Should I follow my own understanding of the Quran and Hadith?
14th August 2009
TweetBismillah, No muslim disagrees to the fact that in all matters, it is the ruling of Allah Almighty which has to be followed and obedience of His rules is obligatory upon every muslim.Our acceptance of the rulings of various Prophets and messengers (AS) , is only because they are the carriers of the rulings of Allah and act as a connection between the Creator and the created world. If these messengers base some ruling on their own research or indepth study (ijtihad), we accept it because they do so only after viewing it from all angles and finding it in consensus with the rulings of Almighty Allah and more so because Allah Almighty Himself has made it obligatory upon the Creation to follow the messengers; otherwise " innal hukma lillah" ( no ruling accept that of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala is acceptable) is the Bold and Clear declaration of the Quran . It follows that just like following the rulings of the Messenger cannot be said to be shirk in the authority of Allah swt, similarly the Imams of the ummah who were the deputies of the Messenger and spent all their energies and faculties in completely understanding in depth the rulings of the Messenger; following the rulings deduced by them, cannot constitute shirk fi risalah. The scholars or Imams are in reality the propagators of the message of the Messenger; even the rulings deduced by them after research and indepth study (ijtihad) are actually rooted in the Quran and the Sunnah; so just like following the messengers is in reality following Allah, similarly following the scholars or the Imams is in reality following Allah and His messenger (sallalahu allaihi wasalam). The Quranic verse " Fas'aloo ahla zikri in kuntum la ta'alamoon" appearing several times in the Quran teaches us the fundamental concept that those people who cannot do an indepth study of the Quran and the hadith should turn to those who know (the depths of the Quran and sunnah) and then follow them. Thus the basis of 'Taqleed' is only that those who do not know should act on the rules of Allah only after asking 'how' , from those who know. No intelligent human can deny the importance of this concept and as such there is no controversy on this in the muslim ummah. The only issue which is debated upon is whether following only one scholar in all matters (taqleed e shakhsi) is permissible or not .If one understands the basis of this matter unbiasedly, it is not too difficult to understand it.
There are many verses in the Quran as well as a number of ahadith which prohibit the total obedience of desires (itiba-e-hawa) ; therefore a consensus exists among the muslim community as well as the scholars that this 'itiba-e-hawa" is a haram act as per the rulings of the shariah. A person who acts according to his own will and desires and then looks for the confirmation of such rulings in the Quran and ahadith , he falls in the category of those who submit to their own will and desire and cannot be said to be a follower of the Quran even though there might exist some ruling in the Quran which is in accordance to what his desire implies; keeping in mind the fact that this is occuring between him and the One who is 'Aleem and Khabeer' and is fully aware of the intention as well as the subtleties of our desires. Hafiz ibn Taimiah (RA) writes in one of his fatawa that it is the consensus of the entire ummah that a person who looks into the madahib of the imams with the intention of finding an outlet for any of his own desires and then follows what he desires while attributing his action to any of the rulings of the Imams, cannot be said to be a follower of Allah and His Rasool (sallalahu allaihi wasalam) but he is only a follower of his own desire (hawa); doing this is turning the entire deen into a mere toy and playing with it. Ibn Taimia ( RA) says, " These people at times follow an imam who has declared a particular kind of nikah as null and then at another time follow another imam who declares such a nikah as right. This is just following ones desires and according to the consensus of the entire ummah is haram; (three lines after this ) he writes, " the similitude of such a person is like the one who at one time desiring a way out of his own nikah decides to follow imam Abu Hanifa and if somebody else (known to him) wants the same ruling but this time his desire is that the person should maintain his/her nikah , he decides to follow imam shafi ! If the person says that initially I was unaware of the right ruling but now that I know it I shall follow it , still his words are not to be trusted as it is just like playing with the deen and becomes a pretext for making ones own desire (hawa) as the touchstone for declaring things halal or haram.
In short the obedience of hawa is by consensus a haram act and by experience also one can state that if the general masses are left free to decide rulings about various issues on their own , ie whenever they wish they can follow imam Abu Hanifa and whenver they wish they can follow imam Shafaee or any other imam, the result will be the same situation which Hafiz Ibn Taimiya declares as 'haram'. Taking this shara'ee consideration into view it was found safer to follow one imam in all rulings . The real goal is to protect oneself from itiba-e- hawa and since in these times there is no other solution except to follow one imam so this itaba of one imam takes the degree of wujoob or becomes wajib on a muslim. It follows that it is not essential that there exists a ruling in the Quran and hadith making this following of an imam essential as the Quran and Hadith exist to explain the rules of the shariah and do not demarcate the means of attaining them; just like the Haj Pilgrimage is obligatory (fardh) based on the Quran and Ahadith but none of these two authentic sources delineate the means of transport one should adopt for this pilgrimage.; if one goes on looking for the names of trains, aeroplanes, ships etc in the books of Hadith and in the Quran then it is a proof of one's sheer ignorance and lack of right knowledge.. Thus even if there were no clear cut orders for following an authentic imam in the Quran and hadith, the forbiddence of itiba-e- hawa would have been enough to make it essential. But looking into the lives of the blessed companions (sahaba ) (RA) one can see that even though these stalwarts were free from the dangers of itiba-e- hawa, still they would at times after proper selection and at other times without even a prior selection follow a scholar or theologist and then act according to his rulings; some of the companions even at that time would follow a single scholar in all matters and to prove this, the following authentic and famous example should be enough:
In Sahih Bukhari , Hazrat Ikrimah (RA) narrates, " The people of madinah once asked Hazrat Ibne Abbas (RA) regarding a lady who after performing the obligatory (fardh) tawaf of the kaba got her menstrual periods ; whether she should wait till her period ends and then perform the tawaf-e- wida (the parting tawaf) or is it that she no longer needs to perform the tawaf and can leave. Ibn Abbas (RA) replied that she can leave. The questioners on hearing this reply said, " we will not prefer your word over the ruling of Zaid bin Thabit (RA) and will not act against his ruling". In Fathul Bari ( the sharah of Sahih Bukhari), the following words about the same incident narrated by Qatada (RA) are written," The Ansar said ," we will not follow you and act against the ruling of Zaid bin Thabit (RA)" . Ibn Abbas replied, " Go and ask umme Sulaim about the issue (that the ruling I am giving you is the correct one )".
Two facts get clarified by this conversation between the Ansar and Ibne Abbas (RA) ; One - that the Ansar used to follow Zaid bin Thabit (RA) in person (taqleed e shakhsi) and would never act against any of his rulings. Second- that even Ibn e Abbas did not object to their doing so as do the so called modern scholars of our times i.e go on repeating that taqleed e shaksi is shirk fi risalah - it is haram and not permissible .Hazrat Ibne Abbas (RA) only advised them to go back to Zaid bin Thabit for confirmation of the ruling. It is continued in Fathul Bari that these people then went to umme Sulaim enquirng about the matter and then returned to Zaid bin Thabit (RA) who referred back to the particular hadith and then accepted the ruling of Hazrat Ibne Abbas (RA) as being correct and took back his former fatwa. In short what is clear from the incident is the consensus of the Ansars and Hazrat Ibne Abbas on the ruling that those people who do not possess the required depth of knowledge which qualifies one as a mujtahid should turn to one among the scholars and make it a point to follow him on all matters. From this incident , the matter of taqleed e shakhsi proves to be permissible for the people belonging to the times of the sahaba (RA) . But in the times that followed, its becoming wajib (near to obligatory) is because without it, it becomes impossible to safeguard oneself from itibaa-e - hawa. (Translation of " The proof for 'Taqleed e shaksi'-( Taqleed e shaksi ka thaboot) Movlana Shabir Ahmad Sahab uthmani .
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