Posts Tagged ‘Shafii’

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One of the first lessons that all I learnt from all my teachers of Islamic sciences is the great maxim, “Our opinion is right with the possibility of being wrong and that of others (other recognized schools) is wrong with the possibility of it being right.” I was always told that it refers to furoo’ (subsidiary issues) only.

Lately, however, I observed some liberals using it to speak for producing space for differences on even the fundamentals. Knowing this I decided to search for the original statement.

Khalid Zaheer attributes to Imam al-Shafi’i (d. 204 AH)  and puts it the following way on his site:

“I am convinced about the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it likely that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced about the incorrectness of the views different from mine, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be correct.” — Imam Shafa’i

Many others have also attributed to it to the Imam.

Firstly, I failed to find it attributed to Imam al-Shafi’i in any classical work . The statement was mentioned by al-Hasfaki (d. 1088 AH) and others but the earliest scholar to whom I could trace it is al-Nasafi. Ibn Nujaym al-Hanafi (d.970 AH) in his al-Ashba wal Naza’ir writes:

قال في آخر المصفى: إذا سئلنا عن مذهبنا ومذهب مخالفينا في الفروع، يجب علينا أن نجيب بأن مذهبنا صواب يحتمل الخطأ ومذهب مخالفينا خطأ يحتمل الصواب؛وإذا سئلنا عن معتقدنا ومعتقد خصومنا في العقائد يجب علينا أن نقول: الحق ما نحن عليه والباطل ما عليه خصومنا هكذا نقل عن المشايخ رحمهم الله تعالى


(Al-Nasafi) said at the end of al-Musaffa: “When we are asked regarding our opinion and the opinions of those who differ with us in the issues of secondary nature (furoo’ i.e. issues of fiqh as are differed upon by the mujtahid imams), it is upon us to say that our opinion is correct with the possibility of being wrong and the opinion of those who differ with us is a mistake with the possibility of being correct,and when we are asked about our beliefs and those  of the ones who differ with us regarding them it is upon us to say that truth is on what we stand and falsehood is what on which our opponents are. This is so reported from our teachers, may Allah have mercy upon them.”

See: Al-Ashbah wal-Naza’ir, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyya, 1999) vol.1 p.330

Mark the contrast. The red is about furoo` (subsidiary issues); the blue is about usool-al-din (fundamentals) where differences are not tolerable e.g. hadith as a primary source of law and the first source of Qur’anic commentary.

Before Ibn Nujaym, Ibn Humam (d. 861 AH) mentioned it but Ibn Nujaym traces it back to Abu al-Barakaat al-Nasafi (d.710 AH). To the best of my knowledge this statement cannot be attributed to Imam al-Shafi’i nor is it traced back to anyone before al-Nasafi. If anyone has a due reference suggesting to the contrary, kindly do share.

What further supports this is that Ibn Hajr al-Haithmi (d. 974), a well known scholar of Shafi’i school, discusses the statement in some detail at the end of his Fatawa al-Fiqhiyya yet he does not attribute it to Imam al-Shafi’i.

And Allah knows the best!


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In one of his articles Prof. Israr Ahmad Ahmad, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), in what is practically a bid to subject Hadith to subjective analysis of ordinary people vis-a-vis its relation with Qur’an clearly departs from established scholarly morals.

He tries to amass references from scholars for the said purpose. Among the scholars he refers to is Imam al-Shafi’i. He alleges;

Muhammad ibn  Idris al-Shafi‘ i (d.204 A.H.) observed  in  his  masterpiece, al-Umm  that if  a  Hadith  was  in  contrast  with  the  Qur’ an,  it  could  not be  from  the Prophet  (s.a.w.), even  though  it  was  narrated  by  authentic  narrators.  For  that  matter  he  quoted  a Hadith of the Prophet  (s.a.w.):

Hadith  will,  indeed,  spread  far  and  wide  in  my  name; whatever  thereof  is  in  conformity  with  the  Qur’an  is  genuinely  mine;  and  whatever  thereof  clashes  with  the Qur’ an  is certainly not from me.

In his notes, he gives the following reference for this;

Al-Dumayni,  Misfir  Ghuram  Allah,  Maqayis  Naqd  Mutun  al -Sunnah  (Self published by the  author, Riyadh, 1403 A.H.), p. 297.

See, “The Qur’an as a Criterion for Hadith-Text Examination”, Islamic Perspectives – [Journal of ] Center for Sociological Studies, London Academy of Iranian Studies, vol. 4 2010 p.287, 308

This appears nice however it is cunningly deceitful for two reasons;

1) Imam al-Shafi’i has himself clarified that the report is not sahih

2) The work he cites itself clarifies this was not the final opinion of Imam al-Shafi’i and therefore it is wrong to attribute it to him anymore.

1) Imam al-Shafi’i himself clarified this report is not authentic

Following is the excerpt from al-Risala the well known work of Imam al-Shafi’i;

It is a part of a dialogue between Imam al-Shafi’i and some other person;

He (the other person) said: … can you give me an evidence against those who related a saying on the authority of the Prophet which runs as follows:

Compare whatever is related on my authority with the Book of God; if it agrees with it, I have said it, but if it does not agree, I have not said it.[7]

[Shafi’i] replied: This tradition was not related by one whose authority on any matter, significant or insignificant, has been recognized so as to constitute a proof for what he related. Besides this is an interrupted transmission from an unknown person and is unacceptable to us.

[7] This tradition has been transmitted in a variety of forms and is regarded as weak. For a critical evaluation, see Ibn Hazm, Kitab al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam, Vol. II. pp.76-82

See, Al-Risala fi Usool al-Fiqh- Treatise on the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. Translated by Majid Khadduri, Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, 1993 pp.186-187

2) Prof. Israr A. Khan’s intellectual dishonesty

The Prof. gives the narration from al-Shafi’i’s work citing another book i.e. Al-Dumayni’s Maqayis Naqd Mutun al-Sunnah. On page 297 of Al-Dumayni’s work we do find what Prof. writes however, Al-Dumayni clarifies on the very next page i.e. p.298 that though earlier Imam al-Shafi’i did mention the narration in his work al-Umm but in later work al-Risalah (as quoted above) he recanted from his view of testing every hadith against Qur’an because a sahih Hadith can never contradict Qur’an even if someone short of brains people thinks it does.

Al-Dumayni then writes;

وعلى هذا يكون القول بعدم العرض هو الراجح عنه، أو: هو القول الأخير له فى المسألة

“And for this reason the word about not presenting a hadith (against Qur’an for testing) is the more solid thing proved from him. Or (we may say): It is the last of his opinions on the issue.” (p.298)

This makes it very clear that Imam al-Shafi’i did not hold what the Prof. alleged. The learned Professor of Department of Qur’an and Sunnah wonderfully deceives his readers. Interestingly the well known and final opinion of Imam al-Shafi’i is mentioned even on p.296 of Al-Dumayni’s work. So both before and after what the Prof. quotes the clarification is given but he signally fails to share the truth.

Download al-Dumayni’s work HERE and see for yourself.

Had the professor quoted from al-Umm directly it would have not been too serious an issue because it is possible that a person reads one book and doesn’t know if some later work has a different thing though true scholarship doesn’t warrant that as well. But the fact that Prof. Khan quoted from a secondary source and that secondary source in very categorical terms clarifies against what he cherry-picks raises serious questions. It is next to impossible to take it as an honest mistake.

May Allah help us have see through the things and preserve our ‘iman from tricks of the opponents of sunnah.

Indeed Allah knows the best!

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Imam Al-Shafi’i (d. 204 AH) is reported to have said:

إذا صح الحديث خلاف قولي فاعملوا بالحديث واتركوا قولي أو قال فهو مذهبي

“When there is a Sahih Hadith opposed to my opinion, act upon the hadith and leave my word.” Or he said, “then it (i.e. that hadith, itself) is my opinion.”

Imam al-Nawawi (d.676 AH) after giving the well-known statement of al-Shafi’i, our Imam, in the above mentioned words says that scholars of the Shafi’i school have ruled in difference to the opinion of Al-Shafi’i on some issues. He then says:

وهذا الذي قاله الشافعي ليس معناه ان كل أحد رأى حديثا صحيحا قال هذا مذهب الشافعي وعمل بظاهره: وإنما هذا فيمن له رتبة الاجتهاد في المذهب على ما تقدم من صفته أو قريب منه: وشرطه أن يغلب على ظنه أن الشافعي رحمه الله لم يقف على هذا الحديث أو لم يعلم صحته: وهذا إنما يكون بعد مطالعة كتب الشافعي كلها ونحوها من كتب أصحابه الآخذين عنه وما أشبهها وهذا شرط صعب قل من يتصف به: وإنما اشترطوا ما ذكرنا لأن الشافعي رحمه الله ترك العمل بظاهر أحاديث كثيرة رآها وعلمها لكن قام الدليل عنده على طعن فيها أو نسخها أو تخصيصها أو تأويلها أو نحو ذلك: قال الشيخ أبو عمرو رحمه الله ليس العمل بظاهر ما قاله الشافعي بالهين فليس كل فقيه يسوغ له أن يستقل بالعمل بما يراه حجة من الحديث

“And as to this saying of al-Shafi’i, it does not mean that anyone who sees a sahih hadith should say, “This is the opinion (mazhab) of al-Shafi’i” and starts following it. In fact this is for the one who has the status (and ability) of ijtihad in the mazhab … And the condition for this is he must be fairly convinced that al-Shafi’i, may Allah have mercy on him, did not know that hadith or (at least) he did not know of its authenticity. And this is possible (only) after studying all the books of al-Shafi’i and likewise of his students who gained knowledge from him and whatever relates to it. And this is a very tough condition. There are very few who have this capacity. And these conditions we mentioned are put because in many cases Al-Shafi’i, may Allah have mercy on him, did not act according to the apparent import of ahadith after having known them. This is because according to him there was evidence for some problem for (each) such hadith, or for its abrogation, or limitation of its scope or for some interpretation (ta’wil) of it or anything of the kind. Abu ‘Amr (i.e. Ibn Salah), may Allah have mercy on him, said: Following the apparent meanings of what al-Shafi’i said is not easy for not every faqih is able to establish his practice on what he sees as evidence from hadith.

(Al-Majmu’ Sharh Al-Muhazzab, Maktaba’ Al-Irshad, Jeddah  vol.1 p.105)

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