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 Respect Scholars but Call to Scripture ..

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Obedient Angel

Join date : 2011-04-30
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PostSubject: Respect Scholars but Call to Scripture ..   Respect Scholars but Call to Scripture .. Icon_minitimeSat Dec 08, 2012 4:17 am

If one chooses to follow the school of thought of one of the four imams – or, for that matter, any other legal scholar – one should not become so enamoured of their legal verdicts to the extent of not caring how a verdict was derived or what evidence was used by the scholars to support it. What matters, before anything else, is the evidence. This must be the basis of what we call people to follow. The fact that there might be many opinions on an issue does not give us license to adopt one point of view without careful scrutiny. This leads to bias and chauvinism, which is an evil all four imams warned us against.

Abū Hanīfah said: “If an authentic hadith reaches us from the Prophet, we adopt it without hesitation. If we only have the Companions’ opinions available to us, then we chose from among them, and do not adopt something outside of those opinions. If all we have are the statements of the Successors, then our own opinions are as good as theirs.”

Mālik said: “Everything we say is invariably a contradiction of someone else’s opinion, and something that others can readily dispute with.”

Al-Shāfi`ī said: “If a hadīth is authentic, then it is my school of thought.”

Ahmad said: “Do not follow me blindly, and do not follow Mālik of Shāfi`ī blindly.”

The imams recognised the same four primary sources of law: the Qur’an, the authentic Prophetic Sunnah, unanimous juristic consensus, and juristic analogy. Additionally, each of the imams relied on other secondary sources of law that the others did not recognise (which will be discussed in later sections of this book).

With respect to the two textual sources of law, the Qur’an and Sunnah, none of them ever considered his personal understanding of a particular text to be decisive or sacrosanct. They knew that their use of any text was an engagement between what was sacred and what was not. On the one hand was the inviolable text, sacred in its origins. On the other was the fallible, subjective understanding of the interpreter. The only time absolute certainty could be claimed for a particular interpretation was in a case where there was unanimous juristic consensus on what a text means, this consensus being itself the third source of law.

Otherwise, every person sees things from a different angle. The greatest of legal scholars are human beings, susceptible to the limitations of their experience. They are shaped by their upbringing circumstances, and the events of their lives. Their knowledge and practical wisdom increase over time through study and application.

As for the other sources of law they disagreed about, these were as follows: juristic discretion, considerations of welfare, blocking the means to wrongdoing, and the statements of the Companions. The imams also differed in the methods they used to negotiate various interpretations and weigh apparently contradictory evidence.

Despite their great knowledge, none of the imams ever claimed to be infallible. Their followers never regarded them as being above error. Each of the imams expressed certain opinions that we can clearly identify as weak and that fly in the face of very compelling evidence to the contrary. In each school of thought, there are a few such cases. They are well known, and limited in number. Such opinions are not to adopted, even by those who count themselves as followers of the school of thought. Turning away from those opinions shows no disrespect for the imam. Rather, it safeguards his station and protects his integrity.

The Hanbalī jurist Ibn al-Qayyim, said:
An erudite man who makes wholesome and positive contributions to Islamic knowledge enjoys a high rank in Islam as well as with the Muslims. He might have had a few slips in thought and made a few mistakes. For these he is excused, or indeed rewarded for his sincere effort to find the truth. It is not permissible for anyone to follow him in those errors, nor is it permissible to use those errors as a means to harm his reputation and good standing in the hearts of the Muslims. [I`lām al-Muwaqqi`in]
The mistaken opinions of each imam are usually opinions which only a particular imam held, to the exclusion of the others. At the same time, the fact that a certain opinion was held by only one imam does not mean that it was mistaken. Most such opinions are legitimate points of view backed up by sound evidence and arguments.

There are cases where one imam determined a particular hadith to be inauthentic which the other three regarded as authentic, due to his particular approach to analysing that hadith’s chain of transmissions. This led him to arrive at a different conclusion on the matter that the hadith referred to. It is not the duty of one imam to follow the other three in judging a hadith’s validity, any more than it was required of him to defer to their religious verdicts. Each imam was an independent jurist, and each had his own methods and conceptual tools which he brought to bear on legal problems.

Our duty, when evaluating the opinions of these great jurists, is to look at the merits of each, considering the strength of the evidence and arguments that support it. It should never be our intention to belittle any imam on account of a particular point of view he held. Nor should anyone be expected to indiscriminately follow each and every opinion of that imam, except in a case where the person’s limited knowledge makes it impossible to do otherwise.
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