The Holy Prophet ﷺ said, "He for whom Allāh desires great good, He grants him (superlative) understanding in the Religion (yufaqqihhu/yufqihhu fī al-dīn). I only distribute and it is Allāh Who gives. That group shall remain in charge of the Order of Allāh, unharmed by those who oppose them, until the coming of the Order of Allāh."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."Imām al-Shāfiʿī apparently took from Imām Abū Hanīfa his famous statement, said: "You [the scholars of h.adīth] are the pharmacists but we [the Jurists] are the physicians." This is also reported from al-Aʿmash and Abu Sulayman Ibn Zubar and was probably proverbial. Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī commented: "The early scholars said: The h.adīth 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.adīth is like a physician without drugs: he knows what constitutes a remedy, but does not have it available."2
Imām Ah.mad is related by his students Abū T.ālib and H.umayd ibn Zanjūyah to say: "I never saw anyone adhere more to h.adīth than al-Shāfiʿī. No one preceded him in writing down h.adīth in a book." The meaning of this is that al-Shāfiʿī possessed the intelligence of h.adīth after which Ah.mad sought, as evidenced by the latter's statement: "How rare is fiqh among those who know h.adīth!" This is a reference to the h.adīth: "It may be one carries understanding (fiqh) - meaning: memorizes the proof-texts of fiqh - without being a person of understanding (faqīh)."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 Faqīh 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 hadīth, he would ebcome a transgressor (fāsiq)."* Ibn Abī Zayd al-Mālikī reports Sufyān ibn ʿUyayna as saying: "H.adīth is a pitfall (mad.illa) except for the fuqahā'," and Mālik's companion ʿAbd Allāh ibn Wahb said: "H.adīth is a pitfall except for the Ulema. Every memorizer of h.adīth that does not have an Imām in fiqh is misguided (d.āll), and if Allāh had not rescued us with Mālik and al-Layth [ibn Saʿd], we would have been misguided."4
* Ibn al-Mubārak said: "If Allāh had not rescued me with Abū H.anīfa and Sufyān [al-Thawrī] I would have been like the rest of the common people." Al-Dhahabī relates it as: "I would have been an innovator."12
* Imām Ah.mad's teacher, Yah.yā ibn Saʿīd al-Qat.t.ān, despite his foremost
status as the Master of h.adīth 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 Abū H.anīfa
as he explicitly declared: "We do not belie Allāh. We never heard better
than the juridical opinion (ra'ī) of Abū H.anīfa, and we followed most of
Similarly, Muh.ammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-H.akam said: "If it were not for al-Shāfiʿī 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.yā al-Dhuhlī (d. 258) of Khurāsān, whom Abū Zurʿa ranked above Imām Muslim and who is considered an Amīr al-Mu'minīn fī al-H.adīth ("Commander of the Faithful in the Science of H.adīth"), he never considered himself a non-muqallid but said: "I have made Ah.mad ibn H.anbal an Imām in all that stands between me and my Lord."15 Misʿar ibn Kidām said the same with regard to Imām Abū H.anīfa.16
Fiqh is the context of many statements of the Imāms on knowledge consisting in wisdom, benefit, deeds, and light rather than learning and memorization as we already mentioned. Mālik said: "Wisdom and knowledge are a
light by which Allāh guides whomever He pleases; it does not consist in
knowing many things"17. Al-Shāfiʿī: "Knowledge is what benefits.
Knowledge is not what one has memorized."18
Al-Dhahabī: "[Knowledge (al-ʿilm) is "not the profusion of narration, but a light which Allāh casts into the heart. Its condition is followership (ittibāʿ) and the flight away from egotism (hawā) and innovation."19
Wakīʿ ibn al-Jarrāh preferred long-chained narrations through the fuqahā' to short-chained ones through non-fuqahā' and said: "The h.adīth current among the jurists is better than the h.adīth that is current among the h.adīth scholars."21 This is a foundational rule in the H.anīfī School, which like Yah.yā al-Qat.t.ān, Wakīʿ followed.22
Al-Aʿmash (Abū Muh.ammad Sulaymān ibn Mahrān al-Asadī the Tābiʿī 61/-148) also said: "The h.adīth that jurists circulate among themselves is better than that which h.adīth narrators circulate among themselves."23
Ibn Rajab said that Abū Dāwūd in his Sunan was more concerned with the jurisprudence of the h.adīth than with its chains of transmission.24
This is also the case with al-Bukhārī's Sahīh while Muslim, Ibn Mājah, and al-Nasā'ī focussed on the benefits of its transmission chains and text variants - Muslim being the most thorough and reliable in these regards. Al-Tirmidhī gave equal weight to the fiqh of the hadīth and the study of its transmission although Abū Dāwūd is somewhat stricter in hadīth authentification while al-Nasā'ī surpasses them both.
Sufyān al-Thawrī used to say to the h.adīth scholars: "Come forward, O weak ones!"25 He also said: "If h.adīth were a good thing it would have vanished just as all goodness has vanished," and "Pursuing the study of h.adīth is not part of the preparation for death, but a disease that preoccupies people." Al-Dhahabī commented: "He said this verbatim. He is right in what he said because pursuing the study of h.adīth is other than the h.adīth itself."26
Ish.āq ibn Rāhūyah said: "I would sit in Iraq with Ah.mad ibn H.anbal, Yah.yā ibn Maʿīn, 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
Sufyān al-Thawrī said: "The explanation (tafsīr) of the h.adīth is better than the h.adīth."27 Another wording has: "The explanation of the h.adīth is better than its audition."28Abū ʿAlī al-Naysabūrī said: "We consider understanding superior to memorization."29
Ibn Mahdī regretted not having written, after every hadīth he had recorded, its explanation.The perspicuity and fiqh of Abū Thawr among the h.adīth Masters is famous. A woman stood by a gathering of scholars of h.adīth comprising Yah.yā ibn Maʿīn, Abū 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 ʿAbd al-Barr cites Imām Ah.mad as saying: "From where does Yah.yā ibn Maʿīn know al-Shāfiʿī? He does not know al-Shāfiʿī nor has any idea what al-Shāfiʿī says!"34 Ibn Rāhūyah similarly conceded defeat before al-Shāfiʿī's jurisprudence although himself reputed for fiqh.35
* ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-S.anʿānī, Sufyān's contemporary, was the teacher of the pillars of h.adīth memorization in their time - Ah.mad, Ibn Rāhūyah, Ibn Maʿīn, and Muh.ammad ibn Yah.yā al-Dhuhlī. Yet when Muh.ammad ibn Yazīd al-Mustamlī asked Ah.mad: "Did he [ʿAbd al-Razzāq] possess fiqh?" Ah.mad replied: "How rare is fiqh among those who know h.adīth!"36
Anas ibn Sīrīn said: "I came to Kūfa and found in it 4,000 persons pursuing h.adīth and 400 persons who had obtained fiqh."37
Sufyān al-Thawrī: "Knowledge in our view is only the dispensation of a trustworthy learned perrson. As for strtictness, anyone can be strict!"
Hujjat al-Islām al-Ghazālī in al-Mustasfā and Imām Ibn Qudāma in Rawdat al-Nāzir both said that an ʿ�lim may be an Imām in a particular science and an uneducated common person in another.Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām said: "Most h.adīth scholars are ignorant in fiqh."38 A majority of 90% according to Anas ibn Sīrīn - among the Salaf!
Al-Dhahabī said: "The majority of the h.adīth scholars have no understanding, no diligence in the actual knowledge of h.adīth, and no fear of Allāh regarding it."39 All of the authorities al-Dhahabī listed as "those who are imitated in Islām" are Jurisprudents and not merely h.adīth masters.
Al-Sakhāwī in his biography of Ibn H.ajar entitled al-Jawāhir wa al-Durar fi Tarjamat Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Hajr states that al-Fāriqī said: "One who knows chains of h.adīth but not the legal rulings derived from them cannot be counted among the Scholars of the Law." His student Ibn Abī ʿAs.rūn (d. 585) also followed this view in his book al-Intis.ār.40
Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī said: "Truly, I hear a h.adīth, then I see what part of it applies. I apply it and leave the rest."41 Shaykh Muh.ammad ʿAwwāma said: "Meaning, what is recognized by the authorities is retained while anything odd (gharīb), anomalous (shādhdh), or condemned (munkar) is put aside."Yazīd ibn Abī H.abīb said: "When you hear a h.adīth, proclaim it; if it is recognized, [keep it,] otherwise, leave it."42
Ibn Abī Laylā said: "A man does not understand h.adīth until he knows what to take from it and what to leave."43
ʿAbd al-Rah.mān ibn Mahdī, the Commander of the believers in H.adīth, said: "It is impermissible for someone to be an Imām [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-Shāfiʿī narrated that Mālik ibn Anas was told: "Ibn ʿUyayna narrates from al-Zuhrī things you do not have!" He replied: "Why, should I narrate every single h.adīth I heard? Only if I wanted to misguide people!"45
Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāh. Abū Ghudda mentioned some of the above examples and commented: "If the likes of Yah.yā al-Qat.t.ān, Wakīʿ ibn al-Jarrāh., ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Yah.yā ibn Maʿīn, and those who compare with them, did not dare enter into ijtihād and fiqh, then how rash are the claimants to ijtihād in our time! On top of it, they call the Salaf ignorant without the least shame nor modesty! Allāh is our refuge from failure."46
The blessings and peace of Allah on the Prophet ﷺ
his Family and his Companions!