Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

Ibn Rajab On Fraudulent Taqlid

The hadith master and imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali authored a wonderful work where he demonstrated the various ways in which Allah Most High has preserved the ummah of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). In addition to illustrating how the Qur'an, hadith, and sunnah of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) were recorded and showing how students should be inspired by the example of Imam Ahmad (Allah be well pleased with him), he talks a bit about taqlid. Since taqlid was one of yesterday's issues, it seems appropriate to quote a small passage from it.

The hadith master and imam, Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali wrote:

If it is asked: "So what do you say about another imam's school if it has been recorded, corrected, and memorized, just like their schools?"
It is said: Firstly, this is not known to exist right now. If we assumed that it did take place right now and conceded the permissibility of following it and affiliating with it, this would not be permissible except for someone who visibly shows affiliation to it, gives fatawa according to it and defends his school.
As for someone who outwardly shows affiliation to one of the famous imams while he is secretly affiliated with someone else, firmly believing in his school, this is absolutely impermissible. It is a form of hypocrisy and outward dissimulation (taqiya): especially if he took money reserved for the followers of that famous school, such as endowments; or deceived people, making them believe that the fatwa he gives from the school he secretly affiliates with is really from the school of the famous imam.
This certainly is impermissible. It is a deception toward the umma and a lie toward the scholars of the umma. Whoever ascribes to the imams of Islam something they did not say, or something known to be contrary to what they say, is a lair worthy of punishment just as if he had authored a book following a particular school and in it mentions an opinion he believes to be from the one he secretly affiliated to  without ascribing it to its proponent; or if the authored book is not confined to a specific school, and the author outwardly affiliated with a particular imam while secretly affiliating with another imam and he mentions the opinion of the one he secretly affiliates with without clarifying that they disagree with the school the outwardly affiliates with.
All of this is impermissible fraud and deception, leading to tainting and confusing the scholars' schools.
If he also claims ijtihad, it is more crafty and bitter, and of greater corruption and more pig-headed. This is absolutely impermissible except for someone possessing the complete tools of ijtihad: knowing the Qur'an, sunna, legal rulings of the Companions and the Successors (Allah be well pleased with them), knowing areas of consensus and difference, and the rest of the well known conditions for ijtihad. This requires much inspection of the sunna, knowing its sound from its sick, knowing the schools of the Companions and their Successors (Allah be well pleased with them), and the accounts related from them concerning this.
Because of this, Imam Ahmad was strict in the matter of fatwa, and held back from it anyone who did not memorize one hundred thousand hadiths, two hundred thousand, and more. The indication of the proof of his claim is that concerning issues he was independent in his opinions, just like the other imams; his opinions not taken from someone else. As for someone who relies solely on conveying someone else's words (whether it be the ruling or the ruling with evidence): the goal of his toil is to understand it. Perhaps he did not understand it well, corrupted it, or changed it. How far this is from ijtihad!

[translation of Al-Radd `Ala Man Ittaba` Ghayr Al-Mathahib Al-Arb`a. Copyright Musa Furber 1423/2002. All rights reserved. Not to be cross-posted without permission.]