Was it The Norm to Only Follow the Four Madhabs in the 7th and 8th Century
& The Existence of Other Madhabs
Compiled, Translated & Annotated
Abu Hibban & Abu Khuzaimah Ansari
Let us look at why this is an shadh position (i.e Refutation of Those Who Do Not Follow The Four Schools) we will see in light of the statements and understanding of the scholars who were around the time of Hafiz Ibn Rajab who died in the year 795 after the Hijra.
Hafiz Ibn Rajab allegedly says in the opening pages that he authored the book in answer to someone’s rebuke to. He says,
“Someone’s rebuke has reached me: a rebuke for my censuring people today who affiliate with the school of Imam Ahmad or another famous Imam, yet depart from their school in issues…” (Hafiz Ibn Rajab, Al-Radd ‘ala man Ittiba ghayr al-madhahib al-arba ? (Refutation of Those Who Do Not Follow The Four Schools) trans. Musa Furber (?: Islamosaic, 2003/2012/2015) p.1)
(**The dates of the translated publication are somewhat confusing, where the copyright is cited as 2003, 2012 but the translators introduction is dated 30th June 2015 in Abu Dhabi)
It is interesting to note how Hafiz Ibn Rajab did not restrict such affiliations to just the four Imams as the passage above shows but yet it is strange how the title of the book suggests and is restricted only to the four Madhabs!!! This is from amongst many reasons why some researchers have failed to accept this as Hafiz Ibn Rajab’s book. Some researchers accepted it to be his treatise with great difficulty but rejected the title. This will be discussed later In Sha Allah.
Musa Furber, in his short biography of Hafiz Ibn Rajab cites al-Subki as one of his teachers, ie Shaikh Taqi al-Din. (Refutation of Those Who Do Not Follow The Four Schools, p.vIII)
However, Shaikh Taqi al-Din al-Subki’s son, Shaikh Taj al-Din Subki (771H) who died just 24 years before Hafiz Ibn Rajab and was therefore from his era, he said,
“It is unacceptable to Allah, the forcing of people to accept one madhab and the associated partisanship (tahazzub) in the subsidiary issues of the Din and nothing pushes this fervour and zealously except partisanship and jealousy. If Abu Haneefah, Shafi, Malik and Ahmad were alive they would severely censure these people and they would dissassociate themselves from them.” (Mu’eed an-Na’am Wa Mubeed an-Naqam pg.76)
The later Hanafi scholars way after the time of Hafiz Ibn Rajab, even differed with the view of “only the four madhab” approach and they said if a muqallid Qadhi (judge) issues a verdict in opposition to the fatwa of the imam of the madhab, it is unworthy to be acted upon. Similarly when the Qadhi issues a verdict based on a weak statement of the madhab it will still not be worthy to be acted upon, so therefore how is it correct to act upon a statement of another madhab. (Refer to Durr ul-Mukhtar with Radd al-Mukhtar 1/76)
Others however on the other hand have shown some leniency and said if the Qadhi is a Mujtahid then his verdict which opposes the madhab can be acted upon based on ijtihad. (Refer to Durr al-Mukhtar 1/85 and 5/404)
This shows the later scholars themselves differed with this even after the era of Hafiz Ibn Rajab and we have already shown the same from Hafiz Ibn Rajab’s era already, as for the time before, let’s not even go there!!!
Shaikh Kamal ud Din Hanafi said that an individual referring to another madhab based on evidence and ijtihad is sinful and worthy to be reprimanded, then how about the individual who refers to another madhab without evidence or ijtihad, then he will be more worthy of sin and punishment. (Refer to Tahawi 2/417)
Imam Dhahabi (748H), another contemporary of Hafiz Ibn Rajab extorts some beneficial points, his profound words are,
“Oh Muqallid and oh you who think ijtihad has finished and there is no Mujtahid now! Then there is no benefit in your learning and studying the principles of Fiqh as learning the principles of Fiqh only benefits the Mujtahid. When an individual knows the principles of Fiqh and he still abstains from freeing himself from the shackles of taqlid, he does not achieve anything. Rather by studying it further he pushes himself into more difficulty and establishes proofs against himself.. ” (cited by Suyuti in Ar-Radd Ala Min Akhlad Ilal Ardh pg.153)
He also further expounded on this and said,
“A person who only follows one specific madhab is the one who is deficient of firm knowledge, just as the situation was with most of the scholars of our times who are mutassab (ie bigoted)” (Siyar A’lam an-Nabula 14/491)
Shaikh Izz ud deen Ibn Abdus Salam (660H) said,
“There is great amazement at the blind following (Muqallid) jurists (fuqaha) who know the weak sources of their imams which they can not clarify or rectify, yet they are still adamant and continue to do taqlid of their Imams and they abandon and leave the position which is supported by the Quran and Sunnah. In doing so they formulate and concoct major false interpretations in defence and in promotion of their Imams.” (Qawaid al-Ahkam 2/135, also cited by Shah Waliullah in his Hujatullah 1/155, in his Ittihaf pg.110 and in his Iqd al-Jeed, Suyuti in his ar-Radd Min Akhlad pg.140, and Allamah Fulani in Iqaz al-Humam pg.108)
Imam Ibn Salah (643H) the author of Muqaddimah Uloom al-Hadith) says in summary
“When a lay person seeks a fatwa or asks concerning an issue from a scholar, he should emphasis on the answer and say was this the ruling of the Nabi (Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam). If the mufti says yes, he can act on the fatwa and nothing more is required from in terms of him being a lay person. However if the mufti says this is my opinion, or the opinion of Malik, Qasim, Abu Haneefah, Abu Yusuf, Shafi, Ahmad or Dawood Zahiri, or if he says it is the statement of a companion or tabi, or if he just remains silent, then it is haram to take the fatwa. Unless it specifies it is from the Nabi Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam), thereafter it becomes obligatory to take this and it is also obligatory for him to say to you to go and ask other scholars.”(Kitab al-Fatwa pg.280 of Ibn Salah)
This shows even before Hafiz Ibn Rajab’s time the people and the scholars had an understanding beyond the four Madhabs and followed the methodology of referring back to the evidences, even if it was outside of the four Madhabs.
Imam Suyuti (911H), who was over a 100 years after the time of Hafiz Ibn Rajab, he also alludes to the existence of other Madhabs in the fifth century ie up to the 600H. So what changed so dramatically in 150 years or so until the time of Hafiz Ibn Rajab? Imam Suyuti said,
“Numerous mujtahids have passed through the various eras in addition to the numerous mujtahids after the time of the tabieen. There were 10 madhabs that were prevalent. So in addition to the four madhabs we have the Madhab Sufyan ath-Thawri, Madhab Awzai, Madhab Laith ibn Sa’ad, Madhab Ishaq ibn Rahawaihah, Madhab Ibn Jarir and the Madhab of Dawud. However after thr 5th century due to the lack of fervour, motivation and rejuvenation these other madhabs dimished.” (al-Hawi Lil-Fatawa 2/156 of Imam Suyuti)
However Shaikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (728H) has further expanded on this and asserted the other madhabs did exist, he said,
“Imam Sufyan ath-Thawri who was an Imam of the people of Iraq and according to most of the scholars was greater in rank that the scholars of his era like Ibn Abi Layla, Hasan bin Saleh and Abu Haneefah. His madhab is present today in Khurasan. Likewise the madhab of Imams Ishaq ibn Rahawaihah and Dawud (adh-Dhahiri) is also prevalent today, in fact in the east and the west you will find that most of the followers are of the Dawudi madhab.” (al-Fatawa al-Kubra 2/374, it is also cited in his Majmu Fatawa)
Also remember, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah died in 728H and he is saying that you will find people upon other madhabs, so this shows the people were not confined to these madhabs even in the 8th century of Islam, precisely during the era of Hafiz Ibn Rajab.
Some people have even mentioned the different lands who were on different madhabs just before the time of Hafiz Ibn Rajab. For example Mas’ud bin Shaybah Sindhi, who was a staunch author and from amongtst 7th century hanafi scholars mentioned most of the people of Rauzrawar, Yazjard, Juzbazkan (central asia) and some of the people Hamdan are upon the madhab of of Thawri. (Muqaddimah Kitab at-Ta’lim pg.331)
The student of Shaikh Balqaini asked him what prohibits Shaikh Taqi ud deen as-Subki from doing ijtihad (and here it means of the Mustaqil or mutlaq type) whereas he has the capability and knowledge. The student also thought that Shaikh Balqaini was also of the same level and so whatever answers he gives I will also assume that to be his own reasons also.
However Shaikh Balqaini remained silent. So the student himself said, may be he thought it was inappropriate and this ijtihad was restricted to the 4 madhabs and those who left these 4 madhabs and performed ijtihad, they would not achieve anything because the people would abandon and not take Fatawa from them and at the same instance label them to be innovators. Then Shaikh Balqaini smiled upon my clarification and agreed with me. (Refer to Shaikh Shah Waliullahs al-Insaf Fee Bayan Sabab al-Ikhtilaf pg.60-61)
In summary dear readers we find, the scholars did not restrict the people only to the four madhabs and this was from scholars during the time of Hafiz Ibn Rajab, slightly before and well after. This also shows the existence of other madhabs during the same era in the different lands. There were other mitigating factors why scholars resorted to sicking to one of the well known madhabs as the student of Baqilaini highlighted.
What must be added here, there is no legislated evidence in the Quran or Sunnah whatsoever that restricts a Muslim to only one of the four madhabs, this is huge milestone from restricting a Muslim to only one madhab.