Refinement And Revision of the Four Madhab's

Doubt: You admit the Imam’s of the Madhabs may have made mistakes and it is possible that they missed some of the hadith. This is therefore a proof that we should not follow the Madhabs.
Answer: What the person making this objection does not realise is that the Madhabs are not just the work of one particular scholar, rather they are the work of thousands of learned scholars down the ages, many of whom had memorized the books of hadith and were far more knowledgeable than the scholars of today. Thus when we have scholars within the Madhabs researching and correcting opinions and thereby clarifying what the strongest position is, which is finally transmitted to us to act upon.

This is very different to the scenario of today where a student claims to follow a Madhab and then disagree’s based on limited research mistakenly believing that their approach is the same as that of the scholars of the Madhabs who refined their Imams schools and clarified for us the strongest view in it. Let us mention some examples from each of the schools to show that what has been transmittied to us from the Madhabs are indeed a rigorously and refined set of rulings.

Hanafi Madhab
Imam Abu Hanifah was of the view that if a person decided to make a charitable endowment (waqf) it was not necessary upon them to implement it, rather they were permitted to change their mind regarding it. Some specific scenarios were excluded from this, but in general according to Imam Abu Hanifah there was nothing established to necessitate the implementation of waqf.

He was opposed on this point by the generality of his students and the other Imam’s who were of the view of the necessity of implementing a waqf once it has been classified as such. Such that the legal verdict (fatwa) in the Hanafi school is given according to this view of his students.  Imam al-Kawthari mentions in ‘al-Nukat al-Tarifah’ (p.40):

Isa bin Aban said: When Abu Yusuf came to Baghdad he held the view of Abu Hanifah regarding the permissibility of selling charitable endowments (awqaf). This was until Ismaeel bin Aliyyah narrated to him from Ibn Awn from Nafi from Ibn Umar regarding his charity (sadaqah) from his share from Khaybar.   Abu Yusuf said: This is that which it is not permitted to differ with.  If this had reached Abu Hanifah this would have been his view and he would not have differed with it.

Maliki Madhab
In the ‘Taqaddimah al-Jarh wa al-Tadil’ (p.31) of Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi, he narrated with his chain to Imam Abdullah bin Wahb, one of the notable students of Imam Malik.  Ibn Wahb said:

I heard Malik being questioned regarding the rubbing between the toes in wudu.  He answered: It is not upon the people (to practise it).  He- Ibn Wahb- said: I remained silent until the people had left and I said to him: With us it is a sunnah. He asked: What is it?  I said: al-Layth bin Sa’d, Ibn Lahiyah and Amr bin al-Harith narrated to us from Yazid bin Amr al-Ma’afiri from Abi Abd al-Rahman al-Hubbali from al-Mutawrad Ibn Shaddad al-Qurashi said: I saw the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) rubbing with his small finger between his toes. He-Malik- said: This hadith is Hasan, and I did not hear it except now. I then heard him being questioned after this and he would order the rubbing between the toes.

Ibn Abd al-Barr added in ‘al-Istidhkar’ (1/18):

Malik started to practise this in his wudu.

Shafi Madhab
In ‘al-Illal’ of Imam Ahmad (1/155) and ‘Manaqib al-Shafi’ of al-Bayhaqi (1/527) Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said:

Al-Shafi said to us: You are the more knowledgeable of hadith and narrators than me, if there is a hadith then inform me of it, even if it is Kufan, Basran or from al-Shaam, so that I may go towards it if it is Sahih.

Hanbali Madhab
It is mentioned in the book ‘al-Amr bil Maruf wal-Nahi an-Nil Munkar’ (p.121) of Imam Abu Bakr al-Khallal one of the Hanbali Imam’s and also in ‘Kitab al-Ruh’ of Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (p.31) that:

…Ali bin Musa al-Haddad said: I was with Ahmad bin Hanbal and Muhammad bin Qudamah al-Jawhari in a funeral. After the deceased had been buried a blind man sat and was reciting by his grave. Ahmad said to him: O man! the recitation by the grave is an innovation!. When we left the graveyard Muhammad bin Qudama said to Ahmad bin Hanbal: O Abu Abdullah, what do you say regarding Mubashir al-Halabi? He replied: Trustworthy.  He said: Have you recorded anything from him?  He replied: Yes.  I said: Mubashir reported to me, from Abd al-Rahman bin al-Ala bin al-Lajlaj from his father, that he instructed that when he is buried that by his head the opening and end of ‘al-Baqarah’ be recited.  And he said: I heard Ibn Umar instruct with this. Ahmad said to him: Go back and tell the man to recite.

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  1. Assalaamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakaatu,

    This is a long post adding to the above examples. This is taken from Al-Maqasid of Imam Nawawi(rah), english translation, a subsection, by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, named:



    ” Fourthly, in respect to the contention that the Imams “did not incorporate all the hadiths into their madhabs”; while undoubtedly true in some instances ( as knowledge of all hadiths is probably impossible), what they missed was not ignored by the succeeding generations of top scholars who followed them in each school, rechecking their evidence and conclusions, and revised their Imams; madhhabs. The madhhabs certainly did not lack hadith scholars, and as pointed out in the previous section, the Imams enjoined the scholars whom they had trained and who came after them to evaluate and revise, and their injunctions were carried out. This may be shown by examples.

    The Shafi’i School

    Early scholars debated which of the prescribed prayers is “the most superior prayer” mentioned in Sura al-Baqara in the verse

    “Carefully observe the prayers, and [especially] al-salat al-wusta, the most superior prayer”(Qur’an 2:238),

    in which wusta ( literally, “midmost”) refers, according to the Arabic idiom, to the choicest or best part of something, as attested by the use of the same comparative adjective, in its masculine form, in Sura al-Qalam:

    “The best of them (awsatuhum) said, ‘Did I not tell you if only you would glorify [Allah, in repentance]'” (Qur’an 68:28)

    , in which awsatuhum means “the best of them”( Mahalli: Tafsir al-Jalalayn (9.46),759).

    Now, the position of Imam Shafi’i was that the salat al-wusta or “most superior prayer” was the dawn prayer (fajr). The evidence for this is not only numerous hadiths about the special merti of the dawn prayer, particularly when performance in a group (jama’a) at the mosque- but secondly, that in the Islamic calendar, the night of a particular date comes before the day, such that the sunset prayer (maghrib) is the first of the five prescribed prayers and the midafternoon prayer (‘asr) is the last, making the dawn prayer (fajr) “midmost” between them. Cogent as this reasoning may be, scholars who came after Imam Shafi’i revised his opinion in light of the rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith related by Muslim that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib ( Allah ennoble his countenance) said,

    When it was the day of the [Battle of the] Confederates (al-Ahzab), the Messenger of Allah ( Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ” May Allah fill their graves and houses with fire: they have detained us and busied us from the midmost prayer ( al-salat al-wusta) until the sun went down” ( Muslim 9.55), I.436:627),

    which is a nass or “text capable of only one interpretation” from the Prophet( Allah bless him and give him peace) that al-salat al-wusta as used in Surah al-Baqara means the midafternoon prayer (‘asr) and no other. This is the kind of upgrading of the evidences that we are talking about. Imam Nawawi says:

    Despite this [wide knowledge of hadiths], Shafi’i( Allah have mercy on him) chose the way of greater precaution, because knowledge of all hadiths is not humanly possible, and he made the statement related from him through numerous narrators, enjoining [scholars] to take the rigorously authenticated hadith and disregard his position should it contravene an explicit, authentic, and unequivocal text(nass). Our scholars ( Allah have mercy on them) have obeyed his injunction and applied it to numerous well-known legal questions.” ( al-Majmu’ (9.62), I.10-11)

    The Hanafi School

    This revising process is by no means confined to the Shafi’i madhhab, but is found in all schools. An example from the Hanafi school is the sunna of bathing (ghusl) before going to Friday prayer (jumu’a). The recieved position of the school is that the validity of this sunna bath is nullified if one’s ablution (wudu)is broken between the bath and the Friday prayer, in which case one needs to bathe again to attain the reward of the sunna.

    Yet we find in the Radd al-muhtar of Ibn ‘Abidin, the foremost fatwa resource for the late Hanafi school, that Imam ‘Abd al-Ghani Nabulusi, after mentioning the above ruling, notes that there are two positions about it among the scholars of the madhhab: The first is the position of those who hold the legal reason for this bath is purification (tahara), in which case nullifying ones’ ablution between it and the prayer would invalidate it. The second is the position of those who hold that the reason for the bath is cleanliness (nadhafa), in which case nullifying ablution and repeating it between the bath and the prayer wouldnot invalidate it, for the extra ablution, if anything increases cleanliness. Nabulusi adopts this second position because in his words

    ” the hadiths on this matter imply that the aim is attaining cleanliness alone.” ( Radd al-muhtar (9.22), I.114),

    and Ibn ‘Abidin inclines towards it also, because of the hadiths about the merit of coming to the mosque from the first hour on Friday morning to wait for the congregational prayer (jumu’a). Abu Hurayra relates that the Prophet ( Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

    Whoever bathes on Friday as he would for major ritual impurity (janaba), then goes early [to the mosque] is as though the has sacrificed a she-camel. Whoever goes in the second hour [ of daylight] is as though he has sacrificed a cow. Whoever goes in the third hour is as though he has sacrificed a ram. Whoever goes in the fourth hour is as though he has sacrificed a chicken. Whoever goes in the fifth hour is as though he has offered an egg. And when the imam comes out [ to begin the sermon], the angels [stop recording, and] come to listen to the rememberance” (Bukhari (9.10), 2.3-4:881).

    Ibn ‘Abidin says of Nabulusi’s position ( that the bath (ghusl) on Friday is not invalidated by having to renew one’s ablution before the Friday prayer):

    It is attested to by the demand to go early to the prayer, best done in the first hour of the day, which extends till sunrise. When doing this, it might prove difficult to keep one’s ablution (wudu) until the time for the prayer arrives, especially on the longest days of the year. Repeating the bath would be even more arduous, while [ Allah says in Sura al-Hajjaj:]

    “He has not placed any hardship upon you in religion” ( Qur’an 22:78).

    It might also lead to holding back from going to the bathroom while praying, which is unlawful” ( Radd al-muhtar (9.22), 1.114).

    Here we see an early position of the Hanafi school ( that the Friday bath is nullified by having to renew one’s ablution after it) reevaluated in light of a hadith by two of the school’s principal later scholars, ‘Abd al-Ghani Nabulusi and Ibn ‘Abidin- just as in the previous example we saw Imam Shafi’i’s opinion that al-salat al-wusta means the dawn prayer (fajr) revised by subsequent scholars to the sound position that it means the midafternoon prayer (‘asr).

    The Hanbali School

    There are hadiths to the effect that someone who neglects the prayer (salat) becomes a non-Muslim (kafir), hadiths which Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, in at least one of two positions related from him, seems to have taken literally. These include the well authenticated (hasan) hadith

    “Between the servant and polytheism or unbelief is leaving the prayer” ( Tirmidhi (9.79), 5.13:2619),

    and the hadith

    “The first thing you shall lose from your religion is the keeping of trusts: the last thing you shall lose from your religion is the prayer.” (Tabarani (9.76), 9:353:9754),

    of which Ahmad said,

    “Nothing remains of whatever the last has gone.” (al-Mughni (9.36),2.444).

    Yet Ibn Qudama Maqdisi, who quotes these hadiths in his eleven volume Hanbali fiqh compendium al-Mughni, understands their wording as zajr or “sharply warning” people from these actions by likening them to the actions of non-Muslims (kuffar), not that the actions themselves constitute outright unbelief. There are many hadiths with such wording, such as

    “Reviling a Muslim is wrongdoing, and fighting him is unbelief (kufr)” (Bukhari (9.10, 9.63: 7076),

    which emphasizes the enormity of the sin of fighting, not that it actually puts one beyond the pale of Islam. And similarly,

    “The drinker of wine is like an idol worshipper” (Majma’ al-zawa’id (9.23), 5.70).

    Or like the hadith,

    ” If a man calls his brother a non-Muslim (kafir), it returns upon one of them” ( Muslim (9.55), 1.79:60 ),

    of which commentator Munawi says

    that what “returns upon one of them” is “the disobedience of considering him a non-Muslim,” not the fact of being a non-Muslim (Fayd al-Qadir (9.54), 1.295),

    and of which Nawawi says in his commentary on Sahih Muslim:

    Its outward sense is not intended, for the position of Muslims Orthodoxy (Ahl al-Haqq) is that no Muslim commits unbelief through acts of disobedience such as murder, fornication, or calling one’s brother an ”unbeliever,” unless one [thereby means that one] considers the religion of Islam [ which he follows] to be false (Sharh Sahih Muslim (9.56), 2.49).

    So too, the sense of zajr or “sharply warning” is how Ibn Qudama Maqdisi explains the wording of the hadiths that ostensively show that leaving the prayer is unbelief (kufr), interpreting them thus to reach an accord with other evidence, such as the rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith

    Whoever testifies that there is no god but Allah alone without associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger, and that Jesus is the salve of Allah, His messenger, His Word that He imparted to Mary, and a spirit from Him, and that paradise is true and hell is true- Allah shall enter him into paradise, no matter what his actions (Bukhari (9.10), 4.201: 3435).

    This shows, like many other hadiths of similar purport, that a Muslim commits kufr only through outright unbelief, not through acts of disobedience, for other wise he would not enter paradise (even if he should be punished first, as in other hadiths) on the generality of

    “no matter what his actions.”

    Ibn Qudama cites this and other considerations, and gives his judgment that neglecting the prayer, though a heinous sin, is not itself unbelief ( al-Mughni (9.36), 2.446-47). Like the previous examples from the Shafi’i and Hanafi schools above, this illustrates how a top madhhab scholar may restudy hadith evidence and suggest an upgrading of the recieved position of his Imam in light of it.

    In point of fatwa or “formal legal opinion,” it should be noted that the authorative position of the Hanbali school is that someone who neglects the prayer is asked to repent and ordered to pray: if he does not, he is executed for unbelief (as he is considered to have denied the obligatoriness of the prayer, which is disbelief), through if he does, he is released. Such a person may not be considered a non-Muslim (kafir) or executed until he has been asked to repent and perform the prayer and has refused (Bahuti: Kashshaf al-qina’ (9.8), I.228-29).

    The Maliki School

    The recieved position of the Maliki madhhab is that if someone eats or drinks absentmindedly during the fast, this vitiates the fastday, and he is obliged to make it up if it was obligatory, such as a day of Ramadan (Risala Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (9.64), 174). Yet Maliki scholar ibn Rushd in his Bidaya al-mujtahid [ The beinning of the mujtahid] (al-Hidaya fi takhrij ahadith al-Bidaya (9.18), 5.188) quotes the rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith of Abu Hurayra in Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet(Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

    When someone forgets and eats or drinks, let him complete his fast for it is but Allah who has fed him and given him drink (Bukhari (9.10), 3.40: 1933).

    Some Maliki scholars, supporting the position that absentmindedly eating or drinking vitiates the fast, have suggested that what is meant by the hadith’s words

    “let him complete the fast”

    is the lexical sense of fasting, which is simply

    “to refrain from eating”

    -the hadith signifying that someone who eats absentmindedly (vitiating his fast, in their view) must refrain from food for the rest of the day, as is also the case with a woman, for example, whose menstrual period ceases in the middle of a day of Ramadan: though the fast-day does not count for her, she is obliged to refrain from food till sundown because of the inviolability of the day. This linquistic sense of “fasting,” they say, is the import of

    “let him complete his fast.”

    This interpretation fails, as Sheikh Nuh ‘Ali Salman writes,

    because the words of primary texts are initially understood in their shari’a sense whenever possible, and only if this is impossible are they interpreted according to their linguistic sense. Here, it [“fasting”] must be understood in its shari’a sense, since the hadith says,

    “let him complete his fast,” :

    that is, his preceding fast, which was a legal fast [ of a day of Ramadan]. not a linquistic “fast” [ of merely going without food] ( Qada’al-‘ibadat (9.65),138).

    The Maliki scholar Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi disagrees, and explains why he believes the words

    ” let him complete his fast”

    should not be taken literally:

    “Fasting” is but refraining from eating, and cannot coexist with eating, for the two are opposites, and a person cannot be performing what he is obliged to or making it up when its integral element and reality does not remain or exist. Consider what vitiates ablution (wudu), which is the necessary procondition of the prayer; namely, the things that nullify ablution (hadath) [e.g. using the bathroom]. When any of them happens, deliberately or not, it vitiates purification (‘Arida al-ahwazi (9.80), 3.247).

    As for the above hadith, which seems to show that the fast is mullified by absentmindedly eating, Ibn al-‘Arabi mentions the Maliki position

    that according to the methodology of Malik, if the hadith of a single narrator conflicts with an established principle [namely, that the lack of a rukn or “obligatory integral” (here, refraining from eating) nullifies the action ( a valid fast)], then the hadith cannot be acted upon (‘Arida al-ahwazi (9.80), 3.248).

    Yet hadith specialist Ahmad al-Ghumari, also a Maliki, in his commentary on Ibn Rushd’s Bidaya al-mujtahid challenges the Maliki position that a fast is vitiated by absentmindedly eating or drinking, adducing variants of the above Bukhari Hadith such as that related in the Sunan of Daraqutni:

    When someone fasting absentmindedly eats or drinks, it is but sustenance (rizq) that Allah has sent to him, and he is not obliged to make it up ( Daraqutni (9.12), 2.178:27),

    -which is a rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith proving that the legal act of fasting is what is meant by the above hadith, and that absentmindedly eating or drinking does not vitiate this fast (al-Hidaya fi takhrij ahadith al-Bidaya(9.18), 5.188). One might object that these hadtihs could not be taken to refer to superorgatory fasts, and not obligatory fasts. And in fact, this is the position of the Maliki madhhab; that only obligatory fast-days absentmindedly vitiated need be made up, not superogatory ones (Risala Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayarawani (9.64), 176). But Ghumari adduces another rigorously authenticated (sahih) version of the hadith:

    Whoever absentmindedly breaks his fast in the month of Ramadan is not obliged to make it up or expiate it. ( Daraqutni (9.12), 2.178:28),

    which he states

    “has also been related by Hakim [ al Mustadrak (9.19), 1.430] and Bayhaqi [ Bayhaqi (9.9), 4.229]: Hakim says, ‘It is rigorously authenticated (sahih) according to the standards of Muslim, though neither [Bukhari nor Muslim] related it with this wording’; and Bayhaqi says, ‘[Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah] al Ansari alone related it from Muhammad ibn ‘Amr [ ibn ‘Alqama], though all its narrators are reliable'” ( al-Hidaya fi takhrij ahadith al-Bidaya (9.18), 5.189).

    These hadiths show Ghumari that first, though it may be intuitively plausible, in Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi’s words, that “fasting is but refraining from eating, and cannot coexist with eating,” the Prophet ( Allah bless him and give him peace) has apprised us that eating or drinking absentmindedly is an exception, by saying in the Bukhari hadith that

    “when someone forgets and eats or drinks, let him complete his fast.”

    The word fast may not, on the one hand, be interpreted in a merely linguistic sense, because the Daraqutni hadith’s words

    “and he is not obliged to make it up”

    apply only to the legal act of fasting; and cannot refer, on the other hand, to supererogatory fasts alone, for these do not happen

    “in the month of Ramadan.”

    Secondly, it is not a case of a hadith of a single narrator conflicting with the school’s recieved position, but rather several versions with mutiple and different channels of transmission.

    The leads Ghumari to say, in his hadith commentary on the Risala of Ibn Abi Zaid al-Qayrawani where the author writes,

    “and if one breaks one’s [supererogatory] fast absentmindedly, one is not obliged to make it up- as opposed to the obligatory [fast]” :

    This distinction [between obligatory and nonobligatory] lacks any acceptable proof, nor is there any evidence for it in the Qur’an or hadith at all. Rather, it contradicts the explicit content of the primary texts, and Allah knows better what evidence Malik relied on therin ( Masalik al-Dalala (9.17), 109-10).

    To be sure, Imam Malik was greater than contemporary scholars in knowledge of Qur’an and sunna, not the least because of his proximity to the time of the Prophet ( Allah bless him and give him peace) and his personal observation of the ‘amal or “invariable sunna practice” of earliests Muslims- as opposed to the merely verbal channels of transmission of hadiths relied upon by those after him. But it is clear in any case that Ghumari’s discussion is not one of “blind following” of the Maliki madhhab, but rather an example from the literature of the madhhab itself that shows how the school’s evidence has been examined and evaluated by subsequent Maliki scholars.”

    Wallahu A’lim

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