The Four Madhhabs (Schools of Thought)
Brothers in Islam, I urge you as I urge myself to be obedient to Allah, the Exalted, to remain steadfast on the path of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and to follow the methodology of the noble scholars that taught Islam to people leaving for the Muslim nation a great wealth of beneficial knowledge in all the subject matters of Islamic studies.
Among those scholars are: Imam Malik, Imam ash-Shafi^iyy, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hambal and Imam Abu Hanifah. Those scholars reached the rank of Mujtahid and benefited Muslims with their knowledge and ijtihad. Ijtihad is deducing religious edicts for which there is no explicit textual judgement in the Qur’an or in the Hadith. However, ijtihad is not applied to matters for which there is an explicit textual ruling in the Qur’an or in the Hadith.
The top scholars of this nation had some differences in their ijtihad, regarding some matters where there is no explicit text or scholarly consensus about their judgement. For example, there is a difference between the ijtihad of Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam ash-Shafi^iyy regarding whether or not one’s wudu’ would become invalid upon touching the skin of a marriageable woman without a barrier, despite the fact that all the scholars of Islam have agreed unanimously that such a matter is forbidden. Imam ash-Shafi^iyy said that touching the skin of a marriageable woman without a barrier invalidates one’s wudu’, however, Imam Abu Hanifah said it doesn’t.
Ijtihad is reserved for those who are qualified in deducing judgements from the religious texts and it is not simply open for any person; otherwise, the true religious knowledge would be lost and the Religion would be corrupted; a matter which does not befit the Religion of Islam. Allah, the most Gracious, willed for the noble pious scholars to devote their lives to serve the Religion of Islam and ordered us to seek their advice regarding religious matters. Allah said:
[فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ]
This Ayah means: “Ask those who have attained the correct religious knowledge when seeking an Islamic judgement about a certain matter”. Among those are the aforementioned four eminent scholars who have the true belief in Allah. They all believe that Allah is One and that He has no partner, He is not a body and is not attributed with the characteristics of bodies and that He has no beginning or end.
READ MORE: 11 FAQ You Should Know About The Qur’ān
Imam ash-Shafi^iyy said what means: “Whoever seeks to know his Creator and concludes that Allah does not exist is an atheist (mu^attil). If he concludes that his Creator is something that one’s mind can imagine, he is a mushabbih (i.e. the one who likens Allah to the creations). If however, he concludes that Allah exists and yet admits that his mind cannot conceive Him, he would be a true believer (muwahhid).” Narrated by al- Bayhaqiyy.
The noble scholars Ahmad Ibn Hambal and Dhunnun al-Misriyy said: “Whatever you imagine in your mind, Allah does not resemble it”.
Imam al-Qarafiyy, Imam as-Subkiyy, al-Hafidh al-^Iraqiyy, Shaykh Ibn Hajar al-Haytamiyy, Mulla ^Ali al-Qari al-Hanafiyy, Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthariyy and others quoted the statement of the four eminent scholars Imam Malik, Imam ash-Shafi^iyy, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hambal and Imam Abu Hanifah that one commits blasphemy by attributing a direction or a body to Allah.
In the end, we ask Allah to make us among those who follow the path of the top scholars in piety, humbleness and fear of Allah.