As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 8


Ibn Taymiyyah, the Mujtahid

      Ibn Taymiyyah, the Mujtahid:

'The scholars of this period (i.e. During Ibn Taymiyyah's era) left all forms of Ijtihad and unanimously issued a legal ruling which was intended to close the door of Ijtihad permanently. They reasoned that all possible issues had already been raised and addressed, and there was therefore, no need for further Ijtihad. With that step, a new concept of Madhhab arose, namely that one of the four Madhhabs had to be followed for one's Islam to be valid. In time, this concept became firmly embedded among the masses as well as the scholars of Fiqh. Thus, the religion of Islam itself became restricted within the confines of the four existing Madhhabs; Hanafee, Malikee, Shafa'ee and Hambalee. These schools of law came to be considered as divinely ordained manifestations of Islam. All of them were supposed to be completely correct, equal and representative of true Islam, yet there were innumerable differences among them. In fact, there were scholars in this period who interpreted some Ahadeeth in such a way as to prove that the Prophet himself had predicted the appearance of the Imams and their Madhhabs. Consequently, any attempt to go beyond these canonical Madhhabs was considered heretical and anyone who refused to follow one of these Madhhabs was classified as an apostate. The hyper-conservative scholars of this stage even went so far as to rule that whoever was caught transferring from one Madhhab to another was liable to punishment at the discretion of the local judge. A ruling was also made in the Hanafee Madhhab prohibiting the marriage of a Hanafee to a Shafa'ee. And even the second most important pillar of Islam, Salaat was not spared the effects of Madhhab fanaticism. The followers of the various Madhhabs began to refuse to pray behind the Imams from other Madhhabs.' [Evolution of Fiqh by Bilal Philips, pg. 107]

'The factors, which led to Taqleed, also caused scholars to confine their creative activity to merely editing and revising previous works. The Fiqh books of earlier scholars were condensed and abridgements of them were made. These abridgements were later shortened in order to make them easy to memorize, and many of them were actually put to rhyme. This process of condensing continued until the summaries, which resulted became virtual riddles to the students of the day. The following generation of scholars began to write explanations of the summaries and poems. Later scholars wrote commentaries on the explanations and other added footnotes to the commentaries.' [Evolution of Fiqh by Dr. Bilal Philips, pg. 110]

Therefore, in Shaikhul-Islam's time, a degenerative trend resulted in abandoning all forms of Ijtihad, and Madhhabs of Fiqh emerged as independent separate entities closely resembling sects. Though Ibn Taymiyyah studied the Usool (principles) of the Hambali Fiqh, he did not show prejudice towards a particular Madhhab. He explained, 'In all my life until this hour, I have never called anyone ever in the principles of religion to the Hanbali madhhab or any other madhhab, and I do not support it and I do not mention it in my talk, I don't mention anything except what the Salaf and the scholars of the Ummah have agreed upon. And I have told them more than once, I give respite to him who disagreed with me for three years if he brings me one word from the scholars of the first three generations that contradicts what I have said then I will accept it. What I mention I quote from the first three generations word-for-word and I quote their renowned Ijma.' [Majmoo al-Fatawa (3/229). Quoted from the book, 'Dawah Shaikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah wa-Athruha fi al-Harakat al-Islamiyyah al-Mu'asirah' by Salahud-din Maqbool Ahmad]

Ibn Taymiyyah called for a return to the original state of affairs whereby the common people took the knowledge of the Deen without prejudice towards individuals of a specific Madhhab. He said, 'If what was destined befalls a Muslim, then he should seek a verdict from someone whom he believes that he will reply according to the Sharee'ah of Allah and His Messenger from whichever Madhhab he may be, and it is not obligatory upon any Muslim to make Taqleed of (blindly-follow) one specific person from the scholars in everything he says, and it is not required from any Muslim to adhere to the madhhab of one specific person in everything that he necessitates and informs about. Rather, every person's word is taken and left except Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam). One's following a specific madhhab due to the excuse of his inability to know the Sharee'ah except through it (i.e., the person), then such is permissible for him. It is not from what is required from every person, even if he is able to know the Sharee'ah through a different path, rather every person should fear Allah in accordance with his ability, and seek knowledge of what Allah and His Messenger has commanded, so he carries out the prescribed and leaves the forbidden.' [Majmoo al-Fatawa (vol. 20)]

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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