an and hadith texts relating to each issue he gave judgements on, but also lived in an age a millennium closer to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his Companions, when taqwa or "godfearingness" was the norm--both of which conditions are in striking contrast to the scholarship available today.

Now if someone is not following a particular madhab then scholars say that he is specifically following his nafs where he finds his nafs happy he sticks to that so eventually following his nafs.All imams are same in aqeedah but differ slightly in fiqh so following one particular madhab makes confusions out of the minds make easy to follow commands of Allah Swt simplifying to follow the shariah.

Abu Huraira reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: If the din were at the Pleiades, "Even then a person from Persia" would have taken hold of it, or one amongst the Persian descent would have surely found it.(Muslim)

Imam Jalal ud-din as-Suyuti (rah) who is renowned to be Mujaddad of 9th century said of this hadith I say this hadith has glad tiding for Imam Abu Hanifa May Allah be pleased with him.

Source http://seekershub.org/ans-blog/2010/12/06/a-reader-on-following-schools-of-thought-madhabs/

see also this http://seekershub.org/ans-blog/2009/08/13/how-can-a-convert-follow-a-school-of-thought-correctly/

Allah Swt and His Messenger knows best.

  • Jazakallah Khair for your detailed answer. If you dont mind can you eloborate on the part of following nafs if one does not follow any one Imam. Why is it wrong to follow multiple Imams if all of them are correct? – Ahmed Nov 12 '16 at 19:38
  • All these imam are same in faith but different in jurisprudence like if one feels to follow method of wudu as one school of thought but when it comes to some different issue like witr prayer(considered wajib in hanafi and sunnah in shafai fiqh) or iddah then switch to that where he finds himself comfortable that means following his ownself as there are differences in these madhab as per fiqh.There is a hadith that states a mujtahid receives 2 rewards if he is correct and 1 reward if incorrect. [Bukhari, Muslim] – Faqirah Nov 12 '16 at 19:56
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Well this very question has been covered several times on the site either directly or indirectly from many perspectives let me give you just an overview on some of the related questions:

Can a person take individual opinions from any of the four schools or is it mandatory to follow only one throughout your life?
Is it important to follow one of the four mazhab in Islam?
What are the similarities/differences between the four Madhabs? Charts?
What is the origin of the concept of four ways to follow Islam?
Do the four Sunni madh'habs divide Muslims?
Can a Muslim not belong to any sect?
How do (Sunni) people choose their madh-hab?
Sunni - Is it obligatory for a Muslim to adhere to one specific School of Thought (Madhhab)?
Ahlul Hadith or Ahlul Ray [ أهل الحديث و أهل الرأي]?
Is it permissible to mix rulings from different madhabs?
Where and when did the notion of "You must follow one madhhab exclusively" originate?
What are basic (osol al fiqh) differences & similarities between the 4 (existing) Legal Sunni Schools: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, & Shafi'i? Charts?
Are the Sunni madh'habs limited to 4?
Is ijtihad open in Islam (Sunni view)?

Now in fact we have a couple of madhabs and all of them have common sources and madhab-specific sources for jurisprudence they rely on. All of them are in consensus about the fact that to pronounce a fatwa one should have enough knowledge, read for example (7:33):

Say, "My Lord has only forbidden immoralities - what is apparent of them and what is concealed - and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know."

and therefore we -as laymen- are asked to ask people of knowledge and seek knowledge (by asking them and learning):

... So ask the people of the message if you do not know. (16:43)

or

... the Most Merciful, so ask about Him one well informed. (25:59)

and we are invited to verify anything and get sure it comes from Allah or his Prophet () so once we have something in the Quran or in the sahih sunnah we should obey (4:59):

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.

But we are warned by Allah from sectarianism

Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects - you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah ; then He will inform them about what they used to do. (6:159)

see the interpretation of this verse here in qtafsir (an extract of tafsir ibn Kathir). or

[Adhere to it], turning in repentance to Him, and fear Him and establish prayer and do not be of those who associate others with Allah (31)
[Or] of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has. (30:31-32) (See the comment on qtafsir here at the bottom of the site and the following page)

So none of us should reject the truth if he encountered it only because he follows a scholars view! A sectarianism were one sect rejects the teaching of an other (without a proof) is haram, a sectarianism were we follow our nafs is haram, a sectarianism were the opinion of a scholar or Imam or any authority is higher valuated than the words of Allah or the teaching of his Prophet () is haram etc ...

As already quoted by others the four Imams abu Hanifa, Malik, a-Shafi-i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal had been great scholars and found a lot of followers and students who cultivated their knowledge and built a madhab out of the in cases few statements and inherited works of their Imams, so at a time these four madhabs were the only existing sunni madhabs. Not necessary because they are nearer to truth or better than others, but in many cases for political reasons and doubtlessly because of the acceptance of the madhab in a certain location and the high esteem these scholars had.

As a wise man and scholar said:

The truth is one but there are many right paths towards it.

So one can follow any of these four madhabs (or any madhab which has a good foundation like the zahiri madhab), but one must be aware that none of these scholars neither the Imams abu Hanifa, Malik a-Shafi'i Ahmad nor their students and later scholars of their madhabs like abu Yusuf, Mohammad ibn al-Hassan, Zofar, As-Sarakhsi, ibn Abideen, Mulla Ali al-Qari, ibn Wahb, Abdulrahman ibn al-Qassim, a-Shatibi, ibn 'Abd-al-Barr, Qady 'Iyad, Taher ben Achour, as-Suyuti, ibn Hajar, an-Nawawi, al-Bayhaqi, al-Ghazali, ibn al-Jawzi, ibn Qudamah, ibn Rajab, ibn al-Qayyim, ibn Taymyyah etc. nor other scholars and Imams such as Sufyan at-Thawri, Sufayn ibn 'Oyaynah, Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, al-Layith ibn Sa'ad, al-Awza'i, ibn Jarir at-Tabari or ibn Hazm etc. are considered as infallible so they could make mistakes. But they might be rewarded according the known hadith.

Conclusion:

So on the whole one could conclude you can follow any of the madhabs as long as you are a laymen (a student or anybody who is not yet able to conclude or derive rulings from the given sources of shari'a) or follow the scholar or mufti (a person who is allowed to give fatwa) you trust. But once you find out that there's a more correct view or opinion you shouldn't adhere to your madhab as you would fall into a kind of shirk (worshiping the view of your Imam or school of thoughts) which is quoted in 6:159 and 30:32 and this is the meaning of following the nafs!

Note that following your nafs also means just taking the opinion that you like and leaving an opinion you dislike, so any opinion you may take should have a basis in our sources!

And anybody who rejects your statement that you are a Muslim should be confronted with this and you can tell those that scholars of all sects are in consensus that this refers in first place to people who are following nafs and bad teachings (false sects) but also to those who reject a truth (based on Quran and sunnah) for nothing more than the adherence to their madhab. As the truth is by Allah and given from Him only.

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As a new muslim, people tend to ask me which madhab do you follow... are you Hanafi, Maliki , Shafi or Hambali?

What do I answer?

Following a madhab is not obligatory. During the time of the prophet, Muslims didn't follow any particular madhab. When the prophet was alive, people asked him whenever a problem raised. After his death, Muslims based their decisions according to the Quran and the teaching of the prophet.

However, those who don't have much knowledge (illiterate), may misinterpret the Quran or Sunnah. So, those who have sufficient knowledge should practice Islam according to what is said in the Quran and Sunnah. And those who don't know much should follow a particular madhab or ask those who are knowledgable about religious matters.

  • "During the time of the prophet, Muslims didn't follow any particular madhab. When the prophet was alive, people asked him whenever a problem raised. After his death, Muslims based their decisions according to the Quran and the teaching of the prophet." Of course they didn't. But now you do because of many other factors. You must not be an illiterate to misinterpret the Quran and Hadiths. Also the ones with sufficient knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah differ among one another, that too is one factor why there are different schools of thought. – Kilise Nov 12 '16 at 20:02
  • @Kilise Yes. I think I will update the answer with more information tomorrow. It's pretty late here. – Sakib Arifin Nov 12 '16 at 20:04

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