As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 5


How do the Common People take their Rulings?

How do the Common People take their Rulings?
The Qur’aan and the Sunnah are the basic sources of guidance for all, but when a common person requires a specific ruling, he is supposed to refer to the trustworthy scholars instead of inventing his own interpretations. This is what the Qur’aan commands, ‘So ask of those who know the Scripture, if you know not.’ [Soorah an-Nahl (16): 43-44] This referring to the scholars is by asking them to respond in light of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah or by reading their books, Tafseer, etc. A common person is not obliged to restrict himself to the rulings of a particular scholar and must refer to scholars known for their knowledge, virtue, piety and righteousness; those whose opinions are not marred by prejudice towards a particular Madhhab.

As has been established earlier from the definition of Taqleed, quoted from, ‘Taqreer wa-Tahbeer,’ such referring to scholars for rulings is not Taqleed.

In this regard, Shaikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) said,

‘No one has to blindly follow any particular man in all that he enjoins or forbids or recommends, apart from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam). The Muslims should always refer their questions to the Muslim scholars, following this one sometimes and the other sometimes. If the follower decides to follow the view of an Imam with regard to a particular matter, which he thinks is better for his religious commitment or is more correct etc, that is permissible according to the majority of Muslim scholars, and neither Abu Haneefah, Malik, Shafa’ee or Ahmad said that this was forbidden.’ [Majmoo al-Fatawa (23/382)]

It is acceptable for a Muslim to follow one of the four well-known madhhabs, on the condition that he understands that the truth in any given issue may lie with another madhhab, in which case he must ignore his own madhhab’s opinion and follow the truth. The Muslim’s aim is to follow the truth that is in accordance with the Qur’aan and Sunnah. The madhhabs of Fiqh are only a means of reaching rules based on the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, they are not Qur’aan and Sunnah themselves.

Limiting oneself to a particular Madhhab in every issue is undesirable because a specific ruling in a Madhhab may be incorrect. This is apparent from the fact that at times the ruling of one madhhab is completely contradictory to that of the other Madhhab. Those who claim that even when complete contradictions exist, both opinions are considered to be the truth and are acceptable to be followed are mistaken as will be clarified from the following quote from Jamee Bayaan al-Ilm;

Imam Ibn Abdul Barr says, ‘Imam Muzani said,

‘There is the one, who allows differing and thinks that if two scholars make Ijtihad on a problem and one says, ‘Halaal’, while the other says, 'Haraam', then both have arrived at the truth with their Ijtihad! It can be said to such a person, ‘Is this view of yours based on the sources or on Qiyaas (analogy)?’ If he says, ‘On the sources’, it can be said, ‘How can it be based on the sources, when the Qur'aan negates differing?’ And if he says, ‘On analogy,’ it can be said, ‘How can the sources negate differing, and it be allowed for you to reason by analogy that differing is allowed?! This is unacceptable to anyone intelligent, let alone to a man of learning.’ [Jamee Bayaan al-Ilm (2/81-2)]

‘If both the conflicting views could be right, the Salaf would not have corrected each other's Ijtihad, judgments and verdicts. Simple reasoning forbids that something and its opposite can both be correct; as the fine saying goes, ‘To prove two opposites simultaneously is the most hideous absurdity.’ [Jamee Bayan al-Ilm (2/88). Quoted from Sifat Salaat an-Nabee by Shaikh al-Albanee]


At this juncture, a common person does his best to seek knowledge and follow the truth to the best of his ability, relying upon Allah and doing his part in knowing the truth; if he still does not truly understand or is unable to make a decision, he is free of blame – he follows the truth that reaches him in accordance with the verse, ‘So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can.’ [Soorah at-Taghabun (64): 16] A person in blameworthy, if he shows prejudice and arrogance when he is shown clear verses and ahadeeth.

It is also blameworthy to deliberately remain ignorant of Islamic teachings, basing one’s religion on blind-trust. Rather, a common person should seek knowledge, seek the proof behind the rulings and be an ‘informed believer’ rather than a complete blind-follower.

Moulana Muhammed Yusuf Ludhianwee, a Deobandi scholar disagrees with this, and says,

‘…Zaid goes to a specialist and this specialist prescribes a certain medicine for him. Now, if Zaid begins to question the authority and prescription of the specialist. This action of Zaid would be regarded as most unethical and against sound reason.’ [‘Show us the straight path’ (English trans. of the Urdu article, ‘Ikhtilaf-e-Ummat aur Siraat-e- Mustaqeem) by Moulana Yusuf Ludhianwi. Published by Madrasa Arabia Islamia, South Africa, p.16.]

In response to this logic, we say that the common person’s referring to the scholars is like ‘the informed consumer,’ who may not understand all the intricacies of medicine, but does his best to determine which doctor is most suitable to treat his ailment. He gives preference to the doctor who listens carefully to the patient and explains his diagnosis – over the doctor, whose treatment is shrouded by secrecy. He prefers the doctor that treats by mainstream medicine than to trust an ideologue, who considers some substances as a panacea for all diseases. Finally, and most-importantly, a patient resorts to taking a second opinion, which will allow him to know those aspects that he may not know from the first doctor. Even though, taking these precautions will not make someone a medical doctor himself, yet, it is obvious which patient is less likely to be duped or come to a wrong conclusion.

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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