The Holy Prophet ﷺ said, "He for whom Allâh desires great good, He grants him (superlative) understanding in the Religion (yufaqqihhu/yufqihhu fî al-dîn). I only distribute and it is Allâh Who gives. That group shall remain in charge of the Order of Allâh, unharmed by those who oppose them, until the coming of the Order of Allâh."1
"It may be that one carries understanding without being a person of understanding; it may be that one carries understanding to someone who possesses more understanding than he."Imâm al-Shâfi`î apparently took from Imâm Abû Hanîfa his famous statement, said: "You [the scholars of h.adîth] are the pharmacists but we [the Jurists] are the physicians." This is also reported from al-A`mash and Abu Sulayman Ibn Zubar and was probably proverbial. Mullâ `Alî al-Qârî commented: "The early scholars said: The h.adîth scholar without knowledge of fiqh is like a seller of drugs who is no physician: he has them but he does not know what to do with them; and the fiqh scholar without knowledge of h.adîth is like a physician without drugs: he knows what constitutes a remedy, but does not have it available."2
Imâm Ah.mad is related by his students Abû T.âlib and H.umayd ibn Zanjûyah to say: "I never saw anyone adhere more to h.adîth than al-Shâfi`î. No one preceded him in writing down h.adîth in a book." The meaning of this is that al-Shâfi`î possessed the intelligence of h.adîth after which Ah.mad sought, as evidenced by the latter's statement: "How rare is fiqh among those who know h.adîth!" This is a reference to the h.adîth: "It may be one carries understanding (fiqh) - meaning: memorizes the proof-texts of fiqh - without being a person of understanding (faqîh)."3 The Salaf and Khalaf elucidated this rule in many famous statements showing that, for all the exalted status of the Muh.addith, yet the Faqîh excels him:
Cautioning against the danger of misusing hadith to the point of committing sin, Imam Ahmad narrated from Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Qattan (d.233) that the latter said: "If one were to follow every rukhsa that is in the hadîth, he would ebcome a transgressor (fâsiq)."* Ibn Abî Zayd al-Mâlikî reports Sufyân ibn `Uyayna as saying: "H.adîth is a pitfall (mad.illa) except for the fuqahâ'," and Mâlik's companion `Abd Allâh ibn Wahb said: "H.adîth is a pitfall except for the Ulema. Every memorizer of h.adîth that does not have an Imâm in fiqh is misguided (d.âll), and if Allâh had not rescued us with Mâlik and al-Layth [ibn Sa`d], we would have been misguided."4
* Ibn al-Mubârak said: "If Allâh had not rescued me with Abû H.anîfa and Sufyân [al-Thawrî] I would have been like the rest of the common people." Al-Dhahabî relates it as: "I would have been an innovator."12
* Imâm Ah.mad's teacher, Yah.yâ ibn Sa`îd al-Qat.t.ân, despite his foremost
status as the Master of h.adîth Masters and expert in
narrator-recommendation and discreditation, would not venture to extract
legal rulings from the evidence but followed in this the fiqh of Abû H.anîfa
as he explicitly declared: "We do not belie Allâh. We never heard better
than the juridical opinion (ra'î) of Abû H.anîfa, and we followed most of
Similarly, Muh.ammad ibn `Abd Allâh ibn `Abd al-H.akam said: "If it were not for al-Shâfi`î I would not have known how to reply to anyone. Because of him I know what I know."14 As for Muh.ammad ibn Yah.yâ al-Dhuhlî (d. 258) of Khurâsân, whom Abû Zur`a ranked above Imâm Muslim and who is considered an Amîr al-Mu'minîn fî al-H.adîth ("Commander of the Faithful in the Science of H.adîth"), he never considered himself a non-muqallid but said: "I have made Ah.mad ibn H.anbal an Imâm in all that stands between me and my Lord."15 Mis`ar ibn Kidâm said the same with regard to Imâm Abû H.anîfa.16
Fiqh is the context of many statements of the Imâms on knowledge consisting in wisdom, benefit, deeds, and light rather than learning and memorization as we already mentioned. Mâlik said: "Wisdom and knowledge are a
light by which Allâh guides whomever He pleases; it does not consist in
knowing many things"17. Al-Shâfi`î: "Knowledge is what benefits.
Knowledge is not what one has memorized."18
Al-Dhahabî: "[Knowledge (al-`ilm) is "not the profusion of narration, but a light which Allâh casts into the heart. Its condition is followership (ittibâ`) and the flight away from egotism (hawâ) and innovation."19
Wakî` ibn al-Jarrâh preferred long-chained narrations through the fuqahâ' to short-chained ones through non-fuqahâ' and said: "The h.adîth current among the jurists is better than the h.adîth that is current among the h.adîth scholars."21 This is a foundational rule in the H.anîfî School, which like Yah.yâ al-Qat.t.ân, Wakî` followed.22
Al-A`mash (Abû Muh.ammad Sulaymân ibn Mahrân al-Asadî the Tâbi`î 61/-148) also said: "The h.adîth that jurists circulate among themselves is better than that which h.adîth narrators circulate among themselves."23
Ibn Rajab said that Abû Dâwûd in his Sunan was more concerned with the jurisprudence of the h.adîth than with its chains of transmission.24
This is also the case with al-Bukhârî's Sahîh while Muslim, Ibn Mâjah, and al-Nasâ'î focussed on the benefits of its transmission chains and text variants - Muslim being the most thorough and reliable in these regards. Al-Tirmidhî gave equal weight to the fiqh of the hadîth and the study of its transmission although Abû Dâwûd is somewhat stricter in hadîth authentification while al-Nasâ'î surpasses them both.
Sufyân al-Thawrî used to say to the h.adîth scholars: "Come forward, O weak ones!"25 He also said: "If h.adîth were a good thing it would have vanished just as all goodness has vanished," and "Pursuing the study of h.adîth is not part of the preparation for death, but a disease that preoccupies people." Al-Dhahabî commented: "He said this verbatim. He is right in what he said because pursuing the study of h.adîth is other than the h.adîth itself."26
Ish.âq ibn Râhûyah said: "I would sit in Iraq with Ah.mad ibn H.anbal, Yah.yâ ibn Ma`în, and our companions, rehearsing the narrations from one, two, three routes of transmission... But when I said: What is its intent? What is its explanation? What is its fiqh? They would all remain mute except Ah.mad ibn H.anbal."30
Sufyân al-Thawrî said: "The explanation (tafsîr) of the h.adîth is better than the h.adîth."27 Another wording has: "The explanation of the h.adîth is better than its audition."28Abû `Alî al-Naysabûrî said: "We consider understanding superior to memorization."29
Ibn Mahdî regretted not having written, after every hadîth he had recorded, its explanation.The perspicuity and fiqh of Abû Thawr among the h.adîth Masters is famous. A woman stood by a gathering of scholars of h.adîth comprising Yah.yâ ibn Ma`în, Abû Khaythama, Khalaf ibn Salim, and others. She heard them saying: "The Prophet ﷺ said," and "So-and-so narrated," and "No one other than So-and-so narrated," etc. Whereupon she asked them: "Can a woman in her menses wash the dead?" for that was her occupation. No one in the entire gathering could answer her, and they began to look at one another.
Ibn `Abd al-Barr cites Imâm Ah.mad as saying: "From where does Yah.yâ ibn Ma`în know al-Shâfi`î? He does not know al-Shâfi`î nor has any idea what al-Shâfi`î says!"34 Ibn Râhûyah similarly conceded defeat before al-Shâfi`î's jurisprudence although himself reputed for fiqh.35
* `Abd al-Razzâq al-S.an`ânî, Sufyân's contemporary, was the teacher of the pillars of h.adîth memorization in their time - Ah.mad, Ibn Râhûyah, Ibn Ma`în, and Muh.ammad ibn Yah.yâ al-Dhuhlî. Yet when Muh.ammad ibn Yazîd al-Mustamlî asked Ah.mad: "Did he [`Abd al-Razzâq] possess fiqh?" Ah.mad replied: "How rare is fiqh among those who know h.adîth!"36
Anas ibn Sîrîn said: "I came to Kûfa and found in it 4,000 persons pursuing h.adîth and 400 persons who had obtained fiqh."37
Sufyân al-Thawrî: "Knowledge in our view is only the dispensation of a trustworthy learned perrson. As for strtictness, anyone can be strict!"
Hujjat al-Islâm al-Ghazâlî in al-Mustasfâ and Imâm Ibn Qudâma in Rawdat al-Nâzir both said that an `�lim may be an Imâm in a particular science and an uneducated common person in another.Ibn `Abd al-Salâm said: "Most h.adîth scholars are ignorant in fiqh."38 A majority of 90% according to Anas ibn Sîrîn - among the Salaf!
Al-Dhahabî said: "The majority of the h.adîth scholars have no understanding, no diligence in the actual knowledge of h.adîth, and no fear of Allâh regarding it."39 All of the authorities al-Dhahabî listed as "those who are imitated in Islâm" are Jurisprudents and not merely h.adîth masters.
Al-Sakhâwî in his biography of Ibn H.ajar entitled al-Jawâhir wa al-Durar fi Tarjamat Shaykh al-Islâm Ibn Hajr states that al-Fâriqî said: "One who knows chains of h.adîth but not the legal rulings derived from them cannot be counted among the Scholars of the Law." His student Ibn Abî `As.rûn (d. 585) also followed this view in his book al-Intis.âr.40
Ibrâhîm al-Nakha`î said: "Truly, I hear a h.adîth, then I see what part of it applies. I apply it and leave the rest."41 Shaykh Muh.ammad `Awwâma said: "Meaning, what is recognized by the authorities is retained while anything odd (gharîb), anomalous (shâdhdh), or condemned (munkar) is put aside."Yazîd ibn Abî H.abîb said: "When you hear a h.adîth, proclaim it; if it is recognized, [keep it,] otherwise, leave it."42
Ibn Abî Laylâ said: "A man does not understand h.adîth until he knows what to take from it and what to leave."43
`Abd al-Rah.mân ibn Mahdî, the Commander of the believers in H.adîth, said: "It is impermissible for someone to be an Imâm [i.e. to be imitated] until he knows what is sound and what is unsound and until he does not take everything [sound] as evidence, and until he knows the correct way to infer knowledge [in the Religion]."44
Al-Shâfi`î narrated that Mâlik ibn Anas was told: "Ibn `Uyayna narrates from al-Zuhrî things you do not have!" He replied: "Why, should I narrate every single h.adîth I heard? Only if I wanted to misguide people!"45
Shaykh `Abd al-Fattâh. Abû Ghudda mentioned some of the above examples and commented: "If the likes of Yah.yâ al-Qat.t.ân, Wakî` ibn al-Jarrâh., `Abd al-Razzâq, Yah.yâ ibn Ma`în, and those who compare with them, did not dare enter into ijtihâd and fiqh, then how rash are the claimants to ijtihâd in our time! On top of it, they call the Salaf ignorant without the least shame nor modesty! Allâh is our refuge from failure."46
The blessings and peace of Allah on the Prophet ﷺ
his Family and his Companions!